Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Cousin Betty
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cousin Betty" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



COUSIN BETTY


By Honore De Balzac


Translated by James Waring



                             DEDICATION

  To Don Michele Angelo Cajetani, Prince of Teano.

  It is neither to the Roman Prince, nor to the representative of
  the illustrious house of Cajetani, which has given more than one
  Pope to the Christian Church, that I dedicate this short portion
  of a long history; it is to the learned commentator of Dante.

  It was you who led me to understand the marvelous framework of
  ideas on which the great Italian poet built his poem, the only
  work which the moderns can place by that of Homer. Till I heard
  you, the Divine Comedy was to me a vast enigma to which none had
  found the clue--the commentators least of all. Thus, to understand
  Dante is to be as great as he; but every form of greatness is
  familiar to you.

  A French savant could make a reputation, earn a professor’s chair,
  and a dozen decorations, by publishing in a dogmatic volume the
  improvised lecture by which you lent enchantment to one of those
  evenings which are rest after seeing Rome. You do not know,
  perhaps, that most of our professors live on Germany, on England,
  on the East, or on the North, as an insect lives on a tree; and,
  like the insect, become an integral part of it, borrowing their
  merit from that of what they feed on. Now, Italy hitherto has not
  yet been worked out in public lectures. No one will ever give me
  credit for my literary honesty. Merely by plundering you I might
  have been as learned as three Schlegels in one, whereas I mean to
  remain a humble Doctor of the Faculty of Social Medicine, a
  veterinary surgeon for incurable maladies. Were it only to lay a
  token of gratitude at the feet of my cicerone, I would fain add
  your illustrious name to those of Porcia, of San-Severino, of
  Pareto, of di Negro, and of Belgiojoso, who will represent in this
  “Human Comedy” the close and constant alliance between Italy and
  France, to which Bandello did honor in the same way in the
  sixteenth century--Bandello, the bishop and author of some strange
  tales indeed, who left us the splendid collection of romances
  whence Shakespeare derived many of his plots and even complete
  characters, word for word.

  The two sketches I dedicate to you are the two eternal aspects of
  one and the same fact. Homo duplex, said the great Buffon: why not
  add Res duplex? Everything has two sides, even virtue. Hence
  Moliere always shows us both sides of every human problem; and
  Diderot, imitating him, once wrote, “This is not a mere tale”--in
  what is perhaps Diderot’s masterpiece, where he shows us the
  beautiful picture of Mademoiselle de Lachaux sacrificed by
  Gardanne, side by side with that of a perfect lover dying for his
  mistress.

  In the same way, these two romances form a pair, like twins of
  opposite sexes. This is a literary vagary to which a writer may
  for once give way, especially as part of a work in which I am
  endeavoring to depict every form that can serve as a garb to mind.

  Most human quarrels arise from the fact that both wise men and
  dunces exist who are so constituted as to be incapable of seeing
  more than one side of any fact or idea, while each asserts that
  the side he sees is the only true and right one. Thus it is
  written in the Holy Book, “God will deliver the world over to
  divisions.” I must confess that this passage of Scripture alone
  should persuade the Papal See to give you the control of the two
  Chambers to carry out the text which found its commentary in 1814,
  in the decree of Louis XVIII.

  May your wit and the poetry that is in you extend a protecting
  hand over these two histories of “The Poor Relations”

  Of your affectionate humble servant,

  DE BALZAC.
  PARIS, August-September, 1846.



COUSIN BETTY


One day, about the middle of July 1838, one of the carriages, then
lately introduced to Paris cabstands, and known as _Milords_, was
driving down the Rue de l’Universite, conveying a stout man of middle
height in the uniform of a captain of the National Guard.

Among the Paris crowd, who are supposed to be so clever, there are some
men who fancy themselves infinitely more attractive in uniform than in
their ordinary clothes, and who attribute to women so depraved a taste
that they believe they will be favorably impressed by the aspect of a
busby and of military accoutrements.

The countenance of this Captain of the Second Company beamed with a
self-satisfaction that added splendor to his ruddy and somewhat chubby
face. The halo of glory that a fortune made in business gives to a
retired tradesman sat on his brow, and stamped him as one of the elect
of Paris--at least a retired deputy-mayor of his quarter of the town.
And you may be sure that the ribbon of the Legion of Honor was not
missing from his breast, gallantly padded _a la Prussienne_. Proudly
seated in one corner of the _milord_, this splendid person let his
gaze wander over the passers-by, who, in Paris, often thus meet an
ingratiating smile meant for sweet eyes that are absent.

The vehicle stopped in the part of the street between the Rue
de Bellechasse and the Rue de Bourgogne, at the door of a large,
newly-build house, standing on part of the court-yard of an ancient
mansion that had a garden. The old house remained in its original state,
beyond the courtyard curtailed by half its extent.

Only from the way in which the officer accepted the assistance of the
coachman to help him out, it was plain that he was past fifty. There are
certain movements so undisguisedly heavy that they are as tell-tale as
a register of birth. The captain put on his lemon-colored right-hand
glove, and, without any question to the gatekeeper, went up the outer
steps to the ground of the new house with a look that proclaimed, “She
is mine!”

The _concierges_ of Paris have sharp eyes; they do not stop visitors who
wear an order, have a blue uniform, and walk ponderously; in short, they
know a rich man when they see him.

This ground floor was entirely occupied by Monsieur le Baron Hulot
d’Ervy, Commissary General under the Republic, retired army contractor,
and at the present time at the head of one of the most important
departments of the War Office, Councillor of State, officer of the
Legion of Honor, and so forth.

This Baron Hulot had taken the name of d’Ervy--the place of his
birth--to distinguish him from his brother, the famous General Hulot,
Colonel of the Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, created by the Emperor
Comte de Forzheim after the campaign of 1809. The Count, the elder
brother, being responsible for his junior, had, with paternal care,
placed him in the commissariat, where, thanks to the services of the two
brothers, the Baron deserved and won Napoleon’s good graces. After 1807,
Baron Hulot was Commissary General for the army in Spain.

Having rung the bell, the citizen-captain made strenuous efforts to
pull his coat into place, for it had rucked up as much at the back as in
front, pushed out of shape by the working of a piriform stomach. Being
admitted as soon as the servant in livery saw him, the important
and imposing personage followed the man, who opened the door of the
drawing-room, announcing:

“Monsieur Crevel.”

On hearing the name, singularly appropriate to the figure of the man who
bore it, a tall, fair woman, evidently young-looking for her age, rose
as if she had received an electric shock.

“Hortense, my darling, go into the garden with your Cousin Betty,” she
said hastily to her daughter, who was working at some embroidery at her
mother’s side.

After curtseying prettily to the captain, Mademoiselle Hortense went out
by a glass door, taking with her a withered-looking spinster, who looked
older than the Baroness, though she was five years younger.

“They are settling your marriage,” said Cousin Betty in the girl’s ear,
without seeming at all offended at the way in which the Baroness had
dismissed them, counting her almost as zero.

The cousin’s dress might, at need, have explained this free-and-easy
demeanor. The old maid wore a merino gown of a dark plum color, of which
the cut and trimming dated from the year of the Restoration; a little
worked collar, worth perhaps three francs; and a common straw hat with
blue satin ribbons edged with straw plait, such as the old-clothes
buyers wear at market. On looking down at her kid shoes, made, it was
evident, by the veriest cobbler, a stranger would have hesitated to
recognize Cousin Betty as a member of the family, for she looked exactly
like a journeywoman sempstress. But she did not leave the room without
bestowing a little friendly nod on Monsieur Crevel, to which that
gentleman responded by a look of mutual understanding.

“You are coming to us to-morrow, I hope, Mademoiselle Fischer?” said he.

“You have no company?” asked Cousin Betty.

“My children and yourself, no one else,” replied the visitor.

“Very well,” replied she; “depend on me.”

“And here am I, madame, at your orders,” said the citizen-captain,
bowing again to Madame Hulot.

He gave such a look at Madame Hulot as Tartuffe casts at Elmire--when a
provincial actor plays the part and thinks it necessary to emphasize its
meaning--at Poitiers, or at Coutances.

“If you will come into this room with me, we shall be more conveniently
placed for talking business than we are in this room,” said Madame
Hulot, going to an adjoining room, which, as the apartment was arranged,
served as a cardroom.

It was divided by a slight partition from a boudoir looking out on the
garden, and Madame Hulot left her visitor to himself for a minute, for
she thought it wise to shut the window and the door of the boudoir, so
that no one should get in and listen. She even took the precaution of
shutting the glass door of the drawing-room, smiling on her daughter and
her cousin, whom she saw seated in an old summer-house at the end of the
garden. As she came back she left the cardroom door open, so as to hear
if any one should open that of the drawing-room to come in.

As she came and went, the Baroness, seen by nobody, allowed her face to
betray all her thoughts, and any one who could have seen her would have
been shocked to see her agitation. But when she finally came back from
the glass door of the drawing-room, as she entered the cardroom, her
face was hidden behind the impenetrable reserve which every woman, even
the most candid, seems to have at her command.

During all these preparations--odd, to say the least--the National
Guardsman studied the furniture of the room in which he found himself.
As he noted the silk curtains, once red, now faded to dull purple by the
sunshine, and frayed in the pleats by long wear; the carpet, from which
the hues had faded; the discolored gilding of the furniture; and the
silk seats, discolored in patches, and wearing into strips--expressions
of scorn, satisfaction, and hope dawned in succession without disguise
on his stupid tradesman’s face. He looked at himself in the glass over
an old clock of the Empire, and was contemplating the general effect,
when the rustle of her silk skirt announced the Baroness. He at once
struck at attitude.

After dropping on to a sofa, which had been a very handsome one in the
year 1809, the Baroness, pointing to an armchair with the arms ending in
bronze sphinxes’ heads, while the paint was peeling from the wood, which
showed through in many places, signed to Crevel to be seated.

“All the precautions you are taking, madame, would seem full of promise
to a----”

“To a lover,” said she, interrupting him.

“The word is too feeble,” said he, placing his right hand on his heart,
and rolling his eyes in a way which almost always makes a woman laugh
when she, in cold blood, sees such a look. “A lover! A lover? Say a man
bewitched----”

“Listen, Monsieur Crevel,” said the Baroness, too anxious to be able to
laugh, “you are fifty--ten years younger than Monsieur Hulot, I know;
but at my age a woman’s follies ought to be justified by beauty, youth,
fame, superior merit--some one of the splendid qualities which can
dazzle us to the point of making us forget all else--even at our
age. Though you may have fifty thousand francs a year, your age
counterbalances your fortune; thus you have nothing whatever of what a
woman looks for----”

“But love!” said the officer, rising and coming forward. “Such love
as----”

“No, monsieur, such obstinacy!” said the Baroness, interrupting him to
put an end to his absurdity.

“Yes, obstinacy,” said he, “and love; but something stronger still--a
claim----”

“A claim!” cried Madame Hulot, rising sublime with scorn, defiance, and
indignation. “But,” she went on, “this will bring us to no issues; I
did not ask you to come here to discuss the matter which led to your
banishment in spite of the connection between our families----”

“I had fancied so.”

“What! still?” cried she. “Do you not see, monsieur, by the entire ease
and freedom with which I can speak of lovers and love, of everything
least creditable to a woman, that I am perfectly secure in my own
virtue? I fear nothing--not even to shut myself in alone with you. Is
that the conduct of a weak woman? You know full well why I begged you to
come.”

“No, madame,” replied Crevel, with an assumption of great coldness. He
pursed up his lips, and again struck an attitude.

“Well, I will be brief, to shorten our common discomfort,” said the
Baroness, looking at Crevel.

Crevel made an ironical bow, in which a man who knew the race would have
recognized the graces of a bagman.

“Our son married your daughter----”

“And if it were to do again----” said Crevel.

“It would not be done at all, I suspect,” said the baroness hastily.
“However, you have nothing to complain of. My son is not only one of the
leading pleaders of Paris, but for the last year he has sat as Deputy,
and his maiden speech was brilliant enough to lead us to suppose that
ere long he will be in office. Victorin has twice been called upon to
report on important measures; and he might even now, if he chose, be
made Attorney-General in the Court of Appeal. So, if you mean to say
that your son-in-law has no fortune----”

“Worse than that, madame, a son-in-law whom I am obliged to maintain,”
 replied Crevel. “Of the five hundred thousand francs that formed my
daughter’s marriage portion, two hundred thousand have vanished--God
knows how!--in paying the young gentleman’s debts, in furnishing his
house splendaciously--a house costing five hundred thousand francs, and
bringing in scarcely fifteen thousand, since he occupies the larger
part of it, while he owes two hundred and sixty thousand francs of the
purchase-money. The rent he gets barely pays the interest on the debt.
I have had to give my daughter twenty thousand francs this year to
help her to make both ends meet. And then my son-in-law, who was making
thirty thousand francs a year at the Assizes, I am told, is going to
throw that up for the Chamber----”

“This, again, Monsieur Crevel, is beside the mark; we are wandering from
the point. Still, to dispose of it finally, it may be said that if my
son gets into office, if he has you made an officer of the Legion of
Honor and councillor of the municipality of Paris, you, as a retired
perfumer, will not have much to complain of----”

“Ah! there we are again, madame! Yes, I am a tradesman, a shopkeeper,
a retail dealer in almond-paste, eau-de-Portugal, and hair-oil, and was
only too much honored when my only daughter was married to the son of
Monsieur le Baron Hulot d’Ervy--my daughter will be a Baroness! This is
Regency, Louis XV., (Eil-de-boeuf--quite tip-top!--very good.) I love
Celestine as a man loves his only child--so well indeed, that, to
preserve her from having either brother or sister, I resigned myself
to all the privations of a widower--in Paris, and in the prime of life,
madame. But you must understand that, in spite of this extravagant
affection for my daughter, I do not intend to reduce my fortune for the
sake of your son, whose expenses are not wholly accounted for--in my
eyes, as an old man of business.”

“Monsieur, you may at this day see in the Ministry of Commerce Monsieur
Popinot, formerly a druggist in the Rue des Lombards----”

“And a friend of mine, madame,” said the ex-perfumer. “For I, Celestin
Crevel, foreman once to old Cesar Birotteau, brought up the said Cesar
Birotteau’s stock; and he was Popinot’s father-in-law. Why, that very
Popinot was no more than a shopman in the establishment, and he is the
first to remind me of it; for he is not proud, to do him justice, to
men in a good position with an income of sixty thousand francs in the
funds.”

“Well then, monsieur, the notions you term ‘Regency’ are quite out of
date at a time when a man is taken at his personal worth; and that is
what you did when you married your daughter to my son.”

“But you do not know how the marriage was brought about!” cried Crevel.
“Oh, that cursed bachelor life! But for my misconduct, my Celestine
might at this day be Vicomtesse Popinot!”

“Once more have done with recriminations over accomplished facts,” said
the Baroness anxiously. “Let us rather discuss the complaints I have
found on your strange behavior. My daughter Hortense had a chance of
marrying; the match depended entirely on you; I believed you felt some
sentiments of generosity; I thought you would do justice to a woman who
has never had a thought in her heart for any man but her husband, that
you would have understood how necessary it is for her not to receive a
man who may compromise her, and that for the honor of the family with
which you are allied you would have been eager to promote Hortense’s
settlement with Monsieur le Conseiller Lebas.--And it is you, monsieur,
you have hindered the marriage.”

“Madame,” said the ex-perfumer, “I acted the part of an honest man.
I was asked whether the two hundred thousand francs to be settled on
Mademoiselle Hortense would be forthcoming. I replied exactly in these
words: ‘I would not answer for it. My son-in-law, to whom the Hulots had
promised the same sum, was in debt; and I believe that if Monsieur
Hulot d’Ervy were to die to-morrow, his widow would have nothing to live
on.’--There, fair lady.”

“And would you have said as much, monsieur,” asked Madame Hulot, looking
Crevel steadily in the face, “if I had been false to my duty?”

“I should not be in a position to say it, dearest Adeline,” cried this
singular adorer, interrupting the Baroness, “for you would have found
the amount in my pocket-book.”

And adding action to word, the fat guardsman knelt down on one knee and
kissed Madame Hulot’s hand, seeing that his speech had filled her with
speechless horror, which he took for hesitancy.

“What, buy my daughter’s fortune at the cost of----? Rise, monsieur--or
I ring the bell.”

Crevel rose with great difficulty. This fact made him so furious that he
again struck his favorite attitude. Most men have some habitual position
by which they fancy that they show to the best advantage the good
points bestowed on them by nature. This attitude in Crevel consisted in
crossing his arms like Napoleon, his head showing three-quarters face,
and his eyes fixed on the horizon, as the painter has shown the Emperor
in his portrait.

“To be faithful,” he began, with well-acted indignation, “so faithful to
a liber----”

“To a husband who is worthy of such fidelity,” Madame Hulot put in, to
hinder Crevel from saying a word she did not choose to hear.

“Come, madame; you wrote to bid me here, you ask the reasons for my
conduct, you drive me to extremities with your imperial airs, your
scorn, and your contempt! Any one might think I was a Negro. But I
repeat it, and you may believe me, I have a right to--to make love to
you, for---- But no; I love you well enough to hold my tongue.”

“You may speak, monsieur. In a few days I shall be eight-and-forty; I am
no prude; I can hear whatever you can say.”

“Then will you give me your word of honor as an honest woman--for you
are, alas for me! an honest woman--never to mention my name or to say
that it was I who betrayed the secret?”

“If that is the condition on which you speak, I will swear never to tell
any one from whom I heard the horrors you propose to tell me, not even
my husband.”

“I should think not indeed, for only you and he are concerned.”

Madame Hulot turned pale.

“Oh, if you still really love Hulot, it will distress you. Shall I say
no more?”

“Speak, monsieur; for by your account you wish to justify in my eyes
the extraordinary declarations you have chosen to make me, and your
persistency in tormenting a woman of my age, whose only wish is to see
her daughter married, and then--to die in peace----”

“You see; you are unhappy.”

“I, monsieur?”

“Yes, beautiful, noble creature!” cried Crevel. “You have indeed been
too wretched!”

“Monsieur, be silent and go--or speak to me as you ought.”

“Do you know, madame, how Master Hulot and I first made
acquaintance?--At our mistresses’, madame.”

“Oh, monsieur!”

“Yes, madame, at our mistresses’,” Crevel repeated in a melodramatic
tone, and leaving his position to wave his right hand.

“Well, and what then?” said the Baroness coolly, to Crevel’s great
amazement.

Such mean seducers cannot understand a great soul.

“I, a widower five years since,” Crevel began, in the tone of a man who
has a story to tell, “and not wishing to marry again for the sake of the
daughter I adore, not choosing either to cultivate any such connection
in my own establishment, though I had at the time a very pretty
lady-accountant. I set up, ‘on her own account,’ as they say, a little
sempstress of fifteen--really a miracle of beauty, with whom I fell
desperately in love. And in fact, madame, I asked an aunt of my own,
my mother’s sister, whom I sent for from the country, to live with the
sweet creature and keep an eye on her, that she might behave as well
as might be in this rather--what shall I say--shady?--no, delicate
position.

“The child, whose talent for music was striking, had masters, she was
educated--I had to give her something to do. Besides, I wished to be at
once her father, her benefactor, and--well, out with it--her lover; to
kill two birds with one stone, a good action and a sweetheart. For five
years I was very happy. The girl had one of those voices that make the
fortune of a theatre; I can only describe her by saying that she is
a Duprez in petticoats. It cost me two thousand francs a year only to
cultivate her talent as a singer. She made me music-mad; I took a box at
the opera for her and for my daughter, and went there alternate evenings
with Celestine or Josepha.”

“What, the famous singer?”

“Yes, madame,” said Crevel with pride, “the famous Josepha owes
everything to me.--At last, in 1834, when the child was twenty,
believing that I had attached her to me for ever, and being very weak
where she was concerned, I thought I would give her a little amusement,
and I introduced her to a pretty little actress, Jenny Cadine, whose
life had been somewhat like her own. This actress also owed everything
to a protector who had brought her up in leading-strings. That protector
was Baron Hulot.”

“I know that,” said the Baroness, in a calm voice without the least
agitation.

“Bless me!” cried Crevel, more and more astounded. “Well! But do you
know that your monster of a husband took Jenny Cadine in hand at the age
of thirteen?”

“What then?” said the Baroness.

“As Jenny Cadine and Josepha were both aged twenty when they first met,”
 the ex-tradesman went on, “the Baron had been playing the part of Louis
XV. to Mademoiselle de Romans ever since 1826, and you were twelve years
younger then----”

“I had my reasons, monsieur, for leaving Monsieur Hulot his liberty.”

“That falsehood, madame, will surely be enough to wipe out every sin you
have ever committed, and to open to you the gates of Paradise,” replied
Crevel, with a knowing air that brought the color to the Baroness’
cheeks. “Sublime and adored woman, tell that to those who will believe
it, but not to old Crevel, who has, I may tell you, feasted too often as
one of four with your rascally husband not to know what your high
merits are! Many a time has he blamed himself when half tipsy as he has
expatiated on your perfections. Oh, I know you well!--A libertine might
hesitate between you and a girl of twenty. I do not hesitate----”

“Monsieur!”

“Well, I say no more. But you must know, saintly and noble woman, that
a husband under certain circumstances will tell things about his wife to
his mistress that will mightily amuse her.”

Tears of shame hanging to Madame Hulot’s long lashes checked the
National Guardsman. He stopped short, and forgot his attitude.

“To proceed,” said he. “We became intimate, the Baron and I, through
the two hussies. The Baron, like all bad lots, is very pleasant, a
thoroughly jolly good fellow. Yes, he took my fancy, the old rascal. He
could be so funny!--Well, enough of those reminiscences. We got to be
like brothers. The scoundrel--quite Regency in his notions--tried indeed
to deprave me altogether, preached Saint-Simonism as to women, and all
sorts of lordly ideas; but, you see, I was fond enough of my girl to
have married her, only I was afraid of having children.

“Then between two old daddies, such friends as--as we were, what
more natural than that we should think of our children marrying each
other?--Three months after his son had married my Celestine, Hulot--I
don’t know how I can utter the wretch’s name! he has cheated us both,
madame--well, the villain did me out of my little Josepha. The scoundrel
knew that he was supplanted in the heart of Jenny Cadine by a young
lawyer and by an artist--only two of them!--for the girl had more and
more of a howling success, and he stole my sweet little girl, a
perfect darling--but you must have seen her at the opera; he got her
an engagement there. Your husband is not so well behaved as I am. I am
ruled as straight as a sheet of music-paper. He had dropped a good deal
of money on Jenny Cadine, who must have cost him near on thirty thousand
francs a year. Well, I can only tell you that he is ruining himself
outright for Josepha.

“Josepha, madame, is a Jewess. Her name is Mirah, the anagram of Hiram,
an Israelite mark that stamps her, for she was a foundling picked up
in Germany, and the inquiries I have made prove that she is the
illegitimate child of a rich Jew banker. The life of the theatre, and,
above all, the teaching of Jenny Cadine, Madame Schontz, Malaga, and
Carabine, as to the way to treat an old man, have developed, in the
child whom I had kept in a respectable and not too expensive way of
life, all the native Hebrew instinct for gold and jewels--for the golden
calf.

“So this famous singer, hungering for plunder, now wants to be rich,
very rich. She tried her ‘prentice hand on Baron Hulot, and soon plucked
him bare--plucked him, ay, and singed him to the skin. The miserable
man, after trying to vie with one of the Kellers and with the Marquis
d’Esgrignon, both perfectly mad about Josepha, to say nothing of unknown
worshipers, is about to see her carried off by that very rich Duke, who
is such a patron of the arts. Oh, what is his name?--a dwarf.--Ah, the
Duc d’Herouville. This fine gentleman insists on having Josepha for his
very own, and all that set are talking about it; the Baron knows nothing
of it as yet; for it is the same in the Thirteenth Arrondissement as in
every other: the lover, like the husband, is last to get the news.

“Now, do you understand my claim? Your husband, dear lady, has robbed
me of my joy in life, the only happiness I have known since I became a
widower. Yes, if I had not been so unlucky as to come across that old
rip, Josepha would still be mine; for I, you know, should never have
placed her on the stage. She would have lived obscure, well conducted,
and mine. Oh! if you could but have seen her eight years ago, slight and
wiry, with the golden skin of an Andalusian, as they say, black hair as
shiny as satin, an eye that flashed lightning under long brown lashes,
the style of a duchess in every movement, the modesty of a dependent,
decent grace, and the pretty ways of a wild fawn. And by that Hulot’s
doing all this charm and purity has been degraded to a man-trap, a
money-box for five-franc pieces! The girl is the Queen of Trollops;
and nowadays she humbugs every one--she who knew nothing, not even that
word.”

At this stage the retired perfumer wiped his eyes, which were full of
tears. The sincerity of his grief touched Madame Hulot, and roused her
from the meditation into which she had sunk.

“Tell me, madame, is a man of fifty-two likely to find such another
jewel? At my age love costs thirty thousand francs a year. It is through
your husband’s experience that I know the price, and I love Celestine
too truly to be her ruin. When I saw you, at the first evening party
you gave in our honor, I wondered how that scoundrel Hulot could keep a
Jenny Cadine--you had the manner of an Empress. You do not look thirty,”
 he went on. “To me, madame, you look young, and you are beautiful. On my
word of honor, that evening I was struck to the heart. I said to myself,
‘If I had not Josepha, since old Hulot neglects his wife, she would fit
me like a glove.’ Forgive me--it is a reminiscence of my old business.
The perfumer will crop up now and then, and that is what keeps me from
standing to be elected deputy.

“And then, when I was so abominably deceived by the Baron, for really
between old rips like us our friend’s mistress should be sacred, I swore
I would have his wife. It is but justice. The Baron could say nothing;
we are certain of impunity. You showed me the door like a mangy dog at
the first words I uttered as to the state of my feelings; you only made
my passion--my obstinacy, if you will--twice as strong, and you shall be
mine.”

“Indeed; how?”

“I do not know; but it will come to pass. You see, madame, an idiot of
a perfumer--retired from business--who has but one idea in his head, is
stronger than a clever fellow who has a thousand. I am smitten with
you, and you are the means of my revenge; it is like being in love twice
over. I am speaking to you quite frankly, as a man who knows what he
means. I speak coldly to you, just as you do to me, when you say, ‘I
never will be yours,’ In fact, as they say, I play the game with the
cards on the table. Yes, you shall be mine, sooner or later; if you were
fifty, you should still be my mistress. And it will be; for I expect
anything from your husband!”

Madame Hulot looked at this vulgar intriguer with such a fixed stare of
terror, that he thought she had gone mad, and he stopped.

“You insisted on it, you heaped me with scorn, you defied me--and I have
spoken,” said he, feeling that he must justify the ferocity of his last
words.

“Oh, my daughter, my daughter,” moaned the Baroness in a voice like a
dying woman’s.

“Oh! I have forgotten all else,” Crevel went on. “The day when I was
robbed of Josepha I was like a tigress robbed of her cubs; in short,
as you see me now.--Your daughter? Yes, I regard her as the means of
winning you. Yes, I put a spoke in her marriage--and you will not get
her married without my help! Handsome as Mademoiselle Hortense is, she
needs a fortune----”

“Alas! yes,” said the Baroness, wiping her eyes.

“Well, just ask your husband for ten thousand francs,” said Crevel,
striking his attitude once more. He waited a minute, like an actor who
has made a point.

“If he had the money, he would give it to the woman who will take
Josepha’s place,” he went on, emphasizing his tones. “Does a man ever
pull up on the road he has taken? In the first place, he is too sweet on
women. There is a happy medium in all things, as our King has told us.
And then his vanity is implicated! He is a handsome man!--He would
bring you all to ruin for his pleasure; in fact, you are already on the
highroad to the workhouse. Why, look, never since I set foot in your
house have you been able to do up your drawing-room furniture. ‘Hard up’
is the word shouted by every slit in the stuff. Where will you find a
son-in-law who would not turn his back in horror of the ill-concealed
evidence of the most cruel misery there is--that of people in decent
society? I have kept shop, and I know. There is no eye so quick as that
of the Paris tradesman to detect real wealth from its sham.--You have
no money,” he said, in a lower voice. “It is written everywhere, even on
your man-servant’s coat.

“Would you like me to disclose any more hideous mysteries that are kept
from you?”

“Monsieur,” cried Madame Hulot, whose handkerchief was wet through with
her tears, “enough, enough!”

“My son-in-law, I tell you, gives his father money, and this is what I
particularly wanted to come to when I began by speaking of your son’s
expenses. But I keep an eye on my daughter’s interests, be easy.”

“Oh, if I could but see my daughter married, and die!” cried the poor
woman, quite losing her head.

“Well, then, this is the way,” said the ex-perfumer.

Madame Hulot looked at Crevel with a hopeful expression, which so
completely changed her countenance, that this alone ought to have
touched the man’s feelings and have led him to abandon his monstrous
schemes.

“You will still be handsome ten years hence,” Crevel went on, with his
arms folded; “be kind to me, and Mademoiselle Hulot will marry. Hulot
has given me the right, as I have explained to you, to put the matter
crudely, and he will not be angry. In three years I have saved the
interest on my capital, for my dissipations have been restricted. I have
three hundred thousand francs in the bank over and above my invested
fortune--they are yours----”

“Go,” said Madame Hulot. “Go, monsieur, and never let me see you again.
But for the necessity in which you placed me to learn the secret of
your cowardly conduct with regard to the match I had planned for
Hortense--yes, cowardly!” she repeated, in answer to a gesture from
Crevel. “How can you load a poor girl, a pretty, innocent creature,
with such a weight of enmity? But for the necessity that goaded me as a
mother, you would never have spoken to me again, never again have come
within my doors. Thirty-two years of an honorable and loyal life shall
not be swept away by a blow from Monsieur Crevel----”

“The retired perfumer, successor to Cesar Birotteau at the _Queen of
the Roses_, Rue Saint-Honore,” added Crevel, in mocking tones.
“Deputy-mayor, captain in the National Guard, Chevalier of the Legion of
Honor--exactly what my predecessor was!”

“Monsieur,” said the Baroness, “if, after twenty years of constancy,
Monsieur Hulot is tired of his wife, that is nobody’s concern but mine.
As you see, he has kept his infidelity a mystery, for I did not know
that he had succeeded you in the affections of Mademoiselle Josepha----”

“Oh, it has cost him a pretty penny, madame. His singing-bird has cost
him more than a hundred thousand francs in these two years. Ah, ha! you
have not seen the end of it!”

“Have done with all this, Monsieur Crevel. I will not, for your sake,
forego the happiness a mother knows who can embrace her children without
a single pang of remorse in her heart, who sees herself respected and
loved by her family; and I will give up my soul to God unspotted----”

“Amen!” exclaimed Crevel, with the diabolical rage that embitters the
face of these pretenders when they fail for the second time in such
an attempt. “You do not yet know the latter end of poverty--shame,
disgrace.--I have tried to warn you; I would have saved you, you and
your daughter. Well, you must study the modern parable of the _Prodigal
Father_ from A to Z. Your tears and your pride move me deeply,” said
Crevel, seating himself, “for it is frightful to see the woman one loves
weeping. All I can promise you, dear Adeline, is to do nothing against
your interests or your husband’s. Only never send to me for information.
That is all.”

“What is to be done?” cried Madame Hulot.

Up to now the Baroness had bravely faced the threefold torment which
this explanation inflicted on her; for she was wounded as a woman, as a
mother, and as a wife. In fact, so long as her son’s father-in-law was
insolent and offensive, she had found the strength in her resistance
to the aggressive tradesman; but the sort of good-nature he showed,
in spite of his exasperation as a mortified adorer and as a humiliated
National Guardsman, broke down her nerve, strung to the point of
snapping. She wrung her hands, melted into tears, and was in a state of
such helpless dejection, that she allowed Crevel to kneel at her feet,
kissing her hands.

“Good God! what will become of us!” she went on, wiping away her tears.
“Can a mother sit still and see her child pine away before her eyes?
What is to be the fate of that splendid creature, as strong in her pure
life under her mother’s care as she is by every gift of nature? There
are days when she wanders round the garden, out of spirits without
knowing why; I find her with tears in her eyes----”

“She is one-and-twenty,” said Crevel.

“Must I place her in a convent?” asked the Baroness. “But in such cases
religion is impotent to subdue nature, and the most piously trained
girls lose their head!--Get up, pray, monsieur; do you not understand
that everything is final between us? that I look upon you with horror?
that you have crushed a mother’s last hopes----”

“But if I were to restore them,” asked he.

Madame Hulot looked at Crevel with a frenzied expression that really
touched him. But he drove pity back to the depths of his heart; she had
said, “I look upon you with horror.”

Virtue is always a little too rigid; it overlooks the shades and
instincts by help of which we are able to tack when in a false position.

“So handsome a girl as Mademoiselle Hortense does not find a husband
nowadays if she is penniless,” Crevel remarked, resuming his starchiest
manner. “Your daughter is one of those beauties who rather alarm
intending husbands; like a thoroughbred horse, which is too expensive
to keep up to find a ready purchaser. If you go out walking with such
a woman on your arm, every one will turn to look at you, and follow and
covet his neighbor’s wife. Such success is a source of much uneasiness
to men who do not want to be killing lovers; for, after all, no man
kills more than one. In the position in which you find yourself there
are just three ways of getting your daughter married: Either by my
help--and you will have none of it! That is one.--Or by finding some old
man of sixty, very rich, childless, and anxious to have children; that
is difficult, still such men are to be met with. Many old men take up
with a Josepha, a Jenny Cadine, why should not one be found who is ready
to make a fool of himself under legal formalities? If it were not for
Celestine and our two grandchildren, I would marry Hortense myself. That
is two.--The last way is the easiest----”

Madame Hulot raised her head, and looked uneasily at the ex-perfumer.

“Paris is a town whither every man of energy--and they sprout like
saplings on French soil--comes to meet his kind; talent swarms here
without hearth or home, and energy equal to anything, even to making a
fortune. Well, these youngsters--your humble servant was such a one
in his time, and how many he has known! What had du Tillet or Popinot
twenty years since? They were both pottering round in Daddy Birotteau’s
shop, with not a penny of capital but their determination to get on,
which, in my opinion, is the best capital a man can have. Money may be
eaten through, but you don’t eat through your determination. Why, what
had I? The will to get on, and plenty of pluck. At this day du Tillet is
a match for the greatest folks; little Popinot, the richest druggist of
the Rue des Lombards, became a deputy, now he is in office.--Well, one
of these free lances, as we say on the stock market, of the pen, or of
the brush, is the only man in Paris who would marry a penniless beauty,
for they have courage enough for anything. Monsieur Popinot married
Mademoiselle Birotteau without asking for a farthing. Those men are
madmen, to be sure! They trust in love as they trust in good luck and
brains!--Find a man of energy who will fall in love with your daughter,
and he will marry without a thought of money. You must confess that by
way of an enemy I am not ungenerous, for this advice is against my own
interests.”

“Oh, Monsieur Crevel, if you would indeed be my friend and give up your
ridiculous notions----”

“Ridiculous? Madame, do not run yourself down. Look at yourself--I love
you, and you will come to be mine. The day will come when I shall say to
Hulot, ‘You took Josepha, I have taken your wife!’

“It is the old law of tit-for-tat! And I will persevere till I have
attained my end, unless you should become extremely ugly.--I shall
succeed; and I will tell you why,” he went on, resuming his attitude,
and looking at Madame Hulot. “You will not meet with such an old man,
or such a young lover,” he said after a pause, “because you love
your daughter too well to hand her over to the manoeuvres of an old
libertine, and because you--the Baronne Hulot, sister of the old
Lieutenant-General who commanded the veteran Grenadiers of the Old
Guard--will not condescend to take a man of spirit wherever you may find
him; for he might be a mere craftsman, as many a millionaire of to-day
was ten years ago, a working artisan, or the foreman of a factory.

“And then, when you see the girl, urged by her twenty years, capable of
dishonoring you all, you will say to yourself, ‘It will be better that I
should fall! If Monsieur Crevel will but keep my secret, I will earn
my daughter’s portion--two hundred thousand francs for ten years’
attachment to that old gloveseller--old Crevel!’--I disgust you no
doubt, and what I am saying is horribly immoral, you think? But if you
happened to have been bitten by an overwhelming passion, you would find
a thousand arguments in favor of yielding--as women do when they are in
love.--Yes, and Hortense’s interests will suggest to your feelings such
terms of surrendering your conscience----”

“Hortense has still an uncle.”

“What! Old Fischer? He is winding up his concerns, and that again is the
Baron’s fault; his rake is dragged over every till within his reach.”

“Comte Hulot----”

“Oh, madame, your husband has already made thin air of the old General’s
savings. He spent them in furnishing his singer’s rooms.--Now, come; am
I to go without a hope?”

“Good-bye, monsieur. A man easily gets over a passion for a woman of my
age, and you will fall back on Christian principles. God takes care of
the wretched----”

The Baroness rose to oblige the captain to retreat, and drove him back
into the drawing-room.

“Ought the beautiful Madame Hulot to be living amid such squalor?” said
he, and he pointed to an old lamp, a chandelier bereft of its gilding,
the threadbare carpet, the very rags of wealth which made the large
room, with its red, white, and gold, look like a corpse of Imperial
festivities.

“Monsieur, virtue shines on it all. I have no wish to owe a handsome
abode to having made of the beauty you are pleased to ascribe to me a
_man-trap_ and _a money-box for five-franc pieces_!”

The captain bit his lips as he recognized the words he had used to
vilify Josepha’s avarice.

“And for whom are you so magnanimous?” said he. By this time the
baroness had got her rejected admirer as far as the door.--“For a
libertine!” said he, with a lofty grimace of virtue and superior wealth.

“If you are right, my constancy has some merit, monsieur. That is all.”

After bowing to the officer as a woman bows to dismiss an importune
visitor, she turned away too quickly to see him once more fold his arms.
She unlocked the doors she had closed, and did not see the threatening
gesture which was Crevel’s parting greeting. She walked with a proud,
defiant step, like a martyr to the Coliseum, but her strength was
exhausted; she sank on the sofa in her blue room, as if she were
ready to faint, and sat there with her eyes fixed on the tumble-down
summer-house, where her daughter was gossiping with Cousin Betty.



From the first days of her married life to the present time the Baroness
had loved her husband, as Josephine in the end had loved Napoleon, with
an admiring, maternal, and cowardly devotion. Though ignorant of the
details given her by Crevel, she knew that for twenty years past Baron
Hulot been anything rather than a faithful husband; but she had sealed
her eyes with lead, she had wept in silence, and no word of reproach had
ever escaped her. In return for this angelic sweetness, she had won her
husband’s veneration and something approaching to worship from all who
were about her.

A wife’s affection for her husband and the respect she pays him are
infectious in a family. Hortense believed her father to be a perfect
model of conjugal affection; as to their son, brought up to admire the
Baron, whom everybody regarded as one of the giants who so effectually
backed Napoleon, he knew that he owed his advancement to his father’s
name, position, and credit; and besides, the impressions of childhood
exert an enduring influence. He still was afraid of his father; and if
he had suspected the misdeeds revealed by Crevel, as he was too much
overawed by him to find fault, he would have found excuses in the view
every man takes of such matters.

It now will be necessary to give the reasons for the extraordinary
self-devotion of a good and beautiful woman; and this, in a few words,
is her past history.



Three brothers, simple laboring men, named Fischer, and living in a
village situated on the furthest frontier of Lorraine, were compelled
by the Republican conscription to set out with the so-called army of the
Rhine.

In 1799 the second brother, Andre, a widower, and Madame Hulot’s father,
left his daughter to the care of his elder brother, Pierre Fischer,
disabled from service by a wound received in 1797, and made a small
private venture in the military transport service, an opening he owed to
the favor of Hulot d’Ervy, who was high in the commissariat. By a very
obvious chance Hulot, coming to Strasbourg, saw the Fischer family.
Adeline’s father and his younger brother were at that time contractors
for forage in the province of Alsace.

Adeline, then sixteen years of age, might be compared with the famous
Madame du Barry, like her, a daughter of Lorraine. She was one of those
perfect and striking beauties--a woman like Madame Tallien, finished
with peculiar care by Nature, who bestows on them all her choicest
gifts--distinction, dignity, grace, refinement, elegance, flesh of a
superior texture, and a complexion mingled in the unknown laboratory
where good luck presides. These beautiful creatures all have something
in common: Bianca Capella, whose portrait is one of Bronzino’s
masterpieces; Jean Goujon’s Venus, painted from the famous Diane de
Poitiers; Signora Olympia, whose picture adorns the Doria gallery;
Ninon, Madame du Barry, Madame Tallien, Mademoiselle Georges, Madame
Recamier.--all these women who preserved their beauty in spite of years,
of passion, and of their life of excess and pleasure, have in
figure, frame, and in the character of their beauty certain striking
resemblances, enough to make one believe that there is in the ocean of
generations an Aphrodisian current whence every such Venus is born, all
daughters of the same salt wave.

Adeline Fischer, one of the loveliest of this race of goddesses, had the
splendid type, the flowing lines, the exquisite texture of a woman born
a queen. The fair hair that our mother Eve received from the hand of
God, the form of an Empress, an air of grandeur, and an august line of
profile, with her rural modesty, made every man pause in delight as she
passed, like amateurs in front of a Raphael; in short, having once seen
her, the Commissariat officer made Mademoiselle Adeline Fischer his wife
as quickly as the law would permit, to the great astonishment of the
Fischers, who had all been brought up in the fear of their betters.

The eldest, a soldier of 1792, severely wounded in the attack on the
lines at Wissembourg, adored the Emperor Napoleon and everything that
had to do with the _Grande Armee_. Andre and Johann spoke with respect
of Commissary Hulot, the Emperor’s protege, to whom indeed they owed
their prosperity; for Hulot d’Ervy, finding them intelligent and honest,
had taken them from the army provision wagons to place them in charge
of a government contract needing despatch. The brothers Fischer had
done further service during the campaign of 1804. At the peace Hulot had
secured for them the contract for forage from Alsace, not knowing that
he would presently be sent to Strasbourg to prepare for the campaign of
1806.

This marriage was like an Assumption to the young peasant girl. The
beautiful Adeline was translated at once from the mire of her village to
the paradise of the Imperial Court; for the contractor, one of the most
conscientious and hard-working of the Commissariat staff, was made
a Baron, obtained a place near the Emperor, and was attached to the
Imperial Guard. The handsome rustic bravely set to work to educate
herself for love of her husband, for she was simply crazy about him;
and, indeed, the Commissariat office was as a man a perfect match for
Adeline as a woman. He was one of the picked corps of fine men. Tall,
well-built, fair, with beautiful blue eyes full of irresistible fire and
life, his elegant appearance made him remarkable by the side of d’Orsay,
Forbin, Ouvrard; in short, in the battalion of fine men that surrounded
the Emperor. A conquering “buck,” and holding the ideas of the
Directoire with regard to women, his career of gallantry was interrupted
for some long time by his conjugal affection.

To Adeline the Baron was from the first a sort of god who could do no
wrong. To him she owed everything: fortune--she had a carriage, a fine
house, every luxury of the day; happiness--he was devoted to her in the
face of the world; a title, for she was a Baroness; fame, for she was
spoken of as the beautiful Madame Hulot--and in Paris! Finally, she had
the honor of refusing the Emperor’s advances, for Napoleon made her a
present of a diamond necklace, and always remembered her, asking now and
again, “And is the beautiful Madame Hulot still a model of virtue?” in
the tone of a man who might have taken his revenge on one who should
have triumphed where he had failed.

So it needs no great intuition to discern what were the motives in a
simple, guileless, and noble soul for the fanaticism of Madame Hulot’s
love. Having fully persuaded herself that her husband could do her no
wrong, she made herself in the depths of her heart the humble, abject,
and blindfold slave of the man who had made her. It must be noted, too,
that she was gifted with great good sense--the good sense of the people,
which made her education sound. In society she spoke little, and never
spoke evil of any one; she did not try to shine; she thought out
many things, listened well, and formed herself on the model of the
best-conducted women of good birth.

In 1815 Hulot followed the lead of the Prince de Wissembourg, his
intimate friend, and became one of the officers who organized the
improvised troops whose rout brought the Napoleonic cycle to a close at
Waterloo. In 1816 the Baron was one of the men best hated by the Feltre
administration, and was not reinstated in the Commissariat till 1823,
when he was needed for the Spanish war. In 1830 he took office as
the fourth wheel of the coach, at the time of the levies, a sort of
conscription made by Louis Philippe on the old Napoleonic soldiery. From
the time when the younger branch ascended the throne, having taken an
active part in bringing that about, he was regarded as an indispensable
authority at the War Office. He had already won his Marshal’s baton,
and the King could do no more for him unless by making him minister or a
peer of France.

From 1818 till 1823, having no official occupation, Baron Hulot had gone
on active service to womankind. Madame Hulot dated her Hector’s first
infidelities from the grand _finale_ of the Empire. Thus, for twelve
years the Baroness had filled the part in her household of _prima donna
assoluta_, without a rival. She still could boast of the old-fashioned,
inveterate affection which husbands feel for wives who are resigned to
be gentle and virtuous helpmates; she knew that if she had a rival,
that rival would not subsist for two hours under a word of reproof from
herself; but she shut her eyes, she stopped her ears, she would know
nothing of her husband’s proceedings outside his home. In short, she
treated her Hector as a mother treats a spoilt child.

Three years before the conversation reported above, Hortense, at
the Theatre des Varietes, had recognized her father in a lower tier
stage-box with Jenny Cadine, and had exclaimed:

“There is papa!”

“You are mistaken, my darling; he is at the Marshal’s,” the Baroness
replied.

She too had seen Jenny Cadine; but instead of feeling a pang when she
saw how pretty she was, she said to herself, “That rascal Hector must
think himself very lucky.”

She suffered nevertheless; she gave herself up in secret to rages of
torment; but as soon as she saw Hector, she always remembered her twelve
years of perfect happiness, and could not find it in her to utter a word
of complaint. She would have been glad if the Baron would have taken her
into his confidence; but she never dared to let him see that she knew
of his kicking over the traces, out of respect for her husband. Such
an excess of delicacy is never met with but in those grand creatures,
daughters of the soil, whose instinct it is to take blows without ever
returning them; the blood of the early martyrs still lives in their
veins. Well-born women, their husbands’ equals, feel the impulse to
annoy them, to mark the points of their tolerance, like points at
billiards, by some stinging word, partly in the spirit of diabolical
malice, and to secure the upper hand or the right of turning the tables.

The Baroness had an ardent admirer in her brother-in-law,
Lieutenant-General Hulot, the venerable Colonel of the Grenadiers of the
Imperial Infantry Guard, who was to have a Marshal’s baton in his old
age. This veteran, after having served from 1830 to 1834 as Commandant
of the military division, including the departments of Brittany, the
scene of his exploits in 1799 and 1800, had come to settle in Paris near
his brother, for whom he had a fatherly affection.

This old soldier’s heart was in sympathy with his sister-in-law; he
admired her as the noblest and saintliest of her sex. He had never
married, because he hoped to find a second Adeline, though he had vainly
sought for her through twenty campaigns in as many lands. To
maintain her place in the esteem of this blameless and spotless old
republican--of whom Napoleon had said, “That brave old Hulot is the most
obstinate republican, but he will never be false to me”--Adeline would
have endured griefs even greater than those that had just come upon
her. But the old soldier, seventy-two years of age, battered by thirty
campaigns, and wounded for the twenty-seventh time at Waterloo, was
Adeline’s admirer, and not a “protector.” The poor old Count, among
other infirmities, could only hear through a speaking trumpet.

So long as Baron Hulot d’Ervy was a fine man, his flirtations did not
damage his fortune; but when a man is fifty, the Graces claim payment.
At that age love becomes vice; insensate vanities come into play.
Thus, at about that time, Adeline saw that her husband was incredibly
particular about his dress; he dyed his hair and whiskers, and wore a
belt and stays. He was determined to remain handsome at any cost. This
care of his person, a weakness he had once mercilessly mocked at, was
carried out in the minutest details.

At last Adeline perceived that the Pactolus poured out before the
Baron’s mistresses had its source in her pocket. In eight years he had
dissipated a considerable amount of money; and so effectually, that, on
his son’s marriage two years previously, the Baron had been compelled to
explain to his wife that his pay constituted their whole income.

“What shall we come to?” asked Adeline.

“Be quite easy,” said the official, “I will leave the whole of my salary
in your hands, and I will make a fortune for Hortense, and some savings
for the future, in business.”

The wife’s deep belief in her husband’s power and superior talents, in
his capabilities and character, had, in fact, for the moment allayed her
anxiety.

What the Baroness’ reflections and tears were after Crevel’s departure
may now be clearly imagined. The poor woman had for two years past known
that she was at the bottom of a pit, but she had fancied herself alone
in it. How her son’s marriage had been finally arranged she had not
known; she had known nothing of Hector’s connection with the grasping
Jewess; and, above all, she hoped that no one in the world knew anything
of her troubles. Now, if Crevel went about so ready to talk of the
Baron’s excesses, Hector’s reputation would suffer. She could see, under
the angry ex-perfumer’s coarse harangue, the odious gossip behind the
scenes which led to her son’s marriage. Two reprobate hussies had been
the priestesses of this union planned at some orgy amid the degrading
familiarities of two tipsy old sinners.

“And has he forgotten Hortense!” she wondered.

“But he sees her every day; will he try to find her a husband among his
good-for-nothing sluts?”

At this moment it was the mother that spoke rather than the wife, for
she saw Hortense laughing with her Cousin Betty--the reckless laughter
of heedless youth; and she knew that such hysterical laughter was quite
as distressing a symptom as the tearful reverie of solitary walks in the
garden.

Hortense was like her mother, with golden hair that waved naturally,
and was amazingly long and thick. Her skin had the lustre of
mother-of-pearl. She was visibly the offspring of a true marriage, of a
pure and noble love in its prime. There was a passionate vitality in
her countenance, a brilliancy of feature, a full fount of youth, a fresh
vigor and abundance of health, which radiated from her with electric
flashes. Hortense invited the eye.

When her eye, of deep ultramarine blue, liquid with the moisture of
innocent youth, rested on a passer-by, he was involuntarily thrilled.
Nor did a single freckle mar her skin, such as those with which many
a white and golden maid pays toll for her milky whiteness. Tall, round
without being fat, with a slender dignity as noble as her mother’s,
she really deserved the name of goddess, of which old authors were
so lavish. In fact, those who saw Hortense in the street could hardly
restrain the exclamation, “What a beautiful girl!”

She was so genuinely innocent, that she could say to her mother:

“What do they mean, mamma, by calling me a beautiful girl when I am with
you? Are not you much handsomer than I am?”

And, in point of fact, at seven-and-forty the Baroness might have been
preferred to her daughter by amateurs of sunset beauty; for she had
not yet lost any of her charms, by one of those phenomena which are
especially rare in Paris, where Ninon was regarded as scandalous, simply
because she thus seemed to enjoy such an unfair advantage over the
plainer women of the seventeenth century.

Thinking of her daughter brought her back to the father; she saw him
sinking by degrees, day after day, down to the social mire, and even
dismissed some day from his appointment. The idea of her idol’s fall,
with a vague vision of the disasters prophesied by Crevel, was such a
terror to the poor woman, that she became rapt in the contemplation like
an ecstatic.

Cousin Betty, from time to time, as she chatted with Hortense, looked
round to see when they might return to the drawing-room; but her young
cousin was pelting her with questions, and at the moment when the
Baroness opened the glass door she did not happen to be looking.



Lisbeth Fischer, though the daughter of the eldest of the three
brothers, was five years younger than Madame Hulot; she was far from
being as handsome as her cousin, and had been desperately jealous of
Adeline. Jealousy was the fundamental passion of this character, marked
by eccentricities--a word invented by the English to describe the
craziness not of the asylum, but of respectable households. A native
of the Vosges, a peasant in the fullest sense of the word, lean, brown,
with shining black hair and thick eyebrows joining in a tuft, with long,
strong arms, thick feet, and some moles on her narrow simian face--such
is a brief description of the elderly virgin.

The family, living all under one roof, had sacrificed the common-looking
girl to the beauty, the bitter fruit to the splendid flower. Lisbeth
worked in the fields, while her cousin was indulged; and one day, when
they were alone together, she had tried to destroy Adeline’s nose, a
truly Greek nose, which the old mothers admired. Though she was beaten
for this misdeed, she persisted nevertheless in tearing the favorite’s
gowns and crumpling her collars.

At the time of Adeline’s wonderful marriage, Lisbeth had bowed to fate,
as Napoleon’s brothers and sisters bowed before the splendor of the
throne and the force of authority.

Adeline, who was extremely sweet and kind, remembered Lisbeth when she
found herself in Paris, and invited her there in 1809, intending to
rescue her from poverty by finding her a husband. But seeing that it was
impossible to marry the girl out of hand, with her black eyes and sooty
brows, unable, too, to read or write, the Baron began by apprenticing
her to a business; he placed her as a learner with the embroiderers to
the Imperial Court, the well-known Pons Brothers.

Lisbeth, called Betty for short, having learned to embroider in gold
and silver, and possessing all the energy of a mountain race, had
determination enough to learn to read, write, and keep accounts; for her
cousin the Baron had pointed out the necessity for these accomplishments
if she hoped to set up in business as an embroiderer.

She was bent on making a fortune; in two years she was another creature.
In 1811 the peasant woman had become a very presentable, skilled, and
intelligent forewoman.

Her department, that of gold and silver lace-work, as it is called,
included epaulettes, sword-knots, aiguillettes; in short, the immense
mass of glittering ornaments that sparkled on the rich uniforms of the
French army and civil officials. The Emperor, a true Italian in his love
of dress, had overlaid the coats of all his servants with silver and
gold, and the Empire included a hundred and thirty-three Departments.
These ornaments, usually supplied to tailors who were solvent and
wealthy paymasters, were a very secure branch of trade.

Just when Cousin Betty, the best hand in the house of Pons Brothers,
where she was forewoman of the embroidery department, might have set up
in business on her own account, the Empire collapsed. The olive-branch
of peace held out by the Bourbons did not reassure Lisbeth; she feared
a diminution of this branch of trade, since henceforth there were to
be but eighty-six Departments to plunder, instead of a hundred and
thirty-three, to say nothing of the immense reduction of the army.
Utterly scared by the ups and downs of industry, she refused the Baron’s
offers of help, and he thought she must be mad. She confirmed this
opinion by quarreling with Monsieur Rivet, who bought the business
of Pons Brothers, and with whom the Baron wished to place her in
partnership; she would be no more than a workwoman. Thus the Fischer
family had relapsed into the precarious mediocrity from which Baron
Hulot had raised it.

The three brothers Fischer, who had been ruined by the abdication at
Fontainebleau, in despair joined the irregular troops in 1815. The
eldest, Lisbeth’s father, was killed. Adeline’s father, sentenced to
death by court-martial, fled to Germany, and died at Treves in 1820.
Johann, the youngest, came to Paris, a petitioner to the queen of the
family, who was said to dine off gold and silver plate, and never to
be seen at a party but with diamonds in her hair as big as hazel-nuts,
given to her by the Emperor.

Johann Fischer, then aged forty-three, obtained from Baron Hulot a
capital of ten thousand francs with which to start a small business
as forage-dealer at Versailles, under the patronage of the War Office,
through the influence of the friends still in office, of the late
Commissary-General.

These family catastrophes, Baron Hulot’s dismissal, and the knowledge
that he was a mere cipher in that immense stir of men and interests and
things which makes Paris at once a paradise and a hell, quite quelled
Lisbeth Fischer. She gave up all idea of rivalry and comparison with her
cousin after feeling her great superiority; but envy still lurked in
her heart, like a plague-germ that may hatch and devastate a city if the
fatal bale of wool is opened in which it is concealed.

Now and again, indeed, she said to herself:

“Adeline and I are the same flesh and blood, our fathers were
brothers--and she is in a mansion, while I am in a garret.”

But every New Year Lisbeth had presents from the Baron and Baroness; the
Baron, who was always good to her, paid for her firewood in the winter;
old General Hulot had her to dinner once a week; and there was always a
cover laid for her at her cousin’s table. They laughed at her no doubt,
but they never were ashamed to own her. In short, they had made her
independent in Paris, where she lived as she pleased.

The old maid had, in fact, a terror of any kind of tie. Her cousin had
offered her a room in her own house--Lisbeth suspected the halter of
domestic servitude; several times the Baron had found a solution of
the difficult problem of her marriage; but though tempted in the first
instance, she would presently decline, fearing lest she should be
scorned for her want of education, her general ignorance, and her
poverty; finally, when the Baroness suggested that she should live
with their uncle Johann, and keep house for him, instead of the upper
servant, who must cost him dear, Lisbeth replied that that was the very
last way she should think of marrying.

Lisbeth Fischer had the sort of strangeness in her ideas which is often
noticeable in characters that have developed late, in savages, who think
much and speak little. Her peasant’s wit had acquired a good deal of
Parisian asperity from hearing the talk of workshops and mixing with
workmen and workwomen. She, whose character had a marked resemblance to
that of the Corsicans, worked upon without fruition by the instincts of
a strong nature, would have liked to be the protectress of a weak man;
but, as a result of living in the capital, the capital had altered her
superficially. Parisian polish became rust on this coarsely tempered
soul. Gifted with a cunning which had become unfathomable, as it always
does in those whose celibacy is genuine, with the originality and
sharpness with which she clothed her ideas, in any other position she
would have been formidable. Full of spite, she was capable of bringing
discord into the most united family.

In early days, when she indulged in certain secret hopes which she
confided to none, she took to wearing stays, and dressing in the
fashion, and so shone in splendor for a short time, that the Baron
thought her marriageable. Lisbeth at that stage was the piquante
brunette of old-fashioned novels. Her piercing glance, her olive
skin, her reed-like figure, might invite a half-pay major; but she was
satisfied, she would say laughing, with her own admiration.

And, indeed, she found her life pleasant enough when she had freed it
from practical anxieties, for she dined out every evening after working
hard from sunrise. Thus she had only her rent and her midday meal to
provide for; she had most of her clothes given her, and a variety of
very acceptable stores, such as coffee, sugar, wine, and so forth.

In 1837, after living for twenty-seven years, half maintained by the
Hulots and her Uncle Fischer, Cousin Betty, resigned to being nobody,
allowed herself to be treated so. She herself refused to appear at any
grand dinners, preferring the family party, where she held her own and
was spared all slights to her pride.

Wherever she went--at General Hulot’s, at Crevel’s, at the house of the
young Hulots, or at Rivet’s (Pons’ successor, with whom she made up her
quarrel, and who made much of her), and at the Baroness’ table--she was
treated as one of the family; in fact, she managed to make friends of
the servants by making them an occasional small present, and
always gossiping with them for a few minutes before going into the
drawing-room. This familiarity, by which she uncompromisingly put
herself on their level, conciliated their servile good-nature, which
is indispensable to a parasite. “She is a good, steady woman,” was
everybody’s verdict.

Her willingness to oblige, which knew no bounds when it was not demanded
of her, was indeed, like her assumed bluntness, a necessity of her
position. She had at length understood what her life must be, seeing
that she was at everybody’s mercy; and needing to please everybody, she
would laugh with young people, who liked her for a sort of wheedling
flattery which always wins them; guessing and taking part with their
fancies, she would make herself their spokeswoman, and they thought her
a delightful _confidante_, since she had no right to find fault with
them.

Her absolute secrecy also won her the confidence of their seniors; for,
like Ninon, she had certain manly qualities. As a rule, our confidence
is given to those below rather than above us. We employ our inferiors
rather than our betters in secret transactions, and they thus become
the recipients of our inmost thoughts, and look on at our meditations;
Richelieu thought he had achieved success when he was admitted to the
Council. This penniless woman was supposed to be so dependent on every
one about her, that she seemed doomed to perfect silence. She herself
called herself the Family Confessional.

The Baroness only, remembering her ill-usage in childhood by the cousin
who, though younger, was stronger than herself, never wholly trusted
her. Besides, out of sheer modesty, she would never have told her
domestic sorrows to any one but God.

It may here be well to add that the Baron’s house preserved all its
magnificence in the eyes of Lisbeth Fischer, who was not struck, as the
parvenu perfumer had been, with the penury stamped on the shabby chairs,
the dirty hangings, and the ripped silk. The furniture we live with is
in some sort like our own person; seeing ourselves every day, we end,
like the Baron, by thinking ourselves but little altered, and still
youthful, when others see that our head is covered with chinchilla,
our forehead scarred with circumflex accents, our stomach assuming the
rotundity of a pumpkin. So these rooms, always blazing in Betty’s
eyes with the Bengal fire of Imperial victory, were to her perennially
splendid.

As time went on, Lisbeth had contracted some rather strange old-maidish
habits. For instance, instead of following the fashions, she expected
the fashion to accept her ways and yield to her always out-of-date
notions. When the Baroness gave her a pretty new bonnet, or a gown in
the fashion of the day, Betty remade it completely at home, and spoilt
it by producing a dress of the style of the Empire or of her old
Lorraine costume. A thirty-franc bonnet came out a rag, and the gown a
disgrace. On this point, Lisbeth was as obstinate as a mule; she would
please no one but herself and believed herself charming; whereas this
assimilative process--harmonious, no doubt, in so far as that it stamped
her for an old maid from head to foot--made her so ridiculous, that,
with the best will in the world, no one could admit her on any smart
occasion.

This refractory, capricious, and independent spirit, and the
inexplicable wild shyness of the woman for whom the Baron had four
times found a match--an employe in his office, a retired major, an
army contractor, and a half-pay captain--while she had refused an army
lacemaker, who had since made his fortune, had won her the name of the
Nanny Goat, which the Baron gave her in jest. But this nickname only met
the peculiarities that lay on the surface, the eccentricities which
each of us displays to his neighbors in social life. This woman, who, if
closely studied, would have shown the most savage traits of the peasant
class, was still the girl who had clawed her cousin’s nose, and who, if
she had not been trained to reason, would perhaps have killed her in a
fit of jealousy.

It was only her knowledge of the laws and of the world that enabled her
to control the swift instinct with which country folk, like wild men,
reduce impulse to action. In this alone, perhaps, lies the difference
between natural and civilized man. The savage has only impulse; the
civilized man has impulses and ideas. And in the savage the brain
retains, as we may say, but few impressions, it is wholly at the mercy
of the feeling that rushes in upon it; while in the civilized man, ideas
sink into the heart and change it; he has a thousand interests and many
feelings, where the savage has but one at a time. This is the cause of
the transient ascendency of a child over its parents, which ceases as
soon as it is satisfied; in the man who is still one with nature, this
contrast is constant. Cousin Betty, a savage of Lorraine, somewhat
treacherous too, was of this class of natures, which are commoner among
the lower orders than is supposed, accounting for the conduct of the
populace during revolutions.



At the time when this _Drama_ opens, if Cousin Betty would have allowed
herself to be dressed like other people; if, like the women of Paris,
she had been accustomed to wear each fashion in its turn, she would have
been presentable and acceptable, but she preserved the stiffness of a
stick. Now a woman devoid of all the graces, in Paris simply does not
exist. The fine but hard eyes, the severe features, the Calabrian fixity
of complexion which made Lisbeth like a figure by Giotto, and of which a
true Parisian would have taken advantage, above all, her strange way of
dressing, gave her such an extraordinary appearance that she sometimes
looked like one of those monkeys in petticoats taken about by little
Savoyards. As she was well known in the houses connected by family which
she frequented, and restricted her social efforts to that little circle,
as she liked her own home, her singularities no longer astonished
anybody; and out of doors they were lost in the immense stir of Paris
street-life, where only pretty women are ever looked at.

Hortense’s laughter was at this moment caused by a victory won over her
Cousin Lisbeth’s perversity; she had just wrung from her an avowal she
had been hoping for these three years past. However secretive an old
maid may be, there is one sentiment which will always avail to make her
break her fast from words, and that is her vanity. For the last three
years, Hortense, having become very inquisitive on such matters, had
pestered her cousin with questions, which, however, bore the stamp of
perfect innocence. She wanted to know why her cousin had never married.
Hortense, who knew of the five offers that she had refused, had
constructed her little romance; she supposed that Lisbeth had had a
passionate attachment, and a war of banter was the result. Hortense
would talk of “We young girls!” when speaking of herself and her cousin.

Cousin Betty had on several occasions answered in the same tone--“And
who says I have not a lover?” So Cousin Betty’s lover, real or
fictitious, became a subject of mild jesting. At last, after two years
of this petty warfare, the last time Lisbeth had come to the house
Hortense’s first question had been:

“And how is your lover?”

“Pretty well, thank you,” was the answer. “He is rather ailing, poor
young man.”

“He has delicate health?” asked the Baroness, laughing.

“I should think so! He is fair. A sooty thing like me can love none but
a fair man with a color like the moon.”

“But who is he? What does he do?” asked Hortense. “Is he a prince?”

“A prince of artisans, as I am queen of the bobbin. Is a poor woman like
me likely to find a lover in a man with a fine house and money in the
funds, or in a duke of the realm, or some Prince Charming out of a fairy
tale?”

“Oh, I should so much like to see him!” cried Hortense, smiling.

“To see what a man can be like who can love the Nanny Goat?” retorted
Lisbeth.

“He must be some monster of an old clerk, with a goat’s beard!” Hortense
said to her mother.

“Well, then, you are quite mistaken, mademoiselle.”

“Then you mean that you really have a lover?” Hortense exclaimed in
triumph.

“As sure as you have not!” retorted Lisbeth, nettled.

“But if you have a lover, why don’t you marry him, Lisbeth?” said the
Baroness, shaking her head at her daughter. “We have been hearing rumors
about him these three years. You have had time to study him; and if he
has been faithful so long, you should not persist in a delay which must
be hard upon him. After all, it is a matter of conscience; and if he is
young, it is time to take a brevet of dignity.”

Cousin Betty had fixed her gaze on Adeline, and seeing that she was
jesting, she replied:

“It would be marrying hunger and thirst; he is a workman, I am a
workwoman. If we had children, they would be workmen.--No, no; we love
each other spiritually; it is less expensive.”

“Why do you keep him in hiding?” Hortense asked.

“He wears a round jacket,” replied the old maid, laughing.

“You truly love him?” the Baroness inquired.

“I believe you! I love him for his own sake, the dear cherub. For four
years his home has been in my heart.”

“Well, then, if you love him for himself,” said the Baroness gravely,
“and if he really exists, you are treating him criminally. You do not
know how to love truly.”

“We all know that from our birth,” said Lisbeth.

“No, there are women who love and yet are selfish, and that is your
case.”

Cousin Betty’s head fell, and her glance would have made any one shiver
who had seen it; but her eyes were on her reel of thread.

“If you would introduce your so-called lover to us, Hector might find
him employment, or put him in a position to make money.”

“That is out of the question,” said Cousin Betty.

“And why?”

“He is a sort of Pole--a refugee----”

“A conspirator?” cried Hortense. “What luck for you!--Has he had any
adventures?”

“He has fought for Poland. He was a professor in the school where the
students began the rebellion; and as he had been placed there by the
Grand Duke Constantine, he has no hope of mercy----”

“A professor of what?”

“Of fine arts.”

“And he came to Paris when the rebellion was quelled?”

“In 1833. He came through Germany on foot.”

“Poor young man! And how old is he?”

“He was just four-and-twenty when the insurrection broke out--he is
twenty-nine now.”

“Fifteen years your junior,” said the Baroness.

“And what does he live on?” asked Hortense.

“His talent.”

“Oh, he gives lessons?”

“No,” said Cousin Betty; “he gets them, and hard ones too!”

“And his Christian name--is it a pretty name?”

“Wenceslas.”

“What a wonderful imagination you old maids have!” exclaimed the
Baroness. “To hear you talk, Lisbeth, one might really believe you.”

“You see, mamma, he is a Pole, and so accustomed to the knout that
Lisbeth reminds him of the joys of his native land.”

They all three laughed, and Hortense sang _Wenceslas! idole de mon ame!_
instead of _O Mathilde_.

Then for a few minutes there was a truce.

“These children,” said Cousin Betty, looking at Hortense as she went up
to her, “fancy that no one but themselves can have lovers.”

“Listen,” Hortense replied, finding herself alone with her cousin, “if
you prove to me that Wenceslas is not a pure invention, I will give you
my yellow cashmere shawl.”

“He is a Count.”

“Every Pole is a Count!”

“But he is not a Pole; he comes from Liva--Litha----”

“Lithuania?”

“No.”

“Livonia?”

“Yes, that’s it!”

“But what is his name?”

“I wonder if you are capable of keeping a secret.”

“Cousin Betty, I will be as mute!----”

“As a fish?”

“As a fish.”

“By your life eternal?”

“By my life eternal!”

“No, by your happiness in this world?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then, his name is Wenceslas Steinbock.”

“One of Charles XII.’s Generals was named Steinbock.”

“He was his grand-uncle. His own father settled in Livonia after the
death of the King of Sweden; but he lost all his fortune during the
campaign of 1812, and died, leaving the poor boy at the age of eight
without a penny. The Grand Duke Constantine, for the honor of the name
of Steinbock, took him under his protection and sent him to school.”

“I will not break my word,” Hortense replied; “prove his existence,
and you shall have the yellow shawl. The color is most becoming to dark
skins.”

“And you will keep my secret?”

“And tell you mine.”

“Well, then, the next time I come you shall have the proof.”

“But the proof will be the lover,” said Hortense.

Cousin Betty, who, since her first arrival in Paris, had been bitten
by a mania for shawls, was bewitched by the idea of owning the yellow
cashmere given to his wife by the Baron in 1808, and handed down from
mother to daughter after the manner of some families in 1830. The shawl
had been a good deal worn ten years ago; but the costly object, now
always kept in its sandal-wood box, seemed to the old maid ever new,
like the drawing-room furniture. So she brought in her handbag a present
for the Baroness’ birthday, by which she proposed to prove the existence
of her romantic lover.

This present was a silver seal formed of three little figures back to
back, wreathed with foliage, and supporting the Globe. They represented
Faith, Hope, and Charity; their feet rested on monsters rending each
other, among them the symbolical serpent. In 1846, now that such immense
strides have been made in the art of which Benvenuto Cellini was the
master, by Mademoiselle de Fauveau, Wagner, Jeanest, Froment-Meurice,
and wood-carvers like Lienard, this little masterpiece would amaze
nobody; but at that time a girl who understood the silversmith’s art
stood astonished as she held the seal which Lisbeth put into her hands,
saying:

“There! what do you think of that?”

In design, attitude, and drapery the figures were of the school of
Raphael; but the execution was in the style of the Florentine metal
workers--the school created by Donatello, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti,
Benvenuto Cellini, John of Bologna, and others. The French masters of
the Renaissance had never invented more strangely twining monsters than
these that symbolized the evil passions. The palms, ferns, reeds, and
foliage that wreathed the Virtues showed a style, a taste, a handling
that might have driven a practised craftsman to despair; a scroll
floated above the three figures; and on its surface, between the heads,
were a W, a chamois, and the word _fecit_.

“Who carved this?” asked Hortense.

“Well, just my lover,” replied Lisbeth. “There are ten months’ work in
it; I could earn more at making sword-knots.--He told me that Steinbock
means a rock goat, a chamois, in German. And he intends to mark all his
work in that way.--Ah, ha! I shall have the shawl.”

“What for?”

“Do you suppose I could buy such a thing, or order it? Impossible!
Well, then, it must have been given to me. And who would make me such a
present? A lover!”

Hortense, with an artfulness that would have frightened Lisbeth Fischer
if she had detected it, took care not to express all her admiration,
though she was full of the delight which every soul that is open to a
sense of beauty must feel on seeing a faultless piece of work--perfect
and unexpected.

“On my word,” said she, “it is very pretty.”

“Yes, it is pretty,” said her cousin; “but I like an orange-colored
shawl better.--Well, child, my lover spends his time in doing such work
as that. Since he came to Paris he has turned out three or four little
trifles in that style, and that is the fruit of four years’ study
and toil. He has served as apprentice to founders, metal-casters, and
goldsmiths.--There he has paid away thousands and hundreds of francs.
And my gentleman tells me that in a few months now he will be famous and
rich----”

“Then you often see him?”

“Bless me, do you think it is all a fable? I told you truth in jest.”

“And he is in love with you?” asked Hortense eagerly.

“He adores me,” replied Lisbeth very seriously. “You see, child, he had
never seen any women but the washed out, pale things they all are in
the north, and a slender, brown, youthful thing like me warmed his
heart.--But, mum; you promised, you know!”

“And he will fare like the five others,” said the girl ironically, as
she looked at the seal.

“Six others, miss. I left one in Lorraine, who, to this day, would fetch
the moon down for me.”

“This one does better than that,” said Hortense; “he has brought down
the sun.”

“Where can that be turned into money?” asked her cousin. “It takes wide
lands to benefit by the sunshine.”

These witticisms, fired in quick retort, and leading to the sort of
giddy play that may be imagined, had given cause for the laughter which
had added to the Baroness’ troubles by making her compare her
daughter’s future lot with the present, when she was free to indulge the
light-heartedness of youth.

“But to give you a gem which cost him six months of work, he must be
under some great obligations to you?” said Hortense, in whom the silver
seal had suggested very serious reflections.

“Oh, you want to know too much at once!” said her cousin. “But, listen,
I will let you into a little plot.”

“Is your lover in it too?”

“Oh, ho! you want so much to see him! But, as you may suppose, an old
maid like Cousin Betty, who had managed to keep a lover for five years,
keeps him well hidden.--Now, just let me alone. You see, I have neither
cat nor canary, neither dog nor a parrot, and the old Nanny Goat wanted
something to pet and tease--so I treated myself to a Polish Count.”

“Has he a moustache?”

“As long as that,” said Lisbeth, holding up her shuttle filled with gold
thread. She always took her lace-work with her, and worked till dinner
was served.

“If you ask too many questions, you will be told nothing,” she went on.
“You are but two-and-twenty, and you chatter more than I do though I am
forty-two--not to say forty-three.”

“I am listening; I am a wooden image,” said Hortense.

“My lover has finished a bronze group ten inches high,” Lisbeth went on.
“It represents Samson slaying a lion, and he has kept it buried till it
is so rusty that you might believe it to be as old as Samson himself.
This fine piece is shown at the shop of one of the old curiosity sellers
on the Place du Carrousel, near my lodgings. Now, your father knows
Monsieur Popinot, the Minister of Commerce and Agriculture, and the
Comte de Rastignac, and if he would mention the group to them as a fine
antique he had seen by chance! It seems that such things take the fancy
of your grand folks, who don’t care so much about gold lace, and that my
man’s fortune would be made if one of them would buy or even look at
the wretched piece of metal. The poor fellow is sure that it might be
mistaken for old work, and that the rubbish is worth a great deal of
money. And then, if one of the ministers should purchase the group, he
would go to pay his respects, and prove that he was the maker, and be
almost carried in triumph! Oh! he believes he has reached the pinnacle;
poor young man, and he is as proud as two newly-made Counts.”

“Michael Angelo over again; but, for a lover, he has kept his head on
his shoulders!” said Hortense. “And how much does he want for it?”

“Fifteen hundred francs. The dealer will not let it go for less, since
he must take his commission.”

“Papa is in the King’s household just now,” said Hortense. “He sees
those two ministers every day at the Chamber, and he will do the
thing--I undertake that. You will be a rich woman, Madame la Comtesse de
Steinbock.”

“No, the boy is too lazy; for whole weeks he sits twiddling with bits
of red wax, and nothing comes of it. Why, he spends all his days at the
Louvre and the Library, looking at prints and sketching things. He is an
idler!”

The cousins chatted and giggled; Hortense laughing a forced laugh, for
she was invaded by a kind of love which every girl has gone through--the
love of the unknown, love in its vaguest form, when every thought is
accreted round some form which is suggested by a chance word, as the
efflorescence of hoar-frost gathers about a straw that the wind has
blown against the window-sill.

For the past ten months she had made a reality of her cousin’s imaginary
romance, believing, like her mother, that Lisbeth would never marry;
and now, within a week, this visionary being had become Comte Wenceslas
Steinbock, the dream had a certificate of birth, the wraith had
solidified into a young man of thirty. The seal she held in her hand--a
sort of Annunciation in which genius shone like an immanent light--had
the powers of a talisman. Hortense felt such a surge of happiness, that
she almost doubted whether the tale were true; there was a ferment in
her blood, and she laughed wildly to deceive her cousin.

“But I think the drawing-room door is open,” said Lisbeth; “let us go
and see if Monsieur Crevel is gone.”

“Mamma has been very much out of spirits these two days. I suppose the
marriage under discussion has come to nothing!”

“Oh, it may come on again. He is--I may tell you so much--a Councillor
of the Supreme Court. How would you like to be Madame la Presidente? If
Monsieur Crevel has a finger in it, he will tell me about it if I ask
him. I shall know by to-morrow if there is any hope.”

“Leave the seal with me,” said Hortense; “I will not show it--mamma’s
birthday is not for a month yet; I will give it to you that morning.”

“No, no. Give it back to me; it must have a case.”

“But I will let papa see it, that he may know what he is talking about
to the ministers, for men in authority must be careful what they say,”
 urged the girl.

“Well, do not show it to your mother--that is all I ask; for if she
believed I had a lover, she would make game of me.”

“I promise.”

The cousins reached the drawing-room just as the Baroness turned faint.
Her daughter’s cry of alarm recalled her to herself. Lisbeth went off to
fetch some salts. When she came back, she found the mother and daughter
in each other’s arms, the Baroness soothing her daughter’s fears, and
saying:

“It was nothing; a little nervous attack.--There is your father,” she
added, recognizing the Baron’s way of ringing the bell. “Say not a word
to him.”

Adeline rose and went to meet her husband, intending to take him
into the garden and talk to him till dinner should be served of the
difficulties about the proposed match, getting him to come to some
decision as to the future, and trying to hint at some warning advice.



Baron Hector Hulot came in, in a dress at once lawyer-like and
Napoleonic, for Imperial men--men who had been attached to the
Emperor--were easily distinguishable by their military deportment, their
blue coats with gilt buttons, buttoned to the chin, their black silk
stock, and an authoritative demeanor acquired from a habit of command in
circumstances requiring despotic rapidity. There was nothing of the old
man in the Baron, it must be admitted; his sight was still so good,
that he could read without spectacles; his handsome oval face, framed
in whiskers that were indeed too black, showed a brilliant complexion,
ruddy with the veins that characterize a sanguine temperament; and his
stomach, kept in order by a belt, had not exceeded the limits of “the
majestic,” as Brillat-Savarin says. A fine aristocratic air and great
affability served to conceal the libertine with whom Crevel had had such
high times. He was one of those men whose eyes always light up at the
sight of a pretty woman, even of such as merely pass by, never to be
seen again.

“Have you been speaking, my dear?” asked Adeline, seeing him with an
anxious brow.

“No,” replied Hector, “but I am worn out with hearing others speak for
two hours without coming to a vote. They carry on a war of words, in
which their speeches are like a cavalry charge which has no effect on
the enemy. Talk has taken the place of action, which goes very much
against the grain with men who are accustomed to marching orders, as
I said to the Marshal when I left him. However, I have enough of
being bored on the ministers’ bench; here I may play.--How do, la
Chevre!--Good morning, little kid,” and he took his daughter round the
neck, kissed her, and made her sit on his knee, resting her head on his
shoulder, that he might feel her soft golden hair against his cheek.

“He is tired and worried,” said his wife to herself. “I shall only worry
him more.--I will wait.--Are you going to be at home this evening?” she
asked him.

“No, children. After dinner I must go out. If it had not been the day
when Lisbeth and the children and my brother come to dinner, you would
not have seen me at all.”

The Baroness took up the newspaper, looked down the list of theatres,
and laid it down again when she had seen that Robert _le Diable_ was
to be given at the Opera. Josepha, who had left the Italian Opera six
months since for the French Opera, was to take the part of Alice.

This little pantomime did not escape the Baron, who looked hard at
his wife. Adeline cast down her eyes and went out into the garden; her
husband followed her.

“Come, what is it, Adeline?” said he, putting his arm round her waist
and pressing her to his side. “Do not you know that I love you more
than----”

“More than Jenny Cadine or Josepha!” said she, boldly interrupting him.

“Who put that into your head?” exclaimed the Baron, releasing his wife,
and starting back a step or two.

“I got an anonymous letter, which I burnt at once, in which I was told,
my dear, that the reason Hortense’s marriage was broken off was the
poverty of our circumstances. Your wife, my dear Hector, would never
have said a word; she knew of your connection with Jenny Cadine, and did
she ever complain?--But as the mother of Hortense, I am bound to speak
the truth.”

Hulot, after a short silence, which was terrible to his wife, whose
heart beat loud enough to be heard, opened his arms, clasped her to his
heart, kissed her forehead, and said with the vehemence of enthusiasm:

“Adeline, you are an angel, and I am a wretch----”

“No, no,” cried the Baroness, hastily laying her hand upon his lips to
hinder him from speaking evil of himself.

“Yes, for I have not at this moment a sou to give to Hortense, and I am
most unhappy. But since you open your heart to me, I may pour into it
the trouble that is crushing me.--Your Uncle Fischer is in difficulties,
and it is I who dragged him there, for he has accepted bills for me
to the amount of twenty-five thousand francs! And all for a woman who
deceives me, who laughs at me behind my back, and calls me an old
dyed Tom. It is frightful! A vice which costs me more than it would to
maintain a family!--And I cannot resist!--I would promise you here and
now never to see that abominable Jewess again; but if she wrote me two
lines, I should go to her, as we marched into fire under the Emperor.”

“Do not be so distressed,” cried the poor woman in despair, but
forgetting her daughter as she saw the tears in her husband’s eyes.
“There are my diamonds; whatever happens, save my uncle.”

“Your diamonds are worth scarcely twenty thousand francs nowadays. That
would not be enough for old Fischer, so keep them for Hortense; I will
see the Marshal to-morrow.”

“My poor dear!” said the Baroness, taking her Hector’s hands and kissing
them.

This was all the scolding he got. Adeline sacrificed her jewels, the
father made them a present to Hortense, she regarded this as a sublime
action, and she was helpless.

“He is the master; he could take everything, and he leaves me my
diamonds; he is divine!”

This was the current of her thoughts; and indeed the wife had gained
more by her sweetness than another perhaps could have achieved by a fit
of angry jealousy.

The moralist cannot deny that, as a rule, well-bred though very wicked
men are far more attractive and lovable than virtuous men; having crimes
to atone for, they crave indulgence by anticipation, by being lenient
to the shortcomings of those who judge them, and they are thought most
kind. Though there are no doubt some charming people among the virtuous,
Virtue considers itself fair enough, unadorned, to be at no pains to
please; and then all really virtuous persons, for the hypocrites do not
count, have some slight doubts as to their position; they believe that
they are cheated in the bargain of life on the whole, and they indulge
in acid comments after the fashion of those who think themselves
unappreciated.

Hence the Baron, who accused himself of ruining his family, displayed
all his charm of wit and his most seductive graces for the benefit of
his wife, for his children, and his Cousin Lisbeth.

Then, when his son arrived with Celestine, Crevel’s daughter, who was
nursing the infant Hulot, he was delightful to his daughter-in-law,
loading her with compliments--a treat to which Celestine’s vanity was
little accustomed for no moneyed bride more commonplace or more utterly
insignificant was ever seen. The grandfather took the baby from her,
kissed it, declared it was a beauty and a darling; he spoke to it in
baby language, prophesied that it would grow to be taller than himself,
insinuated compliments for his son’s benefit, and restored the child to
the Normandy nurse who had charge of it. Celestine, on her part, gave
the Baroness a look, as much as to say, “What a delightful man!” and she
naturally took her father-in-law’s part against her father.

After thus playing the charming father-in-law and the indulgent
grandpapa, the Baron took his son into the garden, and laid before him
a variety of observations full of good sense as to the attitude to be
taken up by the Chamber on a certain ticklish question which had
that morning come under discussion. The young lawyer was struck with
admiration for the depth of his father’s insight, touched by his
cordiality, and especially by the deferential tone which seemed to place
the two men on a footing of equality.

Monsieur Hulot _junior_ was in every respect the young Frenchman, as
he has been moulded by the Revolution of 1830; his mind infatuated with
politics, respectful of his own hopes, and concealing them under
an affectation of gravity, very envious of successful men, making
sententiousness do the duty of witty rejoinders--the gems of the French
language--with a high sense of importance, and mistaking arrogance for
dignity.

Such men are walking coffins, each containing a Frenchman of the past;
now and again the Frenchman wakes up and kicks against his English-made
casing; but ambition stifles him, and he submits to be smothered. The
coffin is always covered with black cloth.

“Ah, here is my brother!” said Baron Hulot, going to meet the Count at
the drawing-room door.

Having greeted the probable successor of the late Marshal Montcornet, he
led him forward by the arm with every show of affection and respect.

The older man, a member of the Chamber of Peers, but excused from
attendance on account of his deafness, had a handsome head, chilled by
age, but with enough gray hair still to be marked in a circle by the
pressure of his hat. He was short, square, and shrunken, but carried his
hale old age with a free-and-easy air; and as he was full of excessive
activity, which had now no purpose, he divided his time between reading
and taking exercise. In a drawing-room he devoted his attention to
waiting on the wishes of the ladies.

“You are very merry here,” said he, seeing that the Baron shed a spirit
of animation on the little family gathering. “And yet Hortense is
not married,” he added, noticing a trace of melancholy on his
sister-in-law’s countenance.

“That will come all in good time,” Lisbeth shouted in his ear in a
formidable voice.

“So there you are, you wretched seedling that could never blossom,” said
he, laughing.

The hero of Forzheim rather liked Cousin Betty, for there were certain
points of resemblance between them. A man of the ranks, without any
education, his courage had been the sole mainspring of his military
promotion, and sound sense had taken the place of brilliancy. Of the
highest honor and clean-handed, he was ending a noble life in full
contentment in the centre of his family, which claimed all his
affections, and without a suspicion of his brother’s still undiscovered
misconduct. No one enjoyed more than he the pleasing sight of this
family party, where there never was the smallest disagreement, for the
brothers and sisters were all equally attached, Celestine having been at
once accepted as one of the family. But the worthy little Count wondered
now and then why Monsieur Crevel never joined the party. “Papa is in
the country,” Celestine shouted, and it was explained to him that the
ex-perfumer was away from home.

This perfect union of all her family made Madame Hulot say to herself,
“This, after all, is the best kind of happiness, and who can deprive us
of it?”

The General, on seeing his favorite Adeline the object of her husband’s
attentions, laughed so much about it that the Baron, fearing to seem
ridiculous, transferred his gallantries to his daughter-in-law, who
at these family dinners was always the object of his flattery and kind
care, for he hoped to win Crevel back through her, and make him forego
his resentment.

Any one seeing this domestic scene would have found it hard to believe
that the father was at his wits’ end, the mother in despair, the son
anxious beyond words as to his father’s future fate, and the daughter on
the point of robbing her cousin of her lover.



At seven o’clock the Baron, seeing his brother, his son, the Baroness,
and Hortense all engaged at whist, went off to applaud his mistress
at the Opera, taking with him Lisbeth Fischer, who lived in the Rue du
Doyenne, and who always made an excuse of the solitude of that deserted
quarter to take herself off as soon as dinner was over. Parisians will
all admit that the old maid’s prudence was but rational.

The existence of the maze of houses under the wing of the old Louvre is
one of those protests against obvious good sense which Frenchmen love,
that Europe may reassure itself as to the quantum of brains they are
known to have, and not be too much alarmed. Perhaps without knowing it,
this reveals some profound political idea.

It will surely not be a work of supererogation to describe this part of
Paris as it is even now, when we could hardly expect its survival; and
our grandsons, who will no doubt see the Louvre finished, may refuse
to believe that such a relic of barbarism should have survived for
six-and-thirty years in the heart of Paris and in the face of the palace
where three dynasties of kings have received, during those thirty-six
years, the elite of France and of Europe.

Between the little gate leading to the Bridge of the Carrousel and the
Rue du Musee, every one having come to Paris, were it but for a few
days, must have seen a dozen of houses with a decayed frontage where the
dejected owners have attempted no repairs, the remains of an old
block of buildings of which the destruction was begun at the time when
Napoleon determined to complete the Louvre. This street, and the blind
alley known as the Impasse du Doyenne, are the only passages into this
gloomy and forsaken block, inhabited perhaps by ghosts, for there never
is anybody to be seen. The pavement is much below the footway of the
Rue du Musee, on a level with that of the Rue Froidmanteau. Thus, half
sunken by the raising of the soil, these houses are also wrapped in the
perpetual shadow cast by the lofty buildings of the Louvre, darkened on
that side by the northern blast. Darkness, silence, an icy chill, and
the cavernous depth of the soil combine to make these houses a kind
of crypt, tombs of the living. As we drive in a hackney cab past this
dead-alive spot, and chance to look down the little Rue du Doyenne,
a shudder freezes the soul, and we wonder who can lie there, and what
things may be done there at night, at an hour when the alley is a
cut-throat pit, and the vices of Paris run riot there under the cloak
of night. This question, frightful in itself, becomes appalling when we
note that these dwelling-houses are shut in on the side towards the Rue
de Richelieu by marshy ground, by a sea of tumbled paving-stones between
them and the Tuileries, by little garden-plots and suspicious-looking
hovels on the side of the great galleries, and by a desert of
building-stone and old rubbish on the side towards the old Louvre. Henri
III. and his favorites in search of their trunk-hose, and Marguerite’s
lovers in search of their heads, must dance sarabands by moonlight in
this wilderness overlooked by the roof of a chapel still standing
there as if to prove that the Catholic religion--so deeply rooted in
France--survives all else.

For forty years now has the Louvre been crying out by every gap in these
damaged walls, by every yawning window, “Rid me of these warts upon my
face!” This cutthroat lane has no doubt been regarded as useful, and has
been thought necessary as symbolizing in the heart of Paris the intimate
connection between poverty and the splendor that is characteristic
of the queen of cities. And indeed these chill ruins, among which
the Legitimist newspaper contracted the disease it is dying of--the
abominable hovels of the Rue du Musee, and the hoarding appropriated by
the shop stalls that flourish there--will perhaps live longer and more
prosperously than three successive dynasties.

In 1823 the low rents in these already condemned houses had tempted
Lisbeth Fischer to settle there, notwithstanding the necessity imposed
upon her by the state of the neighborhood to get home before nightfall.
This necessity, however, was in accordance with the country habits she
retained, of rising and going to bed with the sun, an arrangement which
saves country folk considerable sums in lights and fuel. She lived
in one of the houses which, since the demolition of the famous Hotel
Cambaceres, command a view of the square.

Just as Baron Hulot set his wife’s cousin down at the door of this
house, saying, “Good-night, Cousin,” an elegant-looking woman, young,
small, slender, pretty, beautifully dressed, and redolent of some
delicate perfume, passed between the wall and the carriage to go in.
This lady, without any premeditation, glanced up at the Baron merely
to see the lodger’s cousin, and the libertine at once felt the
swift impression which all Parisians know on meeting a pretty woman,
realizing, as entomologists have it, their _desiderata_; so he waited to
put on one of his gloves with judicious deliberation before getting into
the carriage again, to give himself an excuse for allowing his eye
to follow the young woman, whose skirts were pleasingly set out by
something else than these odious and delusive crinoline bustles.

“That,” said he to himself, “is a nice little person whose happiness I
should like to provide for, as she would certainly secure mine.”

When the unknown fair had gone into the hall at the foot of the stairs
going up to the front rooms, she glanced at the gate out of the corner
of her eye without precisely looking round, and she could see the Baron
riveted to the spot in admiration, consumed by curiosity and desire.
This is to every Parisian woman a sort of flower which she smells at
with delight, if she meets it on her way. Nay, certain women, though
faithful to their duties, pretty, and virtuous, come home much put out
if they have failed to cull such a posy in the course of their walk.

The lady ran upstairs, and in a moment a window on the second floor
was thrown open, and she appeared at it, but accompanied by a man whose
baldhead and somewhat scowling looks announced him as her husband.

“If they aren’t sharp and ingenious, the cunning jades!” thought the
Baron. “She does that to show me where she lives. But this is getting
rather warm, especially for this part of Paris. We must mind what we are
at.”

As he got into the _milord_, he looked up, and the lady and the husband
hastily vanished, as though the Baron’s face had affected them like the
mythological head of Medusa.

“It would seem that they know me,” thought the Baron. “That would
account for everything.”

As the carriage went up the Rue du Musee, he leaned forward to see the
lady again, and in fact she was again at the window. Ashamed of being
caught gazing at the hood under which her admirer was sitting, the
unknown started back at once.

“Nanny shall tell me who it is,” said the Baron to himself.

The sight of the Government official had, as will be seen, made a deep
impression on this couple.

“Why, it is Baron Hulot, the chief of the department to which my office
belongs!” exclaimed the husband as he left the window.

“Well, Marneffe, the old maid on the third floor at the back of the
courtyard, who lives with that young man, is his cousin. Is it not odd
that we should never have known that till to-day, and now find it out by
chance?”

“Mademoiselle Fischer living with a young man?” repeated the husband.
“That is porter’s gossip; do not speak so lightly of the cousin of
a Councillor of State who can blow hot and cold in the office as he
pleases. Now, come to dinner; I have been waiting for you since four
o’clock.”

