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Title: Parisians in the Country
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
Language: English
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PARISIANS IN THE COUNTRY

THE ILLUSTRIOUS GAUDISSART,

AND THE MUSE OF THE DEPARTMENT


By Honore De Balzac



INTRODUCTION

I have sometimes wondered whether it was accident or intention which
made Balzac so frequently combine early and late work in the same
volume. The question is certainly insoluble, and perhaps not worth
solving, but it presents itself once more in the present instance.
_L’Illustre Gaudissart_ is a story of 1832, the very heyday of Balzac’s
creative period, when even his pen could hardly keep up with
the abundance of his fancy and the gathered stores of his minute
observation. _La Muse du Departement_ dates ten years and more later,
when, though there was plenty of both left, both sacks had been deeply
dipped into.

_L’Illustre Gaudissart_ is, of course, slight, not merely in bulk, but
in conception. Balzac’s Tourangeau patriotism may have amused itself by
the idea of the villagers “rolling” the great Gaudissart; but the ending
of the tale can hardly be thought to be quite so good as the beginning.
Still, that beginning is altogether excellent. The sketch of the
_commis-voyageur_ generally smacks of that _physiologie_ style of which
Balzac was so fond; but it is good, and Gaudissart himself, as well as
the whole scene with his _epouse libre_, is delightful. The Illustrious
One was evidently a favorite character with his creator. He nowhere
plays a very great part; but it is everywhere a rather favorable
and, except in this little mishap with Margaritis (which, it must
be observed, does not turn entirely to his discomfiture), a rather
successful part. We have him in _Cesar Birotteau_ superintending the
early efforts of Popinot to launch the Huile Cephalique. He was present
at the great ball. He served as intermediary to M. de Bauvan in the
merciful scheme of buying at fancy prices the handiwork of the Count’s
faithful spouse, and so providing her with a livelihood; and later as
a theatrical manager, a little spoilt by his profession, we find him
in _Le Cousin Pons_. But he is always what the French called “a good
devil,” and here he is a very good devil indeed.

Although _La Muse du Departement_ is an important work, it cannot be
spoken of in quite unhesitating terms. It contains, indeed, in the
personage of Lousteau, one of the very most elaborate of Balzac’s
portraits of a particular type of men of letters. The original is said
to have been Jules Janin, who is somewhat disadvantageously contrasted
here and elsewhere with Claude Vignon, said on the same rather vague
authority to be Gustave Planche. Both Janin and Planche are now too much
forgotten, but in both more or less (and in Lousteau very much “more”)
Balzac cannot be said to have dealt mildly with his _bete noire_,
the critical temperament. Lousteau, indeed, though not precisely a
scoundrel, is both a rascal and a cad. Even Balzac seems a little
shocked at his _lettre de faire part_ in reference to his mistress’
child; and it is seldom possible to discern in any of his proceedings
the most remote approximation to the conduct of a gentleman. But then,
as we have seen, and shall see, Balzac’s standard for the conduct of
his actual gentlemen was by no means fantastically exquisite
or discouragingly high, and in the case of his Bohemians it was
accommodating to the utmost degree. He seems to despise Lousteau, but
rather for his insouciance and neglect of his opportunities of making
himself a position than for anything else.

I have often felt disposed to ask those who would assert Balzac’s
absolute infallibility as a gynaecologist to give me a reasoned
criticism of the heroine of this novel. I do not entirely “figure to
myself” Dinah de la Baudraye. It is perfectly possible that she should
have loved a “sweep” like Lousteau, there is certainly nothing extremely
unusual in a woman loving worse sweeps even than he. But would she have
done it, and having done it, have also done what she did afterwards?
These questions may be answered differently; I do not answer them in the
negative myself, but I cannot give them an affirmative answer with the
conviction which I should like to show.

Among the minor characters, the _substitut_ de Clagny has a touch of
nobility which contrasts happily enough with Lousteau’s unworthiness.
Bianchon is as good as usual; Balzac always gives Bianchon a favorable
part. Madame Piedefer is one of the numerous instances in which the
unfortunate class of mothers-in-law atones for what are supposed to
be its crimes against the human race; and old La Baudraye, not so
hopelessly repulsive in a French as he would be in an English novel, is
a shrewd old rascal enough.

But I cannot think the scene of the Parisians _blaguing_ the Sancerrois
is a very happy one. That it is in exceedingly bad taste might not
matter so very much; Balzac would reply, and justly, that he had not
intended to represent it as anything else. That the fun is not very
funny may be a matter of definition and appreciation. But what scarcely
admits of denial or discussion is that it is tyrannously too long. The
citations of _Olympia_ are pushed beyond measure, beyond what is comic,
almost beyond the license of farce; and the comments, which remind one
rather of the heavy jesting on critics in _Un Prince de la Boheme_ and
the short-lived _Revue Parisienne_, are labored to the last degree. The
part of Nathan, too, is difficult to appreciate exactly, and altogether
the book does not seem to me a _reussite_.

The history of _L’Illustre Gaudissart_ is, for a story of Balzac’s,
almost null. It was inserted without any previous newspaper appearance
in the first edition of _Scenes de la Vie de Province_ in 1833, and
entered with the rest of them into the first edition also of the
_Comedie_, when the joint title, which it has kept since and shared with
_La Muse du Departement_, of _Les Parisiens en Province_ was given to
it.

_La Muse du Departement_ has a rather more complicated record than its
companion piece in _Les Parisiens en Province_, _L’Illustre Gaudissart_.
It appeared at first, not quite complete and under the title of _Dinah
Piedefer_, in _Le Messager_ during March and April 1843, and was almost
immediately published as a book, with works of other writers, under the
general title of _Les Mysteres de Province_, and accompanied by some
other work of its own author’s. It had four parts and fifty-two chapters
in _Le Messager_, an arrangement which was but slightly altered in the
volume form. M. de Lovenjoul gives some curious indications of mosaic
work in it, and some fragments which do not now appear in the text.