Pretty--very pretty--Madame Marneffe, the natural daughter of Comte
Montcornet, one of Napoleon’s most famous officers, had, on the strength
of a marriage portion of twenty thousand francs, found a husband in an
inferior official at the War Office. Through the interest of the
famous lieutenant-general--made marshal of France six months before his
death--this quill-driver had risen to unhoped-for dignity as head-clerk
of his office; but just as he was to be promoted to be deputy-chief, the
marshal’s death had cut off Marneffe’s ambitions and his wife’s at the
root. The very small salary enjoyed by Sieur Marneffe had compelled the
couple to economize in the matter of rent; for in his hands Mademoiselle
Valerie Fortin’s fortune had already melted away--partly in paying his
debts, and partly in the purchase of necessaries for furnishing a house,
but chiefly in gratifying the requirements of a pretty young wife,
accustomed in her mother’s house to luxuries she did not choose to
dispense with. The situation of the Rue du Doyenne, within easy distance
of the War Office, and the gay part of Paris, smiled on Monsieur and
Madame Marneffe, and for the last four years they had dwelt under the
same roof as Lisbeth Fischer.

Monsieur Jean-Paul-Stanislas Marneffe was one of the class of employes
who escape sheer brutishness by the kind of power that comes of
depravity. The small, lean creature, with thin hair and a starved beard,
an unwholesome pasty face, worn rather than wrinkled, with red-lidded
eyes harnessed with spectacles, shuffling in his gait, and yet meaner in
his appearance, realized the type of man that any one would conceive of
as likely to be placed in the dock for an offence against decency.

The rooms inhabited by this couple had the illusory appearance of sham
luxury seen in many Paris homes, and typical of a certain class of
household. In the drawing-room, the furniture covered with shabby cotton
velvet, the plaster statuettes pretending to be Florentine bronze, the
clumsy cast chandelier merely lacquered, with cheap glass saucers, the
carpet, whose small cost was accounted for in advancing life by the
quality of cotton used in the manufacture, now visible to the naked
eye,--everything, down to the curtains, which plainly showed that
worsted damask has not three years of prime, proclaimed poverty as
loudly as a beggar in rags at a church door.

The dining-room, badly kept by a single servant, had the sickening
aspect of a country inn; everything looked greasy and unclean.

Monsieur’s room, very like a schoolboy’s, furnished with the bed and
fittings remaining from his bachelor days, as shabby and worn as he was,
dusted perhaps once a week--that horrible room where everything was in
a litter, with old socks hanging over the horsehair-seated chairs, the
pattern outlined in dust, was that of a man to whom home is a matter of
indifference, who lives out of doors, gambling in cafes or elsewhere.

Madame’s room was an exception to the squalid slovenliness that
disgraced the living rooms, where the curtains were yellow with smoke
and dust, and where the child, evidently left to himself, littered every
spot with his toys. Valerie’s room and dressing-room were situated in
the part of the house which, on one side of the courtyard, joined the
front half, looking out on the street, to the wing forming the inner
side of the court backing against the adjoining property. Handsomely
hung with chintz, furnished with rosewood, and thickly carpeted,
they proclaimed themselves as belonging to a pretty woman--and indeed
suggested the kept mistress. A clock in the fashionable style stood on
the velvet-covered mantelpiece. There was a nicely fitted cabinet,
and the Chinese flower-stands were handsomely filled. The bed, the
toilet-table, the wardrobe with its mirror, the little sofa, and all the
lady’s frippery bore the stamp of fashion or caprice. Though everything
was quite third-rate as to elegance or quality, and nothing was
absolutely newer than three years old, a dandy would have had no fault
to find but that the taste of all this luxury was commonplace. Art,
and the distinction that comes of the choice of things that taste
assimilates, was entirely wanting. A doctor of social science would have
detected a lover in two or three specimens of costly trumpery, which
could only have come there through that demi-god--always absent, but
always present if the lady is married.

The dinner, four hours behind time, to which the husband, wife, and
child sat down, betrayed the financial straits in which the household
found itself, for the table is the surest thermometer for gauging the
income of a Parisian family. Vegetable soup made with the water haricot
beans had been boiled in, a piece of stewed veal and potatoes sodden
with water by way of gravy, a dish of haricot beans, and cheap cherries,
served and eaten in cracked plates and dishes, with the dull-looking and
dull-sounding forks of German silver--was this a banquet worthy of this
pretty young woman? The Baron would have wept could he have seen it. The
dingy decanters could not disguise the vile hue of wine bought by the
pint at the nearest wineshop. The table-napkins had seen a week’s
use. In short, everything betrayed undignified penury, and the equal
indifference of the husband and wife to the decencies of home. The
most superficial observer on seeing them would have said that these two
beings had come to the stage when the necessity of living had prepared
them for any kind of dishonor that might bring luck to them. Valerie’s
first words to her husband will explain the delay that had postponed the
dinner by the not disinterested devotion of the cook.

“Samanon will only take your bills at fifty per cent, and insists on a
lien on your salary as security.”

So poverty, still unconfessed in the house of the superior official, and
hidden under a stipend of twenty-four thousand francs, irrespective of
presents, had reached its lowest stage in that of the clerk.

“You have caught on with the chief,” said the man, looking at his wife.

“I rather think so,” replied she, understanding the full meaning of his
slang expression.

“What is to become of us?” Marneffe went on. “The landlord will be down
on us to-morrow. And to think of your father dying without making a
will! On my honor, those men of the Empire all think themselves as
immortal as their Emperor.”

“Poor father!” said she. “I was his only child, and he was very fond of
me. The Countess probably burned the will. How could he forget me when
he used to give us as much as three or four thousand-franc notes at
once, from time to time?”

“We owe four quarters’ rent, fifteen hundred francs. Is the furniture
worth so much? _That is the question_, as Shakespeare says.”

“Now, good-bye, ducky!” said Valerie, who had only eaten a few mouthfuls
of the veal, from which the maid had extracted all the gravy for a brave
soldier just home from Algiers. “Great evils demand heroic remedies.”

“Valerie, where are you off to?” cried Marneffe, standing between his
wife and the door.

“I am going to see the landlord,” she replied, arranging her ringlets
under her smart bonnet. “You had better try to make friends with that
old maid, if she really is your chief’s cousin.”



The ignorance in which the dwellers under one roof can exist as to the
social position of their fellow-lodgers is a permanent fact which, as
much as any other, shows what the rush of Paris life is. Still, it is
easily conceivable that a clerk who goes early every morning to his
office, comes home only to dinner, and spends every evening out, and a
woman swallowed up in a round of pleasures, should know nothing of an
old maid living on the third floor beyond the courtyard of the house
they dwell in, especially when she lives as Mademoiselle Fischer did.

Up in the morning before any one else, Lisbeth went out to buy her
bread, milk, and live charcoal, never speaking to any one, and she went
to bed with the sun; she never had a letter or a visitor, nor chatted
with her neighbors. Here was one of those anonymous, entomological
existences such as are to be met with in many large tenements where,
at the end of four years, you unexpectedly learn that up on the fourth
floor there is an old man lodging who knew Voltaire, Pilatre de Rozier,
Beaujon, Marcel, Mole, Sophie Arnould, Franklin, and Robespierre. What
Monsieur and Madame Marneffe had just said concerning Lisbeth Fischer
they had come to know, in consequence, partly, of the loneliness of the
neighborhood, and of the alliance, to which their necessities had led,
between them and the doorkeepers, whose goodwill was too important to
them not to have been carefully encouraged.

Now, the old maid’s pride, silence, and reserve had engendered in the
porter and his wife the exaggerated respect and cold civility which
betray the unconfessed annoyance of an inferior. Also, the porter
thought himself in all essentials the equal of any lodger whose rent was
no more than two hundred and fifty francs. Cousin Betty’s confidences
to Hortense were true; and it is evident that the porter’s wife might be
very likely to slander Mademoiselle Fischer in her intimate gossip with
the Marneffes, while only intending to tell tales.

When Lisbeth had taken her candle from the hands of worthy Madame
Olivier the portress, she looked up to see whether the windows of the
garret over her own rooms were lighted up. At that hour, even in July,
it was so dark within the courtyard that the old maid could not get to
bed without a light.

“Oh, you may be quite easy, Monsieur Steinbock is in his room. He has
not been out even,” said Madame Olivier, with meaning.

Lisbeth made no reply. She was still a peasant, in so far that she was
indifferent to the gossip of persons unconnected with her. Just as a
peasant sees nothing beyond his village, she cared for nobody’s opinion
outside the little circle in which she lived. So she boldly went up, not
to her own room, but to the garret; and this is why. At dessert she had
filled her bag with fruit and sweets for her lover, and she went to give
them to him, exactly as an old lady brings home a biscuit for her dog.

She found the hero of Hortense’s dreams working by the light of a small
lamp, of which the light was intensified by the use of a bottle of water
as a lens--a pale young man, seated at a workman’s bench covered with a
modeler’s tools, wax, chisels, rough-hewn stone, and bronze castings; he
wore a blouse, and had in his hand a little group in red wax, which he
gazed at like a poet absorbed in his labors.

“Here, Wenceslas, see what I have brought you,” said she, laying her
handkerchief on a corner of the table; then she carefully took the
sweetmeats and fruit out of her bag.

“You are very kind, mademoiselle,” replied the exile in melancholy
tones.

“It will do you good, poor boy. You get feverish by working so hard; you
were not born to such a rough life.”

Wenceslas Steinbock looked at her with a bewildered air.

“Eat--come, eat,” said she sharply, “instead of looking at me as you do
at one of your images when you are satisfied with it.”

On being thus smacked with words, the young man seemed less puzzled,
for this, indeed, was the female Mentor whose tender moods were always a
surprise to him, so much more accustomed was he to be scolded.

Though Steinbock was nine-and-twenty, like many fair men, he looked five
or six years younger; and seeing his youth, though its freshness had
faded under the fatigue and stress of life in exile, by the side of
that dry, hard face, it seemed as though Nature had blundered in the
distribution of sex. He rose and threw himself into a deep chair of
Louis XV. pattern, covered with yellow Utrecht velvet, as if to rest
himself. The old maid took a greengage and offered it to him.

“Thank you,” said he, taking the plum.

“Are you tired?” said she, giving him another.

“I am not tired with work, but tired of life,” said he.

“What absurd notions you have!” she exclaimed with some annoyance. “Have
you not had a good genius to keep an eye on you?” she said, offering him
the sweetmeats, and watching him with pleasure as he ate them all. “You
see, I thought of you when dining with my cousin.”

“I know,” said he, with a look at Lisbeth that was at once affectionate
and plaintive, “but for you I should long since have ceased to live.
But, my dear lady, artists require relaxation----”

“Ah! there we come to the point!” cried she, interrupting him, her hands
on her hips, and her flashing eyes fixed on him. “You want to go wasting
your health in the vile resorts of Paris, like so many artisans, who end
by dying in the workhouse. No, no, make a fortune, and then, when you
have money in the funds, you may amuse yourself, child; then you will
have enough to pay for the doctor and for your pleasure, libertine that
you are.”

Wenceslas Steinbock, on receiving this broadside, with an accompaniment
of looks that pierced him like a magnetic flame, bent his head. The most
malignant slanderer on seeing this scene would at once have understood
that the hints thrown out by the Oliviers were false. Everything in this
couple, their tone, manner, and way of looking at each other, proved the
purity of their private live. The old maid showed the affection of
rough but very genuine maternal feeling; the young man submitted, as a
respectful son yields to the tyranny of a mother. The strange alliance
seemed to be the outcome of a strong will acting constantly on a weak
character, on the fluid nature peculiar to the Slavs, which, while it
does not hinder them from showing heroic courage in battle, gives
them an amazing incoherency of conduct, a moral softness of which
physiologists ought to try to detect the causes, since physiologists are
to political life what entomologists are to agriculture.

“But if I die before I am rich?” said Wenceslas dolefully.

“Die!” cried she. “Oh, I will not let you die. I have life enough for
both, and I would have my blood injected into your veins if necessary.”

Tears rose to Steinbock’s eyes as he heard her vehement and artless
speech.

“Do not be unhappy, my little Wenceslas,” said Lisbeth with feeling. “My
cousin Hortense thought your seal quite pretty, I am sure; and I will
manage to sell your bronze group, you will see; you will have paid me
off, you will be able to do as you please, you will soon be free. Come,
smile a little!”

“I can never repay you, mademoiselle,” said the exile.

“And why not?” asked the peasant woman, taking the Livonian’s part
against herself.

“Because you not only fed me, lodged me, cared for me in my poverty, but
you also gave me strength. You have made me what I am; you have often
been stern, you have made me very unhappy----”

“I?” said the old maid. “Are you going to pour out all your nonsense
once more about poetry and the arts, and to crack your fingers and
stretch your arms while you spout about the ideal, and beauty, and all
your northern madness?--Beauty is not to compare with solid pudding--and
what am I!--You have ideas in your brain? What is the use of them? I too
have ideas. What is the good of all the fine things you may have in your
soul if you can make no use of them? Those who have ideas do not get so
far as those who have none, if they don’t know which way to go.

“Instead of thinking over your ideas you must work.--Now, what have you
done while I was out?”

“What did your pretty cousin say?”

“Who told you she was pretty?” asked Lisbeth sharply, in a tone hollow
with tiger-like jealousy.

“Why, you did.”

“That was only to see your face. Do you want to go trotting after
petticoats? You who are so fond of women, well, make them in bronze.
Let us see a cast of your desires, for you will have to do without the
ladies for some little time yet, and certainly without my cousin, my
good fellow. She is not game for your bag; that young lady wants a man
with sixty thousand francs a year--and has found him!

“Why, your bed is not made!” she exclaimed, looking into the adjoining
room. “Poor dear boy, I quite forgot you!”

The sturdy woman pulled off her gloves, her cape and bonnet, and remade
the artist’s little camp bed as briskly as any housemaid. This mixture
of abruptness, of roughness even, with real kindness, perhaps accounts
for the ascendency Lisbeth had acquired over the man whom she regarded
as her personal property. Is not our attachment to life based on its
alternations of good and evil?

If the Livonian had happened to meet Madame Marneffe instead of Lisbeth
Fischer, he would have found a protectress whose complaisance must have
led him into some boggy or discreditable path, where he would have been
lost. He would certainly never have worked, nor the artist have been
hatched out. Thus, while he deplored the old maid’s grasping avarice,
his reason bid him prefer her iron hand to the life of idleness and
peril led by many of his fellow-countrymen.



This was the incident that had given rise to the coalition of female
energy and masculine feebleness--a contrast in union said not to be
uncommon in Poland.

In 1833 Mademoiselle Fischer, who sometimes worked into the night when
business was good, at about one o’clock one morning perceived a strong
smell of carbonic acid gas, and heard the groans of a dying man. The
fumes and the gasping came from a garret over the two rooms forming her
dwelling, and she supposed that a young man who had but lately come
to lodge in this attic--which had been vacant for three years--was
committing suicide. She ran upstairs, broke in the door by a push with
her peasant strength, and found the lodger writhing on a camp-bed in the
convulsions of death. She extinguished the brazier; the door was open,
the air rushed in, and the exile was saved. Then, when Lisbeth had
put him to bed like a patient, and he was asleep, she could detect the
motives of his suicide in the destitution of the rooms, where there was
nothing whatever but a wretched table, the camp-bed, and two chairs.

On the table lay a document, which she read:

  “I am Count Wenceslas Steinbock, born at Prelia, in Livonia.

  “No one is to be accused of my death; my reasons for killing
  myself are, in the words of Kosciusko, _Finis Polonioe_!

  “The grand-nephew of a valiant General under Charles XII. could
  not beg. My weakly constitution forbids my taking military
  service, and I yesterday saw the last of the hundred thalers which
  I had brought with me from Dresden to Paris. I have left
  twenty-five francs in the drawer of this table to pay the rent I owe
  to the landlord.

  “My parents being dead, my death will affect nobody. I desire that
  my countrymen will not blame the French Government. I have never
  registered myself as a refugee, and I have asked for nothing; I
  have met none of my fellow-exiles; no one in Paris knows of my
  existence.

  “I am dying in Christian beliefs. May God forgive the last of the
  Steinbocks!

“WENCESLAS.”


Mademoiselle Fischer, deeply touched by the dying man’s honesty, opened
the drawer and found the five five-franc pieces to pay his rent.

“Poor young man!” cried she. “And with no one in the world to care about
him!”

She went downstairs to fetch her work, and sat stitching in the garret,
watching over the Livonian gentleman.

When he awoke his astonishment may be imagined on finding a woman
sitting by his bed; it was like the prolongation of a dream. As she sat
there, covering aiguillettes with gold thread, the old maid had resolved
to take charge of the poor youth whom she admired as he lay sleeping.

As soon as the young Count was fully awake, Lisbeth talked to give him
courage, and questioned him to find out how he might make a living.
Wenceslas, after telling his story, added that he owed his position
to his acknowledged talent for the fine arts. He had always had a
preference for sculpture; the necessary time for study had, however,
seemed to him too long for a man without money; and at this moment he
was far too weak to do any hard manual labor or undertake an important
work in sculpture. All this was Greek to Lisbeth Fischer. She replied
to the unhappy man that Paris offered so many openings that any man with
will and courage might find a living there. A man of spirit need never
perish if he had a certain stock of endurance.

“I am but a poor girl myself, a peasant, and I have managed to make
myself independent,” said she in conclusion. “If you will work in
earnest, I have saved a little money, and I will lend you, month by
month, enough to live upon; but to live frugally, and not to play ducks
and drakes with or squander in the streets. You can dine in Paris for
twenty-five sous a day, and I will get you your breakfast with mine
every day. I will furnish your rooms and pay for such teaching as you
may think necessary. You shall give me formal acknowledgment for the
money I may lay out for you, and when you are rich you shall repay me
all. But if you do not work, I shall not regard myself as in any way
pledged to you, and I shall leave you to your fate.”

“Ah!” cried the poor fellow, still smarting from the bitterness of his
first struggle with death, “exiles from every land may well stretch out
their hands to France, as the souls in Purgatory do to Paradise. In what
other country is such help to be found, and generous hearts even in such
a garret as this? You will be everything to me, my beloved benefactress;
I am your slave! Be my sweetheart,” he added, with one of the caressing
gestures familiar to the Poles, for which they are unjustly accused of
servility.

“Oh, no; I am too jealous, I should make you unhappy; but I will gladly
be a sort of comrade,” replied Lisbeth.

“Ah, if only you knew how I longed for some fellow-creature, even a
tyrant, who would have something to say to me when I was struggling in
the vast solitude of Paris!” exclaimed Wenceslas. “I regretted
Siberia, whither I should be sent by the Emperor if I went home.--Be my
Providence!--I will work; I will be a better man than I am, though I am
not such a bad fellow!”

“Will you do whatever I bid you?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Well, then, I will adopt you as my child,” said she lightly. “Here I am
with a son risen from the grave. Come! we will begin at once. I will go
out and get what I want; you can dress, and come down to breakfast with
me when I knock on the ceiling with the broomstick.”

That day, Mademoiselle Fischer made some inquiries, at the houses to
which she carried her work home, as to the business of a sculptor.
By dint of many questions she ended by hearing of the studio kept by
Florent and Chanor, a house that made a special business of casting and
finishing decorative bronzes and handsome silver plate. Thither she went
with Steinbock, recommending him as an apprentice in sculpture, an idea
that was regarded as too eccentric. Their business was to copy the
works of the greatest artists, but they did not teach the craft. The old
maid’s persistent obstinacy so far succeeded that Steinbock was taken on
to design ornament. He very soon learned to model ornament, and invented
novelties; he had a gift for it.

Five months after he was out of his apprenticeship as a finisher, he
made acquaintance with Stidmann, the famous head of Florent’s studios.
Within twenty months Wenceslas was ahead of his master; but in thirty
months the old maid’s savings of sixteen years had melted entirely. Two
thousand five hundred francs in gold!--a sum with which she had intended
to purchase an annuity; and what was there to show for it? A Pole’s
receipt! And at this moment Lisbeth was working as hard as in her young
days to supply the needs of her Livonian.

When she found herself the possessor of a piece of paper instead of her
gold louis, she lost her head, and went to consult Monsieur Rivet,
who for fifteen years had been his clever head-worker’s friend and
counselor. On hearing her story, Monsieur and Madame Rivet scolded
Lisbeth, told her she was crazy, abused all refugees whose plots for
reconstructing their nation compromised the prosperity of the country
and the maintenance of peace; and they urged Lisbeth to find what in
trade is called security.

“The only hold you have over this fellow is on his liberty,” observed
Monsieur Rivet.

Monsieur Achille Rivet was assessor at the Tribunal of Commerce.

“Imprisonment is no joke for a foreigner,” said he. “A Frenchman remains
five years in prison and comes out, free of his debts to be sure, for
he is thenceforth bound only by his conscience, and that never troubles
him; but a foreigner never comes out.--Give me your promissory note; my
bookkeeper will take it up; he will get it protested; you will both be
prosecuted and both be condemned to imprisonment in default of payment;
then, when everything is in due form, you must sign a declaration.
By doing this your interest will be accumulating, and you will have a
pistol always primed to fire at your Pole!”

The old maid allowed these legal steps to be taken, telling her protege
not to be uneasy, as the proceedings were merely to afford a guarantee
to a money-lender who agreed to advance them certain sums. This
subterfuge was due to the inventive genius of Monsieur Rivet. The
guileless artist, blindly trusting to his benefactress, lighted his pipe
with the stamped paper, for he smoked as all men do who have sorrows or
energies that need soothing.

One fine day Monsieur Rivet showed Mademoiselle Fischer a schedule, and
said to her:

“Here you have Wenceslas Steinbock bound hand and foot, and so
effectually, that within twenty-four hours you can have him snug in
Clichy for the rest of his days.”

This worthy and honest judge at the Chamber of Commerce experienced
that day the satisfaction that must come of having done a malignant good
action. Beneficence has so many aspects in Paris that this contradictory
expression really represents one of them. The Livonian being fairly
entangled in the toils of commercial procedure, the point was to
obtain payment; for the illustrious tradesman looked on Wenceslas as
a swindler. Feeling, sincerity, poetry, were in his eyes mere folly in
business matters.

So Rivet went off to see, in behalf of that poor Mademoiselle Fischer,
who, as he said, had been “done” by the Pole, the rich manufacturers for
whom Steinbock had worked. It happened that Stidmann--who, with the
help of these distinguished masters of the goldsmiths’ art, was raising
French work to the perfection it has now reached, allowing it to hold
its own against Florence and the Renaissance--Stidmann was in Chanor’s
private room when the army lace manufacturer called to make inquiries as
to “One Steinbock, a Polish refugee.”

“Whom do you call ‘One Steinbock’? Do you mean a young Livonian who was
a pupil of mine?” cried Stidmann ironically. “I may tell you, monsieur,
that he is a very great artist. It is said of me that I believe myself
to be the Devil. Well, that poor fellow does not know that he is capable
of becoming a god.”

“Indeed,” said Rivet, well pleased. And then he added, “Though you take
a rather cavalier tone with a man who has the honor to be an Assessor on
the Tribunal of Commerce of the Department of the Seine.”

“Your pardon, Consul!” said Stidmann, with a military salute.

“I am delighted,” the Assessor went on, “to hear what you say. The man
may make money then?”

“Certainly,” said Chanor; “but he must work. He would have a tidy sum by
now if he had stayed with us. What is to be done? Artists have a horror
of not being free.”

“They have a proper sense of their value and dignity,” replied Stidmann.
“I do not blame Wenceslas for walking alone, trying to make a name, and
to become a great man; he had a right to do so! But he was a great loss
to me when he left.”

“That, you see,” exclaimed Rivet, “is what all young students aim at as
soon as they are hatched out of the school-egg. Begin by saving money, I
say, and seek glory afterwards.”

“It spoils your touch to be picking up coin,” said Stidmann. “It is
Glory’s business to bring us wealth.”

“And, after all,” said Chanor to Rivet, “you cannot tether them.”

“They would eat the halter,” replied Stidmann.

“All these gentlemen have as much caprice as talent,” said Chanor,
looking at Stidmann. “They spend no end of money; they keep their girls,
they throw coin out of window, and then they have no time to work. They
neglect their orders; we have to employ workmen who are very inferior,
but who grow rich; and then they complain of the hard times, while, if
they were but steady, they might have piles of gold.”

“You old Lumignon,” said Stidmann, “you remind me of the publisher
before the Revolution who said--‘If only I could keep Montesquieu,
Voltaire, and Rousseau very poor in my backshed, and lock up their
breeches in a cupboard, what a lot of nice little books they would write
to make my fortune.’--If works of art could be hammered out like nails,
workmen would make them.--Give me a thousand francs, and don’t talk
nonsense.”

Worthy Monsieur Rivet went home, delighted for poor Mademoiselle
Fischer, who dined with him every Monday, and whom he found waiting for
him.

“If you can only make him work,” said he, “you will have more luck than
wisdom; you will be repaid, interest, capital, and costs. This Pole has
talent, he can make a living; but lock up his trousers and his shoes,
do not let him go to the _Chaumiere_ or the parish of Notre-Dame
de Lorette, keep him in leading-strings. If you do not take such
precautions, your artist will take to loafing, and if you only knew what
these artists mean by loafing! Shocking! Why, I have just heard that
they will spend a thousand-franc note in a day!”

This episode had a fatal influence on the home-life of Wenceslas and
Lisbeth. The benefactress flavored the exile’s bread with the wormwood
of reproof, now that she saw her money in danger, and often believed
it to be lost. From a kind mother she became a stepmother; she took the
poor boy to task, she nagged him, scolded him for working too slowly,
and blamed him for having chosen so difficult a profession. She could
not believe that those models in red wax--little figures and sketches
for ornamental work--could be of any value. Before long, vexed with
herself for her severity, she would try to efface the tears by her care
and attention.

Then the poor young man, after groaning to think that he was dependent
on this shrew and under the thumb of a peasant of the Vosges, was
bewitched by her coaxing ways and by a maternal affection that attached
itself solely to the physical and material side of life. He was like
a woman who forgives a week of ill-usage for the sake of a kiss and a
brief reconciliation.

Thus Mademoiselle Fischer obtained complete power over his mind. The
love of dominion that lay as a germ in the old maid’s heart developed
rapidly. She could now satisfy her pride and her craving for action; had
she not a creature belonging to her, to be schooled, scolded, flattered,
and made happy, without any fear of a rival? Thus the good and bad sides
of her nature alike found play. If she sometimes victimized the poor
artist, she had, on the other hand, delicate impulses like the grace
of wild flowers; it was a joy to her to provide for all his wants; she
would have given her life for him, and Wenceslas knew it. Like every
noble soul, the poor fellow forgot the bad points, the defects of the
woman who had told him the story of her life as an excuse for her rough
ways, and he remembered only the benefits she had done him.

One day, exasperated with Wenceslas for having gone out walking instead
of sitting at work, she made a great scene.

“You belong to me,” said she. “If you were an honest man, you would try
to repay me the money you owe as soon as possible.”

The gentleman, in whose veins the blood of the Steinbocks was fired,
turned pale.

“Bless me,” she went on, “we soon shall have nothing to live on but the
thirty sous I earn--a poor work-woman!”

The two penniless creatures, worked up by their own war of words, grew
vehement; and for the first time the unhappy artist reproached his
benefactress for having rescued him from death only to make him lead the
life of a galley slave, worse than the bottomless void, where at least,
said he, he would have found rest. And he talked of flight.

“Flight!” cried Lisbeth. “Ah, Monsieur Rivet was right.”

And she clearly explained to the Pole that within twenty-four hours he
might be clapped into prison for the rest of his days. It was a crushing
blow. Steinbock sank into deep melancholy and total silence.

In the course of the following night, Lisbeth hearing overhead some
preparations for suicide, went up to her pensioner’s room, and gave him
the schedule and a formal release.

“Here, dear child, forgive me,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Be
happy; leave me! I am too cruel to you; only tell me that you will
sometimes remember the poor girl who has enabled you to make a
living.--What can I say? You are the cause of my ill-humor. I might die;
where would you be without me? That is the reason of my being impatient
to see you do some salable work. I do not want my money back for myself,
I assure you! I am only frightened at your idleness, which you call
meditation; at your ideas, which take up so many hours when you sit
gazing at the sky; I want you to get into habits of industry.”

All this was said with an emphasis, a look, and tears that moved the
high-minded artist; he clasped his benefactress to his heart and kissed
her forehead.

“Keep these pieces,” said he with a sort of cheerfulness. “Why should
you send me to Clichy? Am I not a prisoner here out of gratitude?”

This episode of their secret domestic life had occurred six months
previously, and had led to Steinbock’s producing three finished works:
the seal in Hortense’s possession, the group he had placed with the
curiosity dealer, and a beautiful clock to which he was putting the last
touches, screwing in the last rivets.

This clock represented the twelve Hours, charmingly personified by
twelve female figures whirling round in so mad and swift a dance that
three little Loves perched on a pile of fruit and flowers could not stop
one of them; only the torn skirts of Midnight remained in the hand of
the most daring cherub. The group stood on an admirably treated base,
ornamented with grotesque beasts. The hours were told by a monstrous
mouth that opened to yawn, and each Hour bore some ingeniously
appropriate symbol characteristic of the various occupations of the day.

It is now easy to understand the extraordinary attachment of
Mademoiselle Fischer for her Livonian; she wanted him to be happy,
and she saw him pining, fading away in his attic. The causes of this
wretched state of affairs may be easily imagined. The peasant woman
watched this son of the North with the affection of a mother, with the
jealousy of a wife, and the spirit of a dragon; hence she managed to
put every kind of folly or dissipation out of his power by leaving him
destitute of money. She longed to keep her victim and companion for
herself alone, well conducted perforce, and she had no conception of
the cruelty of this senseless wish, since she, for her own part, was
accustomed to every privation. She loved Steinbock well enough not to
marry him, and too much to give him up to any other woman; she could not
resign herself to be no more than a mother to him, though she saw that
she was mad to think of playing the other part.

These contradictions, this ferocious jealousy, and the joy of having a
man to herself, all agitated her old maid’s heart beyond measure. Really
in love as she had been for four years, she cherished the foolish hope
of prolonging this impossible and aimless way of life in which her
persistence would only be the ruin of the man she thought of as her
child. This contest between her instincts and her reason made her unjust
and tyrannical. She wreaked on the young man her vengeance for her own
lot in being neither young, rich, nor handsome; then, after each fit
of rage, recognizing herself wrong, she stooped to unlimited humility,
infinite tenderness. She never could sacrifice to her idol till she had
asserted her power by blows of the axe. In fact, it was the converse of
Shakespeare’s _Tempest_--Caliban ruling Ariel and Prospero.

As to the poor youth himself, high-minded, meditative, and inclined to
be lazy, the desert that his protectress made in his soul might be seen
in his eyes, as in those of a caged lion. The penal servitude forced on
him by Lisbeth did not fulfil the cravings of his heart. His weariness
became a physical malady, and he was dying without daring to ask,
or knowing where to procure, the price of some little necessary
dissipation. On some days of special energy, when a feeling of utter
ill-luck added to his exasperation, he would look at Lisbeth as a
thirsty traveler on a sandy shore must look at the bitter sea-water.

These harsh fruits of indigence, and this isolation in the midst of
Paris, Lisbeth relished with delight. And besides, she foresaw that
the first passion would rob her of her slave. Sometimes she even blamed
herself because her own tyranny and reproaches had compelled the poetic
youth to become so great an artist of delicate work, and she had thus
given him the means of casting her off.



On the day after, these three lives, so differently but so utterly
wretched--that of a mother in despair, that of the Marneffe household,
and that of the unhappy exile--were all to be influenced by Hortense’s
guileless passion, and by the strange outcome of the Baron’s luckless
passion for Josepha.

Just as Hulot was going into the opera-house, he was stopped by the
darkened appearance of the building and of the Rue le Peletier, where
there were no gendarmes, no lights, no theatre-servants, no barrier to
regulate the crowd. He looked up at the announcement-board, and beheld a
strip of white paper, on which was printed the solemn notice:

“CLOSED ON ACCOUNT OF ILLNESS.”

He rushed off to Josepha’s lodgings in the Rue Chauchat; for, like all
the singers, she lived close at hand.

“Whom do you want, sir?” asked the porter, to the Baron’s great
astonishment.

“Have you forgotten me?” said Hulot, much puzzled.

“On the contrary, sir, it is because I have the honor to remember you
that I ask you, Where are you going?”

A mortal chill fell upon the Baron.

“What has happened?” he asked.

“If you go up to Mademoiselle Mirah’s rooms, Monsieur le Baron, you will
find Mademoiselle Heloise Brisetout there--and Monsieur Bixiou, Monsieur
Leon de Lora, Monsieur Lousteau, Monsieur de Vernisset, Monsieur
Stidmann; and ladies smelling of patchouli--holding a housewarming.”

“Then, where--where is----?”

“Mademoiselle Mirah?--I don’t know that I ought to tell you.”

The Baron slipped two five-franc pieces into the porter’s hand.

“Well, she is now in the Rue de la Ville l’Eveque, in a fine house,
given to her, they say, by the Duc d’Herouville,” replied the man in a
whisper.

Having ascertained the number of the house, Monsieur Hulot called a
_milord_ and drove to one of those pretty modern houses with double
doors, where everything, from the gaslight at the entrance, proclaims
luxury.

The Baron, in his blue cloth coat, white neckcloth, nankeen trousers,
patent leather boots, and stiffly starched shirt-frill, was supposed to
be a guest, though a late arrival, by the janitor of this new Eden. His
alacrity of manner and quick step justified this opinion.

The porter rang a bell, and a footman appeared in the hall. This man, as
new as the house, admitted the visitor, who said to him in an imperious
tone, and with a lordly gesture:

“Take in this card to Mademoiselle Josepha.”

The victim mechanically looked round the room in which he found
himself--an anteroom full of choice flowers and of furniture that must
have cost twenty thousand francs. The servant, on his return, begged
monsieur to wait in the drawing-room till the company came to their
coffee.

Though the Baron had been familiar with Imperial luxury, which was
undoubtedly prodigious, while its productions, though not durable in
kind, had nevertheless cost enormous sums, he stood dazzled, dumfounded,
in this drawing-room with three windows looking out on a garden like
fairyland, one of those gardens that are created in a month with a made
soil and transplanted shrubs, while the grass seems as if it must
be made to grow by some chemical process. He admired not only the
decoration, the gilding, the carving, in the most expensive Pompadour
style, as it is called, and the magnificent brocades, all of which any
enriched tradesman could have procured for money; but he also noted
such treasures as only princes can select and find, can pay for and give
away; two pictures by Greuze, two by Watteau, two heads by Vandyck, two
landscapes by Ruysdael, and two by le Guaspre, a Rembrandt, a Holbein, a
Murillo, and a Titian, two paintings, by Teniers, and a pair by Metzu,
a Van Huysum, and an Abraham Mignon--in short, two hundred thousand
francs’ worth of pictures superbly framed. The gilding was worth almost
as much as the paintings.

“Ah, ha! Now you understand, my good man?” said Josepha.

She had stolen in on tiptoe through a noiseless door, over Persian
carpets, and came upon her adorer, standing lost in amazement--in
the stupid amazement when a man’s ears tingle so loudly that he hears
nothing but that fatal knell.

The words “my good man,” spoken to an official of such high importance,
so perfectly exemplified the audacity with which these creatures
pour contempt on the loftiest, that the Baron was nailed to the spot.
Josepha, in white and yellow, was so beautifully dressed for the
banquet, that amid all this lavish magnificence she still shone like a
rare jewel.

“Isn’t this really fine?” said she. “The Duke has spent all the money on
it that he got out of floating a company, of which the shares all sold
at a premium. He is no fool, is my little Duke. There is nothing like a
man who has been a grandee in his time for turning coals into gold.
Just before dinner the notary brought me the title-deeds to sign and the
bills receipted!--They are all a first-class set in there--d’Esgrignon,
Rastignac, Maxime, Lenoncourt, Verneuil, Laginski, Rochefide, la
Palferine, and from among the bankers Nucingen and du Tillet, with
Antonia, Malaga, Carabine, and la Schontz; and they all feel for
you deeply.--Yes, old boy, and they hope you will join them, but on
condition that you forthwith drink up to two bottles full of Hungarian
wine, Champagne, or Cape, just to bring you up to their mark.--My dear
fellow, we are all so much _on_ here, that it was necessary to close
the Opera. The manager is as drunk as a cornet-a-piston; he is hiccuping
already.”

“Oh, Josepha!----” cried the Baron.

“Now, can anything be more absurd than explanations?” she broke in with
a smile. “Look here; can you stand six hundred thousand francs which
this house and furniture cost? Can you give me a bond to the tune of
thirty thousand francs a year, which is what the Duke has just given
me in a packet of common sugared almonds from the grocer’s?--a pretty
notion that----”

“What an atrocity!” cried Hulot, who in his fury would have given his
wife’s diamonds to stand in the Duc d’Herouville’s shoes for twenty-four
hours.

“Atrocity is my trade,” said she. “So that is how you take it? Well, why
don’t you float a company? Goodness me! my poor dyed Tom, you ought to
be grateful to me; I have thrown you over just when you would have spent
on me your widow’s fortune, your daughter’s portion.--What, tears! The
Empire is a thing of the past--I hail the coming Empire!”

She struck a tragic attitude, and exclaimed:

  “They call you Hulot! Nay, I know you not--”

And she went into the other room.

Through the door, left ajar, there came, like a lightning-flash, a
streak of light with an accompaniment of the crescendo of the orgy and
the fragrance of a banquet of the choicest description.

The singer peeped through the partly open door, and seeing Hulot
transfixed as if he had been a bronze image, she came one step forward
into the room.

“Monsieur,” said she, “I have handed over the rubbish in the Rue
Chauchat to Bixiou’s little Heloise Brisetout. If you wish to claim
your cotton nightcap, your bootjack, your belt, and your wax dye, I have
stipulated for their return.”

This insolent banter made the Baron leave the room as precipitately as
Lot departed from Gomorrah, but he did not look back like Mrs. Lot.

Hulot went home, striding along in a fury, and talking to himself; he
found his family still playing the game of whist at two sous a point, at
which he left them. On seeing her husband return, poor Adeline imagined
something dreadful, some dishonor; she gave her cards to Hortense, and
led Hector away into the very room where, only five hours since, Crevel
had foretold her the utmost disgrace of poverty.

“What is the matter?” she said, terrified.

“Oh, forgive me--but let me tell you all these horrors.” And for ten
minutes he poured out his wrath.

“But, my dear,” said the unhappy woman, with heroic courage, “these
creatures do not know what love means--such pure and devoted love as you
deserve. How could you, so clear-sighted as you are, dream of competing
with millions?”

“Dearest Adeline!” cried the Baron, clasping her to his heart.

The Baroness’ words had shed balm on the bleeding wounds to his vanity.

“To be sure, take away the Duc d’Herouville’s fortune, and she could not
hesitate between us!” said the Baron.

“My dear,” said Adeline with a final effort, “if you positively must
have mistresses, why do you not seek them, like Crevel, among women who
are less extravagant, and of a class that can for a time be content
with little? We should all gain by that arrangement.--I understand your
need--but I do not understand that vanity----”

“Oh, what a kind and perfect wife you are!” cried he. “I am an old
lunatic, I do not deserve to have such a wife!”

“I am simply the Josephine of my Napoleon,” she replied, with a touch of
melancholy.

“Josephine was not to compare with you!” said he. “Come; I will play a
game of whist with my brother and the children. I must try my hand at
the business of a family man; I must get Hortense a husband, and bury
the libertine.”

His frankness so greatly touched poor Adeline, that she said:

“The creature has no taste to prefer any man in the world to my Hector.
Oh, I would not give you up for all the gold on earth. How can any woman
throw you over who is so happy as to be loved by you?”

The look with which the Baron rewarded his wife’s fanaticism confirmed
her in her opinion that gentleness and docility were a woman’s strongest
weapons.

But in this she was mistaken. The noblest sentiments, carried to an
excess, can produce mischief as great as do the worst vices. Bonaparte
was made Emperor for having fired on the people, at a stone’s throw from
the spot where Louis XVI. lost his throne and his head because he would
not allow a certain Monsieur Sauce to be hurt.



On the following morning, Hortense, who had slept with the seal under
her pillow, so as to have it close to her all night, dressed very early,
and sent to beg her father to join her in the garden as soon as he
should be down.

By about half-past nine, the father, acceding to his daughter’s
petition, gave her his arm for a walk, and they went along the quays by
the Pont Royal to the Place du Carrousel.

“Let us look into the shop windows, papa,” said Hortense, as they went
through the little gate to cross the wide square.

“What--here?” said her father, laughing at her.

“We are supposed to have come to see the pictures, and over there”--and
she pointed to the stalls in front of the houses at a right angle to
the Rue du Doyenne--“look! there are dealers in curiosities and
pictures----”

“Your cousin lives there.”

“I know it, but she must not see us.”

“And what do you want to do?” said the Baron, who, finding himself
within thirty yards of Madame Marneffe’s windows, suddenly remembered
her.

Hortense had dragged her father in front of one of the shops forming the
angle of a block of houses built along the front of the Old Louvre, and
facing the Hotel de Nantes. She went into this shop; her father stood
outside, absorbed in gazing at the windows of the pretty little lady,
who, the evening before, had left her image stamped on the old beau’s
heart, as if to alleviate the wound he was so soon to receive; and he
could not help putting his wife’s sage advice into practice.

“I will fall back on a simple little citizen’s wife,” said he to
himself, recalling Madame Marneffe’s adorable graces. “Such a woman as
that will soon make me forget that grasping Josepha.”

Now, this was what was happening at the same moment outside and inside
the curiosity shop.

As he fixed his eyes on the windows of his new _belle_, the Baron
saw the husband, who, while brushing his coat with his own hands, was
apparently on the lookout, expecting to see some one on the square.
Fearing lest he should be seen, and subsequently recognized, the
amorous Baron turned his back on the Rue du Doyenne, or rather stood at
three-quarters’ face, as it were, so as to be able to glance round
from time to time. This manoeuvre brought him face to face with Madame
Marneffe, who, coming up from the quay, was doubling the promontory of
houses to go home.

Valerie was evidently startled as she met the Baron’s astonished eye,
and she responded with a prudish dropping of her eyelids.

“A pretty woman,” exclaimed he, “for whom a man would do many foolish
things.”

“Indeed, monsieur?” said she, turning suddenly, like a woman who has
just come to some vehement decision, “you are Monsieur le Baron Hulot, I
believe?”

The Baron, more and more bewildered, bowed assent.

“Then, as chance has twice made our eyes meet, and I am so fortunate as
to have interested or puzzled you, I may tell you that, instead of doing
anything foolish, you ought to do justice.--My husband’s fate rests with
you.”

“And how may that be?” asked the gallant Baron.

“He is employed in your department in the War Office, under Monsieur
Lebrun, in Monsieur Coquet’s room,” said she with a smile.

“I am quite disposed, Madame--Madame----?”

“Madame Marneffe.”

“Dear little Madame Marneffe, to do injustice for your sake.--I have a
cousin living in your house; I will go to see her one day soon--as soon
as possible; bring your petition to me in her rooms.”

“Pardon my boldness, Monsieur le Baron; you must understand that if
I dare to address you thus, it is because I have no friend to protect
me----”

“Ah, ha!”

“Monsieur, you misunderstand me,” said she, lowering her eyelids.

Hulot felt as if the sun had disappeared.

“I am at my wits’ end, but I am an honest woman!” she went on. “About
six months ago my only protector died, Marshal Montcornet--”

“Ah! You are his daughter?”

“Yes, monsieur; but he never acknowledged me.”

“That was that he might leave you part of his fortune.”

“He left me nothing; he made no will.”

“Indeed! Poor little woman! The Marshal died suddenly of apoplexy. But,
come, madame, hope for the best. The State must do something for the
daughter of one of the Chevalier Bayards of the Empire.”

Madame Marneffe bowed gracefully and went off, as proud of her success
as the Baron was of his.

“Where the devil has she been so early?” thought he watching the flow
of her skirts, to which she contrived to impart a somewhat exaggerated
grace. “She looks too tired to have just come from a bath, and her
husband is waiting for her. It is strange, and puzzles me altogether.”

Madame Marneffe having vanished within, the Baron wondered what his
daughter was doing in the shop. As he went in, still staring at Madame
Marneffe’s windows, he ran against a young man with a pale brow and
sparkling gray eyes, wearing a summer coat of black merino, coarse drill
trousers, and tan shoes, with gaiters, rushing away headlong; he saw him
run to the house in the Rue du Doyenne, into which he went.

Hortense, on going into the shop, had at once recognized the famous
group, conspicuously placed on a table in the middle and in front of the
door. Even without the circumstances to which she owed her knowledge
of this masterpiece, it would probably have struck her by the peculiar
power which we must call the _brio_--the _go_--of great works; and
the girl herself might in Italy have been taken as a model for the
personification of _Brio_.

Not every work by a man of genius has in the same degree that
brilliancy, that glory which is at once patent even to the most
ignoble beholder. Thus, certain pictures by Raphael, such as the famous
_Transfiguration_, the _Madonna di Foligno_, and the frescoes of the
_Stanze_ in the Vatican, do not at first captivate our admiration, as
do the _Violin-player_ in the Sciarra Palace, the portraits of the Doria
family, and the _Vision of Ezekiel_ in the Pitti Gallery, the _Christ
bearing His Cross_ in the Borghese collection, and the _Marriage of
the Virgin_ in the Brera at Milan. The _Saint John the Baptist_ of
the Tribuna, and _Saint Luke painting the Virgin’s portrait_ in the
Accademia at Rome, have not the charm of the _Portrait of Leo X._, and
of the _Virgin_ at Dresden.

And yet they are all of equal merit. Nay, more. The _Stanze_, the
_Transfiguration_, the panels, and the three easel pictures in the
Vatican are in the highest degree perfect and sublime. But they demand
a stress of attention, even from the most accomplished beholder, and
serious study, to be fully understood; while the _Violin-player_, the
_Marriage of the Virgin_, and the _Vision of Ezekiel_ go straight to the
heart through the portal of sight, and make their home there. It is
a pleasure to receive them thus without an effort; if it is not the
highest phase of art, it is the happiest. This fact proves that, in the
begetting of works of art, there is as much chance in the character of
the offspring as there is in a family of children; that some will
be happily graced, born beautiful, and costing their mothers little
suffering, creatures on whom everything smiles, and with whom everything
succeeds; in short, genius, like love, has its fairer blossoms.

This _brio_, an Italian word which the French have begun to use, is
characteristic of youthful work. It is the fruit of an impetus and fire
of early talent--an impetus which is met with again later in some happy
hours; but this particular _brio_ no longer comes from the artist’s
heart; instead of his flinging it into his work as a volcano flings up
its fires, it comes to him from outside, inspired by circumstances, by
love, or rivalry, often by hatred, and more often still by the imperious
need of glory to be lived up to.

This group by Wenceslas was to his later works what the _Marriage of the
Virgin_ is to the great mass of Raphael’s, the first step of a gifted
artist taken with the inimitable grace, the eagerness, and delightful
overflowingness of a child, whose strength is concealed under the
pink-and-white flesh full of dimples which seem to echo to a mother’s
laughter. Prince Eugene is said to have paid four hundred thousand
francs for this picture, which would be worth a million to any nation
that owned no picture by Raphael, but no one would give that sum for the
finest of the frescoes, though their value is far greater as works of
art.

Hortense restrained her admiration, for she reflected on the amount of
her girlish savings; she assumed an air of indifference, and said to the
dealer:

“What is the price of that?”

“Fifteen hundred francs,” replied the man, sending a glance of
intelligence to a young man seated on a stool in the corner.

The young man himself gazed in a stupefaction at Monsieur Hulot’s living
masterpiece. Hortense, forewarned, at once identified him as the artist,
from the color that flushed a face pale with endurance; she saw the
spark lighted up in his gray eyes by her question; she looked on the
thin, drawn features, like those of a monk consumed by asceticism; she
loved the red, well-formed mouth, the delicate chin, and the Pole’s
silky chestnut hair.

“If it were twelve hundred,” said she, “I would beg you to send it to
me.”

“It is antique, mademoiselle,” the dealer remarked, thinking, like
all his fraternity, that, having uttered this _ne plus ultra_ of
bric-a-brac, there was no more to be said.

“Excuse me, monsieur,” she replied very quietly, “it was made this year;
I came expressly to beg you, if my price is accepted, to send the
artist to see us, as it might be possible to procure him some important
commissions.”

“And if he is to have the twelve hundred francs, what am I to get? I am
the dealer,” said the man, with candid good-humor.

“To be sure!” replied the girl, with a slight curl of disdain.

“Oh! mademoiselle, take it; I will make terms with the dealer,” cried
the Livonian, beside himself.

Fascinated by Hortense’s wonderful beauty and the love of art she
displayed, he added:

“I am the sculptor of the group, and for ten days I have come here three
times a day to see if anybody would recognize its merit and bargain for
it. You are my first admirer--take it!”

“Come, then, monsieur, with the dealer, an hour hence.--Here is my
father’s card,” replied Hortense.

Then, seeing the shopkeeper go into a back room to wrap the group in a
piece of linen rag, she added in a low voice, to the great astonishment
of the artist, who thought he must be dreaming:

“For the benefit of your future prospects, Monsieur Wenceslas, do not
mention the name of the purchaser to Mademoiselle Fischer, for she is
our cousin.”

The word cousin dazzled the artist’s mind; he had a glimpse of Paradise
whence this daughter of Eve had come to him. He had dreamed of the
beautiful girl of whom Lisbeth had told him, as Hortense had dreamed of
her cousin’s lover; and, as she had entered the shop--

“Ah!” thought he, “if she could but be like this!”

The look that passed between the lovers may be imagined; it was a flame,
for virtuous lovers have no hypocrisies.

“Well, what the deuce are you doing here?” her father asked her.

“I have been spending twelve hundred francs that I had saved. Come.” And
she took her father’s arm.

“Twelve hundred francs?” he repeated.

“To be exact, thirteen hundred; you will lend me the odd hundred?”

“And on what, in such a place, could you spend so much?”

“Ah! that is the question!” replied the happy girl. “If I have got a
husband, he is not dear at the money.”

“A husband! In that shop, my child?”

“Listen, dear little father; would you forbid my marrying a great
artist?”

“No, my dear. A great artist in these days is a prince without a
title--he has glory and fortune, the two chief social advantages--next
to virtue,” he added, in a smug tone.

“Oh, of course!” said Hortense. “And what do you think of sculpture?”

“It is very poor business,” replied Hulot, shaking his head. “It needs
high patronage as well as great talent, for Government is the only
purchaser. It is an art with no demand nowadays, where there are no
princely houses, no great fortunes, no entailed mansions, no hereditary
estates. Only small pictures and small figures can find a place; the
arts are endangered by this need of small things.”

“But if a great artist could find a demand?” said Hortense.

“That indeed would solve the problem.”

“Or had some one to back him?”

“That would be even better.”

“If he were of noble birth?”

“Pooh!”

“A Count.”

“And a sculptor?”

“He has no money.”

“And so he counts on that of Mademoiselle Hortense Hulot?” said the
Baron ironically, with an inquisitorial look into his daughter’s eyes.

“This great artist, a Count and a sculptor, has just seen your daughter
for the first time in his life, and for the space of five minutes,
Monsieur le Baron,” Hortense calmly replied. “Yesterday, you must know,
dear little father, while you were at the Chamber, mamma had a fainting
fit. This, which she ascribed to a nervous attack, was the result of
some worry that had to do with the failure of my marriage, for she told
me that to get rid of me---”

“She is too fond of you to have used an expression----”

“So unparliamentary!” Hortense put in with a laugh. “No, she did not use
those words; but I know that a girl old enough to marry and who does not
find a husband is a heavy cross for respectable parents to bear.--Well,
she thinks that if a man of energy and talent could be found, who would
be satisfied with thirty thousand francs for my marriage portion, we
might all be happy. In fact, she thought it advisable to prepare me for
the modesty of my future lot, and to hinder me from indulging in too
fervid dreams.--Which evidently meant an end to the intended marriage,
and no settlements for me!”

“Your mother is a very good woman, noble, admirable!” replied the
father, deeply humiliated, though not sorry to hear this confession.

“She told me yesterday that she had your permission to sell her diamonds
so as to give me something to marry on; but I should like her to keep
her jewels, and to find a husband myself. I think I have found the man,
the possible husband, answering to mamma’s prospectus----”

“There?--in the Place du Carrousel?--and in one morning?”

“Oh, papa, the mischief lies deeper!” said she archly.

“Well, come, my child, tell the whole story to your good old father,”
 said he persuasively, and concealing his uneasiness.

Under promise of absolute secrecy, Hortense repeated the upshot of her
various conversations with her Cousin Betty. Then, when they got home,
she showed the much-talked-of-seal to her father in evidence of the
sagacity of her views. The father, in the depth of his heart, wondered
at the skill and acumen of girls who act on instinct, discerning the
simplicity of the scheme which her idealized love had suggested in the
course of a single night to his guileless daughter.

“You will see the masterpiece I have just bought; it is to be brought
home, and that dear Wenceslas is to come with the dealer.--The man who
made that group ought to make a fortune; only use your influence to get
him an order for a statue, and rooms at the Institut----”

“How you run on!” cried her father. “Why, if you had your own way, you
would be man and wife within the legal period--in eleven days----”

“Must we wait so long?” said she, laughing. “But I fell in love with him
in five minutes, as you fell in love with mamma at first sight. And he
loves me as if we had known each other for two years. Yes,” she said in
reply to her father’s look, “I read ten volumes of love in his eyes. And
will not you and mamma accept him as my husband when you see that he
is a man of genius? Sculpture is the greatest of the Arts,” she cried,
clapping her hands and jumping. “I will tell you everything----”

“What, is there more to come?” asked her father, smiling.

The child’s complete and effervescent innocence had restored her
father’s peace of mind.

“A confession of the first importance,” said she. “I loved him without
knowing him; and, for the last hour, since seeing him, I am crazy about
him.”

“A little too crazy!” said the Baron, who was enjoying the sight of this
guileless passion.

“Do not punish me for confiding in you,” replied she. “It is so
delightful to say to my father’s heart, ‘I love him! I am so happy in
loving him!’--You will see my Wenceslas! His brow is so sad. The sun
of genius shines in his gray eyes--and what an air he has! What do you
think of Livonia? Is it a fine country?--The idea of Cousin Betty’s
marrying that young fellow! She might be his mother. It would be murder!
I am quite jealous of all she has ever done for him. But I don’t think
my marriage will please her.”

“See, my darling, we must hide nothing from your mother.”

“I should have to show her the seal, and I promised not to betray Cousin
Lisbeth, who is afraid, she says, of mamma’s laughing at her,” said
Hortense.

“You have scruples about the seal, and none about robbing your cousin of
her lover.”

“I promised about the seal--I made no promise about the sculptor.”

This adventure, patriarchal in its simplicity, came admirably _a propos_
to the unconfessed poverty of the family; the Baron, while praising
his daughter for her candor, explained to her that she must now leave
matters to the discretion of her parents.

“You understand, my child, that it is not your part to ascertain whether
your cousin’s lover is a Count, if he has all his papers properly
certified, and if his conduct is a guarantee for his respectability.--As
for your cousin, she refused five offers when she was twenty years
younger; that will prove no obstacle, I undertake to say.”

“Listen to me, papa; if you really wish to see me married, never say a
word to Lisbeth about it till just before the contract is signed. I have
been catechizing her about this business for the last six months! Well,
there is something about her quite inexplicable----”

“What?” said her father, puzzled.

“Well, she looks evil when I say too much, even in joke, about her
lover. Make inquiries, but leave me to row my own boat. My confidence
ought to reassure you.”

“The Lord said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto Me.’ You are one
of those who have come back again,” replied the Baron with a touch of
irony.

After breakfast the dealer was announced, and the artist with his group.
The sudden flush that reddened her daughter’s face at once made the
Baroness suspicious and then watchful, and the girl’s confusion and
the light in her eyes soon betrayed the mystery so badly guarded in her
simple heart.

Count Steinbock, dressed in black, struck the Baron as a very
gentlemanly young man.

“Would you undertake a bronze statue?” he asked, as he held up the
group.

After admiring it on trust, he passed it on to his wife, who knew
nothing about sculpture.

“It is beautiful, isn’t it, mamma?” said Hortense in her mother’ ear.

“A statue! Monsieur, it is less difficult to execute a statue than to
make a clock like this, which my friend here has been kind enough to
bring,” said the artist in reply.

The dealer was placing on the dining-room sideboard the wax model of the
twelve Hours that the Loves were trying to delay.

“Leave the clock with me,” said the Baron, astounded at the beauty of
the sketch. “I should like to show it to the Ministers of the Interior
and of Commerce.”

“Who is the young man in whom you take so much interest?” the Baroness
asked her daughter.

“An artist who could afford to execute this model could get a hundred
thousand francs for it,” said the curiosity-dealer, putting on a
knowing and mysterious look as he saw that the artist and the girl were
interchanging glances. “He would only need to sell twenty copies
at eight thousand francs each--for the materials would cost about a
thousand crowns for each example. But if each copy were numbered and
the mould destroyed, it would certainly be possible to meet with twenty
amateurs only too glad to possess a replica of such a work.”

“A hundred thousand francs!” cried Steinbock, looking from the dealer to
Hortense, the Baron, and the Baroness.

“Yes, a hundred thousand francs,” repeated the dealer. “If I were rich
enough, I would buy it of you myself for twenty thousand francs; for by
destroying the mould it would become a valuable property. But one of the
princes ought to pay thirty or forty thousand francs for such a work to
ornament his drawing-room. No man has ever succeeded in making a clock
satisfactory alike to the vulgar and to the connoisseur, and this one,
sir, solves the difficulty.”

“This is for yourself, monsieur,” said Hortense, giving six gold pieces
to the dealer.

“Never breath a word of this visit to any one living,” said the artist
to his friend, at the door. “If you should be asked where we sold the
group, mention the Duc d’Herouville, the famous collector in the Rue de
Varenne.”

The dealer nodded assent.

“And your name?” said Hulot to the artist when he came back.

“Count Steinbock.”

“Have you the papers that prove your identity?”

“Yes, Monsieur le Baron. They are in Russian and in German, but not
legalized.”

“Do you feel equal to undertaking a statue nine feet high?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Well, then, if the persons whom I shall consult are satisfied with
your work, I can secure you the commission for the statue of Marshal
Montcornet, which is to be erected on his monument at Pere-Lachaise.
The Minister of War and the old officers of the Imperial Guard have
subscribed a sum large enough to enable us to select our artist.”

“Oh, monsieur, it will make my fortune!” exclaimed Steinbock,
overpowered by so much happiness at once.

“Be easy,” replied the Baron graciously. “If the two ministers to whom
I propose to show your group and this sketch in wax are delighted with
these two pieces, your prospects of a fortune are good.”

Hortense hugged her father’s arm so tightly as to hurt him.

“Bring me your papers, and say nothing of your hopes to anybody, not
even to our old Cousin Betty.”

“Lisbeth?” said Madame Hulot, at last understanding the end of all this,
though unable to guess the means.

“I could give proof of my skill by making a bust of the Baroness,” added
Wenceslas.

The artist, struck by Madame Hulot’s beauty, was comparing the mother
and daughter.

“Indeed, monsieur, life may smile upon you,” said the Baron, quite
charmed by Count Steinbock’s refined and elegant manner. “You will find
out that in Paris no man is clever for nothing, and that persevering
toil always finds its reward here.”

Hortense, with a blush, held out to the young man a pretty Algerine
purse containing sixty gold pieces. The artist, with something still
of a gentleman’s pride, responded with a mounting color easy enough to
interpret.

“This, perhaps, is the first money your works have brought you?” said
Adeline.

“Yes, madame--my works of art. It is not the first-fruits of my labor,
for I have been a workman.”

“Well, we must hope my daughter’s money will bring you good luck,” said
she.

“And take it without scruple,” added the Baron, seeing that Wenceslas
held the purse in his hand instead of pocketing it. “The sum will
be repaid by some rich man, a prince perhaps, who will offer it with
interest to possess so fine a work.”

“Oh, I want it too much myself, papa, to give it up to anybody in the
world, even a royal prince!”

“I can make a far prettier thing than that for you, mademoiselle.”

“But it would not be this one,” replied she; and then, as if ashamed of
having said too much, she ran out into the garden.

“Then I shall break the mould and the model as soon as I go home,” said
Steinbock.

“Fetch me your papers, and you will hear of me before long, if you are
equal to what I expect of you, monsieur.”

The artist on this could but take leave. After bowing to Madame Hulot
and Hortense, who came in from the garden on purpose, he went off to
walk in the Tuileries, not bearing--not daring--to return to his attic,
where his tyrant would pelt him with questions and wring his secret from
him.

Hortense’s adorer conceived of groups and statues by the hundred; he
felt strong enough to hew the marble himself, like Canova, who was also
a feeble man, and nearly died of it. He was transfigured by Hortense,
who was to him inspiration made visible.

“Now then,” said the Baroness to her daughter, “what does all this
mean?”

“Well, dear mamma, you have just seen Cousin Lisbeth’s lover, who now, I
hope, is mine. But shut your eyes, know nothing. Good Heavens! I was to
keep it all from you, and I cannot help telling you everything----”

“Good-bye, children!” said the Baron, kissing his wife and daughter; “I
shall perhaps go to call on the Nanny, and from her I shall hear a great
deal about our young man.”

“Papa, be cautious!” said Hortense.

“Oh! little girl!” cried the Baroness when Hortense had poured out her
poem, of which the morning’s adventure was the last canto, “dear little
girl, Artlessness will always be the artfulest puss on earth!”

Genuine passions have an unerring instinct. Set a greedy man before a
dish of fruit and he will make no mistake, but take the choicest even
without seeing it. In the same way, if you allow a girl who is well
brought up to choose a husband for herself, if she is in a position to
meet the man of her heart, rarely will she blunder. The act of nature in
such cases is known as love at first sight; and in love, first sight is
practically second sight.

The Baroness’ satisfaction, though disguised under maternal dignity, was
as great as her daughter’s; for, of the three ways of marrying Hortense
of which Crevel had spoken, the best, as she opined, was about to be
realized. And she regarded this little drama as an answer by Providence
to her fervent prayers.



Mademoiselle Fischer’s galley slave, obliged at last to go home, thought
he might hide his joy as a lover under his glee as an artist rejoicing
over his first success.

“Victory! my group is sold to the Duc d’Herouville, who is going to give
me some commissions,” cried he, throwing the twelve hundred francs in
gold on the table before the old maid.

He had, as may be supposed concealed Hortense’s purse; it lay next to
his heart.

“And a very good thing too,” said Lisbeth. “I was working myself to
death. You see, child, money comes in slowly in the business you have
taken up, for this is the first you have earned, and you have been
grinding at it for near on five years now. That money barely repays me
for what you have cost me since I took your promissory note; that is
all I have got by my savings. But be sure of one thing,” she said, after
counting the gold, “this money will all be spent on you. There is enough
there to keep us going for a year. In a year you may now be able to pay
your debt and have a snug little sum of your own, if you go on in the
same way.”

Wenceslas, finding his trick successful, expatiated on the Duc
d’Herouville.

“I will fit you out in a black suit, and get you some new linen,” said
Lisbeth, “for you must appear presentably before your patrons; and then
you must have a larger and better apartment than your horrible garret,
and furnish it property.--You look so bright, you are not like the same
creature,” she added, gazing at Wenceslas.

“But my work is pronounced a masterpiece.”

“Well, so much the better! Do some more,” said the arid creature, who
was nothing but practical, and incapable of understanding the joy of
triumph or of beauty in Art. “Trouble your head no further about what
you have sold; make something else to sell. You have spent two hundred
francs in money, to say nothing of your time and your labor, on that
devil of a _Samson_. Your clock will cost you more than two thousand
francs to execute. I tell you what, if you will listen to me, you will
finish the two little boys crowning the little girl with cornflowers;
that would just suit the Parisians.--I will go round to Monsieur Graff
the tailor before going to Monsieur Crevel.--Go up now and leave me to
dress.”

Next day the Baron, perfectly crazy about Madame Marneffe, went to see
Cousin Betty, who was considerably amazed on opening the door to see who
her visitor was, for he had never called on her before. She at once said
to herself, “Can it be that Hortense wants my lover?”--for she had heard
the evening before, at Monsieur Crevel’s, that the marriage with the
Councillor of the Supreme Court was broken off.

“What, Cousin! you here? This is the first time you have ever been to
see me, and it is certainly not for love of my fine eyes that you have
come now.”

“Fine eyes is the truth,” said the Baron; “you have as fine eyes as I
have ever seen----”

“Come, what are you here for? I really am ashamed to receive you in such
a kennel.”

The outer room of the two inhabited by Lisbeth served her as
sitting-room, dining-room, kitchen, and workroom. The furniture was such
as beseemed a well-to-do artisan--walnut-wood chairs with straw seats,
a small walnut-wood dining table, a work table, some colored prints in
black wooden frames, short muslin curtains to the windows, the floor
well polished and shining with cleanliness, not a speck of dust
anywhere, but all cold and dingy, like a picture by Terburg in every
particular, even to the gray tone given by a wall paper once blue and
now faded to gray. As to the bedroom, no human being had ever penetrated
its secrets.

The Baron took it all in at a glance, saw the sign-manual of commonness
on every detail, from the cast-iron stove to the household utensils, and
his gorge rose as he said to himself, “And _this_ is virtue!--What am I
here for?” said he aloud. “You are far too cunning not to guess, and
I had better tell you plainly,” cried he, sitting down and looking out
across the courtyard through an opening he made in the puckered curtain.
“There is a very pretty woman in the house----”

“Madame Marneffe! Now I understand!” she exclaimed, seeing it all. “But
Josepha?”

“Alas, Cousin, Josepha is no more. I was turned out of doors like a
discarded footman.”

“And you would like...?” said Lisbeth, looking at the Baron with the
dignity of a prude on her guard a quarter of an hour too soon.

“As Madame Marneffe is very much the lady, and the wife of an employe,
you can meet her without compromising yourself,” the Baron went on, “and
I should like to see you neighborly. Oh! you need not be alarmed; she
will have the greatest consideration for the cousin of her husband’s
chief.”

At this moment the rustle of a gown was heard on the stairs and the
footstep of a woman wearing the thinnest boots. The sound ceased on the
landing. There was a tap at the door, and Madame Marneffe came in.

“Pray excuse me, mademoiselle, for thus intruding upon you, but I failed
to find you yesterday when I came to call; we are near neighbors; and
if I had known that you were related to Monsieur le Baron, I should long
since have craved your kind interest with him. I saw him come in, so I
took the liberty of coming across; for my husband, Monsieur le Baron,
spoke to me of a report on the office clerks which is to be laid before
the minister to-morrow.”

She seemed quite agitated and nervous--but she had only run upstairs.

“You have no need to play the petitioner, fair lady,” replied the Baron.
“It is I who should ask the favor of seeing you.”

“Very well, if mademoiselle allows it, pray come!” said Madame Marneffe.

“Yes--go, Cousin, I will join you,” said Lisbeth judiciously.

The Parisienne had so confidently counted on the chief’s visit and
intelligence, that not only had she dressed herself for so important
an interview--she had dressed her room. Early in the day it had been
furnished with flowers purchased on credit. Marneffe had helped his
wife to polish the furniture, down to the smallest objects, washing,
brushing, and dusting everything. Valerie wished to be found in an
atmosphere of sweetness, to attract the chief and to please him enough
to have a right to be cruel; to tantalize him as a child would, with all
the tricks of fashionable tactics. She had gauged Hulot. Give a Paris
woman at bay four-and-twenty hours, and she will overthrow a ministry.

The man of the Empire, accustomed to the ways to the Empire, was no
doubt quite ignorant of the ways of modern love-making, of the scruples
in vogue and the various styles of conversation invented since 1830,
which led to the poor weak woman being regarded as the victim of
her lover’s desires--a Sister of Charity salving a wound, an angel
sacrificing herself.

This modern art of love uses a vast amount of evangelical phrases in the
service of the Devil. Passion is martyrdom. Both parties aspire to the
Ideal, to the Infinite; love is to make them so much better. All these
fine words are but a pretext for putting increased ardor into the
practical side of it, more frenzy into a fall than of old. This
hypocrisy, a characteristic of the times, is a gangrene in gallantry.
The lovers are both angels, and they behave, if they can, like two
devils.

Love had no time for such subtle analysis between two campaigns, and in
1809 its successes were as rapid as those of the Empire. So, under the
Restoration, the handsome Baron, a lady’s man once more, had begun by
consoling some old friends now fallen from the political firmament,
like extinguished stars, and then, as he grew old, was captured by Jenny
Cadine and Josepha.

Madame Marneffe had placed her batteries after due study of the Baron’s
past life, which her husband had narrated in much detail, after picking
up some information in the offices. The comedy of modern sentiment might
have the charm of novelty to the Baron; Valerie had made up her mind as
to her scheme; and we may say the trial of her power that she made this
morning answered her highest expectations. Thanks to her manoeuvres,
sentimental, high-flown, and romantic, Valerie, without committing
herself to any promises, obtained for her husband the appointment as
deputy head of the office and the Cross of the Legion of Honor.

The campaign was not carried out without little dinners at the _Rocher
de Cancale_, parties to the play, and gifts in the form of lace,
scarves, gowns, and jewelry. The apartment in the Rue du Doyenne was not
satisfactory; the Baron proposed to furnish another magnificently in a
charming new house in the Rue Vanneau.

Monsieur Marneffe got a fortnight’s leave, to be taken a month hence
for urgent private affairs in the country, and a present in money;
he promised himself that he would spend both in a little town in
Switzerland, studying the fair sex.

While Monsieur Hulot thus devoted himself to the lady he was
“protecting,” he did not forget the young artist. Comte Popinot,
Minister of Commerce, was a patron of Art; he paid two thousand francs
for a copy of the _Samson_ on condition that the mould should be broken,
and that there should be no _Samson_ but his and Mademoiselle Hulot’s.
The group was admired by a Prince, to whom the model sketch for the
clock was also shown, and who ordered it; but that again was to be
unique, and he offered thirty thousand francs for it.

Artists who were consulted, and among them Stidmann, were of opinion
that the man who had sketched those two models was capable of achieving
a statue. The Marshal Prince de Wissembourg, Minister of War, and
President of the Committee for the subscriptions to the monument of
Marshal Montcornet, called a meeting, at which it was decided that the
execution of the work should be placed in Steinbock’s hands. The Comte
de Rastignac, at that time Under-secretary of State, wished to possess a
work by the artist, whose glory was waxing amid the acclamations of
his rivals. Steinbock sold to him the charming group of two little boys
crowning a little girl, and he promised to secure for the sculptor a
studio attached to the Government marble-quarries, situated, as all the
world knows, at Le Gros-Caillou.

This was a success, such success as is won in Paris, that is to say,
stupendous success, that crushes those whose shoulders and loins are not
strong enough to bear it--as, be it said, not unfrequently is the case.
Count Wenceslas Steinbock was written about in all the newspapers and
reviews without his having the least suspicion of it, any more than
had Mademoiselle Fischer. Every day, as soon as Lisbeth had gone out to
dinner, Wenceslas went to the Baroness’ and spent an hour or two there,
excepting on the evenings when Lisbeth dined with the Hulots.



This state of things lasted for several days.

The Baron, assured of Count Steinbock’s titles and position; the
Baroness, pleased with his character and habits; Hortense, proud of her
permitted love and of her suitor’s fame, none of them hesitated to speak
of the marriage; in short, the artist was in the seventh heaven, when an
indiscretion on Madame Marneffe’s part spoilt all.

And this was how.

Lisbeth, whom the Baron wished to see intimate with Madame Marneffe,
that she might keep an eye on the couple, had already dined with
Valerie; and she, on her part, anxious to have an ear in the Hulot
house, made much of the old maid. It occurred to Valerie to invite
Mademoiselle Fischer to a house-warming in the new apartments she was
about to move into. Lisbeth, glad to have found another house to
dine in, and bewitched by Madame Marneffe, had taken a great fancy to
Valerie. Of all the persons she had made acquaintance with, no one had
taken so much pains to please her. In fact, Madame Marneffe, full of
attentions for Mademoiselle Fischer, found herself in the position
towards Lisbeth that Lisbeth held towards the Baroness, Monsieur Rivet,
Crevel, and the others who invited her to dinner.

The Marneffes had excited Lisbeth’s compassion by allowing her to see
the extreme poverty of the house, while varnishing it as usual with
the fairest colors; their friends were under obligations to them and
ungrateful; they had had much illness; Madame Fortin, her mother, had
never known of their distress, and had died believing herself wealthy to
the end, thanks to their superhuman efforts--and so forth.

“Poor people!” said she to her Cousin Hulot, “you are right to do what
you can for them; they are so brave and so kind! They can hardly live on
the thousand crowns he gets as deputy-head of the office, for they have
got into debt since Marshal Montcornet’s death. It is barbarity on the
part of the Government to suppose that a clerk with a wife and family
can live in Paris on two thousand four hundred francs a year.”

And so, within a very short time, a young woman who affected regard for
her, who told her everything, and consulted her, who flattered her,
and seemed ready to yield to her guidance, had become dearer to the
eccentric Cousin Lisbeth than all her relations.

The Baron, on his part, admiring in Madame Marneffe such propriety,
education, and breeding as neither Jenny Cadine nor Josepha, nor any
friend of theirs had to show, had fallen in love with her in a
month, developing a senile passion, a senseless passion, which had an
appearance of reason. In fact, he found here neither the banter, nor the
orgies, nor the reckless expenditure, nor the depravity, nor the scorn
of social decencies, nor the insolent independence which had brought him
to grief alike with the actress and the singer. He was spared, too, the
rapacity of the courtesan, like unto the thirst of dry sand.

Madame Marneffe, of whom he had made a friend and confidante, made the
greatest difficulties over accepting any gift from him.

“Appointments, official presents, anything you can extract from the
Government; but do not begin by insulting a woman whom you profess to
love,” said Valerie. “If you do, I shall cease to believe you--and
I like to believe you,” she added, with a glance like Saint Theresa
leering at heaven.

Every time he made her a present there was a fortress to be stormed, a
conscience to be over-persuaded. The hapless Baron laid deep stratagems
to offer her some trifle--costly, nevertheless--proud of having at last
met with virtue and the realization of his dreams. In this primitive
household, as he assured himself, he was the god as much as in his own.
And Monsieur Marneffe seemed at a thousand leagues from suspecting that
the Jupiter of his office intended to descend on his wife in a shower of
gold; he was his august chief’s humblest slave.

Madame Marneffe, twenty-three years of age, a pure and bashful
middle-class wife, a blossom hidden in the Rue du Doyenne, could know
nothing of the depravity and demoralizing harlotry which the Baron could
no longer think of without disgust, for he had never known the charm
of recalcitrant virtue, and the coy Valerie made him enjoy it to the
utmost--all along the line, as the saying goes.

The question having come to this point between Hector and Valerie, it is
not astonishing that Valerie should have heard from Hector the secret of
the intended marriage between the great sculptor Steinbock and Hortense
Hulot. Between a lover on his promotion and a lady who hesitates
long before becoming his mistress, there are contests, uttered or
unexpressed, in which a word often betrays a thought; as, in fencing,
the foils fly as briskly as the swords in duel. Then a prudent man
follows the example of Monsieur de Turenne. Thus the Baron had hinted at
the greater freedom his daughter’s marriage would allow him, in reply to
the tender Valerie, who more than once had exclaimed:

“I cannot imagine how a woman can go wrong for a man who is not wholly
hers.”

And a thousand times already the Baron had declared that for
five-and-twenty years all had been at an end between Madame Hulot and
himself.

“And they say she is so handsome!” replied Madame Marneffe. “I want
proof.”

“You shall have it,” said the Baron, made happy by this demand, by which
his Valerie committed herself.

Hector had then been compelled to reveal his plans, already being
carried into effect in the Rue Vanneau, to prove to Valerie that he
intended to devote to her that half of his life which belonged to his
lawful wife, supposing that day and night equally divide the existence
of civilized humanity. He spoke of decently deserting his wife, leaving
her to herself as soon as Hortense should be married. The Baroness would
then spend all her time with Hortense or the young Hulot couple; he was
sure of her submission.

“And then, my angel, my true life, my real home will be in the Rue
Vanneau.”

“Bless me, how you dispose of me!” said Madame Marneffe. “And my
husband----”

“That rag!”

“To be sure, as compared with you so he is!” said she with a laugh.

Madame Marneffe, having heard Steinbock’s history, was frantically eager
to see the young Count; perhaps she wished to have some trifle of his
work while they still lived under the same roof. This curiosity so
seriously annoyed the Baron that Valerie swore to him that she would
never even look at Wenceslas. But though she obtained, as the reward
of her surrender of this wish, a little tea-service of old Sevres _pate
tendre_, she kept her wish at the bottom of her heart, as if written on
tablets.

So one day when she had begged “_my_ Cousin Betty” to come to take
coffee with her in her room, she opened on the subject of her lover, to
know how she might see him without risk.

“My dear child,” said she, for they called each my dear, “why have you
never introduced your lover to me? Do you know that within a short time
he has become famous?”

“He famous?”

“He is the one subject of conversation.”

“Pooh!” cried Lisbeth.

“He is going to execute the statue of my father, and I could be of great
use to him and help him to succeed in the work; for Madame Montcornet
cannot lend him, as I can, a miniature by Sain, a beautiful thing
done in 1809, before the Wagram Campaign, and given to my poor
mother--Montcornet when he was young and handsome.”

Sain and Augustin between them held the sceptre of miniature painting
under the Empire.

“He is going to make a statue, my dear, did you say?”

“Nine feet high--by the orders of the Minister of War. Why, where have
you dropped from that I should tell you the news? Why, the Government is
going to give Count Steinbock rooms and a studio at Le Gros-Caillou,
the depot for marble; your Pole will be made the Director, I should not
wonder, with two thousand francs a year and a ring on his finger.”

“How do you know all this when I have heard nothing about it?” said
Lisbeth at last, shaking off her amazement.

“Now, my dear little Cousin Betty,” said Madame Marneffe, in an
insinuating voice, “are you capable of devoted friendship, put to any
test? Shall we henceforth be sisters? Will you swear to me never to have
a secret from me any more than I from you--to act as my spy, as I will
be yours?--Above all, will you pledge yourself never to betray me either
to my husband or to Monsieur Hulot, and never reveal that it was I who
told you----?”

Madame Marneffe broke off in this spurring harangue; Lisbeth frightened
her. The peasant-woman’s face was terrible; her piercing black eyes
had the glare of the tiger’s; her face was like that we ascribe to a
pythoness; she set her teeth to keep them from chattering, and her whole
frame quivered convulsively. She had pushed her clenched fingers under
her cap to clutch her hair and support her head, which felt too heavy;
she was on fire. The smoke of the flame that scorched her seemed to
emanate from her wrinkles as from the crevasses rent by a volcanic
eruption. It was a startling spectacle.

“Well, why do you stop?” she asked in a hollow voice. “I will be all to
you that I have been to him.--Oh, I would have given him my life-blood!”

“You loved him then?”

“Like a child of my own!”

“Well, then,” said Madame Marneffe, with a breath of relief, “if you
only love him in that way, you will be very happy--for you wish him to
be happy?”

Lisbeth replied by a nod as hasty as a madwoman’s.

“He is to marry your Cousin Hortense in a month’s time.”

“Hortense!” shrieked the old maid, striking her forehead, and starting
to her feet.

“Well, but then you were really in love with this young man?” asked
Valerie.

“My dear, we are bound for life and death, you and I,” said Mademoiselle
Fischer. “Yes, if you have any love affairs, to me they are sacred. Your
vices will be virtues in my eyes.--For I shall need your vices!”

“Then did you live with him?” asked Valerie.

“No; I meant to be a mother to him.”

“I give it up. I cannot understand,” said Valerie. “In that case you are
neither betrayed nor cheated, and you ought to be very happy to see him
so well married; he is now fairly afloat. And, at any rate, your day is
over. Our artist goes to Madame Hulot’s every evening as soon as you go
out to dinner.”

“Adeline!” muttered Lisbeth. “Oh, Adeline, you shall pay for this! I
will make you uglier than I am.”

“You are as pale as death!” exclaimed Valerie. “There is something
wrong?--Oh, what a fool I am! The mother and daughter must have
suspected that you would raise some obstacles in the way of this affair
since they have kept it from you,” said Madame Marneffe. “But if you did
not live with the young man, my dear, all this is a greater puzzle to me
than my husband’s feelings----”

“Ah, you don’t know,” said Lisbeth; “you have no idea of all their
tricks. It is the last blow that kills. And how many such blows have I
had to bruise my soul! You don’t know that from the time when I could
first feel, I have been victimized for Adeline. I was beaten, and she
was petted; I was dressed like a scullion, and she had clothes like a
lady’s; I dug in the garden and cleaned the vegetables, and she--she
never lifted a finger for anything but to make up some finery!--She
married the Baron, she came to shine at the Emperor’s Court, while I
stayed in our village till 1809, waiting for four years for a suitable
match; they brought me away, to be sure, but only to make me a
work-woman, and to offer me clerks or captains like coalheavers for a
husband! I have had their leavings for twenty-six years!--And now like
the story in the Old Testament, the poor relation has one ewe-lamb which
is all her joy, and the rich man who has flocks covets the ewe-lamb and
steals it--without warning, without asking. Adeline has meanly robbed me
of my happiness!--Adeline! Adeline! I will see you in the mire, and sunk
lower than myself!--And Hortense--I loved her, and she has cheated me.
The Baron.--No, it is impossible. Tell me again what is really true of
all this.”

“Be calm, my dear child.”

“Valerie, my darling, I will be calm,” said the strange creature,
sitting down again. “One thing only can restore me to reason; give me
proofs.”

“Your Cousin Hortense has the _Samson_ group--here is a lithograph from
it published in a review. She paid for it out of her pocket-money, and
it is the Baron who, to benefit his future son-in-law, is pushing him,
getting everything for him.”

“Water!--water!” said Lisbeth, after glancing at the print, below which
she read, “A group belonging to Mademoiselle Hulot d’Ervy.” “Water! my
head is burning, I am going mad!”

Madame Marneffe fetched some water. Lisbeth took off her cap, unfastened
her black hair, and plunged her head into the basin her new friend held
for her. She dipped her forehead into it several times, and checked the
incipient inflammation. After this douche she completely recovered her
self-command.

“Not a word,” said she to Madame Marneffe as she wiped her face--“not a
word of all this.--You see, I am quite calm; everything is forgotten. I
am thinking of something very different.”

“She will be in Charenton to-morrow, that is very certain,” thought
Madame Marneffe, looking at the old maid.

“What is to be done?” Lisbeth went on. “You see, my angel, there is
nothing for it but to hold my tongue, bow my head, and drift to the
grave, as all water runs to the river. What could I try to do? I should
like to grind them all--Adeline, her daughter, and the Baron--all to
dust! But what can a poor relation do against a rich family? It would be
the story of the earthen pot and the iron pot.”

“Yes; you are right,” said Valerie. “You can only pull as much hay as
you can to your side of the manger. That is all the upshot of life in
Paris.”

“Besides,” said Lisbeth, “I shall soon die, I can tell you, if I lose
that boy to whom I fancied I could always be a mother, and with whom I
counted on living all my days----”

There were tears in her eyes, and she paused. Such emotion in this woman
made of sulphur and flame, made Valerie shudder.

“Well, at any rate, I have found you,” said Lisbeth, taking Valerie’s
hand, “that is some consolation in this dreadful trouble.--We shall
be true friends; and why should we ever part? I shall never cross
your track. No one will ever be in love with me!--Those who would
have married me, would only have done it to secure my Cousin Hulot’s
interest. With energy enough to scale Paradise, to have to devote it to
procuring bread and water, a few rags, and a garret!--That is martyrdom,
my dear, and I have withered under it.”

She broke off suddenly, and shot a black flash into Madame Marneffe’s
blue eyes, a glance that pierced the pretty woman’s soul, as the point
of a dagger might have pierced her heart.

“And what is the use of talking?” she exclaimed in reproof to herself.
“I never said so much before, believe me! The tables will be turned
yet!” she added after a pause. “As you so wisely say, let us sharpen our
teeth, and pull down all the hay we can get.”

“You are very wise,” said Madame Marneffe, who had been frightened by
this scene, and had no remembrance of having uttered this maxim. “I am
sure you are right, my dear child. Life is not so long after all, and
we must make the best of it, and make use of others to contribute to our
enjoyment. Even I have learned that, young as I am. I was brought up a
spoilt child, my father married ambitiously, and almost forgot me, after
making me his idol and bringing me up like a queen’s daughter! My poor
mother, who filled my head with splendid visions, died of grief at
seeing me married to an office clerk with twelve hundred francs a year,
at nine-and-thirty an aged and hardened libertine, as corrupt as
the hulks, looking on me, as others looked on you, as a means of
fortune!--Well, in that wretched man, I have found the best of husbands.
He prefers the squalid sluts he picks up at the street corners, and
leaves me free. Though he keeps all his salary to himself, he never asks
me where I get money to live on----”

And she in her turn stopped short, as a woman does who feels herself
carried away by the torrent of her confessions; struck, too, by
Lisbeth’s eager attention, she thought well to make sure of Lisbeth
before revealing her last secrets.

“You see, dear child, how entire is my confidence in you!” she presently
added, to which Lisbeth replied by a most comforting nod.

An oath may be taken by a look and a nod more solemnly than in a court
of justice.

“I keep up every appearance of respectability,” Valerie went on, laying
her hand on Lisbeth’s as if to accept her pledge. “I am a married
woman, and my own mistress, to such a degree, that in the morning, when
Marneffe sets out for the office, if he takes it into his head to say
good-bye and finds my door locked, he goes off without a word. He cares
less for his boy than I care for one of the marble children that play
at the feet of one of the river-gods in the Tuileries. If I do not come
home to dinner, he dines quite contentedly with the maid, for the maid
is devoted to monsieur; and he goes out every evening after dinner, and
does not come in till twelve or one o’clock. Unfortunately, for a year
past, I have had no ladies’ maid, which is as much as to say that I am a
widow!

“I have had one passion, once have been happy--a rich Brazilian--who
went away a year ago--my only lapse!--He went away to sell his estates,
to realize his land, and come back to live in France. What will he find
left of his Valerie? A dunghill. Well! it is his fault and not mine;
why does he delay coming so long? Perhaps he has been wrecked--like my
virtue.”

“Good-bye, my dear,” said Lisbeth abruptly; “we are friends for ever. I
love you, I esteem you, I am wholly yours! My cousin is tormenting me
to go and live in the house you are moving to, in the Rue Vanneau; but
I would not go, for I saw at once the reasons for this fresh piece of
kindness----”

“Yes; you would have kept an eye on me, I know!” said Madame Marneffe.

“That was, no doubt, the motive of his generosity,” replied Lisbeth. “In
Paris, most beneficence is a speculation, as most acts of ingratitude
are revenge! To a poor relation you behave as you do to rats to whom
you offer a bit of bacon. Now, I will accept the Baron’s offer, for this
house has grown intolerable to me. You and I have wit enough to hold our
tongues about everything that would damage us, and tell all that needs
telling. So, no blabbing--and we are friends.”

“Through thick and thin!” cried Madame Marneffe, delighted to have a
sheep-dog, a confidante, a sort of respectable aunt. “Listen to me; the
Baron is doing a great deal in the Rue Vanneau----”

“I believe you!” interrupted Lisbeth. “He has spent thirty thousand
francs! Where he got the money, I am sure I don’t know, for Josepha
the singer bled him dry.--Oh! you are in luck,” she went on. “The Baron
would steal for a woman who held his heart in two little white satin
hands like yours!”

“Well, then,” said Madame Marneffe, with the liberality of such
creatures, which is mere recklessness, “look here, my dear child;
take away from here everything that may serve your turn in your new
quarters--that chest of drawers, that wardrobe and mirror, the carpet,
the curtains----”

Lisbeth’s eyes dilated with excessive joy; she was incredulous of such a
gift.

“You are doing more for me in a breath than my rich relations have done
in thirty years!” she exclaimed. “They have never even asked themselves
whether I had any furniture at all. On his first visit, a few weeks ago,
the Baron made a rich man’s face on seeing how poor I was.--Thank you,
my dear; and I will give you your money’s worth, you will see how by and
by.”

Valerie went out on the landing with _her_ Cousin Betty, and the two
women embraced.

“Pouh! How she stinks of hard work!” said the pretty little woman to
herself when she was alone. “I shall not embrace you often, my dear
cousin! At the same time, I must look sharp. She must be skilfully
managed, for she can be of use, and help me to make my fortune.”



Like the true Creole of Paris, Madame Marneffe abhorred trouble; she had
the calm indifference of a cat, which never jumps or runs but when
urged by necessity. To her, life must be all pleasure; and the pleasure
without difficulties. She loved flowers, provided they were brought to
her. She could not imagine going to the play but to a good box, at her
own command, and in a carriage to take her there. Valerie inherited
these courtesan tastes from her mother, on whom General Montcornet had
lavished luxury when he was in Paris, and who for twenty years had
seen all the world at her feet; who had been wasteful and prodigal,
squandering her all in the luxurious living of which the programme has
been lost since the fall of Napoleon.

The grandees of the Empire were a match in their follies for the great
nobles of the last century. Under the Restoration the nobility cannot
forget that it has been beaten and robbed, and so, with two or three
exceptions, it has become thrifty, prudent, and stay-at-home, in short,
bourgeois and penurious. Since then, 1830 has crowned the work of 1793.
In France, henceforth, there will be great names, but no great houses,
unless there should be political changes which we can hardly foresee.
Everything takes the stamp of individuality. The wisest invest in
annuities. Family pride is destroyed.

The bitter pressure of poverty which had stung Valerie to the quick on
the day when, to use Marneffe’s expression, she had “caught on” with
Hulot, had brought the young woman to the conclusion that she would make
a fortune by means of her good looks. So, for some days, she had been
feeling the need of having a friend about her to take the place of a
mother--a devoted friend, to whom such things may be told as must be
hidden from a waiting-maid, and who could act, come and go, and think
for her, a beast of burden resigned to an unequal share of life. Now,
she, quite as keenly as Lisbeth, had understood the Baron’s motives for
fostering the intimacy between his cousin and herself.

Prompted by the formidable perspicacity of the Parisian half-breed,
who spends her days stretched on a sofa, turning the lantern of her
detective spirit on the obscurest depths of souls, sentiments, and
intrigues, she had decided on making an ally of the spy. This supremely
rash step was, perhaps premeditated; she had discerned the true nature
of this ardent creature, burning with wasted passion, and meant to
attach her to herself. Thus, their conversation was like the stone
a traveler casts into an abyss to demonstrate its depth. And Madame
Marneffe had been terrified to find this old maid a combination of Iago
and Richard III., so feeble as she seemed, so humble, and so little to
be feared.

For that instant, Lisbeth Fischer had been her real self; that Corsican
and savage temperament, bursting the slender bonds that held it under,
had sprung up to its terrible height, as the branch of a tree flies
up from the hand of a child that has bent it down to gather the green
fruit.

To those who study the social world, it must always be a matter of
astonishment to see the fulness, the perfection, and the rapidity with
which an idea develops in a virgin nature.

Virginity, like every other monstrosity, has its special richness, its
absorbing greatness. Life, whose forces are always economized,
assumes in the virgin creature an incalculable power of resistance and
endurance. The brain is reinforced in the sum-total of its reserved
energy. When really chaste natures need to call on the resources of
body or soul, and are required to act or to think, they have muscles
of steel, or intuitive knowledge in their intelligence--diabolical
strength, or the black magic of the Will.

From this point of view the Virgin Mary, even if we regard her only as
a symbol, is supremely great above every other type, whether Hindoo,
Egyptian, or Greek. Virginity, the mother of great things, _magna parens
rerum_, holds in her fair white hands the keys of the upper worlds. In
short, that grand and terrible exception deserves all the honors decreed
to her by the Catholic Church.

Thus, in one moment, Lisbeth Fischer had become the Mohican whose
snares none can escape, whose dissimulation is inscrutable, whose swift
decisiveness is the outcome of the incredible perfection of every organ
of sense. She was Hatred and Revenge, as implacable as they are
in Italy, Spain, and the East. These two feelings, the obverse of
friendship and love carried to the utmost, are known only in lands
scorched by the sun. But Lisbeth was also a daughter of Lorraine, bent
on deceit.

She accepted this detail of her part against her will; she began by
making a curious attempt, due to her ignorance. She fancied, as children
do, that being imprisoned meant the same thing as solitary confinement.
But this is the superlative degree of imprisonment, and that superlative
is the privilege of the Criminal Bench.

As soon as she left Madame Marneffe, Lisbeth hurried off to Monsieur
Rivet, and found him in his office.

“Well, my dear Monsieur Rivet,” she began, when she had bolted the
door of the room. “You were quite right. Those Poles! They are low
villains--all alike, men who know neither law nor fidelity.”

“And who want to set Europe on fire,” said the peaceable Rivet, “to
ruin every trade and every trader for the sake of a country that is all
bog-land, they say, and full of horrible Jews, to say nothing of the
Cossacks and the peasants--a sort of wild beasts classed by mistake with
human beings. Your Poles do not understand the times we live in; we are
no longer barbarians. War is coming to an end, my dear mademoiselle; it
went out with the Monarchy. This is the age of triumph for commerce, and
industry, and middle-class prudence, such as were the making of Holland.

“Yes,” he went on with animation, “we live in a period when nations must
obtain all they need by the legal extension of their liberties and by
the pacific action of Constitutional Institutions; that is what the
Poles do not see, and I hope----

“You were saying, my dear?--” he added, interrupting himself when he
saw from his work-woman’s face that high politics were beyond her
comprehension.

“Here is the schedule,” said Lisbeth. “If I don’t want to lose my
three thousand two hundred and ten francs, I must clap this rogue into
prison.”

“Didn’t I tell you so?” cried the oracle of the Saint-Denis quarter.

The Rivets, successor to Pons Brothers, had kept their shop still in the
Rue des Mauvaises-Paroles, in the ancient Hotel Langeais, built by that
illustrious family at the time when the nobility still gathered round
the Louvre.

“Yes, and I blessed you on my way here,” replied Lisbeth.

“If he suspects nothing, he can be safe in prison by eight o’clock in
the morning,” said Rivet, consulting the almanac to ascertain the hour
of sunrise; “but not till the day after to-morrow, for he cannot be
imprisoned till he has had notice that he is to be arrested by writ,
with the option of payment or imprisonment. And so----”

“What an idiotic law!” exclaimed Lisbeth. “Of course the debtor
escapes.”

“He has every right to do so,” said the Assessor, smiling. “So this is
the way----”

“As to that,” said Lisbeth, interrupting him, “I will take the paper and
hand it to him, saying that I have been obliged to raise the money, and
that the lender insists on this formality. I know my gentleman. He will
not even look at the paper; he will light his pipe with it.”

“Not a bad idea, not bad, Mademoiselle Fischer! Well, make your mind
easy; the job shall be done.--But stop a minute; to put your man in
prison is not the only point to be considered; you only want to indulge
in that legal luxury in order to get your money. Who is to pay you?”

“Those who give him money.”

“To be sure; I forgot that the Minister of War had commissioned him
to erect a monument to one of our late customers. Ah! the house has
supplied many an uniform to General Montcornet; he soon blackened them
with the smoke of cannon. A brave man, he was! and he paid on the nail.”

A marshal of France may have saved the Emperor or his country; “He
paid on the nail” will always be the highest praise he can have from a
tradesman.

“Very well. And on Saturday, Monsieur Rivet, you shall have the flat
tassels.--By the way, I am moving from the Rue du Doyenne; I am going to
live in the Rue Vanneau.”

“You are very right. I could not bear to see you in that hole which,
in spite of my aversion to the Opposition, I must say is a disgrace; I
repeat it, yes! is a disgrace to the Louvre and the Place du Carrousel.
I am devoted to Louis-Philippe, he is my idol; he is the august and
exact representative of the class on whom he founded his dynasty, and
I can never forget what he did for the trimming-makers by restoring the
National Guard----”

“When I hear you speak so, Monsieur Rivet, I cannot help wondering why
you are not made a deputy.”

“They are afraid of my attachment to the dynasty,” replied Rivet. “My
political enemies are the King’s. He has a noble character! They are
a fine family; in short,” said he, returning to the charge, “he is our
ideal: morality, economy, everything. But the completion of the Louvre
is one of the conditions on which we gave him the crown, and the civil
list, which, I admit, had no limits set to it, leaves the heart of Paris
in a most melancholy state.--It is because I am so strongly in favor
of the middle course that I should like to see the middle of Paris in
a better condition. Your part of the town is positively terrifying.
You would have been murdered there one fine day.--And so your Monsieur
Crevel has been made Major of his division! He will come to us, I hope,
for his big epaulette.”

“I am dining with him to-night, and will send him to you.”

Lisbeth believed that she had secured her Livonian to herself by cutting
him off from all communication with the outer world. If he could no
longer work, the artist would be forgotten as completely as a man buried
in a cellar, where she alone would go to see him. Thus she had two
happy days, for she hoped to deal a mortal blow at the Baroness and her
daughter.

To go to Crevel’s house, in the Rue des Saussayes, she crossed the Pont
du Carrousel, went along the Quai Voltaire, the Quai d’Orsay, the Rue
Bellechasse, Rue de l’Universite, the Pont de la Concorde, and the
Avenue de Marigny. This illogical route was traced by the logic of
passion, always the foe of the legs.

Cousin Betty, as long as she followed the line of the quays, kept watch
on the opposite shore of the Seine, walking very slowly. She had guessed
rightly. She had left Wenceslas dressing; she at once understood that,
as soon as he should be rid of her, the lover would go off to the
Baroness’ by the shortest road. And, in fact, as she wandered along by
the parapet of the Quai Voltaire, in fancy suppressing the river and
walking along the opposite bank, she recognized the artist as he came
out of the Tuileries to cross the Pont Royal. She there came up with
the faithless one, and could follow him unseen, for lovers rarely look
behind them. She escorted him as far as Madame Hulot’s house, where he
went in like an accustomed visitor.

This crowning proof, confirming Madame Marneffe’s revelations, put
Lisbeth quite beside herself.

She arrived at the newly promoted Major’s door in the state of mental
irritation which prompts men to commit murder, and found Monsieur Crevel
_senior_ in his drawing-room awaiting his children, Monsieur and Madame
Hulot _junior_.

But Celestin Crevel was so unconscious and so perfect a type of the
Parisian parvenu, that we can scarcely venture so unceremoniously into
the presence of Cesar Birotteau’s successor. Celestin Crevel was a world
in himself; and he, even more than Rivet, deserves the honors of the
palette by reason of his importance in this domestic drama.



Have you ever observed how in childhood, or at the early stages of
social life, we create a model for our own imitation, with our own
hands as it were, and often without knowing it? The banker’s clerk, for
instance, as he enters his master’s drawing-room, dreams of possessing
such another. If he makes a fortune, it will not be the luxury of
the day, twenty years later, that you will find in his house, but the
old-fashioned splendor that fascinated him of yore. It is impossible to
tell how many absurdities are due to this retrospective jealousy; and
in the same way we know nothing of the follies due to the covert rivalry
that urges men to copy the type they have set themselves, and exhaust
their powers in shining with a reflected light, like the moon.

Crevel was deputy mayor because his predecessor had been; he was Major
because he coveted Cesar Birotteau’s epaulettes. In the same way,
struck by the marvels wrought by Grindot the architect, at the time
when Fortune had carried his master to the top of the wheel, Crevel had
“never looked at both sides of a crown-piece,” to use his own language,
when he wanted to “do up” his rooms; he had gone with his purse open and
his eyes shut to Grindot, who by this time was quite forgotten. It
is impossible to guess how long an extinct reputation may survive,
supported by such stale admiration.

So Grindot, for the thousandth time had displayed his white-and-gold
drawing-room paneled with crimson damask. The furniture, of rosewood,
clumsily carved, as such work is done for the trade, had in the country
been the source of just pride in Paris workmanship on the occasion of
an industrial exhibition. The candelabra, the fire-dogs, the fender,
the chandelier, the clock, were all in the most unmeaning style of
scroll-work; the round table, a fixture in the middle of the room, was
a mosaic of fragments of Italian and antique marbles, brought from Rome,
where these dissected maps are made of mineralogical specimens--for all
the world like tailors’ patterns--an object of perennial admiration
to Crevel’s citizen friends. The portraits of the late lamented Madame
Crevel, of Crevel himself, of his daughter and his son-in-law, hung
on the walls, two and two; they were the work of Pierre Grassou, the
favored painter of the bourgeoisie, to whom Crevel owed his ridiculous
Byronic attitude. The frames, costing a thousand francs each, were quite
in harmony with this coffee-house magnificence, which would have made
any true artist shrug his shoulders.

Money never yet missed the smallest opportunity of being stupid. We
should have in Paris ten Venices if our retired merchants had had the
instinct for fine things characteristic of the Italians. Even in our own
day a Milanese merchant could leave five hundred thousand francs to
the Duomo, to regild the colossal statue of the Virgin that crowns the
edifice. Canova, in his will, desired his brother to build a church
costing four million francs, and that brother adds something on his own
account. Would a citizen of Paris--and they all, like Rivet, love their
Paris in their heart--ever dream of building the spires that are lacking
to the towers of Notre-Dame? And only think of the sums that revert to
the State in property for which no heirs are found.

All the improvements of Paris might have been completed with the money
spent on stucco castings, gilt mouldings, and sham sculpture during the
last fifteen years by individuals of the Crevel stamp.

Beyond this drawing-room was a splendid boudoir furnished with tables
and cabinets in imitation of Boulle.

The bedroom, smart with chintz, also opened out of the drawing-room.
Mahogany in all its glory infested the dining-room, and Swiss views,
gorgeously framed, graced the panels. Crevel, who hoped to travel in
Switzerland, had set his heart on possessing the scenery in painting
till the time should come when he might see it in reality.

So, as will have been seen, Crevel, the Mayor’s deputy, of the Legion
of Honor and of the National Guard, had faithfully reproduced all the
magnificence, even as to furniture, of his luckless predecessor. Under
the Restoration, where one had sunk, this other, quite overlooked, had
come to the top--not by any strange stroke of fortune, but by the force
of circumstance. In revolutions, as in storms at sea, solid treasure
goes to the bottom, and light trifles are floated to the surface. Cesar
Birotteau, a Royalist, in favor and envied, had been made the mark of
bourgeois hostility, while bourgeoisie triumphant found its incarnation
in Crevel.

This apartment, at a rent of a thousand crowns, crammed with all the
vulgar magnificence that money can buy, occupied the first floor of
a fine old house between a courtyard and a garden. Everything was as
spick-and-span as the beetles in an entomological case, for Crevel lived
very little at home.

This gorgeous residence was the ambitious citizen’s legal domicile. His
establishment consisted of a woman-cook and a valet; he hired two extra
men, and had a dinner sent in by Chevet, whenever he gave a banquet to
his political friends, to men he wanted to dazzle or to a family party.

The seat of Crevel’s real domesticity, formerly in the Rue Notre-Dame
de Lorette, with Mademoiselle Heloise Brisetout, had lately been
transferred, as we have seen, to the Rue Chauchat. Every morning the
retired merchant--every ex-tradesman is a retired merchant--spent two
hours in the Rue des Saussayes to attend to business, and gave the
rest of his time to Mademoiselle Zaire, which annoyed Zaire very much.
Orosmanes-Crevel had a fixed bargain with Mademoiselle Heloise; she owed
him five hundred francs worth of enjoyment every month, and no “bills
delivered.” He paid separately for his dinner and all extras. This
agreement, with certain bonuses, for he made her a good many presents,
seemed cheap to the ex-attache of the great singer; and he would say to
widowers who were fond of their daughters, that it paid better to job
your horses than to have a stable of your own. At the same time, if the
reader remembers the speech made to the Baron by the porter at the Rue
Chauchat, Crevel did not escape the coachman and the groom.

Crevel, as may be seen, had turned his passionate affection for his
daughter to the advantage of his self-indulgence. The immoral aspect
of the situation was justified by the highest morality. And then the
ex-perfumer derived from this style of living--it was the inevitable,
a free-and-easy life, _Regence, Pompadour, Marechal de Richelieu_, what
not--a certain veneer of superiority. Crevel set up for being a man of
broad views, a fine gentleman with an air and grace, a liberal man with
nothing narrow in his ideas--and all for the small sum of about
twelve to fifteen hundred francs a month. This was the result not of
hypocritical policy, but of middle-class vanity, though it came to the
same in the end.

On the Bourse Crevel was regarded as a man superior to his time, and
especially as a man of pleasure, a _bon vivant_. In this particular
Crevel flattered himself that he had overtopped his worthy friend
Birotteau by a hundred cubits.

“And is it you?” cried Crevel, flying into a rage as he saw Lisbeth
enter the room, “who have plotted this marriage between Mademoiselle
Hulot and your young Count, whom you have been bringing up by hand for
her?”

“You don’t seem best pleased at it?” said Lisbeth, fixing a piercing
eye on Crevel. “What interest can you have in hindering my cousin’s
marriage? For it was you, I am told, who hindered her marrying Monsieur
Lebas’ son.”

“You are a good soul and to be trusted,” said Crevel. “Well, then, do
you suppose that I will ever forgive Monsieur Hulot for the crime of
having robbed me of Josepha--especially when he turned a decent girl,
whom I should have married in my old age, into a good-for-nothing slut,
a mountebank, an opera singer!--No, no. Never!”

“He is a very good fellow, too, is Monsieur Hulot,” said Cousin Betty.

“Amiable, very amiable--too amiable,” replied Crevel. “I wish him no
harm; but I do wish to have my revenge, and I will have it. It is my one
idea.”

“And is that desire the reason why you no longer visit Madame Hulot?”

“Possibly.”

“Ah, ha! then you were courting my fair cousin?” said Lisbeth, with a
smile. “I thought as much.”

“And she treated me like a dog!--worse, like a footman; nay, I might say
like a political prisoner.--But I will succeed yet,” said he, striking
his brow with his clenched fist.

“Poor man! It would be dreadful to catch his wife deceiving him after
being packed off by his mistress.”

“Josepha?” cried Crevel. “Has Josepha thrown him over, packed him off,
turned him out neck and crop? Bravo, Josepha, you have avenged me!
I will send you a pair of pearls to hang in your ears, my
ex-sweetheart!--I knew nothing of it; for after I had seen you, on the
day after that when the fair Adeline had shown me the door, I went back
to visit the Lebas, at Corbeil, and have but just come back. Heloise
played the very devil to get me into the country, and I have found out
the purpose of her game; she wanted me out of the way while she gave a
house-warming in the Rue Chauchat, with some artists, and players, and
writers.--She took me in! But I can forgive her, for Heloise amuses me.
She is a Dejazet under a bushel. What a character the hussy is! There is
the note I found last evening:

  “‘DEAR OLD CHAP,--I have pitched my tent in the Rue Chauchat. I
  have taken the precaution of getting a few friends to clean up the
  paint. All is well. Come when you please, monsieur; Hagar awaits
  her Abraham.’

“Heloise will have some news for me, for she has her bohemia at her
fingers’ end.”

“But Monsieur Hulot took the disaster very calmly,” said Lisbeth.

“Impossible!” cried Crevel, stopping in a parade as regular as the swing
of a pendulum.

“Monsieur Hulot is not as young as he was,” Lisbeth remarked
significantly.

“I know that,” said Crevel, “but in one point we are alike: Hulot cannot
do without an attachment. He is capable of going back to his wife.
It would be a novelty for him, but an end to my vengeance. You smile,
Mademoiselle Fischer--ah! perhaps you know something?”

“I am smiling at your notions,” replied Lisbeth. “Yes, my cousin is
still handsome enough to inspire a passion. I should certainly fall in
love with her if I were a man.”

“Cut and come again!” exclaimed Crevel. “You are laughing at me.--The
Baron has already found consolation?”

Lisbeth bowed affirmatively.

“He is a lucky man if he can find a second Josepha within twenty-four
hours!” said Crevel. “But I am not altogether surprised, for he told me
one evening at supper that when he was a young man he always had three
mistresses on hand that he might not be left high and dry--the one he
was giving over, the one in possession, and the one he was courting for
a future emergency. He had some smart little work-woman in reserve, no
doubt--in his fish-pond--his _Parc-aux-cerfs_! He is very Louis XV., is
my gentleman. He is in luck to be so handsome!--However, he is ageing;
his face shows it.--He has taken up with some little milliner?”

“Dear me, no,” replied Lisbeth.

“Oh!” cried Crevel, “what would I not do to hinder him from hanging up
his hat! I could not win back Josepha; women of that kind never come
back to their first love.--Besides, it is truly said, such a return
is not love.--But, Cousin Betty, I would pay down fifty thousand
francs--that is to say, I would spend it--to rob that great good-looking
fellow of his mistress, and to show him that a Major with a portly
stomach and a brain made to become Mayor of Paris, though he is a
grandfather, is not to have his mistress tickled away by a poacher
without turning the tables.”

“My position,” said Lisbeth, “compels me to hear everything and know
nothing. You may talk to me without fear; I never repeat a word of what
any one may choose to tell me. How can you suppose I should ever break
that rule of conduct? No one would ever trust me again.”

“I know,” said Crevel; “you are the very jewel of old maids. Still,
come, there are exceptions. Look here, the family have never settled an
allowance on you?”

“But I have my pride,” said Lisbeth. “I do not choose to be an expense
to anybody.”

“If you will but help me to my revenge,” the tradesman went on, “I will
sink ten thousand francs in an annuity for you. Tell me, my fair cousin,
tell me who has stepped into Josepha’s shoes, and you will have money to
pay your rent, your little breakfast in the morning, the good coffee you
love so well--you might allow yourself pure Mocha, heh! And a very good
thing is pure Mocha!”

“I do not care so much for the ten thousand francs in an annuity,
which would bring me nearly five hundred francs a year, as for absolute
secrecy,” said Lisbeth. “For, you see, my dear Monsieur Crevel, the
Baron is very good to me; he is to pay my rent----”

“Oh yes, long may that last! I advise you to trust him,” cried Crevel.
“Where will he find the money?”

“Ah, that I don’t know. At the same time, he is spending more than
thirty thousand francs on the rooms he is furnishing for this little
lady.”

“A lady! What, a woman in society; the rascal, what luck he has! He is
the only favorite!”

“A married woman, and quite the lady,” Lisbeth affirmed.

“Really and truly?” cried Crevel, opening wide eyes flashing with envy,
quite as much as at the magic words _quite the lady_.

“Yes, really,” said Lisbeth. “Clever, a musician, three-and-twenty, a
pretty, innocent face, a dazzling white skin, teeth like a puppy’s, eyes
like stars, a beautiful forehead--and tiny feet, I never saw the like,
they are not wider than her stay-busk.”

“And ears?” asked Crevel, keenly alive to this catalogue of charms.

“Ears for a model,” she replied.

“And small hands?”

“I tell you, in few words, a gem of a woman--and high-minded, and
modest, and refined! A beautiful soul, an angel--and with every
distinction, for her father was a Marshal of France----”

“A Marshal of France!” shrieked Crevel, positively bounding with
excitement. “Good Heavens! by the Holy Piper! By all the joys in
Paradise!--The rascal!--I beg your pardon, Cousin, I am going crazy!--I
think I would give a hundred thousand francs----”

“I dare say you would, and, I tell you, she is a respectable woman--a
woman of virtue. The Baron has forked out handsomely.”

“He has not a sou, I tell you.”

“There is a husband he has pushed----”

“Where did he push him?” asked Crevel, with a bitter laugh.

“He is promoted to be second in his office--this husband who will
oblige, no doubt;--and his name is down for the Cross of the Legion of
Honor.”

“The Government ought to be judicious and respect those who have the
Cross by not flinging it broadcast,” said Crevel, with the look of an
aggrieved politician. “But what is there about the man--that old bulldog
of a Baron?” he went on. “It seems to me that I am quite a match for
him,” and he struck an attitude as he looked at himself in the glass.
“Heloise has told me many a time, at moments when a woman speaks the
truth, that I was wonderful.”

“Oh,” said Lisbeth, “women like big men; they are almost always
good-natured; and if I had to decide between you and the Baron, I should
choose you. Monsieur Hulot is amusing, handsome, and has a figure; but
you, you are substantial, and then--you see--you look an even greater
scamp than he does.”

“It is incredible how all women, even pious women, take to men who have
that about them!” exclaimed Crevel, putting his arm round Lisbeth’s
waist, he was so jubilant.

“The difficulty does not lie there,” said Betty. “You must see that a
woman who is getting so many advantages will not be unfaithful to
her patron for nothing; and it would cost you more than a hundred odd
thousand francs, for our little friend can look forward to seeing her
husband at the head of his office within two years’ time.--It is poverty
that is dragging the poor little angel into that pit.”

Crevel was striding up and down the drawing-room in a state of frenzy.

“He must be uncommonly fond of the woman?” he inquired after a pause,
while his desires, thus goaded by Lisbeth, rose to a sort of madness.

“You may judge for yourself,” replied Lisbeth. “I don’t believe he has
had _that_ of her,” said she, snapping her thumbnail against one of her
enormous white teeth, “and he has given her ten thousand francs’ worth
of presents already.”

“What a good joke it would be!” cried Crevel, “if I got to the winning
post first!”

“Good heavens! It is too bad of me to be telling you all this
tittle-tattle,” said Lisbeth, with an air of compunction.

“No.--I mean to put your relations to the blush. To-morrow I shall
invest in your name such a sum in five-per-cents as will give you
six hundred francs a year; but then you must tell me everything--his
Dulcinea’s name and residence. To you I will make a clean breast of
it.--I never have had a real lady for a mistress, and it is the height
of my ambition. Mahomet’s houris are nothing in comparison with what I
fancy a woman of fashion must be. In short, it is my dream, my mania,
and to such a point, that I declare to you the Baroness Hulot to me will
never be fifty,” said he, unconsciously plagiarizing one of the greatest
wits of the last century. “I assure you, my good Lisbeth, I am prepared
to sacrifice a hundred, two hundred--Hush! Here are the young people,
I see them crossing the courtyard. I shall never have learned anything
through you, I give you my word of honor; for I do not want you to lose
the Baron’s confidence, quite the contrary. He must be amazingly fond of
this woman--that old boy.”

“He is crazy about her,” said Lisbeth. “He could not find forty thousand
francs to marry his daughter off, but he has got them somehow for his
new passion.”

“And do you think that she loves him?”

“At his age!” said the old maid.

“Oh, what an owl I am!” cried Crevel, “when I myself allowed Heloise to
keep her artist exactly as Henri IX. allowed Gabrielle her Bellegrade.
Alas! old age, old age!--Good-morning, Celestine. How do, my jewel!--And
the brat? Ah! here he comes; on my honor, he is beginning to be like
me!--Good-day, Hulot--quite well? We shall soon be having another
wedding in the family.”

Celestine and her husband, as a hint to their father, glanced at the old
maid, who audaciously asked, in reply to Crevel:

“Indeed--whose?”

Crevel put on an air of reserve which was meant to convey that he would
make up for her indiscretions.

“That of Hortense,” he replied; “but it is not yet quite settled. I have
just come from the Lebas’, and they were talking of Mademoiselle Popinot
as a suitable match for their son, the young councillor, for he would
like to get the presidency of a provincial court.--Now, come to dinner.”



By seven o’clock Lisbeth had returned home in an omnibus, for she was
eager to see Wenceslas, whose dupe she had been for three weeks, and to
whom she was carrying a basket filled with fruit by the hands of Crevel
himself, whose attentions were doubled towards _his_ Cousin Betty.

She flew up to the attic at a pace that took her breath away, and found
the artist finishing the ornamentation of a box to be presented to the
adored Hortense. The framework of the lid represented hydrangeas--in
French called _Hortensias_--among which little Loves were playing. The
poor lover, to enable him to pay for the materials of the box, of which
the panels were of malachite, had designed two candlesticks for Florent
and Chanor, and sold them the copyright--two admirable pieces of work.

“You have been working too hard these last few days, my dear fellow,”
 said Lisbeth, wiping the perspiration from his brow, and giving him
a kiss. “Such laborious diligence is really dangerous in the month
of August. Seriously, you may injure your health. Look, here are some
peaches and plums from Monsieur Crevel.--Now, do not worry yourself so
much; I have borrowed two thousand francs, and, short of some disaster,
we can repay them when you sell your clock. At the same time, the lender
seems to me suspicious, for he has just sent in this document.”

She laid the writ under the model sketch of the statue of General
Montcornet.

“For whom are you making this pretty thing?” said she, taking up the
model sprays of hydrangea in red wax which Wenceslas had laid down while
eating the fruit.

“For a jeweler.”

“For what jeweler?”

“I do not know. Stidmann asked me to make something out of them, as he
is very busy.”

“But these,” she said in a deep voice, “are _Hortensias_. How is it that
you have never made anything in wax for me? Is it so difficult to design
a pin, a little box--what not, as a keepsake?” and she shot a fearful
glance at the artist, whose eyes were happily lowered. “And yet you say
you love me?”

“Can you doubt it, mademoiselle?”

“That is indeed an ardent _mademoiselle_!--Why, you have been my only
thought since I found you dying--just there. When I saved you, you vowed
you were mine, I mean to hold you to that pledge; but I made a vow to
myself! I said to myself, ‘Since the boy says he is mine, I mean to make
him rich and happy!’ Well, and I can make your fortune.”

“How?” said the hapless artist, at the height of joy, and too artless to
dream of a snare.

“Why, thus,” said she.

Lisbeth could not deprive herself of the savage pleasure of gazing at
Wenceslas, who looked up at her with filial affection, the expression
really of his love for Hortense, which deluded the old maid. Seeing in
a man’s eyes, for the first time in her life, the blazing torch of
passion, she fancied it was for her that it was lighted.

“Monsieur Crevel will back us to the extent of a hundred thousand francs
to start in business, if, as he says, you will marry me. He has queer
ideas, has the worthy man.--Well, what do you say to it?” she added.

The artist, as pale as the dead, looked at his benefactress with a
lustreless eye, which plainly spoke his thoughts. He stood stupefied and
open-mouthed.

“I never before was so distinctly told that I am hideous,” said she,
with a bitter laugh.

“Mademoiselle,” said Steinbock, “my benefactress can never be ugly in
my eyes; I have the greatest affection for you. But I am not yet thirty,
and----”

“I am forty-three,” said Lisbeth. “My cousin Adeline is forty-eight, and
men are still madly in love with her; but then she is handsome--she is!”

“Fifteen years between us, mademoiselle! How could we get on together!
For both our sakes I think we should be wise to think it over. My
gratitude shall be fully equal to your great kindness.--And your money
shall be repaid in a few days.”

“My money!” cried she. “You treat me as if I were nothing but an
unfeeling usurer.”

“Forgive me,” said Wenceslas, “but you remind me of it so often.--Well,
it is you who have made me; do not crush me.”

“You mean to be rid of me, I can see,” said she, shaking her head. “Who
has endowed you with this strength of ingratitude--you who are a man of
papier-mache? Have you ceased to trust me--your good genius?--me, when
I have spent so many nights working for you--when I have given you every
franc I have saved in my lifetime--when for four years I have shared my
bread with you, the bread of a hard-worked woman, and given you all I
had, to my very courage.”

“Mademoiselle--no more, no more!” he cried, kneeling before her with
uplifted hands. “Say not another word! In three days I will tell you,
you shall know all.--Let me, let me be happy,” and he kissed her hands.
“I love--and I am loved.”

“Well, well, my child, be happy,” she said, lifting him up. And she
kissed his forehead and hair with the eagerness that a man condemned to
death must feel as he lives through the last morning.

“Ah! you are of all creatures the noblest and best! You are a match for
the woman I love,” said the poor artist.

“I love you well enough to tremble for your future fate,” said she
gloomily. “Judas hanged himself--the ungrateful always come to a bad
end! You are deserting me, and you will never again do any good work.
Consider whether, without being married--for I know I am an old maid,
and I do not want to smother the blossom of your youth, your poetry, as
you call it, in my arms, that are like vine-stocks--but whether,
without being married, we could not get on together? Listen; I have
the commercial spirit; I could save you a fortune in the course of ten
years’ work, for Economy is my name!--while, with a young wife, who
would be sheer Expenditure, you would squander everything; you would
work only to indulge her. But happiness creates nothing but memories.
Even I, when I am thinking of you, sit for hours with my hands in my
lap----

“Come, Wenceslas, stay with me.--Look here, I understand all about
it; you shall have your mistresses; pretty ones too, like that little
Marneffe woman who wants to see you, and who will give you happiness you
could never find with me. Then, when I have saved you thirty thousand
francs a year in the funds----”

“Mademoiselle, you are an angel, and I shall never forget this hour,”
 said Wenceslas, wiping away his tears.

“That is how I like to see you, my child,” said she, gazing at him with
rapture.

Vanity is so strong a power in us all that Lisbeth believed in her
triumph. She had conceded so much when offering him Madame Marneffe. It
was the crowning emotion of her life; for the first time she felt the
full tide of joy rising in her heart. To go through such an experience
again she would have sold her soul to the Devil.

“I am engaged to be married,” Steinbock replied, “and I love a woman
with whom no other can compete or compare.--But you are, and always will
be, to me the mother I have lost.”

The words fell like an avalanche of snow on a burning crater. Lisbeth
sat down. She gazed with despondent eyes on the youth before her, on his
aristocratic beauty--the artist’s brow, the splendid hair, everything
that appealed to her suppressed feminine instincts, and tiny tears
moistened her eyes for an instant and immediately dried up. She looked
like one of those meagre statues which the sculptors of the Middle Ages
carved on monuments.

“I cannot curse you,” said she, suddenly rising. “You--you are but a
boy. God preserve you!”

She went downstairs and shut herself into her own room.

“She is in love with me, poor creature!” said Wenceslas to himself. “And
how fervently eloquent! She is crazy.”

This last effort on the part of an arid and narrow nature to keep hold
on an embodiment of beauty and poetry was, in truth, so violent that it
can only be compared to the frenzied vehemence of a shipwrecked creature
making the last struggle to reach shore.

On the next day but one, at half-past four in the morning, when Count
Steinbock was sunk in the deepest sleep, he heard a knock at the door of
his attic; he rose to open it, and saw two men in shabby clothing, and a
third, whose dress proclaimed him a bailiff down on his luck.

“You are Monsieur Wenceslas, Count Steinbock?” said this man.

“Yes, monsieur.”

“My name is Grasset, sir, successor to Louchard, sheriff’s officer----”

“What then?”

“You are under arrest, sir. You must come with us to prison--to
Clichy.--Please to get dressed.--We have done the civil, as you see; I
have brought no police, and there is a hackney cab below.”

“You are safely nabbed, you see,” said one of the bailiffs; “and we look
to you to be liberal.”

Steinbock dressed and went downstairs, a man holding each arm; when he
was in the cab, the driver started without orders, as knowing where he
was to go, and within half an hour the unhappy foreigner found himself
safely under bolt and bar without even a remonstrance, so utterly amazed
was he.

At ten o’clock he was sent for to the prison-office, where he found
Lisbeth, who, in tears, gave him some money to feed himself adequately
and to pay for a room large enough to work in.

“My dear boy,” said she, “never say a word of your arrest to anybody,
do not write to a living soul; it would ruin you for life; we must hide
this blot on your character. I will soon have you out. I will collect
the money--be quite easy. Write down what you want for your work. You
shall soon be free, or I will die for it.”

“Oh, I shall owe you my life a second time!” cried he, “for I should
lose more than my life if I were thought a bad fellow.”

Lisbeth went off in great glee; she hoped, by keeping her artist under
lock and key, to put a stop to his marriage by announcing that he was
a married man, pardoned by the efforts of his wife, and gone off to
Russia.

To carry out this plan, at about three o’clock she went to the Baroness,
though it was not the day when she was due to dine with her; but she
wished to enjoy the anguish which Hortense must endure at the hour when
Wenceslas was in the habit of making his appearance.

“Have you come to dinner?” asked the Baroness, concealing her
disappointment.

“Well, yes.”

“That’s well,” replied Hortense. “I will go and tell them to be
punctual, for you do not like to be kept waiting.”

Hortense nodded reassuringly to her mother, for she intended to tell the
man-servant to send away Monsieur Steinbock if he should call; the man,
however, happened to be out, so Hortense was obliged to give her orders
to the maid, and the girl went upstairs to fetch her needlework and sit
in the ante-room.

“And about my lover?” said Cousin Betty to Hortense, when the girl came
back. “You never ask about him now?”

“To be sure, what is he doing?” said Hortense. “He has become famous.
You ought to be very happy,” she added in an undertone to Lisbeth.
“Everybody is talking of Monsieur Wenceslas Steinbock.”

“A great deal too much,” replied she in her clear tones. “Monsieur is
departing.--If it were only a matter of charming him so far as to defy
the attractions of Paris, I know my power; but they say that in order to
secure the services of such an artist, the Emperor Nichols has pardoned
him----”

“Nonsense!” said the Baroness.

“When did you hear that?” asked Hortense, who felt as if her heart had
the cramp.

“Well,” said the villainous Lisbeth, “a person to whom he is bound by
the most sacred ties--his wife--wrote yesterday to tell him so. He
wants to be off. Oh, he will be a great fool to give up France to go to
Russia!--”

Hortense looked at her mother, but her head sank on one side; the
Baroness was only just in time to support her daughter, who dropped
fainting, and as white as her lace kerchief.

“Lisbeth! you have killed my child!” cried the Baroness. “You were born
to be our curse!”

“Bless me! what fault of mine is this, Adeline?” replied Lisbeth, as she
rose with a menacing aspect, of which the Baroness, in her alarm, took
no notice.

“I was wrong,” said Adeline, supporting the girl. “Ring.”

At this instant the door opened, the women both looked round, and saw
Wenceslas Steinbock, who had been admitted by the cook in the maid’s
absence.

“Hortense!” cried the artist, with one spring to the group of women. And
he kissed his betrothed before her mother’s eyes, on the forehead, and
so reverently, that the Baroness could not be angry. It was a better
restorative than any smelling salts. Hortense opened her eyes, saw
Wenceslas, and her color came back. In a few minutes she had quite
recovered.

“So this was your secret?” said Lisbeth, smiling at Wenceslas, and
affecting to guess the facts from her two cousins’ confusion.

“But how did you steal away my lover?” said she, leading Hortense into
the garden.

Hortense artlessly told the romance of her love. Her father and mother,
she said, being convinced that Lisbeth would never marry, had authorized
the Count’s visits. Only Hortense, like a full-blown Agnes, attributed
to chance her purchase of the group and the introduction of the artist,
who, by her account, had insisted on knowing the name of his first
purchaser.

Presently Steinbock came out to join the cousins, and thanked the old
maid effusively for his prompt release. Lisbeth replied Jesuitically
that the creditor having given very vague promises, she had not hoped
to be able to get him out before the morrow, and that the person who
had lent her the money, ashamed, perhaps, of such mean conduct, had been
beforehand with her. The old maid appeared to be perfectly content, and
congratulated Wenceslas on his happiness.

“You bad boy!” said she, before Hortense and her mother, “if you had
only told me the evening before last that you loved my cousin Hortense,
and that she loved you, you would have spared me many tears. I thought
that you were deserting your old friend, your governess; while, on the
contrary, you are to become my cousin; henceforth, you will be connected
with me, remotely, it is true, but by ties that amply justify the
feelings I have for you.” And she kissed Wenceslas on the forehead.

Hortense threw herself into Lisbeth’s arms and melted into tears.

“I owe my happiness to you,” said she, “and I will never forget it.”

“Cousin Betty,” said the Baroness, embracing Lisbeth in her excitement
at seeing matters so happily settled, “the Baron and I owe you a debt of
gratitude, and we will pay it. Come and talk things over with me,” she
added, leading her away.

So Lisbeth, to all appearances, was playing the part of a good angel
to the whole family; she was adored by Crevel and Hulot, by Adeline and
Hortense.

“We wish you to give up working,” said the Baroness. “If you earn forty
sous a day, Sundays excepted, that makes six hundred francs a year.
Well, then, how much have you saved?”

“Four thousand five hundred francs.”

“Poor Betty!” said her cousin.

She raised her eyes to heaven, so deeply was she moved at the thought of
all the labor and privation such a sum must represent accumulated during
thirty years.

Lisbeth, misunderstanding the meaning of the exclamation, took it as the
ironical pity of the successful woman, and her hatred was strengthened
by a large infusion of venom at the very moment when her cousin had cast
off her last shred of distrust of the tyrant of her childhood.

“We will add ten thousand five hundred francs to that sum,” said
Adeline, “and put it in trust so that you shall draw the interest for
life with reversion to Hortense. Thus, you will have six hundred francs
a year.”

Lisbeth feigned the utmost satisfaction. When she went in, her
handkerchief to her eyes, wiping away tears of joy, Hortense told her of
all the favors being showered on Wenceslas, beloved of the family.

So when the Baron came home, he found his family all present; for the
Baroness had formally accepted Wenceslas by the title of Son, and the
wedding was fixed, if her husband should approve, for a day a fortnight
hence. The moment he came into the drawing-room, Hulot was rushed at
by his wife and daughter, who ran to meet him, Adeline to speak to him
privately, and Hortense to kiss him.

“You have gone too far in pledging me to this, madame,” said the Baron
sternly. “You are not married yet,” he added with a look at Steinbock,
who turned pale.

“He has heard of my imprisonment,” said the luckless artist to himself.

“Come, children,” said he, leading his daughter and the young man
into the garden; they all sat down on the moss-eaten seat in the
summer-house.

“Monsieur le Comte, do you love my daughter as well as I loved her
mother?” he asked.

“More, monsieur,” said the sculptor.

“Her mother was a peasant’s daughter, and had not a farthing of her
own.”

“Only give me Mademoiselle Hortense just as she is, without a trousseau
even----”

“So I should think!” said the Baron, smiling. “Hortense is the daughter
of the Baron Hulot d’Ervy, Councillor of State, high up in the War
Office, Grand Commander of the Legion of Honor, and the brother to Count
Hulot, whose glory is immortal, and who will ere long be Marshal of
France! And--she has a marriage portion.

“It is true,” said the impassioned artist. “I must seem very ambitious.
But if my dear Hortense were a laborer’s daughter, I would marry
her----”

“That is just what I wanted to know,” replied the Baron. “Run away,
Hortense, and leave me to talk business with Monsieur le Comte.--He
really loves you, you see!”

“Oh, papa, I was sure you were only in jest,” said the happy girl.

“My dear Steinbock,” said the Baron, with elaborate grace of diction and
the most perfect manners, as soon as he and the artist were alone, “I
promised my son a fortune of two hundred thousand francs, of which
the poor boy has never had a sou; and he never will get any of it. My
daughter’s fortune will also be two hundred thousand francs, for which
you will give a receipt----”

“Yes, Monsieur le Baron.”

“You go too fast,” said Hulot. “Have the goodness to hear me out. I
cannot expect from a son-in-law such devotion as I look for from my son.
My son knew exactly all I could and would do for his future promotion:
he will be a Minister, and will easily make good his two hundred
thousand francs. But with you, young man, matters are different. I shall
give you a bond for sixty thousand francs in State funds at five per
cent, in your wife’s name. This income will be diminished by a small
charge in the form of an annuity to Lisbeth; but she will not live long;
she is consumptive, I know. Tell no one; it is a secret; let the poor
soul die in peace.--My daughter will have a trousseau worth twenty
thousand francs; her mother will give her six thousand francs worth of
diamonds.

“Monsieur, you overpower me!” said Steinbock, quite bewildered.

“As to the remaining hundred and twenty thousand francs----”

“Say no more, monsieur,” said Wenceslas. “I ask only for my beloved
Hortense----”

“Will you listen to me, effervescent youth!--As to the remaining hundred
and twenty thousand francs, I have not got them; but you will have
them--”

“Monsieur?”

“You will get them from the Government, in payment for commissions which
I will secure for you, I pledge you my word of honor. You are to have
a studio, you see, at the Government depot. Exhibit a few fine statues,
and I will get you received at the Institute. The highest personages
have a regard for my brother and for me, and I hope to succeed in
securing for you a commission for sculpture at Versailles up to a
quarter of the whole sum. You will have orders from the City of Paris
and from the Chamber of Peers; in short, my dear fellow, you will have
so many that you will be obliged to get assistants. In that way I
shall pay off my debt to you. You must say whether this way of giving a
portion will suit you; whether you are equal to it.”

“I am equal to making a fortune for my wife single-handed if all else
failed!” cried the artist-nobleman.

“That is what I admire!” cried the Baron. “High-minded youth that fears
nothing. Come,” he added, clasping hands with the young sculptor to
conclude the bargain, “you have my consent. We will sign the contract
on Sunday next, and the wedding shall be on the following Saturday, my
wife’s fete-day.”

“It is all right,” said the Baroness to her daughter, who stood glued to
the window. “Your suitor and your father are embracing each other.”

On going home in the evening, Wenceslas found the solution of the
mystery of his release. The porter handed him a thick sealed packet,
containing the schedule of his debts, with a signed receipt affixed at
the bottom of the writ, and accompanied by this letter:--

  “MY DEAR WENCESLAS,--I went to fetch you at ten o’clock this
  morning to introduce you to a Royal Highness who wishes to see
  you. There I learned that the duns had had you conveyed to a
  certain little domain--chief town, _Clichy Castle_.

  “So off I went to Leon de Lora, and told him, for a joke, that you
  could not leave your country quarters for lack of four thousand
  francs, and that you would spoil your future prospects if you did
  not make your bow to your royal patron. Happily, Bridau was there
  --a man of genius, who has known what it is to be poor, and has
  heard your story. My boy, between them they have found the money,
  and I went off to pay the Turk who committed treason against
  genius by putting you in quod. As I had to be at the Tuileries at
  noon, I could not wait to see you sniffing the outer air. I know
  you to be a gentleman, and I answered for you to my two friends
  --but look them up to-morrow.

  “Leon and Bridau do not want your cash; they will ask you to do
  them each a group--and they are right. At least, so thinks the man
  who wishes he could sign himself your rival, but is only your
  faithful ally,

  “STIDMANN.

  “P. S.--I told the Prince you were away, and would not return till
  to-morrow, so he said, ‘Very good--to-morrow.’”


Count Wenceslas went to bed in sheets of purple, without a rose-leaf to
wrinkle them, that Favor can make for us--Favor, the halting divinity
who moves more slowly for men of genius than either Justice or Fortune,
because Jove has not chosen to bandage her eyes. Hence, lightly deceived
by the display of impostors, and attracted by their frippery and
trumpets, she spends the time in seeing them and the money in paying
them which she ought to devote to seeking out men of merit in the nooks
where they hide.

It will now be necessary to explain how Monsieur le Baron Hulot had
contrived to count up his expenditure on Hortense’s wedding portion,
and at the same time to defray the frightful cost of the charming rooms
where Madame Marneffe was to make her home. His financial scheme bore
that stamp of talent which leads prodigals and men in love into the
quagmires where so many disasters await them. Nothing can demonstrate
more completely the strange capacity communicated by vice, to which
we owe the strokes of skill which ambitious or voluptuous men can
occasionally achieve--or, in short, any of the Devil’s pupils.

On the day before, old Johann Fischer, unable to pay thirty thousand
francs drawn for on him by his nephew, had found himself under the
necessity of stopping payment unless the Baron could remit the sum.

This ancient worthy, with the white hairs of seventy years, had such
blind confidence in Hulot--who, to the old Bonapartist, was an emanation
from the Napoleonic sun--that he was calmly pacing his anteroom with
the bank clerk, in the little ground-floor apartment that he rented
for eight hundred francs a year as the headquarters of his extensive
dealings in corn and forage.

“Marguerite is gone to fetch the money from close by,” said he.

The official, in his gray uniform braided with silver, was so convinced
of the old Alsatian’s honesty, that he was prepared to leave the thirty
thousand francs’ worth of bills in his hands; but the old man would not
let him go, observing that the clock had not yet struck eight. A cab
drew up, the old man rushed into the street, and held out his hand
to the Baron with sublime confidence--Hulot handed him out thirty
thousand-franc notes.

“Go on three doors further, and I will tell you why,” said Fischer.

“Here, young man,” he said, returning to count out the money to the bank
emissary, whom he then saw to the door.

When the clerk was out of sight, Fischer called back the cab containing
his august nephew, Napoleon’s right hand, and said, as he led him into
the house:

“You do not want them to know at the Bank of France that you paid me the
thirty thousand francs, after endorsing the bills?--It was bad enough to
see them signed by such a man as you!--”

“Come to the bottom of your little garden, Father Fischer,” said the
important man. “You are hearty?” he went on, sitting down under a vine
arbor and scanning the old man from head to foot, as a dealer in human
flesh scans a substitute for the conscription.

“Ay, hearty enough for a tontine,” said the lean little old man; his
sinews were wiry, and his eye bright.

“Does heat disagree with you?”

“Quite the contrary.”

“What do you say to Africa?”

“A very nice country!--The French went there with the little Corporal”
 (Napoleon).

“To get us all out of the present scrape, you must go to Algiers,” said
the Baron.

“And how about my business?”

“An official in the War Office, who has to retire, and has not enough to
live on with his pension, will buy your business.”

“And what am I to do in Algiers?”

“Supply the Commissariat with victuals, corn, and forage; I have your
commission ready filled in and signed. You can collect supplies in the
country at seventy per cent below the prices at which you can credit
us.”

“How shall we get them?”

“Oh, by raids, by taxes in kind, and the Khaliphat.--The country is
little known, though we settled there eight years ago; Algeria produces
vast quantities of corn and forage. When this produce belongs to Arabs,
we take it from them under various pretences; when it belongs to us, the
Arabs try to get it back again. There is a great deal of fighting over
the corn, and no one ever knows exactly how much each party has stolen
from the other. There is not time in the open field to measure the
corn as we do in the Paris market, or the hay as it is sold in the Rue
d’Enfer. The Arab chiefs, like our Spahis, prefer hard cash, and sell
the plunder at a very low price. The Commissariat needs a fixed quantity
and must have it. It winks at exorbitant prices calculated on the
difficulty of procuring food, and the dangers to which every form of
transport is exposed. That is Algiers from the army contractor’s point
of view.

“It is a muddle tempered by the ink-bottle, like every incipient
government. We shall not see our way through it for another ten
years--we who have to do the governing; but private enterprise has sharp
eyes.--So I am sending you there to make a fortune; I give you the job,
as Napoleon put an impoverished Marshal at the head of a kingdom where
smuggling might be secretly encouraged.

“I am ruined, my dear Fischer; I must have a hundred thousand francs
within a year.”

“I see no harm in getting it out of the Bedouins,” said the Alsatian
calmly. “It was always done under the Empire----”

“The man who wants to buy your business will be here this morning, and
pay you ten thousand francs down,” the Baron went on. “That will be
enough, I suppose, to take you to Africa?”

The old man nodded assent.

“As to capital out there, be quite easy. I will draw the remainder of
the money due if I find it necessary.”

“All I have is yours--my very blood,” said old Fischer.

“Oh, do not be uneasy,” said Hulot, fancying that his uncle saw more
clearly than was the fact. “As to our excise dealings, your character
will not be impugned. Everything depends on the authority at your back;
now I myself appointed the authorities out there; I am sure of them.
This, Uncle Fischer, is a dead secret between us. I know you well, and I
have spoken out without concealment or circumlocution.”

“It shall be done,” said the old man. “And it will go on----?”

“For two years, You will have made a hundred thousand francs of your own
to live happy on in the Vosges.”

“I will do as you wish; my honor is yours,” said the little old man
quietly.

“That is the sort of man I like.--However, you must not go till you have
seen your grand-niece happily married. She is to be a Countess.”

But even taxes and raids and the money paid by the War Office clerk for
Fischer’s business could not forthwith provide sixty thousand francs to
give Hortense, to say nothing of her trousseau, which was to cost about
five thousand, and the forty thousand spent--or to be spent--on Madame
Marneffe.

Where, then had the Baron found the thirty thousand francs he had just
produced? This was the history.

A few days previously Hulot had insured his life for the sum of a
hundred and fifty thousand francs, for three years, in two separate
companies. Armed with the policies, of which he paid the premium, he had
spoken as follows to the Baron de Nucingen, a peer of the Chamber, in
whose carriage he found himself after a sitting, driving home, in fact,
to dine with him:--

“Baron, I want seventy thousand francs, and I apply to you. You must
find some one to lend his name, to whom I will make over the right to
draw my pay for three years; it amounts to twenty-five thousand francs a
year--that is, seventy-five thousand francs.--You will say, ‘But you
may die’”--the banker signified his assent--“Here, then, is a policy of
insurance for a hundred and fifty thousand francs, which I will deposit
with you till you have drawn up the eighty thousand francs,” said Hulot,
producing the document form his pocket.

“But if you should lose your place?” said the millionaire Baron,
laughing.

The other Baron--not a millionaire--looked grave.

“Be quite easy; I only raised the question to show you that I was not
devoid of merit in handing you the sum. Are you so short of cash? for
the Bank will take your signature.”

“My daughter is to be married,” said Baron Hulot, “and I have no
fortune--like every one else who remains in office in these thankless
times, when five hundred ordinary men seated on benches will never
reward the men who devote themselves to the service as handsomely as the
Emperor did.”

“Well, well; but you had Josepha on your hands!” replied Nucingen, “and
that accounts for everything. Between ourselves, the Duc d’Herouville
has done you a very good turn by removing that leech from sucking your
purse dry. ‘I have known what that is, and can pity your case,’” he
quoted. “Take a friend’s advice: Shut up shop, or you will be done for.”

This dirty business was carried out in the name of one Vauvinet, a small
money-lender; one of those jobbers who stand forward to screen great
banking houses, like the little fish that is said to attend the shark.
This stock-jobber’s apprentice was so anxious to gain the patronage of
Monsieur le Baron Hulot, that he promised the great man to negotiate
bills of exchange for thirty thousand francs at eighty days, and pledged
himself to renew them four times, and never pass them out of his hands.

Fischer’s successor was to pay forty thousand francs for the house
and the business, with the promise that he should supply forage to a
department close to Paris.

This was the desperate maze of affairs into which a man who had
hitherto been absolutely honest was led by his passions--one of the
best administrative officials under Napoleon--peculation to pay the
money-lenders, and borrowing of the money-lenders to gratify his
passions and provide for his daughter. All the efforts of this elaborate
prodigality were directed at making a display before Madame Marneffe,
and to playing Jupiter to this middle-class Danae. A man could not
expend more activity, intelligence, and presence of mind in the honest
acquisition of a fortune than the Baron displayed in shoving his head
into a wasp’s nest: He did all the business of his department, he
hurried on the upholsterers, he talked to the workmen, he kept a sharp
lookout on the smallest details of the house in the Rue Vanneau. Wholly
devoted to Madame Marneffe, he nevertheless attended the sittings of the
Chambers; he was everywhere at once, and neither his family nor anybody
else discovered where his thoughts were.

Adeline, quite amazed to hear that her uncle was rescued, and to see a
handsome sum figure in the marriage-contract, was not altogether easy,
in spite of her joy at seeing her daughter married under such creditable
circumstances. But, on the day before the wedding, fixed by the Baron
to coincide with Madame Marneffe’s removal to her new apartment, Hector
allayed his wife’s astonishment by this ministerial communication:--

“Now, Adeline, our girl is married; all our anxieties on the subject are
at an end. The time is come for us to retire from the world: I shall not
remain in office more than three years longer--only the time necessary
to secure my pension. Why, henceforth, should we be at any unnecessary
expense? Our apartment costs us six thousand francs a year in rent, we
have four servants, we eat thirty thousand francs’ worth of food in a
year. If you want me to pay off my bills--for I have pledged my salary
for the sums I needed to give Hortense her little money, and pay off
your uncle----”

“You did very right!” said she, interrupting her husband, and kissing
his hands.

This explanation relieved Adeline of all her fears.

“I shall have to ask some little sacrifices of you,” he went on,
disengaging his hands and kissing his wife’s brow. “I have found in the
Rue Plumet a very good flat on the first floor, handsome, splendidly
paneled, at only fifteen hundred francs a year, where you would only
need one woman to wait on you, and I could be quite content with a boy.”

“Yes, my dear.”

“If we keep house in a quiet way, keeping up a proper appearance of
course, we should not spend more than six thousand francs a year,
excepting my private account, which I will provide for.”

The generous-hearted woman threw her arms round her husband’s neck in
her joy.

“How happy I shall be, beginning again to show you how truly I love
you!” she exclaimed. “And what a capital manager you are!”

“We will have the children to dine with us once a week. I, as you know,
rarely dine at home. You can very well dine twice a week with Victorin
and twice a week with Hortense. And, as I believe, I may succeed in
making matters up completely between Crevel and us; we can dine once a
week with him. These five dinners and our own at home will fill up the
week all but one day, supposing that we may occasionally be invited to
dine elsewhere.”

“I shall save a great deal for you,” said Adeline.

“Oh!” he cried, “you are the pearl of women!”

“My kind, divine Hector, I shall bless you with my latest breath,” said
she, “for you have done well for my dear Hortense.”

This was the beginning of the end of the beautiful Madame Hulot’s home;
and, it may be added, of her being totally neglected, as Hulot had
solemnly promised Madame Marneffe.

Crevel, the important and burly, being invited as a matter of course
to the party given for the signing of the marriage-contract, behaved as
though the scene with which this drama opened had never taken place, as
though he had no grievance against the Baron. Celestin Crevel was quite
amiable; he was perhaps rather too much the ex-perfumer, but as a Major
he was beginning to acquire majestic dignity. He talked of dancing at
the wedding.

“Fair lady,” said he politely to the Baroness, “people like us know how
to forget. Do not banish me from your home; honor me, pray, by gracing
my house with your presence now and then to meet your children. Be quite
easy; I will never say anything of what lies buried at the bottom of my
heart. I behaved, indeed, like an idiot, for I should lose too much by
cutting myself off from seeing you.”

“Monsieur, an honest woman has no ears for such speeches as those you
refer to. If you keep your word, you need not doubt that it will give me
pleasure to see the end of a coolness which must always be painful in a
family.”

“Well, you sulky old fellow,” said Hulot, dragging Crevel out into the
garden, “you avoid me everywhere, even in my own house. Are two admirers
of the fair sex to quarrel for ever over a petticoat? Come; this is
really too plebeian!”

“I, monsieur, am not such a fine man as you are, and my small
attractions hinder me from repairing my losses so easily as you can----”

“Sarcastic!” said the Baron.

“Irony is allowable from the vanquished to the conquerer.”

The conversation, begun in this strain, ended in a complete
reconciliation; still Crevel maintained his right to take his revenge.



Madame Marneffe particularly wished to be invited to Mademoiselle
Hulot’s wedding. To enable him to receive his future mistress in his
drawing-room, the great official was obliged to invite all the clerks of
his division down to the deputy head-clerks inclusive. Thus a grand ball
was a necessity. The Baroness, as a prudent housewife, calculated that
an evening party would cost less than a dinner, and allow of a larger
number of invitations; so Hortense’s wedding was much talked about.

Marshal Prince Wissembourg and the Baron de Nucingen signed in behalf of
the bride, the Comtes de Rastignac and Popinot in behalf of Steinbock.
Then, as the highest nobility among the Polish emigrants had been
civil to Count Steinbock since he had become famous, the artist thought
himself bound to invite them. The State Council, and the War Office to
which the Baron belonged, and the army, anxious to do honor to the Comte
de Forzheim, were all represented by their magnates. There were nearly
two hundred indispensable invitations. How natural, then, that little
Madame Marneffe was bent on figuring in all her glory amid such an
assembly. The Baroness had, a month since, sold her diamonds to set up
her daughter’s house, while keeping the finest for the trousseau. The
sale realized fifteen thousand francs, of which five thousand were
sunk in Hortense’s clothes. And what was ten thousand francs for the
furniture of the young folks’ apartment, considering the demands of
modern luxury? However, young Monsieur and Madame Hulot, old Crevel, and
the Comte de Forzheim made very handsome presents, for the old
soldier had set aside a sum for the purchase of plate. Thanks to these
contributions, even an exacting Parisian would have been pleased with
the rooms the young couple had taken in the Rue Saint-Dominique, near
the Invalides. Everything seemed in harmony with their love, pure,
honest, and sincere.

At last the great day dawned--for it was to be a great day not only for
Wenceslas and Hortense, but for old Hulot too. Madame Marneffe was to
give a house-warming in her new apartment the day after becoming Hulot’s
mistress _en titre_, and after the marriage of the lovers.

Who but has once in his life been a guest at a wedding-ball? Every
reader can refer to his reminiscences, and will probably smile as he
calls up the images of all that company in their Sunday-best faces as
well as their finest frippery.

If any social event can prove the influence of environment, is it not
this? In fact, the Sunday-best mood of some reacts so effectually on
the rest that the men who are most accustomed to wearing full dress look
just like those to whom the party is a high festival, unique in their
life. And think too of the serious old men to whom such things are
so completely a matter of indifference, that they are wearing their
everyday black coats; the long-married men, whose faces betray their sad
experience of the life the young pair are but just entering on; and the
lighter elements, present as carbonic-acid gas is in champagne; and
the envious girls, the women absorbed in wondering if their dress is a
success, the poor relations whose parsimonious “get-up” contrasts with
that of the officials in uniform; and the greedy ones, thinking only of
the supper; and the gamblers, thinking only of cards.

There are some of every sort, rich and poor, envious and envied,
philosophers and dreamers, all grouped like the plants in a flower-bed
round the rare, choice blossom, the bride. A wedding-ball is an epitome
of the world.

At the liveliest moment of the evening Crevel led the Baron aside, and
said in a whisper, with the most natural manner possible:

“By Jove! that’s a pretty woman--the little lady in pink who has opened
a racking fire on you from her eyes.”

“Which?”

“The wife of that clerk you are promoting, heaven knows how!--Madame
Marneffe.”

“What do you know about it?”

“Listen, Hulot; I will try to forgive you the ill you have done me if
only you will introduce me to her--I will take you to Heloise. Everybody
is asking who is that charming creature. Are you sure that it will
strike no one how and why her husband’s appointment got itself
signed?--You happy rascal, she is worth a whole office.--I would serve
in her office only too gladly.--Come, cinna, let us be friends.”

“Better friends than ever,” said the Baron to the perfumer, “and I
promise you I will be a good fellow. Within a month you shall dine with
that little angel.--For it is an angel this time, old boy. And I advise
you, like me, to have done with the devils.”

Cousin Betty, who had moved to the Rue Vanneau, into a nice little
apartment on the third floor, left the ball at ten o’clock, but came
back to see with her own eyes the two bonds bearing twelve hundred
francs interest; one of them was the property of the Countess Steinbock,
the other was in the name of Madame Hulot.

It is thus intelligible that Monsieur Crevel should have spoken to Hulot
about Madame Marneffe, as knowing what was a secret to the rest of the
world; for, as Monsieur Marneffe was away, no one but Lisbeth Fischer,
besides the Baron and Valerie, was initiated into the mystery.

The Baron had made a blunder in giving Madame Marneffe a dress far too
magnificent for the wife of a subordinate official; other women were
jealous alike of her beauty and of her gown. There was much whispering
behind fans, for the poverty of the Marneffes was known to every one in
the office; the husband had been petitioning for help at the very moment
when the Baron had been so smitten with madame. Also, Hector could not
conceal his exultation at seeing Valerie’s success; and she, severely
proper, very lady-like, and greatly envied, was the object of that
strict examination which women so greatly fear when they appear for the
first time in a new circle of society.

After seeing his wife into a carriage with his daughter and his
son-in-law, Hulot managed to escape unperceived, leaving his son and
Celestine to do the honors of the house. He got into Madame Marneffe’s
carriage to see her home, but he found her silent and pensive, almost
melancholy.

“My happiness makes you very sad, Valerie,” said he, putting his arm
round her and drawing her to him.

“Can you wonder, my dear,” said she, “that a hapless woman should be a
little depressed at the thought of her first fall from virtue, even when
her husband’s atrocities have set her free? Do you suppose that I have
no soul, no beliefs, no religion? Your glee this evening has been really
too barefaced; you have paraded me odiously. Really, a schoolboy would
have been less of a coxcomb. And the ladies have dissected me with their
side-glances and their satirical remarks. Every woman has some care for
her reputation, and you have wrecked mine.

“Oh, I am yours and no mistake! And I have not an excuse left but that
of being faithful to you.--Monster that you are!” she added, laughing,
and allowing him to kiss her, “you knew very well what you were doing!
Madame Coquet, our chief clerk’s wife, came to sit down by me, and
admired my lace. ‘English point!’ said she. ‘Was it very expensive,
madame?’--‘I do not know. This lace was my mother’s. I am not rich
enough to buy the like,’ said I.”

Madame Marneffe, in short, had so bewitched the old beau, that he really
believed she was sinning for the first time for his sake, and that he
had inspired such a passion as had led her to this breach of duty. She
told him that the wretch Marneffe had neglected her after they had been
three days married, and for the most odious reasons. Since then she had
lived as innocently as a girl; marriage had seemed to her so horrible.
This was the cause of her present melancholy.

“If love should prove to be like marriage----” said she in tears.

These insinuating lies, with which almost every woman in Valerie’s
predicament is ready, gave the Baron distant visions of the roses of
the seventh heaven. And so Valerie coquetted with her lover, while
the artist and Hortense were impatiently awaiting the moment when the
Baroness should have given the girl her last kiss and blessing.

At seven in the morning the Baron, perfectly happy--for his Valerie
was at once the most guileless of girls and the most consummate of
demons--went back to release his son and Celestine from their duties.
All the dancers, for the most part strangers, had taken possession of
the territory, as they do at every wedding-ball, and were keeping up
the endless figures of the cotillions, while the gamblers were still
crowding round the _bouillotte_ tables, and old Crevel had won six
thousand francs.

The morning papers, carried round the town, contained this paragraph in
the Paris article:--

  “The marriage was celebrated this morning, at the Church of
  Saint-Thomas d’Aquin, between Monsieur le Comte Steinbock and
  Mademoiselle Hortense Hulot, daughter of Baron Hulot d’Ervy,
  Councillor of State, and a Director at the War Office; niece of
  the famous General Comte de Forzheim. The ceremony attracted a
  large gathering. There were present some of the most distinguished
  artists of the day: Leon de Lora, Joseph Bridau, Stidmann, and
  Bixiou; the magnates of the War Office, of the Council of State,
  and many members of the two Chambers; also the most distinguished
  of the Polish exiles living in Paris: Counts Paz, Laginski, and
  others.

  “Monsieur le Comte Wenceslas Steinbock is grandnephew to the
  famous general who served under Charles XII., King of Sweden. The
  young Count, having taken part in the Polish rebellion, found a
  refuge in France, where his well-earned fame as a sculptor has
  procured him a patent of naturalization.”

And so, in spite of the Baron’s cruel lack of money, nothing was lacking
that public opinion could require, not even the trumpeting of the
newspapers over his daughter’s marriage, which was solemnized in the
same way, in every particular, as his son’s had been to Mademoiselle
Crevel. This display moderated the reports current as to the Baron’s
financial position, while the fortune assigned to his daughter explained
the need for having borrowed money.

Here ends what is, in a way, the introduction to this story. It is to
the drama that follows that the premise is to a syllogism, what the
prologue is to a classical tragedy.



In Paris, when a woman determines to make a business, a trade, of
her beauty, it does not follow that she will make a fortune. Lovely
creatures may be found there, and full of wit, who are in wretched
circumstances, ending in misery a life begun in pleasure. And this is
why. It is not enough merely to accept the shameful life of a courtesan
with a view to earning its profits, and at the same time to bear the
simple garb of a respectable middle-class wife. Vice does not triumph so
easily; it resembles genius in so far that they both need a concurrence
of favorable conditions to develop the coalition of fortune and gifts.
Eliminate the strange prologue of the Revolution, and the Emperor would
never have existed; he would have been no more than a second edition of
Fabert. Venal beauty, if it finds no amateurs, no celebrity, no cross
of dishonor earned by squandering men’s fortunes, is Correggio in a
hay-loft, is genius starving in a garret. Lais, in Paris, must first and
foremost find a rich man mad enough to pay her price. She must keep up a
very elegant style, for this is her shop-sign; she must be sufficiently
well bred to flatter the vanity of her lovers; she must have the
brilliant wit of a Sophie Arnould, which diverts the apathy of rich men;
finally, she must arouse the passions of libertines by appearing to be
mistress to one man only who is envied by the rest.

These conditions, which a woman of that class calls being in luck, are
difficult to combine in Paris, although it is a city of millionaires, of
idlers, of used-up and capricious men.

Providence has, no doubt, vouchsafed protection to clerks and
middle-class citizens, for whom obstacles of this kind are at least
double in the sphere in which they move. At the same time, there are
enough Madame Marneffes in Paris to allow of our taking Valerie to
figure as a type in this picture of manners. Some of these women yield
to the double pressure of a genuine passion and of hard necessity,
like Madame Colleville, who was for long attached to one of the famous
orators of the left, Keller the banker. Others are spurred by vanity,
like Madame de la Baudraye, who remained almost respectable in spite of
her elopement with Lousteau. Some, again, are led astray by the love of
fine clothes, and some by the impossibility of keeping a house going
on obviously too narrow means. The stinginess of the State--or of
Parliament--leads to many disasters and to much corruption.

At the present moment the laboring classes are the fashionable object
of compassion; they are being murdered--it is said--by the manufacturing
capitalist; but the Government is a hundred times harder than the
meanest tradesman, it carries its economy in the article of salaries to
absolute folly. If you work harder, the merchant will pay you more in
proportion; but what does the State do for its crowd of obscure and
devoted toilers?

In a married woman it is an inexcusable crime when she wanders from the
path of honor; still, there are degrees even in such a case. Some
women, far from being depraved, conceal their fall and remain to all
appearances quite respectable, like those two just referred to, while
others add to their fault the disgrace of speculation. Thus Madame
Marneffe is, as it were, the type of those ambitious married courtesans
who from the first accept depravity with all its consequences, and
determine to make a fortune while taking their pleasure, perfectly
unscrupulous as to the means. But almost always a woman like Madame
Marneffe has a husband who is her confederate and accomplice. These
Machiavellis in petticoats are the most dangerous of the sisterhood; of
every evil class of Parisian woman, they are the worst.

A mere courtesan--a Josepha, a Malaga, a Madame Schontz, a Jenny
Cadine--carries in her frank dishonor a warning signal as conspicuous as
the red lamp of a house of ill-fame or the flaring lights of a gambling
hell. A man knows that they light him to his ruin.

But mealy-mouthed propriety, the semblance of virtue, the hypocritical
ways of a married woman who never allows anything to be seen but the
vulgar needs of the household, and affects to refuse every kind of
extravagance, leads to silent ruin, dumb disaster, which is all the more
startling because, though condoned, it remains unaccounted for. It is
the ignoble bill of daily expenses and not gay dissipation that devours
the largest fortune. The father of a family ruins himself ingloriously,
and the great consolation of gratified vanity is wanting in his misery.

This little sermon will go like a javelin to the heart of many a home.
Madame Marneffes are to be seen in every sphere of social life, even at
Court; for Valerie is a melancholy fact, modeled from the life in the
smallest details. And, alas! the portrait will not cure any man of the
folly of loving these sweetly-smiling angels, with pensive looks and
candid faces, whose heart is a cash-box.



About three years after Hortense’s marriage, in 1841, Baron Hulot d’Ervy
was supposed to have sown his wild oats, to have “put up his horses,”
 to quote the expression used by Louis XV.’s head surgeon, and yet Madame
Marneffe was costing him twice as much as Josepha had ever cost him.
Still, Valerie, though always nicely dressed, affected the simplicity
of a subordinate official’s wife; she kept her luxury for her
dressing-gowns, her home wear. She thus sacrificed her Parisian vanity
to her dear Hector. At the theatre, however, she always appeared in a
pretty bonnet and a dress of extreme elegance; and the Baron took her in
a carriage to a private box.

Her rooms, the whole of the second floor of a modern house in the
Rue Vanneau, between a fore-court and a garden, was redolent of
respectability. All its luxury was in good chintz hangings and handsome
convenient furniture.

Her bedroom, indeed, was the exception, and rich with such profusion
as Jenny Cadine or Madame Schontz might have displayed. There were
lace curtains, cashmere hangings, brocade portieres, a set of chimney
ornaments modeled by Stidmann, a glass cabinet filled with dainty
nicknacks. Hulot could not bear to see his Valerie in a bower of
inferior magnificence to the dunghill of gold and pearls owned by
a Josepha. The drawing-room was furnished with red damask, and the
dining-room had carved oak panels. But the Baron, carried away by his
wish to have everything in keeping, had at the end of six months,
added solid luxury to mere fashion, and had given her handsome portable
property, as, for instance, a service of plate that was to cost more
than twenty-four thousand francs.

Madame Marneffe’s house had in a couple of years achieved a reputation
for being a very pleasant one. Gambling went on there. Valerie herself
was soon spoken of as an agreeable and witty woman. To account for her
change of style, a rumor was set going of an immense legacy bequeathed
to her by her “natural father,” Marshal Montcornet, and left in trust.

With an eye to the future, Valerie had added religious to social
hypocrisy. Punctual at the Sunday services, she enjoyed all the honors
due to the pious. She carried the bag for the offertory, she was a
member of a charitable association, presented bread for the sacrament,
and did some good among the poor, all at Hector’s expense. Thus
everything about the house was extremely seemly. And a great many
persons maintained that her friendship with the Baron was entirely
innocent, supporting the view by the gentleman’s mature age, and
ascribing to him a Platonic liking for Madame Marneffe’s pleasant wit,
charming manners, and conversation--such a liking as that of the late
lamented Louis XVIII. for a well-turned note.

The Baron always withdrew with the other company at about midnight, and
came back a quarter of an hour later.

The secret of this secrecy was as follows. The lodge-keepers of the
house were a Monsieur and Madame Olivier, who, under the Baron’s
patronage, had been promoted from their humble and not very lucrative
post in the Rue du Doyenne to the highly-paid and handsome one in
the Rue Vanneau. Now, Madame Olivier, formerly a needlewoman in the
household of Charles X., who had fallen in the world with the legitimate
branch, had three children. The eldest, an under-clerk in a notary’s
office, was object of his parents’ adoration. This Benjamin, for six
years in danger of being drawn for the army, was on the point of being
interrupted in his legal career, when Madame Marneffe contrived to have
him declared exempt for one of those little malformations which the
Examining Board can always discern when requested in a whisper by some
power in the ministry. So Olivier, formerly a huntsman to the King, and
his wife would have crucified the Lord again for the Baron or for Madame
Marneffe.

What could the world have to say? It knew nothing of the former episode
of the Brazilian, Monsieur Montes de Montejanos--it could say nothing.
Besides, the world is very indulgent to the mistress of a house where
amusement is to be found.

And then to all her charms Valerie added the highly-prized advantage
of being an occult power. Claude Vignon, now secretary to Marshal the
Prince de Wissembourg, and dreaming of promotion to the Council of State
as a Master of Appeals, was constantly seen in her rooms, to which came
also some Deputies--good fellows and gamblers. Madame Marneffe had got
her circle together with prudent deliberation; only men whose opinions
and habits agreed foregathered there, men whose interest it was to
hold together and to proclaim the many merits of the lady of the house.
Scandal is the true Holy Alliance in Paris. Take that as an axiom.
Interests invariably fall asunder in the end; vicious natures can always
agree.

Within three months of settling in the Rue Vanneau, Madame Marneffe
had entertained Monsieur Crevel, who by that time was Mayor of his
_arrondissement_ and Officer of the Legion of Honor. Crevel had
hesitated; he would have to give up the famous uniform of the National
Guard in which he strutted at the Tuileries, believing himself quite
as much a soldier as the Emperor himself; but ambition, urged by Madame
Marneffe, had proved stronger than vanity. Then Monsieur le Maire had
considered his connection with Mademoiselle Heloise Brisetout as quite
incompatible with his political position.

Indeed, long before his accession to the civic chair of the Mayoralty,
his gallant intimacies had been wrapped in the deepest mystery. But,
as the reader may have guessed, Crevel had soon purchased the right of
taking his revenge, as often as circumstances allowed, for having been
bereft of Josepha, at the cost of a bond bearing six thousand francs of
interest in the name of Valerie Fortin, wife of Sieur Marneffe, for her
sole and separate use. Valerie, inheriting perhaps from her mother the
special acumen of the kept woman, read the character of her grotesque
adorer at a glance. The phrase “I never had a lady for a mistress,”
 spoken by Crevel to Lisbeth, and repeated by Lisbeth to her dear
Valerie, had been handsomely discounted in the bargain by which she got
her six thousand francs a year in five per cents. And since then she had
never allowed her prestige to grow less in the eyes of Cesar Birotteau’s
erewhile bagman.

Crevel himself had married for money the daughter of a miller of la
Brie, an only child indeed, whose inheritance constituted three-quarters
of his fortune; for when retail-dealers grow rich, it is generally not
so much by trade as through some alliance between the shop and rural
thrift. A large proportion of the farmers, corn-factors, dairy-keepers,
and market-gardeners in the neighborhood of Paris, dream of the glories
of the desk for their daughters, and look upon a shopkeeper, a jeweler,
or a money-changer as a son-in-law after their own heart, in preference
to a notary or an attorney, whose superior social position is a ground
of suspicion; they are afraid of being scorned in the future by these
citizen bigwigs.

Madame Crevel, ugly, vulgar, and silly, had given her husband no
pleasures but those of paternity; she died young. Her libertine husband,
fettered at the beginning of his commercial career by the necessity
for working, and held in thrall by want of money, had led the life of
Tantalus. Thrown in--as he phrased it--with the most elegant women in
Paris, he let them out of the shop with servile homage, while admiring
their grace, their way of wearing the fashions, and all the nameless
charms of what is called breeding. To rise to the level of one of these
fairies of the drawing-room was a desire formed in his youth, but buried
in the depths of his heart. Thus to win the favors of Madame Marneffe
was to him not merely the realization of his chimera, but, as has been
shown, a point of pride, of vanity, of self-satisfaction. His ambition
grew with success; his brain was turned with elation; and when the
mind is captivated, the heart feels more keenly, every gratification is
doubled.

Also, it must be said that Madame Marneffe offered to Crevel a
refinement of pleasure of which he had no idea; neither Josepha nor
Heloise had loved him; and Madame Marneffe thought it necessary
to deceive him thoroughly, for this man, she saw, would prove an
inexhaustible till. The deceptions of a venal passion are more
delightful than the real thing. True love is mixed up with birdlike
squabbles, in which the disputants wound each other to the quick; but a
quarrel without animus is, on the contrary, a piece of flattery to the
dupe’s conceit.

The rare interviews granted to Crevel kept his passion at white heat.
He was constantly blocked by Valerie’s virtuous severity; she acted
remorse, and wondered what her father must be thinking of her in the
paradise of the brave. Again and again he had to contend with a sort
of coldness, which the cunning slut made him believe he had overcome
by seeming to surrender to the man’s crazy passion; and then, as if
ashamed, she entrenched herself once more in her pride of respectability
and airs of virtue, just like an Englishwoman, neither more nor less;
and she always crushed her Crevel under the weight of her dignity--for
Crevel had, in the first instance, swallowed her pretensions to virtue.

In short, Valerie had special veins of affections which made her equally
indispensable to Crevel and to the Baron. Before the world she
displayed the attractive combination of modest and pensive innocence,
of irreproachable propriety, with a bright humor enhanced by the
suppleness, the grace and softness of the Creole; but in a _tete-a-tete_
she would outdo any courtesan; she was audacious, amusing, and full of
original inventiveness. Such a contrast is irresistible to a man of the
Crevel type; he is flattered by believing himself sole author of the
comedy, thinking it is performed for his benefit alone, and he laughs at
the exquisite hypocrisy while admiring the hypocrite.

Valerie had taken entire possession of Baron Hulot; she had persuaded
him to grow old by one of those subtle touches of flattery which reveal
the diabolical wit of women like her. In all evergreen constitutions a
moment arrives when the truth suddenly comes out, as in a besieged
town which puts a good face on affairs as long as possible. Valerie,
foreseeing the approaching collapse of the old beau of the Empire,
determined to forestall it.

“Why give yourself so much bother, my dear old veteran?” said she one
day, six months after their doubly adulterous union. “Do you want to be
flirting? To be unfaithful to me? I assure you, I should like you better
without your make-up. Oblige me by giving up all your artificial charms.
Do you suppose that it is for two sous’ worth of polish on your boots
that I love you? For your india-rubber belt, your strait-waistcoat,
and your false hair? And then, the older you look, the less need I fear
seeing my Hulot carried off by a rival.”

And Hulot, trusting to Madame Marneffe’s heavenly friendship as much as
to her love, intending, too, to end his days with her, had taken this
confidential hint, and ceased to dye his whiskers and hair. After
this touching declaration from his Valerie, handsome Hector made his
appearance one morning perfectly white. Madame Marneffe could assure him
that she had a hundred times detected the white line of the growth of
the hair.

“And white hair suits your face to perfection,” said she; “it softens
it. You look a thousand times better, quite charming.”

The Baron, once started on this path of reform, gave up his leather
waistcoat and stays; he threw off all his bracing. His stomach fell
and increased in size. The oak became a tower, and the heaviness of his
movements was all the more alarming because the Baron grew immensely
older by playing the part of Louis XII. His eyebrows were still black,
and left a ghostly reminiscence of Handsome Hulot, as sometimes on the
wall of some feudal building a faint trace of sculpture remains to show
what the castle was in the days of its glory. This discordant detail
made his eyes, still bright and youthful, all the more remarkable in his
tanned face, because it had so long been ruddy with the florid hues of
a Rubens; and now a certain discoloration and the deep tension of the
wrinkles betrayed the efforts of a passion at odds with natural decay.
Hulot was now one of those stalwart ruins in which virile force asserts
itself by tufts of hair in the ears and nostrils and on the fingers, as
moss grows on the almost eternal monuments of the Roman Empire.

How had Valerie contrived to keep Crevel and Hulot side by side, each
tied to an apron-string, when the vindictive Mayor only longed to
triumph openly over Hulot? Without immediately giving an answer to this
question, which the course of the story will supply, it may be said that
Lisbeth and Valerie had contrived a powerful piece of machinery which
tended to this result. Marneffe, as he saw his wife improved in beauty
by the setting in which she was enthroned, like the sun at the centre of
the sidereal system, appeared, in the eyes of the world, to have fallen
in love with her again himself; he was quite crazy about her. Now,
though his jealousy made him somewhat of a marplot, it gave enhanced
value to Valerie’s favors. Marneffe meanwhile showed a blind confidence
in his chief, which degenerated into ridiculous complaisance. The only
person whom he really would not stand was Crevel.

Marneffe, wrecked by the debauchery of great cities, described by Roman
authors, though modern decency has no name for it, was as hideous as
an anatomical figure in wax. But this disease on feet, clothed in good
broadcloth, encased his lathlike legs in elegant trousers. The hollow
chest was scented with fine linen, and musk disguised the odors of
rotten humanity. This hideous specimen of decaying vice, trotting in red
heels--for Valerie dressed the man as beseemed his income, his cross,
and his appointment--horrified Crevel, who could not meet the colorless
eyes of the Government clerk. Marneffe was an incubus to the Mayor. And
the mean rascal, aware of the strange power conferred on him by Lisbeth
and his wife, was amused by it; he played on it as on an instrument; and
cards being the last resource of a mind as completely played out as
the body, he plucked Crevel again and again, the Mayor thinking himself
bound to subserviency to the worthy official whom _he was cheating_.

Seeing Crevel a mere child in the hands of that hideous and atrocious
mummy, of whose utter vileness the Mayor knew nothing; and seeing him,
yet more, an object of deep contempt to Valerie, who made game of Crevel
as of some mountebank, the Baron apparently thought him so impossible as
a rival that he constantly invited him to dinner.

Valerie, protected by two lovers on guard, and by a jealous husband,
attracted every eye, and excited every desire in the circle she shone
upon. And thus, while keeping up appearances, she had, in the course
of three years, achieved the most difficult conditions of the success a
courtesan most cares for and most rarely attains, even with the help
of audacity and the glitter of an existence in the light of the sun.
Valerie’s beauty, formerly buried in the mud of the Rue du Doyenne, now,
like a well-cut diamond exquisitely set by Chanor, was worth more than
its real value--it could break hearts. Claude Vignon adored Valerie in
secret.



This retrospective explanation, quite necessary after the lapse of
three years, shows Valerie’s balance-sheet. Now for that of her partner,
Lisbeth.

Lisbeth Fischer filled the place in the Marneffe household of a relation
who combines the functions of a lady companion and a housekeeper; but
she suffered from none of the humiliations which, for the most part,
weigh upon the women who are so unhappy as to be obliged to fill these
ambiguous situations. Lisbeth and Valerie offered the touching spectacle
of one of those friendships between women, so cordial and so improbable,
that men, always too keen-tongued in Paris, forthwith slander them. The
contrast between Lisbeth’s dry masculine nature and Valerie’s creole
prettiness encouraged calumny. And Madame Marneffe had unconsciously
given weight to the scandal by the care she took of her friend, with
matrimonial views, which were, as will be seen, to complete Lisbeth’s
revenge.

An immense change had taken place in Cousin Betty; and Valerie, who
wanted to smarten her, had turned it to the best account. The strange
woman had submitted to stays, and laced tightly, she used bandoline to
keep her hair smooth, wore her gowns as the dressmaker sent them home,
neat little boots, and gray silk stockings, all of which were included
in Valerie’s bills, and paid for by the gentleman in possession. Thus
furbished up, and wearing the yellow cashmere shawl, Lisbeth would have
been unrecognizable by any one who had not seen her for three years.

This other diamond--a black diamond, the rarest of all--cut by a skilled
hand, and set as best became her, was appreciated at her full value by
certain ambitious clerks. Any one seeing her for the first time might
have shuddered involuntarily at the look of poetic wildness which the
clever Valerie had succeeded in bringing out by the arts of dress in
this Bleeding Nun, framing the ascetic olive face in thick bands of
hair as black as the fiery eyes, and making the most of the rigid, slim
figure. Lisbeth, like a Virgin by Cranach or Van Eyck, or a Byzantine
Madonna stepped out of its frame, had all the stiffness, the precision
of those mysterious figures, the more modern cousins of Isis and her
sister goddesses sheathed in marble folds by Egyptian sculptors. It was
granite, basalt, porphyry, with life and movement.

Saved from want for the rest of her life, Lisbeth was most amiable;
wherever she dined she brought merriment. And the Baron paid the rent
of her little apartment, furnished, as we know, with the leavings of her
friend Valerie’s former boudoir and bedroom.

“I began,” she would say, “as a hungry nanny goat, and I am ending as a
_lionne_.”

She still worked for Monsieur Rivet at the more elaborate kinds of
gold-trimming, merely, as she said, not to lose her time. At the
same time, she was, as we shall see, very full of business; but it is
inherent in the nature of country-folks never to give up bread-winning;
in this they are like the Jews.

Every morning, very early, Cousin Betty went off to market with the
cook. It was part of Lisbeth’s scheme that the house-book, which was
ruining Baron Hulot, was to enrich her dear Valerie--as it did indeed.

Is there a housewife who, since 1838, has not suffered from the evil
effects of Socialist doctrines diffused among the lower classes by
incendiary writers? In every household the plague of servants is
nowadays the worst of financial afflictions. With very few exceptions,
who ought to be rewarded with the Montyon prize, the cook, male or
female, is a domestic robber, a thief taking wages, and perfectly
barefaced, with the Government for a fence, developing the tendency to
dishonesty, which is almost authorized in the cook by the time-honored
jest as to the “handle of the basket.” The women who formerly picked up
their forty sous to buy a lottery ticket now take fifty francs to put
into the savings bank. And the smug Puritans who amuse themselves in
France with philanthropic experiments fancy that they are making the
common people moral!

Between the market and the master’s table the servants have their secret
toll, and the municipality of Paris is less sharp in collecting the
city-dues than the servants are in taking theirs on every single thing.
To say nothing of fifty per cent charged on every form of food, they
demand large New Year’s premiums from the tradesmen. The best class of
dealers tremble before this occult power, and subsidize it without a
word--coachmakers, jewelers, tailors, and all. If any attempt is made
to interfere with them, the servants reply with impudent retorts, or
revenge themselves by the costly blunders of assumed clumsiness; and in
these days they inquire into their master’s character as, formerly, the
master inquired into theirs. This mischief is now really at its height,
and the law-courts are beginning to take cognizance of it; but in vain,
for it cannot be remedied but by a law which shall compel domestic
servants, like laborers, to have a pass-book as a guarantee of conduct.
Then the evil will vanish as if by magic. If every servant were obliged
to show his pass-book, and if masters were required to state in it the
cause of his dismissal, this would certainly prove a powerful check to
the evil.

The men who are giving their attentions to the politics of the day
know not to what lengths the depravity of the lower classes has gone.
Statistics are silent as to the startling number of working men of
twenty who marry cooks of between forty and fifty enriched by robbery.
We shudder to think of the result of such unions from the three points
of view of increasing crime, degeneracy of the race, and miserable
households.

As to the mere financial mischief that results from domestic peculation,
that too is immense from a political point of view. Life being made to
cost double, any superfluity becomes impossible in most households.
Now superfluity means half the trade of the world, as it is half the
elegance of life. Books and flowers are to many persons as necessary as
bread.

Lisbeth, well aware of this dreadful scourge of Parisian households,
determined to manage Valerie’s, promising her every assistance in the
terrible scene when the two women had sworn to be like sisters. So
she had brought from the depths of the Vosges a humble relation on her
mother’s side, a very pious and honest soul, who had been cook to the
Bishop of Nancy. Fearing, however, her inexperience of Paris ways, and
yet more the evil counsel which wrecks such fragile virtue, at first
Lisbeth always went to market with Mathurine, and tried to teach
her what to buy. To know the real prices of things and command the
salesman’s respect; to purchase unnecessary delicacies, such as fish,
only when they were cheap; to be well informed as to the price current
of groceries and provisions, so as to buy when prices are low in
anticipation of a rise,--all this housekeeping skill is in Paris
essential to domestic economy. As Mathurine got good wages and many
presents, she liked the house well enough to be glad to drive good
bargains. And by this time Lisbeth had made her quite a match for
herself, sufficiently experienced and trustworthy to be sent to market
alone, unless Valerie was giving a dinner--which, in fact, was not
unfrequently the case. And this was how it came about.

The Baron had at first observed the strictest decorum; but his passion
for Madame Marneffe had ere long become so vehement, so greedy, that he
would never quit her if he could help it. At first he dined there four
times a week; then he thought it delightful to dine with her every day.
Six months after his daughter’s marriage he was paying her two thousand
francs a month for his board. Madame Marneffe invited any one her dear
Baron wished to entertain. The dinner was always arranged for six; he
could bring in three unexpected guests. Lisbeth’s economy enabled her
to solve the extraordinary problem of keeping up the table in the best
style for a thousand francs a month, giving the other thousand to Madame
Marneffe. Valerie’s dress being chiefly paid for by Crevel and the
Baron, the two women saved another thousand francs a month on this.

And so this pure and innocent being had already accumulated a hundred
and fifty thousand francs in savings. She had capitalized her income
and monthly bonus, and swelled the amount by enormous interest, due to
Crevel’s liberality in allowing his “little Duchess” to invest her money
in partnership with him in his financial operations. Crevel had taught
Valerie the slang and the procedure of the money market, and, like every
Parisian woman, she had soon outstripped her master. Lisbeth, who never
spent a sou of her twelve hundred francs, whose rent and dress were
given to her, and who never put her hand in her pocket, had likewise
a small capital of five or six thousand francs, of which Crevel took
fatherly care.

At the same time, two such lovers were a heavy burthen on Valerie.
On the day when this drama reopens, Valerie, spurred by one of those
incidents which have the effect in life that the ringing of a bell has
in inducing a swarm of bees to settle, went up to Lisbeth’s rooms to
give vent to one of those comforting lamentations--a sort of cigarette
blown off from the tongue--by which women alleviate the minor miseries
of life.

“Oh, Lisbeth, my love, two hours of Crevel this morning! It is crushing!
How I wish I could send you in my place!”

“That, unluckily, is impossible,” said Lisbeth, smiling. “I shall die a
maid.”

“Two old men lovers! Really, I am ashamed sometimes! If my poor mother
could see me.”

“You are mistaking me for Crevel!” said Lisbeth.

“Tell me, my little Betty, do you not despise me?”

“Oh! if I had but been pretty, what adventures I would have had!” cried
Lisbeth. “That is your justification.”

“But you would have acted only at the dictates of your heart,” said
Madame Marneffe, with a sigh.

“Pooh! Marneffe is a dead man they have forgotten to bury,” replied
Lisbeth. “The Baron is as good as your husband; Crevel is your adorer;
it seems to me that you are quite in order--like every other married
woman.”

“No, it is not that, dear, adorable thing; that is not where the shoe
pinches; you do not choose to understand.”

“Yes, I do,” said Lisbeth. “The unexpressed factor is part of my
revenge; what can I do? I am working it out.”

“I love Wenceslas so that I am positively growing thin, and I can never
see him,” said Valerie, throwing up her arms. “Hulot asks him to dinner,
and my artist declines. He does not know that I idolize him, the wretch!
What is his wife after all? Fine flesh! Yes, she is handsome, but I--I
know myself--I am worse!”

“Be quite easy, my child, he will come,” said Lisbeth, in the tone of a
nurse to an impatient child. “He shall.”

“But when?”

“This week perhaps.”

“Give me a kiss.”

As may be seen, these two women were but one. Everything Valerie did,
even her most reckless actions, her pleasures, her little sulks, were
decided on after serious deliberation between them.

Lisbeth, strangely excited by this harlot existence, advised Valerie on
every step, and pursued her course of revenge with pitiless logic. She
really adored Valerie; she had taken her to be her child, her friend,
her love; she found her docile, as Creoles are, yielding from voluptuous
indolence; she chattered with her morning after morning with more
pleasure than with Wenceslas; they could laugh together over the
mischief they plotted, and over the folly of men, and count up the
swelling interest on their respective savings.

Indeed, in this new enterprise and new affection, Lisbeth had found food
for her activity that was far more satisfying than her insane passion
for Wenceslas. The joys of gratified hatred are the fiercest and
strongest the heart can know. Love is the gold, hatred the iron of
the mine of feeling that lies buried in us. And then, Valerie was,
to Lisbeth, Beauty in all its glory--the beauty she worshiped, as we
worship what we have not, beauty far more plastic to her hand than that
of Wenceslas, who had always been cold to her and distant.

At the end of nearly three years, Lisbeth was beginning to perceive the
progress of the underground mine on which she was expending her life and
concentrating her mind. Lisbeth planned, Madame Marneffe acted. Madame
Marneffe was the axe, Lisbeth was the hand the wielded it, and that hand
was rapidly demolishing the family which was every day more odious
to her; for we can hate more and more, just as, when we love, we love
better every day.

Love and hatred are feelings that feed on themselves; but of the two,
hatred has the longer vitality. Love is restricted within limits of
power; it derives its energies from life and from lavishness. Hatred
is like death, like avarice; it is, so to speak, an active abstraction,
above beings and things.

Lisbeth, embarked on the existence that was natural to her, expended in
it all her faculties; governing, like the Jesuits, by occult influences.
The regeneration of her person was equally complete; her face was
radiant. Lisbeth dreamed of becoming Madame la Marechale Hulot.

This little scene, in which the two friends had bluntly uttered
their ideas without any circumlocution in expressing them, took place
immediately on Lisbeth’s return from market, whither she had been to
procure the materials for an elegant dinner. Marneffe, who hoped to get
Coquet’s place, was to entertain him and the virtuous Madame Coquet,
and Valerie hoped to persuade Hulot, that very evening, to consider the
head-clerk’s resignation.

Lisbeth dressed to go to the Baroness, with whom she was to dine.

“You will come back in time to make tea for us, my Betty?” said Valerie.

“I hope so.”

“You hope so--why? Have you come to sleeping with Adeline to drink her
tears while she is asleep?”

“If only I could!” said Lisbeth, laughing. “I would not refuse. She is
expiating her happiness--and I am glad, for I remember our young days.
It is my turn now. She will be in the mire, and I shall be Comtesse de
Forzheim!”

Lisbeth set out for the Rue Plumet, where she now went as to the
theatre--to indulge her emotions.



The residence Hulot had found for his wife consisted of a large,
bare entrance-room, a drawing-room, and a bed and dressing-room. The
dining-room was next the drawing-room on one side. Two servants’ rooms
and a kitchen on the third floor completed the accommodation, which was
not unworthy of a Councillor of State, high up in the War Office. The
house, the court-yard, and the stairs were extremely handsome.

The Baroness, who had to furnish her drawing-room, bed-room, and
dining-room with the relics of her splendor, had brought away the best
of the remains from the house in the Rue de l’Universite. Indeed, the
poor woman was attached to these mute witnesses of her happier life;
to her they had an almost consoling eloquence. In memory she saw her
flowers, as in the carpets she could trace patterns hardly visible now
to other eyes.

On going into the spacious anteroom, where twelve chairs, a barometer,
a large stove, and long, white cotton curtains, bordered with red,
suggested the dreadful waiting-room of a Government office, the visitor
felt oppressed, conscious at once of the isolation in which the mistress
lived. Grief, like pleasure, infects the atmosphere. A first glance into
any home is enough to tell you whether love or despair reigns there.

Adeline would be found sitting in an immense bedroom with beautiful
furniture by Jacob Desmalters, of mahogany finished in the Empire style
with ormolu, which looks even less inviting than the brass-work of Louis
XVI.! It gave one a shiver to see this lonely woman sitting on a Roman
chair, a work-table with sphinxes before her, colorless, affecting false
cheerfulness, but preserving her imperial air, as she had preserved
the blue velvet gown she always wore in the house. Her proud spirit
sustained her strength and preserved her beauty.

The Baroness, by the end of her first year of banishment to this
apartment, had gauged every depth of misfortune.

“Still, even here my Hector has made my life much handsomer than it
should be for a mere peasant,” said she to herself. “He chooses that it
should be so; his will be done! I am Baroness Hulot, the sister-in-law
of a Marshal of France. I have done nothing wrong; my two children are
settled in life; I can wait for death, wrapped in the spotless veil of
an immaculate wife and the crape of departed happiness.”

A portrait of Hulot, in the uniform of a Commissary General of the
Imperial Guard, painted in 1810 by Robert Lefebvre, hung above the
work-table, and when visitors were announced, Adeline threw into
a drawer an _Imitation of Jesus Christ_, her habitual study. This
blameless Magdalen thus heard the Voice of the Spirit in her desert.

“Mariette, my child,” said Lisbeth to the woman who opened the door,
“how is my dear Adeline to-day?”