George Saintsbury



THE ILLUSTRIOUS GAUDISSART


Translated By Katharine Prescott Wormeley



DEDICATION

To Madame la Duchesse de Castries.



CHAPTER I

The commercial traveller, a personage unknown to antiquity, is one of
the striking figures created by the manners and customs of our present
epoch. May he not, in some conceivable order of things, be destined to
mark for coming philosophers the great transition which welds a period
of material enterprise to the period of intellectual strength? Our
century will bind the realm of isolated power, abounding as it does
in creative genius, to the realm of universal but levelling might;
equalizing all products, spreading them broadcast among the masses, and
being itself controlled by the principle of unity,--the final expression
of all societies. Do we not find the dead level of barbarism succeeding
the saturnalia of popular thought and the last struggles of those
civilizations which accumulated the treasures of the world in one
direction?

The commercial traveller! Is he not to the realm of ideas what our
stage-coaches are to men and things? He is their vehicle; he sets them
going, carries them along, rubs them up with one another. He takes from
the luminous centre a handful of light, and scatters it broadcast among
the drowsy populations of the duller regions. This human pyrotechnic is
a scholar without learning, a juggler hoaxed by himself, an unbelieving
priest of mysteries and dogmas, which he expounds all the better for his
want of faith. Curious being! He has seen everything, known everything,
and is up in all the ways of the world. Soaked in the vices of Paris, he
affects to be the fellow-well-met of the provinces. He is the link which
connects the village with the capital; though essentially he is neither
Parisian nor provincial,--he is a traveller. He sees nothing to the
core: men and places he knows by their names; as for things, he looks
merely at their surface, and he has his own little tape-line with which
to measure them. His glance shoots over all things and penetrates none.
He occupies himself with a great deal, yet nothing occupies him.

Jester and jolly fellow, he keeps on good terms with all political
opinions, and is patriotic to the bottom of his soul. A capital mimic,
he knows how to put on, turn and turn about, the smiles of persuasion,
satisfaction, and good-nature, or drop them for the normal expression of
his natural man. He is compelled to be an observer of a certain sort in
the interests of his trade. He must probe men with a glance and guess
their habits, wants, and above all their solvency. To economize time he
must come to quick decisions as to his chances of success,--a practice
that makes him more or less a man of judgment; on the strength of which
he sets up as a judge of theatres, and discourses about those of Paris
and the provinces.

He knows all the good and bad haunts in France, “de actu et visu.” He
can pilot you, on occasion, to vice or virtue with equal assurance.
Blest with the eloquence of a hot-water spigot turned on at will, he can
check or let run, without floundering, the collection of phrases which
he keeps on tap, and which produce upon his victims the effect of a
moral shower-bath. Loquacious as a cricket, he smokes, drinks, wears a
profusion of trinkets, overawes the common people, passes for a lord
in the villages, and never permits himself to be “stumped,”--a slang
expression all his own. He knows how to slap his pockets at the right
time, and make his money jingle if he thinks the servants of the
second-class houses which he wants to enter (always eminently
suspicious) are likely to take him for a thief. Activity is not the
least surprising quality of this human machine. Not the hawk swooping
upon its prey, not the stag doubling before the huntsman and the hounds,
nor the hounds themselves catching scent of the game, can be compared
with him for the rapidity of his dart when he spies a “commission,” for
the agility with which he trips up a rival and gets ahead of him, for
the keenness of his scent as he noses a customer and discovers the sport
where he can get off his wares.

How many great qualities must such a man possess! You will find in all
countries many such diplomats of low degree; consummate negotiators
arguing in the interests of calico, jewels, frippery, wines; and often
displaying more true diplomacy than ambassadors themselves, who, for
the most part, know only the forms of it. No one in France can doubt the
powers of the commercial traveller; that intrepid soul who dares all,
and boldly brings the genius of civilization and the modern inventions
of Paris into a struggle with the plain commonsense of remote villages,
and the ignorant and boorish treadmill of provincial ways. Can we ever
forget the skilful manoeuvres by which he worms himself into the minds
of the populace, bringing a volume of words to bear upon the refractory,
reminding us of the indefatigable worker in marbles whose file eats
slowly into a block of porphyry? Would you seek to know the utmost power
of language, or the strongest pressure that a phrase can bring to bear
against rebellious lucre, against the miserly proprietor squatting
in the recesses of his country lair?--listen to one of these great
ambassadors of Parisian industry as he revolves and works and sucks like
an intelligent piston of the steam-engine called Speculation.

“Monsieur,” said a wise political economist, the
director-cashier-manager and secretary-general of a celebrated
fire-insurance company, “out of every five hundred thousand francs of
policies to be renewed in the provinces, not more than fifty thousand
are paid up voluntarily. The other four hundred and fifty thousand are
got in by the activity of our agents, who go about among those who are
in arrears and worry them with stories of horrible incendiaries until
they are driven to sign the new policies. Thus you see that eloquence,
the labial flux, is nine tenths of the ways and means of our business.”

To talk, to make people listen to you,--that is seduction in itself.
A nation that has two Chambers, a woman who lends both ears, are soon
lost. Eve and her serpent are the everlasting myth of an hourly fact
which began, and may end, with the world itself.

“A conversation of two hours ought to capture your man,” said a retired
lawyer.

Let us walk round the commercial traveller, and look at him well. Don’t
forget his overcoat, olive green, nor his cloak with its morocco collar,
nor the striped blue cotton shirt. In this queer figure--so original
that we cannot rub it out--how many divers personalities we come across!
In the first place, what an acrobat, what a circus, what a battery,
all in one, is the man himself, his vocation, and his tongue! Intrepid
mariner, he plunges in, armed with a few phrases, to catch five or six
thousand francs in the frozen seas, in the domain of the red Indians
who inhabit the interior of France. The provincial fish will not rise
to harpoons and torches; it can only be taken with seines and nets and
gentlest persuasions. The traveller’s business is to extract the gold
in country caches by a purely intellectual operation, and to extract
it pleasantly and without pain. Can you think without a shudder of the
flood of phrases which, day by day, renewed each dawn, leaps in cascades
the length and breadth of sunny France?