“Oh, she looks pretty well, mademoiselle; but between you and me, if she
goes on in this way, she will kill herself,” said Mariette in a whisper.
“You really ought to persuade her to live better. Now, yesterday madame
told me to give her two sous’ worth of milk and a roll for one sou; to
get her a herring for dinner and a bit of cold veal; she had a pound
cooked to last her the week--of course, for the days when she dines
at home and alone. She will not spend more than ten sous a day for her
food. It is unreasonable. If I were to say anything about it to Monsieur
le Marechal, he might quarrel with Monsieur le Baron and leave him
nothing, whereas you, who are so kind and clever, can manage things----”

“But why do you not apply to my cousin the Baron?” said Lisbeth.

“Oh, dear mademoiselle, he has not been here for three weeks or more; in
fact, not since we last had the pleasure of seeing you! Besides, madame
has forbidden me, under threat of dismissal, ever to ask the master for
money. But as for grief!--oh, poor lady, she has been very unhappy. It
is the first time that monsieur has neglected her for so long. Every
time the bell rang she rushed to the window--but for the last five days
she has sat still in her chair. She reads. Whenever she goes out to see
Madame la Comtesse, she says, ‘Mariette, if monsieur comes in,’ says
she, ‘tell him I am at home, and send the porter to fetch me; he shall
be well paid for his trouble.’”

“Poor soul!” said Lisbeth; “it goes to my heart. I speak of her to the
Baron every day. What can I do? ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘Betty, you are right;
I am a wretch. My wife is an angel, and I am a monster! I will go
to-morrow----’ And he stays with Madame Marneffe. That woman is ruining
him, and he worships her; he lives only in her sight.--I do what I can;
if I were not there, and if I had not Mathurine to depend upon, he would
spend twice as much as he does; and as he has hardly any money in the
world, he would have blown his brains out by this time. And, I tell
you, Mariette, Adeline would die of her husband’s death, I am perfectly
certain. At any rate, I pull to make both ends meet, and prevent my
cousin from throwing too much money into the fire.”

“Yes, that is what madame says, poor soul! She knows how much she owes
you,” replied Mariette. “She said she had judged you unjustly for many
years----”

“Indeed!” said Lisbeth. “And did she say anything else?”

“No, mademoiselle. If you wish to please her, talk to her about Monsieur
le Baron; she envies you your happiness in seeing him every day.”

“Is she alone?”

“I beg pardon, no; the Marshal is with her. He comes every day, and she
always tells him she saw monsieur in the morning, but that he comes in
very late at night.”

“And is there a good dinner to-day?”

Mariette hesitated; she could not meet Lisbeth’s eye. The drawing-room
door opened, and Marshal Hulot rushed out in such haste that he bowed to
Lisbeth without looking at her, and dropped a paper. Lisbeth picked it
up and ran after him downstairs, for it was vain to hail a deaf man; but
she managed not to overtake the Marshal, and as she came up again she
furtively read the following lines written in pencil:--

  “MY DEAR BROTHER,--My husband has given me the money for my
  quarter’s expenses; but my daughter Hortense was in such need of
  it, that I lent her the whole sum, which was scarcely enough to
  set her straight. Could you lend me a few hundred francs? For I
  cannot ask Hector for more; if he were to blame me, I could not
  bear it.”

“My word!” thought Lisbeth, “she must be in extremities to bend her
pride to such a degree!”

Lisbeth went in. She saw tears in Adeline’s eyes, and threw her arms
round her neck.

“Adeline, my dearest, I know all,” cried Cousin Betty. “Here, the
Marshal dropped this paper--he was in such a state of mind, and
running like a greyhound.--Has that dreadful Hector given you no money
since----?”

“He gives it me quite regularly,” replied the Baroness, “but Hortense
needed it, and--”

“And you had not enough to pay for dinner to-night,” said Lisbeth,
interrupting her. “Now I understand why Mariette looked so confused when
I said something about the soup. You really are childish, Adeline; come,
take my savings.”

“Thank you, my kind cousin,” said Adeline, wiping away a tear. “This
little difficulty is only temporary, and I have provided for the future.
My expenses henceforth will be no more than two thousand four hundred
francs a year, rent inclusive, and I shall have the money.--Above all,
Betty, not a word to Hector. Is he well?”

“As strong as the Pont Neuf, and as gay as a lark; he thinks of nothing
but his charmer Valerie.”

Madame Hulot looked out at a tall silver-fir in front of the window, and
Lisbeth could not see her cousin’s eyes to read their expression.

“Did you mention that it was the day when we all dine together here?”

“Yes. But, dear me! Madame Marneffe is giving a grand dinner; she
hopes to get Monsieur Coquet to resign, and that is of the first
importance.--Now, Adeline, listen to me. You know that I am fiercely
proud as to my independence. Your husband, my dear, will certainly bring
you to ruin. I fancied I could be of use to you all by living near this
woman, but she is a creature of unfathomable depravity, and she will
make your husband promise things which will bring you all to disgrace.”
 Adeline writhed like a person stabbed to the heart. “My dear Adeline, I
am sure of what I say. I feel it is my duty to enlighten you.--Well, let
us think of the future. The Marshal is an old man, but he will last a
long time yet--he draws good pay; when he dies his widow would have a
pension of six thousand francs. On such an income I would undertake to
maintain you all. Use your influence over the good man to get him to
marry me. It is not for the sake of being Madame la Marechale; I value
such nonsense at no more than I value Madame Marneffe’s conscience; but
you will all have bread. I see that Hortense must be wanting it, since
you give her yours.”

The Marshal now came in; he had made such haste, that he was mopping his
forehead with his bandana.

“I have given Mariette two thousand francs,” he whispered to his
sister-in-law.

Adeline colored to the roots of her hair. Two tears hung on the fringes
of the still long lashes, and she silently pressed the old man’s hand;
his beaming face expressed the glee of a favored lover.

“I intended to spend the money in a present for you, Adeline,” said
he. “Instead of repaying me, you must choose for yourself the thing you
would like best.”

He took Lisbeth’s hand, which she held out to him, and so bewildered was
he by his satisfaction, that he kissed it.

“That looks promising,” said Adeline to Lisbeth, smiling so far as she
was able to smile.

The younger Hulot and his wife now came in.

“Is my brother coming to dinner?” asked the Marshal sharply.

Adeline took up a pencil and wrote these words on a scrap of paper:

“I expect him; he promised this morning that he would be here; but if
he should not come, it would be because the Marshal kept him. He is
overwhelmed with business.”

And she handed him the paper. She had invented this way of conversing
with Marshal Hulot, and kept a little collection of paper scraps and a
pencil at hand on the work-table.

“I know,” said the Marshal, “he is worked very hard over the business in
Algiers.”

At this moment, Hortense and Wenceslas arrived, and the Baroness, as
she saw all her family about her, gave the Marshal a significant glance
understood by none but Lisbeth.

Happiness had greatly improved the artist, who was adored by his wife
and flattered by the world. His face had become almost round, and his
graceful figure did justice to the advantages which blood gives to men
of birth. His early fame, his important position, the delusive eulogies
that the world sheds on artists as lightly as we say, “How d’ye do?” or
discuss the weather, gave him that high sense of merit which degenerates
into sheer fatuity when talent wanes. The Cross of the Legion of Honor
was the crowning stamp of the great man he believed himself to be.

After three years of married life, Hortense was to her husband what a
dog is to its master; she watched his every movement with a look that
seemed a constant inquiry, her eyes were always on him, like those of
a miser on his treasure; her admiring abnegation was quite pathetic. In
her might be seen her mother’s spirit and teaching. Her beauty, as
great as ever, was poetically touched by the gentle shadow of concealed
melancholy.

On seeing Hortense come in, it struck Lisbeth that some long-suppressed
complaint was about to break through the thin veil of reticence.
Lisbeth, from the first days of the honeymoon, had been sure that this
couple had too small an income for so great a passion.

Hortense, as she embraced her mother, exchanged with her a few whispered
phrases, heart to heart, of which the mystery was betrayed to Lisbeth by
certain shakes of the head.

“Adeline, like me, must work for her living,” thought Cousin Betty. “She
shall be made to tell me what she will do! Those pretty fingers will
know at last, like mine, what it is to work because they must.”

At six o’clock the family party went in to dinner. A place was laid for
Hector.

“Leave it so,” said the Baroness to Mariette, “monsieur sometimes comes
in late.”

“Oh, my father will certainly come,” said Victorin to his mother. “He
promised me he would when we parted at the Chamber.”

Lisbeth, like a spider in the middle of its net, gloated over all these
countenances. Having known Victorin and Hortense from their birth, their
faces were to her like panes of glass, through which she could read
their young souls. Now, from certain stolen looks directed by Victorin
on his mother, she saw that some disaster was hanging over Adeline which
Victorin hesitated to reveal. The famous young lawyer had some covert
anxiety. His deep reverence for his mother was evident in the regret
with which he gazed at her.

Hortense was evidently absorbed in her own woes; for a fortnight past,
as Lisbeth knew, she had been suffering the first uneasiness which want
of money brings to honest souls, and to young wives on whom life
has hitherto smiled, and who conceal their alarms. Also Lisbeth had
immediately guessed that her mother had given her no money. Adeline’s
delicacy had brought her so low as to use the fallacious excuses that
necessity suggests to borrowers.

Hortense’s absence of mind, with her brother’s and the Baroness’ deep
dejection, made the dinner a melancholy meal, especially with the added
chill of the Marshal’s utter deafness. Three persons gave a little life
to the scene: Lisbeth, Celestine, and Wenceslas. Hortense’s affection
had developed the artist’s natural liveliness as a Pole, the somewhat
swaggering vivacity and noisy high spirits that characterize these
Frenchmen of the North. His frame of mind and the expression of his
face showed plainly that he believed in himself, and that poor Hortense,
faithful to her mother’s training, kept all domestic difficulties to
herself.

“You must be content, at any rate,” said Lisbeth to her young cousin, as
they rose from table, “since your mother has helped you with her money.”

“Mamma!” replied Hortense in astonishment. “Oh, poor mamma! It is for me
that she would like to make money. You do not know, Lisbeth, but I have
a horrible suspicion that she works for it in secret.”

They were crossing the large, dark drawing-room where there were
no candles, all following Mariette, who was carrying the lamp into
Adeline’s bedroom. At this instant Victorin just touched Lisbeth
and Hortense on the arm. The two women, understanding the hint, left
Wenceslas, Celestine, the Marshal, and the Baroness to go on together,
and remained standing in a window-bay.

“What is it, Victorin?” said Lisbeth. “Some disaster caused by your
father, I dare wager.”

“Yes, alas!” replied Victorin. “A money-lender named Vauvinet has bills
of my father’s to the amount of sixty thousand francs, and wants to
prosecute. I tried to speak of the matter to my father at the Chamber,
but he would not understand me; he almost avoided me. Had we better tell
my mother?”

“No, no,” said Lisbeth, “she has too many troubles; it would be a
death-blow; you must spare her. You have no idea how low she has fallen.
But for your uncle, you would have found no dinner here this evening.”

“Dear Heaven! Victorin, what wretches we are!” said Hortense to her
brother. “We ought to have guessed what Lisbeth has told us. My dinner
is choking me!”

Hortense could say no more; she covered her mouth with her handkerchief
to smother a sob, and melted into tears.

“I told the fellow Vauvinet to call on me to-morrow,” replied Victorin,
“but will he be satisfied by my guarantee on a mortgage? I doubt it.
Those men insist on ready money to sweat others on usurious terms.”

“Let us sell out of the funds!” said Lisbeth to Hortense.

“What good would that do?” replied Victorin. “It would bring fifteen or
sixteen thousand francs, and we want sixty thousand.”

“Dear cousin!” cried Hortense, embracing Lisbeth with the enthusiasm of
guilelessness.

“No, Lisbeth, keep your little fortune,” said Victorin, pressing the old
maid’s hand. “I shall see to-morrow what this man would be up to.
With my wife’s consent, I can at least hinder or postpone the
prosecution--for it would really be frightful to see my father’s honor
impugned. What would the War Minister say? My father’s salary, which
he pledged for three years, will not be released before the month of
December, so we cannot offer that as a guarantee. This Vauvinet has
renewed the bills eleven times; so you may imagine what my father must
pay in interest. We must close this pit.”

“If only Madame Marneffe would throw him over!” said Hortense bitterly.

“Heaven forbid!” exclaimed Victorin. “He would take up some one else;
and with her, at any rate, the worst outlay is over.”

What a change in children formerly so respectful, and kept so long by
their mother in blind worship of their father! They knew him now for
what he was.

“But for me,” said Lisbeth, “your father’s ruin would be more complete
than it is.”

“Come in to mamma,” said Hortense; “she is very sharp, and will suspect
something; as our kind Lisbeth says, let us keep everything from
her--let us be cheerful.”

“Victorin,” said Lisbeth, “you have no notion of what your father
will be brought to by his passion for women. Try to secure some future
resource by getting the Marshal to marry me. Say something about it this
evening; I will leave early on purpose.”

Victorin went into the bedroom.

“And you, poor little thing!” said Lisbeth in an undertone to Hortense,
“what can you do?”

“Come to dinner with us to-morrow, and we will talk it over,” answered
Hortense. “I do not know which way to turn; you know how hard life is,
and you will advise me.”



While the whole family with one consent tried to persuade the Marshal to
marry, and while Lisbeth was making her way home to the Rue Vanneau, one
of those incidents occurred which, in such women as Madame Marneffe, are
a stimulus to vice by compelling them to exert their energy and
every resource of depravity. One fact, at any rate, must however be
acknowledged: life in Paris is too full for vicious persons to do wrong
instinctively and unprovoked; vice is only a weapon of defence against
aggressors--that is all.

Madame Marneffe’s drawing-room was full of her faithful admirers, and
she had just started the whist-tables, when the footman, a pensioned
soldier recruited by the Baron, announced:

“Monsieur le Baron Montes de Montejanos.”

Valerie’s heart jumped, but she hurried to the door, exclaiming:

“My cousin!” and as she met the Brazilian, she whispered:

“You are my relation--or all is at an end between us!--And so you were
not wrecked, Henri?” she went on audibly, as she led him to the fire. “I
heard you were lost, and have mourned for you these three years.”

“How are you, my good fellow?” said Marneffe, offering his hand to the
stranger, whose get-up was indeed that of a Brazilian and a millionaire.

Monsieur le Baron Henri Montes de Montejanos, to whom the climate of the
equator had given the color and stature we expect to see in Othello on
the stage, had an alarming look of gloom, but it was a merely pictorial
illusion; for, sweet and affectionate by nature, he was predestined
to be the victim that a strong man often is to a weak woman. The scorn
expressed in his countenance, the muscular strength of his stalwart
frame, all his physical powers were shown only to his fellow-men; a form
of flattery which women appreciate, nay, which so intoxicates them, that
every man with his mistress on his arm assumes a matador swagger that
provokes a smile. Very well set up, in a closely fitting blue coat with
solid gold buttons, in black trousers, spotless patent evening boots,
and gloves of a fashionable hue, the only Brazilian touch in the Baron’s
costume was a large diamond, worth about a hundred thousand francs,
which blazed like a star on a handsome blue silk cravat, tucked into a
white waistcoat in such a way as to show corners of a fabulously fine
shirt front.

His brow, bossy like that of a satyr, a sign of tenacity in his
passions, was crowned by thick jet-black hair like a virgin forest, and
under it flashed a pair of hazel eyes, so wild looking as to suggest
that before his birth his mother must have been scared by a jaguar.

This fine specimen of the Portuguese race in Brazil took his stand with
his back to the fire, in an attitude that showed familiarity with
Paris manners; holding his hat in one hand, his elbow resting on the
velvet-covered shelf, he bent over Madame Marneffe, talking to her in an
undertone, and troubling himself very little about the dreadful people
who, in his opinion, were so very much in the way.

This fashion of taking the stage, with the Brazilian’s attitude and
expression, gave, alike to Crevel and to the baron, an identical shock
of curiosity and anxiety. Both were struck by the same impression and
the same surmise. And the manoeuvre suggested in each by their very
genuine passion was so comical in its simultaneous results, that it
made everybody smile who was sharp enough to read its meaning. Crevel,
a tradesman and shopkeeper to the backbone, though a mayor of Paris,
unluckily, was a little slower to move than his rival partner, and
this enabled the Baron to read at a glance Crevel’s involuntary
self-betrayal. This was a fresh arrow to rankle in the very amorous old
man’s heart, and he resolved to have an explanation from Valerie.

“This evening,” said Crevel to himself too, as he sorted his hand, “I
must know where I stand.”

“You have a heart!” cried Marneffe. “You have just revoked.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Crevel, trying to withdraw his card.--“This
Baron seems to me very much in the way,” he went on, thinking to
himself. “If Valerie carries on with my Baron, well and good--it is a
means to my revenge, and I can get rid of him if I choose; but as for
this cousin!--He is one Baron too many; I do not mean to be made a fool
of. I will know how they are related.”

That evening, by one of those strokes of luck which come to pretty
women, Valerie was charmingly dressed. Her white bosom gleamed under a
lace tucker of rusty white, which showed off the satin texture of her
beautiful shoulders--for Parisian women, Heaven knows how, have some way
of preserving their fine flesh and remaining slender. She wore a black
velvet gown that looked as if it might at any moment slip off her
shoulders, and her hair was dressed with lace and drooping flowers. Her
arms, not fat but dimpled, were graced by deep ruffles to her sleeves.
She was like a luscious fruit coquettishly served in a handsome dish,
and making the knife-blade long to be cutting it.

“Valerie,” the Brazilian was saying in her ear, “I have come back
faithful to you. My uncle is dead; I am twice as rich as I was when I
went away. I mean to live and die in Paris, for you and with you.”

“Lower, Henri, I implore you----”

“Pooh! I mean to speak to you this evening, even if I should have to
pitch all these creatures out of window, especially as I have lost two
days in looking for you. I shall stay till the last.--I can, I suppose?”

Valerie smiled at her adopted cousin, and said:

“Remember that you are the son of my mother’s sister, who married your
father during Junot’s campaign in Portugal.”

“What, I, Montes de Montejanos, great grandson of a conquerer of Brazil!
Tell a lie?”

“Hush, lower, or we shall never meet again.”

“Pray, why?”

“Marneffe, like all dying wretches, who always take up some last whim,
has a revived passion for me----”

“That cur?” said the Brazilian, who knew his Marneffe; “I will settle
him!”

“What violence!”

“And where did you get all this splendor?” the Brazilian went on, just
struck by the magnificence of the apartment.

She began to laugh.

“Henri! what bad taste!” said she.

She had felt two burning flashes of jealousy which had moved her so
far as to make her look at the two souls in purgatory. Crevel, playing
against Baron Hulot and Monsieur Coquet, had Marneffe for his
partner. The game was even, because Crevel and the Baron were equally
absent-minded, and made blunder after blunder. Thus, in one instant, the
old men both confessed the passion which Valerie had persuaded them to
keep secret for the past three years; but she too had failed to hide
the joy in her eyes at seeing the man who had first taught her heart
to beat, the object of her first love. The rights of such happy mortals
survive as long as the woman lives over whom they have acquired them.

With these three passions at her side--one supported by the insolence of
wealth, the second by the claims of possession, and the third by youth,
strength, fortune, and priority--Madame Marneffe preserved her coolness
and presence of mind, like General Bonaparte when, at the siege of
Mantua, he had to fight two armies, and at the same time maintain the
blockade.

Jealousy, distorting Hulot’s face, made him look as terrible as the late
Marshal Montcornet leading a cavalry charge against a Russian square.
Being such a handsome man, he had never known any ground for jealousy,
any more than Murat knew what it was to be afraid. He had always felt
sure that he should triumph. His rebuff by Josepha, the first he
had ever met, he ascribed to her love of money; “he was conquered by
millions, and not by a changeling,” he would say when speaking of the
Duc d’Herouville. And now, in one instant, the poison and delirium
that the mad passion sheds in a flood had rushed to his heart. He kept
turning from the whist-table towards the fireplace with an action _a la_
Mirabeau; and as he laid down his cards to cast a challenging glance
at the Brazilian and Valerie, the rest of the company felt the sort of
alarm mingled with curiosity that is caused by evident violence ready
to break out at any moment. The sham cousin stared at Hulot as he might
have looked at some big China mandarin.

This state of things could not last; it was bound to end in some
tremendous outbreak. Marneffe was as much afraid of Hulot as Crevel was
of Marneffe, for he was anxious not to die a mere clerk. Men marked for
death believe in life as galley-slaves believe in liberty; this man was
bent on being a first-class clerk at any cost. Thoroughly frightened by
the pantomime of the Baron and Crevel, he rose, said a few words in
his wife’s ear, and then, to the surprise of all, Valerie went into the
adjoining bedroom with the Brazilian and her husband.

“Did Madame Marneffe ever speak to you of this cousin of hers?” said
Crevel to Hulot.

“Never!” replied the Baron, getting up. “That is enough for this
evening,” said he. “I have lost two louis--there they are.”

He threw the two gold pieces on the table, and seated himself on the
sofa with a look which everybody else took as a hint to go. Monsieur and
Madame Coquet, after exchanging a few words, left the room, and Claude
Vignon, in despair, followed their example. These two departures were
a hint to less intelligent persons, who now found that they were not
wanted. The Baron and Crevel were left together, and spoke never a word.
Hulot, at last, ignoring Crevel, went on tiptoe to listen at the bedroom
door; but he bounded back with a prodigious jump, for Marneffe opened
the door and appeared with a calm face, astonished to find only the two
men.

“And the tea?” said he.

“Where is Valerie?” replied the Baron in a rage.

“My wife,” said Marneffe. “She is gone upstairs to speak to mademoiselle
your cousin. She will come down directly.”

“And why has she deserted us for that stupid creature?”

“Well,” said Marneffe, “Mademoiselle Lisbeth came back from dining with
the Baroness with an attack of indigestion and Mathurine asked Valerie
for some tea for her, so my wife went up to see what was the matter.”

“And _her_ cousin?”

“He is gone.”

“Do you really believe that?” said the Baron.

“I have seen him to his carriage,” replied Marneffe, with a hideous
smirk.

The wheels of a departing carriage were audible in the street. The
Baron, counting Marneffe for nothing, went upstairs to Lisbeth. An idea
flashed through him such as the heart sends to the brain when it is on
fire with jealousy. Marneffe’s baseness was so well known to him, that
he could imagine the most degrading connivance between husband and wife.

“What has become of all the ladies and gentlemen?” said Marneffe,
finding himself alone with Crevel.

“When the sun goes to bed, the cocks and hens follow suit,” said Crevel.
“Madame Marneffe disappeared, and her adorers departed. Will you play a
game of piquet?” added Crevel, who meant to remain.

He too believed that the Brazilian was in the house.

Monsieur Marneffe agreed. The Mayor was a match for the Baron. Simply
by playing cards with the husband he could stay on indefinitely;
and Marneffe, since the suppression of the public tables, was quite
satisfied with the more limited opportunities of private play.

Baron Hulot went quickly up to Lisbeth’s apartment, but the door was
locked, and the usual inquiries through the door took up time enough to
enable the two light-handed and cunning women to arrange the scene of an
attack of indigestion with the accessories of tea. Lisbeth was in such
pain that Valerie was very much alarmed, and consequently hardly paid
any heed to the Baron’s furious entrance. Indisposition is one of the
screens most often placed by women to ward off a quarrel. Hulot peeped
about, here and there, but could see no spot in Cousin Betty’s room
where a Brazilian might lie hidden.

“Your indigestion does honor to my wife’s dinner, Lisbeth,” said he,
scrutinizing her, for Lisbeth was perfectly well, trying to imitate the
hiccough of spasmodic indigestion as she drank her tea.

“How lucky it is that dear Betty should be living under my roof!” said
Madame Marneffe. “But for me, the poor thing would have died.”

“You look as if you only half believed it,” added Lisbeth, turning to
the Baron, “and that would be a shame----”

“Why?” asked the Baron. “Do you know the purpose of my visit?”

And he leered at the door of a dressing-closet from which the key had
been withdrawn.

“Are you talking Greek?” said Madame Marneffe, with an appealing look of
misprized tenderness and devotedness.

“But it is all through you, my dear cousin; yes, it is your doing that I
am in such a state,” said Lisbeth vehemently.

This speech diverted the Baron’s attention; he looked at the old maid
with the greatest astonishment.

“You know that I am devoted to you,” said Lisbeth. “I am here, that says
everything. I am wearing out the last shreds of my strength in watching
over your interests, since they are one with our dear Valerie’s. Her
house costs one-tenth of what any other does that is kept on the same
scale. But for me, Cousin, instead of two thousand francs a month, you
would be obliged to spend three or four thousand.”

“I know all that,” replied the Baron out of patience; “you are our
protectress in many ways,” he added, turning to Madame Marneffe and
putting his arm round her neck.--“Is not she, my pretty sweet?”

“On my honor,” exclaimed Valerie, “I believe you are gone mad!”

“Well, you cannot doubt my attachment,” said Lisbeth. “But I am also
very fond of my cousin Adeline, and I found her in tears. She has not
seen you for a month. Now that is really too bad; you leave my poor
Adeline without a sou. Your daughter Hortense almost died of it when
she was told that it is thanks to your brother that we had any dinner at
all. There was not even bread in your house this day.

“Adeline is heroically resolved to keep her sufferings to herself. She
said to me, ‘I will do as you have done!’ The speech went to my heart;
and after dinner, as I thought of what my cousin had been in 1811,
and of what she is in 1841--thirty years after--I had a violent
indigestion.--I fancied I should get over it; but when I got home, I
thought I was dying--”

“You see, Valerie, to what my adoration of you has brought me! To
crime--domestic crime!”

“Oh! I was wise never to marry!” cried Lisbeth, with savage joy. “You
are a kind, good man; Adeline is a perfect angel;--and this is the
reward of her blind devotion.”

“An elderly angel!” said Madame Marneffe softly, as she looked half
tenderly, half mockingly, at her Hector, who was gazing at her as an
examining judge gazes at the accused.

“My poor wife!” said Hulot. “For more than nine months I have given her
no money, though I find it for you, Valerie; but at what a cost! No
one else will ever love you so, and what torments you inflict on me in
return!”

“Torments?” she echoed. “Then what do you call happiness?”

“I do not yet know on what terms you have been with this so-called
cousin whom you never mentioned to me,” said the Baron, paying no heed
to Valerie’s interjection. “But when he came in I felt as if a penknife
had been stuck into my heart. Blinded I may be, but I am not blind. I
could read his eyes, and yours. In short, from under that ape’s eyelids
there flashed sparks that he flung at you--and your eyes!--Oh! you have
never looked at me so, never! As to this mystery, Valerie, it shall all
be cleared up. You are the only woman who ever made me know the meaning
of jealousy, so you need not be surprised by what I say.--But another
mystery which has rent its cloud, and it seems to me infamous----”

“Go on, go on,” said Valerie.

“It is that Crevel, that square lump of flesh and stupidity, is in love
with you, and that you accept his attentions with so good a grace that
the idiot flaunts his passion before everybody.”

“Only three! Can you discover no more?” asked Madame Marneffe.

“There may be more!” retorted the Baron.

“If Monsieur Crevel is in love with me, he is in his rights as a man
after all; if I favored his passion, that would indeed be the act of
a coquette, or of a woman who would leave much to be desired on your
part.--Well, love me as you find me, or let me alone. If you restore
me to freedom, neither you nor Monsieur Crevel will ever enter my doors
again. But I will take up with my cousin, just to keep my hand in, in
those charming habits you suppose me to indulge.--Good-bye, Monsieur le
Baron Hulot.”

She rose, but the Baron took her by the arm and made her sit down
again. The old man could not do without Valerie. She had become more
imperatively indispensable to him than the necessaries of life; he
preferred remaining in uncertainty to having any proof of Valerie’s
infidelity.

“My dearest Valerie,” said he, “do you not see how miserable I am? I
only ask you to justify yourself. Give me sufficient reasons--”

“Well, go downstairs and wait for me; for I suppose you do not wish to
look on at the various ceremonies required by your cousin’s state.”

Hulot slowly turned away.

“You old profligate,” cried Lisbeth, “you have not even asked me how
your children are? What are you going to do for Adeline? I, at any rate,
will take her my savings to-morrow.”

“You owe your wife white bread to eat at least,” said Madame Marneffe,
smiling.

The Baron, without taking offence at Lisbeth’s tone, as despotic as
Josepha’s, got out of the room, only too glad to escape so importunate a
question.



The door bolted once more, the Brazilian came out of the
dressing-closet, where he had been waiting, and he appeared with his
eyes full of tears, in a really pitiable condition. Montes had heard
everything.

“Henri, you must have ceased to love me, I know it!” said Madame
Marneffe, hiding her face in her handkerchief and bursting into tears.

It was the outcry of real affection. The cry of a woman’s despair is
so convincing that it wins the forgiveness that lurks at the bottom of
every lover’s heart--when she is young and pretty, and wears a gown so
low that she could slip out at the top and stand in the garb of Eve.

“But why, if you love me, do you not leave everything for my sake?”
 asked the Brazilian.

This South American born, being logical, as men are who have lived the
life of nature, at once resumed the conversation at the point where it
had been broken off, putting his arm round Valerie’s waist.

“Why?” she repeated, gazing up at Henri, whom she subjugated at once by
a look charged with passion, “why, my dear boy, I am married; we are in
Paris, not in the savannah, the pampas, the backwoods of America.--My
dear Henri, my first and only love, listen to me. That husband of mine,
a second clerk in the War Office, is bent on being a head-clerk and
officer of the Legion of Honor; can I help his being ambitious? Now for
the very reason that made him leave us our liberty--nearly four years
ago, do you remember, you bad boy?--he now abandons me to Monsieur
Hulot. I cannot get rid of that dreadful official, who snorts like a
grampus, who has fins in his nostrils, who is sixty-three years old, and
who had grown ten years older by dint of trying to be young; who is so
odious to me that the very day when Marneffe is promoted, and gets his
Cross of the Legion of Honor----”

“How much more will your husband get then?”

“A thousand crowns.”

“I will pay him as much in an annuity,” said Baron Montes. “We will
leave Paris and go----”

“Where?” said Valerie, with one of the pretty sneers by which a woman
makes fun of a man she is sure of. “Paris is the only place where we can
live happy. I care too much for your love to risk seeing it die out in
a _tete-a-tete_ in the wilderness. Listen, Henri, you are the only man
I care for in the whole world. Write that down clearly in your tiger’s
brain.”

For women, when they have made a sheep of a man, always tell him that he
is a lion with a will of iron.

“Now, attend to me. Monsieur Marneffe has not five years to live; he is
rotten to the marrow of his bones. He spends seven months of the twelve
in swallowing drugs and decoctions; he lives wrapped in flannel; in
short, as the doctor says, he lives under the scythe, and may be cut off
at any moment. An illness that would not harm another man would be fatal
to him; his blood is corrupt, his life undermined at the root. For five
years I have never allowed him to kiss me--he is poisonous! Some day,
and the day is not far off, I shall be a widow. Well, then, I--who have
already had an offer from a man with sixty thousand francs a year, I who
am as completely mistress of that man as I am of this lump of sugar--I
swear to you that if you were as poor as Hulot and as foul as Marneffe,
if you beat me even, still you are the only man I will have for a
husband, the only man I love, or whose name I will ever bear. And I am
ready to give any pledge of my love that you may require.”

“Well, then, to-night----”

“But you, son of the South, my splendid jaguar, come expressly for me
from the virgin forest of Brazil,” said she, taking his hand and kissing
and fondling it, “I have some consideration for the poor creature you
mean to make your wife.--Shall I be your wife, Henri?”

“Yes,” said the Brazilian, overpowered by this unbridled volubility of
passion. And he knelt at her feet.

“Well, then, Henri,” said Valerie, taking his two hands and looking
straight into his eyes, “swear to me now, in the presence of Lisbeth, my
best and only friend, my sister--that you will make me your wife at the
end of my year’s widowhood.”

“I swear it.”

“That is not enough. Swear by your mother’s ashes and eternal salvation,
swear by the Virgin Mary and by all your hopes as a Catholic!”

Valerie knew that the Brazilian would keep that oath even if she should
have fallen into the foulest social slough.

The Baron solemnly swore it, his nose almost touching Valerie’s white
bosom, and his eyes spellbound. He was drunk, drunk as a man is when he
sees the woman he loves once more, after a sea voyage of a hundred and
twenty days.

“Good. Now be quite easy. And in Madame Marneffe respect the future
Baroness de Montejanos. You are not to spend a sou upon me; I forbid
it.--Stay here in the outer room; sleep on the sofa. I myself will come
and tell you when you may move.--We will breakfast to-morrow morning,
and you can be leaving at about one o’clock as if you had come to call
at noon. There is nothing to fear; the gate-keepers love me as much as
if they were my father and mother.--Now I must go down and make tea.”

She beckoned to Lisbeth, who followed her out on to the landing. There
Valerie whispered in the old maid’s ear:

“My darkie has come back too soon. I shall die if I cannot avenge you on
Hortense!”

“Make your mind easy, my pretty little devil!” said Lisbeth, kissing her
forehead. “Love and Revenge on the same track will never lose the game.
Hortense expects me to-morrow; she is in beggary. For a thousand francs
you may have a thousand kisses from Wenceslas.”

On leaving Valerie, Hulot had gone down to the porter’s lodge and made a
sudden invasion there.

“Madame Olivier?”

On hearing the imperious tone of this address, and seeing the action
by which the Baron emphasized it, Madame Olivier came out into the
courtyard as far as the Baron led her.

“You know that if any one can help your son to a connection by and by,
it is I; it is owing to me that he is already third clerk in a notary’s
office, and is finishing his studies.”

“Yes, Monsieur le Baron; and indeed, sir, you may depend on our
gratitude. Not a day passes that I do not pray to God for Monsieur le
Baron’s happiness.”

“Not so many words, my good woman,” said Hulot, “but deeds----”

“What can I do, sir?” asked Madame Olivier.

“A man came here to-night in a carriage. Do you know him?”

Madame Olivier had recognized Montes well enough. How could she have
forgotten him? In the Rue du Doyenne the Brazilian had always slipped a
five-franc piece into her hand as he went out in the morning, rather too
early. If the Baron had applied to Monsieur Olivier, he would perhaps
have learned all he wanted to know. But Olivier was in bed. In the
lower orders the woman is not merely the superior of the man--she almost
always has the upper hand. Madame Olivier had long since made up her
mind as to which side to take in case of a collision between her two
benefactors; she regarded Madame Marneffe as the stronger power.

“Do I know him?” she repeated. “No, indeed, no. I never saw him before!”

“What! Did Madame Marneffe’s cousin never go to see her when she was
living in the Rue du Doyenne?”

“Oh! Was it her cousin?” cried Madame Olivier. “I dare say he did come,
but I did not know him again. Next time, sir, I will look at him----”

“He will be coming out,” said Hulot, hastily interrupting Madame
Olivier.

“He has left,” said Madame Olivier, understanding the situation. “The
carriage is gone.”

“Did you see him go?”

“As plainly as I see you. He told his servant to drive to the Embassy.”

This audacious statement wrung a sigh of relief from the Baron; he took
Madame Olivier’s hand and squeezed it.

“Thank you, my good Madame Olivier. But that is not all.--Monsieur
Crevel?”

“Monsieur Crevel? What can you mean, sir? I do not understand,” said
Madame Olivier.

“Listen to me. He is Madame Marneffe’s lover----”

“Impossible, Monsieur le Baron; impossible,” said she, clasping her
hands.

“He is Madame Marneffe’s lover,” the Baron repeated very positively.
“How do they manage it? I don’t know; but I mean to know, and you are to
find out. If you can put me on the tracks of this intrigue, your son is
a notary.”

“Don’t you fret yourself so, Monsieur le Baron,” said Madame Olivier.
“Madame cares for you, and for no one but you; her maid knows that for
true, and we say, between her and me, that you are the luckiest man in
this world--for you know what madame is.--Just perfection!

“She gets up at ten every morning; then she breakfasts. Well and good.
After that she takes an hour or so to dress; that carries her on till
two; then she goes for a walk in the Tuileries in the sight of all
men, and she is always in by four to be ready for you. She lives like
clockwork. She keeps no secrets from her maid, and Reine keeps nothing
from me, you may be sure. Reine can’t if she would--along of my son, for
she is very sweet upon him. So, you see, if madame had any intimacy with
Monsieur Crevel, we should be bound to know it.”

The Baron went upstairs again with a beaming countenance, convinced that
he was the only man in the world to that shameless slut, as treacherous,
but as lovely and as engaging as a siren.

Crevel and Marneffe had begun a second rubber at piquet. Crevel was
losing, as a man must who is not giving his thoughts to his game.
Marneffe, who knew the cause of the Mayor’s absence of mind, took
unscrupulous advantage of it; he looked at the cards in reverse, and
discarded accordingly; thus, knowing his adversary’s hand, he played
to beat him. The stake being a franc a point, he had already robbed the
Mayor of thirty francs when Hulot came in.

“Hey day!” said he, amazed to find no company. “Are you alone? Where is
everybody gone?”

“Your pleasant temper put them all to flight,” said Crevel.

“No, it was my wife’s cousin,” replied Marneffe. “The ladies and
gentlemen supposed that Valerie and Henri might have something to say
to each other after three years’ separation, and they very discreetly
retired.--If I had been in the room, I would have kept them; but then,
as it happens, it would have been a mistake, for Lisbeth, who always
comes down to make tea at half-past ten, was taken ill, and that upset
everything--”

“Then is Lisbeth really unwell?” asked Crevel in a fury.

“So I was told,” replied Marneffe, with the heartless indifference of a
man to whom women have ceased to exist.

The Mayor looked at the clock; and, calculating the time, the Baron
seemed to have spent forty minutes in Lisbeth’s rooms. Hector’s jubilant
expression seriously incriminated Valerie, Lisbeth, and himself.

“I have just seen her; she is in great pain, poor soul!” said the Baron.

“Then the sufferings of others must afford you much joy, my friend,”
 retorted Crevel with acrimony, “for you have come down with a face that
is positively beaming. Is Lisbeth likely to die? For your daughter, they
say, is her heiress. You are not like the same man. You left this room
looking like the Moor of Venice, and you come back with the air
of Saint-Preux!--I wish I could see Madame Marneffe’s face at this
minute----”

“And pray, what do you mean by that?” said Marneffe to Crevel, packing
his cards and laying them down in front of him.

A light kindled in the eyes of this man, decrepit at the age of
forty-seven; a faint color flushed his flaccid cold cheeks, his
ill-furnished mouth was half open, and on his blackened lips a sort
of foam gathered, thick, and as white as chalk. This fury in such a
helpless wretch, whose life hung on a thread, and who in a duel would
risk nothing while Crevel had everything to lose, frightened the Mayor.

“I said,” repeated Crevel, “that I should like to see Madame Marneffe’s
face. And with all the more reason since yours, at this moment, is most
unpleasant. On my honor, you are horribly ugly, my dear Marneffe----”

“Do you know that you are very uncivil?”

“A man who has won thirty francs of me in forty-five minutes cannot look
handsome in my eyes.”

“Ah, if you had but seen me seventeen years ago!” replied the clerk.

“You were so good-looking?” asked Crevel.

“That was my ruin; now, if I had been like you--I might be a mayor and a
peer.”

“Yes,” said Crevel, with a smile, “you have been too much in the wars;
and of the two forms of metal that may be earned by worshiping the
god of trade, you have taken the worse--the dross!” [This dialogue
is garnished with puns for which it is difficult to find any English
equivalent.] And Crevel roared with laughter. Though Marneffe could
take offence if his honor were in peril, he always took these rough
pleasantries in good part; they were the small coin of conversation
between him and Crevel.

“The daughters of Eve cost me dear, no doubt; but, by the powers! ‘Short
and sweet’ is my motto.”

“‘Long and happy’ is more to my mind,” returned Crevel.

Madame Marneffe now came in; she saw that her husband was at cards with
Crevel, and only the Baron in the room besides; a mere glance at the
municipal dignitary showed her the frame of mind he was in, and her line
of conduct was at once decided on.

“Marneffe, my dear boy,” said she, leaning on her husband’s shoulder,
and passing her pretty fingers through his dingy gray hair, but without
succeeding in covering his bald head with it, “it is very late for you;
you ought to be in bed. To-morrow, you know, you must dose yourself by
the doctor’s orders. Reine will give you your herb tea at seven. If you
wish to live, give up your game.”

“We will pay it out up to five points,” said Marneffe to Crevel.

“Very good--I have scored two,” replied the Mayor.

“How long will it take you?”

“Ten minutes,” said Marneffe.

“It is eleven o’clock,” replied Valerie. “Really, Monsieur Crevel, one
might fancy you meant to kill my husband. Make haste, at any rate.”

This double-barreled speech made Crevel and Hulot smile, and even
Marneffe himself. Valerie sat down to talk to Hector.

“You must leave, my dearest,” said she in Hulot’s ear. “Walk up and down
the Rue Vanneau, and come in again when you see Crevel go out.”

“I would rather leave this room and go into your room through the
dressing-room door. You could tell Reine to let me in.”

“Reine is upstairs attending to Lisbeth.”

“Well, suppose then I go up to Lisbeth’s rooms?”

Danger hemmed in Valerie on every side; she foresaw a discussion with
Crevel, and could not allow Hulot to be in her room, where he could hear
all that went on.--And the Brazilian was upstairs with Lisbeth.

“Really, you men, when you have a notion in your head, you would burn
a house down to get into it!” exclaimed she. “Lisbeth is not in a fit
state to admit you.--Are you afraid of catching cold in the street? Be
off there--or good-night.”

“Good evening, gentlemen,” said the Baron to the other two.

Hulot, when piqued in his old man’s vanity, was bent on proving that he
could play the young man by waiting for the happy hour in the open air,
and he went away.

Marneffe bid his wife good-night, taking her hands with a semblance of
devotion. Valerie pressed her husband’s hand with a significant glance,
conveying:

“Get rid of Crevel.”

“Good-night, Crevel,” said Marneffe. “I hope you will not stay long with
Valerie. Yes! I am jealous--a little late in the day, but it has me hard
and fast. I shall come back to see if you are gone.”

“We have a little business to discuss, but I shall not stay long,” said
Crevel.

“Speak low.--What is it?” said Valerie, raising her voice, and looking
at him with a mingled expression of haughtiness and scorn.

Crevel, as he met this arrogant stare, though he was doing Valerie
important services, and had hoped to plume himself on the fact, was at
once reduced to submission.

“That Brazilian----” he began, but, overpowered by Valerie’s fixed look
of contempt, he broke off.

“What of him?” said she.

“That cousin--”

“Is no cousin of mine,” said she. “He is my cousin to the world and to
Monsieur Marneffe. And if he were my lover, it would be no concern of
yours. A tradesman who pays a woman to be revenged on another man, is,
in my opinion, beneath the man who pays her for love of her. You did not
care for me; all you saw in me was Monsieur Hulot’s mistress. You bought
me as a man buys a pistol to kill his adversary. I wanted bread--I
accepted the bargain.”

“But you have not carried it out,” said Crevel, the tradesman once more.

“You want Baron Hulot to be told that you have robbed him of his
mistress, to pay him out for having robbed you of Josepha? Nothing can
more clearly prove your baseness. You say you love a woman, you treat
her like a duchess, and then you want to degrade her? Well, my good
fellow, and you are right. This woman is no match for Josepha. That
young person has the courage of her disgrace, while I--I am a hypocrite,
and deserve to be publicly whipped.--Alas! Josepha is protected by
her cleverness and her wealth. I have nothing to shelter me but my
reputation; I am still the worthy and blameless wife of a plain citizen;
if you create a scandal, what is to become of me? If I were rich, then
indeed; but my income is fifteen thousand francs a year at most, I
suppose.”

“Much more than that,” said Crevel. “I have doubled your savings in
these last two months by investing in _Orleans_.”

“Well, a position in Paris begins with fifty thousand. And you certainly
will not make up to me for the position I should surrender.--What was
my aim? I want to see Marneffe a first-class clerk; he will then draw
a salary of six thousand francs. He has been twenty-seven years in his
office; within three years I shall have a right to a pension of fifteen
hundred francs when he dies. You, to whom I have been entirely kind, to
whom I have given your fill of happiness--you cannot wait!--And that is
what men call love!” she exclaimed.

“Though I began with an ulterior purpose,” said Crevel, “I have become
your poodle. You trample on my heart, you crush me, you stultify me, and
I love you as I have never loved in my life. Valerie, I love you as much
as I love my Celestine. I am capable of anything for your sake.--Listen,
instead of coming twice a week to the Rue du Dauphin, come three times.”

“Is that all! You are quite young again, my dear boy!”

“Only let me pack off Hulot, humiliate him, rid you of him,” said
Crevel, not heeding her impertinence! “Have nothing to say to the
Brazilian, be mine alone; you shall not repent of it. To begin with, I
will give you eight thousand francs a year, secured by bond, but only as
an annuity; I will not give you the capital till the end of five years’
constancy--”

“Always a bargain! A tradesman can never learn to give. You want to stop
for refreshments on the road of love--in the form of Government bonds!
Bah! Shopman, pomatum seller! you put a price on everything!--Hector
told me that the Duc d’Herouville gave Josepha a bond for thirty
thousand francs a year in a packet of sugar almonds! And I am worth six
of Josepha.

“Oh! to be loved!” she went on, twisting her ringlets round her fingers,
and looking at herself in the glass. “Henri loves me. He would smash
you like a fly if I winked at him! Hulot loves me; he leaves his wife in
beggary! As for you, go my good man, be the worthy father of a family.
You have three hundred thousand francs over and above your fortune,
only to amuse yourself, a hoard, in fact, and you think of nothing but
increasing it--”

“For you, Valerie, since I offer you half,” said he, falling on his
knees.

“What, still here!” cried Marneffe, hideous in his dressing-gown. “What
are you about?”

“He is begging my pardon, my dear, for an insulting proposal he has
dared to make me. Unable to obtain my consent, my gentleman proposed to
pay me----”

Crevel only longed to vanish into the cellar, through a trap, as is done
on the stage.

“Get up, Crevel,” said Marneffe, laughing, “you are ridiculous. I can
see by Valerie’s manner that my honor is in no danger.”

“Go to bed and sleep in peace,” said Madame Marneffe.

“Isn’t she clever?” thought Crevel. “She has saved me. She is adorable!”

As Marneffe disappeared, the Mayor took Valerie’s hands and kissed them,
leaving on them the traces of tears.

“It shall all stand in your name,” he said.

“That is true love,” she whispered in his ear. “Well, love for love.
Hulot is below, in the street. The poor old thing is waiting to return
when I place a candle in one of the windows of my bedroom. I give you
leave to tell him that you are the man I love; he will refuse to believe
you; take him to the Rue du Dauphin, give him every proof, crush him; I
allow it--I order it! I am tired of that old seal; he bores me to death.
Keep your man all night in the Rue du Dauphin, grill him over a slow
fire, be revenged for the loss of Josepha. Hulot may die of it perhaps,
but we shall save his wife and children from utter ruin. Madame Hulot is
working for her bread--”

“Oh! poor woman! On my word, it is quite shocking!” exclaimed Crevel,
his natural feeling coming to the top.

“If you love me, Celestin,” said she in Crevel’s ear, which she
touched with her lips, “keep him there, or I am done for. Marneffe is
suspicious. Hector has a key of the outer gate, and will certainly come
back.”

Crevel clasped Madame Marneffe to his heart, and went away in the
seventh heaven of delight. Valerie fondly escorted him to the landing,
and then followed him, like a woman magnetized, down the stairs to the
very bottom.

“My Valerie, go back, do not compromise yourself before the porters.--Go
back; my life, my treasure, all is yours.--Go in, my duchess!”

“Madame Olivier,” Valerie called gently when the gate was closed.

“Why, madame! You here?” said the woman in bewilderment.

“Bolt the gates at top and bottom, and let no one in.”

“Very good, madame.”

Having barred the gate, Madame Olivier told of the bribe that the War
Office chief had tried to offer her.

“You behaved like an angel, my dear Olivier; we shall talk of that
to-morrow.”

Valerie flew like an arrow to the third floor, tapped three times
at Lisbeth’s door, and then went down to her room, where she gave
instructions to Mademoiselle Reine, for a woman must make the most of
the opportunity when a Montes arrives from Brazil.



“By Heaven! only a woman of the world is capable of such love,” said
Crevel to himself. “How she came down those stairs, lighting them
up with her eyes, following me! Never did Josepha--Josepha! she is
cag-mag!” cried the ex-bagman. “What have I said? _Cag-mag_--why, I
might have let the word slip out at the Tuileries! I can never do
any good unless Valerie educates me--and I was so bent on being a
gentleman.--What a woman she is! She upsets me like a fit of the colic
when she looks at me coldly. What grace! What wit! Never did Josepha
move me so. And what perfection when you come to know her!--Ha, there is
my man!”

He perceived in the gloom of the Rue de Babylone the tall, somewhat
stooping figure of Hulot, stealing along close to a boarding, and he
went straight up to him.

“Good-morning, Baron, for it is past midnight, my dear fellow. What
the devil are your doing here? You are airing yourself under a pleasant
drizzle. That is not wholesome at our time of life. Will you let me give
you a little piece of advice? Let each of us go home; for, between you
and me, you will not see the candle in the window.”

The last words made the Baron suddenly aware that he was sixty-three,
and that his cloak was wet.

“Who on earth told you--?” he began.

“Valerie, of course, _our_ Valerie, who means henceforth to be _my_
Valerie. We are even now, Baron; we will play off the tie when you
please. You have nothing to complain of; you know, I always stipulated
for the right of taking my revenge; it took you three months to rob me
of Josepha; I took Valerie from you in--We will say no more about that.
Now I mean to have her all to myself. But we can be very good friends,
all the same.”

“Crevel, no jesting,” said Hulot, in a voice choked by rage. “It is a
matter of life and death.”

“Bless me, is that how you take it!--Baron, do you not remember what you
said to me the day of Hortense’s marriage: ‘Can two old gaffers like us
quarrel over a petticoat? It is too low, too common. We are _Regence_,
we agreed, Pompadour, eighteenth century, quite the Marechal Richelieu,
Louis XV., nay, and I may say, _Liaisons dangereuses_!”

Crevel might have gone on with his string of literary allusions; the
Baron heard him as a deaf man listens when he is but half deaf. But,
seeing in the gaslight the ghastly pallor of his face, the triumphant
Mayor stopped short. This was, indeed, a thunderbolt after Madame
Olivier’s asservations and Valerie’s parting glance.

“Good God! And there are so many other women in Paris!” he said at last.

“That is what I said to you when you took Josepha,” said Crevel.

“Look here, Crevel, it is impossible. Give me some proof.--Have you a
key, as I have, to let yourself in?”

And having reached the house, the Baron put the key into the lock; but
the gate was immovable; he tried in vain to open it.

“Do not make a noise in the streets at night,” said Crevel coolly. “I
tell you, Baron, I have far better proof than you can show.”

“Proofs! give me proof!” cried the Baron, almost crazy with
exasperation.

“Come, and you shall have them,” said Crevel.

And in obedience to Valerie’s instructions, he led the Baron away
towards the quay, down the Rue Hillerin-Bertin. The unhappy Baron walked
on, as a merchant walks on the day before he stops payment; he was lost
in conjectures as to the reasons of the depravity buried in the depths
of Valerie’s heart, and still believed himself the victim of some
practical joke. As they crossed the Pont Royal, life seemed to him
so blank, so utterly a void, and so out of joint from his financial
difficulties, that he was within an ace of yielding to the evil
prompting that bid him fling Crevel into the river and throw himself in
after.

On reaching the Rue du Dauphin, which had not yet been widened, Crevel
stopped before a door in a wall. It opened into a long corridor paved
with black-and-white marble, and serving as an entrance-hall, at the end
of which there was a flight of stairs and a doorkeeper’s lodge, lighted
from an inner courtyard, as is often the case in Paris. This courtyard,
which was shared with another house, was oddly divided into two unequal
portions. Crevel’s little house, for he owned it, had additional
rooms with a glass skylight, built out on to the adjoining plot, under
conditions that it should have no story added above the ground floor, so
that the structure was entirely hidden by the lodge and the projecting
mass of the staircase.

This back building had long served as a store-room, backshop, and
kitchen to one of the shops facing the street. Crevel had cut off
these three rooms from the rest of the ground floor, and Grindot had
transformed them into an inexpensive private residence. There were two
ways in--from the front, through the shop of a furniture-dealer, to whom
Crevel let it at a low price, and only from month to month, so as to be
able to get rid of him in case of his telling tales, and also through a
door in the wall of the passage, so ingeniously hidden as to be almost
invisible. The little apartment, comprising a dining-room, drawing-room,
and bedroom, all lighted from above, and standing partly on Crevel’s
ground and partly on his neighbor’s, was very difficult to find. With
the exception of the second-hand furniture-dealer, the tenants knew
nothing of the existence of this little paradise.

The doorkeeper, paid to keep Crevel’s secrets, was a capital cook. So
Monsieur le Maire could go in and out of his inexpensive retreat at any
hour of the night without any fear of being spied upon. By day, a lady,
dressed as Paris women dress to go shopping, and having a key, ran
no risk in coming to Crevel’s lodgings; she would stop to look at the
cheapened goods, ask the price, go into the shop, and come out again,
without exciting the smallest suspicion if any one should happen to meet
her.

As soon as Crevel had lighted the candles in the sitting-room, the Baron
was surprised at the elegance and refinement it displayed. The perfumer
had given the architect a free hand, and Grindot had done himself
credit by fittings in the Pompadour style, which had in fact cost sixty
thousand francs.

“What I want,” said Crevel to Grindot, “is that a duchess, if I brought
one there, should be surprised at it.”

He wanted to have a perfect Parisian Eden for his Eve, his “real lady,”
 his Valerie, his duchess.

“There are two beds,” said Crevel to Hulot, showing him a sofa that
could be made wide enough by pulling out a drawer. “This is one, the
other is in the bedroom. We can both spend the night here.”

“Proof!” was all the Baron could say.

Crevel took a flat candlestick and led Hulot into the adjoining room,
where he saw, on a sofa, a superb dressing-gown belonging to Valerie,
which he had seen her wear in the Rue Vanneau, to display it before
wearing it in Crevel’s little apartment. The Mayor pressed the spring of
a little writing-table of inlaid work, known as a _bonheur-du-jour_, and
took out of it a letter that he handed to the Baron.

“Read that,” said he.

The Councillor read these words written in pencil:

  “I have waited in vain, you old wretch! A woman of my quality does
  not expect to be kept waiting by a retired perfumer. There was no
  dinner ordered--no cigarettes. I will make you pay for this!”

“Well, is that her writing?”

“Good God!” gasped Hulot, sitting down in dismay. “I see all the things
she uses--her caps, her slippers. Why, how long since--?”

Crevel nodded that he understood, and took a packet of bills out of the
little inlaid cabinet.

“You can see, old man. I paid the decorators in December, 1838. In
October, two months before, this charming little place was first used.”

Hulot bent his head.

“How the devil do you manage it? I know how she spends every hour of her
day.”

“How about her walk in the Tuileries?” said Crevel, rubbing his hands in
triumph.

“What then?” said Hulot, mystified.

“Your lady love comes to the Tuileries, she is supposed to be airing
herself from one till four. But, hop, skip, and jump, and she is here.
You know your Moliere? Well, Baron, there is nothing imaginary in your
title.”

Hulot, left without a shred of doubt, sat sunk in ominous silence.
Catastrophes lead intelligent and strong-minded men to be philosophical.
The Baron, morally, was at this moment like a man trying to find his
way by night through a forest. This gloomy taciturnity and the change in
that dejected countenance made Crevel very uneasy, for he did not wish
the death of his colleague.

“As I said, old fellow, we are now even; let us play for the odd. Will
you play off the tie by hook and by crook? Come!”

“Why,” said Hulot, talking to himself--“why is it that out of ten pretty
women at least seven are false?”

But the Baron was too much upset to answer his own question. Beauty
is the greatest of human gifts for power. Every power that has no
counterpoise, no autocratic control, leads to abuses and folly.
Despotism is the madness of power; in women the despot is caprice.

“You have nothing to complain of, my good friend; you have a beautiful
wife, and she is virtuous.”

“I deserve my fate,” said Hulot. “I have undervalued my wife and
made her miserable, and she is an angel! Oh, my poor Adeline! you are
avenged! She suffers in solitude and silence, and she is worthy of my
love; I ought--for she is still charming, fair and girlish even--But was
there ever a woman known more base, more ignoble, more villainous than
this Valerie?”

“She is a good-for-nothing slut,” said Crevel, “a hussy that deserves
whipping on the Place du Chatelet. But, my dear Canillac, though we are
such blades, so Marechal de Richelieu, Louis XV., Pompadour, Madame du
Barry, gay dogs, and everything that is most eighteenth century, there
is no longer a lieutenant of police.”

“How can we make them love us?” Hulot wondered to himself without
heeding Crevel.

“It is sheer folly in us to expect to be loved, my dear fellow,” said
Crevel. “We can only be endured; for Madame Marneffe is a hundred times
more profligate than Josepha.”

“And avaricious! she costs me a hundred and ninety-two thousand francs a
year!” cried Hulot.

“And how many centimes!” sneered Crevel, with the insolence of a
financier who scorns so small a sum.

“You do not love her, that is very evident,” said the Baron dolefully.

“I have had enough of her,” replied Crevel, “for she has had more than
three hundred thousand francs of mine!”

“Where is it? Where does it all go?” said the Baron, clasping his head
in his hands.

“If we had come to an agreement, like the simple young men who combine
to maintain a twopenny baggage, she would have cost us less.”

“That is an idea”! replied the Baron. “But she would still be cheating
us; for, my burly friend, what do you say to this Brazilian?”

“Ay, old sly fox, you are right, we are swindled like--like
shareholders!” said Crevel. “All such women are an unlimited liability,
and we the sleeping partners.”

“Then it was she who told you about the candle in the window?”

“My good man,” replied Crevel, striking an attitude, “she has fooled us
both. Valerie is a--She told me to keep you here.--Now I see it all. She
has got her Brazilian!--Oh, I have done with her, for if you hold her
hands, she would find a way to cheat you with her feet! There! she is a
minx, a jade!”

“She is lower than a prostitute,” said the Baron. “Josepha and Jenny
Cadine were in their rights when they were false to us; they make a
trade of their charms.”

“But she, who affects the saint--the prude!” said Crevel. “I tell you
what, Hulot, do you go back to your wife; your money matters are not
looking well; I have heard talk of certain notes of hand given to a low
usurer whose special line of business is lending to these sluts, a man
named Vauvinet. For my part, I am cured of your ‘real ladies.’ And,
after all, at our time of life what do we want of these swindling
hussies, who, to be honest, cannot help playing us false? You have white
hair and false teeth; I am of the shape of Silenus. I shall go in for
saving. Money never deceives one. Though the Treasury is indeed open
to all the world twice a year, it pays you interest, and this woman
swallows it. With you, my worthy friend, as Gubetta, as my partner in
the concern, I might have resigned myself to a shady bargain--no, a
philosophical calm. But with a Brazilian who has possibly smuggled in
some doubtful colonial produce----”

“Woman is an inexplicable creature!” said Hulot.

“I can explain her,” said Crevel. “We are old; the Brazilian is young
and handsome.”

“Yes; that, I own, is true,” said Hulot; “we are older than we
were. But, my dear fellow, how is one to do without these pretty
creatures--seeing them undress, twist up their hair, smile cunningly
through their fingers as they screw up their curl-papers, put on all
their airs and graces, tell all their lies, declare that we don’t love
them when we are worried with business; and they cheer us in spite of
everything.”

“Yes, by the Power! It is the only pleasure in life!” cried Crevel.
“When a saucy little mug smiles at you and says, ‘My old dear, you don’t
know how nice you are! I am not like other women, I suppose, who go
crazy over mere boys with goats’ beards, smelling of smoke, and as
coarse as serving-men! For in their youth they are so insolent!--They
come in and they bid you good-morning, and out they go.--I, whom you
think such a flirt, I prefer a man of fifty to these brats. A man who
will stick by me, who is devoted, who knows a woman is not to be picked
up every day, and appreciates us.--That is what I love you for, you
old monster!’--and they fill up these avowals with little pettings and
prettinesses and--Faugh! they are as false as the bills on the Hotel de
Ville.”

“A lie is sometimes better than the truth,” said Hulot, remembering
sundry bewitching scenes called up by Crevel, who mimicked Valerie.
“They are obliged to act upon their lies, to sew spangles on their stage
frocks--”

“And they are ours, after all, the lying jades!” said Crevel coarsely.

“Valerie is a witch,” said the Baron. “She can turn an old man into a
young one.”

“Oh, yes!” said Crevel, “she is an eel that wriggles through your
hands; but the prettiest eel, as white and sweet as sugar, as amusing as
Arnal--and ingenious!”

“Yes, she is full of fun,” said Hulot, who had now quite forgotten his
wife.

The colleagues went to bed the best friends in the world, reminding each
other of Valerie’s perfections, the tones of her voice, her kittenish
way, her movements, her fun, her sallies of wit, and of affections; for
she was an artist in love, and had charming impulses, as tenors may sing
a scena better one day than another. And they fell asleep, cradled in
tempting and diabolical visions lighted by the fires of hell.

At nine o’clock next morning Hulot went off to the War Office, Crevel
had business out of town; they left the house together, and Crevel held
out his hand to the Baron, saying:

“To show that there is no ill-feeling. For we, neither of us, will have
anything more to say to Madame Marneffe?”

“Oh, this is the end of everything,” replied Hulot with a sort of
horror.



By half-past ten Crevel was mounting the stairs, four at a time, up to
Madame Marneffe’s apartment. He found the infamous wretch, the adorable
enchantress, in the most becoming morning wrapper, enjoying an elegant
little breakfast in the society of the Baron Montes de Montejanos and
Lisbeth. Though the sight of the Brazilian gave him a shock, Crevel
begged Madame Marneffe to grant him two minutes’ speech with her.
Valerie led Crevel into the drawing-room.

“Valerie, my angel,” said the amorous Mayor, “Monsieur Marneffe cannot
have long to live. If you will be faithful to me, when he dies we will
be married. Think it over. I have rid you of Hulot.--So just consider
whether this Brazilian is to compare with a Mayor of Paris, a man who,
for your sake, will make his way to the highest dignities, and who can
already offer you eighty-odd thousand francs a year.”

“I will think it over,” said she. “You will see me in the Rue du Dauphin
at two o’clock, and we can discuss the matter. But be a good boy--and do
not forget the bond you promised to transfer to me.”

She returned to the dining-room, followed by Crevel, who flattered
himself that he had hit on a plan for keeping Valerie to himself; but
there he found Baron Hulot, who, during this short colloquy, had also
arrived with the same end in view. He, like Crevel, begged for a brief
interview. Madame Marneffe again rose to go to the drawing-room, with a
smile at the Brazilian that seemed to say, “What fools they are! Cannot
they see you?”

“Valerie,” said the official, “my child, that cousin of yours is an
American cousin--”

“Oh, that is enough!” she cried, interrupting the Baron. “Marneffe never
has been, and never will be, never can be my husband! The first, the
only man I ever loved, has come back quite unexpectedly. It is no fault
of mine! But look at Henri and look at yourself. Then ask yourself
whether a woman, and a woman in love, can hesitate for a moment. My dear
fellow, I am not a kept mistress. From this day forth I refuse to play
the part of Susannah between the two Elders. If you really care for me,
you and Crevel, you will be our friends; but all else is at an end, for
I am six-and-twenty, and henceforth I mean to be a saint, an admirable
and worthy wife--as yours is.”

“Is that what you have to say?” answered Hulot. “Is this the way
you receive me when I come like a Pope with my hands full of
Indulgences?--Well, your husband will never be a first-class clerk, nor
be promoted in the Legion of Honor.”

“That remains to be seen,” said Madame Marneffe, with a meaning look at
Hulot.

“Well, well, no temper,” said Hulot in despair. “I will call this
evening, and we will come to an understanding.”

“In Lisbeth’s rooms then.”

“Very good--at Lisbeth’s,” said the old dotard.

Hulot and Crevel went downstairs together without speaking a word till
they were in the street; but outside on the sidewalk they looked at each
other with a dreary laugh.

“We are a couple of old fools,” said Crevel.

“I have got rid of them,” said Madame Marneffe to Lisbeth, as she sat
down once more. “I never loved and I never shall love any man but my
Jaguar,” she added, smiling at Henri Montes. “Lisbeth, my dear, you
don’t know. Henri has forgiven me the infamy to which I was reduced by
poverty.”

“It was my own fault,” said the Brazilian. “I ought to have sent you a
hundred thousand francs.”

“Poor boy!” said Valerie; “I might have worked for my living, but my
fingers were not made for that--ask Lisbeth.”

The Brazilian went away the happiest man in Paris.

At noon Valerie and Lisbeth were chatting in the splendid bedroom where
this dangerous woman was giving to her dress those finishing touches
which a lady alone can give. The doors were bolted, the curtains drawn
over them, and Valerie related in every detail all the events of the
evening, the night, the morning.

“What do you think of it all, my darling?” she said to Lisbeth in
conclusion. “Which shall I be when the time comes--Madame Crevel, or
Madame Montes?”

“Crevel will not last more than ten years, such a profligate as he is,”
 replied Lisbeth. “Montes is young. Crevel will leave you about thirty
thousand francs a year. Let Montes wait; he will be happy enough as
Benjamin. And so, by the time you are three-and-thirty, if you take care
of your looks, you may marry your Brazilian and make a fine show with
sixty thousand francs a year of your own--especially under the wing of a
Marechale.”

“Yes, but Montes is a Brazilian; he will never make his mark,” observed
Valerie.

“We live in the day of railways,” said Lisbeth, “when foreigners rise to
high positions in France.”

“We shall see,” replied Valerie, “when Marneffe is dead. He has not much
longer to suffer.”

“These attacks that return so often are a sort of physical remorse,”
 said Lisbeth. “Well, I am off to see Hortense.”

“Yes--go, my angel!” replied Valerie. “And bring me my artist.--Three
years, and I have not gained an inch of ground! It is a disgrace to both
of us!--Wenceslas and Henri--these are my two passions--one for love,
the other for fancy.”

“You are lovely this morning,” said Lisbeth, putting her arm round
Valerie’s waist and kissing her forehead. “I enjoy all your pleasures,
your good fortune, your dresses--I never really lived till the day when
we became sisters.”

“Wait a moment, my tiger-cat!” cried Valerie, laughing; “your shawl is
crooked. You cannot put a shawl on yet in spite of my lessons for three
years--and you want to be Madame la Marechale Hulot!”

Shod in prunella boots, over gray silk stockings, in a gown of handsome
corded silk, her hair in smooth bands under a very pretty black velvet
bonnet, lined with yellow satin, Lisbeth made her way to the Rue
Saint-Dominique by the Boulevard des Invalides, wondering whether sheer
dejection would at last break down Hortense’s brave spirit, and whether
Sarmatian instability, taken at a moment when, with such a character,
everything is possible, would be too much for Steinbock’s constancy.



Hortense and Wenceslas had the ground floor of a house situated at the
corner of the Rue Saint-Dominique and the Esplanade des Invalides.
These rooms, once in harmony with the honeymoon, now had that half-new,
half-faded look that may be called the autumnal aspect of furniture.
Newly married folks are as lavish and wasteful, without knowing it or
intending it, of everything about them as they are of their affection.
Thinking only of themselves, they reck little of the future, which, at a
later time, weighs on the mother of a family.

Lisbeth found Hortense just as she had finished dressing a baby
Wenceslas, who had been carried into the garden.

“Good-morning, Betty,” said Hortense, opening the door herself to her
cousin. The cook was gone out, and the house-servant, who was also the
nurse, was doing some washing.

“Good-morning, dear child,” replied Lisbeth, kissing her. “Is Wenceslas
in the studio?” she added in a whisper.

“No; he is in the drawing-room talking to Stidmann and Chanor.”

“Can we be alone?” asked Lisbeth.

“Come into my room.”

In this room, the hangings of pink-flowered chintz with green leaves on
a white ground, constantly exposed to the sun, were much faded, as was
the carpet. The muslin curtains had not been washed for many a day. The
smell of tobacco hung about the room; for Wenceslas, now an artist of
repute, and born a fine gentleman, left his cigar-ash on the arms of the
chairs and the prettiest pieces of furniture, as a man does to whom love
allows everything--a man rich enough to scorn vulgar carefulness.

“Now, then, let us talk over your affairs,” said Lisbeth, seeing her
pretty cousin silent in the armchair into which she had dropped. “But
what ails you? You look rather pale, my dear.”

“Two articles have just come out in which my poor Wenceslas is pulled
to pieces; I have read them, but I have hidden them from him, for they
would completely depress him. The marble statue of Marshal Montcornet
is pronounced utterly bad. The bas-reliefs are allowed to pass muster,
simply to allow of the most perfidious praise of his talent as a
decorative artist, and to give the greater emphasis to the statement
that serious art is quite out of his reach! Stidmann, whom I besought
to tell me the truth, broke my heart by confessing that his own opinion
agreed with that of every other artist, of the critics, and the public.
He said to me in the garden before breakfast, ‘If Wenceslas cannot
exhibit a masterpiece next season, he must give up heroic sculpture
and be content to execute idyllic subjects, small figures, pieces of
jewelry, and high-class goldsmiths’ work!’ This verdict is dreadful to
me, for Wenceslas, I know, will never accept it; he feels he has so many
fine ideas.”

“Ideas will not pay the tradesman’s bills,” remarked Lisbeth. “I was
always telling him so--nothing but money. Money is only to be had for
work done--things that ordinary folks like well enough to buy them. When
an artist has to live and keep a family, he had far better have a design
for a candlestick on his counter, or for a fender or a table, than for
groups or statues. Everybody must have such things, while he may wait
months for the admirer of the group--and for his money---”

“You are right, my good Lisbeth. Tell him all that; I have not the
courage.--Besides, as he was saying to Stidmann, if he goes back to
ornamental work and small sculpture, he must give up all hope of the
Institute and grand works of art, and we should not get the three
hundred thousand francs’ worth of work promised at Versailles and by the
City of Paris and the Ministers. That is what we are robbed of by those
dreadful articles, written by rivals who want to step into our shoes.”

“And that is not what you dreamed of, poor little puss!” said Lisbeth,
kissing Hortense on the brow. “You expected to find a gentleman, a
leader of Art, the chief of all living sculptors.--But that is poetry,
you see, a dream requiring fifty thousand francs a year, and you have
only two thousand four hundred--so long as I live. After my death three
thousand.”

A few tears rose to Hortense’s eyes, and Lisbeth drank them with her
eyes as a cat laps milk.

This is the story of their honeymoon--the tale will perhaps not be lost
on some artists.

Intellectual work, labor in the upper regions of mental effort, is one
of the grandest achievements of man. That which deserves real glory
in Art--for by Art we must understand every creation of the mind--is
courage above all things--a sort of courage of which the vulgar have no
conception, and which has never perhaps been described till now.

Driven by the dreadful stress of poverty, goaded by Lisbeth, and kept
by her in blinders, as a horse is, to hinder it from seeing to the right
and left of its road, lashed on by that hard woman, the personification
of Necessity, a sort of deputy Fate, Wenceslas, a born poet and dreamer,
had gone on from conception to execution, and overleaped, without
sounding it, the gulf that divides these two hemispheres of Art. To
muse, to dream, to conceive of fine works, is a delightful occupation.
It is like smoking a magic cigar or leading the life of a courtesan who
follows her own fancy. The work then floats in all the grace of infancy,
in the mad joy of conception, with the fragrant beauty of a flower, and
the aromatic juices of a fruit enjoyed in anticipation.

The man who can sketch his purpose beforehand in words is regarded as
a wonder, and every artist and writer possesses that faculty. But
gestation, fruition, the laborious rearing of the offspring, putting it
to bed every night full fed with milk, embracing it anew every morning
with the inexhaustible affection of a mother’s heart, licking it clean,
dressing it a hundred times in the richest garb only to be instantly
destroyed; then never to be cast down at the convulsions of this
headlong life till the living masterpiece is perfected which in
sculpture speaks to every eye, in literature to every intellect, in
painting to every memory, in music to every heart!--This is the task of
execution. The hand must be ready at every instant to come forward and
obey the brain. But the brain has no more a creative power at command
than love has a perennial spring.

The habit of creativeness, the indefatigable love of motherhood which
makes a mother--that miracle of nature which Raphael so perfectly
understood--the maternity of the brain, in short, which is so difficult
to develop, is lost with prodigious ease. Inspiration is the opportunity
of genius. She does not indeed dance on the razor’s edge, she is in the
air and flies away with the suspicious swiftness of a crow; she wears
no scarf by which the poet can clutch her; her hair is a flame; she
vanishes like the lovely rose and white flamingo, the sportsman’s
despair. And work, again, is a weariful struggle, alike dreaded and
delighted in by these lofty and powerful natures who are often broken
by it. A great poet of our day has said in speaking of this overwhelming
labor, “I sit down to it in despair, but I leave it with regret.” Be it
known to all who are ignorant! If the artist does not throw himself into
his work as Curtius sprang into the gulf, as a soldier leads a forlorn
hope without a moment’s thought, and if when he is in the crater he does
not dig on as a miner does when the earth has fallen in on him; if he
contemplates the difficulties before him instead of conquering them
one by one, like the lovers in fairy tales, who to win their princesses
overcome ever new enchantments, the work remains incomplete; it perishes
in the studio where creativeness becomes impossible, and the artist
looks on at the suicide of his own talent.

Rossini, a brother genius to Raphael, is a striking instance in his
poverty-stricken youth, compared with his latter years of opulence. This
is the reason why the same prize, the same triumph, the same bays are
awarded to great poets and to great generals.

Wenceslas, by nature a dreamer, had expended so much energy in
production, in study, and in work under Lisbeth’s despotic rule, that
love and happiness resulted in reaction. His real character reappeared,
the weakness, recklessness, and indolence of the Sarmatian returned to
nestle in the comfortable corners of his soul, whence the schoolmaster’s
rod had routed them.

For the first few months the artist adored his wife. Hortense and
Wenceslas abandoned themselves to the happy childishness of a legitimate
and unbounded passion. Hortense was the first to release her husband
from his labors, proud to triumph over her rival, his Art. And, indeed,
a woman’s caresses scare away the Muse, and break down the sturdy,
brutal resolution of the worker.

Six or seven months slipped by, and the artist’s fingers had forgotten
the use of the modeling tool. When the need for work began to be
felt, when the Prince de Wissembourg, president of the committee of
subscribers, asked to see the statue, Wenceslas spoke the inevitable
byword of the idler, “I am just going to work on it,” and he lulled his
dear Hortense with fallacious promises and the magnificent schemes of
the artist as he smokes. Hortense loved her poet more than ever; she
dreamed of a sublime statue of Marshal Montcornet. Montcornet would
be the embodied ideal of bravery, the type of the cavalry officer, of
courage _a la Murat_. Yes, yes; at the mere sight of that statue all the
Emperor’s victories were to seem a foregone conclusion. And then such
workmanship! The pencil was accommodating and answered to the word.

By way of a statue the result was a delightful little Wenceslas.

When the progress of affairs required that he should go to the studio
at le Gros-Caillou to mould the clay and set up the life-size model,
Steinbock found one day that the Prince’s clock required his presence
in the workshop of Florent and Chanor, where the figures were being
finished; or, again, the light was gray and dull; to-day he had
business to do, to-morrow they had a family dinner, to say nothing of
indispositions of mind and body, and the days when he stayed at home to
toy with his adored wife.

Marshal the Prince de Wissembourg was obliged to be angry to get the
clay model finished; he declared that he must put the work into other
hands. It was only by dint of endless complaints and much strong
language that the committee of subscribers succeeded in seeing the
plaster-cast. Day after day Steinbock came home, evidently tired,
complaining of this “hodman’s work” and his own physical weakness.
During that first year the household felt no pinch; the Countess
Steinbock, desperately in love with her husband cursed the War Minister.
She went to see him; she told him that great works of art were not to be
manufactured like cannon; and that the State--like Louis XIV., Francis
I., and Leo X.--ought to be at the beck and call of genius. Poor
Hortense, believing she held a Phidias in her embrace, had the sort of
motherly cowardice for her Wenceslas that is in every wife who carries
her love to the pitch of idolatry.

“Do not be hurried,” said she to her husband, “our whole future life is
bound up with that statue. Take your time and produce a masterpiece.”

She would go to the studio, and then the enraptured Steinbock wasted
five hours out of seven in describing the statue instead of working at
it. He thus spent eighteen months in finishing the design, which to him
was all-important.

When the plaster was cast and the model complete, poor Hortense, who had
looked on at her husband’s toil, seeing his health really suffer
from the exertions which exhaust a sculptor’s frame and arms and
hands--Hortense thought the result admirable. Her father, who knew
nothing of sculpture, and her mother, no less ignorant, lauded it as a
triumph; the War Minister came with them to see it, and, overruled by
them, expressed approval of the figure, standing as it did alone, in a
favorable light, thrown up against a green baize background.

Alas! at the exhibition of 1841, the disapprobation of the public soon
took the form of abuse and mockery in the mouths of those who were
indignant with the idol too hastily set up for worship. Stidmann tried
to advise his friend, but was accused of jealousy. Every article in a
newspaper was to Hortense an outcry of envy. Stidmann, the best of
good fellows, got articles written, in which adverse criticism was
contravened, and it was pointed out that sculptors altered their works
in translating the plaster into marble, and that the marble would be the
test.

“In reproducing the plaster sketch in marble,” wrote Claude Vignon, “a
masterpiece may be ruined, or a bad design made beautiful. The plaster
is the manuscript, the marble is the book.”

So in two years and a half Wenceslas had produced a statue and a son.
The child was a picture of beauty; the statue was execrable.

The clock for the Prince and the price of the statue paid off the young
couple’s debts. Steinbock had acquired fashionable habits; he went to
the play, to the opera; he talked admirably about art; and in the eyes
of the world he maintained his reputation as a great artist by his
powers of conversation and criticism. There are many clever men in Paris
who spend their lives in talking themselves out, and are content with a
sort of drawing-room celebrity. Steinbock, emulating these emasculated
but charming men, grew every day more averse to hard work. As soon as
he began a thing, he was conscious of all its difficulties, and the
discouragement that came over him enervated his will. Inspiration, the
frenzy of intellectual procreation, flew swiftly away at the sight of
this effete lover.

Sculpture--like dramatic art--is at once the most difficult and the
easiest of all arts. You have but to copy a model, and the task is
done; but to give it a soul, to make it typical by creating a man or
a woman--this is the sin of Prometheus. Such triumphs in the annals
of sculpture may be counted, as we may count the few poets among
men. Michael Angelo, Michel Columb, Jean Goujon, Phidias, Praxiteles,
Polycletes, Puget, Canova, Albert Durer, are the brothers of Milton,
Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Tasso, Homer, and Moliere. And such an
achievement is so stupendous that a single statue is enough to make a
man immortal, as Figaro, Lovelace, and Manon Lescaut have immortalized
Beaumarchais, Richardson, and the Abbe Prevost.

Superficial thinkers--and there are many in the artist world--have
asserted that sculpture lives only by the nude, that it died with the
Greeks, and that modern vesture makes it impossible. But, in the first
place, the Ancients have left sublime statues entirely clothed--the
_Polyhymnia_, the _Julia_, and others, and we have not found one-tenth
of all their works; and then, let any lover of art go to Florence and
see Michael Angelo’s _Penseroso_, or to the Cathedral of Mainz, and
behold the _Virgin_ by Albert Durer, who has created a living woman
out of ebony, under her threefold drapery, with the most flowing,
the softest hair that ever a waiting-maid combed through; let all the
ignorant flock thither, and they will acknowledge that genius can give
mind to drapery, to armor, to a robe, and fill it with a body, just as
a man leaves the stamp of his individuality and habits of life on the
clothes he wears.

Sculpture is the perpetual realization of the fact which once, and never
again, was, in painting called Raphael!

The solution of this hard problem is to be found only in constant
persevering toil; for, merely to overcome the material difficulties
to such an extent, the hand must be so practised, so dexterous and
obedient, that the sculptor may be free to struggle soul to soul with
the elusive moral element that he has to transfigure as he embodies it.
If Paganini, who uttered his soul through the strings of his violin,
spent three days without practising, he lost what he called the _stops_
of his instrument, meaning the sympathy between the wooden frame, the
strings, the bow, and himself; if he had lost this alliance, he would
have been no more than an ordinary player.

Perpetual work is the law of art, as it is the law of life, for art is
idealized creation. Hence great artists and perfect poets wait neither
for commission nor for purchasers. They are constantly creating--to-day,
to-morrow, always. The result is the habit of work, the unfailing
apprehension of the difficulties which keep them in close intercourse
with the Muse and her productive forces. Canova lived in his studio, as
Voltaire lived in his study; and so must Homer and Phidias have lived.

While Lisbeth kept Wenceslas Steinbock in thraldom in his garret, he was
on the thorny road trodden by all these great men, which leads to the
Alpine heights of glory. Then happiness, in the person of Hortense, had
reduced the poet to idleness--the normal condition of all artists, since
to them idleness is fully occupied. Their joy is such as that of the
pasha of a seraglio; they revel with ideas, they get drunk at the founts
of intellect. Great artists, such as Steinbock, wrapped in reverie, are
rightly spoken of as dreamers. They, like opium-eaters, all sink into
poverty, whereas if they had been kept up to the mark by the stern
demands of life, they might have been great men.

At the same time, these half-artists are delightful; men like them and
cram them with praise; they even seem superior to the true artists, who
are taxed with conceit, unsociableness, contempt of the laws of society.
This is why: Great men are the slaves of their work. Their indifference
to outer things, their devotion to their work, make simpletons regard
them as egotists, and they are expected to wear the same garb as the
dandy who fulfils the trivial evolutions called social duties. These
men want the lions of the Atlas to be combed and scented like a lady’s
poodle.

These artists, who are too rarely matched to meet their fellows, fall
into habits of solitary exclusiveness; they are inexplicable to the
majority, which, as we know, consists mostly of fools--of the envious,
the ignorant, and the superficial.

Now you may imagine what part a wife should play in the life of these
glorious and exceptional beings. She ought to be what, for five years,
Lisbeth had been, but with the added offering of love, humble and
patient love, always ready and always smiling.

Hortense, enlightened by her anxieties as a mother, and driven by
dire necessity, had discovered too late the mistakes she had been
involuntarily led into by her excessive love. Still, the worthy daughter
of her mother, her heart ached at the thought of worrying Wenceslas;
she loved her dear poet too much to become his torturer; and she could
foresee the hour when beggary awaited her, her child, and her husband.

“Come, come, my child,” said Lisbeth, seeing the tears in her cousin’s
lovely eyes, “you must not despair. A glassful of tears will not buy a
plate of soup. How much do you want?”

“Well, five or six thousand francs.”

“I have but three thousand at the most,” said Lisbeth. “And what is
Wenceslas doing now?”

“He has had an offer to work in partnership with Stidmann at a table
service for the Duc d’Herouville for six thousand francs. Then Monsieur
Chanor will advance four thousand to repay Monsieur de Lora and
Bridau--a debt of honor.”

“What, you have had the money for the statue and the bas-reliefs for
Marshal Montcornet’s monument, and you have not paid them yet?”

“For the last three years,” said Hortense, “we have spent twelve
thousand francs a year, and I have but a hundred louis a year of my own.
The Marshal’s monument, when all the expenses were paid, brought us no
more than sixteen thousand francs. Really and truly, if Wenceslas gets
no work, I do not know what is to become of us. Oh, if only I could
learn to make statues, I would handle the clay!” she cried, holding up
her fine arms.

The woman, it was plain, fulfilled the promise of the girl; there was
a flash in her eye; impetuous blood, strong with iron, flowed in her
veins; she felt that she was wasting her energy in carrying her infant.

“Ah, my poor little thing! a sensible girl should not marry an artist
till his fortune is made--not while it is still to make.”

At this moment they heard voices; Stidmann and Wenceslas were seeing
Chanor to the door; then Wenceslas and Stidmann came in again.

Stidmann, an artist in vogue in the world of journalists, famous
actresses, and courtesans of the better class, was a young man of
fashion whom Valerie much wished to see in her rooms; indeed, he had
already been introduced to her by Claude Vignon. Stidmann had lately
broken off an intimacy with Madame Schontz, who had married some months
since and gone to live in the country. Valerie and Lisbeth, hearing of
this upheaval from Claude Vignon, thought it well to get Steinbock’s
friend to visit in the Rue Vanneau.

Stidmann, out of good feeling, went rarely to the Steinbocks’; and as it
happened that Lisbeth was not present when he was introduced by Claude
Vignon, she now saw him for the first time. As she watched this noted
artist, she caught certain glances from his eyes at Hortense, which
suggested to her the possibility of offering him to the Countess
Steinbock as a consolation if Wenceslas should be false to her. In point
of fact, Stidmann was reflecting that if Steinbock were not his friend,
Hortense, the young and superbly beautiful countess, would be an
adorable mistress; it was this very notion, controlled by honor, that
kept him away from the house. Lisbeth was quick to mark the significant
awkwardness that troubles a man in the presence of a woman with whom he
will not allow himself to flirt.

“Very good-looking--that young man,” said she in a whisper to Hortense.

“Oh, do you think so?” she replied. “I never noticed him.”

“Stidmann, my good fellow,” said Wenceslas, in an undertone to his
friend, “we are on no ceremony, you and I--we have some business to
settle with this old girl.”

Stidmann bowed to the ladies and went away.

“It is settled,” said Wenceslas, when he came in from taking leave of
Stidmann. “But there are six months’ work to be done, and we must live
meanwhile.”

“There are my diamonds,” cried the young Countess, with the impetuous
heroism of a loving woman.

A tear rose in Wenceslas’ eye.

“Oh, I am going to work,” said he, sitting down by his wife and drawing
her on to his knee. “I will do odd jobs--a wedding chest, bronze
groups----”

“But, my children,” said Lisbeth; “for, as you know, you will be
my heirs, and I shall leave you a very comfortable sum, believe me,
especially if you help me to marry the Marshal; nay, if we succeed in
that quickly, I will take you all to board with me--you and Adeline. We
should live very happily together.--But for the moment, listen to the
voice of my long experience. Do not fly to the Mont-de-Piete; it is the
ruin of the borrower. I have always found that when the interest was
due, those who had pledged their things had nothing wherewith to pay up,
and then all is lost. I can get you a loan at five per cent on your note
of hand.”

“Oh, we are saved!” said Hortense.

“Well, then, child, Wenceslas had better come with me to see the lender,
who will oblige him at my request. It is Madame Marneffe. If you flatter
her a little--for she is as vain as a _parvenue_--she will get you out
of the scrape in the most obliging way. Come yourself and see her, my
dear Hortense.”

Hortense looked at her husband with the expression a man condemned to
death must wear on his way to the scaffold.

“Claude Vignon took Stidmann there,” said Wenceslas. “He says it is a
very pleasant house.”

Hortense’s head fell. What she felt can only be expressed in one word;
it was not pain; it was illness.

“But, my dear Hortense, you must learn something of life!” exclaimed
Lisbeth, understanding the eloquence of her cousin’s looks. “Otherwise,
like your mother, you will find yourself abandoned in a deserted room,
where you will weep like Calypso on the departure of Ulysses, and at an
age when there is no hope of Telemachus--” she added, repeating a jest
of Madame Marneffe’s. “We have to regard the people in the world as
tools which we can make use of or let alone, according as they can serve
our turn. Make use of Madame Marneffe now, my dears, and let her alone
by and by. Are you afraid lest Wenceslas, who worships you, should fall
in love with a woman four or five years older than himself, as yellow as
a bundle of field peas, and----?”

“I would far rather pawn my diamonds,” said Hortense. “Oh, never go
there, Wenceslas!--It is hell!”

“Hortense is right,” said Steinbock, kissing his wife.

“Thank you, my dearest,” said Hortense, delighted. “My husband is an
angel, you see, Lisbeth. He does not gamble, he goes nowhere without me;
if he only could stick to work--oh, I should be too happy. Why take us
on show to my father’s mistress, a woman who is ruining him and is the
cause of troubles that are killing my heroic mother?”

“My child, that is not where the cause of your father’s ruin lies. It
was his singer who ruined him, and then your marriage!” replied her
cousin. “Bless me! why, Madame Marneffe is of the greatest use to him.
However, I must tell no tales.”

“You have a good word for everybody, dear Betty--”

Hortense was called into the garden by hearing the child cry; Lisbeth
was left alone with Wenceslas.

“You have an angel for your wife, Wenceslas!” said she. “Love her as you
ought; never give her cause for grief.”

“Yes, indeed, I love her so well that I do not tell her all,” replied
Wenceslas; “but to you, Lisbeth, I may confess the truth.--If I took my
wife’s diamonds to the Monte-de-Piete, we should be no further forward.”

“Then borrow of Madame Marneffe,” said Lisbeth. “Persuade Hortense,
Wenceslas, to let you go there, or else, bless me! go there without
telling her.”

“That is what I was thinking of,” replied Wenceslas, “when I refused for
fear of grieving Hortense.”

“Listen to me; I care too much for you both not to warn you of your
danger. If you go there, hold your heart tight in both hands, for
the woman is a witch. All who see her adore her; she is so wicked, so
inviting! She fascinates men like a masterpiece. Borrow her money, but
do not leave your soul in pledge. I should never be happy again if you
were false to Hortense--here she is! not another word! I will settle the
matter.”

“Kiss Lisbeth, my darling,” said Wenceslas to his wife. “She will help
us out of our difficulties by lending us her savings.”

And he gave Lisbeth a look which she understood.

“Then, I hope you mean to work, my dear treasure,” said Hortense.

“Yes, indeed,” said the artist. “I will begin to-morrow.”

“To-morrow is our ruin!” said his wife, with a smile.

“Now, my dear child! say yourself whether some hindrance has not come in
the way every day; some obstacle or business?”

“Yes, very true, my love.”

“Here!” cried Steinbock, striking his brow, “here I have swarms of
ideas! I mean to astonish all my enemies. I am going to design a service
in the German style of the sixteenth century; the romantic style:
foliage twined with insects, sleeping children, newly invented monsters,
chimeras--real chimeras, such as we dream of!--I see it all! It will be
undercut, light, and yet crowded. Chanor was quite amazed.--And I wanted
some encouragement, for the last article on Montcornet’s monument had
been crushing.”

At a moment in the course of the day when Lisbeth and Wenceslas were
left together, the artist agreed to go on the morrow to see Madame
Marneffe--he either would win his wife’s consent, or he would go without
telling her.



Valerie, informed the same evening of this success, insisted that Hulot
should go to invite Stidmann, Claude Vignon, and Steinbock to dinner;
for she was beginning to tyrannize over him as women of that type
tyrannize over old men, who trot round town, and go to make interest
with every one who is necessary to the interests or the vanity of their
task-mistress.

Next evening Valerie armed herself for conquest by making such a toilet
as a Frenchwoman can devise when she wishes to make the most of herself.
She studied her appearance in this great work as a man going out to
fight a duel practises his feints and lunges. Not a speck, not a wrinkle
was to be seen. Valerie was at her whitest, her softest, her sweetest.
And certain little “patches” attracted the eye.

It is commonly supposed that the patch of the eighteenth century is out
of date or out of fashion; that is a mistake. In these days women, more
ingenious perhaps than of yore, invite a glance through the opera-glass
by other audacious devices. One is the first to hit on a rosette in
her hair with a diamond in the centre, and she attracts every eye for a
whole evening; another revives the hair-net, or sticks a dagger through
the twist to suggest a garter; this one wears velvet bands round her
wrists, that one appears in lace lippets. These valiant efforts, an
Austerlitz of vanity or of love, then set the fashion for lower spheres
by the time the inventive creatress has originated something new. This
evening, which Valerie meant to be a success for her, she had placed
three patches. She had washed her hair with some lye, which changed
its hue for a few days from a gold color to a duller shade. Madame
Steinbock’s was almost red, and she would be in every point unlike her.
This new effect gave her a piquant and strange appearance, which puzzled
her followers so much, that Montes asked her:

“What have you done to yourself this evening?”--Then she put on a rather
wide black velvet neck-ribbon, which showed off the whiteness of her
skin. One patch took the place of the _assassine_ of our grandmothers.
And Valerie pinned the sweetest rosebud into her bodice, just in the
middle above the stay-busk, and in the daintiest little hollow! It was
enough to make every man under thirty drop his eyelids.

“I am as sweet as a sugar-plum,” said she to herself, going through her
attitudes before the glass, exactly as a dancer practises her curtesies.

Lisbeth had been to market, and the dinner was to be one of those
superfine meals which Mathurine had been wont to cook for her Bishop
when he entertained the prelate of the adjoining diocese.

Stidmann, Claude Vignon, and Count Steinbock arrived almost together,
just at six. An ordinary, or, if you will, a natural woman would have
hastened at the announcement of a name so eagerly longed for; but
Valerie, though ready since five o’clock, remained in her room, leaving
her three guests together, certain that she was the subject of their
conversation or of their secret thoughts. She herself had arranged
the drawing-room, laying out the pretty trifles produced in Paris and
nowhere else, which reveal the woman and announce her presence: albums
bound in enamel or embroidered with beads, saucers full of pretty rings,
marvels of Sevres or Dresden mounted exquisitely by Florent and Chanor,
statues, books, all the frivolities which cost insane sums, and which
passion orders of the makers in its first delirium--or to patch up its
last quarrel.

Besides, Valerie was in the state of intoxication that comes of triumph.
She had promised to marry Crevel if Marneffe should die; and the amorous
Crevel had transferred to the name of Valerie Fortin bonds bearing ten
thousand francs a year, the sum-total of what he had made in railway
speculations during the past three years, the returns on the capital of
a hundred thousand crowns which he had at first offered to the Baronne
Hulot. So Valerie now had an income of thirty-two thousand francs.

Crevel had just committed himself to a promise of far greater magnitude
than this gift of his surplus. In the paroxysm of rapture which _his
Duchess_ had given him from two to four--he gave this fine title to
Madame _de_ Marneffe to complete the illusion--for Valerie had surpassed
herself in the Rue du Dauphin that afternoon, he had thought well to
encourage her in her promised fidelity by giving her the prospect of
a certain little mansion, built in the Rue Barbette by an imprudent
contractor, who now wanted to sell it. Valerie could already see herself
in this delightful residence, with a fore-court and a garden, and
keeping a carriage!

“What respectable life can ever procure so much in so short a time, or
so easily?” said she to Lisbeth as she finished dressing. Lisbeth was to
dine with Valerie that evening, to tell Steinbock those things about the
lady which nobody can say about herself.

Madame Marneffe, radiant with satisfaction, came into the drawing-room
with modest grace, followed by Lisbeth dressed in black and yellow to
set her off.

“Good-evening, Claude,” said she, giving her hand to the famous old
critic.

Claude Vignon, like many another, had become a political personage--a
word describing an ambitious man at the first stage of his career. The
_political personage_ of 1840 represents, in some degree, the _Abbe_ of
the eighteenth century. No drawing-room circle is complete without one.

“My dear, this is my cousin, Count Steinbock,” said Lisbeth, introducing
Wenceslas, whom Valerie seemed to have overlooked.

“Oh yes, I recognized Monsieur le Comte,” replied Valerie with a
gracious bow to the artist. “I often saw you in the Rue du Doyenne,
and I had the pleasure of being present at your wedding.--It would be
difficult, my dear,” said she to Lisbeth, “to forget your adopted son
after once seeing him.--It is most kind of you, Monsieur Stidmann,”
 she went on, “to have accepted my invitation at such short notice;
but necessity knows no law. I knew you to be the friend of both these
gentlemen. Nothing is more dreary, more sulky, than a dinner where all
the guests are strangers, so it was for their sake that I hailed you
in--but you will come another time for mine, I hope?--Say that you
will.”

And for a few minutes she moved about the room with Stidmann, wholly
occupied with him.

Crevel and Hulot were announced separately, and then a deputy named
Beauvisage.

This individual, a provincial Crevel, one of the men created to make
up the crowd in the world, voted under the banner of Giraud, a State
Councillor, and Victorin Hulot. These two politicians were trying to
form a nucleus of progressives in the loose array of the Conservative
Party. Giraud himself occasionally spent the evening at Madame
Marneffe’s, and she flattered herself that she should also capture
Victorin Hulot; but the puritanical lawyer had hitherto found excuses
for refusing to accompany his father and father-in-law. It seemed to
him criminal to be seen in the house of the woman who cost his mother so
many tears. Victorin Hulot was to the puritans of political life what a
pious woman is among bigots.

Beauvisage, formerly a stocking manufacturer at Arcis, was anxious to
_pick up the Paris style_. This man, one of the outer stones of the
Chamber, was forming himself under the auspices of this delicious and
fascinating Madame Marneffe. Introduced here by Crevel, he had accepted
him, at her instigation, as his model and master. He consulted him on
every point, took the address of his tailor, imitated him, and tried to
strike the same attitudes. In short, Crevel was his Great Man.

Valerie, surrounded by these bigwigs and the three artists, and
supported by Lisbeth, struck Wenceslas as a really superior woman, all
the more so because Claude Vignon spoke of her like a man in love.

“She is Madame de Maintenon in Ninon’s petticoats!” said the veteran
critic. “You may please her in an evening if you have the wit; but
as for making her love you--that would be a triumph to crown a man’s
ambition and fill up his life.”

Valerie, while seeming cold and heedless of her former neighbor, piqued
his vanity, quite unconsciously indeed, for she knew nothing of the
Polish character. There is in the Slav a childish element, as there
is in all these primitively wild nations which have overflowed into
civilization rather than that they have become civilized. The race has
spread like an inundation, and has covered a large portion of the globe.
It inhabits deserts whose extent is so vast that it expands at its ease;
there is no jostling there, as there is in Europe, and civilization is
impossible without the constant friction of minds and interests. The
Ukraine, Russia, the plains by the Danube, in short, the Slav nations,
are a connecting link between Europe and Asia, between civilization and
barbarism. Thus the Pole, the wealthiest member of the Slav family, has
in his character all the childishness and inconsistency of a
beardless race. He has courage, spirit, and strength; but, cursed with
instability, that courage, strength, and energy have neither method nor
guidance; for the Pole displays a variability resembling that of the
winds which blow across that vast plain broken with swamps; and though
he has the impetuosity of the snow squalls that wrench and sweep away
buildings, like those aerial avalanches he is lost in the first pool and
melts into water. Man always assimilates something from the surroundings
in which he lives. Perpetually at strife with the Turk, the Pole has
imbibed a taste for Oriental splendor; he often sacrifices what is
needful for the sake of display. The men dress themselves out like
women, yet the climate has given them the tough constitution of Arabs.

The Pole, sublime in suffering, has tired his oppressors’ arms by sheer
endurance of beating; and, in the nineteenth century, has reproduced the
spectacle presented by the early Christians. Infuse only ten per cent
of English cautiousness into the frank and open Polish nature, and
the magnanimous white eagle would at this day be supreme wherever
the two-headed eagle has sneaked in. A little Machiavelism would have
hindered Poland from helping to save Austria, who has taken a share of
it; from borrowing from Prussia, the usurer who had undermined it; and
from breaking up as soon as a division was first made.

At the christening of Poland, no doubt, the Fairy Carabosse, overlooked
by the genii who endowed that attractive people with the most brilliant
gifts, came in to say:

“Keep all the gifts that my sisters have bestowed on you; but you shall
never know what you wish for!”

If, in its heroic duel with Russia, Poland had won the day, the Poles
would now be fighting among themselves, as they formerly fought in their
Diets to hinder each other from being chosen King. When that nation,
composed entirely of hot-headed dare-devils, has good sense enough to
seek a Louis XI. among her own offspring, to accept his despotism and a
dynasty, she will be saved.

What Poland has been politically, almost every Pole is in private life,
especially under the stress of disaster. Thus Wenceslas Steinbock, after
worshiping his wife for three years and knowing that he was a god to
her, was so much nettled at finding himself barely noticed by Madame
Marneffe, that he made it a point of honor to attract her attention.
He compared Valerie with his wife and gave her the palm. Hortense was
beautiful flesh, as Valerie had said to Lisbeth; but Madame Marneffe had
spirit in her very shape, and the savor of vice.

Such devotion as Hortense’s is a feeling which a husband takes as his
due; the sense of the immense preciousness of such perfect love soon
wears off, as a debtor, in the course of time, begins to fancy that the
borrowed money is his own. This noble loyalty becomes the daily bread of
the soul, and an infidelity is as tempting as a dainty. The woman who
is scornful, and yet more the woman who is reputed dangerous, excites
curiosity, as spices add flavor to good food. Indeed, the disdain so
cleverly acted by Valerie was a novelty to Wenceslas, after three years
of too easy enjoyment. Hortense was a wife; Valerie a mistress.

Many men desire to have two editions of the same work, though it is in
fact a proof of inferiority when a man cannot make his mistress of his
wife. Variety in this particular is a sign of weakness. Constancy will
always be the real genius of love, the evidence of immense power--the
power that makes the poet! A man ought to find every woman in his wife,
as the squalid poets of the seventeenth century made their Manons figure
as Iris and Chloe.

“Well,” said Lisbeth to the Pole, as she beheld him fascinated, “what do
you think of Valerie?”

“She is too charming,” replied Wenceslas.

“You would not listen to me,” said Betty. “Oh! my little Wenceslas, if
you and I had never parted, you would have been that siren’s lover; you
might have married her when she was a widow, and you would have had her
forty thousand francs a year----”

“Really?”

“Certainly,” replied Lisbeth. “Now, take care of yourself; I warned you
of the danger; do not singe your wings in the candle!--Come, give me
your arm, dinner is served.”

No language could be so thoroughly demoralizing as this; for if you show
a Pole a precipice, he is bound to leap it. As a nation they have the
very spirit of cavalry; they fancy they can ride down every obstacle and
come out victorious. The spur applied by Lisbeth to Steinbock’s vanity
was intensified by the appearance of the dining-room, bright with
handsome silver plate; the dinner was served with every refinement and
extravagance of Parisian luxury.

“I should have done better to take Celimene,” thought he to himself.

All through the dinner Hulot was charming; pleased to see his son-in-law
at that table, and yet more happy in the prospect of a reconciliation
with Valerie, whose fidelity he proposed to secure by the promise of
Coquet’s head-clerkship. Stidmann responded to the Baron’s amiability by
shafts of Parisian banter and an artist’s high spirits. Steinbock would
not allow himself to be eclipsed by his friend; he too was witty, said
amusing things, made his mark, and was pleased with himself; Madame
Marneffe smiled at him several times to show that she quite understood
him.

The good meal and heady wines completed the work; Wenceslas was deep in
what must be called the slough of dissipation. Excited by just a
glass too much, he stretched himself on a settee after dinner, sunk
in physical and mental ecstasy, which Madame Marneffe wrought to the
highest pitch by coming to sit down by him--airy, scented, pretty enough
to damn an angel. She bent over Wenceslas and almost touched his ear as
she whispered to him:

“We cannot talk over business matters this evening, unless you will
remain till the last. Between us--you, Lisbeth, and me--we can settle
everything to suit you.”

“Ah, Madame, you are an angel!” replied Wenceslas, also in a murmur. “I
was a pretty fool not to listen to Lisbeth--”

“What did she say?”

“She declared, in the Rue du Doyenne, that you loved me!”

Madame Marneffe looked at him, seemed covered with confusion, and
hastily left her seat. A young and pretty woman never rouses the hope of
immediate success with impunity. This retreat, the impulse of a virtuous
woman who is crushing a passion in the depths of her heart, was a
thousand times more effective than the most reckless avowal. Desire was
so thoroughly aroused in Wenceslas that he doubled his attentions to
Valerie. A woman seen by all is a woman wished for. Hence the terrible
power of actresses. Madame Marneffe, knowing that she was watched,
behaved like an admired actress. She was quite charming, and her success
was immense.

“I no longer wonder at my father-in-law’s follies,” said Steinbock to
Lisbeth.

“If you say such things, Wenceslas, I shall to my dying day repent of
having got you the loan of these ten thousand francs. Are you, like
all these men,” and she indicated the guests, “madly in love with that
creature? Remember, you would be your father-in-law’s rival. And think
of the misery you would bring on Hortense.”

“That is true,” said Wenceslas. “Hortense is an angel; I should be a
wretch.”

“And one is enough in the family!” said Lisbeth.

“Artists ought never to marry!” exclaimed Steinbock.

“Ah! that is what I always told you in the Rue du Doyenne. Your groups,
your statues, your great works, ought to be your children.”

“What are you talking about?” Valerie asked, joining Lisbeth.--“Give us
tea, Cousin.”

Steinbock, with Polish vainglory, wanted to appear familiar with this
drawing-room fairy. After defying Stidmann, Vignon, and Crevel with a
look, he took Valerie’s hand and forced her to sit down by him on the
settee.

“You are rather too lordly, Count Steinbock,” said she, resisting a
little. But she laughed as she dropped on to the seat, not without
arranging the rosebud pinned into her bodice.

“Alas! if I were really lordly,” said he, “I should not be here to
borrow money.”

“Poor boy! I remember how you worked all night in the Rue du Doyenne.
You really were rather a spooney; you married as a starving man snatches
a loaf. You knew nothing of Paris, and you see where you are landed. But
you turned a deaf ear to Lisbeth’s devotion, as you did to the love of a
woman who knows her Paris by heart.”

“Say no more!” cried Steinbock; “I am done for!”

“You shall have your ten thousand francs, my dear Wenceslas; but on one
condition,” she went on, playing with his handsome curls.

“What is that?”

“I will take no interest----”

“Madame!”

“Oh, you need not be indignant; you shall make it good by giving me a
bronze group. You began the story of Samson; finish it.--Do a Delilah
cutting off the Jewish Hercules’ hair. And you, who, if you will listen
to me, will be a great artist, must enter into the subject. What you
have to show is the power of woman. Samson is a secondary consideration.
He is the corpse of dead strength. It is Delilah--passion--that ruins
everything. How far more beautiful is that _replica_--That is what you
call it, I think--” She skilfully interpolated, as Claude Vignon and
Stidmann came up to them on hearing her talk of sculpture--“how far more
beautiful than the Greek myth is that _replica_ of Hercules at Omphale’s
feet.--Did Greece copy Judaea, or did Judaea borrow the symbolism from
Greece?”

“There, madame, you raise an important question--that of the date of
the various writings in the Bible. The great and immortal Spinoza--most
foolishly ranked as an atheist, whereas he gave mathematical proof
of the existence of God--asserts that the Book of Genesis and all
the political history of the Bible are of the time of Moses, and he
demonstrates the interpolated passages by philological evidence. And he
was thrice stabbed as he went into the synagogue.”

“I had no idea I was so learned,” said Valerie, annoyed at this
interruption to her _tete-a-tete_.

“Women know everything by instinct,” replied Claude Vignon.

“Well, then, you promise me?” she said to Steinbock, taking his hand
with the timidity of a girl in love.

“You are indeed a happy man, my dear fellow,” cried Stidmann, “if madame
asks a favor of you!”

“What is it?” asked Claude Vignon.

“A small bronze group,” replied Steinbock, “Delilah cutting off Samson’s
hair.”

“It is difficult,” remarked Vignon. “A bed----”

“On the contrary, it is exceedingly easy,” replied Valerie, smiling.

“Ah ha! teach us sculpture!” said Stidmann.

“You should take madame for your subject,” replied Vignon, with a keen
glance at Valerie.

“Well,” she went on, “this is my notion of the composition. Samson on
waking finds he has no hair, like many a dandy with a false top-knot.
The hero is sitting on the bed, so you need only show the foot of it,
covered with hangings and drapery. There he is, like Marius among
the ruins of Carthage, his arms folded, his head shaven--Napoleon at
Saint-Helena--what you will! Delilah is on her knees, a good deal like
Canova’s Magdalen. When a hussy has ruined her man, she adores him. As I
see it, the Jewess was afraid of Samson in his strength and terrors, but
she must have loved him when she saw him a child again. So Delilah is
bewailing her sin, she would like to give her lover his hair again. She
hardly dares to look at him; but she does look, with a smile, for she
reads forgiveness in Samson’s weakness. Such a group as this, and one of
the ferocious Judith, would epitomize woman. Virtue cuts off your head;
vice only cuts off your hair. Take care of your wigs, gentlemen!”

And she left the artists quite overpowered, to sing her praises in
concert with the critic.

“It is impossible to be more bewitching!” cried Stidmann.

“Oh! she is the most intelligent and desirable woman I have ever met,”
 said Claude Vignon. “Such a combination of beauty and cleverness is so
rare.”

“And if you who had the honor of being intimate with Camille Maupin can
pronounce such a verdict,” replied Stidmann, “what are we to think?”

“If you will make your Delilah a portrait of Valerie, my dear Count,”
 said Crevel, who had risen for a moment from the card-table, and who
had heard what had been said, “I will give you a thousand crowns for an
example--yes, by the Powers! I will shell out to the tune of a thousand
crowns!”

“Shell out! What does that mean?” asked Beauvisage of Claude Vignon.

“Madame must do me the honor to sit for it then,” said Steinbock to
Crevel. “Ask her--”

At this moment Valerie herself brought Steinbock a cup of tea. This was
more than a compliment, it was a favor. There is a complete language
in the manner in which a woman does this little civility; but women
are fully aware of the fact, and it is a curious thing to study their
movements, their manner, their look, tone, and accent when they perform
this apparently simple act of politeness.--From the question, “Do you
take tea?”--“Will you have some tea?”--“A cup of tea?” coldly asked,
and followed by instructions to the nymph of the urn to bring it, to the
eloquent poem of the odalisque coming from the tea-table, cup in hand,
towards the pasha of her heart, presenting it submissively, offering it
in an insinuating voice, with a look full of intoxicating promises,
a physiologist could deduce the whole scale of feminine emotion, from
aversion or indifference to Phaedra’s declaration to Hippolytus. Women
can make it, at will, contemptuous to the verge of insult, or humble to
the expression of Oriental servility.

And Valerie was more than woman; she was the serpent made woman; she
crowned her diabolical work by going up to Steinbock, a cup of tea in
her hand.

“I will drink as many cups of tea as you will give me,” said the artist,
murmuring in her ear as he rose, and touching her fingers with his, “to
have them given to me thus!”

“What were you saying about sitting?” said she, without betraying that
this declaration, so frantically desired, had gone straight to her
heart.

“Old Crevel promises me a thousand crowns for a copy of your group.”

“He! a thousand crowns for a bronze group?”

“Yes--if you will sit for Delilah,” said Steinbock.

“He will not be there to see, I hope!” replied she. “The group would
be worth more than all his fortune, for Delilah’s costume is rather
un-dressy.”

Just as Crevel loved to strike an attitude, every woman has a victorious
gesture, a studied movement, which she knows must win admiration. You
may see in a drawing-room how one spends all her time looking down at
her tucker or pulling up the shoulder-piece of her gown, how another
makes play with the brightness of her eyes by glancing up at the
cornice. Madame Marneffe’s triumph, however, was not face to face like
that of other women. She turned sharply round to return to Lisbeth at
the tea-table. This ballet-dancer’s pirouette, whisking her skirts, by
which she had overthrown Hulot, now fascinated Steinbock.

“Your vengeance is secure,” said Valerie to Lisbeth in a whisper.
“Hortense will cry out all her tears, and curse the day when she robbed
you of Wenceslas.”

“Till I am Madame la Marechale I shall not think myself successful,”
 replied the cousin; “but they are all beginning to wish for it.--This
morning I went to Victorin’s--I forgot to tell you.--The young Hulots
have bought up their father’s notes of hand given to Vauvinet, and
to-morrow they will endorse a bill for seventy-two thousand francs at
five per cent, payable in three years, and secured by a mortgage on
their house. So the young people are in straits for three years;
they can raise no more money on that property. Victorin is dreadfully
distressed; he understands his father. And Crevel is capable of refusing
to see them; he will be so angry at this piece of self-sacrifice.”

“The Baron cannot have a sou now,” said Valerie, and she smiled at
Hulot.

“I don’t see where he can get it. But he will draw his salary again in
September.”

“And he has his policy of insurance; he has renewed it. Come, it is
high time he should get Marneffe promoted. I will drive it home this
evening.”

“My dear cousin,” said Lisbeth to Wenceslas, “go home, I beg. You are
quite ridiculous. Your eyes are fixed on Valerie in a way that is enough
to compromise her, and her husband is insanely jealous. Do not tread in
your father-in-law’s footsteps. Go home; I am sure Hortense is sitting
up for you.”

“Madame Marneffe told me to stay till the last to settle my little
business with you and her,” replied Wenceslas.

“No, no,” said Lisbeth; “I will bring you the ten thousand francs, for
her husband has his eye on you. It would be rash to remain. To-morrow
at eleven o’clock bring your note of hand; at that hour that mandarin
Marneffe is at his office, Valerie is free.--Have you really asked her
to sit for your group?--Come up to my rooms first.--Ah! I was sure
of it,” she added, as she caught the look which Steinbock flashed at
Valerie, “I knew you were a profligate in the bud! Well, Valerie is
lovely--but try not to bring trouble on Hortense.”



Nothing annoys a married man so much as finding his wife perpetually
interposing between himself and his wishes, however transient.

Wenceslas got home at about one in the morning; Hortense had expected
him ever since half-past nine. From half-past nine till ten she had
listened to the passing carriages, telling herself that never before had
her husband come in so late from dining with Florent and Chanor. She sat
sewing by the child’s cot, for she had begun to save a needlewoman’s pay
for the day by doing the mending herself.--From ten till half-past, a
suspicion crossed her mind; she sat wondering:

“Is he really gone to dinner, as he told me, with Chanor and Florent? He
put on his best cravat and his handsomest pin when he dressed. He took
as long over his toilet as a woman when she wants to make the best of
herself.--I am crazy! He loves me!--And here he is!”

But instead of stopping, the cab she heard went past.

From eleven till midnight Hortense was a victim to terrible alarms; the
quarter where they lived was now deserted.

“If he has set out on foot, some accident may have happened,” thought
she. “A man may be killed by tumbling over a curbstone or failing to
see a gap. Artists are so heedless! Or if he should have been stopped
by robbers!--It is the first time he has ever left me alone here for six
hours and a half!--But why should I worry myself? He cares for no one
but me.”

Men ought to be faithful to the wives who love them, were it only on
account of the perpetual miracles wrought by true love in the sublime
regions of the spiritual world. The woman who loves is, in relation
to the man she loves, in the position of a somnambulist to whom the
magnetizer should give the painful power, when she ceases to be the
mirror of the world, of being conscious as a woman of what she has seen
as a somnambulist. Passion raises the nervous tension of a woman to the
ecstatic pitch at which presentiment is as acute as the insight of a
clairvoyant. A wife knows she is betrayed; she will not let herself say
so, she doubts still--she loves so much! She gives the lie to the outcry
of her own Pythian power. This paroxysm of love deserves a special form
of worship.

In noble souls, admiration of this divine phenomenon will always be a
safeguard to protect them from infidelity. How should a man not worship
a beautiful and intellectual creature whose soul can soar to such
manifestations?

By one in the morning Hortense was in a state of such intense anguish,
that she flew to the door as she recognized her husband’s ring at the
bell, and clasped him in her arms like a mother.

“At last--here you are!” cried she, finding her voice again. “My
dearest, henceforth where you go I go, for I cannot again endure the
torture of such waiting.--I pictured you stumbling over a curbstone,
with a fractured skull! Killed by thieves!--No, a second time I know I
should go mad.--Have you enjoyed yourself so much?--And without me!--Bad
boy!”

“What can I say, my darling? There was Bixiou, who drew fresh
caricatures for us; Leon de Lora, as witty as ever; Claude Vignon, to
whom I owe the only consolatory article that has come out about the
Montcornet statue. There were--”

“Were there no ladies?” Hortense eagerly inquired.

“Worthy Madame Florent--”

“You said the Rocher de Cancale.--Were you at the Florents’?”

“Yes, at their house; I made a mistake.”

“You did not take a coach to come home?”

“No.”

“And you have walked from the Rue des Tournelles?”

“Stidmann and Bixiou came back with me along the boulevards as far as
the Madeleine, talking all the way.”

“It is dry then on the boulevards and the Place de la Concorde and the
Rue de Bourgogne? You are not muddy at all!” said Hortense, looking at
her husband’s patent leather boots.

It had been raining, but between the Rue Vanneau and the Rue
Saint-Dominique Wenceslas had not got his boots soiled.

“Here--here are five thousand francs Chanor has been so generous as to
lend me,” said Wenceslas, to cut short this lawyer-like examination.

He had made a division of the ten thousand-franc notes, half for
Hortense and half for himself, for he had five thousand francs’ worth of
debts of which Hortense knew nothing. He owed money to his foreman and
his workmen.

“Now your anxieties are relieved,” said he, kissing his wife. “I am
going to work to-morrow morning. So I am going to bed this minute to get
up early, by your leave, my pet.”

The suspicion that had dawned in Hortense’s mind vanished; she was miles
away from the truth. Madame Marneffe! She had never thought of her.
Her fear for her Wenceslas was that he should fall in with street
prostitutes. The names of Bixiou and Leon de Lora, two artists noted for
their wild dissipations, had alarmed her.

Next morning she saw Wenceslas go out at nine o’clock, and was quite
reassured.

“Now he is at work again,” said she to herself, as she proceeded to
dress her boy. “I see he is quite in the vein! Well, well, if we
cannot have the glory of Michael Angelo, we may have that of Benvenuto
Cellini!”

Lulled by her own hopes, Hortense believed in a happy future; and
she was chattering to her son of twenty months in the language of
onomatopoeia that amuses babes when, at about eleven o’clock, the cook,
who had not seen Wenceslas go out, showed in Stidmann.

“I beg pardon, madame,” said he. “Is Wenceslas gone out already?”

“He is at the studio.”

“I came to talk over the work with him.”

“I will send for him,” said Hortense, offering Stidmann a chair.

Thanking Heaven for this piece of luck, Hortense was glad to detain
Stidmann to ask some questions about the evening before. Stidmann bowed
in acknowledgment of her kindness. The Countess Steinbock rang; the cook
appeared, and was desired to go at once and fetch her master from the
studio.

“You had an amusing dinner last night?” said Hortense. “Wenceslas did
not come in till past one in the morning.”

“Amusing? not exactly,” replied the artist, who had intended to
fascinate Madame Marneffe. “Society is not very amusing unless one is
interested in it. That little Madame Marneffe is clever, but a great
flirt.”

“And what did Wenceslas think of her?” asked poor Hortense, trying to
keep calm. “He said nothing about her to me.”

“I will only say one thing,” said Stidmann, “and that is, that I think
her a very dangerous woman.”

Hortense turned as pale as a woman after childbirth.

“So--it was at--at Madame Marneffe’s that you dined--and not--not with
Chanor?” said she, “yesterday--and Wenceslas--and he----”

Stidmann, without knowing what mischief he had done, saw that he had
blundered.

The Countess did not finish her sentence; she simply fainted away. The
artist rang, and the maid came in. When Louise tried to get her mistress
into her bedroom, a serious nervous attack came on, with violent
hysterics. Stidmann, like any man who by an involuntary indiscretion has
overthrown the structure built on a husband’s lie to his wife, could not
conceive that his words should produce such an effect; he supposed
that the Countess was in such delicate health that the slightest
contradiction was mischievous.

The cook presently returned to say, unfortunately in loud tones, that
her master was not in the studio. In the midst of her anguish, Hortense
heard, and the hysterical fit came on again.

“Go and fetch madame’s mother,” said Louise to the cook. “Quick--run!”

“If I knew where to find Steinbock, I would go and fetch him!” exclaimed
Stidmann in despair.

“He is with that woman!” cried the unhappy wife. “He was not dressed to
go to his work!”

Stidmann hurried off to Madame Marneffe’s, struck by the truth of this
conclusion, due to the second-sight of passion.

At that moment Valerie was posed as Delilah. Stidmann, too sharp to ask
for Madame Marneffe, walked straight in past the lodge, and ran quickly
up to the second floor, arguing thus: “If I ask for Madame Marneffe, she
will be out. If I inquire point-blank for Steinbock, I shall be laughed
at to my face.--Take the bull by the horns!”

Reine appeared in answer to his ring.

“Tell Monsieur le Comte Steinbock to come at once, his wife is dying--”

Reine, quite a match for Stidmann, looked at him with blank surprise.

“But, sir--I don’t know--did you suppose----”

“I tell you that my friend Monsieur Steinbock is here; his wife is very
ill. It is quite serious enough for you to disturb your mistress.” And
Stidmann turned on his heel.

“He is there, sure enough!” said he to himself.

And in point of fact, after waiting a few minutes in the Rue Vanneau,
he saw Wenceslas come out, and beckoned to him to come quickly. After
telling him of the tragedy enacted in the Rue Saint-Dominique, Stidmann
scolded Steinbock for not having warned him to keep the secret of
yesterday’s dinner.

“I am done for,” said Wenceslas, “but you are forgiven. I had totally
forgotten that you were to call this morning, and I blundered in not
telling you that we were to have dined with Florent.--What can I say?
That Valerie has turned my head; but, my dear fellow, for her glory is
well lost, misfortune well won! She really is!--Good Heavens!--But I am
in a dreadful fix. Advise me. What can I say? How can I excuse myself?”

“I! advise you! I don’t know,” replied Stidmann. “But your wife loves
you, I imagine? Well, then, she will believe anything. Tell her that you
were on your way to me when I was on my way to you; that, at any rate,
will set this morning’s business right. Good-bye.”

Lisbeth, called down by Reine, ran after Wenceslas and caught him up
at the corner of the Rue Hillerin-Bertin; she was afraid of his Polish
artlessness. Not wishing to be involved in the matter, she said a few
words to Wenceslas, who in his joy hugged her then and there. She had
no doubt pushed out a plank to enable the artist to cross this awkward
place in his conjugal affairs.

At the sight of her mother, who had flown to her aid, Hortense burst
into floods of tears. This happily changed the character of the
hysterical attack.

“Treachery, dear mamma!” cried she. “Wenceslas, after giving me his word
of honor that he would not go near Madame Marneffe, dined with her last
night, and did not come in till a quarter-past one in the morning.--If
you only knew! The day before we had had a discussion, not a quarrel,
and I had appealed to him so touchingly. I told him I was jealous, that
I should die if he were unfaithful; that I was easily suspicious, but
that he ought to have some consideration for my weaknesses, as they came
of my love for him; that I had my father’s blood in my veins as well as
yours; that at the first moment of such discovery I should be mad, and
capable of mad deeds--of avenging myself--of dishonoring us all, him,
his child, and myself; that I might even kill him first and myself
after--and so on.

“And yet he went there; he is there!--That woman is bent on breaking all
our hearts! Only yesterday my brother and Celestine pledged their all
to pay off seventy thousand francs on notes of hand signed for that
good-for-nothing creature.--Yes, mamma, my father would have been
arrested and put into prison. Cannot that dreadful woman be content with
having my father, and with all your tears? Why take my Wenceslas?--I
will go to see her and stab her!”

Madame Hulot, struck to the heart by the dreadful secrets Hortense
was unwittingly letting out, controlled her grief by one of the heroic
efforts which a magnanimous mother can make, and drew her daughter’s
head on to her bosom to cover it with kisses.

“Wait for Wenceslas, my child; all will be explained. The evil cannot
be so great as you picture it!--I, too, have been deceived, my dear
Hortense; you think me handsome, I have lived blameless; and yet I have
been utterly forsaken for three-and-twenty years--for a Jenny Cadine, a
Josepha, a Madame Marneffe!--Did you know that?”

“You, mamma, you! You have endured this for twenty----”

She broke off, staggered by her own thoughts.

“Do as I have done, my child,” said her mother. “Be gentle and kind, and
your conscience will be at peace. On his death-bed a man may say, ‘My
wife has never cost me a pang!’ And God, who hears that dying breath,
credits it to us. If I had abandoned myself to fury like you, what would
have happened? Your father would have been embittered, perhaps he would
have left me altogether, and he would not have been withheld by any fear
of paining me. Our ruin, utter as it now is, would have been complete
ten years sooner, and we should have shown the world the spectacle of
a husband and wife living quite apart--a scandal of the most horrible,
heart-breaking kind, for it is the destruction of the family. Neither
your brother nor you could have married.

“I sacrificed myself, and that so bravely, that, till this last
connection of your father’s, the world has believed me happy. My
serviceable and indeed courageous falsehood has, till now, screened
Hector; he is still respected; but this old man’s passion is taking him
too far, that I see. His own folly, I fear, will break through the veil
I have kept between the world and our home. However, I have held
that curtain steady for twenty-three years, and have wept behind
it--motherless, I, without a friend to trust, with no help but in
religion--I have for twenty-three years secured the family honor----”

Hortense listened with a fixed gaze. The calm tone of resignation and
of such crowning sorrow soothed the smart of her first wound; the tears
rose again and flowed in torrents. In a frenzy of filial affection,
overcome by her mother’s noble heroism, she fell on her knees before
Adeline, took up the hem of her dress and kissed it, as pious Catholics
kiss the holy relics of a martyr.

“Nay, get up, Hortense,” said the Baroness. “Such homage from my
daughter wipes out many sad memories. Come to my heart, and weep for no
sorrows but your own. It is the despair of my dear little girl, whose
joy was my only joy, that broke the solemn seal which nothing ought to
have removed from my lips. Indeed, I meant to have taken my woes to
the tomb, as a shroud the more. It was to soothe your anguish that I
spoke.--God will forgive me!

“Oh! if my life were to be your life, what would I not do? Men, the
world, Fate, Nature, God Himself, I believe, make us pay for love
with the most cruel grief. I must pay for ten years of happiness and
twenty-four years of despair, of ceaseless sorrow, of bitterness--”

“But you had ten years, dear mamma, and I have had but three!” said the
self-absorbed girl.

“Nothing is lost yet,” said Adeline. “Only wait till Wenceslas comes.”

“Mother,” said she, “he lied, he deceived me. He said, ‘I will not go,’
and he went. And that over his child’s cradle.”

“For pleasure, my child, men will commit the most cowardly, the most
infamous actions--even crimes; it lies in their nature, it would seem.
We wives are set apart for sacrifice. I believed my troubles were ended,
and they are beginning again, for I never thought to suffer doubly by
suffering with my child. Courage--and silence!--My Hortense, swear that
you will never discuss your griefs with anybody but me, never let them
be suspected by any third person. Oh! be as proud as your mother has
been.”

Hortense started; she had heard her husband’s step.

“So it would seem,” said Wenceslas, as he came in, “that Stidmann has
been here while I went to see him.”

“Indeed!” said Hortense, with the angry irony of an offended woman who
uses words to stab.

“Certainly,” said Wenceslas, affecting surprise. “We have just met.”

“And yesterday?”

“Well, yesterday I deceived you, my darling love; and your mother shall
judge between us.”

This candor unlocked his wife’s heart. All really lofty women like the
truth better than lies. They cannot bear to see their idol smirched;
they want to be proud of the despotism they bow to.

There is a strain of this feeling in the devotion of the Russians to
their Czar.

“Now, listen, dear mother,” Wenceslas went on. “I so truly love my sweet
and kind Hortense, that I concealed from her the extent of our poverty.
What could I do? She was still nursing the boy, and such troubles would
have done her harm; you know what the risk is for a woman. Her beauty,
youth, and health are imperiled. Did I do wrong?--She believes that we
owe five thousand francs; but I owe five thousand more. The day before
yesterday we were in the depths! No one on earth will lend to us
artists. Our talents are not less untrustworthy than our whims. I
knocked in vain at every door. Lisbeth, indeed, offered us her savings.”

“Poor soul!” said Hortense.

“Poor soul!” said the Baroness.

“But what are Lisbeth’s two thousand francs? Everything to her, nothing
to us.--Then, as you know, Hortense, she spoke to us of Madame Marneffe,
who, as she owes so much to the Baron, out of a sense of honor,
will take no interest. Hortense wanted to send her diamonds to the
Mont-de-Piete; they would have brought in a few thousand francs, but we
needed ten thousand. Those ten thousand francs were to be had free
of interest for a year!--I said to myself, ‘Hortense will be none the
wiser; I will go and get them.’

“Then the woman asked me to dinner through my father-in-law, giving me
to understand that Lisbeth had spoken of the matter, and I should have
the money. Between Hortense’s despair on one hand, and the dinner on the
other, I could not hesitate.--That is all.

“What! could Hortense, at four-and-twenty, lovely, pure, and virtuous,
and all my pride and glory, imagine that, when I have never left her
since we married, I could now prefer--what?--a tawny, painted, ruddled
creature?” said he, using the vulgar exaggeration of the studio to
convince his wife by the vehemence that women like.

“Oh! if only your father had ever spoken so----!” cried the Baroness.

Hortense threw her arms round her husband’s neck.

“Yes, that is what I should have done,” said her mother. “Wenceslas,
my dear fellow, your wife was near dying of it,” she went on very
seriously. “You see how well she loves you. And, alas--she is yours!”

She sighed deeply.

“He may make a martyr of her, or a happy woman,” thought she to herself,
as every mother thinks when she sees her daughter married.--“It seems
to me,” she said aloud, “that I am miserable enough to hope to see my
children happy.”

“Be quite easy, dear mamma,” said Wenceslas, only too glad to see this
critical moment end happily. “In two months I shall have repaid that
dreadful woman. How could I help it,” he went on, repeating this
essentially Polish excuse with a Pole’s grace; “there are times when a
man would borrow of the Devil.--And, after all, the money belongs to the
family. When once she had invited me, should I have got the money at all
if I had responded to her civility with a rude refusal?”

“Oh, mamma, what mischief papa is bringing on us!” cried Hortense.

The Baroness laid her finger on her daughter’s lips, aggrieved by
this complaint, the first blame she had ever uttered of a father so
heroically screened by her mother’s magnanimous silence.

“Now, good-bye, my children,” said Madame Hulot. “The storm is over. But
do not quarrel any more.”

When Wenceslas and his wife returned to their room after letting out the
Baroness, Hortense said to her husband:

“Tell me all about last evening.”

And she watched his face all through the narrative, interrupting him
by the questions that crowd on a wife’s mind in such circumstances.
The story made Hortense reflect; she had a glimpse of the infernal
dissipation which an artist must find in such vicious company.

“Be honest, my Wenceslas; Stidmann was there, Claude Vignon,
Vernisset.--Who else? In short, it was good fun?”

“I, I was thinking of nothing but our ten thousand francs, and I was
saying to myself, ‘My Hortense will be freed from anxiety.’”

This catechism bored the Livonian excessively; he seized a gayer moment
to say:

“And you, my dearest, what would you have done if your artist had proved
guilty?”

“I,” said she, with an air of prompt decision, “I should have taken up
Stidmann--not that I love him, of course!”

“Hortense!” cried Steinbock, starting to his feet with a sudden and
theatrical emphasis. “You would not have had the chance--I would have
killed you!”

Hortense threw herself into his arms, clasping him closely enough to
stifle him, and covered him with kisses, saying:

“Ah, you do love me! I fear nothing!--But no more Marneffe. Never go
plunging into such horrible bogs.”

“I swear to you, my dear Hortense, that I will go there no more,
excepting to redeem my note of hand.”

She pouted at this, but only as a loving woman sulks to get something
for it. Wenceslas, tired out with such a morning’s work, went off to his
studio to make a clay sketch of the _Samson and Delilah_, for which he
had the drawings in his pocket.

Hortense, penitent for her little temper, and fancying that her husband
was annoyed with her, went to the studio just as the sculptor had
finished handling the clay with the impetuosity that spurs an artist
when the mood is on him. On seeing his wife, Wenceslas hastily threw the
wet wrapper over the group, and putting both arms round her, he said:

“We were not really angry, were we, my pretty puss?”

Hortense had caught sight of the group, had seen the linen thrown over
it, and had said nothing; but as she was leaving, she took off the rag,
looked at the model, and asked:

“What is that?”

“A group for which I had just had an idea.”

“And why did you hide it?”

“I did not mean you to see it till it was finished.”

“The woman is very pretty,” said Hortense.

And a thousand suspicions cropped up in her mind, as, in India, tall,
rank plants spring up in a night-time.



By the end of three weeks, Madame Marneffe was intensely irritated by
Hortense. Women of that stamp have a pride of their own; they insist
that men shall kiss the devil’s hoof; they have no forgiveness for the
virtue that does not quail before their dominion, or that even holds its
own against them. Now, in all that time Wenceslas had not paid one visit
in the Rue Vanneau, not even that which politeness required to a woman
who had sat for Delilah.

Whenever Lisbeth called on the Steinbocks, there had been nobody at
home. Monsieur and madame lived in the studio. Lisbeth, following the
turtle doves to their nest at le Gros-Caillou, found Wenceslas hard at
work, and was informed by the cook that madame never left monsieur’s
side. Wenceslas was a slave to the autocracy of love. So now Valerie, on
her own account, took part with Lisbeth in her hatred of Hortense.

Women cling to a lover that another woman is fighting for, just as
much as men do to women round whom many coxcombs are buzzing. Thus any
reflections _a propos_ to Madame Marneffe are equally applicable to any
lady-killing rake; he is, in fact, a sort of male courtesan. Valerie’s
last fancy was a madness; above all, she was bent on getting her
group; she was even thinking of going one morning to the studio to see
Wenceslas, when a serious incident arose of the kind which, to a woman
of that class, may be called the spoil of war.

This is how Valerie announced this wholly personal event.

She was breakfasting with Lisbeth and her husband.

“I say, Marneffe, what would you say to being a second time a father?”

“You don’t mean it--a baby?--Oh, let me kiss you!”

He rose and went round the table; his wife held up her head so that he
could just kiss her hair.

“If that is so,” he went on, “I am head-clerk and officer of the Legion
of Honor at once. But you must understand, my dear, Stanislas is not to
be the sufferer, poor little man.”

“Poor little man?” Lisbeth put in. “You have not set your eyes on him
these seven months. I am supposed to be his mother at the school; I am
the only person in the house who takes any trouble about him.”

“A brat that costs us a hundred crowns a quarter!” said Valerie. “And
he, at any rate, is your own child, Marneffe. You ought to pay for his
schooling out of your salary.--The newcomer, far from reminding us of
butcher’s bills, will rescue us from want.”

“Valerie,” replied Marneffe, assuming an attitude like Crevel, “I hope
that Monsieur le Baron Hulot will take proper charge of his son, and
not lay the burden on a poor clerk. I intend to keep him well up to the
mark. So take the necessary steps, madame! Get him to write you letters
in which he alludes to his satisfaction, for he is rather backward in
coming forward in regard to my appointment.”

And Marneffe went away to the office, where his chief’s precious
leniency allowed him to come in at about eleven o’clock. And, indeed,
he did little enough, for his incapacity was notorious, and he detested
work.

No sooner were they alone than Lisbeth and Valerie looked at each other
for a moment like Augurs, and both together burst into a loud fit of
laughter.

“I say, Valerie--is it the fact?” said Lisbeth, “or merely a farce?”

“It is a physical fact!” replied Valerie. “Now, I am sick and tired
of Hortense; and it occurred to me in the night that I might fire this
infant, like a bomb, into the Steinbock household.”

Valerie went back to her room, followed by Lisbeth, to whom she showed
the following letter:--

  “WENCESLAS MY DEAR,--I still believe in your love, though it is
  nearly three weeks since I saw you. Is this scorn? Delilah can
  scarcely believe that. Does it not rather result from the tyranny
  of a woman whom, as you told me, you can no longer love?
  Wenceslas, you are too great an artist to submit to such dominion.
  Home is the grave of glory.--Consider now, are you the Wenceslas
  of the Rue du Doyenne? You missed fire with my father’s statue;
  but in you the lover is greater than the artist, and you have had
  better luck with his daughter. You are a father, my beloved
  Wenceslas.

  “If you do not come to me in the state I am in, your friends would
  think very badly of you. But I love you so madly, that I feel I
  should never have the strength to curse you. May I sign myself as
  ever,

  “YOUR VALERIE.”


“What do you say to my scheme for sending this note to the studio at a
time when our dear Hortense is there by herself?” asked Valerie. “Last
evening I heard from Stidmann that Wenceslas is to pick him up at eleven
this morning to go on business to Chanor’s; so that gawk Hortense will
be there alone.”

“But after such a trick as that,” replied Lisbeth, “I cannot continue to
be your friend in the eyes of the world; I shall have to break with you,
to be supposed never to visit you, or even to speak to you.”

“Evidently,” said Valerie; “but--”

“Oh! be quite easy,” interrupted Lisbeth; “we shall often meet when I am
Madame la Marechale. They are all set upon it now. Only the Baron is in
ignorance of the plan, but you can talk him over.”

“Well,” said Valerie, “but it is quite likely that the Baron and I may
be on distant terms before long.”

“Madame Olivier is the only person who can make Hortense demand to
see the letter,” said Lisbeth. “And you must send her to the Rue
Saint-Dominique before she goes on to the studio.”

“Our beauty will be at home, no doubt,” said Valerie, ringing for Reine
to call up Madame Olivier.

Ten minutes after the despatch of this fateful letter, Baron Hulot
arrived. Madame Marneffe threw her arms round the old man’s neck with
kittenish impetuosity.

“Hector, you are a father!” she said in his ear. “That is what comes of
quarreling and making friends again----”

Perceiving a look of surprise, which the Baron did not at once conceal,
Valerie assumed a reserve which brought the old man to despair. She made
him wring the proofs from her one by one. When conviction, led on
by vanity, had at last entered his mind, she enlarged on Monsieur
Marneffe’s wrath.

“My dear old veteran,” said she, “you can hardly avoid getting your
responsible editor, our representative partner if you like, appointed
head-clerk and officer of the Legion of Honor, for you really have done
for the poor man, he adores his Stanislas, the little monstrosity who is
so like him, that to me he is insufferable. Unless you prefer to settle
twelve hundred francs a year on Stanislas--the capital to be his, and
the life-interest payable to me, of course--”

“But if I am to settle securities, I would rather it should be on my own
son, and not on the monstrosity,” said the Baron.

This rash speech, in which the words “my own son” came out as full as
a river in flood, was, by the end of the hour, ratified as a formal
promise to settle twelve hundred francs a year on the future boy. And
this promise became, on Valerie’s tongue and in her countenance, what
a drum is in the hands of a child; for three weeks she played on it
incessantly.

At the moment when Baron Hulot was leaving the Rue Vanneau, as happy
as a man who after a year of married life still desires an heir,
Madame Olivier had yielded to Hortense, and given up the note she was
instructed to give only into the Count’s own hands. The young wife paid
twenty francs for that letter. The wretch who commits suicide must pay
for the opium, the pistol, the charcoal.

Hortense read and re-read the note; she saw nothing but this sheet of
white paper streaked with black lines; the universe held for her
nothing but that paper; everything was dark around her. The glare of the
conflagration that was consuming the edifice of her happiness lighted
up the page, for blackest night enfolded her. The shouts of her little
Wenceslas at play fell on her ear, as if he had been in the depths of a
valley and she on a high mountain. Thus insulted at four-and-twenty, in
all the splendor of her beauty, enhanced by pure and devoted love--it
was not a stab, it was death. The first shock had been merely on the
nerves, the physical frame had struggled in the grip of jealousy; but
now certainty had seized her soul, her body was unconscious.

For about ten minutes Hortense sat under the incubus of this oppression.
Then a vision of her mother appeared before her, and revulsion ensued;
she was calm and cool, and mistress of her reason.

She rang.

“Get Louise to help you, child,” said she to the cook. “As quickly as
you can, pack up everything that belongs to me and everything wanted for
the little boy. I give you an hour. When all is ready, fetch a hackney
coach from the stand, and call me.

“Make no remarks! I am leaving the house, and shall take Louise with me.
You must stay here with monsieur; take good care of him----”

She went into her room, and wrote the following letter:--

  “MONSIEUR LE COMTE,--

  “The letter I enclose will sufficiently account for the
  determination I have come to.

  “When you read this, I shall have left your house and have found
  refuge with my mother, taking our child with me.

  “Do not imagine that I shall retrace my steps. Do not imagine that
  I am acting with the rash haste of youth, without reflection, with
  the anger of offended affection; you will be greatly mistaken.

  “I have been thinking very deeply during the last fortnight of
  life, of love, of our marriage, of our duties to each other. I
  have known the perfect devotion of my mother; she has told me all
  her sorrows! She has been heroical--every day for twenty-three
  years. But I have not the strength to imitate her, not because I
  love you less than she loves my father, but for reasons of spirit
  and nature. Our home would be a hell; I might lose my head so far
  as to disgrace you--disgrace myself and our child.

  “I refuse to be a Madame Marneffe; once launched on such a course,
  a woman of my temper might not, perhaps, be able to stop. I am,
  unfortunately for myself, a Hulot, not a Fischer.

  “Alone, and absent from the scene of your dissipations, I am sure
  of myself, especially with my child to occupy me, and by the side
  of a strong and noble mother, whose life cannot fail to influence
  the vehement impetuousness of my feelings. There, I can be a good
  mother, bring our boy up well, and live. Under your roof the wife
  would oust the mother; and constant contention would sour my
  temper.

  “I can accept a death-blow, but I will not endure for
  twenty-five years, like my mother. If, at the end of three years of
  perfect, unwavering love, you can be unfaithful to me with your
  father-in-law’s mistress, what rivals may I expect to have in later
  years? Indeed, monsieur, you have begun your career of profligacy
  much earlier than my father did, the life of dissipation, which is
  a disgrace to the father of a family, which undermines the respect
  of his children, and which ends in shame and despair.

  “I am not unforgiving. Unrelenting feelings do not beseem erring
  creatures living under the eye of God. If you win fame and fortune
  by sustained work, if you have nothing to do with courtesans and
  ignoble, defiling ways, you will find me still a wife worthy of
  you.

  “I believe you to be too much a gentleman, Monsieur le Comte, to
  have recourse to the law. You will respect my wishes, and leave me
  under my mother’s roof. Above all, never let me see you there. I
  have left all the money lent to you by that odious woman.--
  Farewell.

  “HORTENSE HULOT.”


This letter was written in anguish. Hortense abandoned herself to the
tears, the outcries of murdered love. She laid down her pen and took
it up again, to express as simply as possible all that passion commonly
proclaims in this sort of testamentary letter. Her heart went forth in
exclamations, wailing and weeping; but reason dictated the words.

Informed by Louise that all was ready, the young wife slowly went round
the little garden, through the bedroom and drawing-room, looking at
everything for the last time. Then she earnestly enjoined the cook to
take the greatest care for her master’s comfort, promising to reward
her handsomely if she would be honest. At last she got into the hackney
coach to drive to her mother’s house, her heart quite broken, crying so
much as to distress the maid, and covering little Wenceslas with kisses,
which betrayed her still unfailing love for his father.

The Baroness knew already from Lisbeth that the father-in-law was
largely to blame for the son-in-law’s fault; nor was she surprised to
see her daughter, whose conduct she approved, and she consented to give
her shelter. Adeline, perceiving that her own gentleness and patience
had never checked Hector, for whom her respect was indeed fast
diminishing, thought her daughter very right to adopt another course.

In three weeks the poor mother had suffered two wounds of which the pain
was greater than any ill-fortune she had hitherto endured. The Baron
had placed Victorin and his wife in great difficulties; and then, by
Lisbeth’s account, he was the cause of his son-in-law’s misconduct, and
had corrupted Wenceslas. The dignity of the father of the family, so
long upheld by her really foolish self-sacrifice, was now overthrown.
Though they did not regret the money the young Hulots were full alike of
doubts and uneasiness as regarded the Baron. This sentiment, which was
evidence enough, distressed the Baroness; she foresaw a break-up of the
family tie.

Hortense was accommodated in the dining-room, arranged as a bedroom
with the help of the Marshal’s money, and the anteroom became the
dining-room, as it is in many apartments.



When Wenceslas returned home and had read the two letters, he felt
a kind of gladness mingled with regret. Kept so constantly under his
wife’s eye, so to speak, he had inwardly rebelled against this fresh
thraldom, _a la_ Lisbeth. Full fed with love for three years past, he
too had been reflecting during the last fortnight; and he found a family
heavy on his hands. He had just been congratulated by Stidmann on the
passion he had inspired in Valerie; for Stidmann, with an under-thought
that was not unnatural, saw that he might flatter the husband’s vanity
in the hope of consoling the victim. And Wenceslas was glad to be able
to return to Madame Marneffe.

Still, he remembered the pure and unsullied happiness he had known,
the perfections of his wife, her judgment, her innocent and guileless
affection,--and he regretted her acutely. He thought of going at once to
his mother-in-law’s to crave forgiveness; but, in fact, like Hulot and
Crevel, he went to Madame Marneffe, to whom he carried his wife’s
letter to show her what a disaster she had caused, and to discount
his misfortune, so to speak, by claiming in return the pleasures his
mistress could give him.

He found Crevel with Valerie. The mayor, puffed up with pride, marched
up and down the room, agitated by a storm of feelings. He put himself
into position as if he were about to speak, but he dared not. His
countenance was beaming, and he went now and again to the window, where
he drummed on the pane with his fingers. He kept looking at Valerie with
a glance of tender pathos. Happily for him, Lisbeth presently came in.

“Cousin Betty,” he said in her ear, “have you heard the news? I am a
father! It seems to me I love my poor Celestine the less.--Oh! what
a thing it is to have a child by the woman one idolizes! It is the
fatherhood of the heart added to that of the flesh! I say--tell Valerie
that I will work for that child--it shall be rich. She tells me she has
some reason for believing that it will be a boy! If it is a boy, I shall
insist on his being called Crevel. I will consult my notary about it.”

“I know how much she loves you,” said Lisbeth. “But for her sake in the
future, and for your own, control yourself. Do not rub your hands every
five minutes.”

While Lisbeth was speaking aside on this wise to Crevel, Valerie had
asked Wenceslas to give her back her letter, and she was saying things
that dispelled all his griefs.

“So now you are free, my dear,” said she. “Ought any great artist to
marry? You live only by fancy and freedom! There, I shall love you so
much, beloved poet, that you shall never regret your wife. At the
same time, if, like so many people, you want to keep up appearances, I
undertake to bring Hortense back to you in a very short time.”

“Oh, if only that were possible!”

“I am certain of it,” said Valerie, nettled. “Your poor father-in-law
is a man who is in every way utterly done for; who wants to appear as
though he could be loved, out of conceit, and to make the world believe
that he has a mistress; and he is so excessively vain on this point,
that I can do what I please with him. The Baroness is still so
devoted to her old Hector--I always feel as if I were talking of the
_Iliad_--that these two old folks will contrive to patch up matters
between you and Hortense. Only, if you want to avoid storms at home for
the future, do not leave me for three weeks without coming to see your
mistress--I was dying of it. My dear boy, some consideration is due from
a gentleman to a woman he has so deeply compromised, especially when, as
in my case, she has to be very careful of her reputation.

“Stay to dinner, my darling--and remember that I must treat you with all
the more apparent coldness because you are guilty of this too obvious
mishap.”

Baron Montes was presently announced; Valerie rose and hurried forward
to meet him; she spoke a few sentences in his ear, enjoining on him the
same reserve as she had impressed on Wenceslas; the Brazilian assumed
a diplomatic reticence suitable to the great news which filled him with
delight, for he, at any rate was sure of his paternity.

Thanks to these tactics, based on the vanity of the man in the lover
stage of his existence, Valerie sat down to table with four men, all
pleased and eager to please, all charmed, and each believing himself
adored; called by Marneffe, who included himself, in speaking to
Lisbeth, the five Fathers of the Church.

Baron Hulot alone at first showed an anxious countenance, and this was
why. Just as he was leaving the office, the head of the staff of clerks
had come to his private room--a General with whom he had served for
thirty years--and Hulot had spoken to him as to appointing Marneffe to
Coquet’s place, Coquet having consented to retire.

“My dear fellow,” said he, “I would not ask this favor of the Prince
without our having agreed on the matter, and knowing that you approved.”

“My good friend,” replied the other, “you must allow me to observe that,
for your own sake, you should not insist on this nomination. I have
already told you my opinion. There would be a scandal in the office,
where there is a great deal too much talk already about you and Madame
Marneffe. This, of course, is between ourselves. I have no wish to touch
you on a sensitive spot, or disoblige you in any way, and I will prove
it. If you are determined to get Monsieur Coquet’s place, and he will
really be a loss in the War Office, for he has been here since 1809, I
will go into the country for a fortnight, so as to leave the field open
between you and the Marshal, who loves you as a son. Then I shall
take neither part, and shall have nothing on my conscience as an
administrator.”

“Thank you very much,” said Hulot. “I will reflect on what you have
said.”

“In allowing myself to say so much, my dear friend, it is because your
personal interest is far more deeply implicated than any concern or
vanity of mine. In the first place, the matter lies entirely with the
Marshal. And then, my good fellow, we are blamed for so many things,
that one more or less! We are not at the maiden stage in our experience
of fault-finding. Under the Restoration, men were put in simply to give
them places, without any regard for the office.--We are old friends----”

“Yes,” the Baron put in; “and it is in order not to impair our old and
valued friendship that I--”

“Well, well,” said the departmental manager, seeing Hulot’s face clouded
with embarrassment, “I will take myself off, old fellow.--But I warn
you! you have enemies--that is to say, men who covet your splendid
appointment, and you have but one anchor out. Now if, like me, you were
a Deputy, you would have nothing to fear; so mind what you are about.”

This speech, in the most friendly spirit, made a deep impression on the
Councillor of State.

“But, after all, Roger, what is it that is wrong? Do not make any
mysteries with me.”

The individual addressed as Roger looked at Hulot, took his hand, and
pressed it.

“We are such old friends, that I am bound to give you warning. If you
want to keep your place, you must make a bed for yourself, and instead
of asking the Marshal to give Coquet’s place to Marneffe, in your place
I would beg him to use his influence to reserve a seat for me on the
General Council of State; there you may die in peace, and, like the
beaver, abandon all else to the pursuers.”

“What, do you think the Marshal would forget--”

“The Marshal has already taken your part so warmly at a General Meeting
of the Ministers, that you will not now be turned out; but it was
seriously discussed! So give them no excuse. I can say no more. At this
moment you may make your own terms; you may sit on the Council of State
and be made a Peer of the Chamber. If you delay too long, if you give
any one a hold against you, I can answer for nothing.--Now, am I to go?”

“Wait a little. I will see the Marshal,” replied Hulot, “and I will send
my brother to see which way the wind blows at headquarters.”

The humor in which the Baron came back to Madame Marneffe’s may be
imagined; he had almost forgotten his fatherhood, for Roger had taken
the part of a true and kind friend in explaining the position. At
the same time Valerie’s influence was so great that, by the middle
of dinner, the Baron was tuned up to the pitch, and was all the more
cheerful for having unwonted anxieties to conceal; but the hapless
man was not yet aware that in the course of that evening he would find
himself in a cleft stick, between his happiness and the danger pointed
out by his friend--compelled, in short, to choose between Madame
Marneffe and his official position.

At eleven o’clock, when the evening was at its gayest, for the room was
full of company, Valerie drew Hector into a corner of her sofa.

“My dear old boy,” said she, “your daughter is so annoyed at knowing
that Wenceslas comes here, that she has left him ‘planted.’ Hortense is
wrong-headed. Ask Wenceslas to show you the letter the little fool has
written to him.

“This division of two lovers, of which I am reputed to be the cause, may
do me the greatest harm, for this is how virtuous women undermine each
other. It is disgraceful to pose as a victim in order to cast the blame
on a woman whose only crime is that she keeps a pleasant house. If
you love me, you will clear my character by reconciling the sweet
turtle-doves.

“I do not in the least care about your son-in-law’s visits; you brought
him here--take him away again! If you have any authority in your family,
it seems to me that you may very well insist on your wife’s patching up
this squabble. Tell the worthy old lady from me, that if I am unjustly
charged with having caused a young couple to quarrel, with upsetting the
unity of a family, and annexing both the father and the son-in-law, I
will deserve my reputation by annoying them in my own way! Why, here is
Lisbeth talking of throwing me over! She prefers to stick to her family,
and I cannot blame her for it. She will throw me over, says she, unless
the young people make friends again. A pretty state of things! Our
expenses here will be trebled!”

“Oh, as for that!” said the Baron, on hearing of his daughter’s strong
measures, “I will have no nonsense of that kind.”

“Very well,” said Valerie. “And now for the next thing.--What about
Coquet’s place?”

“That,” said Hector, looking away, “is more difficult, not to say
impossible.”

“Impossible, my dear Hector?” said Madame Marneffe in the Baron’s ear.
“But you do not know to what lengths Marneffe will go. I am completely
in his power; he is immoral for his own gratification, like most men,
but he is excessively vindictive, like all weak and impotent natures. In
the position to which you have reduced me, I am in his power. I am
bound to be on terms with him for a few days, and he is quite capable of
refusing to leave my room any more.”

Hulot started with horror.

“He would leave me alone on condition of being head-clerk. It is
abominable--but logical.”

“Valerie, do you love me?”

“In the state in which I am, my dear, the question is the meanest
insult.”

“Well, then--if I were to attempt, merely to attempt, to ask the Prince
for a place for Marneffe, I should be done for, and Marneffe would be
turned out.”

“I thought that you and the Prince were such intimate friends.”

“We are, and he has amply proved it; but, my child, there is authority
above the Marshal’s--for instance, the whole Council of Ministers. With
time and a little tacking, we shall get there. But, to succeed, I must
wait till the moment when some service is required of me. Then I can say
one good turn deserves another--”

“If I tell Marneffe this tale, my poor Hector, he will play us some
mean trick. You must tell him yourself that he has to wait. I will not
undertake to do so. Oh! I know what my fate would be. He knows how to
punish me! He will henceforth share my room----

“Do not forget to settle the twelve hundred francs a year on the little
one!”

Hulot, seeing his pleasures in danger, took Monsieur Marneffe aside, and
for the first time derogated from the haughty tone he had always
assumed towards him, so greatly was he horrified by the thought of that
half-dead creature in his pretty young wife’s bedroom.

“Marneffe, my dear fellow,” said he, “I have been talking of you to-day.
But you cannot be promoted to the first class just yet. We must have
time.”

“I will be, Monsieur le Baron,” said Marneffe shortly.

“But, my dear fellow--”

“I _will_ be, Monsieur le Baron,” Marneffe coldly repeated, looking
alternately at the Baron and at Valerie. “You have placed my wife in a
position that necessitates her making up her differences with me, and I
mean to keep her; for, _my dear fellow_, she is a charming creature,” he
added, with crushing irony. “I am master here--more than you are at the
War Office.”

The Baron felt one of those pangs of fury which have the effect, in the
heart, of a fit of raging toothache, and he could hardly conceal the
tears in his eyes.

During this little scene, Valerie had been explaining Marneffe’s
imaginary determination to Montes, and thus had rid herself of him for a
time.

Of her four adherents, Crevel alone was exempted from the rule--Crevel,
the master of the little “bijou” apartment; and he displayed on his
countenance an air of really insolent beatitude, notwithstanding
the wordless reproofs administered by Valerie in frowns and meaning
grimaces. His triumphant paternity beamed in every feature.

When Valerie was whispering a word of correction in his ear, he snatched
her hand, and put in:

“To-morrow, my Duchess, you shall have your own little house! The papers
are to be signed to-morrow.”

“And the furniture?” said she, with a smile.

“I have a thousand shares in the Versailles _rive gauche_ railway. I
bought them at twenty-five, and they will go up to three hundred in
consequence of the amalgamation of the two lines, which is a secret told
to me. You shall have furniture fit for a queen. But then you will be
mine alone henceforth?”

“Yes, burly Maire,” said this middle-class Madame de Merteuil. “But
behave yourself; respect the future Madame Crevel.”

“My dear cousin,” Lisbeth was saying to the Baron, “I shall go to
see Adeline early to-morrow; for, as you must see, I cannot, with any
decency, remain here. I will go and keep house for your brother the
Marshal.”

“I am going home this evening,” said Hulot.

“Very well, you will see me at breakfast to-morrow,” said Lisbeth,
smiling.

She understood that her presence would be necessary at the family scene
that would take place on the morrow. And the very first thing in the
morning she went to see Victorin and to tell him that Hortense and
Wenceslas had parted.

When the Baron went home at half-past ten, Mariette and Louise, who had
had a hard day, were locking up the apartment. Hulot had not to ring.

Very much put out at this compulsory virtue, the husband went straight
to his wife’s room, and through the half-open door he saw her kneeling
before her Crucifix, absorbed in prayer, in one of those attitudes
which make the fortune of the painter or the sculptor who is so happy
to invent and then to express them. Adeline, carried away by her
enthusiasm, was praying aloud:

“O God, have mercy and enlighten him!”

The Baroness was praying for her Hector.

At this sight, so unlike what he had just left, and on hearing this
petition founded on the events of the day, the Baron heaved a sigh of
deep emotion. Adeline looked round, her face drowned in tears. She was
so convinced that her prayer had been heard, that, with one spring, she
threw her arms round Hector with the impetuosity of happy affection.
Adeline had given up all a wife’s instincts; sorrow had effaced even the
memory of them. No feeling survived in her but those of motherhood,
of the family honor, and the pure attachment of a Christian wife for a
husband who has gone astray--the saintly tenderness which survives all
else in a woman’s soul.

“Hector!” she said, “are you come back to us? Has God taken pity on our
family?”

“Dear Adeline,” replied the Baron, coming in and seating his wife by his
side on a couch, “you are the saintliest creature I ever knew; I have
long known myself to be unworthy of you.”

“You would have very little to do, my dear,” said she, holding Hulot’s
hand and trembling so violently that it was as though she had a palsy,
“very little to set things in order--”

She dared not proceed; she felt that every word would be a reproof,
and she did not wish to mar the happiness with which this meeting was
inundating her soul.

“It is Hortense who has brought me here,” said Hulot. “That child may
do us far more harm by her hasty proceeding than my absurd passion for
Valerie has ever done. But we will discuss all this to-morrow morning.
Hortense is asleep, Mariette tells me; we will not disturb her.”

“Yes,” said Madame Hulot, suddenly plunged into the depths of grief.

She understood that the Baron’s return was prompted not so much by the
wish to see his family as by some ulterior interest.

“Leave her in peace till to-morrow,” said the mother. “The poor child is
in a deplorable condition; she has been crying all day.”



At nine the next morning, the Baron, awaiting his daughter, whom he had
sent for, was pacing the large, deserted drawing-room, trying to find
arguments by which to conquer the most difficult form of obstinacy
there is to deal with--that of a young wife, offended and implacable, as
blameless youth ever is, in its ignorance of the disgraceful compromises
of the world, of its passions and interests.

“Here I am, papa,” said Hortense in a tremulous voice, and looking pale
from her miseries.

Hulot, sitting down, took his daughter round the waist, and drew her
down to sit on his knee.

“Well, my child,” said he, kissing her forehead, “so there are troubles
at home, and you have been hasty and headstrong? That is not like a
well-bred child. My Hortense ought not to have taken such a decisive
step as that of leaving her house and deserting her husband on her own
account, and without consulting her parents. If my darling girl had come
to see her kind and admirable mother, she would not have given me
this cruel pain I feel!--You do not know the world; it is malignantly
spiteful. People will perhaps say that your husband sent you back to
your parents. Children brought up as you were, on your mother’s
lap, remain artless; maidenly passion like yours for Wenceslas,
unfortunately, makes no allowances; it acts on every impulse. The little
heart is moved, the head follows suit. You would burn down Paris to be
revenged, with no thought of the courts of justice!

“When your old father tells you that you have outraged the proprieties,
you may take his word for it.--I say nothing of the cruel pain you have
given me. It is bitter, I assure you, for you throw all the blame on a
woman of whose heart you know nothing, and whose hostility may become
disastrous. And you, alas! so full of guileless innocence and purity,
can have no suspicions; but you may be vilified and slandered.--Besides,
my darling pet, you have taken a foolish jest too seriously. I can
assure you, on my honor, that your husband is blameless. Madame
Marneffe--”

So far the Baron, artistically diplomatic, had formulated his
remonstrances very judiciously. He had, as may be observed, worked up to
the mention of this name with superior skill; and yet Hortense, as she
heard it, winced as if stung to the quick.

“Listen to me; I have had great experience, and I have seen much,” he
went on, stopping his daughter’s attempt to speak. “That lady is very
cold to your husband. Yes, you have been made the victim of a practical
joke, and I will prove it to you. Yesterday Wenceslas was dining with
her--”

“Dining with her!” cried the young wife, starting to her feet, and
looking at her father with horror in every feature. “Yesterday! After
having had my letter! Oh, great God!--Why did I not take the veil rather
than marry? But now my life is not my own! I have the child!” and she
sobbed.

Her weeping went to Madame Hulot’s heart. She came out of her room
and ran to her daughter, taking her in her arms, and asking her those
questions, stupid with grief, which first rose to her lips.

“Now we have tears,” said the Baron to himself, “and all was going so
well! What is to be done with women who cry?”

“My child,” said the Baroness, “listen to your father! He loves us
all--come, come--”

“Come, Hortense, my dear little girl, cry no more, you make yourself too
ugly!” said the Baron, “Now, be a little reasonable. Go sensibly home,
and I promise you that Wenceslas shall never set foot in that woman’s
house. I ask you to make the sacrifice, if it is a sacrifice to forgive
the husband you love so small a fault. I ask you--for the sake of my
gray hairs, and of the love you owe your mother. You do not want to
blight my later years with bitterness and regret?”

Hortense fell at her father’s feet like a crazed thing, with the
vehemence of despair; her hair, loosely pinned up, fell about her, and
she held out her hands with an expression that painted her misery.

“Father,” she said, “ask my life! Take it if you will, but at least take
it pure and spotless, and I will yield it up gladly. Do not ask me to
die in dishonor and crime. I am not at all like my husband; I cannot
swallow an outrage. If I went back under my husband’s roof, I should be
capable of smothering him in a fit of jealousy--or of doing worse! Do no
exact from me a thing that is beyond my powers. Do not have to mourn for
me still living, for the least that can befall me is to go mad. I feel
madness close upon me!

“Yesterday, yesterday, he could dine with that woman, after having read
my letter?--Are other men made so? My life I give you, but do not let my
death be ignominious!--His fault?--A small one! When he has a child by
that woman!”

“A child!” cried Hulot, starting back a step or two. “Come. This is
really some fooling.”

At this juncture Victorin and Lisbeth arrived, and stood dumfounded
at the scene. The daughter was prostrate at her father’s feet. The
Baroness, speechless between her maternal feelings and her conjugal
duty, showed a harassed face bathed in tears.

“Lisbeth,” said the Baron, seizing his cousin by the hand and pointing
to Hortense, “you can help me here. My poor child’s brain is turned; she
believes that her Wenceslas is Madame Marneffe’s lover, while all that
Valerie wanted was to have a group by him.”

“_Delilah_!” cried the young wife. “The only thing he has done since
our marriage. The man would not work for me or for his son, and he has
worked with frenzy for that good-for-nothing creature.--Oh, father, kill
me outright, for every word stabs like a knife!”

Lisbeth turned to the Baroness and Victorin, pointing with a pitying
shrug to the Baron, who could not see her.

“Listen to me,” said she to him. “I had no idea--when you asked me to go
to lodge over Madame Marneffe and keep house for her--I had no idea
of what she was; but many things may be learned in three years. That
creature is a prostitute, and one whose depravity can only be compared
with that of her infamous and horrible husband. You are the dupe, my
lord pot-boiler, of those people; you will be led further by them than
you dream of! I speak plainly, for you are at the bottom of a pit.”

The Baroness and her daughter, hearing Lisbeth speak in this style, cast
adoring looks at her, such as the devout cast at a Madonna for having
saved their life.

“That horrible woman was bent on destroying your son-in-law’s home.
To what end?--I know not. My brain is not equal to seeing clearly into
these dark intrigues--perverse, ignoble, infamous! Your Madame Marneffe
does not love your son-in-law, but she will have him at her feet out of
revenge. I have just spoken to the wretched woman as she deserves. She
is a shameless courtesan; I have told her that I am leaving her house,
that I would not have my honor smirched in that muck-heap.--I owe myself
to my family before all else.

“I knew that Hortense had left her husband, so here I am. Your
Valerie, whom you believe to be a saint, is the cause of this miserable
separation; can I remain with such a woman? Our poor little Hortense,”
 said she, touching the Baron’s arm, with peculiar meaning, “is perhaps
the dupe of a wish of such women as these, who, to possess a toy, would
sacrifice a family.

“I do not think Wenceslas guilty; but I think him weak, and I cannot
promise that he will not yield to her refinements of temptation.--My
mind is made up. The woman is fatal to you; she will bring you all to
utter ruin. I will not even seem to be concerned in the destruction of
my own family, after living there for three years solely to hinder it.

“You are cheated, Baron; say very positively that you will have nothing
to say to the promotion of that dreadful Marneffe, and you will see
then! There is a fine rod in pickle for you in that case.”

Lisbeth lifted up Hortense and kissed her enthusiastically.

“My dear Hortense, stand firm,” she whispered.

The Baroness embraced Lisbeth with the vehemence of a woman who sees
herself avenged. The whole family stood in perfect silence round the
father, who had wit enough to know what that silence implied. A storm
of fury swept across his brow and face with evident signs; the veins
swelled, his eyes were bloodshot, his flesh showed patches of color.
Adeline fell on her knees before him and seized his hands.

“My dear, forgive, my dear!”

“You loathe me!” cried the Baron--the cry of his conscience.

For we all know the secret of our own wrong-doing. We almost always
ascribe to our victims the hateful feelings which must fill them with
the hope of revenge; and in spite of every effort of hypocrisy, our
tongue or our face makes confession under the rack of some unexpected
anguish, as the criminal of old confessed under the hands of the
torturer.

“Our children,” he went on, to retract the avowal, “turn at last to be
our enemies--”

“Father!” Victorin began.

“You dare to interrupt your father!” said the Baron in a voice of
thunder, glaring at his son.

“Father, listen to me,” Victorin went on in a clear, firm voice, the
voice of a puritanical deputy. “I know the respect I owe you too well
ever to fail in it, and you will always find me the most respectful and
submissive of sons.”

Those who are in the habit of attending the sittings of the Chamber
will recognize the tactics of parliamentary warfare in these fine-drawn
phrases, used to calm the factions while gaining time.

“We are far from being your enemies,” his son went on. “I have quarreled
with my father-in-law, Monsieur Crevel, for having rescued your notes of
hand for sixty thousand francs from Vauvinet, and that money is, beyond
doubt, in Madame Marneffe’s pocket.--I am not finding fault with you,
father,” said he, in reply to an impatient gesture of the Baron’s; “I
simply wish to add my protest to my cousin Lisbeth’s, and to point
out to you that though my devotion to you as a father is blind and
unlimited, my dear father, our pecuniary resources, unfortunately, are
very limited.”

“Money!” cried the excitable old man, dropping on to a chair, quite
crushed by this argument. “From my son!--You shall be repaid your money,
sir,” said he, rising, and he went to the door.

“Hector!”

At this cry the Baron turned round, suddenly showing his wife a face
bathed in tears; she threw her arms round him with the strength of
despair.

“Do not leave us thus--do not go away in anger. I have not said a
word--not I!”

At this heart-wrung speech the children fell at their father’s feet.

“We all love you,” said Hortense.

Lisbeth, as rigid as a statue, watched the group with a superior smile
on her lips. Just then Marshal Hulot’s voice was heard in the anteroom.
The family all felt the importance of secrecy, and the scene suddenly
changed. The young people rose, and every one tried to hide all traces
of emotion.

A discussion was going on at the door between Mariette and a soldier,
who was so persistent that the cook came in.

“Monsieur, a regimental quartermaster, who says he is just come from
Algiers, insists on seeing you.”

“Tell him to wait.”

“Monsieur,” said Mariette to her master in an undertone, “he told me to
tell you privately that it has to do with your uncle there.”

The Baron started; he believed that the funds had been sent at last
which he had been asking for these two months, to pay up his bills; he
left the family-party, and hurried out to the anteroom.

“You are Monsieur de Paron Hulot?”

“Yes.”

“Your own self?”

“My own self.”

The man, who had been fumbling meanwhile in the lining of his cap, drew
out a letter, of which the Baron hastily broke the seal, and read as
follows:--

  “DEAR NEPHEW,--Far from being able to send you the hundred
  thousand francs you ask of me, my present position is not tenable
  unless you can take some decisive steps to save me. We are saddled
  with a public prosecutor who talks goody, and rhodomontades
  nonsense about the management. It is impossible to get the
  black-chokered pump to hold his tongue. If the War Minister allows
  civilians to feed out of his hand, I am done for. I can trust the
  bearer; try to get him promoted; he has done us good service. Do
  not abandon me to the crows!”

This letter was a thunderbolt; the Baron could read in it the intestine
warfare between civil and military authorities, which to this day
hampers the Government, and he was required to invent on the spot some
palliative for the difficulty that stared him in the face. He desired
the soldier to come back next day, dismissing him with splendid promises
of promotion, and he returned to the drawing-room. “Good-day
and good-bye, brother,” said he to the Marshal.--“Good-bye,
children.--Good-bye, my dear Adeline.--And what are you going to do,
Lisbeth?” he asked.

“I?--I am going to keep house for the Marshal, for I must end my days
doing what I can for one or another of you.”

“Do not leave Valerie till I have seen you again,” said Hulot in his
cousin’s ear.--“Good-bye, Hortense, refractory little puss; try to be
reasonable. I have important business to be attended to at once; we will
discuss your reconciliation another time. Now, think it over, my child,”
 said he as he kissed her.

And he went away, so evidently uneasy, that his wife and children felt
the gravest apprehensions.

“Lisbeth,” said the Baroness, “I must find out what is wrong with
Hector; I never saw him in such a state. Stay a day or two longer with
that woman; he tells her everything, and we can then learn what has so
suddenly upset him. Be quite easy; we will arrange your marriage to the
Marshal, for it is really necessary.”

“I shall never forget the courage you have shown this morning,” said
Hortense, embracing Lisbeth.

“You have avenged our poor mother,” said Victorin.

The Marshal looked on with curiosity at all the display of affection
lavished on Lisbeth, who went off to report the scene to Valerie.

This sketch will enable guileless souls to understand what various
mischief Madame Marneffes may do in a family, and the means by which
they reach poor virtuous wives apparently so far out of their ken. And
then, if we only transfer, in fancy, such doings to the upper class of
society about a throne, and if we consider what kings’ mistresses must
have cost them, we may estimate the debt owed by a nation to a sovereign
who sets the example of a decent and domestic life.



In Paris each ministry is a little town by itself, whence women are
banished; but there is just as much detraction and scandal as though
the feminine population were admitted there. At the end of three years,
Monsieur Marneffe’s position was perfectly clear and open to the day,
and in every room one and another asked, “Is Marneffe to be, or not to
be, Coquet’s successor?” Exactly as the question might have been put
to the Chamber, “Will the estimates pass or not pass?” The smallest
initiative on the part of the board of Management was commented on;
everything in Baron Hulot’s department was carefully noted. The astute
State Councillor had enlisted on his side the victim of Marneffe’s
promotion, a hard-working clerk, telling him that if he could fill
Marneffe’s place, he would certainly succeed to it; he had told him
that the man was dying. So this clerk was scheming for Marneffe’s
advancement.

When Hulot went through his anteroom, full of visitors, he saw
Marneffe’s colorless face in a corner, and sent for him before any one
else.

“What do you want of me, my dear fellow?” said the Baron, disguising his
anxiety.

“Monsieur le Directeur, I am the laughing-stock of the office, for it
has become known that the chief of the clerks has left this morning for
a holiday, on the ground of his health. He is to be away a month. Now,
we all know what waiting for a month means. You deliver me over to the
mockery of my enemies, and it is bad enough to be drummed upon one side;
drumming on both at once, monsieur, is apt to burst the drum.”

“My dear Marneffe, it takes long patience to gain an end. You cannot be
made head-clerk in less than two months, if ever. Just when I must, as
far as possible, secure my own position, is not the time to be applying
for your promotion, which would raise a scandal.”

“If you are broke, I shall never get it,” said Marneffe coolly. “And if
you get me the place, it will make no difference in the end.”

“Then I am to sacrifice myself for you?” said the Baron.

“If you do not, I shall be much mistaken in you.”

“You are too exclusively Marneffe, Monsieur Marneffe,” said Hulot,
rising and showing the clerk the door.

“I have the honor to wish you good-morning, Monsieur le Baron,” said
Marneffe humbly.

“What an infamous rascal!” thought the Baron. “This is uncommonly like a
summons to pay within twenty-four hours on pain of distraint.”

Two hours later, just when the Baron had been instructing Claude Vignon,
whom he was sending to the Ministry of Justice to obtain information
as to the judicial authorities under whose jurisdiction Johann Fischer
might fall, Reine opened the door of his private room and gave him a
note, saying she would wait for the answer.

“Valerie is mad!” said the Baron to himself. “To send Reine! It is
enough to compromise us all, and it certainly compromises that dreadful
Marneffe’s chances of promotion!”

But he dismissed the minister’s private secretary, and read as
follows:--

  “Oh, my dear friend, what a scene I have had to endure! Though you
  have made me happy for three years, I have paid dearly for it! He
  came in from the office in a rage that made me quake. I knew he
  was ugly; I have seen him a monster! His four real teeth
  chattered, and he threatened me with his odious presence without
  respite if I should continue to receive you. My poor, dear old
  boy, our door is closed against you henceforth. You see my tears;
  they are dropping on the paper and soaking it; can you read what I
  write, dear Hector? Oh, to think of never seeing you, of giving
  you up when I bear in me some of your life, as I flatter myself I
  have your heart--it is enough to kill me. Think of our little
  Hector!

  “Do not forsake me, but do not disgrace yourself for Marneffe’s
  sake; do not yield to his threats.

  “I love you as I have never loved! I remember all the sacrifices
  you have made for your Valerie; she is not, and never will be,
  ungrateful; you are, and will ever be, my only husband. Think no
  more of the twelve hundred francs a year I asked you to settle on
  the dear little Hector who is to come some months hence; I will
  not cost you anything more. And besides, my money will always be
  yours.

  “Oh, if you only loved me as I love you, my Hector, you would
  retire on your pension; we should both take leave of our family,
  our worries, our surroundings, so full of hatred, and we should go
  to live with Lisbeth in some pretty country place--in Brittany, or
  wherever you like. There we should see nobody, and we should be
  happy away from the world. Your pension and the little property I
  can call my own would be enough for us. You say you are jealous;
  well, you would then have your Valerie entirely devoted to her
  Hector, and you would never have to talk in a loud voice, as you
  did the other day. I shall have but one child--ours--you may be
  sure, my dearly loved old veteran.

  “You cannot conceive of my fury, for you cannot know how he
  treated me, and the foul words he vomited on your Valerie. Such
  words would disgrace my paper; a woman such as I am--Montcornet’s
  daughter--ought never to have heard one of them in her life. I
  only wish you had been there, that I might have punished him with
  the sight of the mad passion I felt for you. My father would have
  killed the wretch; I can only do as women do--love you devotedly!
  Indeed, my love, in the state of exasperation in which I am, I
  cannot possibly give up seeing you. I must positively see you, in
  secret, every day! That is what we are, we women. Your resentment
  is mine. If you love me, I implore you, do not let him be
  promoted; leave him to die a second-class clerk.

  “At this moment I have lost my head; I still seem to hear him
  abusing me. Betty, who had meant to leave me, has pity on me, and
  will stay for a few days.

  “My dear kind love, I do not know yet what is to be done. I see
  nothing for it but flight. I always delight in the country
  --Brittany, Languedoc, what you will, so long as I am free to love
  you. Poor dear, how I pity you! Forced now to go back to your old
  Adeline, to that lachrymal urn--for, as he no doubt told you, the
  monster means to watch me night and day; he spoke of a detective!
  Do not come here, he is capable of anything I know, since he could
  make use of me for the basest purposes of speculation. I only wish
  I could return you all the things I have received from your
  generosity.

  “Ah! my kind Hector, I may have flirted, and have seemed to you to
  be fickle, but you did not know your Valerie; she liked to tease
  you, but she loves you better than any one in the world.

  “He cannot prevent your coming to see your cousin; I will arrange
  with her that we have speech with each other. My dear old boy,
  write me just a line, pray, to comfort me in the absence of your
  dear self. (Oh, I would give one of my hands to have you by me on
  our sofa!) A letter will work like a charm; write me something
  full of your noble soul; I will return your note to you, for I
  must be cautious; I should not know where to hide it, he pokes his
  nose in everywhere. In short, comfort your Valerie, your little
  wife, the mother of your child.--To think of my having to write to
  you, when I used to see you every day. As I say to Lisbeth, ‘I did
  not know how happy I was.’ A thousand kisses, dear boy. Be true to
  your

“VALERIE.”


“And tears!” said Hulot to himself as he finished this letter, “tears
which have blotted out her name.--How is she?” said he to Reine.

“Madame is in bed; she has dreadful spasms,” replied Reine. “She had a
fit of hysterics that twisted her like a withy round a faggot. It came
on after writing. It comes of crying so much. She heard monsieur’s voice
on the stairs.”

The Baron in his distress wrote the following note on office paper with
a printed heading:--

  “Be quite easy, my angel, he will die a second-class clerk!--Your
  idea is admirable; we will go and live far from Paris, where we
  shall be happy with our little Hector; I will retire on my
  pension, and I shall be sure to find some good appointment on a
  railway.

  “Ah, my sweet friend, I feel so much the younger for your letter!
  I shall begin life again and make a fortune, you will see, for our
  dear little one. As I read your letter, a thousand times more
  ardent than those of the _Nouvelle Heloise_, it worked a miracle!
  I had not believed it possible that I could love you more. This
  evening, at Lisbeth’s you will see

“YOUR HECTOR, FOR LIFE.”


Reine carried off this reply, the first letter the Baron had written
to his “sweet friend.” Such emotions to some extent counterbalanced
the disasters growling in the distance; but the Baron, at this moment
believing he could certainly avert the blows aimed at his uncle, Johann
Fischer, thought only of the deficit.

One of the characteristics of the Bonapartist temperament is a firm
belief in the power of the sword, and confidence in the superiority
of the military over civilians. Hulot laughed to scorn the Public
Prosecutor in Algiers, where the War Office is supreme. Man is always
what he has once been. How can the officers of the Imperial Guard forget
that time was when the mayors of the largest towns in the Empire and the
Emperor’s prefects, Emperors themselves on a minute scale, would come
out to meet the Imperial Guard, to pay their respects on the borders
of the Departments through which it passed, and to do it, in short, the
homage due to sovereigns?

At half-past four the baron went straight to Madame Marneffe’s; his
heart beat as high as a young man’s as he went upstairs, for he was
asking himself this question, “Shall I see her? or shall I not?”

How was he now to remember the scene of the morning when his weeping
children had knelt at his feet? Valerie’s note, enshrined for ever in a
thin pocket-book over his heart, proved to him that she loved him more
than the most charming of young men.

Having rung, the unhappy visitor heard within the shuffling slippers and
vexatious scraping cough of the detestable master. Marneffe opened the
door, but only to put himself into an attitude and point to the stairs,
exactly as Hulot had shown him the door of his private room.

“You are too exclusively Hulot, Monsieur Hulot!” said he.

The Baron tried to pass him, Marneffe took a pistol out of his pocket
and cocked it.

“Monsieur le Baron,” said he, “when a man is as vile as I am--for you
think me very vile, don’t you?--he would be the meanest galley-slave if
he did not get the full benefit of his betrayed honor.--You are for
war; it will be hot work and no quarter. Come here no more, and do not
attempt to get past me. I have given the police notice of my position
with regard to you.”

And taking advantage of Hulot’s amazement, he pushed him out and shut
the door.

“What a low scoundrel!” said Hulot to himself, as he went upstairs to
Lisbeth. “I understand her letter now. Valerie and I will go away from
Paris. Valerie is wholly mine for the remainder of my days; she will
close my eyes.”

Lisbeth was out. Madame Olivier told the Baron that she had gone to his
wife’s house, thinking that she would find him there.

“Poor thing! I should never have expected her to be so sharp as she was
this morning,” thought Hulot, recalling Lisbeth’s behavior as he made
his way from the Rue Vanneau to the Rue Plumet.

As he turned the corner of the Rue Vanneau and the Rue de Babylone, he
looked back at the Eden whence Hymen had expelled him with the sword
of the law. Valerie, at her window, was watching his departure; as he
glanced up, she waved her handkerchief, but the rascally Marneffe hit
his wife’s cap and dragged her violently away from the window. A tear
rose to the great official’s eye.

“Oh! to be so well loved! To see a woman so ill used, and to be so
nearly seventy years old!” thought he.

Lisbeth had come to give the family the good news. Adeline and Hortense
had already heard that the Baron, not choosing to compromise himself in
the eyes of the whole office by appointing Marneffe to the first class,
would be turned from the door by the Hulot-hating husband. Adeline, very
happy, had ordered a dinner that her Hector was to like better than
any of Valerie’s; and Lisbeth, in her devotion, was helping Mariette to
achieve this difficult result. Cousin Betty was the idol of the hour.
Mother and daughter kissed her hands, and had told her with touching
delight that the Marshal consented to have her as his housekeeper.

“And from that, my dear, there is but one step to becoming his wife!”
 said Adeline.

“In fact, he did not say no when Victorin mentioned it,” added the
Countess.

The Baron was welcomed home with such charming proofs of affection,
so pathetically overflowing with love, that he was fain to conceal his
troubles.

Marshal Hulot came to dinner. After dinner, Hector did not go out.
Victorin and his wife joined them, and they made up a rubber.

“It is a long time, Hector,” said the Marshal gravely, “since you gave
us the treat of such an evening.”

This speech from the old soldier, who spoiled his brother though he thus
implicitly blamed him, made a deep impression. It showed how wide and
deep were the wounds in a heart where all the woes he had divined had
found an echo. At eight o’clock the Baron insisted on seeing Lisbeth
home, promising to return.

“Do you know, Lisbeth, he ill-treats her!” said he in the street. “Oh, I
never loved her so well!”

“I never imagined that Valerie loved you so well,” replied Lisbeth. “She
is frivolous and a coquette, she loves to have attentions paid her, and
to have the comedy of love-making performed for her, as she says; but
you are her only real attachment.”

“What message did she send me?”

“Why, this,” said Lisbeth. “She has, as you know, been on intimate terms
with Crevel. You must owe her no grudge, for that, in fact, is what has
raised her above utter poverty for the rest of her life; but she detests
him, and matters are nearly at an end.--Well, she has kept the key of
some rooms--”

“Rue du Dauphin!” cried the thrice-blest Baron. “If it were for that
alone, I would overlook Crevel.--I have been there; I know.”

“Here, then, is the key,” said Lisbeth. “Have another made from it in
the course of to-morrow--two if you can.”

“And then,” said Hulot eagerly.

“Well, I will dine at your house again to-morrow; you must give me back
Valerie’s key, for old Crevel might ask her to return it to him, and you
can meet her there the day after; then you can decide what your facts
are to be. You will be quite safe, as there are two ways out. If by
chance Crevel, who is _Regence_ in his habits, as he is fond of saying,
should come in by the side street, you could go out through the shop, or
_vice versa_.

“You owe all this to me, you old villain; now what will you do for me?”

“Whatever you want.”

“Then you will not oppose my marrying your brother?”

“You! the Marechale Hulot, the Comtesse de Frozheim?” cried Hector,
startled.

“Well, Adeline is a Baroness!” retorted Betty in a vicious and
formidable tone. “Listen to me, you old libertine. You know how matters
stand; your family may find itself starving in the gutter--”

“That is what I dread,” said Hulot in dismay.

“And if your brother were to die, who would maintain your wife and
daughter? The widow of a Marshal gets at least six thousand francs
pension, doesn’t she? Well, then, I wish to marry to secure bread for
your wife and daughter--old dotard!”

“I had not seen it in that light!” said the Baron. “I will talk to my
brother--for we are sure of you.--Tell my angel that my life is hers.”

And the Baron, having seen Lisbeth go into the house in the Rue Vanneau,
went back to his whist and stayed at home. The Baroness was at the
height of happiness; her husband seemed to be returning to domestic
habits; for about a fortnight he went to his office at nine every
morning, he came in to dinner at six, and spent the evening with his
family. He twice took Adeline and Hortense to the play. The mother and
daughter paid for three thanksgiving masses, and prayed to God to suffer
them to keep the husband and father He had restored to them.

One evening Victorin Hulot, seeing his father retire for the night, said
to his mother:

“Well, we are at any rate so far happy that my father has come back to
us. My wife and I shall never regret our capital if only this lasts--”

“Your father is nearly seventy,” said the Baroness. “He still thinks
of Madame Marneffe, that I can see; but he will forget her in time.
A passion for women is not like gambling, or speculation, or avarice;
there is an end to it.”

But Adeline, still beautiful in spite of her fifty years and her
sorrows, in this was mistaken. Profligates, men whom Nature has gifted
with the precious power of loving beyond the limits ordinarily set to
love, rarely are as old as their age.



During this relapse into virtue Baron Hulot had been three times to
the Rue du Dauphin, and had certainly not been the man of seventy. His
rekindled passion made him young again, and he would have sacrificed his
honor to Valerie, his family, his all, without a regret. But Valerie,
now completely altered, never mentioned money, not even the twelve
hundred francs a year to be settled on their son; on the contrary, she
offered him money, she loved Hulot as a woman of six-and-thirty loves a
handsome law-student--a poor, poetical, ardent boy. And the hapless wife
fancied she had reconquered her dear Hector!

The fourth meeting between this couple had been agreed upon at the
end of the third, exactly as formerly in Italian theatres the play was
announced for the next night. The hour fixed was nine in the morning.
On the next day when the happiness was due for which the amorous old man
had resigned himself to domestic rules, at about eight in the morning,
Reine came and asked to see the Baron. Hulot, fearing some catastrophe,
went out to speak with Reine, who would not come into the anteroom. The
faithful waiting-maid gave him the following note:--

  “DEAR OLD MAN,--Do not go to the Rue du Dauphin. Our incubus is
  ill, and I must nurse him; but be there this evening at nine.
  Crevel is at Corbeil with Monsieur Lebas; so I am sure he will
  bring no princess to his little palace. I have made arrangements
  here to be free for the night and get back before Marneffe is
  awake. Answer me as to all this, for perhaps your long elegy of a
  wife no longer allows you your liberty as she did. I am told she
  is still so handsome that you might play me false, you are such a
  gay dog! Burn this note; I am suspicious of every one.”

Hulot wrote this scrap in reply:

  “MY LOVE,--As I have told you, my wife has not for five-and-twenty
  years interfered with my pleasures. For you I would give up a
  hundred Adelines.--I will be in the Crevel sanctum at nine this
  evening awaiting my divinity. Oh that your clerk might soon die!
  We should part no more. And this is the dearest wish of

“YOUR HECTOR.”


That evening the Baron told his wife that he had business with the
Minister at Saint-Cloud, that he would come home at about four or five
in the morning; and he went to the Rue du Dauphin. It was towards the
end of the month of June.