You know the species; let us now take a look at the individual.

There lives in Paris an incomparable commercial traveller, the
paragon of his race, a man who possesses in the highest degree all the
qualifications necessary to the nature of his success. His speech is
vitriol and likewise glue,--glue to catch and entangle his victim and
make him sticky and easy to grip; vitriol to dissolve hard heads, close
fists, and closer calculations. His line was once the HAT; but his
talents and the art with which he snared the wariest provincial had
brought him such commercial celebrity that all vendors of the “article
Paris”[*] paid court to him, and humbly begged that he would deign to
take their commissions.


[*] “Article Paris” means anything--especially articles of wearing
    apparel--which originates or is made in Paris. The name is
    supposed to give to the thing a special value in the provinces.

Thus, when he returned to Paris in the intervals of his triumphant
progress through France, he lived a life of perpetual festivity in
the shape of weddings and suppers. When he was in the provinces, the
correspondents in the smaller towns made much of him; in Paris, the
great houses feted and caressed him. Welcomed, flattered, and fed
wherever he went, it came to pass that to breakfast or to dine alone was
a novelty, an event. He lived the life of a sovereign, or, better still,
of a journalist; in fact, he was the perambulating “feuilleton” of
Parisian commerce.

His name was Gaudissart; and his renown, his vogue, the flatteries
showered upon him, were such as to win for him the surname of
Illustrious. Wherever the fellow went,--behind a counter or before a
bar, into a salon or to the top of a stage-coach, up to a garret or to
dine with a banker,--every one said, the moment they saw him, “Ah! here
comes the illustrious Gaudissart!”[*] No name was ever so in keeping
with the style, the manners, the countenance, the voice, the language,
of any man. All things smiled upon our traveller, and the traveller
smiled back in return. “Similia similibus,”--he believed in homoeopathy.
Puns, horse-laugh, monkish face, skin of a friar, true Rabelaisian
exterior, clothing, body, mind, and features, all pulled together to put
a devil-may-care jollity into every inch of his person. Free-handed and
easy-going, he might be recognized at once as the favorite of grisettes,
the man who jumps lightly to the top of a stage-coach, gives a hand to
the timid lady who fears to step down, jokes with the postillion about
his neckerchief and contrives to sell him a cap, smiles at the maid and
catches her round the waist or by the heart; gurgles at dinner like a
bottle of wine and pretends to draw the cork by sounding a filip on his
distended cheek; plays a tune with his knife on the champagne glasses
without breaking them, and says to the company, “Let me see you do
THAT”; chaffs the timid traveller, contradicts the knowing one, lords it
over a dinner-table and manages to get the titbits for himself. A strong
fellow, nevertheless, he can throw aside all this nonsense and mean
business when he flings away the stump of his cigar and says, with a
glance at some town, “I’ll go and see what those people have got in
their stomachs.”


[*] “Se gaudir,” to enjoy, to make fun. “Gaudriole,” gay discourse,
    rather free.--Littre.

When buckled down to his work he became the slyest and cleverest of
diplomats. All things to all men, he knew how to accost a banker like a
capitalist, a magistrate like a functionary, a royalist with pious and
monarchical sentiments, a bourgeois as one of themselves. In short,
wherever he was he was just what he ought to be; he left Gaudissart at
the door when he went in, and picked him up when he came out.

Until 1830 the illustrious Gaudissart was faithful to the article Paris.
In his close relation to the caprices of humanity, the varied paths of
commerce had enabled him to observe the windings of the heart of man. He
had learned the secret of persuasive eloquence, the knack of loosening
the tightest purse-strings, the art of rousing desire in the souls of
husbands, wives, children, and servants; and what is more, he knew
how to satisfy it. No one had greater faculty than he for inveigling
a merchant by the charms of a bargain, and disappearing at the instant
when desire had reached its crisis. Full of gratitude to the hat-making
trade, he always declared that it was his efforts in behalf of the
exterior of the human head which had enabled him to understand its
interior: he had capped and crowned so many people, he was always
flinging himself at their heads, etc. His jokes about hats and heads
were irrepressible, though perhaps not dazzling.

Nevertheless, after August and October, 1830, he abandoned the hat
trade and the article Paris, and tore himself from things mechanical and
visible to mount into the higher spheres of Parisian speculation. “He
forsook,” to use his own words, “matter for mind; manufactured products
for the infinitely purer elaborations of human intelligence.” This
requires some explanation.

The general upset of 1830 brought to birth, as everybody knows, a number
of old ideas which clever speculators tried to pass off in new bodies.
After 1830 ideas became property. A writer, too wise to publish
his writings, once remarked that “more ideas are stolen than
pocket-handkerchiefs.” Perhaps in course of time we may have an Exchange
for thought; in fact, even now ideas, good or bad, have their consols,
are bought up, imported, exported, sold, and quoted like stocks. If
ideas are not on hand ready for sale, speculators try to pass off words
in their stead, and actually live upon them as a bird lives on the seeds
of his millet. Pray do not laugh; a word is worth quite as much as an
idea in a land where the ticket on a sack is of more importance than the
contents. Have we not seen libraries working off the word “picturesque”
 when literature would have cut the throat of the word “fantastic”?
Fiscal genius has guessed the proper tax on intellect; it has accurately
estimated the profits of advertising; it has registered a prospectus of
the quantity and exact value of the property, weighing its thought at
the intellectual Stamp Office in the Rue de la Paix.