Few men have in the course of their life known really the dreadful
sensation of going to their death; those who have returned from the
foot of the scaffold may be easily counted. But some have had a vivid
experience of it in dreams; they have gone through it all, to the
sensation of the knife at their throat, at the moment when waking
and daylight come to release them.--Well, the sensation to which the
Councillor of State was a victim at five in the morning in Crevel’s
handsome and elegant bed, was immeasurably worse than that of feeling
himself bound to the fatal block in the presence of ten thousand
spectators looking at you with twenty thousand sparks of fire.

Valerie was asleep in a graceful attitude. She was lovely, as a woman
is who is lovely enough to look so even in sleep. It is art invading
nature; in short, a living picture.

In his horizontal position the Baron’s eyes were but three feet above
the floor. His gaze, wandering idly, as that of a man who is just awake
and collecting his ideas, fell on a door painted with flowers by Jan, an
artist disdainful of fame. The Baron did not indeed see twenty thousand
flaming eyes, like the man condemned to death; he saw but one, of which
the shaft was really more piercing than the thousands on the Public
Square.

Now this sensation, far rarer in the midst of enjoyment even than
that of a man condemned to death, was one for which many a splenetic
Englishman would certainly pay a high price. The Baron lay there,
horizontal still, and literally bathed in cold sweat. He tried to doubt
the fact; but this murderous eye had a voice. A sound of whispering was
heard through the door.

“So long as it is nobody but Crevel playing a trick on me!” said the
Baron to himself, only too certain of an intruder in the temple.

The door was opened. The Majesty of the French Law, which in all
documents follows next to the King, became visible in the person of a
worthy little police-officer supported by a tall Justice of the Peace,
both shown in by Monsieur Marneffe. The police functionary, rooted in
shoes of which the straps were tied together with flapping bows, ended
at top in a yellow skull almost bare of hair, and a face betraying him
as a wide-awake, cheerful, and cunning dog, from whom Paris life had no
secrets. His eyes, though garnished with spectacles, pierced the
glasses with a keen mocking glance. The Justice of the Peace, a retired
attorney, and an old admirer of the fair sex, envied the delinquent.

“Pray excuse the strong measures required by our office, Monsieur
le Baron!” said the constable; “we are acting for the plaintiff.
The Justice of the Peace is here to authorize the visitation of the
premises.--I know who you are, and who the lady is who is accused.”

Valerie opened her astonished eyes, gave such a shriek as actresses use
to depict madness on the stage, writhed in convulsions on the bed, like
a witch of the Middle Ages in her sulphur-colored frock on a bed of
faggots.

“Death, and I am ready! my dear Hector--but a police court?--Oh! never.”

With one bound she passed the three spectators and crouched under the
little writing-table, hiding her face in her hands.

“Ruin! Death!” she cried.

“Monsieur,” said Marneffe to Hulot, “if Madame Marneffe goes mad, you
are worse than a profligate; you will be a murderer.”

What can a man do, what can he say, when he is discovered in a bed which
is not his, even on the score of hiring, with a woman who is no more his
than the bed is?--Well, this:

“Monsieur the Justice of the Peace, Monsieur the Police Officer,” said
the Baron with some dignity, “be good enough to take proper care of
that unhappy woman, whose reason seems to me to be in danger.--You can
harangue me afterwards. The doors are locked, no doubt; you need not
fear that she will get away, or I either, seeing the costume we wear.”

The two functionaries bowed to the magnate’s injunctions.

“You, come here, miserable cur!” said Hulot in a low voice to Marneffe,
taking him by the arm and drawing him closer. “It is not I, but you, who
will be the murderer! You want to be head-clerk of your room and officer
of the Legion of Honor?”

“That in the first place, Chief!” replied Marneffe, with a bow.

“You shall be all that, only soothe your wife and dismiss these
fellows.”

“Nay, nay!” said Marneffe knowingly. “These gentlemen must draw up their
report as eyewitnesses to the fact; without that, the chief evidence in
my case, where should I be? The higher official ranks are chokeful of
rascalities. You have done me out of my wife, and you have not promoted
me, Monsieur le Baron; I give you only two days to get out of the
scrape. Here are some letters--”

“Some letters!” interrupted Hulot.

“Yes; letters which prove that you are the father of the child my wife
expects to give birth to.--You understand? And you ought to settle on my
son a sum equal to what he will lose through this bastard. But I will
be reasonable; this does not distress me, I have no mania for paternity
myself. A hundred louis a year will satisfy me. By to-morrow I must be
Monsieur Coquet’s successor and see my name on the list for promotion in
the Legion of Honor at the July fetes, or else--the documentary evidence
and my charge against you will be laid before the Bench. I am not so
hard to deal with after all, you see.”

“Bless me, and such a pretty woman!” said the Justice of the Peace to
the police constable. “What a loss to the world if she should go mad!”

“She is not mad,” said the constable sententiously. The police is always
the incarnation of scepticism.--“Monsieur le Baron Hulot has been caught
by a trick,” he added, loud enough for Valerie to hear him.

Valerie shot a flash from her eye which would have killed him on
the spot if looks could effect the vengeance they express. The
police-officer smiled; he had laid a snare, and the woman had fallen
into it. Marneffe desired his wife to go into the other room and clothe
herself decently, for he and the Baron had come to an agreement on all
points, and Hulot fetched his dressing-gown and came out again.

“Gentlemen,” said he to the two officials, “I need not impress on you to
be secret.”

The functionaries bowed.

The police-officer rapped twice on the door; his clerk came in, sat down
at the “bonheur-du-jour,” and wrote what the constable dictated to him
in an undertone. Valerie still wept vehemently. When she was dressed,
Hulot went into the other room and put on his clothes. Meanwhile the
report was written.

Marneffe then wanted to take his wife home; but Hulot, believing that
he saw her for the last time, begged the favor of being allowed to speak
with her.

“Monsieur, your wife has cost me dear enough for me to be allowed to say
good-bye to her--in the presence of you all, of course.”

Valerie went up to Hulot, and he whispered in her ear:

“There is nothing left for us but to fly, but how can we correspond? We
have been betrayed--”

“Through Reine,” she answered. “But my dear friend, after this scandal
we can never meet again. I am disgraced. Besides, you will hear dreadful
things about me--you will believe them--”

The Baron made a gesture of denial.

“You will believe them, and I can thank God for that, for then perhaps
you will not regret me.”

“He will _not_ die a second-class clerk!” said Marneffe to Hulot, as
he led his wife away, saying roughly, “Come, madame; if I am foolish to
you, I do not choose to be a fool to others.”

Valerie left the house, Crevel’s Eden, with a last glance at the Baron,
so cunning that he thought she adored him. The Justice of the Peace
gave Madame Marneffe his arm to the hackney coach with a flourish of
gallantry. The Baron, who was required to witness the report, remained
quite bewildered, alone with the police-officer. When the Baron had
signed, the officer looked at him keenly, over his glasses.

“You are very sweet on the little lady, Monsieur le Baron?”

“To my sorrow, as you see.”

“Suppose that she does not care for you?” the man went on, “that she is
deceiving you?”

“I have long known that, monsieur--here, in this very spot, Monsieur
Crevel and I told each other----”

“Oh! Then you knew that you were in Monsieur le Maire’s private
snuggery?”

“Perfectly.”

The constable lightly touched his hat with a respectful gesture.

“You are very much in love,” said he. “I say no more. I respect an
inveterate passion, as a doctor respects an inveterate complaint.--I saw
Monsieur de Nucingen, the banker, attacked in the same way--”

“He is a friend of mine,” said the Baron. “Many a time have I supped
with his handsome Esther. She was worth the two million francs she cost
him.”

“And more,” said the officer. “That caprice of the old Baron’s cost four
persons their lives. Oh! such passions as these are like the cholera!”

“What had you to say to me?” asked the Baron, who took this indirect
warning very ill.

“Oh! why should I deprive you of your illusions?” replied the officer.
“Men rarely have any left at your age!”

“Rid me of them!” cried the Councillor.

“You will curse the physician later,” replied the officer, smiling.

“I beg of you, monsieur.”

“Well, then, that woman was in collusion with her husband.”

“Oh!----”

“Yes, sir, and so it is in two cases out of every ten. Oh! we know it
well.”

“What proof have you of such a conspiracy?”

“In the first place, the husband!” said the other, with the calm acumen
of a surgeon practised in unbinding wounds. “Mean speculation is stamped
in every line of that villainous face. But you, no doubt, set great
store by a certain letter written by that woman with regard to the
child?”

“So much so, that I always have it about me,” replied Hulot, feeling in
his breast-pocket for the little pocketbook which he always kept there.

“Leave your pocketbook where it is,” said the man, as crushing as a
thunder-clap. “Here is the letter.--I now know all I want to know.
Madame Marneffe, of course, was aware of what that pocketbook
contained?”

“She alone in the world.”

“So I supposed.--Now for the proof you asked for of her collusion with
her husband.”

“Let us hear!” said the Baron, still incredulous.

“When we came in here, Monsieur le Baron, that wretched creature
Marneffe led the way, and he took up this letter, which his wife,
no doubt, had placed on this writing-table,” and he pointed to the
_bonheur-du-jour_. “That evidently was the spot agreed upon by the
couple, in case she should succeed in stealing the letter while you were
asleep; for this letter, as written to you by the lady, is, combined
with those you wrote to her, decisive evidence in a police-court.”

He showed Hulot the note that Reine had delivered to him in his private
room at the office.

“It is one of the documents in the case,” said the police-agent; “return
it to me, monsieur.”

“Well, monsieur,” replied Hulot with bitter expression, “that woman is
profligacy itself in fixed ratios. I am certain at this moment that she
has three lovers.”

“That is perfectly evident,” said the officer. “Oh, they are not all
on the streets! When a woman follows that trade in a carriage and
a drawing-room, and her own house, it is not a case for francs and
centimes, Monsieur le Baron. Mademoiselle Esther, of whom you spoke,
and who poisoned herself, made away with millions.--If you will take
my advice, you will get out of it, monsieur. This last little game will
have cost you dear. That scoundrel of a husband has the law on his side.
And indeed, but for me, that little woman would have caught you again!”

“Thank you, monsieur,” said the Baron, trying to maintain his dignity.

“Now we will lock up; the farce is played out, and you can send your key
to Monsieur the Mayor.”

Hulot went home in a state of dejection bordering on helplessness, and
sunk in the gloomiest thoughts. He woke his noble and saintly wife, and
poured into her heart the history of the past three years, sobbing like
a child deprived of a toy. This confession from an old man young in
feeling, this frightful and heart-rending narrative, while it filled
Adeline with pity, also gave her the greatest joy; she thanked Heaven
for this last catastrophe, for in fancy she saw the husband settled at
last in the bosom of his family.

“Lisbeth was right,” said Madame Hulot gently and without any useless
recrimination, “she told us how it would be.”

“Yes. If only I had listened to her, instead of flying into a rage, that
day when I wanted poor Hortense to go home rather than compromise the
reputation of that--Oh! my dear Adeline, we must save Wenceslas. He is
up to his chin in that mire!”

“My poor old man, the respectable middle-classes have turned out no
better than the actresses,” said Adeline, with a smile.

The Baroness was alarmed at the change in her Hector; when she saw him
so unhappy, ailing, crushed under his weight of woes, she was all heart,
all pity, all love; she would have shed her blood to make Hulot happy.

“Stay with us, my dear Hector. Tell me what is it that such women do to
attract you so powerfully. I too will try. Why have you not taught me
to be what you want? Am I deficient in intelligence? Men still think me
handsome enough to court my favor.”

Many a married woman, attached to her duty and to her husband, may here
pause to ask herself why strong and affectionate men, so tender-hearted
to the Madame Marneffes, do not take their wives for the object of their
fancies and passions, especially wives like the Baronne Adeline Hulot.

This is, indeed, one of the most recondite mysteries of human nature.
Love, which is debauch of reason, the strong and austere joy of a lofty
soul, and pleasure, the vulgar counterfeit sold in the market-place,
are two aspects of the same thing. The woman who can satisfy both these
devouring appetites is as rare in her sex as a great general, a great
writer, a great artist, a great inventor in a nation. A man of superior
intellect or an idiot--a Hulot or a Crevel--equally crave for the ideal
and for enjoyment; all alike go in search of the mysterious compound, so
rare that at last it is usually found to be a work in two volumes. This
craving is a depraved impulse due to society.

Marriage, no doubt, must be accepted as a tie; it is life, with its
duties and its stern sacrifices on both parts equally. Libertines, who
seek for hidden treasure, are as guilty as other evil-doers who are more
hardly dealt with than they. These reflections are not a mere veneer of
moralizing; they show the reason of many unexplained misfortunes. But,
indeed, this drama points its own moral--or morals, for they are of many
kinds.

The Baron presently went to call on the Marshal Prince de Wissembourg,
whose powerful patronage was now his only chance. Having dwelt under his
protection for five-and-thirty years, he was a visitor at all hours, and
would be admitted to his rooms as soon as he was up.

“Ah! How are you, my dear Hector?” said the great and worthy leader.
“What is the matter? You look anxious. And yet the session is ended.
One more over! I speak of that now as I used to speak of a campaign.
And indeed I believe the newspapers nowadays speak of the sessions as
parliamentary campaigns.”

“We have been in difficulties, I must confess, Marshal; but the times
are hard!” said Hulot. “It cannot be helped; the world was made so.
Every phase has its own drawbacks. The worst misfortunes in the year
1841 is that neither the King nor the ministers are free to act as
Napoleon was.”

The Marshal gave Hulot one of those eagle flashes which in its pride,
clearness, and perspicacity showed that, in spite of years, that lofty
soul was still upright and vigorous.

“You want me to so something for you?” said he, in a hearty tone.

“I find myself under the necessity of applying to you for the promotion
of one of my second clerks to the head of a room--as a personal favor to
myself--and his advancement to be officer of the Legion of Honor.”

“What is his name?” said the Marshal, with a look like a lightning
flash.

“Marneffe.”

“He has a pretty wife; I saw her on the occasion of your daughter’s
marriage.--If Roger--but Roger is away!--Hector, my boy, this is
concerned with your pleasures. What, you still indulge--? Well, you
are a credit to the old Guard. That is what comes of having been in
the Commissariat; you have reserves!--But have nothing to do with this
little job, my dear boy; it is too strong of the petticoat to be good
business.”

“No, Marshal; it is bad business, for the police courts have a finger in
it. Would you like to see me go there?”

“The devil!” said the Prince uneasily. “Go on!”

“Well, I am in the predicament of a trapped fox. You have always been so
kind to me, that you will, I am sure, condescend to help me out of the
shameful position in which I am placed.”

Hulot related his misadventures, as wittily and as lightly as he could.

“And you, Prince, will you allow my brother to die of grief, a man you
love so well; or leave one of your staff in the War Office, a Councillor
of State, to live in disgrace. This Marneffe is a wretched creature; he
can be shelved in two or three years.”

“How you talk of two or three years, my dear fellow!” said the Marshal.

“But, Prince, the Imperial Guard is immortal.”

“I am the last of the first batch of Marshals,” said the Prince.
“Listen, Hector. You do not know the extent of my attachment to you; you
shall see. On the day when I retire from office, we will go together.
But you are not a Deputy, my friend. Many men want your place; but
for me, you would be out of it by this time. Yes, I have fought many a
pitched battle to keep you in it.--Well, I grant you your two requests;
it would be too bad to see you riding the bar at your age and in the
position you hold. But you stretch your credit a little too far. If this
appointment gives rise to discussion, we shall not be held blameless. I
can laugh at such things; but you will find it a thorn under your feet.
And the next session will see your dismissal. Your place is held out as
a bait to five or six influential men, and you have been enabled to keep
it solely by the force of my arguments. I tell you, on the day when you
retire, there will be five malcontents to one happy man; whereas, by
keeping you hanging on by a thread for two or three years, we shall
secure all six votes. There was a great laugh at the Council meeting;
the Veteran of the Old Guard, as they say, was becoming desperately
wide awake in parliamentary tactics! I am frank with you.--And you
are growing gray; you are a happy man to be able to get into such
difficulties as these! How long is it since I--Lieutenant Cottin--had a
mistress?”

He rang the bell.

“That police report must be destroyed,” he added.

“Monseigneur, you are as a father to me! I dared not mention my anxiety
on that point.”

“I still wish I had Roger here,” cried the Prince, as Mitouflet, his
groom of the chambers, came in. “I was just going to send for him!--You
may go, Mitouflet.--Go you, my dear old fellow, go and have the
nomination made out; I will sign it. At the same time, that low schemer
will not long enjoy the fruit of his crimes. He will be sharply watched,
and drummed out of the regiment for the smallest fault.--You are saved
this time, my dear Hector; take care for the future. Do not exhaust your
friends’ patience. You shall have the nomination this morning, and your
man shall get his promotion in the Legion of Honor.--How old are you
now?”

“Within three months of seventy.”

“What a scapegrace!” said the Prince, laughing. “It is you who deserve a
promotion, but, by thunder! we are not under Louis XV.!”

Such is the sense of comradeship that binds the glorious survivors of
the Napoleonic phalanx, that they always feel as if they were in camp
together, and bound to stand together through thick and thin.

“One more favor such as this,” Hulot reflected as he crossed the
courtyard, “and I am done for!”

The luckless official went to Baron de Nucingen, to whom he now owed a
mere trifle, and succeeded in borrowing forty thousand francs, on his
salary pledged for two years more; the banker stipulated that in the
event of Hulot’s retirement on his pension, the whole of it should
be devoted to the repayment of the sum borrowed till the capital and
interest were all cleared off.

This new bargain, like the first, was made in the name of Vauvinet, to
whom the Baron signed notes of hand to the amount of twelve thousand
francs.

On the following day, the fateful police report, the husband’s charge,
the letters--all the papers--were destroyed. The scandalous promotion of
Monsieur Marneffe, hardly heeded in the midst of the July fetes, was not
commented on in any newspaper.

Lisbeth, to all appearance at war with Madame Marneffe, had taken up
her abode with Marshal Hulot. Ten days after these events, the banns of
marriage were published between the old maid and the distinguished old
officer, to whom, to win his consent, Adeline had related the financial
disaster that had befallen her Hector, begging him never to mention it
to the Baron, who was, as she said, much saddened, quite depressed and
crushed.

“Alas! he is as old as his years,” she added.

So Lisbeth had triumphed. She was achieving the object of her ambition,
she would see the success of her scheme, and her hatred gratified. She
delighted in the anticipated joy of reigning supreme over the family who
had so long looked down upon her. Yes, she would patronize her patrons,
she would be the rescuing angel who would dole out a livelihood to the
ruined family; she addressed herself as “Madame la Comtesse” and “Madame
la Marechale,” courtesying in front of a glass. Adeline and Hortense
should end their days in struggling with poverty, while she, a visitor
at the Tuileries, would lord it in the fashionable world.



A terrible disaster overthrew the old maid from the social heights where
she so proudly enthroned herself.

On the very day when the banns were first published, the Baron received
a second message from Africa. Another Alsatian arrived, handed him a
letter, after assuring himself that he spoke to Baron Hulot, and after
giving the Baron the address of his lodgings, bowed himself out, leaving
the great man stricken by the opening lines of this letter:--

  “DEAR NEPHEW,--You will receive this letter, by my calculations,
  on the 7th of August. Supposing it takes you three days to send us
  the help we need, and that it is a fortnight on the way here, that
  brings us to the 1st of September.

  “If you can act decisively within that time, you will have saved
  the honor and the life of yours sincerely, Johann Fischer.

  “This is what I am required to demand by the clerk you have made
  my accomplice; for I am amenable, it would seem, to the law, at
  the Assizes, or before a council of war. Of course, you understand
  that Johann Fischer will never be brought to the bar of any
  tribunal; he will go of his own act to appear at that of God.

  “Your clerk seems to me a bad lot, quite capable of getting you
  into hot water; but he is as clever as any rogue. He says the line
  for you to take is to call out louder than any one, and to send
  out an inspector, a special commissioner, to discover who is
  really guilty, rake up abuses, and make a fuss, in short; but if
  we stir up the struggle, who will stand between us and the law?

  “If your commissioner arrives here by the 1st of September, and
  you have given him your orders, sending by him two hundred
  thousand francs to place in our storehouses the supplies we
  profess to have secured in remote country places, we shall be
  absolutely solvent and regarded as blameless. You can trust the
  soldier who is the bearer of this letter with a draft in my name
  on a house in Algiers. He is a trustworthy fellow, a relation of
  mine, incapable of trying to find out what he is the bearer of. I
  have taken measures to guarantee the fellow’s safe return. If you
  can do nothing, I am ready and willing to die for the man to whom
  we owe our Adeline’s happiness!”

The anguish and raptures of passion and the catastrophe which had
checked his career of profligacy had prevented Baron Hulot’s ever
thinking of poor Johann Fischer, though his first letter had given
warning of the danger now become so pressing. The Baron went out of the
dining-room in such agitation that he literally dropped on to a sofa in
the drawing-room. He was stunned, sunk in the dull numbness of a heavy
fall. He stared at a flower on the carpet, quite unconscious that he
still held in his hand Johann’s fatal letter.

Adeline, in her room, heard her husband throw himself on the sofa, like
a lifeless mass; the noise was so peculiar that she fancied he had an
apoplectic attack. She looked through the door at the mirror, in such
dread as stops the breath and hinders motion, and she saw her Hector in
the attitude of a man crushed. The Baroness stole in on tiptoe; Hector
heard nothing; she went close up to him, saw the letter, took it, read
it, trembling in every limb. She went through one of those violent
nervous shocks that leave their traces for ever on the sufferer. Within
a few days she became subject to a constant trembling, for after the
first instant the need for action gave her such strength as can only be
drawn from the very wellspring of the vital powers.

“Hector, come into my room,” said she, in a voice that was no more than
a breath. “Do not let your daughter see you in this state! Come, my
dear, come!”

“Two hundred thousand francs? Where can I find them? I can get Claude
Vignon sent out there as commissioner. He is a clever, intelligent
fellow.--That is a matter of a couple of days.--But two hundred thousand
francs! My son has not so much; his house is loaded with mortgages for
three hundred thousand. My brother has saved thirty thousand francs at
most. Nucingen would simply laugh at me!--Vauvinet?--he was not very
ready to lend me the ten thousand francs I wanted to make up the sum
for that villain Marneffe’s boy. No, it is all up with me; I must throw
myself at the Prince’s feet, confess how matters stand, hear myself told
that I am a low scoundrel, and take his broadside so as to go decently
to the bottom.”

“But, Hector, this is not merely ruin, it is disgrace,” said Adeline.
“My poor uncle will kill himself. Only kill us--yourself and me; you
have a right to do that, but do not be a murderer! Come, take courage;
there must be some way out of it.”

“Not one,” said Hulot. “No one in the Government could find two
hundred thousand francs, not if it were to save an Administration!--Oh,
Napoleon! where art thou?”

“My uncle! poor man! Hector, he must not be allowed to kill himself in
disgrace.”

“There is one more chance,” said he, “but a very remote one.--Yes,
Crevel is at daggers drawn with his daughter.--He has plenty of money,
he alone could--”

“Listen, Hector it will be better for your wife to perish than to leave
our uncle to perish--and your brother--the honor of the family!”
 cried the Baroness, struck by a flash of light. “Yes, I can save you
all.--Good God! what a degrading thought! How could it have occurred to
me?”

She clasped her hands, dropped on her knees, and put up a prayer. On
rising, she saw such a crazy expression of joy on her husband’s face,
that the diabolical suggestion returned, and then Adeline sank into a
sort of idiotic melancholy.

“Go, my dear, at once to the War Office,” said she, rousing herself from
this torpor; “try to send out a commission; it must be done. Get
round the Marshal. And on your return, at five o’clock, you will
find--perhaps--yes! you shall find two hundred thousand francs. Your
family, your honor as a man, as a State official, a Councillor of State,
your honesty--your son--all shall be saved;--but your Adeline will be
lost, and you will see her no more. Hector, my dear,” said she, kneeling
before him, clasping and kissing his hand, “give me your blessing! Say
farewell.”

It was so heart-rending that Hulot put his arms round his wife, raised
her and kissed her, saying:

“I do not understand.”

“If you did,” said she, “I should die of shame, or I should not have the
strength to carry out this last sacrifice.”

“Breakfast is served,” said Mariette.

Hortense came in to wish her parents good-morning. They had to go to
breakfast and assume a false face.

“Begin without me; I will join you,” said the Baroness.

She sat down to her desk and wrote as follows:

  “MY DEAR MONSIEUR CREVEL,--I have to ask a service of you; I shall
  expect you this morning, and I count on your gallantry, which is
  well known to me, to save me from having too long to wait for you.
  --Your faithful servant,

  “ADELINE HULOT.”


“Louise,” said she to her daughter’s maid, who waited on her, “take
this note down to the porter and desire him to carry it at once to this
address and wait for an answer.”

The Baron, who was reading the news, held out a Republican paper to his
wife, pointing to an article, and saying:

“Is there time?”

This was the paragraph, one of the terrible “notes” with which the
papers spice their political bread and butter:--

  “A correspondent in Algiers writes that such abuses have been
  discovered in the commissariate transactions of the province of
  Oran, that the Law is making inquiries. The peculation is
  self-evident, and the guilty persons are known. If severe measures
  are not taken, we shall continue to lose more men through the
  extortion that limits their rations than by Arab steel or the
  fierce heat of the climate. We await further information before
  enlarging on this deplorable business. We need no longer wonder at
  the terror caused by the establishment of the Press in Africa, as
  was contemplated by the Charter of 1830.”

“I will dress and go to the Minister,” said the Baron, as they rose from
table. “Time is precious; a man’s life hangs on every minute.”

“Oh, mamma, there is no hope for me!” cried Hortense. And unable to
check her tears, she handed to her mother a number of the _Revue des
Beaux Arts_.

Madame Hulot’s eye fell on a print of the group of “Delilah” by
Count Steinbock, under which were the words, “The property of Madame
Marneffe.”

The very first lines of the article, signed V., showed the talent and
friendliness of Claude Vignon.

“Poor child!” said the Baroness.

Alarmed by her mother’s tone of indifference, Hortense looked up, saw
the expression of a sorrow before which her own paled, and rose to kiss
her mother, saying:

“What is the matter, mamma? What is happening? Can we be more wretched
than we are already?”

“My child, it seems to me that in what I am going through to-day my past
dreadful sorrows are as nothing. When shall I have ceased to suffer?”

“In heaven, mother,” said Hortense solemnly.

“Come, my angel, help me to dress.--No, no; I will not have you help me
in this! Send me Louise.”

Adeline, in her room, went to study herself in the glass. She looked at
herself closely and sadly, wondering to herself:

“Am I still handsome? Can I still be desirable? Am I not wrinkled?”

She lifted up her fine golden hair, uncovering her temples; they were
as fresh as a girl’s. She went further; she uncovered her shoulders,
and was satisfied; nay, she had a little feeling of pride. The beauty
of really handsome shoulders is one of the last charms a woman loses,
especially if she has lived chastely.

Adeline chose her dress carefully, but the pious and blameless woman is
decent to the end, in spite of her little coquettish graces. Of what use
were brand-new gray silk stockings and high heeled satin shoes when
she was absolutely ignorant of the art of displaying a pretty foot at
a critical moment, by obtruding it an inch or two beyond a half-lifted
skirt, opening horizons to desire? She put on, indeed, her prettiest
flowered muslin dress, with a low body and short sleeves; but horrified
at so much bareness, she covered her fine arms with clear gauze
sleeves and hid her shoulders under an embroidered cape. Her curls,
_a l’Anglaise_, struck her as too fly-away; she subdued their airy
lightness by putting on a very pretty cap; but, with or without the cap,
would she have known how to twist the golden ringlets so as to show off
her taper fingers to admiration?

As to rouge--the consciousness of guilt, the preparations for a
deliberate fall, threw this saintly woman into a state of high fever,
which, for the time, revived the brilliant coloring of youth. Her eyes
were bright, her cheeks glowed. Instead of assuming a seductive air, she
saw in herself a look of barefaced audacity which shocked her.

Lisbeth, at Adeline’s request, had told her all the circumstances
of Wenceslas’ infidelity; and the Baroness had learned to her utter
amazement, that in one evening in one moment, Madame Marneffe had made
herself the mistress of the bewitched artist.

“How do these women do it?” the Baroness had asked Lisbeth.

There is no curiosity so great as that of virtuous women on such
subjects; they would like to know the arts of vice and remain
immaculate.

“Why, they are seductive; it is their business,” said Cousin Betty.
“Valerie that evening, my dear, was, I declare, enough to bring an angel
to perdition.”

“But tell me how she set to work.”

“There is no principle, only practice in that walk of life,” said
Lisbeth ironically.

The Baroness, recalling this conversation, would have liked to consult
Cousin Betty; but there was no time for that. Poor Adeline, incapable of
imagining a patch, of pinning a rosebud in the very middle of her bosom,
of devising the tricks of the toilet intended to resuscitate the ardors
of exhausted nature, was merely well dressed. A woman is not a courtesan
for the wishing!

“Woman is soup for man,” as Moliere says by the mouth of the judicious
Gros-Rene. This comparison suggests a sort of culinary art in love. Then
the virtuous wife would be a Homeric meal, flesh laid on hot cinders.
The courtesan, on the contrary, is a dish by Careme, with its
condiments, spices, and elegant arrangement. The Baroness could not--did
not know how to serve up her fair bosom in a lordly dish of lace,
after the manner of Madame Marneffe. She knew nothing of the secrets of
certain attitudes. This high-souled woman might have turned round and
round a hundred times, and she would have betrayed nothing to the keen
glance of a profligate.

To be a good woman and a prude to all the world, and a courtesan to her
husband, is the gift of a woman of genius, and they are few. This is the
secret of long fidelity, inexplicable to the women who are not blessed
with the double and splendid faculty. Imagine Madame Marneffe virtuous,
and you have the Marchesa di Pescara. But such lofty and illustrious
women, beautiful as Diane de Poitiers, but virtuous, may be easily
counted.

So the scene with which this serious and terrible drama of Paris manners
opened was about to be repeated, with this singular difference--that the
calamities prophesied then by the captain of the municipal Militia
had reversed the parts. Madame Hulot was awaiting Crevel with the same
intentions as had brought him to her, smiling down at the Paris crowd
from his _milord_, three years ago. And, strangest thing of all, the
Baroness was true to herself and to her love, while preparing to yield
to the grossest infidelity, such as the storm of passion even does not
justify in the eyes of some judges.

“What can I do to become a Madame Marneffe?” she asked herself as she
heard the door-bell.

She restrained her tears, fever gave brilliancy to her face, and she
meant to be quite the courtesan, poor, noble soul.



“What the devil can that worthy Baronne Hulot want of me?” Crevel
wondered as he mounted the stairs. “She is going to discuss my quarrel
with Celestine and Victorin, no doubt; but I will not give way!”

As he went into the drawing-room, shown in by Louise, he said to himself
as he noted the bareness of the place (Crevel’s word):

“Poor woman! She lives here like some fine picture stowed in a loft by a
man who knows nothing of painting.”

Crevel, seeing Comte Popinot, the Minister of Commerce, buy pictures and
statues, wanted also to figure as a Maecenas of Paris, whose love of Art
consists in making good investments.

Adeline smiled graciously at Crevel, pointing to a chair facing her.

“Here I am, fair lady, at your command,” said Crevel.

Monsieur the Mayor, a political personage, now wore black broadcloth.
His face, at the top of this solemn suit, shone like a full moon rising
above a mass of dark clouds. His shirt, buttoned with three large pearls
worth five hundred francs apiece, gave a great idea of his thoracic
capacity, and he was apt to say, “In me you see the coming athlete of
the tribune!” His enormous vulgar hands were encased in yellow
gloves even in the morning; his patent leather boots spoke of the
chocolate-colored coupe with one horse in which he drove.

In the course of three years ambition had altered Crevel’s pretensions.
Like all great artists, he had come to his second manner. In the great
world, when he went to the Prince de Wissembourg’s, to the Prefecture,
to Comte Popinot’s, and the like, he held his hat in his hand in an airy
manner taught him by Valerie, and he inserted the thumb of the other
hand in the armhole of his waistcoat with a knowing air, and a simpering
face and expression. This new grace of attitude was due to the satirical
inventiveness of Valerie, who, under pretence of rejuvenating her mayor,
had given him an added touch of the ridiculous.

“I begged you to come, my dear kind Monsieur Crevel,” said the Baroness
in a husky voice, “on a matter of the greatest importance--”

“I can guess what it is, madame,” said Crevel, with a knowing air,
“but what you would ask is impossible.--Oh, I am not a brutal father, a
man--to use Napoleon’s words--set hard and fast on sheer avarice. Listen
to me, fair lady. If my children were ruining themselves for their own
benefit, I would help them out of the scrape; but as for backing your
husband, madame? It is like trying to fill the vat of the Danaides!
Their house is mortgaged for three hundred thousand francs for an
incorrigible father! Why, they have nothing left, poor wretches! And
they have no fun for their money. All they have to live upon is what
Victorin may make in Court. He must wag his tongue more, must monsieur
your son! And he was to have been a Minister, that learned youth! Our
hope and pride. A pretty pilot, who runs aground like a land-lubber; for
if he had borrowed to enable him to get on, if he had run into debt for
feasting Deputies, winning votes, and increasing his influence, I should
be the first to say, ‘Here is my purse--dip your hand in, my friend!’
But when it comes of paying for papa’s folly--folly I warned you
of!--Ah! his father has deprived him of every chance of power.--It is I
who shall be Minister!”

“Alas, my dear Crevel, it has nothing to do with the children, poor
devoted souls!--If your heart is closed to Victorin and Celestine, I
shall love them so much that perhaps I may soften the bitterness of
their souls caused by your anger. You are punishing your children for a
good action!”

“Yes, for a good action badly done! That is half a crime,” said Crevel,
much pleased with his epigram.

“Doing good, my dear Crevel, does not mean sparing money out of a purse
that is bursting with it; it means enduring privations to be generous,
suffering for liberality! It is being prepared for ingratitude! Heaven
does not see the charity that costs us nothing--”

“Saints, madame, may if they please go to the workhouse; they know that
it is for them the door of heaven. For my part, I am worldly-minded; I
fear God, but yet more I fear the hell of poverty. To be destitute is
the last depth of misfortune in society as now constituted. I am a man
of my time; I respect money.”

“And you are right,” said Adeline, “from the worldly point of view.”

She was a thousand miles from her point, and she felt herself on a
gridiron, like Saint Laurence, as she thought of her uncle, for she
could see him blowing his brains out.

She looked down; then she raised her eyes to gaze at Crevel with angelic
sweetness--not with the inviting suggestiveness which was part of
Valerie’s wit. Three years ago she could have bewitched Crevel by that
beautiful look.

“I have known the time,” said she, “when you were more generous--you
used to talk of three hundred thousand francs like a grand gentleman--”

Crevel looked at Madame Hulot; he beheld her like a lily in the last of
its bloom, vague sensations rose within him, but he felt such respect
for this saintly creature that he spurned all suspicions and buried them
in the most profligate corner of his heart.

“I, madame, am still the same; but a retired merchant, if he is a grand
gentleman, plays, and must play, the part with method and economy; he
carries his ideas of order into everything. He opens an account for
his little amusements, and devotes certain profits to that head of
expenditure; but as to touching his capital! it would be folly. My
children will have their fortune intact, mine and my wife’s; but I do
not suppose that they wish their father to be dull, a monk and a mummy!
My life is a very jolly one; I float gaily down the stream. I fulfil all
the duties imposed on me by law, by my affections, and by family ties,
just as I always used to be punctual in paying my bills when they fell
due. If only my children conduct themselves in their domestic life as
I do, I shall be satisfied; and for the present, so long as my
follies--for I have committed follies--are no loss to any one but the
gulls--excuse me, you do not perhaps understand the slang word--they
will have nothing to blame me for, and will find a tidy little sum still
left when I die. Your children cannot say as much of their father, who
is ruining his son and my daughter by his pranks--”

The Baroness was getting further from her object as he went on.

“You are very unkind about my husband, my dear Crevel--and yet, if you
had found his wife obliging, you would have been his best friend----”

She shot a burning glance at Crevel; but, like Dubois, who gave the
Regent three kicks, she affected too much, and the rakish perfumer’s
thoughts jumped at such profligate suggestions, that he said to himself,
“Does she want to turn the tables on Hulot?--Does she think me more
attractive as a Mayor than as a National Guardsman? Women are strange
creatures!”

And he assumed the position of his second manner, looking at the
Baroness with his _Regency_ leer.

“I could almost fancy,” she went on, “that you want to visit on him your
resentment against the virtue that resisted you--in a woman whom you
loved well enough--to--to buy her,” she added in a low voice.

“In a divine woman,” Crevel replied, with a meaning smile at the
Baroness, who looked down while tears rose to her eyes. “For you
have swallowed not a few bitter pills!--in these three years--hey, my
beauty?”

“Do not talk of my troubles, dear Crevel; they are too much for the
endurance of a mere human being. Ah! if you still love me, you may
drag me out of the pit in which I lie. Yes, I am in hell torment! The
regicides who were racked and nipped and torn into quarters by four
horses were on roses compared with me, for their bodies only were
dismembered, and my heart is torn in quarters----”

Crevel’s thumb moved from his armhole, he placed his hand on the
work-table, he abandoned his attitude, he smiled! The smile was so
vacuous that it misled the Baroness; she took it for an expression of
kindness.

“You see a woman, not indeed in despair, but with her honor at the
point of death, and prepared for everything, my dear friend, to hinder a
crime.”

Fearing that Hortense might come in, she bolted the door; then with
equal impetuosity she fell at Crevel’s feet, took his hand and kissed
it.

“Be my deliverer!” she cried.

She thought there was some generous fibre in this mercantile soul, and
full of sudden hope that she might get the two hundred thousand francs
without degrading herself:

“Buy a soul--you were once ready to buy virtue!” she went on, with a
frenzied gaze. “Trust to my honesty as a woman, to my honor, of which
you know the worth! Be my friend! Save a whole family from ruin, shame,
despair; keep it from falling into a bog where the quicksands are
mingled with blood! Oh! ask for no explanations,” she exclaimed, at a
movement on Crevel’s part, who was about to speak. “Above all, do not
say to me, ‘I told you so!’ like a friend who is glad at a misfortune.
Come now, yield to her whom you used to love, to the woman whose
humiliation at your feet is perhaps the crowning moment of her glory;
ask nothing of her, expect what you will from her gratitude!--No, no.
Give me nothing, but lend--lend to me whom you used to call Adeline----”

At this point her tears flowed so fast, Adeline was sobbing so
passionately, that Crevel’s gloves were wet. The words, “I need two
hundred thousand francs,” were scarcely articulate in the torrent of
weeping, as stones, however large, are invisible in Alpine cataracts
swollen by the melting of the snows.

This is the inexperience of virtue. Vice asks for nothing, as we have
seen in Madame Marneffe; it gets everything offered to it. Women of that
stamp are never exacting till they have made themselves indispensable,
or when a man has to be worked as a quarry is worked where the lime is
rather scarce--going to ruin, as the quarry-men say.

On hearing these words, “Two hundred thousand francs,” Crevel understood
all. He cheerfully raised the Baroness, saying insolently:

“Come, come, bear up, mother,” which Adeline, in her distraction, failed
to hear. The scene was changing its character. Crevel was becoming
“master of the situation,” to use his own words. The vastness of the
sum startled Crevel so greatly that his emotion at seeing this handsome
woman in tears at his feet was forgotten. Besides, however angelical
and saintly a woman may be, when she is crying bitterly her beauty
disappears. A Madame Marneffe, as has been seen, whimpers now and then,
a tear trickles down her cheek; but as to melting into tears and making
her eyes and nose red!--never would she commit such a blunder.

“Come, child, compose yourself.--Deuce take it!” Crevel went on, taking
Madame Hulot’s hands in his own and patting them. “Why do you apply to
me for two hundred thousand francs? What do you want with them? Whom are
they for?”

“Do not,” said she, “insist on any explanations. Give me the money!--You
will save three lives and the honor of our children.”

“And do you suppose, my good mother, that in all Paris you will find a
man who at a word from a half-crazy woman will go off _hic et nunc_,
and bring out of some drawer, Heaven knows where, two hundred thousand
francs that have been lying simmering there till she is pleased to scoop
them up? Is that all you know of life and of business, my beauty? Your
folks are in a bad way; you may send them the last sacraments; for no
one in Paris but her Divine Highness Madame la Banque, or the great
Nucingen, or some miserable miser who is in love with gold as we other
folks are with a woman, could produce such a miracle! The civil list,
civil as it may be, would beg you to call again tomorrow. Every one
invests his money, and turns it over to the best of his powers.

“You are quite mistaken, my angel, if you suppose that King
Louis-Philippe rules us; he himself knows better than that. He knows as
well as we do that supreme above the Charter reigns the holy, venerated,
substantial, delightful, obliging, beautiful, noble, ever-youthful,
and all-powerful five-franc piece! But money, my beauty, insists on
interest, and is always engaged in seeking it! ‘God of the Jews, thou
art supreme!’ says Racine. The perennial parable of the golden calf, you
see!--In the days of Moses there was stock-jobbing in the desert!

“We have reverted to Biblical traditions; the Golden Calf was the first
State ledger,” he went on. “You, my Adeline, have not gone beyond the
Rue Plumet. The Egyptians had lent enormous sums to the Hebrews, and
what they ran after was not God’s people, but their capital.”

He looked at the Baroness with an expression which said, “How clever I
am!”

“You know nothing of the devotion of every city man to his sacred
hoard!” he went on, after a pause. “Excuse me. Listen to me. Get this
well into your head.--You want two hundred thousand francs? No one can
produce the sum without selling some security. Now consider! To have two
hundred thousand francs in hard cash it would be needful to sell about
seven hundred thousand francs’ worth of stock at three per cent. Well;
and then you would only get the money on the third day. That is the
quickest way. To persuade a man to part with a fortune--for two hundred
thousand francs is the whole fortune of many a man--he ought at least to
know where it is all going to, and for what purpose--”

“It is going, my dear kind Crevel, to save the lives of two men, one of
whom will die of grief and the other will kill himself! And to save me
too from going mad! Am I not a little mad already?”

“Not so mad!” said he, taking Madame Hulot round the knees; “old Crevel
has his price, since you thought of applying to him, my angel.”

“They submit to have a man’s arms round their knees, it would seem!”
 thought the saintly woman, covering her face with her hands.

“Once you offered me a fortune!” said she, turning red.

“Ay, mother! but that was three years ago!” replied Crevel. “Well, you
are handsomer now than ever I saw you!” he went on, taking the Baroness’
arm and pressing it to his heart. “You have a good memory, my dear, by
Jove!--And now you see how wrong you were to be so prudish, for those
three hundred thousand francs that you refused so magnanimously are in
another woman’s pocket. I loved you then, I love you still; but just
look back these three years.

“When I said to you, ‘You shall be mine,’ what object had I in view? I
meant to be revenged on that rascal Hulot. But your husband, my beauty,
found himself a mistress--a jewel of a woman, a pearl, a cunning hussy
then aged three-and-twenty, for she is six-and-twenty now. It struck
me as more amusing, more complete, more Louis XV., more Marechal de
Richelieu, more first-class altogether, to filch away that charmer, who,
in point of fact, never cared for Hulot, and who for these three years
has been madly in love with your humble servant.”

As he spoke, Crevel, from whose hands the Baroness had released her
own, had resumed his favorite attitude; both thumbs were stuck into
his armholes, and he was patting his ribs with his fingers, like two
flapping wings, fancying that he was thus making himself very attractive
and charming. It was as much as to say, “And this is the man you would
have nothing to say to!”

“There you are my dear; I had my revenge, and your husband knows it. I
proved to him clearly that he was basketed--just where he was before, as
we say. Madame Marneffe is my mistress, and when her precious Marneffe
kicks the bucket, she will be my wife.”

Madame Hulot stared at Crevel with a fixed and almost dazed look.

“Hector knew it?” she said.

“And went back to her,” replied Crevel. “And I allowed it, because
Valerie wished to be the wife of a head-clerk; but she promised me
that she would manage things so that our Baron should be so effectually
bowled over that he can never interfere any more. And my little
duchess--for that woman is a born duchess, on my soul!--kept her word.
She restores you your Hector, madame, virtuous in perpetuity, as she
says--she is so witty! He has had a good lesson, I can tell you! The
Baron has had some hard knocks; he will help no more actresses or fine
ladies; he is radically cured; cleaned out like a beer-glass.

“If you had listened to Crevel in the first instance, instead of
scorning him and turning him out of the house, you might have had four
hundred thousand francs, for my revenge has cost me all of that.--But I
shall get my change back, I hope, when Marneffe dies--I have invested
in a wife, you see; that is the secret of my extravagance. I have solved
the problem of playing the lord on easy terms.”

“Would you give your daughter such a mother-in-law? cried Madame Hulot.

“You do not know Valerie, madame,” replied Crevel gravely, striking the
attitude of his first manner. “She is a woman with good blood in her
veins, a lady, and a woman who enjoys the highest consideration. Why,
only yesterday the vicar of the parish was dining with her. She is
pious, and we have presented a splendid monstrance to the church.

“Oh! she is clever, she is witty, she is delightful, well informed--she
has everything in her favor. For my part, my dear Adeline, I owe
everything to that charming woman; she has opened my mind, polished my
speech, as you may have noticed; she corrects my impetuosity, and gives
me words and ideas. I never say anything now that I ought not. I have
greatly improved; you must have noticed it. And then she has encouraged
my ambition. I shall be a Deputy; and I shall make no blunders, for
I shall consult my Egeria. Every great politician, from Numa to our
present Prime Minister, has had his Sibyl of the fountain. A score of
deputies visit Valerie; she is acquiring considerable influence; and
now that she is about to be established in a charming house, with a
carriage, she will be one of the occult rulers of Paris.

“A fine locomotive! That is what such a woman is. Oh, I have blessed you
many a time for your stern virtue.”

“It is enough to make one doubt the goodness of God!” cried Adeline,
whose indignation had dried her tears. “But, no! Divine justice must be
hanging over her head.”

“You know nothing of the world, my beauty,” said the great politician,
deeply offended. “The world, my Adeline, loves success! Say, now, has
it come to seek out your sublime virtue, priced at two hundred thousand
francs?”

The words made Madame Hulot shudder; the nervous trembling attacked her
once more. She saw that the ex-perfumer was taking a mean revenge on her
as he had on Hulot; she felt sick with disgust, and a spasm rose to her
throat, hindering speech.

“Money!” she said at last. “Always money!”

“You touched me deeply,” said Crevel, reminded by these words of the
woman’s humiliation, “when I beheld you there, weeping at my feet!--You
perhaps will not believe me, but if I had my pocket-book about me, it
would have been yours.--Come, do you really want such a sum?”

As she heard this question, big with two hundred thousand francs,
Adeline forgot the odious insults heaped on her by this cheap-jack
fine gentleman, before the tempting picture of success described by
Machiavelli-Crevel, who only wanted to find out her secrets and laugh
over them with Valerie.

“Oh! I will do anything, everything,” cried the unhappy woman.
“Monsieur, I will sell myself--I will be a Valerie, if I must.”

“You will find that difficult,” replied Crevel. “Valerie is a
masterpiece in her way. My good mother, twenty-five years of virtue
are always repellent, like a badly treated disease. And your virtue has
grown very mouldy, my dear child. But you shall see how much I love you.
I will manage to get you your two hundred thousand francs.”

Adeline, incapable of uttering a word, seized his hand and laid it on
her heart; a tear of joy trembled in her eyes.

“Oh! don’t be in a hurry; there will be some hard pulling. I am a jolly
good fellow, a good soul with no prejudices, and I will put things
plainly to you. You want to do as Valerie does--very good. But that is
not all; you must have a gull, a stockholder, a Hulot.--Well, I know
a retired tradesman--in fact, a hosier. He is heavy, dull, has not an
idea, I am licking him into shape, but I don’t know when he will do
me credit. My man is a deputy, stupid and conceited; the tyranny of
a turbaned wife, in the depths of the country, has preserved him in a
state of utter virginity as to the luxury and pleasures of Paris life.
But Beauvisage--his name is Beauvisage--is a millionaire, and, like me,
my dear, three years ago, he will give a hundred thousand crowns to be
the lover of a real lady.--Yes, you see,” he went on, misunderstanding a
gesture on Adeline’s part, “he is jealous of me, you understand; jealous
of my happiness with Madame Marneffe, and he is a fellow quite capable
of selling an estate to purchase a--”

“Enough, Monsieur Crevel!” said Madame Hulot, no longer controlling her
disgust, and showing all her shame in her face. “I am punished beyond
my deserts. My conscience, so sternly repressed by the iron hand of
necessity, tells me, at this final insult, that such sacrifices are
impossible.--My pride is gone; I do not say now, as I did the first
time, ‘Go!’ after receiving this mortal thrust. I have lost the right to
do so. I have flung myself before you like a prostitute.

“Yes,” she went on, in reply to a negative on Crevel’s part, “I have
fouled my life, till now so pure, by a degrading thought; and I am
inexcusable!--I know it!--I deserve every insult you can offer me! God’s
will be done! If, indeed, He desires the death of two creatures worthy
to appear before Him, they must die! I shall mourn them, and pray for
them! If it is His will that my family should be humbled to the dust,
we must bow to His avenging sword, nay, and kiss it, since we are
Christians.--I know how to expiate this disgrace, which will be the
torment of all my remaining days.

“I who speak to you, monsieur, am not Madame Hulot, but a wretched,
humble sinner, a Christian whose heart henceforth will know but one
feeling, and that is repentance, all my time given up to prayer and
charity. With such a sin on my soul, I am the last of women, the first
only of penitents.--You have been the means of bringing me to a right
mind; I can hear the Voice of God speaking within me, and I can thank
you!”

She was shaking with the nervous trembling which from that hour never
left her. Her low, sweet tones were quite unlike the fevered accents of
the woman who was ready for dishonor to save her family. The blood faded
from her cheeks, her face was colorless, and her eyes were dry.

“And I played my part very badly, did I not?” she went on, looking at
Crevel with the sweetness that martyrs must have shown in their eyes
as they looked up at the Proconsul. “True love, the sacred love of a
devoted woman, gives other pleasures, no doubt, than those that are
bought in the open market!--But why so many words?” said she, suddenly
bethinking herself, and advancing a step further in the way to
perfection. “They sound like irony, but I am not ironical! Forgive me.
Besides, monsieur, I did not want to hurt any one but myself--”

The dignity of virtue and its holy flame had expelled the transient
impurity of the woman who, splendid in her own peculiar beauty, looked
taller in Crevel’s eyes. Adeline had, at this moment, the majesty of
the figures of Religion clinging to the Cross, as painted by the old
Venetians; but she expressed, too, the immensity of her love and the
grandeur of the Catholic Church, to which she flew like a wounded dove.

Crevel was dazzled, astounded.

“Madame, I am your slave, without conditions,” said he, in an
inspiration of generosity. “We will look into this matter--and--whatever
you want--the impossible even--I will do. I will pledge my securities at
the Bank, and in two hours you shall have the money.”

“Good God! a miracle!” said poor Adeline, falling on her knees.

She prayed to Heaven with such fervor as touched Crevel deeply; Madame
Hulot saw that he had tears in his eyes when, having ended her prayer,
she rose to her feet.

“Be a friend to me, monsieur,” said she. “Your heart is better than your
words and conduct. God gave you your soul; your passions and the world
have given you your ideas. Oh, I will love you truly,” she exclaimed,
with an angelic tenderness in strange contrast with her attempts at
coquettish trickery.

“But cease to tremble so,” said Crevel.

“Am I trembling?” said the Baroness, unconscious of the infirmity that
had so suddenly come upon her.

“Yes; why, look,” said Crevel, taking Adeline by the arm and showing
her that she was shaking with nervousness. “Come, madame,” he added
respectfully, “compose yourself; I am going to the Bank at once.”

“And come back quickly! Remember,” she added, betraying all her secrets,
“that the first point is to prevent the suicide of our poor Uncle
Fischer involved by my husband--for I trust you now, and I am
telling you everything. Oh, if we should not be on time, I know my
brother-in-law, the Marshal, and he has such a delicate soul, that he
would die of it in a few days.”

“I am off, then,” said Crevel, kissing the Baroness’ hand. “But what has
that unhappy Hulot done?”

“He has swindled the Government.”

“Good Heavens! I fly, madame; I understand, I admire you!”

Crevel bent one knee, kissed Madame Hulot’s skirt, and vanished, saying,
“You will see me soon.”

Unluckily, on his way from the Rue Plumet to his own house, to fetch the
securities, Crevel went along the Rue Vanneau, and he could not resist
going in to see his little Duchess. His face still bore an agitated
expression.

He went straight into Valerie’s room, who was having her hair dressed.
She looked at Crevel in her glass, and, like every woman of that sort,
was annoyed, before she knew anything about it, to see that he was moved
by some strong feeling of which she was not the cause.

“What is the matter, my dear?” said she. “Is that a face to bring in to
your little Duchess? I will not be your Duchess any more, monsieur, no
more than I will be your ‘little duck,’ you old monster.”

Crevel replied by a melancholy smile and a glance at the maid.

“Reine, child, that will do for to-day; I can finish my hair myself.
Give me my Chinese wrapper; my gentleman seems to me out of sorts.”

Reine, whose face was pitted like a colander, and who seemed to have
been made on purpose to wait on Valerie, smiled meaningly in reply, and
brought the dressing-gown. Valerie took off her combing-wrapper; she was
in her shift, and she wriggled into the dressing-gown like a snake into
a clump of grass.

“Madame is not at home?”

“What a question!” said Valerie.--“Come, tell me, my big puss, have
_Rives Gauches_ gone down?”

“No.”

“They have raised the price of the house?”

“No.”

“You fancy that you are not the father of our little Crevel?”

“What nonsense!” replied he, sure of his paternity.

“On my honor, I give it up!” said Madame Marneffe. “If I am expected
to extract my friend’s woes as you pull the cork out of a bottle of
Bordeaux, I let it alone.--Go away, you bore me.”

“It is nothing,” said Crevel. “I must find two hundred thousand francs
in two hours.”

“Oh, you can easily get them.--I have not spent the fifty thousand
francs we got out of Hulot for that report, and I can ask Henri for
fifty thousand--”

“Henri--it is always Henri!” exclaimed Crevel.

“And do you suppose, you great baby of a Machiavelli, that I will cast
off Henri? Would France disarm her fleet?--Henri! why, he is a dagger in
a sheath hanging on a nail. That boy serves as a weather-glass to show
me if you love me--and you don’t love me this morning.”

“I don’t love you, Valerie?” cried Crevel. “I love you as much as a
million.”

“That is not nearly enough!” cried she, jumping on to Crevel’s knee, and
throwing both arms round his neck as if it were a peg to hang on by. “I
want to be loved as much as ten millions, as much as all the gold in the
world, and more to that. Henri would never wait a minute before telling
me all he had on his mind. What is it, my great pet? Have it out. Make a
clean breast of it to your own little duck!”

And she swept her hair over Crevel’s face, while she jestingly pulled
his nose.

“Can a man with a nose like that,” she went on, “have any secrets from
his _Vava--lele--ririe_?”

And at the _Vava_ she tweaked his nose to the right; at _lele_ it went
to the left; at _ririe_ she nipped it straight again.

“Well, I have just seen--” Crevel stopped and looked at Madame Marneffe.

“Valerie, my treasure, promise me on your honor--ours, you know?--not to
repeat a single word of what I tell you.”

“Of course, Mayor, we know all about that. One hand up--so--and one
foot--so!” And she put herself in an attitude which, to use Rabelais’
phrase, stripped Crevel bare from his brain to his heels, so quaint and
delicious was the nudity revealed through the light film of lawn.

“I have just seen virtue in despair.”

“Can despair possess virtue?” said she, nodding gravely and crossing her
arms like Napoleon.

“It is poor Madame Hulot. She wants two hundred thousand francs, or else
Marshal Hulot and old Johann Fischer will blow their brains out; and as
you, my little Duchess, are partly at the bottom of the mischief, I am
going to patch matters up. She is a saintly creature, I know her well;
she will repay you every penny.”

At the name of Hulot, at the words two hundred thousand francs, a gleam
from Valerie’s eyes flashed from between her long eyelids like the flame
of a cannon through the smoke.

“What did the old thing do to move you to compassion? Did she show
you--what?--her--her religion?”

“Do not make game of her, sweetheart; she is a very saintly, a very
noble and pious woman, worthy of all respect.”

“Am I not worthy of respect then, heh?” answered Valerie, with a
threatening gaze at Crevel.

“I never said so,” replied he, understanding that the praise of virtue
might not be gratifying to Madame Marneffe.

“I am pious too,” Valerie went on, taking her seat in an armchair; “but
I do not make a trade of my religion. I go to church in secret.”

She sat in silence, and paid no further heed to Crevel. He, extremely
ill at ease, came to stand in front of the chair into which Valerie
had thrown herself, and saw her lost in the reflections he had been so
foolish as to suggest.

“Valerie, my little Angel!”

Utter silence. A highly problematical tear was furtively dashed away.

“One word, my little duck?”

“Monsieur!”

“What are you thinking of, my darling?”

“Oh, Monsieur Crevel, I was thinking of the day of my first communion!
How pretty I was! How pure, how saintly!--immaculate!--Oh! if any one
had come to my mother and said, ‘Your daughter will be a hussy, and
unfaithful to her husband; one day a police-officer will find her in
a disreputable house; she will sell herself to a Crevel to cheat a
Hulot--two horrible old men--’ Poof! horrible--she would have died
before the end of the sentence, she was so fond of me, poor dear!--”

“Nay, be calm.”

“You cannot think how well a woman must love a man before she can
silence the remorse that gnaws at the heart of an adulterous wife. I
am quite sorry that Reine is not here; she would have told you that she
found me this morning praying with tears in my eyes. I, Monsieur Crevel,
for my part, do not make a mockery of religion. Have you ever heard me
say a word I ought not on such a subject?”

Crevel shook his head in negation.

“I will never allow it to be mentioned in my presence. I can make fun
of anything under the sun: Kings, politics, finance, everything that is
sacred in the eyes of the world--judges, matrimony, and love--old men
and maidens. But the Church and God!--There I draw the line.--I know
I am wicked; I am sacrificing my future life to you. And you have no
conception of the immensity of my love.”

Crevel clasped his hands.

“No, unless you could see into my heart, and fathom the depth of my
conviction so as to know the extent of my sacrifice! I feel in me the
making of a Magdalen.--And see how respectfully I treat the priests;
think of the gifts I make to the Church! My mother brought me up in the
Catholic Faith, and I know what is meant by God! It is to sinners like
us that His voice is most awful.”

Valerie wiped away two tears that trickled down her cheeks. Crevel was
in dismay. Madame Marneffe stood up in her excitement.

“Be calm, my darling--you alarm me!”

Madame Marneffe fell on her knees.

“Dear Heaven! I am not bad all through!” she cried, clasping her hands.
“Vouchsafe to rescue Thy wandering lamb, strike her, crush her, snatch
her from foul and adulterous hands, and how gladly she will nestle on
Thy shoulder! How willingly she will return to the fold!”

She got up and looked at Crevel; her colorless eyes frightened him.

“Yes, Crevel, and, do you know? I, too, am frightened sometimes. The
justice of God is exerted in this nether world as well as in the next.
What mercy can I expect at God’s hands? His vengeance overtakes the
guilty in many ways; it assumes every aspect of disaster. That is what
my mother told me on her death-bed, speaking of her own old age.--But
if I should lose you,” she added, hugging Crevel with a sort of savage
frenzy--“oh! I should die!”

Madame Marneffe released Crevel, knelt down again at the armchair,
folded her hands--and in what a bewitching attitude!--and with
incredible fervor poured out the following prayer:--

“And thou, Saint Valerie, my patron saint, why dost thou so rarely visit
the pillow of her who was intrusted to thy care? Oh, come this evening,
as thou didst this morning, to inspire me with holy thoughts, and I will
quit the path of sin; like the Magdalen, I will give up deluding joys
and the false glitter of the world, even the man I love so well--”

“My precious duck!”

“No more of the ‘precious duck,’ monsieur!” said she, turning round
like a virtuous wife, her eyes full of tears, but dignified, cold, and
indifferent.

“Leave me,” she went on, pushing him from her. “What is my duty? To
belong wholly to my husband.--He is a dying man, and what am I doing?
Deceiving him on the edge of the grave. He believes your child to be
his. I will tell him the truth, and begin by securing his pardon before
I ask for God’s.--We must part. Good-bye, Monsieur Crevel,” and she
stood up to offer him an icy cold hand. “Good-bye, my friend; we shall
meet no more till we meet in a better world.--You have to thank me for
some enjoyment, criminal indeed; now I want--oh yes, I shall have your
esteem.”

Crevel was weeping bitter tears.

“You great pumpkin!” she exclaimed, with an infernal peal of laughter.
“That is how your pious women go about it to drag from you a plum of two
hundred thousand francs. And you, who talk of the Marechal de Richelieu,
the prototype of Lovelace, you could be taken in by such a stale trick
as that! I could get hundreds of thousands of francs out of you any day,
if I chose, you old ninny!--Keep your money! If you have more than
you know what to do with, it is mine. If you give two sous to that
‘respectable’ woman, who is pious forsooth, because she is fifty-six
years of age, we shall never meet again, and you may take her for your
mistress! You could come back to me next day bruised all over from
her bony caresses and sodden with her tears, and sick of her little
barmaid’s caps and her whimpering, which must turn her favors into
showers--”

“In point of fact,” said Crevel, “two hundred thousand francs is a round
sum of money.”

“They have fine appetites, have the goody sort! By the poker! they
sell their sermons dearer than we sell the rarest and realest thing on
earth--pleasure.--And they can spin a yarn! There, I know them. I have
seen plenty in my mother’s house. They think everything is allowable
for the Church and for--Really, my dear love, you ought to be ashamed
of yourself--for you are not so open-handed! You have not given me two
hundred thousand francs all told!”

“Oh yes,” said Crevel, “your little house will cost as much as that.”

“Then you have four hundred thousand francs?” said she thoughtfully.

“No.”

“Then, sir, you meant to lend that old horror the two hundred thousand
francs due for my hotel? What a crime, what high treason!”

“Only listen to me.”

“If you were giving the money to some idiotic philanthropic scheme,
you would be regarded as a coming man,” she went on, with increasing
eagerness, “and I should be the first to advise it; for you are too
simple to write a big political book that might make you famous; as for
style, you have not enough to butter a pamphlet; but you might do as
other men do who are in your predicament, and who get a halo of glory
about their name by putting it at the top of some social, or moral,
or general, or national enterprise. Benevolence is out of date, quite
vulgar. Providing for old offenders, and making them more comfortable
than the poor devils who are honest, is played out. What I should like
to see is some invention of your own with an endowment of two hundred
thousand francs--something difficult and really useful. Then you would
be talked about as a man of mark, a Montyon, and I should be very proud
of you!

“But as to throwing two hundred thousand francs into a holy-water shell,
or lending them to a bigot--cast off by her husband, and who knows why?
there is always some reason: does any one cast me off, I ask you?--is
a piece of idiocy which in our days could only come into the head of a
retired perfumer. It reeks of the counter. You would not dare look at
yourself in the glass two days after.

“Go and pay the money in where it will be safe--run, fly; I will not
admit you again without the receipt in your hand. Go, as fast and soon
as you can!”

She pushed Crevel out of the room by the shoulders, seeing avarice
blossoming in his face once more. When she heard the outer door shut,
she exclaimed:

“Then Lisbeth is revenged over and over again! What a pity that she is
at her old Marshal’s now! We would have had a good laugh! So that old
woman wants to take the bread out of my mouth. I will startle her a
little!”



Marshal Hulot, being obliged to live in a style suited to the highest
military rank, had taken a handsome house in the Rue du Mont-Parnasse,
where there are three or four princely residences. Though he rented the
whole house, he inhabited only the ground floor. When Lisbeth went to
keep house for him, she at once wished to let the first floor, which, as
she said, would pay the whole rent, so that the Count would live almost
rent-free; but the old soldier would not hear of it.

For some months past the Marshal had had many sad thoughts. He had
guessed how miserably poor his sister-in-law was, and suspected her
griefs without understanding their cause. The old man, so cheerful in
his deafness, became taciturn; he could not help thinking that his house
would one day be a refuge for the Baroness and her daughter; and it was
for them that he kept the first floor. The smallness of his fortune
was so well known at headquarters, that the War Minister, the Prince
de Wissembourg, begged his old comrade to accept a sum of money for his
household expenses. This sum the Marshal spent in furnishing the ground
floor, which was in every way suitable; for, as he said, he would not
accept the Marshal’s baton to walk the streets with.

The house had belonged to a senator under the Empire, and the ground
floor drawing-rooms had been very magnificently fitted with carved wood,
white-and-gold, still in very good preservation. The Marshal had found
some good old furniture in the same style; in the coach-house he had
a carriage with two batons in saltire on the panels; and when he was
expected to appear in full fig, at the Minister’s, at the Tuileries, for
some ceremony or high festival, he hired horses for the job.

His servant for more than thirty years was an old soldier of sixty,
whose sister was the cook, so he had saved ten thousand francs, adding
it by degrees to a little hoard he intended for Hortense. Every day the
old man walked along the boulevard, from the Rue du Mont-Parnasse to the
Rue Plumet; and every pensioner as he passed stood at attention, without
fail, to salute him: then the Marshal rewarded the veteran with a smile.

“Who is the man you always stand at attention to salute?” said a young
workman one day to an old captain and pensioner.

“I will tell you, boy,” replied the officer.

The “boy” stood resigned, as a man does to listen to an old gossip.

“In 1809,” said the captain, “we were covering the flank of the main
army, marching on Vienna under the Emperor’s command. We came to a
bridge defended by three batteries of cannon, one above another, on a
sort of cliff; three redoubts like three shelves, and commanding the
bridge. We were under Marshal Massena. That man whom you see there was
Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, and I was one of them. Our columns held
one bank of the river, the batteries were on the other. Three times they
tried for the bridge, and three times they were driven back. ‘Go and
find Hulot!’ said the Marshal; ‘nobody but he and his men can bolt that
morsel.’ So we came. The General, who was just retiring from the bridge,
stopped Hulot under fire, to tell him how to do it, and he was in the
way. ‘I don’t want advice, but room to pass,’ said our General coolly,
marching across at the head of his men. And then, rattle, thirty guns
raking us at once.”

“By Heaven!” cried the workman, “that accounts for some of these
crutches!”

“And if you, like me, my boy, had heard those words so quietly spoken,
you would bow before that man down to the ground! It is not so famous as
Arcole, but perhaps it was finer. We followed Hulot at the double, right
up to those batteries. All honor to those we left there!” and the old
man lifted his hat. “The Austrians were amazed at the dash of it.--The
Emperor made the man you saw a Count; he honored us all by honoring our
leader; and the King of to-day was very right to make him a Marshal.”

“Hurrah for the Marshal!” cried the workman.

“Oh, you may shout--shout away! The Marshal is as deaf as a post from
the roar of cannon.”

This anecdote may give some idea of the respect with which the
_Invalides_ regarded Marshal Hulot, whose Republican proclivities
secured him the popular sympathy of the whole quarter of the town.

Sorrow taking hold on a spirit so calm and strict and noble, was a
heart-breaking spectacle. The Baroness could only tell lies, with
a woman’s ingenuity, to conceal the whole dreadful truth from her
brother-in-law.

In the course of this miserable morning, the Marshal, who, like all old
men, slept but little, had extracted from Lisbeth full particulars as
to his brother’s situation, promising to marry her as the reward of her
revelations. Any one can imagine with what glee the old maid allowed
the secrets to be dragged from her which she had been dying to tell
ever since she had come into the house; for by this means she made her
marriage more certain.

“Your brother is incorrigible!” Lisbeth shouted into the Marshal’s best
ear.

Her strong, clear tones enabled her to talk to him, but she wore out her
lungs, so anxious was she to prove to her future husband that to her he
would never be deaf.

“He has had three mistresses,” said the old man, “and his wife was an
Adeline! Poor Adeline!”

“If you will take my advice,” shrieked Lisbeth, “you will use your
influence with the Prince de Wissembourg to secure her some suitable
appointment. She will need it, for the Baron’s pay is pledged for three
years.”

“I will go to the War Office,” said he, “and see the Prince, to find
out what he thinks of my brother, and ask for his interest to help my
sister. Think of some place that is fit for her.”

“The charitable ladies of Paris, in concert with the Archbishop, have
formed various beneficent associations; they employ superintendents,
very decently paid, whose business it is to seek out cases of real want.
Such an occupation would exactly suit dear Adeline; it would be work
after her own heart.”

“Send to order the horses,” said the Marshal. “I will go and dress. I
will drive to Neuilly if necessary.”

“How fond he is of her! She will always cross my path wherever I turn!”
 said Lisbeth to herself.

Lisbeth was already supreme in the house, but not with the Marshal’s
cognizance. She had struck terror into the three servants--for she had
allowed herself a housemaid, and she exerted her old-maidish energy in
taking stock of everything, examining everything, and arranging in
every respect for the comfort of her dear Marshal. Lisbeth, quite as
Republican as he could be, pleased him by her democratic opinions, and
she flattered him with amazing dexterity; for the last fortnight the old
man, whose house was better kept, and who was cared for as a child by
its mother, had begun to regard Lisbeth as a part of what he had dreamed
of.

“My dear Marshal,” she shouted, following him out on to the steps, “pull
up the windows, do not sit in a draught, to oblige me!”

The Marshal, who had never been so cosseted in his life, went off
smiling at Lisbeth, though his heart was aching.

At the same hour Baron Hulot was quitting the War Office to call on his
chief, Marshal the Prince de Wissembourg, who had sent for him. Though
there was nothing extraordinary in one of the Generals on the Board
being sent for, Hulot’s conscience was so uneasy that he fancied he saw
a cold and sinister expression in Mitouflet’s face.

“Mitouflet, how is the Prince?” he asked, locking the door of his
private room and following the messenger who led the way.

“He must have a crow to pluck with you, Monsieur le Baron,” replied the
man, “for his face is set at stormy.”

Hulot turned pale, and said no more; he crossed the anteroom and
reception rooms, and, with a violently beating heart, found himself at
the door of the Prince’s private study.

The chief, at this time seventy years old, with perfectly white hair,
and the tanned complexion of a soldier of that age, commanded attention
by a brow so vast that imagination saw in it a field of battle. Under
this dome, crowned with snow, sparkled a pair of eyes, of the Napoleon
blue, usually sad-looking and full of bitter thoughts and regrets, their
fire overshadowed by the penthouse of the strongly projecting brow. This
man, Bernadotte’s rival, had hoped to find his seat on a throne. But
those eyes could flash formidable lightnings when they expressed strong
feelings.

Then, his voice, always somewhat hollow, rang with strident tones. When
he was angry, the Prince was a soldier once more; he spoke the language
of Lieutenant Cottin; he spared nothing--nobody. Hulot d’Ervy found the
old lion, his hair shaggy like a mane, standing by the fireplace, his
brows knit, his back against the mantel-shelf, and his eyes apparently
fixed on vacancy.

“Here! At your orders, Prince!” said Hulot, affecting a graceful ease of
manner.

The Marshal looked hard at the Baron, without saying a word, during the
time it took him to come from the door to within a few steps of where
the chief stood. This leaden stare was like the eye of God; Hulot could
not meet it; he looked down in confusion.

“He knows everything!” said he to himself.

“Does your conscience tell you nothing?” asked the Marshal, in his deep,
hollow tones.

“It tells me, sir, that I have been wrong, no doubt, in ordering
_razzias_ in Algeria without referring the matter to you. At my age,
and with my tastes, after forty-five years of service, I have
no fortune.--You know the principles of the four hundred elect
representatives of France. Those gentlemen are envious of every
distinction; they have pared down even the Ministers’ pay--that says
everything! Ask them for money for an old servant!--What can you expect
of men who pay a whole class so badly as they pay the Government legal
officials?--who give thirty sous a day to the laborers on the works at
Toulon, when it is a physical impossibility to live there and keep a
family on less than forty sous?--who never think of the atrocity of
giving salaries of six hundred francs, up to a thousand or twelve
hundred perhaps, to clerks living in Paris; and who want to secure our
places for themselves as soon as the pay rises to forty thousand?--who,
finally, refuse to restore to the Crown a piece of Crown property
confiscated from the Crown in 1830--property acquired, too, by Louis
XVI. out of his privy purse!--If you had no private fortune, Prince,
you would be left high and dry, like my brother, with your pay and not
another sou, and no thought of your having saved the army, and me with
it, in the boggy plains of Poland.”

“You have robbed the State! You have made yourself liable to be brought
before the bench at Assizes,” said the Marshal, “like that clerk of the
Treasury! And you take this, monsieur, with such levity.”

“But there is a great difference, monseigneur!” cried the baron. “Have I
dipped my hands into a cash box intrusted to my care?”

“When a man of your rank commits such an infamous crime,” said
the Marshal, “he is doubly guilty if he does it clumsily. You have
compromised the honor of our official administration, which hitherto has
been the purest in Europe!--And all for two hundred thousand francs and
a hussy!” said the Marshal, in a terrible voice. “You are a Councillor
of State--and a private soldier who sells anything belonging to his
regiment is punished with death! Here is a story told to me one day by
Colonel Pourin of the Second Lancers. At Saverne, one of his men fell in
love with a little Alsatian girl who had a fancy for a shawl. The jade
teased this poor devil of a lancer so effectually, that though he
could show twenty years’ service, and was about to be promoted to be
quartermaster--the pride of the regiment--to buy this shawl he sold some
of his company’s kit.--Do you know what this lancer did, Baron d’Ervy?
He swallowed some window-glass after pounding it down, and died in
eleven hours, of an illness, in hospital.--Try, if you please, to die of
apoplexy, that we may not see you dishonored.”

Hulot looked with haggard eyes at the old warrior; and the Prince,
reading the look which betrayed the coward, felt a flush rise to his
cheeks; his eyes flamed.

“Will you, sir, abandon me?” Hulot stammered.

Marshal Hulot, hearing that only his brother was with the Minister,
ventured at this juncture to come in, and, like all deaf people, went
straight up to the Prince.

“Oh,” cried the hero of Poland, “I know what you are here for, my old
friend! But we can do nothing.”

“Do nothing!” echoed Marshal Hulot, who had heard only the last word.

“Nothing; you have come to intercede for your brother. But do you know
what your brother is?”

“My brother?” asked the deaf man.

“Yes, he is a damned infernal blackguard, and unworthy of you.”

The Marshal in his rage shot from his eyes those fulminating fires
which, like Napoleon’s, broke a man’s will and judgment.

“You lie, Cottin!” said Marshal Hulot, turning white. “Throw down your
baton as I throw mine! I am ready.”

The Prince went up to his old comrade, looked him in the face, and
shouted in his ear as he grasped his hand:

“Are you a man?”

“You will see that I am.”

“Well, then, pull yourself together! You must face the worst misfortune
that can befall you.”

The Prince turned round, took some papers from the table, and placed
them in the Marshal’s hands, saying, “Read that.”

The Comte de Forzheim read the following letter, which lay uppermost:--

  “To his Excellency the President of the Council.

“_Private and Confidential_.

“ALGIERS.

  “MY DEAR PRINCE,--We have a very ugly business on our hands, as
  you will see by the accompanying documents.

  “The story, briefly told, is this: Baron Hulot d’Ervy sent out to
  the province of Oran an uncle of his as a broker in grain and
  forage, and gave him an accomplice in the person of a storekeeper.
  This storekeeper, to curry favor, has made a confession, and
  finally made his escape. The Public Prosecutor took the matter up
  very thoroughly, seeing, as he supposed, that only two inferior
  agents were implicated; but Johann Fischer, uncle to your Chief of
  the Commissariat Department, finding that he was to be brought up
  at the Assizes, stabbed himself in prison with a nail.

  “That would have been the end of the matter if this worthy and
  honest man, deceived, it would seem, by his agent and by his
  nephew, had not thought proper to write to Baron Hulot. This
  letter, seized as a document, so greatly surprised the Public
  Prosecutor, that he came to see me. Now, the arrest and public
  trial of a Councillor of State would be such a terrible thing--of
  a man high in office too, who has a good record for loyal service
  --for after the Beresina, it was he who saved us all by
  reorganizing the administration--that I desired to have all the
  papers sent to me.

  “Is the matter to take its course? Now that the principal agent is
  dead, will it not be better to smother up the affair and sentence
  the storekeeper in default?

  “The Public Prosecutor has consented to my forwarding the
  documents for your perusal; the Baron Hulot d’Ervy, being resident
  in Paris, the proceedings will lie with your Supreme Court. We
  have hit on this rather shabby way of ridding ourselves of the
  difficulty for the moment.

  “Only, my dear Marshal, decide quickly. This miserable business is
  too much talked about already, and it will do as much harm to us
  as to you all if the name of the principal culprit--known at
  present only to the Public Prosecutor, the examining judge, and
  myself--should happen to leak out.”

At this point the letter fell from Marshal Hulot’s hands; he looked at
his brother; he saw that there was no need to examine the evidence. But
he looked for Johann Fischer’s letter, and after reading it at a glance,
held it out to Hector:--

“FROM THE PRISON AT ORAN.

  “DEAR NEPHEW,--When you read this letter, I shall have ceased to
  live.

  “Be quite easy, no proof can be found to incriminate you. When I
  am dead and your Jesuit of a Chardin fled, the trial must
  collapse. The face of our Adeline, made so happy by you, makes
  death easy to me. Now you need not send the two hundred thousand
  francs. Good-bye.

  “This letter will be delivered by a prisoner for a short term whom
  I can trust, I believe.

“JOHANN FISCHER.”


“I beg your pardon,” said Marshal Hulot to the Prince de Wissembourg
with pathetic pride.

“Come, come, say _tu_, not the formal _vous_,” replied the Minister,
clasping his old friend’s hand. “The poor lancer killed no one but
himself,” he added, with a thunderous look at Hulot d’Ervy.

“How much have you had?” said the Comte de Forzheim to his brother.

“Two hundred thousand francs.”

“My dear friend,” said the Count, addressing the Minister, “you shall
have the two hundred thousand francs within forty-eight hours. It shall
never be said that a man bearing the name of Hulot has wronged the
public treasury of a single sou.”

“What nonsense!” said the Prince. “I know where the money is, and I can
get it back.--Send in your resignation and ask for your pension!” he
went on, sending a double sheet of foolscap flying across to where the
Councillor of State had sat down by the table, for his legs gave way
under him. “To bring you to trial would disgrace us all. I have already
obtained from the superior Board their sanction to this line of
action. Since you can accept life with dishonor--in my opinion the last
degradation--you will get the pension you have earned. Only take care to
be forgotten.”

The Minister rang.

“Is Marneffe, the head-clerk, out there?”

“Yes, monseigneur.”

“Show him in!”

“You,” said the Minister as Marneffe came in, “you and your wife have
wittingly and intentionally ruined the Baron d’Ervy whom you see.”

“Monsieur le Ministre, I beg your pardon. We are very poor. I have
nothing to live on but my pay, and I have two children, and the one that
is coming will have been brought into the family by Monsieur le Baron.”

“What a villain he looks!” said the Prince, pointing to Marneffe and
addressing Marshal Hulot.--“No more of Sganarelle speeches,” he went
on; “you will disgorge two hundred thousand francs, or be packed off to
Algiers.”

“But, Monsieur le Ministre, you do not know my wife. She has spent it
all. Monsieur le Baron asked six persons to dinner every evening.--Fifty
thousand francs a year are spent in my house.”

“Leave the room!” said the Minister, in the formidable tones that
had given the word to charge in battle. “You will have notice of your
transfer within two hours. Go!”

“I prefer to send in my resignation,” said Marneffe insolently. “For it
is too much to be what I am already, and thrashed into the bargain. That
would not satisfy me at all.”

And he left the room.

“What an impudent scoundrel!” said the Prince.

Marshal Hulot, who had stood up throughout this scene, as pale as a
corpse, studying his brother out of the corner of his eye, went up to
the Prince, and took his hand, repeating:

“In forty-eight hours the pecuniary mischief shall be repaired; but
honor!--Good-bye, Marshal. It is the last shot that kills. Yes, I shall
die of it!” he said in his ear.

“What the devil brought you here this morning?” said the Prince, much
moved.

“I came to see what can be done for his wife,” replied the Count,
pointing to his brother. “She is wanting bread--especially now!”

“He has his pension.”

“It is pledged!”

“The Devil must possess such a man,” said the Prince, with a shrug.
“What philtre do those baggages give you to rob you of your wits?”
 he went on to Hulot d’Ervy. “How could you--you, who know the precise
details with which in French offices everything is written down at full
length, consuming reams of paper to certify to the receipt or outlay
of a few centimes--you, who have so often complained that a hundred
signatures are needed for a mere trifle, to discharge a soldier, to buy
a curry-comb--how could you hope to conceal a theft for any length of
time? To say nothing of the newspapers, and the envious, and the people
who would like to steal!--those women must rob you of your common-sense!
Do they cover your eyes with walnut-shells? or are you yourself made of
different stuff from us?--You ought to have left the office as soon as
you found that you were no longer a man, but a temperament. If you have
complicated your crime with such gross folly, you will end--I will not
say where----”

“Promise me, Cottin, that you will do what you can for her,” said the
Marshal, who heard nothing, and was still thinking of his sister-in-law.

“Depend on me!” said the Minister.

“Thank you, and good-bye then!--Come, monsieur,” he said to his brother.

The Prince looked with apparent calmness at the two brothers, so
different in their demeanor, conduct, and character--the brave man
and the coward, the ascetic and the profligate, the honest man and the
peculator--and he said to himself:

“That mean creature will not have courage to die! And my poor Hulot,
such an honest fellow! has death in his knapsack, I know!”

He sat down again in his big chair and went on reading the despatches
from Africa with a look characteristic at once of the coolness of a
leader and of the pity roused by the sight of a battle-field! For in
reality no one is so humane as a soldier, stern as he may seem in the
icy determination acquired by the habit of fighting, and so absolutely
essential in the battle-field.

Next morning some of the newspapers contained, under various headings,
the following paragraphs:--

  “Monsieur le Baron Hulot d’Ervy has applied for his retiring
  pension. The unsatisfactory state of the Algerian exchequer, which
  has come out in consequence of the death and disappearance of two
  employes, has had some share in this distinguished official’s
  decision. On hearing of the delinquencies of the agents whom he
  had unfortunately trusted, Monsieur le Baron Hulot had a paralytic
  stroke in the War Minister’s private room.

  “Monsieur Hulot d’Ervy, brother to the Marshal Comte de Forzheim,
  has been forty-five years in the service. His determination has
  been vainly opposed, and is greatly regretted by all who know
  Monsieur Hulot, whose private virtues are as conspicuous as his
  administrative capacity. No one can have forgotten the devoted
  conduct of the Commissary General of the Imperial Guard at Warsaw,
  or the marvelous promptitude with which he organized supplies for
  the various sections of the army so suddenly required by Napoleon
  in 1815.

  “One more of the heroes of the Empire is retiring from the stage.
  Monsieur le Baron Hulot has never ceased, since 1830, to be one of
  the guiding lights of the State Council and of the War Office.”

  “ALGIERS.--The case known as the forage supply case, to which some
  of our contemporaries have given absurd prominence, has been
  closed by the death of the chief culprit. Johann Wisch has
  committed suicide in his cell; his accomplice, who had absconded,
  will be sentenced in default.

  “Wisch, formerly an army contractor, was an honest man and highly
  respected, who could not survive the idea of having been the dupe
  of Chardin, the storekeeper who has disappeared.”

And in the _Paris News_ the following paragraph appeared:

  “Monsieur le Marechal the Minister of War, to prevent the
  recurrence of such scandals for the future, has arranged for a
  regular Commissariat office in Africa. A head-clerk in the War
  Office, Monsieur Marneffe, is spoken of as likely to be appointed
  to the post of director.”



  “The office vacated by Baron Hulot is the object of much ambition.
  The appointment is promised, it is said, to Monsieur le Comte
  Martial de la Roche-Hugon, Deputy, brother-in-law to Monsieur le
  Comte de Rastignac. Monsieur Massol, Master of Appeals, will fill
  his seat on the Council of State, and Monsieur Claude Vignon
  becomes Master of Appeals.”

Of all kinds of false gossip, the most dangerous for the Opposition
newspapers is the official bogus paragraph. However keen journalists
may be, they are sometimes the voluntary or involuntary dupes of the
cleverness of those who have risen from the ranks of the Press, like
Claude Vignon, to the higher realms of power. The newspaper can only be
circumvented by the journalist. It may be said, as a parody on a line by
Voltaire:

“The Paris news is never what the foolish folk believe.”

Marshal Hulot drove home with his brother, who took the front seat,
respectfully leaving the whole of the back of the carriage to his
senior. The two men spoke not a word. Hector was helpless. The Marshal
was lost in thought, like a man who is collecting all his strength, and
bracing himself to bear a crushing weight. On arriving at his own house,
still without speaking, but by an imperious gesture, he beckoned his
brother into his study. The Count had received from the Emperor Napoleon
a splendid pair of pistols from the Versailles factory; he took the
box, with its inscription. “_Given by the Emperor Napoleon to General
Hulot_,” out of his desk, and placing it on the top, he showed it to his
brother, saying, “There is your remedy.”

Lisbeth, peeping through the chink of the door, flew down to the
carriage and ordered the coachman to go as fast as he could gallop
to the Rue Plumet. Within about twenty minutes she had brought back
Adeline, whom she had told of the Marshal’s threat to his brother.

The Marshal, without looking at Hector, rang the bell for his factotum,
the old soldier who had served him for thirty years.

“Beau-Pied,” said he, “fetch my notary, and Count Steinbock, and my
niece Hortense, and the stockbroker to the Treasury. It is now half-past
ten; they must all be here by twelve. Take hackney cabs--and go faster
than _that_!” he added, a republican allusion which in past days had
been often on his lips. And he put on the scowl that had brought his
soldiers to attention when he was beating the broom on the heaths of
Brittany in 1799. (See _Les Chouans_.)

“You shall be obeyed, Marechal,” said Beau-Pied, with a military salute.

Still paying no heed to his brother, the old man came back into his
study, took a key out of his desk, and opened a little malachite box
mounted in steel, the gift of the Emperor Alexander.

By Napoleon’s orders he had gone to restore to the Russian Emperor the
private property seized at the battle of Dresden, in exchange for which
Napoleon hoped to get back Vandamme. The Czar rewarded General Hulot
very handsomely, giving him this casket, and saying that he hoped one
day to show the same courtesy to the Emperor of the French; but he kept
Vandamme. The Imperial arms of Russia were displayed in gold on the lid
of the box, which was inlaid with gold.

The Marshal counted the bank-notes it contained; he had a hundred and
fifty-two thousand francs. He saw this with satisfaction. At the same
moment Madame Hulot came into the room in a state to touch the heart
of the sternest judge. She flew into Hector’s arms, looking alternately
with a crazy eye at the Marshal and at the case of pistols.

“What have you to say against your brother? What has my husband done to
you?” said she, in such a voice that the Marshal heard her.

“He has disgraced us all!” replied the Republican veteran, who spoke
with a vehemence that reopened one of his old wounds. “He has robbed
the Government! He has cast odium on my name, he makes me wish I were
dead--he has killed me!--I have only strength enough left to make
restitution!

“I have been abased before the Conde of the Republic, the man I esteem
above all others, and to whom I unjustifiably gave the lie--the Prince
of Wissembourg!--Is that nothing? That is the score his country has
against him!”

He wiped away a tear.

“Now, as to his family,” he went on. “He is robbing you of the bread I
had saved for you, the fruit of thirty years’ economy, of the privations
of an old soldier! Here is what was intended for you,” and he held up
the bank-notes. “He has killed his Uncle Fischer, a noble and worthy son
of Alsace who could not--as he can--endure the thought of a stain on his
peasant’s honor.

“To crown all, God, in His adorable clemency, had allowed him to choose
an angel among women; he has had the unspeakable happiness of having
an Adeline for his wife! And he has deceived her, he has soaked her in
sorrows, he has neglected her for prostitutes, for street-hussies, for
ballet-girls, actresses--Cadine, Josepha, Marneffe!--And that is the
brother I treated as a son and made my pride!

“Go, wretched man; if you can accept the life of degradation you have
made for yourself, leave my house! I have not the heart to curse a
brother I have loved so well--I am as foolish about him as you are,
Adeline--but never let me see him again. I forbid his attending my
funeral or following me to the grave. Let him show the decency of a
criminal if he can feel no remorse.”

The Marshal, as pale as death, fell back on the settee, exhausted by
his solemn speech. And, for the first time in his life perhaps, tears
gathered in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks.

“My poor uncle!” cried Lisbeth, putting a handkerchief to her eyes.

“Brother!” said Adeline, kneeling down by the Marshal, “live for my
sake. Help me in the task of reconciling Hector to the world and making
him redeem the past.”

“He!” cried the Marshal. “If he lives, he is not at the end of his
crimes. A man who has misprized an Adeline, who has smothered in his
own soul the feelings of a true Republican which I tried to instill into
him, the love of his country, of his family, and of the poor--that man
is a monster, a swine!--Take him away if you still care for him, for a
voice within me cries to me to load my pistols and blow his brains out.
By killing him I should save you all, and I should save him too from
himself.”

The old man started to his feet with such a terrifying gesture that poor
Adeline exclaimed:

“Hector--come!”

She seized her husband’s arm, dragged him away, and out of the house;
but the Baron was so broken down, that she was obliged to call a coach
to take him to the Rue Plumet, where he went to bed. The man remained
there for several days in a sort of half-dissolution, refusing all
nourishment without a word. By floods of tears, Adeline persuaded him to
swallow a little broth; she nursed him, sitting by his bed, and feeling
only, of all the emotions that once had filled her heart, the deepest
pity for him.

At half-past twelve, Lisbeth showed into her dear Marshal’s room--for
she would not leave him, so much was she alarmed at the evident change
in him--Count Steinbock and the notary.

“Monsieur le Comte,” said the Marshal, “I would beg you to be so good as
to put your signature to a document authorizing my niece, your wife,
to sell a bond for certain funds of which she at present holds only the
reversion.--You, Mademoiselle Fischer, will agree to this sale, thus
losing your life interest in the securities.”

“Yes, dear Count,” said Lisbeth without hesitation.

“Good, my dear,” said the old soldier. “I hope I may live to reward you.
But I did not doubt you; you are a true Republican, a daughter of the
people.” He took the old maid’s hand and kissed it.

“Monsieur Hannequin,” he went on, speaking to the notary, “draw up the
necessary document in the form of a power of attorney, and let me have
it within two hours, so that I may sell the stock on the Bourse to-day.
My niece, the Countess, holds the security; she will be here to sign the
power of attorney when you bring it, and so will mademoiselle. Monsieur
le Comte will be good enough to go with you and sign it at your office.”

The artist, at a nod from Lisbeth, bowed respectfully to the Marshal and
went away.

Next morning, at ten o’clock, the Comte de Forzheim sent in to announce
himself to the Prince, and was at once admitted.

“Well, my dear Hulot,” said the Prince, holding out the newspapers to
his old friend, “we have saved appearances, you see.--Read.”

Marshal Hulot laid the papers on his comrade’s table, and held out to
him the two hundred thousand francs.

“Here is the money of which my brother robbed the State,” said he.

“What madness!” cried the Minister. “It is impossible,” he said into
the speaking-trumpet handed to him by the Marshal, “to manage this
restitution. We should be obliged to declare your brother’s dishonest
dealings, and we have done everything to hide them.”

“Do what you like with the money; but the family shall not owe one sou
of its fortune to a robbery on the funds of the State,” said the Count.

“I will take the King’s commands in the matter. We will discuss it no
further,” replied the Prince, perceiving that it would be impossible to
conquer the old man’s sublime obstinacy on the point.

“Good-bye, Cottin,” said the old soldier, taking the Prince’s hand. “I
feel as if my soul were frozen--”

Then, after going a step towards the door, he turned round, looked at
the Prince, and seeing that he was deeply moved, he opened his arms to
clasp him in them; the two old soldiers embraced each other.

“I feel as if I were taking leave of the whole of the old army in you,”
 said the Count.

“Good-bye, my good old comrade!” said the Minister.

“Yes, it is good-bye; for I am going where all our brave men are for
whom we have mourned--”

Just then Claude Vignon was shown in. The two relics of the Napoleonic
phalanx bowed gravely to each other, effacing every trace of emotion.

“You have, I hope, been satisfied by the papers,” said the Master of
Appeals-elect. “I contrived to let the Opposition papers believe that
they were letting out our secrets.”

“Unfortunately, it is all in vain,” replied the Minister, watching Hulot
as he left the room. “I have just gone through a leave-taking that has
been a great grief to me. For, indeed, Marshal Hulot has not three days
to live; I saw that plainly enough yesterday. That man, one of those
honest souls that are above proof, a soldier respected by the bullets
in spite of his valor, received his death-blow--there, in that
armchair--and dealt by my hand, in a letter!--Ring and order my
carriage. I must go to Neuilly,” said he, putting the two hundred
thousand francs into his official portfolio.



Notwithstanding Lisbeth’s nursing, Marshal Hulot three days later was
a dead man. Such men are the glory of the party they support. To
Republicans, the Marshal was the ideal of patriotism; and they all
attended his funeral, which was followed by an immense crowd. The army,
the State officials, the Court, and the populace all came to do homage
to this lofty virtue, this spotless honesty, this immaculate glory. Such
a last tribute of the people is not a thing to be had for the asking.

This funeral was distinguished by one of those tributes of delicate
feeling, of good taste, and sincere respect which from time to time
remind us of the virtues and dignity of the old French nobility.
Following the Marshal’s bier came the old Marquis de Montauran, the
brother of him who, in the great rising of the Chouans in 1799, had been
the foe, the luckless foe, of Hulot. That Marquis, killed by the balls
of the “Blues,” had confided the interests of his young brother to the
Republican soldier. (See _Les Chouans_.) Hulot had so faithfully acted
on the noble Royalist’s verbal will, that he succeeded in saving the
young man’s estates, though he himself was at the time an emigre. And so
the homage of the old French nobility was not wanting to the leader who,
nine years since, had conquered MADAME.

This death, happening just four days before the banns were cried for
the last time, came upon Lisbeth like the thunderbolt that burns the
garnered harvest with the barn. The peasant of Lorraine, as often
happens, had succeeded too well. The Marshal had died of the blows dealt
to the family by herself and Madame Marneffe.

The old maid’s vindictiveness, which success seemed to have somewhat
mollified, was aggravated by this disappointment of her hopes. Lisbeth
went, crying with rage, to Madame Marneffe; for she was homeless, the
Marshal having agreed that his lease was at any time to terminate
with his life. Crevel, to console Valerie’s friend, took charge of her
savings, added to them considerably, and invested the capital in five
per cents, giving her the life interest, and putting the securities
into Celestine’s name. Thanks to this stroke of business, Lisbeth had an
income of about two thousand francs.

When the Marshal’s property was examined and valued, a note was found,
addressed to his sister-in-law, to his niece Hortense, and to his nephew
Victorin, desiring that they would pay among them an annuity of twelve
hundred francs to Mademoiselle Lisbeth Fischer, who was to have been his
wife.

Adeline, seeing her husband between life and death, succeeded for some
days in hiding from him the fact of his brother’s death; but Lisbeth
came, in mourning, and the terrible truth was told him eleven days after
the funeral.

The crushing blow revived the sick man’s energies. He got up, found his
family collected in the drawing-room, all in black, and suddenly silent
as he came in. In a fortnight, Hulot, as lean as a spectre, looked to
his family the mere shadow of himself.

“I must decide on something,” said he in a husky voice, as he seated
himself in an easy-chair, and looked round at the party, of whom Crevel
and Steinbock were absent.

“We cannot stay here, the rent is too high,” Hortense was saying just as
her father came in.

“As to a home,” said Victorin, breaking the painful silence, “I can
offer my mother----”

As he heard these words, which excluded him, the Baron raised his head,
which was sunk on his breast as though he were studying the pattern of
the carpet, though he did not even see it, and he gave the young lawyer
an appealing look. The rights of a father are so indefeasibly sacred,
even when he is a villain and devoid of honor, that Victorin paused.

“To your mother,” the Baron repeated. “You are right, my son.”

“The rooms over ours in our wing,” said Celestine, finishing her
husband’s sentence.

“I am in your way, my dears?” said the Baron, with the mildness of a man
who has judged himself. “But do not be uneasy as to the future; you will
have no further cause for complaint of your father; you will not see him
till the time when you need no longer blush for him.”

He went up to Hortense and kissed her brow. He opened his arms to his
son, who rushed into his embrace, guessing his father’s purpose. The
Baron signed to Lisbeth, who came to him, and he kissed her forehead.
Then he went to his room, whither Adeline followed him in an agony of
dread.

“My brother was quite right, Adeline,” he said, holding her hand. “I
am unworthy of my home life. I dared not bless my children, who have
behaved so nobly, but in my heart; tell them that I could only venture
to kiss them; for the blessing of a bad man, a father who has been an
assassin and the scourge of his family instead of its protector and its
glory, might bring evil on them; but assure them that I shall bless them
every day.--As to you, God alone, for He is Almighty, can ever reward
you according to your merits!--I can only ask your forgiveness!” and he
knelt at her feet, taking her hands and wetting them with his tears.

“Hector, Hector! Your sins have been great, but Divine Mercy is
infinite, and you may repair all by staying with me.--Rise up in
Christian charity, my dear--I am your wife, and not your judge. I am
your possession; do what you will with me; take me wherever you go, I
feel strong enough comfort you, to make life endurable to you, by the
strength of my love, my care, and respect.--Our children are settled
in life; they need me no more. Let me try to be an amusement to you,
an occupation. Let me share the pain of your banishment and of your
poverty, and help to mitigate it. I could always be of some use, if it
were only to save the expense of a servant.”

“Can you forgive, my dearly-beloved Adeline?”

“Yes, only get up, my dear!”

“Well, with that forgiveness I can live,” said he, rising to his feet.
“I came back into this room that my children should not see their
father’s humiliation. Oh! the sight constantly before their eyes of a
father so guilty as I am is a terrible thing; it must undermine parental
influence and break every family tie. So I cannot remain among you,
and I must go to spare you the odious spectacle of a father bereft of
dignity. Do not oppose my departure Adeline. It would only be to load
with your own hand the pistol to blow my brains out. Above all, do not
seek me in my hiding-place; you would deprive me of the only strong
motive remaining in me, that of remorse.”

Hector’s decisiveness silenced his dejected wife. Adeline, lofty in the
midst of all this ruin, had derived her courage from her perfect union
with her husband; for she had dreamed of having him for her own, of the
beautiful task of comforting him, of leading him back to family life,
and reconciling him to himself.

“But, Hector, would you leave me to die of despair, anxiety, and
alarms!” said she, seeing herself bereft of the mainspring of her
strength.

“I will come back to you, dear angel--sent from Heaven expressly for me,
I believe. I will come back, if not rich, at least with enough to live
in ease.--Listen, my sweet Adeline, I cannot stay here for many reasons.
In the first place, my pension of six thousand francs is pledged for
four years, so I have nothing. That is not all. I shall be committed to
prison within a few days in consequence of the bills held by Vauvinet.
So I must keep out of the way until my son, to whom I will give full
instructions, shall have bought in the bills. My disappearance will
facilitate that. As soon as my pension is my own, and Vauvinet is paid
off, I will return to you.--You would be sure to let out the secret of
my hiding-place. Be calm; do not cry, Adeline--it is only for a month--”

“Where will you go? What will you do? What will become of you? Who
will take care of you now that you are no longer young? Let me go with
you--we will go abroad--” said she.

“Well, well, we will see,” he replied.

The Baron rang and ordered Mariette to collect all his things and pack
them quickly and secretly. Then, after embracing his wife with a warmth
of affection to which she was unaccustomed, he begged her to leave him
alone for a few minutes while he wrote his instructions for Victorin,
promising that he would not leave the house till dark, or without her.

As soon as the Baroness was in the drawing-room, the cunning old man
stole out through the dressing-closet to the anteroom, and went away,
giving Mariette a slip of paper, on which was written, “Address my
trunks to go by railway to Corbeil--to Monsieur Hector, cloak-room,
Corbeil.”

The Baron jumped into a hackney coach, and was rushing across Paris by
the time Mariette came to give the Baroness this note, and say that her
master had gone out. Adeline flew back into her room, trembling more
violently than ever; her children followed on hearing her give a
piercing cry. They found her in a dead faint; and they put her to bed,
for she was seized by a nervous fever which held her for a month between
life and death.

“Where is he?” was the only thing she would say.

Victorin sought for him in vain.

And this is why. The Baron had driven to the Place du Palais Royal.
There this man, who had recovered all his wits to work out a scheme
which he had premeditated during the days he had spent crushed with
pain and grief, crossed the Palais Royal on foot, and took a handsome
carriage from a livery-stable in the Rue Joquelet. In obedience to his
orders, the coachman went to the Rue de la Ville l’Eveque, and into the
courtyard of Josepha’s mansion, the gates opening at once at the call
of the driver of such a splendid vehicle. Josepha came out, prompted
by curiosity, for her man-servant had told her that a helpless old
gentleman, unable to get out of his carriage, begged her to come to him
for a moment.

“Josepha!--it is I----”

The singer recognized her Hulot only by his voice.

“What? you, poor old man?--On my honor, you look like a twenty-franc
piece that the Jews have sweated and the money-changers refuse.”

“Alas, yes,” replied Hulot; “I am snatched from the jaws of death! But
you are as lovely as ever. Will you be kind?”

“That depends,” said she; “everything is relative.”

“Listen,” said Hulot; “can you put me up for a few days in a servant’s
room under the roof? I have nothing--not a farthing, not a hope; no
food, no pension, no wife, no children, no roof over my head; without
honor, without courage, without a friend; and worse than all that,
liable to imprisonment for not meeting a bill.”

“Poor old fellow! you are without most things.--Are you also _sans
culotte_?”

“You laugh at me! I am done for,” cried the Baron. “And I counted on you
as Gourville did on Ninon.”

“And it was a ‘real lady,’ I am told who brought you to this,” said
Josepha. “Those precious sluts know how to pluck a goose even better
than we do!--Why, you are like a corpse that the crows have done with--I
can see daylight through!”

“Time is short, Josepha!”

“Come in, old boy, I am alone, as it happens, and my people don’t know
you. Send away your trap. Is it paid for?”

“Yes,” said the Baron, getting out with the help of Josepha’s arm.

“You may call yourself my father if you like,” said the singer, moved to
pity.

She made Hulot sit down in the splendid drawing-room where he had last
seen her.

“And is it the fact, old man,” she went on, “that you have killed your
brother and your uncle, ruined your family, mortgaged your children’s
house over and over again, and robbed the Government till in Africa, all
for your princess?”

Hulot sadly bent his head.

“Well, I admire that!” cried Josepha, starting up in her enthusiasm.
“It is a general flare-up! It is Sardanapalus! Splendid, thoroughly
complete! I may be a hussy, but I have a soul! I tell you, I like a
spendthrift, like you, crazy over a woman, a thousand times better than
those torpid, heartless bankers, who are supposed to be so good, and who
ruin no end of families with their rails--gold for them, and iron for
their gulls! You have only ruined those who belong to you, you have sold
no one but yourself; and then you have excuses, physical and moral.”

She struck a tragic attitude, and spouted:

  “‘Tis Venus whose grasp never parts from her prey.

And there you are!” and she pirouetted on her toe.

Vice, Hulot found, could forgive him; vice smiled on him from the midst
of unbridled luxury. Here, as before a jury, the magnitude of a crime
was an extenuating circumstance. “And is your lady pretty at any rate?”
 asked Josepha, trying as a preliminary act of charity, to divert Hulot’s
thoughts, for his depression grieved her.

“On my word, almost as pretty as you are,” said the Baron artfully.

“And monstrously droll? So I have been told. What does she do, I say? Is
she better fun than I am?”

“I don’t want to talk about her,” said Hulot.

“And I hear she has come round my Crevel, and little Steinbock, and a
gorgeous Brazilian?”

“Very likely.”

“And that she has got a house as good as this, that Crevel has given
her. The baggage! She is my provost-marshal, and finishes off those I
have spoiled. I tell you why I am so curious to know what she is
like, old boy; I just caught sight of her in the Bois, in an open
carriage--but a long way off. She is a most accomplished harpy, Carabine
says. She is trying to eat up Crevel, but he only lets her nibble.
Crevel is a knowing hand, good-natured but hard-headed, who will always
say Yes, and then go his own way. He is vain and passionate; but his
cash is cold. You can never get anything out of such fellows beyond
a thousand to three thousand francs a month; they jib at any serious
outlay, as a donkey does at a running stream.

“Not like you, old boy. You are a man of passions; you would sell your
country for a woman. And, look here, I am ready to do anything for you!
You are my father; you started me in life; it is a sacred duty. What do
you want? Do you want a hundred thousand francs? I will wear myself to
a rag to gain them. As to giving you bed and board--that is nothing. A
place will be laid for you here every day; you can have a good room on
the second floor, and a hundred crowns a month for pocket-money.”

The Baron, deeply touched by such a welcome, had a last qualm of honor.

“No, my dear child, no; I did not come here for you to keep me,” said
he.

“At your age it is something to be proud of,” said she.

“This is what I wish, my child. Your Duc d’Herouville has immense
estates in Normandy, and I want to be his steward, under the name of
Thoul. I have the capacity, and I am honest. A man may borrow of the
Government, and yet not steal from a cash-box----”

“H’m, h’m,” said Josepha. “Once drunk, drinks again.”

“In short, I only want to live out of sight for three years--”

“Well, it is soon done,” said Josepha. “This evening, after dinner, I
have only to speak. The Duke would marry me if I wished it, but I have
his fortune, and I want something better--his esteem. He is a Duke of
the first water. He is high-minded, as noble and great as Louis XIV. and
Napoleon rolled into one, though he is a dwarf. Besides, I have done for
him what la Schontz did for Rochefide; by taking my advice he has made
two millions.

“Now, listen to me, old popgun. I know you; you are always after the
women, and you would be dancing attendance on the Normandy girls, who
are splendid creatures, and getting your ribs cracked by their lovers
and fathers, and the Duke would have to get you out of the scrape. Why,
can’t I see by the way you look at me that the _young_ man is not dead
in you--as Fenelon put it.--No, this stewardship is not the thing for
you. A man cannot be off with his Paris and with us, old boy, for the
saying! You would die of weariness at Herouville.”

“What is to become of me?” said the Baron, “for I will only stay here
till I see my way.”

“Well, shall I find a pigeon-hole for you? Listen, you old pirate. Women
are what you want. They are consolation in all circumstances. Attend
now.--At the end of the Alley, Rue Saint-Maur-du-Temple, there is a poor
family I know of where there is a jewel of a little girl, prettier than
I was at sixteen.--Ah! there is a twinkle in your eye already!--The
child works sixteen hours a day at embroidering costly pieces for the
silk merchants, and earns sixteen sous a day--one sou an hour!--and
feeds like the Irish, on potatoes fried in rats’ dripping, with bread
five times a week--and drinks canal water out of the town pipes, because
the Seine water costs too much; and she cannot set up on her own account
for lack of six or seven thousand francs. Your wife and children bore
you to death, don’t they?--Besides, one cannot submit to be nobody where
one has been a little Almighty. A father who has neither money nor honor
can only be stuffed and kept in a glass case.”

The Baron could not help smiling at these abominable jests.

“Well, now, Bijou is to come to-morrow morning to bring me an
embroidered wrapper, a gem! It has taken six months to make; no one
else will have any stuff like it! Bijou is very fond of me; I give her
tidbits and my old gowns. And I send orders for bread and meat and wood
to the family, who would break the shin-bones of the first comer if I
bid them.--I try to do a little good. Ah! I know what I endured from
hunger myself!--Bijou has confided to me all her little sorrows. There
is the making of a super at the Ambigu-Comique in that child. Her dream
is to wear fine dresses like mine; above all, to ride in a carriage.
I shall say to her, ‘Look here, little one, would you like to have
a friend of--’ How old are you?” she asked, interrupting herself.
“Seventy-two?”

“I have given up counting.”

“‘Would you like an old gentleman of seventy-two?’ I shall say. ‘Very
clean and neat, and who does not take snuff, who is as sound as a
bell, and as good as a young man? He will marry you (in the Thirteenth
Arrondissement) and be very kind to you; he will place seven thousand
francs in your account, and furnish you a room all in mahogany, and if
you are good, he will sometimes take you to the play. He will give you
a hundred francs a month for pocket-money, and fifty francs for
housekeeping.’--I know Bijou; she is myself at fourteen. I jumped for
joy when that horrible Crevel made me his atrocious offers. Well, and
you, old man, will be disposed of for three years. She is a good child,
well behaved; for three or four years she will have her illusions--not
for longer.”

Hulot did not hesitate; he had made up his mind to refuse; but to
seem grateful to the kind-hearted singer, who was benevolent after her
lights, he affected to hesitate between vice and virtue.

“Why, you are as cold as a paving-stone in winter!” she exclaimed in
amazement. “Come, now. You will make a whole family happy--a grandfather
who runs all the errands, a mother who is being worn out with work,
and two sisters--one of them very plain--who make thirty-two sous a day
while putting their eyes out. It will make up for the misery you have
caused at home, and you will expiate your sin while you are having as
much fun as a minx at Mabille.”

Hulot, to put an end to this temptation, moved his fingers as if he were
counting out money.

“Oh! be quite easy as to ways and means,” replied Josepha. “My Duke will
lend you ten thousand francs; seven thousand to start an embroidery
shop in Bijou’s name, and three thousand for furnishing; and every three
months you will find a cheque here for six hundred and fifty francs.
When you get your pension paid you, you can repay the seventeen thousand
francs. Meanwhile you will be as happy as a cow in clover, and hidden in
a hole where the police will never find you. You must wear a loose serge
coat, and you will look like a comfortable householder. Call yourself
Thoul, if that is your fancy. I will tell Bijou that you are an uncle
of mine come from Germany, having failed in business, and you will be
cosseted like a divinity.--There now, Daddy!--And who knows! you may
have no regrets. In case you should be bored, keep one Sunday rig-out,
and you can come and ask me for a dinner and spend the evening here.”

“I!--and I meant to settle down and behave myself!--Look here, borrow
twenty thousand francs for me, and I will set out to make my fortune in
America, like my friend d’Aiglemont when Nucingen cleaned him out.”

“You!” cried Josepha. “Nay, leave morals to work-a-day folks, to raw
recruits, to the _worrrthy_ citizens who have nothing to boast of
but their virtue. You! You were born to be something better than a
nincompoop; you are as a man what I am as a woman--a spendthrift of
genius.”

“We will sleep on it and discuss it all to-morrow morning.”

“You will dine with the Duke. My d’Herouville will receive you as
civilly as if you were the saviour of the State; and to-morrow you can
decide. Come, be jolly, old boy! Life is a garment; when it is dirty, we
must brush it; when it is ragged, it must be patched; but we keep it on
as long as we can.”

This philosophy of life, and her high spirits, postponed Hulot’s keenest
pangs.

At noon next day, after a capital breakfast, Hulot saw the arrival of
one of those living masterpieces which Paris alone of all the cities in
the world can produce, by means of the constant concubinage of luxury
and poverty, of vice and decent honesty, of suppressed desire and
renewed temptation, which makes the French capital the daughter of
Ninevah, of Babylon, and of Imperial Rome.

Mademoiselle Olympe Bijou, a child of sixteen, had the exquisite face
which Raphael drew for his Virgins; eyes of pathetic innocence, weary
with overwork--black eyes, with long lashes, their moisture parched with
the heat of laborious nights, and darkened with fatigue; a complexion
like porcelain, almost too delicate; a mouth like a partly opened
pomegranate; a heaving bosom, a full figure, pretty hands, the whitest
teeth, and a mass of black hair; and the whole meagrely set off by a
cotton frock at seventy-five centimes the metre, leather shoes without
heels, and the cheapest gloves. The girl, all unconscious of her charms,
had put on her best frock to wait on the fine lady.

The Baron, gripped again by the clutch of profligacy, felt all his
life concentrated in his eyes. He forgot everything on beholding this
delightful creature. He was like a sportsman in sight of the game; if an
emperor were present, he must take aim!

“And warranted sound,” said Josepha in his ear. “An honest child, and
wanting bread. This is Paris--I have been there!”

“It is a bargain,” replied the old man, getting up and rubbing his
hands.

When Olympe Bijou was gone, Josepha looked mischievously at the Baron.

“If you want things to keep straight, Daddy,” said she, “be as firm
as the Public Prosecutor on the bench. Keep a tight hand on her, be a
Bartholo! Ware Auguste, Hippolyte, Nestor, Victor--_or_, that is gold,
in every form. When once the child is fed and dressed, if she gets the
upper hand, she will drive you like a serf.--I will see to settling
you comfortably. The Duke does the handsome; he will lend--that is,
give--you ten thousand francs; and he deposits eight thousand with his
notary, who will pay you six hundred francs every quarter, for I cannot
trust you.--Now, am I nice?”

“Adorable.”

Ten days after deserting his family, when they were gathered round
Adeline, who seemed to be dying, as she said again and again, in a weak
voice, “Where is he?” Hector, under the name of Thoul, was established
in the Rue Saint-Maur, at the head of a business as embroiderer, under
the name of Thoul and Bijou.



Victorin Hulot, under the overwhelming disasters of his family, had
received the finishing touch which makes or mars the man. He was
perfection. In the great storms of life we act like the captain of a
ship who, under the stress of a hurricane, lightens the ship of its
heaviest cargo. The young lawyer lost his self-conscious pride, his
too evident assertiveness, his arrogance as an orator and his political
pretensions. He was as a man what his wife was as a woman. He made
up his mind to make the best of his Celestine--who certainly did not
realize his dreams--and was wise enough to estimate life at its true
value by contenting himself in all things with the second best. He
vowed to fulfil his duties, so much had he been shocked by his father’s
example.

These feelings were confirmed as he stood by his mother’s bed on the day
when she was out of danger. Nor did this happiness come single. Claude
Vignon, who called every day from the Prince de Wissembourg to inquire
as to Madame Hulot’s progress, desired the re-elected deputy to go with
him to see the Minister.

“His Excellency,” said he, “wants to talk over your family affairs with
you.”

The Prince had long known Victorin Hulot, and received him with a
friendliness that promised well.

“My dear fellow,” said the old soldier, “I promised your uncle, in this
room, that I would take care of your mother. That saintly woman, I
am told, is getting well again; now is the time to pour oil into your
wounds. I have for you here two hundred thousand francs; I will give
them to you----”

The lawyer’s gesture was worthy of his uncle the Marshal.

“Be quite easy,” said the Prince, smiling; “it is money in trust. My
days are numbered; I shall not always be here; so take this sum, and
fill my place towards your family. You may use this money to pay off
the mortgage on your house. These two hundred thousand francs are the
property of your mother and your sister. If I gave the money to Madame
Hulot, I fear that, in her devotion to her husband, she would be tempted
to waste it. And the intention of those who restore it to you is, that
it should produce bread for Madame Hulot and her daughter, the Countess
Steinbock. You are a steady man, the worthy son of your noble mother,
the true nephew of my friend the Marshal; you are appreciated here, you
see--and elsewhere. So be the guardian angel of your family, and take
this as a legacy from your uncle and me.”

“Monseigneur,” said Hulot, taking the Minister’s hand and pressing it,
“such men as you know that thanks in words mean nothing; gratitude must
be proven.”

“Prove yours--” said the old man.

“In what way?”

“By accepting what I have to offer you,” said the Minister. “We propose
to appoint you to be attorney to the War Office, which just now is
involved in litigations in consequence of the plan for fortifying Paris;
consulting clerk also to the Prefecture of Police; and a member of
the Board of the Civil List. These three appointments will secure you
salaries amounting to eighteen thousand francs, and will leave you
politically free. You can vote in the Chamber in obedience to your
opinions and your conscience. Act in perfect freedom on that score. It
would be a bad thing for us if there were no national opposition!

“Also, a few lines from your uncle, written a day or two before he
breathed his last, suggested what I could do for your mother, whom
he loved very truly.--Mesdames Popinot, de Rastignac, de Navarreins,
d’Espard, de Grandlieu, de Carigliano, de Lenoncourt, and de la Batie
have made a place for your mother as a Lady Superintendent of their
charities. These ladies, presidents of various branches of benevolent
work, cannot do everything themselves; they need a lady of character
who can act for them by going to see the objects of their beneficence,
ascertaining that charity is not imposed upon, and whether the help
given really reaches those who applied for it, finding out that the poor
who are ashamed to beg, and so forth. Your mother will fulfil an
angelic function; she will be thrown in with none but priests and these
charitable ladies; she will be paid six thousand francs and the cost of
her hackney coaches.

“You see, young man, that a pure and nobly virtuous man can still assist
his family, even from the grave. Such a name as your uncle’s is, and
ought to be, a buckler against misfortune in a well-organized scheme of
society. Follow in his path; you have started in it, I know; continue in
it.”

“Such delicate kindness cannot surprise me in my mother’s friend,” said
Victorin. “I will try to come up to all your hopes.”

“Go at once, and take comfort to your family.--By the way,” added the
Prince, as he shook hands with Victorin, “your father has disappeared?”

“Alas! yes.”

“So much the better. That unhappy man has shown his wit, in which,
indeed, he is not lacking.”

“There are bills of his to be met.”

“Well, you shall have six months’ pay of your three appointments in
advance. This pre-payment will help you, perhaps, to get the notes out
of the hands of the money-lender. And I will see Nucingen, and perhaps
may succeed in releasing your father’s pension, pledged to him, without
its costing you or our office a sou. The peer has not killed the banker
in Nucingen; he is insatiable; he wants some concession.--I know not
what----”

So on his return to the Rue Plumet, Victorin could carry out his plan of
lodging his mother and sister under his roof.

The young lawyer, already famous, had, for his sole fortune, one of the
handsomest houses in Paris, purchased in 1834 in preparation for his
marriage, situated on the boulevard between the Rue de la Paix and
the Rue Louis-le-Grand. A speculator had built two houses between
the boulevard and the street; and between these, with the gardens
and courtyards to the front and back, there remained still standing a
splendid wing, the remains of the magnificent mansion of the Verneuils.
The younger Hulot had purchased this fine property, on the strength of
Mademoiselle Crevel’s marriage-portion, for one million francs, when it
was put up to auction, paying five hundred thousand down. He lived on
the ground floor, expecting to pay the remainder out of letting the
rest; but though it is safe to speculate in house-property in Paris,
such investments are capricious or hang fire, depending on unforeseen
circumstances.

As the Parisian lounger may have observed, the boulevard between the Rue
de la Paix and the Rue Louis-le-Grand prospered but slowly; it took
so long to furbish and beautify itself, that trade did not set up its
display there till 1840--the gold of the money-changers, the fairy-work
of fashion, and the luxurious splendor of shop-fronts.

In spite of two hundred thousand francs given by Crevel to his daughter
at the time when his vanity was flattered by this marriage, before the
Baron had robbed him of Josepha; in spite of the two hundred thousand
francs paid off by Victorin in the course of seven years, the property
was still burdened with a debt of five hundred thousand francs, in
consequence of Victorin’s devotion to his father. Happily, a rise in
rents and the advantages of the situation had at this time improved the
value of the houses. The speculation was justifying itself after eight
years’ patience, during which the lawyer had strained every nerve to pay
the interest and some trifling amounts of the capital borrowed.

The tradespeople were ready to offer good rents for the shops, on
condition of being granted leases for eighteen years. The dwelling
apartments rose in value by the shifting of the centre in Paris
life--henceforth transferred to the region between the Bourse and the
Madeleine, now the seat of the political power and financial authority
in Paris. The money paid to him by the Minister, added to a year’s rent
in advance and the premiums paid by his tenants, would finally reduce
the outstanding debt to two hundred thousand francs. The two houses, if
entirely let, would bring in a hundred thousand francs a year. Within
two years more, during which the Hulots could live on his salaries,
added to by the Marshal’s investments, Victorin would be in a splendid
position.

This was manna from heaven. Victorin could give up the first floor of
his own house to his mother, and the second to Hortense, excepting two
rooms reserved for Lisbeth. With Cousin Betty as the housekeeper, this
compound household could bear all these charges, and yet keep up a
good appearance, as beseemed a pleader of note. The great stars of the
law-courts were rapidly disappearing; and Victorin Hulot, gifted with
a shrewd tongue and strict honesty, was listened to by the Bench and
Councillors; he studied his cases thoroughly, and advanced nothing that
he could not prove. He would not hold every brief that offered; in fact,
he was a credit to the bar.

The Baroness’ home in the Rue Plumet had become so odious to her, that
she allowed herself to be taken to the Rue Louis-le-Grand. Thus, by her
son’s care, Adeline occupied a fine apartment; she was spared all the
daily worries of life; for Lisbeth consented to begin again, working
wonders of domestic economy, such as she had achieved for Madame
Marneffe, seeing here a way of exerting her silent vengeance on those
three noble lives, the object, each, of her hatred, which was kept
growing by the overthrow of all her hopes.

Once a month she went to see Valerie, sent, indeed, by Hortense, who
wanted news of Wenceslas, and by Celestine, who was seriously uneasy
at the acknowledged and well-known connection between her father and a
woman to whom her mother-in-law and sister-in-law owed their ruin and
their sorrows. As may be supposed, Lisbeth took advantage of this to see
Valerie as often as possible.



Thus, about twenty months passed by, during which the Baroness recovered
her health, though her palsied trembling never left her. She made
herself familiar with her duties, which afforded her a noble distraction
from her sorrow and constant food for the divine goodness of her heart.
She also regarded it as an opportunity for finding her husband in the
course of one of those expeditions which took her into every part of
Paris.

During this time, Vauvinet had been paid, and the pension of six
thousand francs was almost redeemed. Victorin could maintain his mother
as well as Hortense out of the ten thousand francs interest on the money
left by Marshal Hulot in trust for them. Adeline’s salary amounted to
six thousand francs a year; and this, added to the Baron’s pension when
it was freed, would presently secure an income of twelve thousand francs
a year to the mother and daughter.

Thus, the poor woman would have been almost happy but for her perpetual
anxieties as to the Baron’s fate; for she longed to have him with her to
share the improved fortunes that smiled on the family; and but for
the constant sight of her forsaken daughter; and but for the terrible
thrusts constantly and _unconsciously_ dealt her by Lisbeth, whose
diabolical character had free course.

A scene which took place at the beginning of the month of March 1843
will show the results of Lisbeth’s latent and persistent hatred, still
seconded, as she always was, by Madame Marneffe.

Two great events had occurred in the Marneffe household. In the first
place, Valerie had given birth to a still-born child, whose little
coffin had cost her two thousand francs a year. And then, as to Marneffe
himself, eleven months since, this is the report given by Lisbeth to
the Hulot family one day on her return from a visit of discovery at the
hotel Marneffe.

“This morning,” said she, “that dreadful Valerie sent for Doctor
Bianchon to ask whether the medical men who had condemned her husband
yesterday had made no mistake. Bianchon pronounced that to-night at the
latest that horrible creature will depart to the torments that await
him. Old Crevel and Madame Marneffe saw the doctor out; and your father,
my dear Celestine, gave him five gold pieces for his good news.

“When he came back into the drawing-room, Crevel cut capers like a
dancer; he embraced that woman, exclaiming, ‘Then, at last, you will
be Madame Crevel!’--And to me, when she had gone back to her husband’s
bedside, for he was at his last gasp, your noble father said to me,
‘With Valerie as my wife, I can become a peer of France! I shall buy an
estate I have my eye on--Presles, which Madame de Serizy wants to
sell. I shall be Crevel de Presles, member of the Common Council of
Seine-et-Oise, and Deputy. I shall have a son! I shall be everything
I have ever wished to be.’--‘Heh!’ said I, ‘and what about your
daughter?’--‘Bah!’ says he, ‘she is only a woman! And she is quite too
much of a Hulot. Valerie has a horror of them all.--My son-in-law has
never chosen to come to this house; why has he given himself such airs
as a Mentor, a Spartan, a Puritan, a philanthropist? Besides, I have
squared accounts with my daughter; she has had all her mother’s fortune,
and two hundred thousand francs to that. So I am free to act as I
please.--I shall judge of my son-in-law and Celestine by their conduct
on my marriage; as they behave, so shall I. If they are nice to their
stepmother, I will receive them. I am a man, after all!’--In short, all
this rhodomontade! And an attitude like Napoleon on the column.”

The ten months’ widowhood insisted on by the law had now elapsed some
few days since. The estate of Presles was purchased. Victorin and
Celestine had that very morning sent Lisbeth to make inquiries as to the
marriage of the fascinating widow to the Mayor of Paris, now a member of
the Common Council of the Department of Seine-et-Oise.

Celestine and Hortense, in whom the ties of affection had been
drawn closer since they had lived under the same roof, were almost
inseparable. The Baroness, carried away by a sense of honesty which led
her to exaggerate the duties of her place, devoted herself to the work
of charity of which she was the agent; she was out almost every day
from eleven till five. The sisters-in-law, united in their cares for
the children whom they kept together, sat at home and worked. They had
arrived at the intimacy which thinks aloud, and were a touching picture
of two sisters, one cheerful and the other sad. The less happy of the
two, handsome, lively, high-spirited, and clever, seemed by her manner
to defy her painful situation; while the melancholy Celestine, sweet and
calm, and as equable as reason itself, might have been supposed to have
some secret grief. It was this contradiction, perhaps, that added to
their warm friendship. Each supplied the other with what she lacked.

Seated in a little summer-house in the garden, which the speculator’s
trowel had spared by some fancy of the builder’s, who believed that he
was preserving these hundred feet square of earth for his own pleasure,
they were admiring the first green shoots of the lilac-trees, a
spring festival which can only be fully appreciated in Paris when the
inhabitants have lived for six months oblivious of what vegetation
means, among the cliffs of stone where the ocean of humanity tosses to
and fro.

“Celestine,” said Hortense to her sister-in-law, who had complained that
in such fine weather her husband should be kept at the Chamber, “I think
you do not fully appreciate your happiness. Victorin is a perfect angel,
and you sometimes torment him.”

“My dear, men like to be tormented! Certain ways of teasing are a
proof of affection. If your poor mother had only been--I will not say
exacting, but always prepared to be exacting, you would not have had so
much to grieve over.”

“Lisbeth is not come back. I shall have to sing the song
of _Malbrouck_,” said Hortense. “I do long for some news of
Wenceslas!--What does he live on? He has not done a thing these two
years.”

“Victorin saw him, he told me, with that horrible woman not long ago;
and he fancied that she maintains him in idleness.--If you only would,
dear soul, you might bring your husband back to you yet.”

Hortense shook her head.

“Believe me,” Celestine went on, “the position will ere long be
intolerable. In the first instance, rage, despair, indignation, gave you
strength. The awful disasters that have come upon us since--two deaths,
ruin, and the disappearance of Baron Hulot--have occupied your mind and
heart; but now you live in peace and silence, you will find it hard to
bear the void in your life; and as you cannot, and will never leave the
path of virtue, you will have to be reconciled to Wenceslas. Victorin,
who loves you so much, is of that opinion. There is something stronger
than one’s feelings even, and that is Nature!”

“But such a mean creature!” cried the proud Hortense. “He cares for
that woman because she feeds him.--And has she paid his debts, do you
suppose?--Good Heaven! I think of that man’s position day and night! He
is the father of my child, and he is degrading himself.”

“But look at your mother, my dear,” said Celestine.

Celestine was one of those women who, when you have given them reasons
enough to convince a Breton peasant, still go back for the hundredth
time to their original argument. The character of her face, somewhat
flat, dull, and common, her light-brown hair in stiff, neat bands, her
very complexion spoke of a sensible woman, devoid of charm, but also
devoid of weakness.

“The Baroness would willingly go to join her husband in his disgrace,
to comfort him and hide him in her heart from every eye,” Celestine went
on. “Why, she has a room made ready upstairs for Monsieur Hulot, as if
she expected to find him and bring him home from one day to the next.”

“Oh yes, my mother is sublime!” replied Hortense. “She has been so every
minute of every day for six-and-twenty years; but I am not like her, it
is not my nature.--How can I help it? I am angry with myself sometimes;
but you do not know, Celestine, what it would be to make terms with
infamy.”

“There is my father!” said Celestine placidly. “He has certainly started
on the road that ruined yours. He is ten years younger than the Baron,
to be sure, and was only a tradesman; but how can it end? This Madame
Marneffe has made a slave of my father; he is her dog; she is mistress
of his fortune and his opinions, and nothing can open his eyes. I
tremble when I remember that their banns of marriage are already
published!--My husband means to make a last attempt; he thinks it a duty
to try to avenge society and the family, and bring that woman to account
for all her crimes. Alas! my dear Hortense, such lofty souls as Victorin
and hearts like ours come too late to a comprehension of the world and
its ways!--This is a secret, dear, and I have told you because you are
interested in it, but never by a word or a look betray it to Lisbeth, or
your mother, or anybody, for--”

“Here is Lisbeth!” said Hortense. “Well, cousin, and how is the Inferno
of the Rue Barbet going on?”

“Badly for you, my children.--Your husband, my dear Hortense, is more
crazy about that woman than ever, and she, I must own, is madly in love
with him.--Your father, dear Celestine, is gloriously blind. That, to
be sure, is nothing; I have had occasion to see it once a fortnight;
really, I am lucky never to have had anything to do with men, they are
besotted creatures.--Five days hence you, dear child, and Victorin will
have lost your father’s fortune.”

“Then the banns are cried?” said Celestine.

“Yes,” said Lisbeth, “and I have just been arguing your case. I pointed
out to that monster, who is going the way of the other, that if he
would only get you out of the difficulties you are in by paying off the
mortgage on the house, you would show your gratitude and receive your
stepmother--”

Hortense started in horror.

“Victorin will see about that,” said Celestine coldly.

“But do you know what Monsieur le Maire’s answer was?” said Lisbeth. “‘I
mean to leave them where they are. Horses can only be broken in by lack
of food, sleep, and sugar.’--Why, Baron Hulot was not so bad as Monsieur
Crevel.

“So, my poor dears, you may say good-bye to the money. And such a fine
fortune! Your father paid three million francs for the Presles estate,
and he has thirty thousand francs a year in stocks! Oh!--he has no
secrets from me. He talks of buying the Hotel de Navarreins, in the
Rue du Bac. Madame Marneffe herself has forty thousand francs a
year.--Ah!--here is our guardian angel, here comes your mother!” she
exclaimed, hearing the rumble of wheels.

And presently the Baroness came down the garden steps and joined the
party. At fifty-five, though crushed by so many troubles, and constantly
trembling as if shivering with ague, Adeline, whose face was indeed
pale and wrinkled, still had a fine figure, a noble outline, and natural
dignity. Those who saw her said, “She must have been beautiful!” Worn
with the grief of not knowing her husband’s fate, of being unable
to share with him this oasis in the heart of Paris, this peace and
seclusion and the better fortune that was dawning on the family, her
beauty was the beauty of a ruin. As each gleam of hope died out, each
day of search proved vain, Adeline sank into fits of deep melancholy
that drove her children to despair.

The Baroness had gone out that morning with fresh hopes, and was
anxiously expected. An official, who was under obligations to Hulot, to
whom he owed his position and advancement, declared that he had seen
the Baron in a box at the Ambigu-Comique theatre with a woman of
extraordinary beauty. So Adeline had gone to call on the Baron Verneuil.
This important personage, while asserting that he had positively seen
his old patron, and that his behaviour to the woman indicated an illicit
establishment, told Madame Hulot that to avoid meeting him the Baron had
left long before the end of the play.

“He looked like a man at home with the damsel, but his dress betrayed
some lack of means,” said he in conclusion.

“Well?” said the three women as the Baroness came towards them.

“Well, Monsieur Hulot is in Paris; and to me,” said Adeline, “it is a
gleam of happiness only to know that he is within reach of us.”

“But he does not seem to have mended his ways,” Lisbeth remarked when
Adeline had finished her report of her visit to Baron Verneuil. “He has
taken up some little work-girl. But where can he get the money from?
I could bet that he begs of his former mistresses--Mademoiselle Jenny
Cadine or Josepha.”

The Baroness trembled more severely than ever; every nerve quivered; she
wiped away the tears that rose to her eyes and looked mournfully up to
heaven.

“I cannot think that a Grand Commander of the Legion of Honor will have
fallen so low,” said she.

“For his pleasure what would he not do?” said Lisbeth. “He robbed the
State, he will rob private persons, commit murder--who knows?”

“Oh, Lisbeth!” cried the Baroness, “keep such thoughts to yourself.”

At this moment Louise came up to the family group, now increased by the
arrival of the two Hulot children and little Wenceslas to see if their
grandmother’s pockets did not contain some sweetmeats.

“What is it, Louise?” asked one and another.

“A man who wants to see Mademoiselle Fischer.”

“Who is the man?” asked Lisbeth.

“He is in rags, mademoiselle, and covered with flue like a
mattress-picker; his nose is red, and he smells of brandy.--He is one of
those men who work half of the week at most.”

This uninviting picture had the effect of making Lisbeth hurry into the
courtyard of the house in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, where she found a man
smoking a pipe colored in a style that showed him an artist in tobacco.

“Why have you come here, Pere Chardin?” she asked. “It is understood
that you go, on the first Saturday in every month, to the gate of the
Hotel Marneffe, Rue Barbet-de-Jouy. I have just come back after waiting
there for five hours, and you did not come.”

“I did go there, good and charitable lady!” replied the mattress-picker.
“But there was a game at pool going on at the Cafe des Savants, Rue du
Cerf-Volant, and every man has his fancy. Now, mine is billiards. If it
wasn’t for billiards, I might be eating off silver plate. For, I tell
you this,” and he fumbled for a scrap of paper in his ragged trousers
pocket, “it is billiards that leads on to a dram and plum-brandy.--It
is ruinous, like all fine things, in the things it leads to. I know
your orders, but the old ‘un is in such a quandary that I came on to
forbidden grounds.--If the hair was all hair, we might sleep sound on
it; but it is mixed. God is not for all, as the saying goes. He has
His favorites--well, He has the right. Now, here is the writing of your
estimable relative and my very good friend--his political opinion.”

Chardin attempted to trace some zigzag lines in the air with the
forefinger of his right hand.

Lisbeth, not listening to him, read these few words:

  “DEAR COUSIN,--Be my Providence; give me three hundred francs this
  day.

“HECTOR.”


“What does he want so much money for?”

“The lan’lord!” said Chardin, still trying to sketch arabesques. “And
then my son, you see, has come back from Algiers through Spain and
Bayonee, and, and--he has _found_ nothing--against his rule, for a sharp
cove is my son, saving your presence. How can he help it, he is in want
of food; but he will repay all we lend him, for he is going to get up a
company. He has ideas, he has, that will carry him--”

“To the police court,” Lisbeth put in. “He murdered my uncle; I shall
not forget that.”

“He--why, he could not bleed a chicken, honorable lady.”

“Here are the three hundred francs,” said Lisbeth, taking fifteen gold
pieces out of her purse. “Now, go, and never come here again.”

She saw the father of the Oran storekeeper off the premises, and pointed
out the drunken old creature to the porter.

“At any time when that man comes here, if by chance he should come
again, do not let him in. If he should ask whether Monsieur Hulot junior
or Madame la Baronne Hulot lives here, tell him you know of no such
persons.”

“Very good, mademoiselle.”

“Your place depends on it if you make any mistake, even without
intending it,” said Lisbeth, in the woman’s ear.--“Cousin,” she went on
to Victorin, who just now came in, “a great misfortune is hanging over
your head.”

“What is that?” said Victorin.

“Within a few days Madame Marneffe will be your wife’s stepmother.”

“That remains to be seen,” replied Victorin.

For six months past Lisbeth had very regularly paid a little allowance
to Baron Hulot, her former protector, whom she now protected; she knew
the secret of his dwelling-place, and relished Adeline’s tears, saying
to her, as we have seen, when she saw her cheerful and hopeful, “You may
expect to find my poor cousin’s name in the papers some day under the
heading ‘Police Report.’”

But in this, as on a former occasion, she let her vengeance carry her
too far. She had aroused the prudent suspicions of Victorin. He had
resolved to be rid of this Damocles’ sword so constantly flourished
over them by Lisbeth, and of the female demon to whom his mother and the
family owed so many woes. The Prince de Wissembourg, knowing all
about Madame Marneffe’s conduct, approved of the young lawyer’s secret
project; he had promised him, as a President of the Council can promise,
the secret assistance of the police, to enlighten Crevel and rescue
a fine fortune from the clutches of the diabolical courtesan, whom he
could not forgive either for causing the death of Marshal Hulot or for
the Baron’s utter ruin.



The words spoken by Lisbeth, “He begs of his former mistresses,” haunted
the Baroness all night. Like sick men given over by the physicians,
who have recourse to quacks, like men who have fallen into the lowest
Dantesque circle of despair, or drowning creatures who mistake a
floating stick for a hawser, she ended by believing in the baseness of
which the mere idea had horrified her; and it occurred to her that she
might apply for help to one of those terrible women.

Next morning, without consulting her children or saying a word to
anybody, she went to see Mademoiselle Josepha Mirah, prima donna of the
Royal Academy of Music, to find or to lose the hope that had gleamed
before her like a will-o’-the-wisp. At midday, the great singer’s
waiting-maid brought her in the card of the Baronne Hulot, saying that
this person was waiting at the door, having asked whether Mademoiselle
could receive her.

“Are the rooms done?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

“And the flowers fresh?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

“Just tell Jean to look round and see that everything is as it should be
before showing the lady in, and treat her with the greatest respect. Go,
and come back to dress me--I must look my very best.”

She went to study herself in the long glass.

“Now, to put our best foot foremost!” said she to herself. “Vice under
arms to meet virtue!--Poor woman, what can she want of me? I cannot bear
to see.

    “The noble victim of outrageous fortune!”

And she sang through the famous aria as the maid came in again.

“Madame,” said the girl, “the lady has a nervous trembling--”

“Offer her some orange-water, some rum, some broth--”

“I did, mademoiselle; but she declines everything, and says it is an
infirmity, a nervous complaint--”

“Where is she?”

“In the big drawing-room.”

“Well, make haste, child. Give me my smartest slippers, the
dressing-gown embroidered by Bijou, and no end of lace frills. Do my
hair in a way to astonish a woman.--This woman plays a part against
mine; and tell the lady--for she is a real, great lady, my girl, nay,
more, she is what you will never be, a woman whose prayers can rescue
souls from your purgatory--tell her I was in bed, as I was playing last
night, and that I am just getting up.”

The Baroness, shown into Josepha’s handsome drawing-room, did not note
how long she was kept waiting there, though it was a long half hour.
This room, entirely redecorated even since Josepha had had the house,
was hung with silk in purple and gold color. The luxury which fine
gentlemen were wont to lavish on their _petites maisons_, the scenes of
their profligacy, of which the remains still bear witness to the follies
from which they were so aptly named, was displayed to perfection, thanks
to modern inventiveness, in the four rooms opening into each other,
where the warm temperature was maintained by a system of hot-air pipes
with invisible openings.

The Baroness, quite bewildered, examined each work of art with the
greatest amazement. Here she found fortunes accounted for that melt in
the crucible under which pleasure and vanity feed the devouring flames.
This woman, who for twenty-six years had lived among the dead relics of
imperial magnificence, whose eyes were accustomed to carpets patterned
with faded flowers, rubbed gilding, silks as forlorn as her heart, half
understood the powerful fascinations of vice as she studied its results.
It was impossible not to wish to possess these beautiful things, these
admirable works of art, the creation of the unknown talent which abounds
in Paris in our day and produces treasures for all Europe. Each thing
had the novel charm of unique perfection. The models being destroyed,
every vase, every figure, every piece of sculpture was the original.
This is the crowning grace of modern luxury. To own the thing which
is not vulgarized by the two thousand wealthy citizens whose notion of
luxury is the lavish display of the splendors that shops can supply, is
the stamp of true luxury--the luxury of the fine gentlemen of the day,
the shooting stars of the Paris firmament.

As she examined the flower-stands, filled with the choicest exotic
plants, mounted in chased brass and inlaid in the style of Boulle, the
Baroness was scared by the idea of the wealth in this apartment. And
this impression naturally shed a glamour over the person round whom all
this profusion was heaped. Adeline imagined that Josepha Mirah--whose
portrait by Joseph Bridau was the glory of the adjoining boudoir--must
be a singer of genius, a Malibran, and she expected to see a real star.
She was sorry she had come. But she had been prompted by a strong and
so natural a feeling, by such purely disinterested devotion, that she
collected all her courage for the interview. Besides, she was about to
satisfy her urgent curiosity, to see for herself what was the charm
of this kind of women, that they could extract so much gold from the
miserly ore of Paris mud.

The Baroness looked at herself to see if she were not a blot on all this
splendor; but she was well dressed in her velvet gown, with a little
cape trimmed with beautiful lace, and her velvet bonnet of the same
shade was becoming. Seeing herself still as imposing as any queen,
always a queen even in her fall, she reflected that the dignity of
sorrow was a match for the dignity of talent.

At last, after much opening and shutting of doors, she saw Josepha. The
singer bore a strong resemblance to Allori’s _Judith_, which dwells in
the memory of all who have ever seen it in the Pitti palace, near the
door of one of the great rooms. She had the same haughty mien, the same
fine features, black hair simply knotted, and a yellow wrapper with
little embroidered flowers, exactly like the brocade worn by the
immortal homicide conceived of by Bronzino’s nephew.

“Madame la Baronne, I am quite overwhelmed by the honor you do me in
coming here,” said the singer, resolved to play her part as a great lady
with a grace.

She pushed forward an easy-chair for the Baroness and seated herself on
a stool. She discerned the faded beauty of the woman before her, and was
filled with pity as she saw her shaken by the nervous palsy that, on
the least excitement, became convulsive. She could read at a glance the
saintly life described to her of old by Hulot and Crevel; and she not
only ceased to think of a contest with her, she humiliated herself
before a superiority she appreciated. The great artist could admire what
the courtesan laughed to scorn.

“Mademoiselle, despair brought me here. It reduces us to any means--”

A look in Josepha’s face made the Baroness feel that she had wounded
the woman from whom she hoped for so much, and she looked at her. Her
beseeching eyes extinguished the flash in Josepha’s; the singer smiled.
It was a wordless dialogue of pathetic eloquence.

“It is now two years and a half since Monsieur Hulot left his family,
and I do not know where to find him, though I know that he lives in
Paris,” said the Baroness with emotion. “A dream suggested to me the
idea--an absurd one perhaps--that you may have interested yourself in
Monsieur Hulot. If you could enable me to see him--oh! mademoiselle, I
would pray Heaven for you every day as long as I live in this world--”

Two large tears in the singer’s eyes told what her reply would be.

“Madame,” said she, “I have done you an injury without knowing you; but,
now that I have the happiness of seeing in you the most perfect virtue
on earth, believe me I am sensible of the extent of my fault; I repent
sincerely, and believe me, I will do all in my power to remedy it!”

She took Madame Hulot’s hand and before the lady could do anything to
hinder her, she kissed it respectfully, even humbling herself to bend
one knee. Then she rose, as proud as when she stood on the stage in the
part of _Mathilde_, and rang the bell.

“Go on horseback,” said she to the man-servant, “and kill the horse if
you must, to find little Bijou, Rue Saint-Maur-du-Temple, and bring her
here. Put her into a coach and pay the coachman to come at a gallop. Do
not lose a moment--or you lose your place.

“Madame,” she went on, coming back to the Baroness, and speaking to
her in respectful tones, “you must forgive me. As soon as the Duc
d’Herouville became my protector, I dismissed the Baron, having heard
that he was ruining his family for me. What more could I do? In an
actress’ career a protector is indispensable from the first day of her
appearance on the boards. Our salaries do not pay half our expenses; we
must have a temporary husband. I did not value Monsieur Hulot, who took
me away from a rich man, a conceited idiot. Old Crevel would undoubtedly
have married me--”

“So he told me,” said the Baroness, interrupting her.

“Well, then, you see, madame, I might at this day have been an honest
woman, with only one legitimate husband!”

“You have many excuses, mademoiselle,” said Adeline, “and God will take
them into account. But, for my part, far from reproaching you, I came,
on the contrary, to make myself your debtor in gratitude--”

“Madame, for nearly three years I have provided for Monsieur le Baron’s
necessities--”

“You?” interrupted the Baroness, with tears in her eyes. “Oh, what can I
do for you? I can only pray--”

“I and Monsieur le Duc d’Herouville,” the singer said, “a noble soul,
a true gentleman--” and Josepha related the settling and _marriage_ of
Monsieur Thoul.

“And so, thanks to you, mademoiselle, the Baron has wanted nothing?”

“We have done our best to that end, madame.”

“And where is he now?”

“About six months ago, Monsieur le Duc told me that the Baron, known to
the notary by the name of Thoul, had drawn all the eight thousand
francs that were to have been paid to him in fixed sums once a quarter,”
 replied Josepha. “We have heard no more of the Baron, neither I nor
Monsieur d’Herouville. Our lives are so full, we artists are so busy,
that I really have not time to run after old Thoul. As it happens, for
the last six months, Bijou, who works for me--his--what shall I say--?”

“His mistress,” said Madame Hulot.

“His mistress,” repeated Josepha, “has not been here. Mademoiselle
Olympe Bijou is perhaps divorced. Divorce is common in the thirteenth
arrondissement.”

Josepha rose, and foraging among the rare plants in her stands, made a
charming bouquet for Madame Hulot, whose expectations, it may be said,
were by no means fulfilled. Like those worthy fold, who take men of
genius to be a sort of monsters, eating, drinking, walking, and speaking
unlike other people, the Baroness had hoped to see Josepha the opera
singer, the witch, the amorous and amusing courtesan; she saw a calm and
well-mannered woman, with the dignity of talent, the simplicity of an
actress who knows herself to be at night a queen, and also, better than
all, a woman of the town whose eyes, attitude, and demeanor paid full
and ungrudging homage to the virtuous wife, the _Mater dolorosa_ of
the sacred hymn, and who was crowning her sorrows with flowers, as the
Madonna is crowned in Italy.

“Madame,” said the man-servant, reappearing at the end of half an hour,
“Madame Bijou is on her way, but you are not to expect little Olympe.
Your needle-woman, madame, is settled in life; she is married--”

“More or less?” said Josepha.

“No, madame, really married. She is at the head of a very fine business;
she has married the owner of a large and fashionable shop, on which they
have spent millions of francs, on the Boulevard des Italiens; and she
has left the embroidery business to her sister and mother. She is Madame
Grenouville. The fat tradesman--”

“A Crevel?”

“Yes, madame,” said the man. “Well, he has settled thirty thousand
francs a year on Mademoiselle Bijou by the marriage articles. And her
elder sister, they say, is going to be married to a rich butcher.”

“Your business looks rather hopeless, I am afraid,” said Josepha to the
Baroness. “Monsieur le Baron is no longer where I lodged him.”

Ten minutes later Madame Bijou was announced. Josepha very prudently
placed the Baroness in the boudoir, and drew the curtain over the door.

“You would scare her,” said she to Madame Hulot. “She would let nothing
out if she suspected that you were interested in the information. Leave
me to catechise her. Hide there, and you will hear everything. It is a
scene that is played quite as often in real life as on the stage--”

“Well, Mother Bijou,” she said to an old woman dressed in tartan stuff,
and who looked like a porter’s wife in her Sunday best, “so you are all
very happy? Your daughter is in luck.”

“Oh, happy? As for that!--My daughter gives us a hundred francs a
month, while she rides in a carriage and eats off silver plate--she is a
millionary, is my daughter! Olympe might have lifted me above labor. To
have to work at my age? Is that being good to me?”

“She ought not to be ungrateful, for she owes her beauty to you,”
 replied Josepha; “but why did she not come to see me? It was I who
placed her in ease by settling her with my uncle.”

“Yes, madame, with old Monsieur Thoul, but he is very old and broken--”

“But what have you done with him? Is he with you? She was very foolish
to leave him; he is worth millions now.”

“Heaven above us!” cried the mother. “What did I tell her when she
behaved so badly to him, and he as mild as milk, poor old fellow? Oh!
didn’t she just give it him hot?--Olympe was perverted, madame?”

“But how?”

“She got to know a _claqueur_, madame, saving your presence, a man paid
to clap, you know, the grand nephew of an old mattress-picker of the
Faubourg Saint-Marceau. This good-for-naught, as all your good-looking
fellows are, paid to make a piece go, is the cock of the walk out on
the Boulevard du Temple, where he works up the new plays, and takes care
that the actresses get a reception, as he calls it. First, he has a good
breakfast in the morning; then, before the play, he dines, to be ‘up
to the mark,’ as he says; in short, he is a born lover of billiards and
drams. ‘But that is not following a trade,’ as I said to Olympe.”

“It is a trade men follow, unfortunately,” said Josepha.

“Well, the rascal turned Olympe’s head, and he, madame, did not keep
good company--when I tell you he was very near being nabbed by the
police in a tavern where thieves meet. ‘Wever, Monsieur Braulard, the
leader of the claque, got him out of that. He wears gold earrings, and
he lives by doing nothing, hanging on to women, who are fools about
these good-looking scamps. He spent all the money Monsieur Thoul used to
give the child.

“Then the business was going to grief; what embroidery brought in went
out across the billiard table. ‘Wever, the young fellow had a pretty
sister, madame, who, like her brother, lived by hook and by crook, and
no better than she should be neither, over in the students’ quarter.”

“One of the sluts at the Chaumiere,” said Josepha.

“So, madame,” said the old woman. “So Idamore, his name is Idamore,
leastways that is what he calls himself, for his real name is
Chardin--Idamore fancied that your uncle had a deal more money than he
owned to, and he managed to send his sister Elodie--and that was a stage
name he gave her--to send her to be a workwoman at our place, without
my daughter’s knowing who she was; and, gracious goodness! but that girl
turned the whole place topsy-turvy; she got all those poor girls into
mischief--impossible to whitewash them, saving your presence----

“And she was so sharp, she won over poor old Thoul, and took him away,
and we don’t know where, and left us in a pretty fix, with a lot of
bills coming in. To this day as ever is we have not been able to settle
up; but my daughter, who knows all about such things, keeps an eye on
them as they fall due.--Then, when Idamore saw he had got hold of the
old man, through his sister, you understand, he threw over my daughter,
and now he has got hold of a little actress at the _Funambules_.--And
that was how my daughter came to get married, as you will see--”

“But you must know where the mattress-picker lives?” said Josepha.

“What! old Chardin? As if he lived anywhere at all!--He is drunk by six
in the morning; he makes a mattress once a month; he hangs about the
wineshops all day; he plays at pools--”

“He plays at pools?” said Josepha.

“You do not understand, madame, pools of billiards, I mean, and he wins
three or four a day, and then he drinks.”

“Water out of the pools, I suppose?” said Josepha. “But if Idamore
haunts the Boulevard, by inquiring through my friend Vraulard, we could
find him.”

“I don’t know, madame; all this was six months ago. Idamore was one of
the sort who are bound to find their way into the police courts, and
from that to Melun--and the--who knows--?”

“To the prison yard!” said Josepha.

“Well, madame, you know everything,” said the old woman, smiling. “Well,
if my girl had never known that scamp, she would now be--Still, she was
in luck, all the same, you will say, for Monsieur Grenouville fell so
much in love with her that he married her--”

“And what brought that about?”

“Olympe was desperate, madame. When she found herself left in the lurch
for that little actress--and she took a rod out of pickle for her, I can
tell you; my word, but she gave her a dressing!--and when she had lost
poor old Thoul, who worshiped her, she would have nothing more to say to
the men. ‘Wever, Monsieur Grenouville, who had been dealing largely
with us--to the tune of two hundred embroidered China-crape shawls every
quarter--he wanted to console her; but whether or no, she would not
listen to anything without the mayor and the priest. ‘I mean to be
respectable,’ said she, ‘or perish!’ and she stuck to it. Monsieur
Grenouville consented to marry her, on condition of her giving us all
up, and we agreed--”

“For a handsome consideration?” said Josepha, with her usual
perspicacity.

“Yes, madame, ten thousand francs, and an allowance to my father, who is
past work.”

“I begged your daughter to make old Thoul happy, and she has thrown
me over. That is not fair. I will take no interest in any one for the
future! That is what comes of trying to do good! Benevolence certainly
does not answer as a speculation!--Olympe ought, at least, to have given
me notice of this jobbing. Now, if you find the old man Thoul within a
fortnight, I will give you a thousand francs.”

“It will be a hard task, my good lady; still, there are a good many
five-franc pieces in a thousand francs, and I will try to earn your
money.”

“Good-morning, then, Madame Bijou.”

On going into the boudoir, the singer found that Madame Hulot had
fainted; but in spite of having lost consciousness, her nervous
trembling kept her still perpetually shaking, as the pieces of a snake
that has been cut up still wriggle and move. Strong salts, cold water,
and all the ordinary remedies were applied to recall the Baroness to her
senses, or rather, to the apprehension of her sorrows.

“Ah! mademoiselle, how far has he fallen!” cried she, recognizing
Josepha, and finding that she was alone with her.

“Take heart, madame,” replied the actress, who had seated herself on
a cushion at Adeline’s feet, and was kissing her hands. “We shall find
him; and if he is in the mire, well, he must wash himself. Believe me,
with people of good breeding it is a matter of clothes.--Allow me to
make up for you the harm I have done you, for I see how much you are
attached to your husband, in spite of his misconduct--or you should not
have come here.--Well, you see, the poor man is so fond of women. If you
had had a little of our dash, you would have kept him from running about
the world; for you would have been what we can never be--all the women
man wants.

“The State ought to subsidize a school of manners for honest women!
But governments are so prudish! Still, they are guided by men, whom we
privately guide. My word, I pity nations!

“But the matter in question is how you can be helped, and not to laugh
at the world.--Well, madame, be easy, go home again, and do not worry. I
will bring your Hector back to you as he was as a man of thirty.”

“Ah, mademoiselle, let us go to see that Madame Grenouville,” said the
Baroness. “She surely knows something! Perhaps I may see the Baron this
very day, and be able to snatch him at once from poverty and disgrace.”

“Madame, I will show you the deep gratitude I feel towards you by not
displaying the stage-singer Josepha, the Duc d’Herouville’s mistress,
in the company of the noblest, saintliest image of virtue. I respect
you too much to be seen by your side. This is not acted humility; it is
sincere homage. You make me sorry, madame, that I cannot tread in your
footsteps, in spite of the thorns that tear your feet and hands.--But it
cannot be helped! I am one with art, as you are one with virtue.”

“Poor child!” said the Baroness, moved amid her own sorrows by a strange
sense of compassionate sympathy; “I will pray to God for you; for you
are the victim of society, which must have theatres. When you are old,
repent--you will be heard if God vouchsafes to hear the prayers of a--”

“Of a martyr, madame,” Josepha put in, and she respectfully kissed the
Baroness’ skirt.

But Adeline took the actress’ hand, and drawing her towards her, kissed
her on the forehead. Coloring with pleasure Josepha saw the Baroness
into the hackney coach with the humblest politeness.

“It must be some visiting Lady of Charity,” said the man-servant to the
maid, “for she does not do so much for any one, not even for her dear
friend Madame Jenny Cadine.”

“Wait a few days,” said she, “and you will see him, madame, or I
renounce the God of my fathers--and that from a Jewess, you know, is a
promise of success.”



At the very time when Madame Hulot was calling on Josepha, Victorin,
in his study, was receiving an old woman of about seventy-five, who, to
gain admission to the lawyer, had used the terrible name of the head of
the detective force. The man in waiting announced:

“Madame de Saint-Esteve.”

“I have assumed one of my business names,” said she, taking a seat.

Victorin felt a sort of internal chill at the sight of this dreadful old
woman. Though handsomely dressed, she was terrible to look upon, for her
flat, colorless, strongly-marked face, furrowed with wrinkles, expressed
a sort of cold malignity. Marat, as a woman of that age, might have been
like this creature, a living embodiment of the Reign of Terror.

This sinister old woman’s small, pale eyes twinkled with a tiger’s
bloodthirsty greed. Her broad, flat nose, with nostrils expanded into
oval cavities, breathed the fires of hell, and resembled the beak of
some evil bird of prey. The spirit of intrigue lurked behind her low,
cruel brow. Long hairs had grown from her wrinkled chin, betraying the
masculine character of her schemes. Any one seeing that woman’s
face would have said that artists had failed in their conceptions of
Mephistopheles.

“My dear sir,” she began, with a patronizing air, “I have long since
given up active business of any kind. What I have come to you to do, I
have undertaken, for the sake of my dear nephew, whom I love more than
I could love a son of my own.--Now, the Head of the Police--to whom
the President of the Council said a few words in his ear as regards
yourself, in talking to Monsieur Chapuzot--thinks as the police ought
not to appear in a matter of this description, you understand. They gave
my nephew a free hand, but my nephew will have nothing to say to it,
except as before the Council; he will not be seen in it.”

“Then your nephew is--”

“You have hit it, and I am rather proud of him,” said she, interrupting
the lawyer, “for he is my pupil, and he soon could teach his
teacher.--We have considered this case, and have come to our own
conclusions. Will you hand over thirty thousand francs to have the whole
thing taken off your hands? I will make a clean sweep of all, and you
need not pay till the job is done.”

“Do you know the persons concerned?”

“No, my dear sir; I look for information from you. What we are told is,
that a certain old idiot has fallen into the clutches of a widow. This
widow, of nine-and-twenty, has played her cards so well, that she has
forty thousand francs a year, of which she has robbed two fathers of
families. She is now about to swallow down eighty thousand francs a year
by marrying an old boy of sixty-one. She will thus ruin a respectable
family, and hand over this vast fortune to the child of some lover by
getting rid at once of the old husband.--That is the case as stated.”

“Quite correct,” said Victorin. “My father-in-law, Monsieur Crevel--”

“Formerly a perfumer, a mayor--yes, I live in his district under the
name of Ma’ame Nourrisson,” said the woman.

“The other person is Madame Marneffe.”

“I do not know,” said Madame de Saint-Esteve. “But within three days I
will be in a position to count her shifts.”

“Can you hinder the marriage?” asked Victorin.

“How far have they got?”

“To the second time of asking.”

“We must carry off the woman.--To-day is Sunday--there are but
three days, for they will be married on Wednesday, no doubt; it is
impossible.--But she may be killed--”

Victorin Hulot started with an honest man’s horror at hearing these five
words uttered in cold blood.

“Murder?” said he. “And how could you do it?”

“For forty years, now, monsieur, we have played the part of fate,”
 replied she, with terrible pride, “and do just what we will in Paris.
More than one family--even in the Faubourg Saint-Germain--has told me
all its secrets, I can tell you. I have made and spoiled many a match,
I have destroyed many a will and saved many a man’s honor. I have in
there,” and she tapped her forehead, “a store of secrets which are worth
thirty-six thousand francs a year to me; and you--you will be one of my
lambs, hoh! Could such a woman as I am be what I am if she revealed her
ways and means? I act.

“Whatever I may do, sir, will be the result of an accident; you need
feel no remorse. You will be like a man cured by a clairvoyant; by the
end of a month, it seems all the work of Nature.”

Victorin broke out in a cold sweat. The sight of an executioner would
have shocked him less than this prolix and pretentious Sister of the
Hulks. As he looked at her purple-red gown, she seemed to him dyed in
blood.

“Madame, I do not accept the help of your experience and skill if
success is to cost anybody’s life, or the least criminal act is to come
of it.”

“You are a great baby, monsieur,” replied the woman; “you wish to remain
blameless in your own eyes, while you want your enemy to be overthrown.”

Victorin shook his head in denial.

“Yes,” she went on, “you want this Madame Marneffe to drop the prey she
has between her teeth. But how do you expect to make a tiger drop his
piece of beef? Can you do it by patting his back and saying, ‘Poor
Puss’? You are illogical. You want a battle fought, but you object to
blows.--Well, I grant you the innocence you are so careful over. I have
always found that there was material for hypocrisy in honesty! One day,
three months hence, a poor priest will come to beg of you forty thousand
francs for a pious work--a convent to be rebuilt in the Levant--in
the desert.--If you are satisfied with your lot, give the good man the
money. You will pay more than that into the treasury. It will be a mere
trifle in comparison with what you will get, I can tell you.”

She rose, standing on the broad feet that seemed to overflow her satin
shoes; she smiled, bowed, and vanished.

“The Devil has a sister,” said Victorin, rising.

He saw the hideous stranger to the door, a creature called up from the
dens of the police, as on the stage a monster comes up from the third
cellar at the touch of a fairy’s wand in a ballet-extravaganza.

After finishing what he had to do at the Courts, Victorin went to call
on Monsieur Chapuzot, the head of one of the most important branches of
the Central Police, to make some inquiries about the stranger. Finding
Monsieur Chapuzot alone in his office, Victorin thanked him for his
help.

“You sent me an old woman who might stand for the incarnation of the
criminal side of Paris.”

Monsieur Chapuzot laid his spectacles on his papers and looked at the
lawyer with astonishment.

“I should not have taken the liberty of sending anybody to see you
without giving you notice beforehand, or a line of introduction,” said
he.

“Then it was Monsieur le Prefet--?”

“I think not,” said Chapuzot. “The last time that the Prince de
Wissembourg dined with the Minister of the Interior, he spoke to
the Prefet of the position in which you find yourself--a deplorable
position--and asked him if you could be helped in any friendly way. The
Prefet, who was interested by the regrets his Excellency expressed as to
this family affair, did me the honor to consult me about it.

“Ever since the present Prefet has held the reins of this department--so
useful and so vilified--he has made it a rule that family matters are
never to be interfered in. He is right in principle and in morality; but
in practice he is wrong. In the forty-five years that I have served
in the police, it did, from 1799 till 1815, great services in family
concerns. Since 1820 a constitutional government and the press have
completely altered the conditions of existence. So my advice, indeed,
was not to intervene in such a case, and the Prefet did me the honor to
agree with my remarks. The Head of the detective branch has orders, in
my presence, to take no steps; so if you have had any one sent to you
by him, he will be reprimanded. It might cost him his place. ‘The Police
will do this or that,’ is easily said; the Police, the Police! But, my
dear sir, the Marshal and the Ministerial Council do not know what the
Police is. The Police alone knows the Police; but as for ours, only
Fouche, Monsieur Lenoir, and Monsieur de Sartines have had any notion of
it.--Everything is changed now; we are reduced and disarmed! I have seen
many private disasters develop, which I could have checked with five
grains of despotic power.--We shall be regretted by the very men who
have crippled us when they, like you, stand face to face with some moral
monstrosities, which ought to be swept away as we sweep away mud! In
public affairs the Police is expected to foresee everything, or when the
safety of the public is involved--but the family?--It is sacred! I would
do my utmost to discover and hinder a plot against the King’s life, I
would see through the walls of a house; but as to laying a finger on a
household, or peeping into private interests--never, so long as I sit in
this office. I should be afraid.”

“Of what?”

“Of the Press, Monsieur le Depute, of the left centre.”

“What, then, can I do?” said Hulot, after a pause.

“Well, you are the Family,” said the official. “That settles it; you can
do what you please. But as to helping you, as to using the Police as an
instrument of private feelings, and interests, how is it possible? There
lies, you see, the secret of the persecution, necessary, but pronounced
illegal, by the Bench, which was brought to bear against the predecessor
of our present chief detective. Bibi-Lupin undertook investigations
for the benefit of private persons. This might have led to great
social dangers. With the means at his command, the man would have been
formidable, an underlying fate--”

“But in my place?” said Hulot.

“Why, you ask my advice? You who sell it!” replied Monsieur Chapuzot.
“Come, come, my dear sir, you are making fun of me.”

Hulot bowed to the functionary, and went away without seeing that
gentleman’s almost imperceptible shrug as he rose to open the door.

“And he wants to be a statesman!” said Chapuzot to himself as he
returned to his reports.

Victorin went home, still full of perplexities which he could confide to
no one.

At dinner the Baroness joyfully announced to her children that within a
month their father might be sharing their comforts, and end his days in
peace among his family.

“Oh, I would gladly give my three thousand six hundred francs a year to
see the Baron here!” cried Lisbeth. “But, my dear Adeline, do not dream
beforehand of such happiness, I entreat you!”

“Lisbeth is right,” said Celestine. “My dear mother, wait till the end.”

The Baroness, all feeling and all hope, related her visit to Josepha,
expressed her sense of the misery of such women in the midst of good
fortune, and mentioned Chardin the mattress-picker, the father of the
Oran storekeeper, thus showing that her hopes were not groundless.



By seven next morning Lisbeth had driven in a hackney coach to the Quai
de la Tournelle, and stopped the vehicle at the corner of the Rue de
Poissy.

“Go to the Rue des Bernardins,” said she to the driver, “No. 7, a house
with an entry and no porter. Go up to the fourth floor, ring at the
door to the left, on which you will see ‘Mademoiselle Chardin--Lace and
shawls mended.’ She will answer the door. Ask for the Chevalier. She
will say he is out. Say in reply, ‘Yes, I know, but find him, for his
_bonne_ is out on the quay in a coach, and wants to see him.’”

Twenty minutes later, an old man, who looked about eighty, with
perfectly white hair, and a nose reddened by the cold, and a pale,
wrinkled face like an old woman’s, came shuffling slowly along in list
slippers, a shiny alpaca overcoat hanging on his stooping shoulders, no
ribbon at his buttonhole, the sleeves of an under-vest showing below
his coat-cuffs, and his shirt-front unpleasantly dingy. He approached
timidly, looked at the coach, recognized Lisbeth, and came to the
window.

“Why, my dear cousin, what a state you are in!”

“Elodie keeps everything for herself,” said Baron Hulot. “Those Chardins
are a blackguard crew.”

“Will you come home to us?”

“Oh, no, no!” cried the old man. “I would rather go to America.”

“Adeline is on the scent.”

“Oh, if only some one would pay my debts!” said the Baron, with a
suspicious look, “for Samanon is after me.”

“We have not paid up the arrears yet; your son still owes a hundred
thousand francs.”

“Poor boy!”

“And your pension will not be free before seven or eight months.--If you
will wait a minute, I have two thousand francs here.”

The Baron held out his hand with fearful avidity.

“Give it me, Lisbeth, and may God reward you! Give it me; I know where
to go.”

“But you will tell me, old wretch?”

“Yes, yes. Then I can wait eight months, for I have discovered a little
angel, a good child, an innocent thing not old enough to be depraved.”

“Do not forget the police-court,” said Lisbeth, who flattered herself
that she would some day see Hulot there.

“No.--It is in the Rue de Charonne,” said the Baron, “a part of the town
where no fuss is made about anything. No one will ever find me there.
I am called Pere Thorec, Lisbeth, and I shall be taken for a retired
cabinet-maker; the girl is fond of me, and I will not allow my back to
be shorn any more.”

“No, that has been done,” said Lisbeth, looking at his coat. “Supposing
I take you there.”

Baron Hulot got into the coach, deserting Mademoiselle Elodie without
taking leave of her, as he might have tossed aside a novel he had
finished.

In half an hour, during which Baron Hulot talked to Lisbeth of nothing
but little Atala Judici--for he had fallen by degrees to those base
passions that ruin old men--she set him down with two thousand francs in
his pocket, in the Rue de Charonne, Faubourg Saint-Antoine, at the door
of a doubtful and sinister-looking house.

“Good-day, cousin; so now you are to be called Thorec, I suppose? Send
none but commissionaires if you need me, and always take them from
different parts.”

“Trust me! Oh, I am really very lucky!” said the Baron, his face beaming
with the prospect of new and future happiness.

“No one can find him there,” said Lisbeth; and she paid the coach at the
Boulevard Beaumarchais, and returned to the Rue Louis-le-Grand in the
omnibus.

On the following day Crevel was announced at the hour when all the
family were together in the drawing-room, just after breakfast.
Celestine flew to throw her arms round her father’s neck, and behaved
as if she had seen him only the day before, though in fact he had not
called there for more than two years.

“Good-morning, father,” said Victorin, offering his hand.

“Good-morning, children,” said the pompous Crevel. “Madame la Baronne, I
throw myself at your feet! Good Heavens, how the children grow! they are
pushing us off the perch--‘Grand-pa,’ they say, ‘we want our turn in the
sunshine.’--Madame la Comtesse, you are as lovely as ever,” he went
on, addressing Hortense.--“Ah, ha! and here is the best of good money:
Cousin Betty, the Wise Virgin.”

“Why, you are really very comfortable here,” said he, after scattering
these greetings with a cackle of loud laughter that hardly moved the
rubicund muscles of his broad face.

He looked at his daughter with some contempt.

“My dear Celestine, I will make you a present of all my furniture out
of the Rue des Saussayes; it will just do here. Your drawing-room wants
furnishing up.--Ha! there is that little rogue Wenceslas. Well, and
are we very good children, I wonder? You must have pretty manners, you
know.”

“To make up for those who have none,” said Lisbeth.

“That sarcasm, my dear Lisbeth, has lost its sting. I am going, my dear
children, to put an end to the false position in which I have so long
been placed; I have come, like a good father, to announce my approaching
marriage without any circumlocution.”

“You have a perfect right to marry,” said Victorin. “And for my part,
I give you back the promise you made me when you gave me the hand of my
dear Celestine--”

“What promise?” said Crevel.

“Not to marry,” replied the lawyer. “You will do me the justice to allow
that I did not ask you to pledge yourself, that you gave your word quite
voluntarily and in spite of my desire, for I pointed out to you at the
time that you were unwise to bind yourself.”

“Yes, I do remember, my dear fellow,” said Crevel, ashamed of himself.
“But, on my honor, if you will but live with Madame Crevel, my children,
you will find no reason to repent.--Your good feeling touches
me, Victorin, and you will find that generosity to me is not
unrewarded.--Come, by the Poker! welcome your stepmother and come to the
wedding.”

“But you have not told us the lady’s name, papa,” said Celestine.

“Why, it is an open secret,” replied Crevel. “Do not let us play at
guess who can! Lisbeth must have told you.”

“My dear Monsieur Crevel,” replied Lisbeth, “there are certain names we
never utter here--”

“Well, then, it is Madame Marneffe.”

“Monsieur Crevel,” said the lawyer very sternly, “neither my wife nor I
can be present at that marriage; not out of interest, for I spoke in
all sincerity just now. Yes, I am most happy to think that you may find
happiness in this union; but I act on considerations of honor and good
feeling which you must understand, and which I cannot speak of here, as
they reopen wounds still ready to bleed----”

The Baroness telegraphed a signal to Hortense, who tucked her little one
under her arm, saying, “Come Wenceslas, and have your bath!--Good-bye,
Monsieur Crevel.”

The Baroness also bowed to Crevel without a word; and Crevel could
not help smiling at the child’s astonishment when threatened with this
impromptu tubbing.

“You, monsieur,” said Victorin, when he found himself alone with
Lisbeth, his wife, and his father-in-law, “are about to marry a woman
loaded with the spoils of my father; it was she who, in cold blood,
brought him down to such depths; a woman who is the son-in-law’s
mistress after ruining the father-in-law; who is the cause of constant
grief to my sister!--And you fancy that I shall seem to sanction your
madness by my presence? I deeply pity you, dear Monsieur Crevel; you
have no family feeling; you do not understand the unity of the honor
which binds the members of it together. There is no arguing with
passion--as I have too much reason to know. The slaves of their passions
are as deaf as they are blind. Your daughter Celestine has too strong a
sense of her duty to proffer a word of reproach.”

“That would, indeed, be a pretty thing!” cried Crevel, trying to cut
short this harangue.

“Celestine would not be my wife if she made the slightest remonstrance,”
 the lawyer went on. “But I, at least, may try to stop you before you
step over the precipice, especially after giving you ample proof of my
disinterestedness. It is not your fortune, it is you that I care about.
Nay, to make it quite plain to you, I may add, if it were only to set
your mind at ease with regard to your marriage contract, that I am now
in a position which leaves me with nothing to wish for--”

“Thanks to me!” exclaimed Crevel, whose face was purple.

“Thanks to Celestine’s fortune,” replied Victorin. “And if you regret
having given to your daughter as a present from yourself, a sum which is
not half what her mother left her, I can only say that we are prepared
to give it back.”

“And do you not know, my respected son-in-law,” said Crevel, striking
an attitude, “that under the shelter of my name Madame Marneffe is not
called upon to answer for her conduct excepting as my wife--as Madame
Crevel?”

“That is, no doubt, quite the correct thing,” said the lawyer; “very
generous so far as the affections are concerned and the vagaries of
passion; but I know of no name, nor law, nor title that can shelter
the theft of three hundred thousand francs so meanly wrung from my
father!--I tell you plainly, my dear father-in-law, your future wife
is unworthy of you, she is false to you, and is madly in love with my
brother-in-law, Steinbock, whose debts she had paid.”

“It is I who paid them!”

“Very good,” said Hulot; “I am glad for Count Steinbock’s sake; he may
some day repay the money. But he is loved, much loved, and often--”

“Loved!” cried Crevel, whose face showed his utter bewilderment. “It is
cowardly, and dirty, and mean, and cheap, to calumniate a woman!--When a
man says such things, monsieur, he must bring proof.”

“I will bring proof.”

“I shall expect it.”

“By the day after to-morrow, my dear Monsieur Crevel, I shall be able
to tell you the day, the hour, the very minute when I can expose the
horrible depravity of your future wife.”

“Very well; I shall be delighted,” said Crevel, who had recovered
himself.

“Good-bye, my children, for the present; good-bye, Lisbeth.”

“See him out, Lisbeth,” said Celestine in an undertone.

“And is this the way you take yourself off?” cried Lisbeth to Crevel.

“Ah, ha!” said Crevel, “my son-in-law is too clever by half; he is
getting on. The Courts and the Chamber, judicial trickery and political
dodges, are making a man of him with a vengeance!--So he knows I am to
be married on Wednesday, and on a Sunday my gentleman proposes to fix
the hour, within three days, when he can prove that my wife is unworthy
of me. That is a good story!--Well, I am going back to sign the
contract. Come with me, Lisbeth--yes, come. They will never know. I
meant to have left Celestine forty thousand francs a year; but Hulot has
just behaved in a way to alienate my affection for ever.”

“Give me ten minutes, Pere Crevel; wait for me in your carriage at the
gate. I will make some excuse for going out.”

“Very well--all right.”

“My dears,” said Lisbeth, who found all the family reassembled in the
drawing-room, “I am going with Crevel: the marriage contract is to be
signed this afternoon, and I shall hear what he has settled. It will
probably be my last visit to that woman. Your father is furious; he will
disinherit you--”

“His vanity will prevent that,” said the son-in-law. “He was bent on
owning the estate of Presles, and he will keep it; I know him. Even if
he were to have children, Celestine would still have half of what he
might leave; the law forbids his giving away all his fortune.--Still,
these questions are nothing to me; I am only thinking of our honor.--Go
then, cousin,” and he pressed Lisbeth’s hand, “and listen carefully to
the contract.”



Twenty minutes after, Lisbeth and Crevel reached the house in the Rue
Barbet, where Madame Marneffe was awaiting, in mild impatience, the
result of a step taken by her commands. Valerie had in the end fallen
a prey to the absorbing love which, once in her life, masters a woman’s
heart. Wenceslas was its object, and, a failure as an artist, he became
in Madame Marneffe’s hands a lover so perfect that he was to her what
she had been to Baron Hulot.

Valerie was holding a slipper in one hand, and Steinbock clasped the
other, while her head rested on his shoulder. The rambling conversation
in which they had been engaged ever since Crevel went out may be
ticketed, like certain lengthy literary efforts of our day, “_All rights
reserved_,” for it cannot be reproduced. This masterpiece of personal
poetry naturally brought a regret to the artist’s lips, and he said, not
without some bitterness:

“What a pity it is that I married; for if I had but waited, as Lisbeth
told me, I might now have married you.”

“Who but a Pole would wish to make a wife of a devoted mistress?” cried
Valerie. “To change love into duty, and pleasure into a bore.”

“I know you to be so fickle,” replied Steinbock. “Did I not hear you
talking to Lisbeth of that Brazilian, Baron Montes?”

“Do you want to rid me of him?”

“It would be the only way to hinder his seeing you,” said the
ex-sculptor.

“Let me tell you, my darling--for I tell you everything,” said
Valerie--“I was saving him up for a husband.--The promises I have made
to that man!--Oh, long before I knew you,” said she, in reply to a
movement from Wenceslas. “And those promises, of which he avails himself
to plague me, oblige me to get married almost secretly; for if he should
hear that I am marrying Crevel, he is the sort of man that--that would
kill me.”

“Oh, as to that!” said Steinbock, with a scornful expression, which
conveyed that such a danger was small indeed for a woman beloved by a
Pole.

And in the matter of valor there is no brag or bravado in a Pole, so
thoroughly and seriously brave are they all.

“And that idiot Crevel,” she went on, “who wants to make a great display
and indulge his taste for inexpensive magnificence in honor of the
wedding, places me in difficulties from which I see no escape.”

Could Valerie confess to this man, whom she adored, that since the
discomfiture of Baron Hulot, this Baron Henri Montes had inherited the
privilege of calling on her at all hours of the day or night; and that,
notwithstanding her cleverness, she was still puzzled to find a cause of
quarrel in which the Brazilian might seem to be solely in the wrong? She
knew the Baron’s almost savage temper--not unlike Lisbeth’s--too well
not to quake as she thought of this Othello of Rio de Janeiro.

As the carriage drove up, Steinbock released Valerie, for his arm
was round her waist, and took up a newspaper, in which he was found
absorbed. Valerie was stitching with elaborate care at the slippers she
was working for Crevel.

“How they slander her!” whispered Lisbeth to Crevel, pointing to this
picture as they opened the door. “Look at her hair--not in the
least tumbled. To hear Victorin, you might have expected to find two
turtle-doves in a nest.”

“My dear Lisbeth,” cried Crevel, in his favorite position, “you see that
to turn Lucretia into Aspasia, you have only to inspire a passion!”

“And have I not always told you,” said Lisbeth, “that women like a burly
profligate like you?”

“And she would be most ungrateful, too,” said Crevel; “for as to the
money I have spent here, Grindot and I alone can tell!”

And he waved a hand at the staircase.

In decorating this house, which Crevel regarded as his own, Grindot had
tried to compete with Cleretti, in whose hands the Duc d’Herouville had
placed Josepha’s villa. But Crevel, incapable of understanding art, had,
like all sordid souls, wanted to spend a certain sum fixed beforehand.
Grindot, fettered by a contract, had found it impossible to embody his
architectural dream.

The difference between Josepha’s house and that in the Rue Barbet was
just that between the individual stamp on things and commonness. The
objects you admired at Crevel’s were to be bought in any shop. These two
types of luxury are divided by the river Million. A mirror, if unique,
is worth six thousand francs; a mirror designed by a manufacturer who
turns them out by the dozen costs five hundred. A genuine lustre by
Boulle will sell at a public auction for three thousand francs; the
same thing reproduced by casting may be made for a thousand or twelve
hundred; one is archaeologically what a picture by Raphael is in
painting, the other is a copy. At what would you value a copy of a
Raphael? Thus Crevel’s mansion was a splendid example of the luxury of
idiots, while Josepha’s was a perfect model of an artist’s home.

“War is declared,” said Crevel, going up to Madame Marneffe.

She rang the bell.

“Go and find Monsieur Berthier,” said she to the man-servant, “and
do not return without him. If you had succeeded,” said she, embracing
Crevel, “we would have postponed our happiness, my dear Daddy, and have
given a really splendid entertainment; but when a whole family is set
against a match, my dear, decency requires that the wedding shall be a
quiet one, especially when the lady is a widow.”

“On the contrary, I intend to make a display of magnificence _a la_
Louis XIV.,” said Crevel, who of late had held the eighteenth century
rather cheap. “I have ordered new carriages; there is one for monsieur
and one for madame, two neat coupes; and a chaise, a handsome traveling
carriage with a splendid hammercloth, on springs that tremble like
Madame Hulot.”

“Oh, ho! _You intend?_--Then you have ceased to be my lamb?--No, no,
my friend, you will do what _I_ intend. We will sign the contract
quietly--just ourselves--this afternoon. Then, on Wednesday, we will
be regularly married, really married, in mufti, as my poor mother would
have said. We will walk to church, plainly dressed, and have only a low
mass. Our witnesses are Stidmann, Steinbock, Vignon, and Massol, all
wide-awake men, who will be at the mairie by chance, and who will so far
sacrifice themselves as to attend mass.

“Your colleague will perform the civil marriage, for once in a way,
as early as half-past nine. Mass is at ten; we shall be at home to
breakfast by half-past eleven.

“I have promised our guests that we will sit at table till the evening.
There will be Bixiou, your old official chum du Tillet, Lousteau,
Vernisset, Leon de Lora, Vernou, all the wittiest men in Paris, who will
not know that we are married. We will play them a little trick, we will
get just a little tipsy, and Lisbeth must join us. I want her to
study matrimony; Bixiou shall make love to her, and--and enlighten her
darkness.”

For two hours Madame Marneffe went on talking nonsense, and Crevel made
this judicious reflection:

“How can so light-hearted a creature be utterly depraved?
Feather-brained, yes! but wicked? Nonsense!”

“Well, and what did the young people say about me?” said Valerie to
Crevel at a moment when he sat down by her on the sofa. “All sorts of
horrors?”

“They will have it that you have a criminal passion for Wenceslas--you,
who are virtue itself.”

“I love him!--I should think so, my little Wenceslas!” cried Valerie,
calling the artist to her, taking his face in her hands, and kissing his
forehead. “A poor boy with no fortune, and no one to depend on! Cast off
by a carrotty giraffe! What do you expect, Crevel? Wenceslas is my poet,
and I love him as if he were my own child, and make no secret of it.
Bah! your virtuous women see evil everywhere and in everything. Bless
me, could they not sit by a man without doing wrong? I am a spoilt child
who has had all it ever wanted, and bonbons no longer excite me.--Poor
things! I am sorry for them!

“And who slandered me so?”

“Victorin,” said Crevel.

“Then why did you not stop his mouth, the odious legal macaw! with the
story of the two hundred thousand francs and his mamma?”

“Oh, the Baroness had fled,” said Lisbeth.

“They had better take care, Lisbeth,” said Madame Marneffe, with a
frown. “Either they will receive me and do it handsomely, and come to
their stepmother’s house--all the party!--or I will see them in lower
depths than the Baron has reached, and you may tell them I said so!--At
last I shall turn nasty. On my honor, I believe that evil is the scythe
with which to cut down the good.”

At three o’clock Monsieur Berthier, Cardot’s successor, read the
marriage-contract, after a short conference with Crevel, for some of
the articles were made conditional on the action taken by Monsieur and
Madame Victorin Hulot.

Crevel settled on his wife a fortune consisting, in the first place, of
forty thousand francs in dividends on specified securities; secondly, of
the house and all its contents; and thirdly, of three million francs not
invested. He also assigned to his wife every benefit allowed by law;
he left all the property free of duty; and in the event of their dying
without issue, each devised to the survivor the whole of their property
and real estate.

By this arrangement the fortune left to Celestine and her husband was
reduced to two millions of francs in capital. If Crevel and his second
wife should have children, Celestine’s share was limited to five hundred
thousand francs, as the life-interest in the rest was to accrue to
Valerie. This would be about the ninth part of his whole real and
personal estate.



Lisbeth returned to dine in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, despair written on
her face. She explained and bewailed the terms of the marriage-contract,
but found Celestine and her husband insensible to the disastrous news.

“You have provoked your father, my children. Madame Marneffe swears that
you shall receive Monsieur Crevel’s wife and go to her house,” said she.

“Never!” said Victorin.

“Never!” said Celestine.

“Never!” said Hortense.

Lisbeth was possessed by the wish to crush the haughty attitude assumed
by all the Hulots.

“She seems to have arms that she can turn against you,” she replied.
“I do not know all about it, but I shall find out. She spoke vaguely
of some history of two hundred thousand francs in which Adeline is
implicated.”

The Baroness fell gently backward on the sofa she was sitting on in a
fit of hysterical sobbing.

“Go there, go, my children!” she cried. “Receive the woman! Monsieur
Crevel is an infamous wretch. He deserves the worst punishment
imaginable.--Do as the woman desires you! She is a monster--she knows
all!”

After gasping out these words with tears and sobs, Madame Hulot
collected her strength to go to her room, leaning on her daughter and
Celestine.

“What is the meaning of all this?” cried Lisbeth, left alone with
Victorin.

The lawyer stood rigid, in very natural dismay, and did not hear her.

“What is the matter, my dear Victorin?”

“I am horrified!” said he, and his face scowled darkly. “Woe to anybody
who hurts my mother! I have no scruples then. I would crush that woman
like a viper if I could!--What, does she attack my mother’s life, my
mother’s honor?”

“She said, but do not repeat it, my dear Victorin--she said you should
all fall lower even than your father. And she scolded Crevel roundly
for not having shut your mouths with this secret that seems to be such a
terror to Adeline.”

A doctor was sent for, for the Baroness was evidently worse. He gave
her a draught containing a large dose of opium, and Adeline, having
swallowed it, fell into a deep sleep; but the whole family were greatly
alarmed.

Early next morning Victorin went out, and on his way to the Courts
called at the Prefecture of the Police, where he begged Vautrin, the
head of the detective department, to send him Madame de Saint-Esteve.

“We are forbidden, monsieur, to meddle in your affairs; but Madame de
Saint-Esteve is in business, and will attend to your orders,” replied
this famous police officer.

On his return home, the unhappy lawyer was told that his mother’s reason
was in danger. Doctor Bianchon, Doctor Larabit, and Professor Angard
had met in consultation, and were prepared to apply heroic remedies to
hinder the rush of blood to the head. At the moment when Victorin was
listening to Doctor Bianchon, who was giving him, at some length, his
reasons for hoping that the crisis might be got over, the man-servant
announced that a client, Madame de Saint-Esteve, was waiting to see him.
Victorin left Bianchon in the middle of a sentence and flew downstairs
like a madman.

“Is there any hereditary lunacy in the family?” said Bianchon,
addressing Larabit.

The doctors departed, leaving a hospital attendant, instructed by them,
to watch Madame Hulot.

“A whole life of virtue!----” was the only sentence the sufferer had
spoken since the attack.

Lisbeth never left Adeline’s bedside; she sat up all night, and was much
admired by the two younger women.

“Well, my dear Madame de Saint-Esteve,” said Victorin, showing the
dreadful old woman into his study and carefully shutting the doors, “how
are we getting on?”

“Ah, ha! my dear friend,” said she, looking at Victorin with cold irony.
“So you have thought things over?”

“Have you done anything?”

“Will you pay fifty thousand francs?”

“Yes,” replied Victorin, “for we must get on. Do you know that by one
single phrase that woman has endangered my mother’s life and reason? So,
I say, get on.”