Having become an article of commerce, intellect and all its products
must naturally obey the laws which bind other manufacturing interests.
Thus it often happens that ideas, conceived in their cups by certain
apparently idle Parisians,--who nevertheless fight many a moral battle
over their champagne and their pheasants,--are handed down at their
birth from the brain to the commercial travellers who are employed to
spread them discreetly, “urbi et orbi,” through Paris and the provinces,
seasoned with the fried pork of advertisement and prospectus, by means
of which they catch in their rat-trap the departmental rodent commonly
called subscriber, sometimes stockholder, occasionally corresponding
member or patron, but invariably fool.

“I am a fool!” many a poor country proprietor has said when, caught by
the prospect of being the first to launch a new idea, he finds that he
has, in point of fact, launched his thousand or twelve hundred francs
into a gulf.

“Subscribers are fools who never can be brought to understand that to
go ahead in the intellectual world they must start with more money than
they need for the tour of Europe,” say the speculators.

Consequently there is endless warfare between the recalcitrant public
which refuses to pay the Parisian imposts and the tax-gatherer who,
living by his receipt of custom, lards the public with new ideas, turns
it on the spit of lively projects, roasts it with prospectuses (basting
all the while with flattery), and finally gobbles it up with some
toothsome sauce in which it is caught and intoxicated like a fly with
a black-lead. Moreover, since 1830 what honors and emoluments have been
scattered throughout France to stimulate the zeal and self-love of the
“progressive and intelligent masses”! Titles, medals, diplomas, a sort
of legion of honor invented for the army of martyrs, have followed each
other with marvellous rapidity. Speculators in the manufactured products
of the intellect have developed a spice, a ginger, all their own. From
this have come premiums, forestalled dividends, and that conscription
of noted names which is levied without the knowledge of the unfortunate
writers who bear them, and who thus find themselves actual co-operators
in more enterprises than there are days in the year; for the law, we may
remark, takes no account of the theft of a patronymic. Worse than all
is the rape of ideas which these caterers for the public mind, like the
slave-merchants of Asia, tear from the paternal brain before they are
well matured, and drag half-clothed before the eyes of their blockhead
of a sultan, their Shahabaham, their terrible public, which, if they
don’t amuse it, will cut off their heads by curtailing the ingots and
emptying their pockets.

This madness of our epoch reacted upon the illustrious Gaudissart, and
here follows the history of how it happened. A life-insurance company
having been told of his irresistible eloquence offered him an unheard-of
commission, which he graciously accepted. The bargain concluded and
the treaty signed, our traveller was put in training, or we might say
weaned, by the secretary-general of the enterprise, who freed his mind
of its swaddling-clothes, showed him the dark holes of the business,
taught him its dialect, took the mechanism apart bit by bit, dissected
for his instruction the particular public he was expected to gull,
crammed him with phrases, fed him with impromptu replies, provisioned
him with unanswerable arguments, and, so to speak, sharpened the file of
the tongue which was about to operate upon the life of France.

The puppet amply rewarded the pains bestowed upon him. The heads of the
company boasted of the illustrious Gaudissart, showed him such attention
and proclaimed the great talents of this perambulating prospectus so
loudly in the sphere of exalted banking and commercial diplomacy, that
the financial managers of two newspapers (celebrated at that time
but since defunct) were seized with the idea of employing him to get
subscribers. The proprietors of the “Globe,” an organ of Saint-Simonism,
and the “Movement,” a republican journal, each invited the illustrious
Gaudissart to a conference, and proposed to give him ten francs a head
for every subscriber, provided he brought in a thousand, but only five
francs if he got no more than five hundred. The cause of political
journalism not interfering with the pre-accepted cause of life
insurance, the bargain was struck; although Gaudissart demanded an
indemnity from the Saint-Simonians for the eight days he was forced
to spend in studying the doctrines of their apostle, asserting that a
prodigious effort of memory and intellect was necessary to get to
the bottom of that “article” and to reason upon it suitably. He asked
nothing, however, from the republicans. In the first place, he inclined
in republican ideas,--the only ones, according to guadissardian
philosophy, which could bring about a rational equality. Besides which
he had already dipped into the conspiracies of the French “carbonari”;
he had been arrested, and released for want of proof; and finally, as
he called the newspaper proprietors to observe, he had lately grown a
mustache, and needed only a hat of certain shape and a pair of spurs to
represent, with due propriety, the Republic.



CHAPTER II

For one whole week this commanding genius went every morning to be
Saint-Simonized at the office of the “Globe,” and every afternoon he
betook himself to the life-insurance company, where he learned the
intricacies of financial diplomacy. His aptitude and his memory were
prodigious; so that he was able to start on his peregrinations by the
15th of April, the date at which he usually opened the spring campaign.
Two large commercial houses, alarmed at the decline of business,
implored the ambitious Gaudissart not to desert the article Paris, and
seduced him, it was said, with large offers, to take their commissions
once more. The king of travellers was amenable to the claims of his old
friends, enforced as they were by the enormous premiums offered to him.

* * * * *

“Listen, my little Jenny,” he said in a hackney-coach to a pretty
florist.

All truly great men delight in allowing themselves to be tyrannized over
by a feeble being, and Gaudissart had found his tyrant in Jenny. He was
bringing her home at eleven o’clock from the Gymnase, whither he had
taken her, in full dress, to a proscenium box on the first tier.

“On my return, Jenny, I shall refurnish your room in superior style.
That big Matilda, who pesters you with comparisons and her real India
shawls imported by the suite of the Russian ambassador, and her
silver plate and her Russian prince,--who to my mind is nothing but a
humbug,--won’t have a word to say THEN. I consecrate to the adornment of
your room all the ‘Children’ I shall get in the provinces.”

“Well, that’s a pretty thing to say!” cried the florist. “Monster of
a man! Do you dare to talk to me of your children? Do you suppose I am
going to stand that sort of thing?”

“Oh, what a goose you are, my Jenny! That’s only a figure of speech in
our business.”

“A fine business, then!”

“Well, but listen; if you talk all the time you’ll always be in the
right.”