“We have got on!” replied the old woman.

“Well?” cried Victorin, with a gulp.

“Well, you do not cry off the expenses?”

“On the contrary.”

“They run up to twenty-three thousand francs already.”

Victorin looked helplessly at the woman.

“Well, could we hoodwink you, you, one of the shining lights of the
law?” said she. “For that sum we have secured a maid’s conscience and a
picture by Raphael.--It is not dear.”

Hulot, still bewildered, sat with wide open eyes.

“Well, then,” his visitor went on, “we have purchased the honesty of
Mademoiselle Reine Tousard, a damsel from whom Madame Marneffe has no
secrets--”

“I understand!”

“But if you shy, say so.”

“I will play blindfold,” he replied. “My mother has told me that that
couple deserve the worst torments--”

“The rack is out of date,” said the old woman.

“You answer for the result?”

“Leave it all to me,” said the woman; “your vengeance is simmering.”

She looked at the clock; it was six.

“Your avenger is dressing; the fires are lighted at the _Rocher de
Cancale_; the horses are pawing the ground; my irons are getting
hot.--Oh, I know your Madame Marneffe by heart!--Everything is ready.
And there are some boluses in the rat-trap; I will tell you to-morrow
morning if the mouse is poisoned. I believe she will be; good evening,
my son.”

“Good-bye, madame.”

“Do you know English?”

“Yes.”

“Well, my son, thou shalt be King. That is to say, you shall come into
your inheritance,” said the dreadful old witch, foreseen by Shakespeare,
and who seemed to know her Shakespeare.

She left Hulot amazed at the door of his study.

“The consultation is for to-morrow!” said she, with the gracious air of
a regular client.

She saw two persons coming, and wished to pass in their eyes a pinchbeck
countess.

“What impudence!” thought Hulot, bowing to his pretended client.



Baron Montes de Montejanos was a _lion_, but a lion not accounted
for. Fashionable Paris, Paris of the turf and of the town, admired
the ineffable waistcoats of this foreign gentleman, his spotless
patent-leather boots, his incomparable sticks, his much-coveted horses,
and the negro servants who rode the horses and who were entirely slaves
and most consumedly thrashed.

His fortune was well known; he had a credit account up to seven hundred
thousand francs in the great banking house of du Tillet; but he was
always seen alone. When he went to “first nights,” he was in a stall. He
frequented no drawing-rooms. He had never given his arm to a girl on the
streets. His name would not be coupled with that of any pretty woman
of the world. To pass his time he played whist at the Jockey-Club. The
world was reduced to calumny, or, which it thought funnier, to laughing
at his peculiarities; he went by the name of Combabus.

Bixiou, Leon de Lora, Lousteau, Florine, Mademoiselle Heloise Brisetout,
and Nathan, supping one evening with the notorious Carabine, with a
large party of _lions_ and _lionesses_, had invented this name with an
excessively burlesque explanation. Massol, as being on the Council of
State, and Claude Vignon, erewhile Professor of Greek, had related to
the ignorant damsels the famous anecdote, preserved in Rollin’s _Ancient
History_, concerning Combabus, that voluntary Abelard who was placed in
charge of the wife of a King of Assyria, Persia, Bactria, Mesopotamia,
and other geographical divisions peculiar to old Professor du Bocage,
who continued the work of d’Anville, the creator of the East of
antiquity. This nickname, which gave Carabine’s guests laughter for a
quarter of an hour, gave rise to a series of over-free jests, to which
the Academy could not award the Montyon prize; but among which the name
was taken up, to rest thenceforth on the curly mane of the handsome
Baron, called by Josepha the splendid Brazilian--as one might say a
splendid _Catoxantha_.

Carabine, the loveliest of her tribe, whose delicate beauty and amusing
wit had snatched the sceptre of the Thirteenth Arrondissement from
the hands of Mademoiselle Turquet, better known by the name of
Malaga--Mademoiselle Seraphine Sinet (this was her real name) was to du
Tillet the banker what Josepha Mirah was to the Duc d’Herouville.

Now, on the morning of the very day when Madame de Saint-Esteve had
prophesied success to Victorin, Carabine had said to du Tillet at about
seven o’clock:

“If you want to be very nice, you will give me a dinner at the _Rocher
de Cancale_ and bring Combabus. We want to know, once for all, whether
he has a mistress.--I bet that he has, and I should like to win.”

“He is still at the Hotel des Princes; I will call,” replied du Tillet.
“We will have some fun. Ask all the youngsters--the youngster Bixiou,
the youngster Lora, in short, all the clan.”

At half-past seven that evening, in the handsomest room of the
restaurant where all Europe has dined, a splendid silver service was
spread, made on purpose for entertainments where vanity pays the bill
in bank-notes. A flood of light fell in ripples on the chased rims;
waiters, whom a provincial might have taken for diplomatists but for
their age, stood solemnly, as knowing themselves to be overpaid.

Five guests had arrived, and were waiting for nine more. These were
first and foremost Bixiou, still flourishing in 1843, the salt of every
intellectual dish, always supplied with fresh wit--a phenomenon as rare
in Paris as virtue is; Leon de Lora, the greatest living painter of
landscape and the sea who has this great advantage over all his rivals,
that he has never fallen below his first successes. The courtesans could
never dispense with these two kings of ready wit. No supper, no dinner,
was possible without them.

Seraphine Sinet, _dite_ Carabine, as the mistress _en titre_ of the
Amphitryon, was one of the first to arrive; and the brilliant lighting
showed off her shoulders, unrivaled in Paris, her throat, as round as if
turned in a lathe, without a crease, her saucy face, and dress of satin
brocade in two shades of blue, trimmed with Honiton lace enough to have
fed a whole village for a month.

Pretty Jenny Cadine, not acting that evening, came in a dress of
incredible splendor; her portrait is too well known to need any
description. A party is always a Longchamps of evening dress for these
ladies, each anxious to win the prize for her millionaire by thus
announcing to her rivals:

“This is the price I am worth!”

A third woman, evidently at the initial stage of her career, gazed,
almost shamefaced, at the luxury of her two established and wealthy
companions. Simply dressed in white cashmere trimmed with blue, her head
had been dressed with real flowers by a coiffeur of the old-fashioned
school, whose awkward hands had unconsciously given the charm of
ineptitude to her fair hair. Still unaccustomed to any finery, she
showed the timidity--to use a hackneyed phrase--inseparable from a first
appearance. She had come from Valognes to find in Paris some use for
her distracting youthfulness, her innocence that might have stirred the
senses of a dying man, and her beauty, worthy to hold its own with any
that Normandy has ever supplied to the theatres of the capital. The
lines of that unblemished face were the ideal of angelic purity. Her
milk-white skin reflected the light like a mirror. The delicate pink
in her cheeks might have been laid on with a brush. She was called
Cydalise, and, as will be seen, she was an important pawn in the game
played by Ma’ame Nourrisson to defeat Madame Marneffe.

“Your arm is not a match for your name, my child,” said Jenny Cadine, to
whom Carabine had introduced this masterpiece of sixteen, having brought
her with her.

And, in fact, Cydalise displayed to public admiration a fine pair of
arms, smooth and satiny, but red with healthy young blood.

“What do you want for her?” said Jenny Cadine, in an undertone to
Carabine.

“A fortune.”

“What are you going to do with her?”

“Well--Madame Combabus!”

“And what are you to get for such a job?”

“Guess.”

“A service of plate?”

“I have three.”

“Diamonds?”

“I am selling them.”

“A green monkey?”

“No. A picture by Raphael.”

“What maggot is that in your brain?”

“Josepha makes me sick with her pictures,” said Carabine. “I want some
better than hers.”

Du Tillet came with the Brazilian, the hero of the feast; the Duc
d’Herouville followed with Josepha. The singer wore a plain velvet gown,
but she had on a necklace worth a hundred and twenty thousand francs,
pearls hardly distinguishable from her skin like white camellia petals.
She had stuck one scarlet camellia in her black hair--a patch--the
effect was dazzling, and she had amused herself by putting eleven rows
of pearls on each arm. As she shook hands with Jenny Cadine, the actress
said, “Lend me your mittens!”

Josepha unclasped them one by one and handed them to her friend on a
plate.

“There’s style!” said Carabine. “Quite the Duchess! You have robbed the
ocean to dress the nymph, Monsieur le Duc,” she added turning to the
little Duc d’Herouville.

The actress took two of the bracelets; she clasped the other twenty on
the singer’s beautiful arms, which she kissed.

Lousteau, the literary cadger, la Palferine and Malaga, Massol,
Vauvinet, and Theodore Gaillard, a proprietor of one of the most
important political newspapers, completed the party. The Duc
d’Herouville, polite to everybody, as a fine gentleman knows how to be,
greeted the Comte de la Palferine with the particular nod which, while
it does not imply either esteem or intimacy, conveys to all the world,
“We are of the same race, the same blood--equals!”--And this greeting,
the shibboleth of the aristocracy, was invented to be the despair of the
upper citizen class.

Carabine placed Combabus on her left, and the Duc d’Herouville on her
right. Cydalise was next to the Brazilian, and beyond her was Bixiou.
Malaga sat by the Duke.

Oysters appeared at seven o’clock; at eight they were drinking iced
punch. Every one is familiar with the bill of fare of such a banquet. By
nine o’clock they were talking as people talk after forty-two bottles of
various wines, drunk by fourteen persons. Dessert was on the table, the
odious dessert of the month of April. Of all the party, the only one
affected by the heady atmosphere was Cydalise, who was humming a tune.
None of the party, with the exception of the poor country girl, had lost
their reason; the drinkers and the women were the experienced _elite_ of
the society that sups. Their wits were bright, their eyes glistened,
but with no loss of intelligence, though the talk drifted into satire,
anecdote, and gossip. Conversation, hitherto confined to the inevitable
circle of racing, horses, hammerings on the Bourse, the different
occupations of the _lions_ themselves, and the scandals of the town,
showed a tendency to break up into intimate _tete-a-tete_, the dialogues
of two hearts.

And at this stage, at a signal from Carabine to Leon de Lora, Bixiou, la
Palferine, and du Tillet, love came under discussion.

“A doctor in good society never talks of medicine, true nobles never
speak of their ancestors, men of genius do not discuss their works,”
 said Josepha; “why should we talk business? If I got the opera put off
in order to dine here, it was assuredly not to work.--So let us change
the subject, dear children.”

“But we are speaking of real love, my beauty,” said Malaga, “of the
love that makes a man fling all to the dogs--father, mother, wife,
children--and retire to Clichy.”

“Talk away, then, ‘don’t know yer,’” said the singer.

The slang words, borrowed from the Street Arab, and spoken by these
women, may be a poem on their lips, helped by the expression of the eyes
and face.

“What, do not I love you, Josepha?” said the Duke in a low voice.

“You, perhaps, may love me truly,” said she in his ear, and she smiled.
“But I do not love you in the way they describe, with such love as makes
the world dark in the absence of the man beloved. You are delightful
to me, useful--but not indispensable; and if you were to throw me over
to-morrow, I could have three dukes for one.”

“Is true love to be found in Paris?” asked Leon de Lora. “Men have not
even time to make a fortune; how can they give themselves over to true
love, which swamps a man as water melts sugar? A man must be enormously
rich to indulge in it, for love annihilates him--for instance, like
our Brazilian friend over there. As I said long ago, ‘Extremes
defeat--themselves.’ A true lover is like an eunuch; women have ceased
to exist for him. He is mystical; he is like the true Christian, an
anchorite of the desert!--See our noble Brazilian.”

Every one at table looked at Henri Montes de Montejanos, who was shy at
finding every eye centred on him.

“He has been feeding there for an hour without discovering, any more
than an ox at pasture, that he is sitting next to--I will not say, in
such company, the loveliest--but the freshest woman in all Paris.”

“Everything is fresh here, even the fish; it is what the house is famous
for,” said Carabine.

Baron Montes looked good-naturedly at the painter, and said:

“Very good! I drink to your very good health,” and bowing to Leon de
Lora, he lifted his glass of port wine and drank it with much dignity.

“Are you then truly in love?” asked Malaga of her neighbor, thus
interpreting his toast.

The Brazilian refilled his glass, bowed to Carabine, and drank again.

“To the lady’s health then!” said the courtesan, in such a droll tone
that Lora, du Tillet, and Bixiou burst out laughing.

The Brazilian sat like a bronze statue. This impassibility provoked
Carabine. She knew perfectly well that Montes was devoted to Madame
Marneffe, but she had not expected this dogged fidelity, this obstinate
silence of conviction.

A woman is as often gauged by the attitude of her lover as a man
is judged from the tone of his mistress. The Baron was proud of his
attachment to Valerie, and of hers to him; his smile had, to these
experienced connoisseurs, a touch of irony; he was really grand to look
upon; wine had not flushed him; and his eyes, with their peculiar lustre
as of tarnished gold, kept the secrets of his soul. Even Carabine said
to herself:

“What a woman she must be! How she has sealed up that heart!”

“He is a rock!” said Bixiou in an undertone, imagining that the whole
thing was a practical joke, and never suspecting the importance to
Carabine of reducing this fortress.

While this conversation, apparently so frivolous, was going on at
Carabine’s right, the discussion of love was continued on her left
between the Duc d’Herouville, Lousteau, Josepha, Jenny Cadine, and
Massol. They were wondering whether such rare phenomena were the result
of passion, obstinacy, or affection. Josepha, bored to death by it all,
tried to change the subject.

“You are talking of what you know nothing about. Is there a man among
you who ever loved a woman--a woman beneath him--enough to squander his
fortune and his children’s, to sacrifice his future and blight his past,
to risk going to the hulks for robbing the Government, to kill an uncle
and a brother, to let his eye be so effectually blinded that he did
not even perceive that it was done to hinder his seeing the abyss into
which, as a crowning jest, he was being driven? Du Tillet has a cash-box
under his left breast; Leon de Lora has his wit; Bixiou would laugh
at himself for a fool if he loved any one but himself; Massol has a
minister’s portfolio in the place of a heart; Lousteau can have nothing
but viscera, since he could endure to be thrown over by Madame de
Baudraye; Monsieur le Duc is too rich to prove his love by his ruin;
Vauvinet is not in it--I do not regard a bill-broker as one of the human
race; and you have never loved, nor I, nor Jenny Cadine, nor Malaga. For
my part, I never but once even saw the phenomenon I have described. It
was,” and she turned to Jenny Cadine, “that poor Baron Hulot, whom I am
going to advertise for like a lost dog, for I want to find him.”

“Oh, ho!” said Carabine to herself, and looking keenly at Josepha, “then
Madame Nourrisson has two pictures by Raphael, since Josepha is playing
my hand!”

“Poor fellow,” said Vauvinet, “he was a great man! Magnificent! And what
a figure, what a style, the air of Francis I.! What a volcano! and how
full of ingenious ways of getting money! He must be looking for it now,
wherever he is, and I make no doubt he extracts it even from the walls
built of bones that you may see in the suburbs of Paris near the city
gates--”

“And all that,” said Bixiou, “for that little Madame Marneffe! There is
a precious hussy for you!”

“She is just going to marry my friend Crevel,” said du Tillet.

“And she is madly in love with my friend Steinbock,” Leon de Lora put
in.

These three phrases were like so many pistol-shots fired point-blank at
Montes. He turned white, and the shock was so painful that he rose with
difficulty.

“You are a set of blackguards!” cried he. “You have no right to speak
the name of an honest woman in the same breath with those fallen
creatures--above all, not to make it a mark for your slander!”

He was interrupted by unanimous bravos and applause. Bixiou, Leon de
Lora, Vauvinet, du Tillet, and Massol set the example, and there was a
chorus.

“Hurrah for the Emperor!” said Bixiou.

“Crown him! crown him!” cried Vauvinet.

“Three groans for such a good dog! Hurrah for Brazil!” cried Lousteau.

“So, my copper-colored Baron, it is our Valerie that you love; and you
are not disgusted?” said Leon de Lora.

“His remark is not parliamentary, but it is grand!” observed Massol.

“But, my most delightful customer,” said du Tillet, “you were
recommended to me; I am your banker; your innocence reflects on my
credit.”

“Yes, tell me, you are a reasonable creature----” said the Brazilian to
the banker.

“Thanks on behalf of the company,” said Bixiou with a bow.

“Tell me the real facts,” Montes went on, heedless of Bixiou’s
interjection.

“Well, then,” replied du Tillet, “I have the honor to tell you that I am
asked to the Crevel wedding.”

“Ah, ha! Combabus holds a brief for Madame Marneffe!” said Josepha,
rising solemnly.

She went round to Montes with a tragic look, patted him kindly on the
head, looked at him for a moment with comical admiration, and nodded
sagely.

“Hulot was the first instance of love through fire and water,” said she;
“this is the second. But it ought not to count, as it comes from the
Tropics.”

Montes had dropped into his chair again, when Josepha gently touched his
forehead, and looked at du Tillet as he said:

“If I am the victim of a Paris jest, if you only wanted to get at my
secret----” and he sent a flashing look round the table, embracing all
the guests in a flaming glance that blazed with the sun of Brazil,--“I
beg of you as a favor to tell me so,” he went on, in a tone of almost
childlike entreaty; “but do not vilify the woman I love.”

“Nay, indeed,” said Carabine in a low voice; “but if, on the contrary,
you are shamefully betrayed, cheated, tricked by Valerie, if I should
give you the proof in an hour, in my own house, what then?”

“I cannot tell you before all these Iagos,” said the Brazilian.

Carabine understood him to say _magots_ (baboons).

“Well, well, say no more!” she replied, smiling. “Do not make yourself
a laughing-stock for all the wittiest men in Paris; come to my house, we
will talk it over.”

Montes was crushed. “Proofs,” he stammered, “consider--”

“Only too many,” replied Carabine; “and if the mere suspicion hits you
so hard, I fear for your reason.”

“Is this creature obstinate, I ask you? He is worse than the late
lamented King of Holland!--I say, Lousteau, Bixiou, Massol, all the crew
of you, are you not invited to breakfast with Madame Marneffe the day
after to-morrow?” said Leon de Lora.

“_Ya_,” said du Tillet; “I have the honor of assuring you, Baron, that
if you had by any chance thought of marrying Madame Marneffe, you are
thrown out like a bill in Parliament, beaten by a blackball called
Crevel. My friend, my old comrade Crevel, has eighty thousand francs a
year; and you, I suppose, did not show such a good hand, for if you had,
you, I imagine, would have been preferred.”

Montes listened with a half-absent, half-smiling expression, which
struck them all with terror.

At this moment the head-waiter came to whisper to Carabine that a lady,
a relation of hers, was in the drawing-room and wished to speak to her.

Carabine rose and went out to find Madame Nourrisson, decently veiled
with black lace.

“Well, child, am I to go to your house? Has he taken the hook?”

“Yes, mother; and the pistol is so fully loaded, that my only fear is
that it will burst,” said Carabine.

About an hour later, Montes, Cydalise, and Carabine, returning from the
_Rocher de Cancale_, entered Carabine’s little sitting-room in the Rue
Saint-Georges. Madame Nourrisson was sitting in an armchair by the fire.

“Here is my worthy old aunt,” said Carabine.

“Yes, child, I came in person to fetch my little allowance. You would
have forgotten me, though you are kind-hearted, and I have some bills
to pay to-morrow. Buying and selling clothes, I am always short of cash.
Who is this at your heels? The gentleman looks very much put out about
something.”

The dreadful Madame Nourrisson, at this moment so completely disguised
as to look like a respectable old body, rose to embrace Carabine, one of
the hundred and odd courtesans she had launched on their horrible career
of vice.

“He is an Othello who is not to be taken in, whom I have the honor of
introducing to you--Monsieur le Baron Montes de Montejanos.”

“Oh! I have heard him talked about, and know his name.--You are
nicknamed Combabus, because you love but one woman, and in Paris, that
is the same as loving no one at all. And is it by chance the object of
your affections who is fretting you? Madame Marneffe, Crevel’s woman? I
tell you what, my dear sir, you may bless your stars instead of cursing
them. She is a good-for-nothing baggage, is that little woman. I know
her tricks!”

“Get along,” said Carabine, into whose hand Madame Nourrisson had
slipped a note while embracing her, “you do not know your Brazilians.
They are wrong-headed creatures that insist on being impaled through
the heart. The more jealous they are, the more jealous they want to
be. Monsieur talks of dealing death all round, but he will kill nobody
because he is in love.--However, I have brought him here to give him
the proofs of his discomfiture, which I have got from that little
Steinbock.”

Montes was drunk; he listened as if the women were talking about
somebody else.

Carabine went to take off her velvet wrap, and read a facsimile of a
note, as follows:--

  “DEAR PUSS.--He dines with Popinot this evening, and will come
  to fetch me from the Opera at eleven. I shall go out at about
  half-past five and count on finding you at our paradise. Order
  dinner to be sent in from the _Maison d’or_. Dress, so as to be
  able to take me to the Opera. We shall have four hours to ourselves.
  Return this note to me; not that your Valerie doubts you--I would
  give you my life, my fortune, and my honor, but I am afraid of the
  tricks of chance.”

“Here, Baron, this is the note sent to Count Steinbock this morning;
read the address. The original document is burnt.”

Montes turned the note over and over, recognized the writing, and was
struck by a rational idea, which is sufficient evidence of the disorder
of his brain.

“And, pray,” said he, looking at Carabine, “what object have you in
torturing my heart, for you must have paid very dear for the
privilege of having the note in your possession long enough to get it
lithographed?”

“Foolish man!” said Carabine, at a nod from Madame Nourrisson, “don’t
you see that poor child Cydalise--a girl of sixteen, who has been pining
for you these three months, till she has lost her appetite for food or
drink, and who is heart-broken because you have never even glanced at
her?”

Cydalise put her handkerchief to her eyes with an appearance of
emotion--“She is furious,” Carabine went on, “though she looks as if
butter would not melt in her mouth, furious to see the man she adores
duped by a villainous hussy; she would kill Valerie--”

“Oh, as for that,” said the Brazilian, “that is my business!”

“What, killing?” said old Nourrisson. “No, my son, we don’t do that here
nowadays.”

“Oh!” said Montes, “I am not a native of this country. I live in a
parish where I can laugh at your laws; and if you give me proof--”

“Well, that note. Is that nothing?”

“No,” said the Brazilian. “I do not believe in the writing. I must see
for myself.”

“See!” cried Carabine, taking the hint at once from a gesture of her
supposed aunt. “You shall see, my dear Tiger, all you wish to see--on
one condition.”

“And that is?”

“Look at Cydalise.”

At a wink from Madame Nourrisson, Cydalise cast a tender look at the
Baron.

“Will you be good to her? Will you make her a home?” asked Carabine. “A
girl of such beauty is well worth a house and a carriage! It would be a
monstrous shame to leave her to walk the streets. And besides--she is in
debt.--How much do you owe?” asked Carabine, nipping Cydalise’s arm.

“She is worth all she can get,” said the old woman. “The point is that
she can find a buyer.”

“Listen!” cried Montes, fully aware at last of this masterpiece of
womankind “you will show me Valerie--”

“And Count Steinbock.--Certainly!” said Madame Nourrisson.

For the past ten minutes the old woman had been watching the Brazilian;
she saw that he was an instrument tuned up to the murderous pitch she
needed; and, above all, so effectually blinded, that he would never heed
who had led him on to it, and she spoke:--

“Cydalise, my Brazilian jewel, is my niece, so her concerns are partly
mine. All this catastrophe will be the work of a few minutes, for a
friend of mine lets the furnished room to Count Steinbock where Valerie
is at this moment taking coffee--a queer sort of coffee, but she calls
it her coffee. So let us understand each other, Brazil!--I like Brazil,
it is a hot country.--What is to become of my niece?”

“You old ostrich,” said Montes, the plumes in the woman’s bonnet
catching his eye, “you interrupted me.--If you show me--if I see Valerie
and that artist together--”

“As you would wish to be--” said Carabine; “that is understood.”

“Then I will take this girl and carry her away--”

“Where?” asked Carabine.

“To Brazil,” replied the Baron. “I will make her my wife. My uncle left
me ten leagues square of entailed estate; that is how I still have
that house and home. I have a hundred negroes--nothing but negroes and
negresses and negro brats, all bought by my uncle--”

“Nephew to a nigger-driver,” said Carabine, with a grimace. “That needs
some consideration.--Cydalise, child, are you fond of the blacks?”

“Pooh! Carabine, no nonsense,” said the old woman. “The deuce is in it!
Monsieur and I are doing business.”

“If I take up another Frenchwoman, I mean to have her to myself,” the
Brazilian went on. “I warn you, mademoiselle, I am king there, and not a
constitutional king. I am Czar; my subjects are mine by purchase, and
no one can escape from my kingdom, which is a hundred leagues from any
human settlement, hemmed in by savages on the interior, and divided from
the sea by a wilderness as wide as France.”

“I should prefer a garret here.”

“So thought I,” said Montes, “since I sold all my land and possessions
at Rio to come back to Madame Marneffe.”

“A man does not make such a voyage for nothing,” remarked Madame
Nourrisson. “You have a right to look for love for your own sake,
particularly being so good-looking.--Oh, he is very handsome!” said she
to Carabine.

“Very handsome, handsomer than the _Postillon de Longjumeau_,” replied
the courtesan.

Cydalise took the Brazilian’s hand, but he released it as politely as he
could.

“I came back for Madame Marneffe,” the man went on where he had left
off, “but you do not know why I was three years thinking about it.”

“No, savage!” said Carabine.

“Well, she had so repeatedly told me that she longed to live with me
alone in a desert--”

“Oh, ho! he is not a savage after all,” cried Carabine, with a shout of
laughter. “He is of the highly-civilized tribe of Flats!”

“She had told me this so often,” Montes went on, regardless of the
courtesan’s mockery, “that I had a lovely house fitted up in the heart
of that vast estate. I came back to France to fetch Valerie, and the
first evening I saw her--”

“Saw her is very proper!” said Carabine. “I will remember it.”

“She told me to wait till that wretched Marneffe was dead; and I agreed,
and forgave her for having admitted the attentions of Hulot. Whether the
devil had her in hand I don’t know, but from that instant that woman
has humored my every whim, complied with all my demands--never for one
moment has she given me cause to suspect her!--”

“That is supremely clever!” said Carabine to Madame Nourrisson, who
nodded in sign of assent.

“My faith in that woman,” said Montes, and he shed a tear, “was a match
for my love. Just now, I was ready to fight everybody at table--”

“So I saw,” said Carabine.

“And if I am cheated, if she is going to be married, if she is at this
moment in Steinbock’s arms, she deserves a thousand deaths! I will kill
her as I would smash a fly--”

“And how about the gendarmes, my son?” said Madame Nourrisson, with a
smile that made your flesh creep.

“And the police agents, and the judges, and the assizes, and all the
set-out?” added Carabine.

“You are bragging, my dear fellow,” said the old woman, who wanted to
know all the Brazilian’s schemes of vengeance.

“I will kill her,” he calmly repeated. “You called me a savage.--Do you
imagine that I am fool enough to go, like a Frenchman, and buy poison
at the chemist’s shop?--During the time while we were driving her, I
thought out my means of revenge, if you should prove to be right as
concerns Valerie. One of my negroes has the most deadly of animal
poisons, and incurable anywhere but in Brazil. I will administer it
to Cydalise, who will give it to me; then by the time when death is a
certainty to Crevel and his wife, I shall be beyond the Azores with your
cousin, who will be cured, and I will marry her. We have our own little
tricks, we savages!--Cydalise,” said he, looking at the country girl,
“is the animal I need.--How much does she owe?”

“A hundred thousand francs,” said Cydalise.

“She says little--but to the purpose,” said Carabine, in a low tone to
Madame Nourrisson.

“I am going mad!” cried the Brazilian, in a husky voice, dropping on to
a sofa. “I shall die of this! But I must see, for it is impossible!--A
lithographed note! What is to assure me that it is not a forgery?--Baron
Hulot was in love with Valerie?” said he, recalling Josepha’s harangue.
“Nay; the proof that he did not love is that she is still alive--I will
not leave her living for anybody else, if she is not wholly mine.”

Montes was terrible to behold. He bellowed, he stormed; he broke
everything he touched; rosewood was as brittle as glass.

“How he destroys things!” said Carabine, looking at the old woman. “My
good boy,” said she, giving the Brazilian a little slap, “Roland the
Furious is very fine in a poem; but in a drawing-room he is prosaic and
expensive.”

“My son,” said old Nourrisson, rising to stand in front of the
crestfallen Baron, “I am of your way of thinking. When you love in that
way, and are joined ‘till death does you part,’ life must answer for
love. The one who first goes, carries everything away; it is a general
wreck. You command my esteem, my admiration, my consent, especially for
your inoculation, which will make me a Friend of the Negro.--But you
love her! You will hark back?”

“I?--If she is so infamous, I--”

“Well, come now, you are talking too much, it strikes me. A man who
means to be avenged, and who says he has the ways and means of a savage,
doesn’t do that.--If you want to see your ‘object’ in her paradise, you
must take Cydalise and walk straight in with her on your arm, as if the
servant had made a mistake. But no scandal! If you mean to be revenged,
you must eat the leek, seem to be in despair, and allow her to bully
you.--Do you see?” said Madame Nourrisson, finding the Brazilian quite
amazed by so subtle a scheme.

“All right, old ostrich,” he replied. “Come along: I understand.”

“Good-bye, little one!” said the old woman to Carabine.

She signed to Cydalise to go on with Montes, and remained a minute with
Carabine.

“Now, child, I have but one fear, and that is that he will strangle
her! I should be in a very tight place; we must do everything gently.
I believe you have won your picture by Raphael; but they tell me it is
only a Mignard. Never mind, it is much prettier; all the Raphaels are
gone black, I am told, whereas this one is as bright as a Girodet.”

“All I want is to crow over Josepha; and it is all the same to me
whether I have a Mignard or a Raphael!--That thief had on such pearls
this evening!--you would sell your soul for them.”

Cydalise, Montes, and Madame Nourrisson got into a hackney coach that
was waiting at the door. Madame Nourrisson whispered to the driver the
address of a house in the same block as the Italian Opera House,
which they could have reached in five or six minutes from the Rue
Saint-Georges; but Madame Nourrisson desired the man to drive along the
Rue le Peletier, and to go very slowly, so as to be able to examine the
carriages in waiting.

“Brazilian,” said the old woman, “look out for your angel’s carriage and
servants.”

The Baron pointed out Valerie’s carriage as they passed it.

“She has told them to come for her at ten o’clock, and she is gone in a
cab to the house where she visits Count Steinbock. She has dined there,
and will come to the Opera in half an hour.--It is well contrived!” said
Madame Nourrisson. “Thus you see how she has kept you so long in the
dark.”

The Brazilian made no reply. He had become the tiger, and had recovered
the imperturbable cool ferocity that had been so striking at dinner. He
was as calm as a bankrupt the day after he has stopped payment.

At the door of the house stood a hackney coach with two horses, of the
kind known as a _Compagnie Generale_, from the Company that runs them.

“Stay here in the box,” said the old woman to Montes. “This is not an
open house like a tavern. I will send for you.”

The paradise of Madame Marneffe and Wenceslas was not at all like that
of Crevel--who, finding it useless now, had just sold his to the Comte
Maxime de Trailles. This paradise, the paradise of all comers, consisted
of a room on the fourth floor opening to the landing, in a house close
to the Italian Opera. On each floor of this house there was a room which
had originally served as the kitchen to the apartments on that floor.
But the house having become a sort of inn, let out for clandestine love
affairs at an exorbitant price, the owner, the real Madame Nourrisson,
an old-clothes buyer in the Rue Nueve Saint-Marc, had wisely appreciated
the great value of these kitchens, and had turned them into a sort of
dining-rooms. Each of these rooms, built between thick party-walls and
with windows to the street, was entirely shut in by very thick double
doors on the landing. Thus the most important secrets could be discussed
over a dinner, with no risk of being overheard. For greater security,
the windows had shutters inside and out. These rooms, in consequence of
this peculiarity, were let for twelve hundred francs a month. The
whole house, full of such paradises and mysteries was rented by Madame
Nourrisson the First for twenty-eight thousand francs of clear profit,
after paying her housekeeper, Madame Nourrisson the Second, for she did
not manage it herself.

The paradise let to Count Steinbock had been hung with chintz; the
cold, hard floor, of common tiles reddened with encaustic, was not
felt through a soft thick carpet. The furniture consisted of two pretty
chairs and a bed in an alcove, just now half hidden by a table loaded
with the remains of an elegant dinner, while two bottles with long
necks and an empty champagne-bottle in ice strewed the field of bacchus
cultivated by Venus.

There were also--the property, no doubt, of Valerie--a low easy-chair
and a man’s smoking-chair, and a pretty toilet chest of drawers in
rosewood, the mirror handsomely framed _a la_ Pompadour. A lamp hanging
from the ceiling gave a subdued light, increased by wax candles on the
table and on the chimney-shelf.

This sketch will suffice to give an idea, _urbi et orbi_, of clandestine
passion in the squalid style stamped on it in Paris in 1840. How far,
alas! from the adulterous love, symbolized by Vulcan’s nets, three
thousand years ago.

When Montes and Cydalise came upstairs, Valerie, standing before the
fire, where a log was blazing, was allowing Wenceslas to lace her stays.

This is a moment when a woman who is neither too fat nor too thin, but
like Valerie, elegant and slender, displays divine beauty. The rosy
skin, mostly soft, invites the sleepiest eye. The lines of her figure,
so little hidden, are so charmingly outlined by the white pleats of
the shift and the support of the stays, that she is irresistible--like
everything that must be parted from.

With a happy face smiling at the glass, a foot impatiently marking
time, a hand put up to restore order among the tumbled curls, and eyes
expressive of gratitude; with the glow of satisfaction which, like a
sunset, warms the least details of the countenance--everything makes
such a moment a mine of memories.

Any man who dares look back on the early errors of his life may,
perhaps, recall some such reminiscences, and understand, though not
excuse, the follies of Hulot and Crevel. Women are so well aware of
their power at such a moment, that they find in it what may be called
the aftermath of the meeting.

“Come, come; after two years’ practice, you do not yet know how to lace
a woman’s stays! You are too much a Pole!--There, it is ten o’clock, my
Wenceslas!” said Valerie, laughing at him.

At this very moment, a mischievous waiting-woman, by inserting a knife,
pushed up the hook of the double doors that formed the whole security
of Adam and Eve. She hastily pulled the door open--for the servants
of these dens have little time to waste--and discovered one of the
bewitching _tableaux de genre_ which Gavarni has so often shown at the
Salon.

“In here, madame,” said the girl; and Cydalise went in, followed by
Montes.

“But there is some one here.--Excuse me, madame,” said the country girl,
in alarm.

“What?--Why! it is Valerie!” cried Montes, violently slamming the door.

Madame Marneffe, too genuinely agitated to dissemble her feelings,
dropped on to the chair by the fireplace. Two tears rose to her eyes,
and at once dried away. She looked at Montes, saw the girl, and burst
into a cackle of forced laughter. The dignity of the insulted woman
redeemed the scantiness of her attire; she walked close up to the
Brazilian, and looked at him so defiantly that her eyes glittered like
knives.

“So that,” said she, standing face to face with the Baron, and pointing
to Cydalise--“that is the other side of your fidelity? You, who have
made me promises that might convert a disbeliever in love! You, for
whom I have done so much--have even committed crimes!--You are right,
monsieur, I am not to compare with a child of her age and of such
beauty!

“I know what you are going to say,” she went on, looking at Wenceslas,
whose undress was proof too clear to be denied. “This is my concern. If
I could love you after such gross treachery--for you have spied upon me,
you have paid for every step up these stairs, paid the mistress of the
house, and the servant, perhaps even Reine--a noble deed!--If I had any
remnant of affection for such a mean wretch, I could give him reasons
that would renew his passion!--But I leave you, monsieur, to your
doubts, which will become remorse.--Wenceslas, my gown!”

She took her dress and put it on, looked at herself in the glass, and
finished dressing without heeding the Baron, as calmly as if she had
been alone in the room.

“Wenceslas, are you ready?--Go first.”

She had been watching Montes in the glass and out of the corner of
her eye, and fancied she could see in his pallor an indication of the
weakness which delivers a strong man over to a woman’s fascinations; she
now took his hand, going so close to him that he could not help inhaling
the terrible perfumes which men love, and by which they intoxicate
themselves; then, feeling his pulses beat high, she looked at him
reproachfully.

“You have my full permission to go and tell your history to Monsieur
Crevel; he will never believe you. I have a perfect right to marry him,
and he becomes my husband the day after to-morrow.--I shall make him
very happy.--Good-bye; try to forget me.”

“Oh! Valerie,” cried Henri Montes, clasping her in his arms, “that is
impossible!--Come to Brazil!”

Valerie looked in his face, and saw him her slave.

“Well, if you still love me, Henri, two years hence I will be your wife;
but your expression at this moment strikes me as very suspicious.”

“I swear to you that they made me drink, that false friends threw this
girl on my hands, and that the whole thing is the outcome of chance!”
 said Montes.

“Then I am to forgive you?” she asked, with a smile.

“But you will marry, all the same?” asked the Baron, in an agony of
jealousy.

“Eighty thousand francs a year!” said she, with almost comical
enthusiasm. “And Crevel loves me so much that he will die of it!”

“Ah! I understand,” said Montes.

“Well, then, in a few days we will come to an understanding,” said she.

And she departed triumphant.

“I have no scruples,” thought the Baron, standing transfixed for a few
minutes. “What! That woman believes she can make use of his passion to
be quit of that dolt, as she counted on Marneffe’s decease!--I shall be
the instrument of divine wrath.”

Two days later those of du Tillet’s guests who had demolished Madame
Marneffe tooth and nail, were seated round her table an hour after she
has shed her skin and changed her name for the illustrious name of
a Paris mayor. This verbal treason is one of the commonest forms of
Parisian levity.

Valerie had had the satisfaction of seeing the Brazilian in the church;
for Crevel, now so entirely the husband, had invited him out of bravado.
And the Baron’s presence at the breakfast astonished no one. All these
men of wit and of the world were familiar with the meanness of passion,
the compromises of pleasure.

Steinbock’s deep melancholy--for he was beginning to despise the woman
whom he had adored as an angel--was considered to be in excellent taste.
The Pole thus seemed to convey that all was at an end between Valerie
and himself. Lisbeth came to embrace her dear Madame Crevel, and
to excuse herself for not staying to the breakfast on the score of
Adeline’s sad state of health.

“Be quite easy,” said she to Valerie, “they will call on you, and
you will call on them. Simply hearing the words _two hundred thousand
francs_ has brought the Baroness to death’s door. Oh, you have them all
hard and fast by that tale!--But you must tell it to me.”

Within a month of her marriage, Valerie was at her tenth quarrel with
Steinbock; he insisted on explanations as to Henri Montes, reminding her
of the words spoken in their paradise; and, not content with speaking
to her in terms of scorn, he watched her so closely that she never had a
moment of liberty, so much was she fettered by his jealousy on one side
and Crevel’s devotion on the other.

Bereft now of Lisbeth, whose advice had always been so valuable she flew
into such a rage as to reproach Wenceslas for the money she had lent
him. This so effectually roused Steinbock’s pride, that he came no more
to the Crevels’ house. So Valerie had gained her point, which was to be
rid of him for a time, and enjoy some freedom. She waited till Crevel
should make a little journey into the country to see Comte Popinot, with
a view to arranging for her introduction to the Countess, and was then
able to make an appointment to meet the Baron, whom she wanted to have
at her command for a whole day to give him those “reasons” which were to
make him love her more than ever.

On the morning of that day, Reine, who estimated the magnitude of her
crime by that of the bribe she received, tried to warn her mistress, in
whom she naturally took more interest than in strangers. Still, as she
had been threatened with madness, and ending her days in the Salpetriere
in case of indiscretion, she was cautious.

“Madame, you are so well off now,” said she. “Why take on again with
that Brazilian?--I do not trust him at all.”

“You are very right, Reine, and I mean to be rid of him.”

“Oh, madame, I am glad to hear it; he frightens me, does that big Moor!
I believe him to be capable of anything.”

“Silly child! you have more reason to be afraid for him when he is with
me.”

At this moment Lisbeth came in.

“My dear little pet Nanny, what an age since we met!” cried Valerie.
“I am so unhappy! Crevel bores me to death; and Wenceslas is gone--we
quarreled.”

“I know,” said Lisbeth, “and that is what brings me here. Victorin
met him at about five in the afternoon going into an eating-house at
five-and-twenty sous, and he brought him home, hungry, by working on his
feelings, to the Rue Louis-le-Grand.--Hortense, seeing Wenceslas lean
and ill and badly dressed, held out her hand. This is how you throw me
over--”

“Monsieur Henri, madame,” the man-servant announced in a low voice to
Valerie.

“Leave me now, Lisbeth; I will explain it all to-morrow.” But, as will
be seen, Valerie was ere long not in a state to explain anything to
anybody.



Towards the end of May, Baron Hulot’s pension was released by Victorin’s
regular payment to Baron Nucingen. As everybody knows, pensions are
paid half-yearly, and only on the presentation of a certificate that the
recipient is alive: and as Hulot’s residence was unknown, the arrears
unpaid on Vauvinet’s demand remained to his credit in the Treasury.
Vauvinet now signed his renunciation of any further claims, and it was
still indispensable to find the pensioner before the arrears could be
drawn.

Thanks to Bianchon’s care, the Baroness had recovered her health; and
to this Josepha’s good heart had contributed by a letter, of which the
orthography betrayed the collaboration of the Duc d’Herouville. This
was what the singer wrote to the Baroness, after twenty days of anxious
search:--

  “MADAME LA BARONNE,--Monsieur Hulot was living, two months since,
  in the Rue des Bernardins, with Elodie Chardin, a lace-mender, for
  whom he had left Mademoiselle Bijou; but he went away without a
  word, leaving everything behind him, and no one knows where he
  went. I am not without hope, however, and I have put a man on this
  track who believes he has already seen him in the Boulevard
  Bourdon.

  “The poor Jewess means to keep the promise she made to the
  Christian. Will the angel pray for the devil? That must sometimes
  happen in heaven.--I remain, with the deepest respect, always your
  humble servant,

  “JOSEPHA MIRAH.”

The lawyer, Maitre Hulot d’Ervy, hearing no more of the dreadful Madame
Nourrisson, seeing his father-in-law married, having brought back his
brother-in-law to the family fold, suffering from no importunity on
the part of his new stepmother, and seeing his mother’s health improve
daily, gave himself up to his political and judicial duties, swept along
by the tide of Paris life, in which the hours count for days.

One night, towards the end of the session, having occasion to write up
a report to the Chamber of Deputies, he was obliged to sit at work till
late at night. He had gone into his study at nine o’clock, and, while
waiting till the man-servant should bring in the candles with green
shades, his thoughts turned to his father. He was blaming himself for
leaving the inquiry so much to the singer, and had resolved to see
Monsieur Chapuzot himself on the morrow, when he saw in the twilight,
outside the window, a handsome old head, bald and yellow, with a fringe
of white hair.

“Would you please to give orders, sir, that a poor hermit is to be
admitted, just come from the Desert, and who is instructed to beg for
contributions towards rebuilding a holy house.”

This apparition, which suddenly reminded the lawyer of a prophecy
uttered by the terrible Nourrisson, gave him a shock.

“Let in that old man,” said he to the servant.

“He will poison the place, sir,” replied the man. “He has on a brown
gown which he has never changed since he left Syria, and he has no
shirt--”

“Show him in,” repeated the master.

The old man came in. Victorin’s keen eye examined this so-called pilgrim
hermit, and he saw a fine specimen of the Neapolitan friars, whose
frocks are akin to the rags of the _lazzaroni_, whose sandals are
tatters of leather, as the friars are tatters of humanity. The get-up
was so perfect that the lawyer, though still on his guard, was vexed
with himself for having believed it to be one of Madame Nourrisson’s
tricks.

“How much to you want of me?”

“Whatever you feel that you ought to give me.”

Victorin took a five-franc piece from a little pile on his table, and
handed it to the stranger.

“That is not much on account of fifty thousand francs,” said the pilgrim
of the desert.

This speech removed all Victorin’s doubts.

“And has Heaven kept its word?” he said, with a frown.

“The question is an offence, my son,” said the hermit. “If you do not
choose to pay till after the funeral, you are in your rights. I will
return in a week’s time.”

“The funeral!” cried the lawyer, starting up.

“The world moves on,” said the old man, as he withdrew, “and the dead
move quickly in Paris!”

When Hulot, who stood looking down, was about to reply, the stalwart old
man had vanished.

“I don’t understand one word of all this,” said Victorin to himself.
“But at the end of the week I will ask him again about my father, if we
have not yet found him. Where does Madame Nourrisson--yes, that was her
name--pick up such actors?”

On the following day, Doctor Bianchon allowed the Baroness to go down
into the garden, after examining Lisbeth, who had been obliged to
keep to her room for a month by a slight bronchial attack. The learned
doctor, who dared not pronounce a definite opinion on Lisbeth’s case
till he had seen some decisive symptoms, went into the garden with
Adeline to observe the effect of the fresh air on her nervous trembling
after two months of seclusion. He was interested and allured by the hope
of curing this nervous complaint. On seeing the great physician sitting
with them and sparing them a few minutes, the Baroness and her family
conversed with him on general subjects.

“You life is a very full and a very sad one,” said Madame Hulot. “I
know what it is to spend one’s days in seeing poverty and physical
suffering.”

“I know, madame,” replied the doctor, “all the scenes of which charity
compels you to be a spectator; but you will get used to it in time, as
we all do. It is the law of existence. The confessor, the magistrate,
the lawyer would find life unendurable if the spirit of the State did
not assert itself above the feelings of the individual. Could we live at
all but for that? Is not the soldier in time of war brought face to face
with spectacles even more dreadful than those we see? And every soldier
that has been under fire is kind-hearted. We medical men have the
pleasure now and again of a successful cure, as you have that of saving
a family from the horrors of hunger, depravity, or misery, and of
restoring it to social respectability. But what comfort can the
magistrate find, the police agent, or the attorney, who spend their
lives in investigating the basest schemes of self-interest, the social
monster whose only regret is when it fails, but on whom repentance never
dawns?

“One-half of society spends its life in watching the other half. A very
old friend of mine is an attorney, now retired, who told me that for
fifteen years past notaries and lawyers have distrusted their clients
quite as much as their adversaries. Your son is a pleader; has he never
found himself compromised by the client for whom he held a brief?”

“Very often,” said Victorin, with a smile.

“And what is the cause of this deep-seated evil?” asked the Baroness.

“The decay of religion,” said Bianchon, “and the pre-eminence of
finance, which is simply solidified selfishness. Money used not to
be everything; there were some kinds of superiority that ranked above
it--nobility, genius, service done to the State. But nowadays the law
takes wealth as the universal standard, and regards it as the measure
of public capacity. Certain magistrates are ineligible to the Chamber;
Jean-Jacques Rousseau would be ineligible! The perpetual subdivision of
estate compels every man to take care of himself from the age of twenty.

“Well, then, between the necessity for making a fortune and the
depravity of speculation there is no check or hindrance; for the
religious sense is wholly lacking in France, in spite of the laudable
endeavors of those who are working for a Catholic revival. And this is
the opinion of every man who, like me, studies society at the core.”

“And you have few pleasures?” said Hortense.

“The true physician, madame, is in love with his science,” replied the
doctor. “He is sustained by that passion as much as by the sense of his
usefulness to society.

“At this very time you see in me a sort of scientific rapture, and many
superficial judges would regard me as a man devoid of feeling. I have
to announce a discovery to-morrow to the College of Medicine, for I am
studying a disease that had disappeared--a mortal disease for which no
cure is known in temperate climates, though it is curable in the West
Indies--a malady known here in the Middle Ages. A noble fight is that
of the physician against such a disease. For the last ten days I have
thought of nothing but these cases--for there are two, a husband and
wife.--Are they not connections of yours? For you, madame, are surely
Monsieur Crevel’s daughter?” said he, addressing Celestine.

“What, is my father your patient?” asked Celestine. “Living in the Rue
Barbet-de-Jouy?”

“Precisely so,” said Bianchon.

“And the disease is inevitably fatal?” said Victorin in dismay.

“I will go to see him,” said Celestine, rising.

“I positively forbid it, madame,” Bianchon quietly said. “The disease is
contagious.”

“But you go there, monsieur,” replied the young woman. “Do you think
that a daughter’s duty is less binding than a doctor’s?”

“Madame, a physician knows how to protect himself against infection, and
the rashness of your devotion proves to me that you would probably be
less prudent than I.”

Celestine, however, got up and went to her room, where she dressed to go
out.

“Monsieur,” said Victorin to Bianchon, “have you any hope of saving
Monsieur and Madame Crevel?”

“I hope, but I do not believe that I may,” said Bianchon. “The case is
to me quite inexplicable. The disease is peculiar to negroes and the
American tribes, whose skin is differently constituted to that of the
white races. Now I can trace no connection with the copper-colored
tribes, with negroes or half-castes, in Monsieur or Madame Crevel.

“And though it is a very interesting disease to us, it is a terrible
thing for the sufferers. The poor woman, who is said to have been very
pretty, is punished for her sins, for she is now squalidly hideous if
she is still anything at all. She is losing her hair and teeth, her skin
is like a leper’s, she is a horror to herself; her hands are horrible,
covered with greenish pustules, her nails are loose, and the flesh is
eaten away by the poisoned humors.”

“And the cause of such a disease?” asked the lawyer.

“Oh!” said the doctor, “the cause lies in a form of rapid
blood-poisoning; it degenerates with terrific rapidity. I hope to act on
the blood; I am having it analyzed; and I am now going home to ascertain
the result of the labors of my friend Professor Duval, the famous
chemist, with a view to trying one of those desperate measures by which
we sometimes attempt to defeat death.”

“The hand of God is there!” said Adeline, in a voice husky with emotion.
“Though that woman has brought sorrows on me which have led me in
moments of madness to invoke the vengeance of Heaven, I hope--God knows
I hope--you may succeed, doctor.”

Victorin felt dizzy. He looked at his mother, his sister, and the
physician by turns, quaking lest they should read his thoughts. He felt
himself a murderer.

Hortense, for her part, thought God was just.

Celestine came back to beg her husband to accompany her.

“If you insist on going, madame, and you too, monsieur, keep at least
a foot between you and the bed of the sufferer, that is the chief
precaution. Neither you nor your wife must dream of kissing the dying
man. And, indeed, you ought to go with your wife, Monsieur Hulot, to
hinder her from disobeying my injunctions.”

Adeline and Hortense, when they were left alone, went to sit with
Lisbeth. Hortense had such a virulent hatred of Valerie that she could
not contain the expression of it.

“Cousin Lisbeth,” she exclaimed, “my mother and I are avenged! that
venomous snake is herself bitten--she is rotting in her bed!”

“Hortense, at this moment you are not a Christian. You ought to pray to
God to vouchsafe repentance to this wretched woman.”

“What are you talking about?” said Betty, rising from her couch. “Are
you speaking of Valerie?”

“Yes,” replied Adeline; “she is past hope--dying of some horrible
disease of which the mere description makes one shudder----”

Lisbeth’s teeth chattered, a cold sweat broke out all over her; the
violence of the shock showed how passionate her attachment to Valerie
had been.

“I must go there,” said she.

“But the doctor forbids your going out.”

“I do not care--I must go!--Poor Crevel! what a state he must be in; for
he loves that woman.”

“He is dying too,” replied Countess Steinbock. “Ah! all our enemies are
in the devil’s clutches--”

“In God’s hands, my child--”

Lisbeth dressed in the famous yellow Indian shawl and her black velvet
bonnet, and put on her boots; in spite of her relations’ remonstrances,
she set out as if driven by some irresistible power.

She arrived in the Rue Barbet a few minutes after Monsieur and Madame
Hulot, and found seven physicians there, brought by Bianchon to study
this unique case; he had just joined them. The physicians, assembled in
the drawing-room, were discussing the disease; now one and now another
went into Valerie’s room or Crevel’s to take a note, and returned with
an opinion based on this rapid study.

These princes of science were divided in their opinions. One, who
stood alone in his views, considered it a case of poisoning, of private
revenge, and denied its identity with the disease known in the Middle
Ages. Three others regarded it as a specific deterioration of the blood
and the humors. The rest, agreeing with Bianchon, maintained that the
blood was poisoned by some hitherto unknown morbid infection. Bianchon
produced Professor Duval’s analysis of the blood. The remedies to be
applied, though absolutely empirical and without hope, depended on the
verdict in this medical dilemma.

Lisbeth stood as if petrified three yards away from the bed where
Valerie lay dying, as she saw a priest from Saint-Thomas d’Aquin
standing by her friend’s pillow, and a sister of charity in attendance.
Religion could find a soul to save in a mass of rottenness which, of the
five senses of man, had now only that of sight. The sister of charity
who alone had been found to nurse Valerie stood apart. Thus the Catholic
religion, that divine institution, always actuated by the spirit of
self-sacrifice, under its twofold aspect of the Spirit and the Flesh,
was tending this horrible and atrocious creature, soothing her death-bed
by its infinite benevolence and inexhaustible stores of mercy.

The servants, in horror, refused to go into the room of either their
master or mistress; they thought only of themselves, and judged their
betters as righteously stricken. The smell was so foul that in spite of
open windows and strong perfumes, no one could remain long in Valerie’s
room. Religion alone kept guard there.

How could a woman so clever as Valerie fail to ask herself to what end
these two representatives of the Church remained with her? The dying
woman had listened to the words of the priest. Repentance had risen on
her darkened soul as the devouring malady had consumed her beauty. The
fragile Valerie had been less able to resist the inroads of the disease
than Crevel; she would be the first to succumb, and, indeed, had been
the first attacked.

“If I had not been ill myself, I would have come to nurse you,” said
Lisbeth at last, after a glance at her friend’s sunken eyes. “I have
kept my room this fortnight or three weeks; but when I heard of your
state from the doctor, I came at once.”

“Poor Lisbeth, you at least love me still, I see!” said Valerie.
“Listen. I have only a day or two left to think, for I cannot say to
live. You see, there is nothing left of me--I am a heap of mud! They
will not let me see myself in a glass.--Well, it is no more than I
deserve. Oh, if I might only win mercy, I would gladly undo all the
mischief I have done.”

“Oh!” said Lisbeth, “if you can talk like that, you are indeed a dead
woman.”

“Do not hinder this woman’s repentance, leave her in her Christian
mind,” said the priest.

“There is nothing left!” said Lisbeth in consternation. “I cannot
recognize her eyes or her mouth! Not a feature of her is there! And her
wit has deserted her! Oh, it is awful!”

“You don’t know,” said Valerie, “what death is; what it is to be obliged
to think of the morrow of your last day on earth, and of what is to
be found in the grave.--Worms for the body--and for the soul,
what?--Lisbeth, I know there is another life! And I am given over to
terrors which prevent my feeling the pangs of my decomposing body.--I,
who could laugh at a saint, and say to Crevel that the vengeance of God
took every form of disaster.--Well, I was a true prophet.--Do not trifle
with sacred things, Lisbeth; if you love me, repent as I do.”

“I!” said Lisbeth. “I see vengeance wherever I turn in nature; insects
even die to satisfy the craving for revenge when they are attacked. And
do not these gentlemen tell us”--and she looked at the priest--“that God
is revenged, and that His vengeance lasts through all eternity?”

The priest looked mildly at Lisbeth and said:

“You, madame, are an atheist!”

“But look what I have come to,” said Valerie.

“And where did you get this gangrene?” asked the old maid, unmoved from
her peasant incredulity.

“I had a letter from Henri which leaves me in no doubt as to my fate.
He has murdered me. And--just when I meant to live honestly--to die an
object of disgust!

“Lisbeth, give up all notions of revenge. Be kind to that family to whom
I have left by my will everything I can dispose of. Go, child, though
you are the only creature who, at this hour, does not avoid me with
horror--go, I beseech you, and leave me.--I have only time to make my
peace with God!”

“She is wandering in her wits,” said Lisbeth to herself, as she left the
room.

The strongest affection known, that of a woman for a woman, had not such
heroic constancy as the Church. Lisbeth, stifled by the miasma, went
away. She found the physicians still in consultation. But Bianchon’s
opinion carried the day, and the only question now was how to try the
remedies.

“At any rate, we shall have a splendid _post-mortem_,” said one of
his opponents, “and there will be two cases to enable us to make
comparisons.”

Lisbeth went in again with Bianchon, who went up to the sick woman
without seeming aware of the malodorous atmosphere.

“Madame,” said he, “we intend to try a powerful remedy which may save
you--”

“And if you save my life,” said she, “shall I be as good-looking as
ever?”

“Possibly,” said the judicious physician.

“I know your _possibly_,” said Valerie. “I shall look like a woman who
has fallen into the fire! No, leave me to the Church. I can please no
one now but God. I will try to be reconciled to Him, and that will be my
last flirtation; yes, I must try to come round God!”

“That is my poor Valerie’s last jest; that is all herself!” said Lisbeth
in tears.

Lisbeth thought it her duty to go into Crevel’s room, where she found
Victorin and his wife sitting about a yard away from the stricken man’s
bed.

“Lisbeth,” said he, “they will not tell me what state my wife is in; you
have just seen her--how is she?”

“She is better; she says she is saved,” replied Lisbeth, allowing
herself this play on the word to soothe Crevel’s mind.

“That is well,” said the Mayor. “I feared lest I had been the cause of
her illness. A man is not a traveler in perfumery for nothing; I had
blamed myself.--If I should lose her, what would become of me? On my
honor, my children, I worship that woman.”

He sat up in bed and tried to assume his favorite position.

“Oh, Papa!” cried Celestine, “if only you could be well again, I would
make friends with my stepmother--I make a vow!”

“Poor little Celestine!” said Crevel, “come and kiss me.”

Victorin held back his wife, who was rushing forward.

“You do not know, perhaps,” said the lawyer gently, “that your disease
is contagious, monsieur.”

“To be sure,” replied Crevel. “And the doctors are quite proud of having
rediscovered in me some long lost plague of the Middle Ages, which the
Faculty has had cried like lost property--it is very funny!”

“Papa,” said Celestine, “be brave, and you will get the better of this
disease.”

“Be quite easy, my children; Death thinks twice of it before carrying
off a Mayor of Paris,” said he, with monstrous composure. “And if, after
all, my district is so unfortunate as to lose a man it has twice honored
with its suffrages--you see, what a flow of words I have!--Well, I shall
know how to pack up and go. I have been a commercial traveler; I am
experienced in such matters. Ah! my children, I am a man of strong
mind.”

“Papa, promise me to admit the Church--”

“Never,” replied Crevel. “What is to be said? I drank the milk of
Revolution; I have not Baron Holbach’s wit, but I have his strength of
mind. I am more _Regence_ than ever, more Musketeer, Abbe Dubois, and
Marechal de Richelieu! By the Holy Poker!--My wife, who is wandering
in her head, has just sent me a man in a gown--to me! the admirer of
Beranger, the friend of Lisette, the son of Voltaire and Rousseau.--The
doctor, to feel my pulse, as it were, and see if sickness had subdued
me--‘You saw Monsieur l’Abbe?’ said he.--Well, I imitated the great
Montesquieu. Yes, I looked at the doctor--see, like this,” and he turned
to show three-quarters face, like his portrait, and extended his hand
authoritatively--“and I said:

             “The slave was here,
  He showed his order, but he nothing gained.

“_His order_ is a pretty jest, showing that even in death Monsieur le
President de Montesquieu preserved his elegant wit, for they had sent
him a Jesuit. I admire that passage--I cannot say of his life, but
of his death--the passage--another joke!--The passage from life to
death--the Passage Montesquieu!”

Victorin gazed sadly at his father-in-law, wondering whether folly and
vanity were not forces on a par with true greatness of soul. The causes
that act on the springs of the soul seem to be quite independent of the
results. Can it be that the fortitude which upholds a great criminal is
the same as that which a Champcenetz so proudly walks to the scaffold?

By the end of the week Madame Crevel was buried, after dreadful
sufferings; and Crevel followed her within two days. Thus the
marriage-contract was annulled. Crevel was heir to Valerie.

On the very day after the funeral, the friar called again on the lawyer,
who received him in perfect silence. The monk held out his hand without
a word, and without a word Victorin Hulot gave him eighty thousand-franc
notes, taken from a sum of money found in Crevel’s desk.

Young Madame Hulot inherited the estate of Presles and thirty thousand
francs a year.

Madame Crevel had bequeathed a sum of three hundred thousand francs
to Baron Hulot. Her scrofulous boy Stanislas was to inherit, at his
majority, the Hotel Crevel and eighty thousand francs a year.



Among the many noble associations founded in Paris by Catholic charity,
there is one, originated by Madame de la Chanterie, for promoting civil
and religious marriages between persons who have formed a voluntary
but illicit union. Legislators, who draw large revenues from the
registration fees, and the Bourgeois dynasty, which benefits by the
notary’s profits, affect to overlook the fact that three-fourths of the
poorer class cannot afford fifteen francs for the marriage-contract. The
pleaders, a sufficiently vilified body, gratuitously defend the cases
of the indigent, while the notaries have not as yet agreed to charge
nothing for the marriage-contract of the poor. As to the revenue
collectors, the whole machinery of Government would have to be
dislocated to induce the authorities to relax their demands. The
registrar’s office is deaf and dumb.

Then the Church, too, receives a duty on marriages. In France the Church
depends largely on such revenues; even in the House of God it traffics
in chairs and kneeling stools in a way that offends foreigners;
though it cannot have forgotten the anger of the Saviour who drove
the money-changers out of the Temple. If the Church is so loath to
relinquish its dues, it must be supposed that these dues, known as
Vestry dues, are one of its sources of maintenance, and then the fault
of the Church is the fault of the State.

The co-operation of these conditions, at a time when charity is too
greatly concerned with the negroes and the petty offenders discharged
from prison to trouble itself about honest folks in difficulties,
results in the existence of a number of decent couples who have never
been legally married for lack of thirty francs, the lowest figure for
which the Notary, the Registrar, the Mayor and the Church will unite
two citizens of Paris. Madame de la Chanterie’s fund, founded to restore
poor households to their religious and legal status, hunts up such
couples, and with all the more success because it helps them in their
poverty before attacking their unlawful union.

As soon as Madame Hulot had recovered, she returned to her occupations.
And then it was that the admirable Madame de la Chanterie came to beg
that Adeline would add the legalization of these voluntary unions to the
other good works of which she was the instrument.

One of the Baroness’ first efforts in this cause was made in the
ominous-looking district, formerly known as la Petite Pologne--Little
Poland--bounded by the Rue du Rocher, Rue de la Pepiniere, and Rue
de Miromenil. There exists there a sort of offshoot of the Faubourg
Saint-Marceau. To give an idea of this part of the town, it is enough
to say that the landlords of some of the houses tenanted by working men
without work, by dangerous characters, and by the very poor employed in
unhealthy toil, dare not demand their rents, and can find no bailiffs
bold enough to evict insolvent lodgers. At the present time speculating
builders, who are fast changing the aspect of this corner of Paris, and
covering the waste ground lying between the Rue d’Amsterdam and the Rue
Faubourg-du-Roule, will no doubt alter the character of the inhabitants;
for the trowel is a more civilizing agent than is generally supposed. By
erecting substantial and handsome houses, with porters at the doors,
by bordering the streets with footwalks and shops, speculation, while
raising the rents, disperses the squalid class, families bereft of
furniture, and lodgers that cannot pay. And so these districts are
cleared of such objectionable residents, and the dens vanish into which
the police never venture but under the sanction of the law.

In June 1844, the purlieus of the Place de Laborde were still far from
inviting. The genteel pedestrian, who by chance should turn out of the
Rue de la Pepiniere into one of those dreadful side-streets, would have
been dismayed to see how vile a bohemia dwelt cheek by jowl with the
aristocracy. In such places as these, haunted by ignorant poverty and
misery driven to bay, flourish the last public letter-writers who are
to be found in Paris. Wherever you see the two words “Ecrivain Public”
 written in a fine copy hand on a sheet of letter-paper stuck to the
window pane of some low entresol or mud-splashed ground-floor room, you
may safely conclude that the neighborhood is the lurking place of many
unlettered folks, and of much vice and crime, the outcome of misery; for
ignorance is the mother of all sorts of crime. A crime is, in the first
instance, a defect of reasoning powers.

While the Baroness had been ill, this quarter, to which she was a minor
Providence, had seen the advent of a public writer who settled in the
Passage du Soleil--Sun Alley--a spot of which the name is one of the
antitheses dear to the Parisian, for the passage is especially dark.
This writer, supposed to be a German, was named Vyder, and he lived on
matrimonial terms with a young creature of whom he was so jealous that
he never allowed her to go anywhere excepting to some honest stove and
flue-fitters, in the Rue Saint-Lazare, Italians, as such fitters always
are, but long since established in Paris. These people had been saved
from a bankruptcy, which would have reduced them to misery, by the
Baroness, acting in behalf of Madame de la Chanterie. In a few months
comfort had taken the place of poverty, and Religion had found a home in
hearts which once had cursed Heaven with the energy peculiar to Italian
stove-fitters. So one of Madame Hulot’s first visits was to this family.

She was pleased at the scene that presented itself to her eyes at
the back of the house where these worthy folks lived in the Rue
Saint-Lazare, not far from the Rue du Rocher. High above the stores
and workshops, now well filled, where toiled a swarm of apprentices and
workmen--all Italians from the valley of Domo d’Ossola--the master’s
family occupied a set of rooms, which hard work had blessed with
abundance. The Baroness was hailed like the Virgin Mary in person.

After a quarter of an hour’s questioning, Adeline, having to wait for
the father to inquire how his business was prospering, pursued her
saintly calling as a spy by asking whether they knew of any families
needing help.

“Ah, dear lady, you who could save the damned from hell!” said the
Italian wife, “there is a girl quite near here to be saved from
perdition.”

“A girl well known to you?” asked the Baroness.

“She is the granddaughter of a master my husband formerly worked for,
who came to France in 1798, after the Revolution, by name Judici. Old
Judici, in Napoleon’s time, was one of the principal stove-fitters in
Paris; he died in 1819, leaving his son a fine fortune. But the younger
Judici wasted all his money on bad women; till, at last, he married one
who was sharper than the rest, and she had this poor little girl, who is
just turned fifteen.”

“And what is wrong with her?” asked Adeline, struck by the resemblance
between this Judici and her husband.

“Well, madame, this child, named Atala, ran away from her father, and
came to live close by here with an old German of eighty at least, named
Vyder, who does odd jobs for people who cannot read and write. Now,
if this old sinner, who bought the child of her mother, they say for
fifteen hundred francs, would but marry her, as he certainly has not
long to live, and as he is said to have some few thousand of francs a
year--well, the poor thing, who is a sweet little angel, would be out of
mischief, and above want, which must be the ruin of her.”

“Thank you very much for the information. I may do some good, but I must
act with caution.--Who is the old man?”

“Oh! madame, he is a good old fellow; he makes the child very happy, and
he has some sense too, for he left the part of town where the Judicis
live, as I believe, to snatch the child from her mother’s clutches. The
mother was jealous of her, and I dare say she thought she could make
money out of her beauty and make a _mademoiselle_ of the girl.

“Atala remembered us, and advised her gentleman to settle near us; and
as the good man sees how decent we are, he allows her to come here. But
get them married, madame, and you will do an action worthy of you. Once
married, the child will be independent and free from her mother, who
keeps an eye on her, and who, if she could make money by her, would like
to see her on the stage, or successful in the wicked life she meant her
to lead.”

“Why doesn’t the old man marry her?”

“There was no necessity for it, you see,” said the Italian. “And though
old Vyder is not a bad old fellow, I fancy he is sharp enough to wish
to remain the master, while if he once got married--why, the poor man is
afraid of the stone that hangs round every old man’s neck.”

“Could you send for the girl to come here?” said Madame Hulot. “I should
see her quietly, and find out what could be done--”

The stove-fitter’s wife signed to her eldest girl, who ran off. Ten
minutes later she returned, leading by the hand a child of fifteen and
a half, a beauty of the Italian type. Mademoiselle Judici inherited from
her father that ivory skin which, rather yellow by day, is by artificial
light of lily-whiteness; eyes of Oriental beauty, form, and brilliancy,
close curling lashes like black feathers, hair of ebony hue, and that
native dignity of the Lombard race which makes the foreigner, as he
walks through Milan on a Sunday, fancy that every porter’s daughter is a
princess.

Atala, told by the stove-fitter’s daughter that she was to meet the
great lady of whom she had heard so much, had hastily dressed in a
black silk gown, a smart little cape, and neat boots. A cap with a
cherry-colored bow added to the brilliant effect of her coloring. The
child stood in an attitude of artless curiosity, studying the Baroness
out of the corner of her eye, for her palsied trembling puzzled her
greatly.

Adeline sighed deeply as she saw this jewel of womanhood in the mire of
prostitution, and determined to rescue her to virtue.

“What is your name, my dear?”

“Atala, madame.”

“And can you read and write?”

“No, madame; but that does not matter, as monsieur can.”

“Did your parents ever take you to church? Have you been to your first
Communion? Do you know your Catechism?”

“Madame, papa wanted to make me do something of the kind you speak of,
but mamma would not have it--”

“Your mother?” exclaimed the Baroness. “Is she bad to you, then?”

“She was always beating me. I don’t know why, but I was always being
quarreled over by my father and mother--”

“Did you ever hear of God?” cried the Baroness.

The girl looked up wide-eyed.

“Oh, yes, papa and mamma often said ‘Good God,’ and ‘In God’s name,’ and
‘God’s thunder,’” said she, with perfect simplicity.

“Then you never saw a church? Did you never think of going into one?”

“A church?--Notre-Dame, the Pantheon?--I have seen them from a distance,
when papa took me into town; but that was not very often. There are no
churches like those in the Faubourg.”

“Which Faubourg did you live in?”

“In the Faubourg.”

“Yes, but which?”

“In the Rue de Charonne, madame.”

The inhabitants of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine never call that notorious
district other than _the_ Faubourg. To them it is the one and only
Faubourg; and manufacturers generally understand the words as meaning
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

“Did no one ever tell you what was right or wrong?”

“Mamma used to beat me when I did not do what pleased her.”

“But did you not know that it was very wicked to run away from your
father and mother to go to live with an old man?”

Atala Judici gazed at the Baroness with a haughty stare, but made no
reply.

“She is a perfect little savage,” murmured Adeline.

“There are a great many like her in the Faubourg, madame,” said the
stove-fitter’s wife.

“But she knows nothing--not even what is wrong. Good Heavens!--Why do
you not answer me?” said Madame Hulot, putting out her hand to take
Atala’s.

Atala indignantly withdrew a step.

“You are an old fool!” said she. “Why, my father and mother had had
nothing to eat for a week. My mother wanted me to do much worse than
that, I think, for my father thrashed her and called her a thief!
However, Monsieur Vyder paid all their debts, and gave them some
money--oh, a bagful! And he brought me away, and poor papa was crying.
But we had to part!--Was it wicked?” she asked.

“And are you very fond of Monsieur Vyder?”

“Fond of him?” said she. “I should think so! He tells me beautiful
stories, madame, every evening; and he has given me nice gowns, and
linen, and a shawl. Why, I am figged out like a princess, and I never
wear sabots now. And then, I have not known what it is to be hungry
these two months past. And I don’t live on potatoes now. He brings me
bonbons and burnt almonds, and chocolate almonds.--Aren’t they good?--I
do anything he pleases for a bag of chocolate.--Then my old Daddy is
very kind; he takes such care of me, and is so nice; I know now what my
mother ought to have been.--He is going to get an old woman to help
me, for he doesn’t like me to dirty my hands with cooking. For the past
month, too, he has been making a little money, and he gives me three
francs every evening that I put into a money-box. Only he will never
let me out except to come here--and he calls me his little kitten! Mamma
never called me anything but bad names--and thief, and vermin!”

“Well, then, my child, why should not Daddy Vyder be your husband?”

“But he is, madame,” said the girl, looking at Adeline with calm pride,
without a blush, her brow smooth, her eyes steady. “He told me that I
was his little wife; but it is a horrid bore to be a man’s wife--if it
were not for the burnt almonds!”

“Good Heaven!” said the Baroness to herself, “what monster can have had
the heart to betray such perfect, such holy innocence? To restore this
child to the ways of virtue would surely atone for many sins.--I knew
what I was doing.” thought she, remembering the scene with Crevel. “But
she--she knows nothing.”

“Do you know Monsieur Samanon?” asked Atala, with an insinuating look.

“No, my child; but why do you ask?”

“Really and truly?” said the artless girl.

“You have nothing to fear from this lady,” said the Italian woman. “She
is an angel.”

“It is because my good old boy is afraid of being caught by Samanon. He
is hiding, and I wish he could be free--”

“Why?”

“On! then he would take me to Bobino, perhaps to the Ambigu.”

“What a delightful creature!” said the Baroness, kissing the girl.

“Are you rich?” asked Atala, who was fingering the Baroness’ lace
ruffles.

“Yes, and No,” replied Madame Hulot. “I am rich for dear little girls
like you when they are willing to be taught their duties as Christians
by a priest, and to walk in the right way.”

“What way is that?” said Atala; “I walk on my two feet.”

“The way of virtue.”

Atala looked at the Baroness with a crafty smile.

“Look at madame,” said the Baroness, pointing to the stove-fitter’s
wife, “she has been quite happy because she was received into the bosom
of the Church. You married like the beasts that perish.”

“I?” said Atala. “Why, if you will give me as much as Daddy Vyder gives
me, I shall be quite happy unmarried again. It is a grind.--Do you know
what it is to--?”

“But when once you are united to a man as you are,” the Baroness put in,
“virtue requires you to remain faithful to him.”

“Till he dies,” said Atala, with a knowing flash. “I shall not have to
wait long. If you only knew how Daddy Vyder coughs and blows.--Poof,
poof,” and she imitated the old man.

“Virtue and morality require that the Church, representing God, and the
Mayor, representing the law, should consecrate your marriage,” Madame
Hulot went on. “Look at madame; she is legally married--”

“Will it make it more amusing?” asked the girl.

“You will be happier,” said the Baroness, “for no one could then blame
you. You would satisfy God! Ask her if she was married without the
sacrament of marriage!”

Atala looked at the Italian.

“How is she any better than I am?” she asked. “I am prettier than she
is.”

“Yes, but I am an honest woman,” said the wife, “and you may be called
by a bad name.”

“How can you expect God to protect you if you trample every law, human
and divine, under foot?” said the Baroness. “Don’t you know that God has
Paradise in store for those who obey the injunctions of His Church?”

“What is there in Paradise? Are there playhouses?”

“Paradise!” said Adeline, “is every joy you can conceive of. It is full
of angels with white wings. You see God in all His glory, you share His
power, you are happy for every minute of eternity!”

Atala listened to the lady as she might have listened to music; but
Adeline, seeing that she was incapable of understanding her, thought she
had better take another line of action and speak to the old man.

“Go home, then, my child, and I will go to see Monsieur Vyder. Is he a
Frenchman?”

“He is an Alsatian, madame. But he will be quite rich soon. If you
would pay what he owes to that vile Samanon, he would give you back
your money, for in a few months he will be getting six thousand francs
a year, he says, and we are to go to live in the country a long way off,
in the Vosges.”

At the word _Vosges_ the Baroness sat lost in reverie. It called up
the vision of her native village. She was roused from her melancholy
meditation by the entrance of the stove-fitter, who came to assure her
of his prosperity.

“In a year’s time, madame, I can repay the money you lent us, for it
is God’s money, the money of the poor and wretched. If ever I make a
fortune, come to me for what you want, and I will render through you the
help to others which you first brought us.”

“Just now,” said Madame Hulot, “I do not need your money, but I ask your
assistance in a good work. I have just seen that little Judici, who is
living with an old man, and I mean to see them regularly and legally
married.”

“Ah! old Vyder; he is a very worthy old fellow, with plenty of good
sense. The poor old man has already made friends in the neighborhood,
though he has been here but two months. He keeps my accounts for me. He
is, I believe, a brave Colonel who served the Emperor well. And how he
adores Napoleon!--He has some orders, but he never wears them. He is
waiting till he is straight again, for he is in debt, poor old boy! In
fact, I believe he is hiding, threatened by the law--”

“Tell him that I will pay his debts if he will marry the child.”

“Oh, that will soon be settled.--Suppose you were to see him, madame; it
is not two steps away, in the Passage du Soleil.”

So the lady and the stove-fitter went out.

“This way, madame,” said the man, turning down the Rue de la Pepiniere.

The alley runs, in fact, from the bottom of this street through to the
Rue du Rocher. Halfway down this passage, recently opened through, where
the shops let at a very low rent, the Baroness saw on a window, screened
up to a height with a green, gauze curtain, which excluded the prying
eyes of the passer-by, the words:


“ECRIVAIN PUBLIC”; and on the door the announcement:

                         BUSINESS TRANSACTED.

             _Petitions Drawn Up, Accounts Audited, Etc._

                     _With Secrecy and Dispatch._


The shop was like one of those little offices where travelers by omnibus
wait the vehicles to take them on to their destination. A private
staircase led up, no doubt, to the living-rooms on the entresol which
were let with the shop. Madame Hulot saw a dirty writing-table of some
light wood, some letter-boxes, and a wretched second-hand chair. A
cap with a peak and a greasy green shade for the eyes suggested either
precautions for disguise, or weak eyes, which was not unlikely in an old
man.

“He is upstairs,” said the stove-fitter. “I will go up and tell him to
come down.”

Adeline lowered her veil and took a seat. A heavy step made the narrow
stairs creak, and Adeline could not restrain a piercing cry when she
saw her husband, Baron Hulot, in a gray knitted jersey, old gray flannel
trousers, and slippers.

“What is your business, madame?” said Hulot, with a flourish.

She rose, seized Hulot by the arm, and said in a voice hoarse with
emotion:

“At last--I have found you!”

“Adeline!” exclaimed the Baron in bewilderment, and he locked the shop
door. “Joseph, go out the back way,” he added to the stove-fitter.

“My dear!” she said, forgetting everything in her excessive joy, “you
can come home to us all; we are rich. Your son draws a hundred and sixty
thousand francs a year! Your pension is released; there are fifteen
thousand francs of arrears you can get on showing that you are alive.
Valerie is dead, and left you three hundred thousand francs.

“Your name is quite forgotten by this time; you may reappear in the
world, and you will find a fortune awaiting you at your son’s house.
Come; our happiness will be complete. For nearly three years I have
been seeking you, and I felt so sure of finding you that a room is ready
waiting for you. Oh! come away from this, come away from the dreadful
state I see you in!”

“I am very willing,” said the bewildered Baron, “but can I take the
girl?”

“Hector, give her up! Do that much for your Adeline, who has never
before asked you to make the smallest sacrifice. I promise you I will
give the child a marriage portion; I will see that she marries well, and
has some education. Let it be said of one of the women who have given
you happiness that she too is happy; and do not relapse into vice, into
the mire.”

“So it was you,” said the Baron, with a smile, “who wanted to see me
married?--Wait a few minutes,” he added; “I will go upstairs and dress;
I have some decent clothes in a trunk.”

Adeline, left alone, and looking round the squalid shop, melted into
tears.

“He has been living here, and we rolling in wealth!” said she to
herself. “Poor man, he has indeed been punished--he who was elegance
itself.”

The stove-fitter returned to make his bow to his benefactress, and she
desired him to fetch a coach. When he came back, she begged him to give
little Atala Judici a home, and to take her away at once.

“And tell her that if she will place herself under the guidance of
Monsieur the Cure of the Madeleine, on the day when she attends her
first Communion I will give her thirty thousand francs and find her a
good husband, some worthy young man.”

“My eldest son, then madame! He is two-and-twenty, and he worships the
child.”

The Baron now came down; there were tears in his eyes.

“You are forcing me to desert the only creature who had ever begun to
love me at all as you do!” said he in a whisper to his wife. “She is
crying bitterly, and I cannot abandon her so--”

“Be quite easy, Hector. She will find a home with honest people, and I
will answer for her conduct.”

“Well, then, I can go with you,” said the Baron, escorting his wife to
the cab.

Hector, the Baron d’Ervy once more, had put on a blue coat and trousers,
a white waistcoat, a black stock, and gloves. When the Baroness had
taken her seat in the vehicle, Atala slipped in like an eel.

“Oh, madame,” she said, “let me go with you. I will be so good, so
obedient; I will do whatever you wish; but do not part me from my Daddy
Vyder, my kind Daddy who gives me such nice things. I shall be beaten--”

“Come, come, Atala,” said the Baron, “this lady is my wife--we must
part--”

“She! As old as that! and shaking like a leaf!” said the child. “Look at
her head!” and she laughingly mimicked the Baroness’ palsy.

The stove-fitter, who had run after the girl, came to the carriage door.

“Take her away!” said Adeline. The man put his arms round Atala and
fairly carried her off.

“Thanks for such a sacrifice, my dearest,” said Adeline, taking the
Baron’s hand and clutching it with delirious joy. “How much you are
altered! you must have suffered so much! What a surprise for Hortense
and for your son!”

Adeline talked as lovers talk who meet after a long absence, of a
hundred things at once.

In ten minutes the Baron and his wife reached the Rue Louis-le-Grand,
and there Adeline found this note awaiting her:--

  “MADAME LA BARONNE,--

  “Monsieur le Baron Hulot d’Ervy lived for one month in the Rue de
  Charonne under the name of Thorec, an anagram of Hector. He is now
  in the Passage du Soleil by the name of Vyder. He says he is an
  Alsatian, and does writing, and he lives with a girl named Atala
  Judici. Be very cautious, madame, for search is on foot; the Baron
  is wanted, on what score I know not.

  “The actress has kept her word, and remains, as ever,

  “Madame la Baronne, your humble servant,

  “J. M.”


The Baron’s return was hailed with such joy as reconciled him to
domestic life. He forgot little Atala Judici, for excesses of profligacy
had reduced him to the volatility of feeling that is characteristic of
childhood. But the happiness of the family was dashed by the change that
had come over him. He had been still hale when he had gone away from
his home; he had come back almost a hundred, broken, bent, and his
expression even debased.

A splendid dinner, improvised by Celestine, reminded the old man of the
singer’s banquets; he was dazzled by the splendor of his home.

“A feast in honor of the return of the prodigal father?” said he in a
murmur to Adeline.

“Hush!” said she, “all is forgotten.”

“And Lisbeth?” he asked, not seeing the old maid.

“I am sorry to say that she is in bed,” replied Hortense. “She can never
get up, and we shall have the grief of losing her ere long. She hopes to
see you after dinner.”

At daybreak next morning Victorin Hulot was informed by the porter’s
wife that soldiers of the municipal guard were posted all round the
premises; the police demanded Baron Hulot. The bailiff, who had followed
the woman, laid a summons in due form before the lawyer, and asked
him whether he meant to pay his father’s debts. The claim was for ten
thousand francs at the suit of an usurer named Samanon, who had probably
lent the Baron two or three thousand at most. Victorin desired the
bailiff to dismiss his men, and paid.

“But is it the last?” he anxiously wondered.

Lisbeth, miserable already at seeing the family so prosperous, could not
survive this happy event. She grew so rapidly worse that Bianchon gave
her but a week to live, conquered at last in the long struggle in which
she had scored so many victories.

She kept the secret of her hatred even through a painful death from
pulmonary consumption. And, indeed, she had the supreme satisfaction
of seeing Adeline, Hortense, Hulot, Victorin, Steinbock, Celestine, and
their children standing in tears round her bed and mourning for her as
the angel of the family.

Baron Hulot, enjoying a course of solid food such as he had not known
for nearly three years, recovered flesh and strength, and was almost
himself again. This improvement was such a joy to Adeline that her
nervous trembling perceptibly diminished.

“She will be happy after all,” said Lisbeth to herself on the day before
she died, as she saw the veneration with which the Baron regarded his
wife, of whose sufferings he had heard from Hortense and Victorin.

And vindictiveness hastened Cousin Betty’s end. The family followed her,
weeping, to the grave.

The Baron and Baroness, having reached the age which looks for perfect
rest, gave up the handsome rooms on the first floor to the Count
and Countess Steinbock, and took those above. The Baron by his son’s
exertions found an official position in the management of a railroad,
in 1845, with a salary of six thousand francs, which, added to the six
thousand of his pension and the money left to him by Madame Crevel,
secured him an income of twenty-four thousand francs. Hortense having
enjoyed her independent income during the three years of separation from
Wenceslas, Victorin now invested the two hundred thousand francs he
had in trust, in his sister’s name and he allowed her twelve thousand
francs.

Wenceslas, as the husband of a rich woman, was not unfaithful, but he
was an idler; he could not make up his mind to begin any work, however
trifling. Once more he became the artist _in partibus_; he was popular
in society, and consulted by amateurs; in short, he became a critic,
like all the feeble folk who fall below their promise.

Thus each household, though living as one family, had its own fortune.
The Baroness, taught by bitter experience, left the management of
matters to her son, and the Baron was thus reduced to his salary, in
hope that the smallness of his income would prevent his relapsing into
mischief. And by some singular good fortune, on which neither the mother
nor the son had reckoned, Hulot seemed to have foresworn the fair sex.
His subdued behaviour, ascribed to the course of nature, so completely
reassured the family, that they enjoyed to the full his recovered
amiability and delightful qualities. He was unfailingly attentive to his
wife and children, escorted them to the play, reappeared in society, and
did the honors to his son’s house with exquisite grace. In short, this
reclaimed prodigal was the joy of his family.

He was a most agreeable old man, a ruin, but full of wit, having
retained no more of his vice than made it an added social grace.

Of course, everybody was quite satisfied and easy. The young people and
the Baroness lauded the model father to the skies, forgetting the death
of the two uncles. Life cannot go on without much forgetting!

Madame Victorin, who managed this enormous household with great skill,
due, no doubt, to Lisbeth’s training, had found it necessary to have a
man-cook. This again necessitated a kitchen-maid. Kitchen-maids are in
these days ambitious creatures, eager to detect the _chef’s_ secrets,
and to become cooks as soon as they have learnt to stir a sauce.
Consequently, the kitchen-maid is liable to frequent change.

At the beginning of 1845 Celestine engaged as kitchen-maid a sturdy
Normandy peasant come from Isigny--short-waisted, with strong red arms,
a common face, as dull as an “occasional piece” at the play, and hardly
to be persuaded out of wearing the classical linen cap peculiar to the
women of Lower Normandy. This girl, as buxom as a wet-nurse, looked
as if she would burst the blue cotton check in which she clothed her
person. Her florid face might have been hewn out of stone, so hard were
its tawny outlines.

Of course no attention was paid to the advent in the house of this girl,
whose name was Agathe--an ordinary, wide-awake specimen, such as is
daily imported from the provinces. Agathe had no attractions for the
cook, her tongue was too rough, for she had served in a suburban inn,
waiting on carters; and instead of making a conquest of her chief and
winning from him the secrets of the high art of the kitchen, she was
the object of his great contempt. The _chef’s_ attentions were, in fact,
devoted to Louise, the Countess Steinbock’s maid. The country girl,
thinking herself ill-used, complained bitterly that she was always sent
out of the way on some pretext when the _chef_ was finishing a dish or
putting the crowning touch to a sauce.

“I am out of luck,” said she, “and I shall go to another place.”

And yet she stayed though she had twice given notice to quit.

One night, Adeline, roused by some unusual noise, did not see Hector in
the bed he occupied near hers; for they slept side by side in two beds,
as beseemed an old couple. She lay awake an hour, but he did not return.
Seized with a panic, fancying some tragic end had overtaken him--an
apoplectic attack, perhaps--she went upstairs to the floor occupied by
the servants, and then was attracted to the room where Agathe slept,
partly by seeing a light below the door, and partly by the murmur
of voices. She stood still in dismay on recognizing the voice of her
husband, who, a victim to Agathe’s charms, to vanquish this strapping
wench’s not disinterested resistance, went to the length of saying:

“My wife has not long to live, and if you like you may be a Baroness.”

Adeline gave a cry, dropped her candlestick, and fled.

Three days later the Baroness, who had received the last sacraments, was
dying, surrounded by her weeping family.

Just before she died, she took her husband’s hand and pressed it,
murmuring in his ear:

“My dear, I had nothing left to give up to you but my life. In a minute
or two you will be free, and can make another Baronne Hulot.”

And, rare sight, tears oozed from her dead eyes.

This desperateness of vice had vanquished the patience of the angel,
who, on the brink of eternity, gave utterance to the only reproach she
had ever spoken in her life.

The Baron left Paris three days after his wife’s funeral. Eleven months
after Victorin heard indirectly of his father’s marriage to Mademoiselle
Agathe Piquetard, solemnized at Isigny, on the 1st February 1846.

“Parents may hinder their children’s marriage, but children cannot
interfere with the insane acts of their parents in their second
childhood,” said Maitre Hulot to Maitre Popinot, the second son of the
Minister of Commerce, who was discussing this marriage.



ADDENDUM

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

     Beauvisage, Phileas
       The Member for Arcis

     Berthier (Parisian notary)
       Cousin Pons

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

     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
       The Member for Arcis
       Beatrix
       A Man of Business
       Gaudissart II.
       The Unconscious Humorists
       Cousin Pons

     Braulard
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Cousin Pons

     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
       The Member for Arcis

     Brisetout, Heloise
       Cousin Pons
       The Middle Classes

     Cadine, Jenny
       Beatrix
       The Unconscious Humorists
       The Member for Arcis

     Chanor
       Cousin Pons

     Chocardelle, Mademoiselle
       Beatrix
       A Prince of Bohemia
       A Man of Business
       The Member for Arcis

     Colleville, Flavie Minoret, Madame
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Collin, Jacqueline
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Crevel, Celestin
       Cesar Birotteau
       Cousin Pons

     Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d’)
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Letters of Two Brides
       A Man of Business
       The Secrets of a Princess

     Falcon, Jean
       The Chouans
       The Muse of the Department

     Graff, Wolfgang
       Cousin Pons

     Grassou, Pierre
       Pierre Grassou
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Pons

     Grindot
       Cesar Birotteau
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Start in Life
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Beatrix
       The Middle Classes

     Hannequin, Leopold
       Albert Savarus
       Beatrix
       Cousin Pons

     Herouville, Duc d’
       The Hated Son
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Modeste Mignon

     Hulot (Marshal)
       The Chouans
       The Muse of the Department

     Hulot, Victorin
       The Member for Arcis

     La Bastie la Briere, Madame Ernest de
       Modeste Mignon
       The Member for Arcis

     La Baudraye, Madame Polydore Milaud de
       The Muse of the Department
       A Prince of Bohemia

     La Chanterie, Baronne Henri le Chantre de
       The Seamy Side of History

     Laginski, Comte Adam Mitgislas
       Another Study of Woman
       The Imaginary Mistress

     La Palferine, Comte de
       A Prince of Bohemia
       A Man of Business
       Beatrix
       The Imaginary Mistress

     La Roche-Hugon, Martial de
       Domestic Peace
       The Peasantry
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Member for Arcis
       The Middle Classes

     Lebas, Joseph
       At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
       Cesar Birotteau

     Lebas, Madame Joseph (Virginie)
       At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
       Cesar Birotteau

     Lebas
       The Muse of the Department

     Lefebvre, Robert
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Lenoncourt-Givry, Duc de
       Letters of Two Brides
       The Member for Arcis

     Lora, Leon de
       The Unconscious Humorists
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       A Start in Life
       Pierre Grassou
       Honorine
       Beatrix

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

     Massol
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Magic Skin
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Montauran, Marquis de (younger brother of Alphonse de)
       The Chouans
       The Seamy Side of History

     Montcornet, Marechal, Comte de
       Domestic Peace
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Peasantry
       A Man of Business

     Navarreins, Duc de
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Colonel Chabert
       The Muse of the Department
       The Thirteen
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       The Peasantry
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Country Parson
       The Magic Skin
       The Gondreville Mystery
       The Secrets of a Princess

     Nourrisson, Madame
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
       The Firm of Nucingen
       Father Goriot
       Pierrette
       Cesar Birotteau
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Another Study of Woman
       The Secrets of a Princess
       A Man of Business
       The Muse of the Department
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Paz, Thaddee
       The Imaginary Mistress

     Popinot, Anselme
       Cesar Birotteau
       Gaudissart the Great
       Cousin Pons

     Popinot, Madame Anselme
       Cesar Birotteau
       A Prince of Bohemia
       Cousin Pons

     Popinot, Vicomte
       Cousin Pons

     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
       The Member for Arcis
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Rivet, Achille
       Cousin Pons

     Rochefide, Marquis Arthur de
       Beatrix

     Ronceret, Madame Fabien du
       Beatrix
       The Muse of the Department
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Samanon
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       The Government Clerks
       A Man of Business

     Sinet, Seraphine
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Steinbock, Count Wenceslas
       The Imaginary Mistress

     Stidmann
       Modeste Mignon
       Beatrix
       The Member for Arcis
       Cousin Pons
       The Unconscious Humorists

     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
       The Member for Arcis
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Trailles, Comte Maxime de
       Cesar Birotteau
       Father Goriot
       Gobseck
       Ursule Mirouet
       A Man of Business
       The Member for Arcis
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Member for Arcis
       Beatrix
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Turquet, Marguerite
       The Imaginary Mistress
       The Muse of the Department
       A Man of Business

     Vauvinet
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Vernisset, Victor de
       The Seamy Side of History
       Beatrix

     Vernou, Felicien
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       A Daughter of Eve

     Vignon, Claude
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Daughter of Eve
       Honorine
       Beatrix
       The Unconscious Humorists





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cousin Betty" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home