“I mean to be. Upon my word, you take things easy!”

“You don’t let me finish. I have taken under my protection a superlative
idea,--a journal, a newspaper, written for children. In our profession,
when travellers have caught, let us suppose, ten subscribers to the
‘Children’s Journal,’ they say, ‘I’ve got ten Children,’ just as I say
when I get ten subscriptions to a newspaper called the ‘Movement,’ ‘I’ve
got ten Movements.’ Now don’t you see?”

“That’s all right. Are you going into politics? If you do you’ll get
into Saint-Pelagie, and I shall have to trot down there after you. Oh!
if one only knew what one puts one’s foot into when we love a man, on
my word of honor we would let you alone to take care of yourselves,
you men! However, if you are going away to-morrow we won’t talk of
disagreeable things,--that would be silly.”

The coach stopped before a pretty house, newly built in the Rue
d’Artois, where Gaudissart and Jenny climbed to the fourth story. This
was the abode of Mademoiselle Jenny Courand, commonly reported to be
privately married to the illustrious Gaudissart, a rumor which that
individual did not deny. To maintain her supremacy, Jenny kept him
to the performance of innumerable small attentions, and threatened
continually to turn him off if he omitted the least of them. She now
ordered him to write to her from every town, and render a minute account
of all his proceedings.

“How many ‘Children’ will it take to furnish my chamber?” she asked,
throwing off her shawl and sitting down by a good fire.

“I get five sous for each subscriber.”

“Delightful! And is it with five sous that you expect to make me rich?
Perhaps you are like the Wandering Jew with your pockets full of money.”

“But, Jenny, I shall get a thousand ‘Children.’ Just reflect that
children have never had a newspaper to themselves before. But what a
fool I am to try to explain matters to you,--you can’t understand such
things.”

“Can’t I? Then tell me,--tell me, Gaudissart, if I’m such a goose why do
you love me?”

“Just because you are a goose,--a sublime goose! Listen, Jenny.
See here, I am going to undertake the ‘Globe,’ the ‘Movement,’ the
‘Children,’ the insurance business, and some of my old articles Paris;
instead of earning a miserable eight thousand a year, I’ll bring back
twenty thousand at least from each trip.”

“Unlace me, Gaudissart, and do it right; don’t tighten me.”

“Yes, truly,” said the traveller, complacently; “I shall become a
shareholder in the newspapers, like Finot, one of my friends, the son
of a hatter, who now has thirty thousand francs income, and is going
to make himself a peer of France. When one thinks of that little
Popinot,--ah, mon Dieu! I forgot to tell you that Monsieur Popinot was
named minister of commerce yesterday. Why shouldn’t I be ambitious too?
Ha! ha! I could easily pick up the jargon of those fellows who talk in
the chamber, and bluster with the rest of them. Now, listen to me:--

“Gentlemen,” he said, standing behind a chair, “the Press is neither
a tool nor an article of barter: it is, viewed under its political
aspects, an institution. We are bound, in virtue of our position as
legislators, to consider all things politically, and therefore” (here he
stopped to get breath)--“and therefore we must examine the Press and ask
ourselves if it is useful or noxious, if it should be encouraged or put
down, taxed or free. These are serious questions. I feel that I do
not waste the time, always precious, of this Chamber by examining this
article--the Press--and explaining to you its qualities. We are on the
verge of an abyss. Undoubtedly the laws have not the nap which they
ought to have--Hein?” he said, looking at Jenny. “All orators put France
on the verge of an abyss. They either say that or they talk about the
chariot of state, or convulsions, or political horizons. Don’t I know
their dodges? I’m up to all the tricks of all the trades. Do you know
why? Because I was born with a caul; my mother has got it, but I’ll give
it to you. You’ll see! I shall soon be in the government.”

“You!”

“Why shouldn’t I be the Baron Gaudissart, peer of France? Haven’t they
twice elected Monsieur Popinot as deputy from the fourth arrondissement?
He dines with Louis Phillippe. There’s Finot; he is going to be, they
say, a member of the Council. Suppose they send me as ambassador to
London? I tell you I’d nonplus those English! No man ever got the better
of Gaudissart, the illustrious Gaudissart, and nobody ever will. Yes, I
say it! no one ever outwitted me, and no one can--in any walk of life,
politics or impolitics, here or elsewhere. But, for the time being,
I must give myself wholly to the capitalists; to the ‘Globe,’ the
‘Movement,’ the ‘Children,’ and my article Paris.”

“You will be brought up with a round turn, you and your newspapers. I’ll
bet you won’t get further than Poitiers before the police will nab you.”

“What will you bet?”

“A shawl.”

“Done! If I lose that shawl I’ll go back to the article Paris and
the hat business. But as for getting the better of Gaudissart--never!
never!”

And the illustrious traveller threw himself into position before
Jenny, looked at her proudly, one hand in his waistcoat, his head at
three-quarter profile,--an attitude truly Napoleonic.

“Oh, how funny you are! what have you been eating to-night?”

Gaudissart was thirty-eight years of age, of medium height, stout and
fat like men who roll about continually in stage-coaches, with a face as
round as a pumpkin, ruddy cheeks, and regular features of the type which
sculptors of all lands adopt as a model for statues of Abundance, Law,
Force, Commerce, and the like. His protuberant stomach swelled forth in
the shape of a pear; his legs were small, but active and vigorous. He
caught Jenny up in his arms like a baby and kissed her.

“Hold your tongue, young woman!” he said. “What do you know about
Saint-Simonism, antagonism, Fourierism, criticism, heroic enterprise,
or woman’s freedom? I’ll tell you what they are,--ten francs for each
subscription, Madame Gaudissart.”

“On my word of honor, you are going crazy, Gaudissart.”

“More and more crazy about YOU,” he replied, flinging his hat upon the
sofa.

The next morning Gaudissart, having breakfasted gloriously with Jenny,
departed on horseback to work up the chief towns of the district to
which he was assigned by the various enterprises in whose interests he
was now about to exercise his great talents. After spending forty-five
days in beating up the country between Paris and Blois, he remained two
weeks at the latter place to write up his correspondence and make short
visits to the various market towns of the department. The night before
he left Blois for Tours he indited a letter to Mademoiselle Jenny
Courand. As the conciseness and charm of this epistle cannot be equalled
by any narration of ours, and as, moreover, it proves the legitimacy of
the tie which united these two individuals, we produce it here:--

  “My dear Jenny,--You will lose your wager. Like Napoleon,
  Gaudissart the illustrious has his star, but NOT his Waterloo. I
  triumph everywhere. Life insurance has done well. Between Paris
  and Blois I lodged two millions. But as I get to the centre of
  France heads become infinitely harder and millions correspondingly
  scarce. The article Paris keeps up its own little jog-trot. It is
  a ring on the finger. With all my well-known cunning I spit these
  shop-keepers like larks. I got off one hundred and sixty-two
  Ternaux shawls at Orleans. I am sure I don’t know what they will
  do with them, unless they return them to the backs of the sheep.

  “As to the article journal--the devil! that’s a horse of another
  color. Holy saints! how one has to warble before you can teach
  these bumpkins a new tune. I have only made sixty-two ‘Movements’:
  exactly a hundred less for the whole trip than the shawls in one
  town. Those republican rogues! they won’t subscribe. They talk,
  they talk; they share your opinions, and presently you are all
  agreed that every existing thing must be overturned. You feel sure
  your man is going to subscribe. Not a bit of it! If he owns three
  feet of ground, enough to grow ten cabbages, or a few trees to
  slice into toothpicks, the fellow begins to talk of consolidated
  property, taxes, revenues, indemnities,--a whole lot of stuff, and
  I have wasted my time and breath on patriotism. It’s a bad
  business! Candidly, the ‘Movement’ does not move. I have written
  to the directors and told them so. I am sorry for it--on account
  of my political opinions.

  “As for the ‘Globe,’ that’s another breed altogether. Just set to
  work and talk new doctrines to people you fancy are fools enough
  to believe such lies,--why, they think you want to burn their
  houses down! It is vain for me to tell them that I speak for
  futurity, for posterity, for self-interest properly understood;
  for enterprise where nothing can be lost; that man has preyed upon
  man long enough; that woman is a slave; that the great
  providential thought should be made to triumph; that a way must be
  found to arrive at a rational co-ordination of the social fabric,
  --in short, the whole reverberation of my sentences. Well, what do
  you think? when I open upon them with such ideas these provincials
  lock their cupboards as if I wanted to steal their spoons and beg
  me to go away! Are not they fools? geese? The ‘Globe’ is smashed.
  I said to the proprietors, ‘You are too advanced, you go ahead too
  fast: you ought to get a few results; the provinces like results.’
  However, I have made a hundred ‘Globes,’ and I must say,
  considering the thick-headedness of these clodhoppers, it is a
  miracle. But to do it I had to make them such a lot of promises
  that I am sure I don’t know how the globites, globists, globules,
  or whatever they call themselves, will ever get out of them. But
  they always tell me they can make the world a great deal better
  than it is, so I go ahead and prophesy to the value of ten francs
  for each subscription. There was one farmer who thought the paper
  was agricultural because of its name. I Globed HIM. Bah! he gave
  in at once; he had a projecting forehead; all men with projecting
  foreheads are ideologists.

  “But the ‘Children’; oh! ah! as to the ‘Children’! I got two
  thousand between Paris and Blois. Jolly business! but there is not
  much to say. You just show a little vignette to the mother,
  pretending to hide it from the child: naturally the child wants to
  see, and pulls mamma’s gown and cries for its newspaper, because
  ‘Papa has DOT his.’ Mamma can’t let her brat tear the gown; the
  gown costs thirty francs, the subscription six--economy; result,
  subscription. It is an excellent thing, meets an actual want; it
  holds a place between dolls and sugar-plums, the two eternal
  necessities of childhood.

  “I have had a quarrel here at the table d’hote about the
  newspapers and my opinions. I was unsuspiciously eating my dinner
  next to a man with a gray hat who was reading the ‘Debats.’ I said
  to myself, ‘Now for my rostrum eloquence. He is tied to the
  dynasty; I’ll cook him; this triumph will be capital practice for
  my ministerial talents.’ So I went to work and praised his
  ‘Debats.’ Hein! if I didn’t lead him along! Thread by thread, I
  began to net my man. I launched my four-horse phrases, and the F-
  sharp arguments, and all the rest of the cursed stuff. Everybody
  listened; and I saw a man who had July as plain as day on his
  mustache, just ready to nibble at a ‘Movement.’ Well, I don’t know
  how it was, but I unluckily let fall the word ‘blockhead.’
  Thunder! you should have seen my gray hat, my dynastic hat
  (shocking bad hat, anyhow), who got the bit in his teeth and was
  furiously angry. I put on my grand air--you know--and said to him:
  ‘Ah, ca! Monsieur, you are remarkably aggressive; if you are not
  content, I am ready to give you satisfaction; I fought in July.’
  ‘Though the father of a family,’ he replied, ‘I am ready--’
  ‘Father of a family!’ I exclaimed; ‘my dear sir, have you any
  children?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Twelve years old?’ ‘Just about.’ ‘Well, then,
  the “Children’s Journal” is the very thing for you; six francs a
  year, one number a month, double columns, edited by great literary
  lights, well got up, good paper, engravings from charming sketches
  by our best artists, actual colored drawings of the Indies--will
  not fade.’ I fired my broadside ‘feelings of a father, etc.,
  etc.,’--in short, a subscription instead of a quarrel. ‘There’s
  nobody but Gaudissart who can get out of things like that,’ said
  that little cricket Lamard to the big Bulot at the cafe, when he
  told him the story.

  “I leave to-morrow for Amboise. I shall do up Amboise in two days,
  and I will write next from Tours, where I shall measure swords
  with the inhabitants of that colorless region; colorless, I mean,
  from the intellectual and speculative point of view. But, on the
  word of a Gaudissart, they shall be toppled over, toppled down--
  floored, I say.

  “Adieu, my kitten. Love me always; be faithful; fidelity through
  thick and thin is one of the attributes of the Free Woman. Who is
  kissing you on the eyelids?

  “Thy Felix Forever.”



CHAPTER III

Five days later Gaudissart started from the Hotel des Faisans, at
which he had put up in Tours, and went to Vouvray, a rich and populous
district where the public mind seemed to him susceptible of cultivation.
Mounted upon his horse, he trotted along the embankment thinking no more
of his phrases than an actor thinks of his part which he has played for
a hundred times. It was thus that the illustrious Gaudissart went his
cheerful way, admiring the landscape, and little dreaming that in the
happy valleys of Vouvray his commercial infallibility was about to
perish.

Here a few remarks upon the public mind of Touraine are essential to our
story. The subtle, satirical, epigrammatic tale-telling spirit stamped
on every page of Rabelais is the faithful expression of the Tourangian
mind,--a mind polished and refined as it should be in a land where
the kings of France long held their court; ardent, artistic, poetic,
voluptuous, yet whose first impulses subside quickly. The softness of
the atmosphere, the beauty of the climate, a certain ease of life and
joviality of manners, smother before long the sentiment of art, narrow
the widest heart, and enervate the strongest will. Transplant the
Tourangian, and his fine qualities develop and lead to great results, as
we may see in many spheres of action: look at Rabelais and Semblancay,
Plantin the printer and Descartes, Boucicault, the Napoleon of his day,
and Pinaigrier, who painted most of the colored glass in our cathedrals;
also Verville and Courier. But the Tourangian, distinguished though he
may be in other regions, sits in his own home like an Indian on his mat
or a Turk on his divan. He employs his wit in laughing at his neighbor
and in making merry all his days; and when at last he reaches the end
of his life, he is still a happy man. Touraine is like the Abbaye of
Theleme, so vaunted in the history of Gargantua. There we may find the
complying sisterhoods of that famous tale, and there the good cheer
celebrated by Rabelais reigns in glory.

As to the do-nothingness of that blessed land it is sublime and well
expressed in a certain popular legend: “Tourangian, are you hungry,
do you want some soup?” “Yes.” “Bring your porringer.” “Then I am not
hungry.” Is it to the joys of the vineyard and the harmonious loveliness
of this garden land of France, is it to the peace and tranquillity of a
region where the step of an invader has never trodden, that we owe
the soft compliance of these unconstrained and easy manners? To such
questions no answer. Enter this Turkey of sunny France, and you will
stay there,--lazy, idle, happy. You may be as ambitious as Napoleon, as
poetic as Lord Byron, and yet a power unknown, invisible, will compel
you to bury your poetry within your soul and turn your projects into
dreams.

The illustrious Gaudissart was fated to encounter here in Vouvray one of
those indigenous jesters whose jests are not intolerable solely because
they have reached the perfection of the mocking art. Right or wrong, the
Tourangians are fond of inheriting from their parents. Consequently the
doctrines of Saint-Simon were especially hated and villified among them.
In Touraine hatred and villification take the form of superb disdain
and witty maliciousness worthy of the land of good stories and practical
jokes,--a spirit which, alas! is yielding, day by day, to that other
spirit which Lord Byron has characterized as “English cant.”

For his sins, after getting down at the Soleil d’Or, an inn kept by a
former grenadier of the imperial guard named Mitouflet, married to a
rich widow, the illustrious traveller, after a brief consultation
with the landlord, betook himself to the knave of Vouvray, the jovial
merry-maker, the comic man of the neighborhood, compelled by fame and
nature to supply the town with merriment. This country Figaro was once
a dyer, and now possessed about seven or eight thousand francs a year,
a pretty house on the slope of the hill, a plump little wife, and robust
health. For ten years he had had nothing to do but take care of his wife
and his garden, marry his daughter, play whist in the evenings, keep the
run of all the gossip in the neighborhood, meddle with the elections,
squabble with the large proprietors, and order good dinners; or else
trot along the embankment to find out what was going on in Tours,
torment the cure, and finally, by way of dramatic entertainment, assist
at the sale of lands in the neighborhood of his vineyards. In short, he
led the true Tourangian life,--the life of a little country-townsman. He
was, moreover, an important member of the bourgeoisie,--a leader among
the small proprietors, all of them envious, jealous, delighted to catch
up and retail gossip and calumnies against the aristocracy; dragging
things down to their own level; and at war with all kinds of
superiority, which they deposited with the fine composure of ignorance.
Monsieur Vernier--such was the name of this great little man--was just
finishing his breakfast, with his wife and daughter on either side of
him, when Gaudissart entered the room through a window that looked out
on the Loire and the Cher, and lighted one of the gayest dining-rooms of
that gay land.

“Is this Monsieur Vernier himself?” said the traveller, bending his
vertebral column with such grace that it seemed to be elastic.

“Yes, Monsieur,” said the mischievous ex-dyer, with a scrutinizing look
which took in the style of man he had to deal with.

“I come, Monsieur,” resumed Gaudissart, “to solicit the aid of your
knowledge and insight to guide my efforts in this district, where
Mitouflet tells me you have the greatest influence. Monsieur, I am sent
into the provinces on an enterprise of the utmost importance, undertaken
by bankers who--”

“Who mean to win our tricks,” said Vernier, long used to the ways of
commercial travellers and to their periodical visits.

“Precisely,” replied Gaudissart, with native impudence. “But with your
fine tact, Monsieur, you must be aware that we can’t win tricks from
people unless it is their interest to play at cards. I beg you not to
confound me with the vulgar herd of travellers who succeed by humbug
or importunity. I am no longer a commercial traveller. I was one, and I
glory in it; but to-day my mission is of higher importance, and should
place me, in the minds of superior people, among those who devote
themselves to the enlightenment of their country. The most distinguished
bankers in Paris take part in this affair; not fictitiously, as in some
shameful speculations which I call rat-traps. No, no, nothing of the
kind! I should never condescend--never!--to hawk about such CATCH-FOOLS.
No, Monsieur; the most respectable houses in Paris are concerned in this
enterprise; and their interests guarantee--”

Hereupon Gaudissart drew forth his whole string of phrases, and Monsieur
Vernier let him go the length of his tether, listening with apparent
interest which completely deceived him. But after the word “guarantee”
 Vernier paid no further attention to our traveller’s rhetoric, and
turned over in his mind how to play him some malicious trick and deliver
a land, justly considered half-savage by speculators unable to get a
bite of it, from the inroads of these Parisian caterpillars.

At the head of an enchanting valley, called the Valley Coquette because
of its windings and the curves which return upon each other at every
step, and seem more and more lovely as we advance, whether we ascend or
descend them, there lived, in a little house surrounded by vineyards, a
half-insane man named Margaritis. He was of Italian origin, married,
but childless; and his wife took care of him with a courage fully
appreciated by the neighborhood. Madame Margaritis was undoubtedly in
real danger from a man who, among other fancies, persisted in carrying
about with him two long-bladed knives with which he sometimes threatened
her. Who has not seen the wonderful self-devotion shown by provincials
who consecrate their lives to the care of sufferers, possibly because
of the disgrace heaped upon a bourgeoise if she allows her husband or
children to be taken to a public hospital? Moreover, who does not know
the repugnance which these people feel to the payment of the two or
three thousand francs required at Charenton or in the private lunatic
asylums? If any one had spoken to Madame Margaritis of Doctors
Dubuisson, Esquirol, Blanche, and others, she would have preferred, with
noble indignation, to keep her thousands and take care of the “good-man”
 at home.

As the incomprehensible whims of this lunatic are connected with the
current of our story, we are compelled to exhibit the most striking
of them. Margaritis went out as soon as it rained, and walked about
bare-headed in his vineyard. At home he made incessant inquiries for
newspapers; to satisfy him his wife and the maid-servant used to give
him an old journal called the “Indre-et-Loire,” and for seven years he
had never yet perceived that he was reading the same number over and
over again. Perhaps a doctor would have observed with interest the
connection that evidently existed between the recurring and spasmodic
demands for the newspaper and the atmospheric variations of the weather.

Usually when his wife had company, which happened nearly every evening,
for the neighbors, pitying her situation, would frequently come to play
at boston in her salon, Margaritis remained silent in a corner and never
stirred. But the moment ten o’clock began to strike on a clock which he
kept shut up in a large oblong closet, he rose at the stroke with the
mechanical precision of the figures which are made to move by springs in
the German toys. He would then advance slowly towards the players, give
them a glance like the automatic gaze of the Greeks and Turks exhibited
on the Boulevard du Temple, and say sternly, “Go away!” There were days
when he had lucid intervals and could give his wife excellent advice
as to the sale of their wines; but at such times he became extremely
annoying, and would ransack her closets and steal her delicacies, which
he devoured in secret. Occasionally, when the usual visitors made their
appearance he would treat them with civility; but as a general thing
his remarks and replies were incoherent. For instance, a lady once asked
him, “How do you feel to-day, Monsieur Margaritis?” “I have grown
a beard,” he replied, “have you?” “Are you better?” asked another.
“Jerusalem! Jerusalem!” was the answer. But the greater part of the time
he gazed stolidly at his guests without uttering a word; and then his
wife would say, “The good-man does not hear anything to-day.”

On two or three occasions in the course of five years, and usually
about the time of the equinox, this remark had driven him to frenzy; he
flourished his knives and shouted, “That joke dishonors me!”

As for his daily life, he ate, drank, and walked about like other men in
sound health; and so it happened that he was treated with about the same
respect and attention that we give to a heavy piece of furniture. Among
his many absurdities was one of which no man had as yet discovered the
object, although by long practice the wiseheads of the community had
learned to unravel the meaning of most of his vagaries. He insisted on
keeping a sack of flour and two puncheons of wine in the cellar of his
house, and he would allow no one to lay hands on them. But then the
month of June came round he grew uneasy with the restless anxiety of a
madman about the sale of the sack and the puncheons. Madame Margaritis
could nearly always persuade him that the wine had been sold at
an enormous price, which she paid over to him, and which he hid so
cautiously that neither his wife nor the servant who watched him had
ever been able to discover its hiding-place.

The evening before Gaudissart reached Vouvray Madame Margaritis had had
more difficulty than usual in deceiving her husband, whose mind happened
to be uncommonly lucid.

“I really don’t know how I shall get through to-morrow,” she had said to
Madame Vernier. “Would you believe it, the good-man insists on watching
his two casks of wine. He has worried me so this whole day, that I
had to show him two full puncheons. Our neighbor, Pierre Champlain,
fortunately had two which he had not sold. I asked him to kindly let me
have them rolled into our cellar; and oh, dear! now that the good-man
has seen them he insists on bottling them off himself!”

Madame Vernier had related the poor woman’s trouble to her husband just
before the entrance of Gaudissart, and at the first words of the famous
traveller Vernier determined that he should be made to grapple with
Margaritis.

“Monsieur,” said the ex-dyer, as soon as the illustrious Gaudissart
had fired his first broadside, “I will not hide from you the great
difficulties which my native place offers to your enterprise. This part
of the country goes along, as it were, in the rough,--‘suo modo.’ It is
a country where new ideas don’t take hold. We live as our fathers lived,
we amuse ourselves with four meals a day, and we cultivate our vineyards
and sell our wines to the best advantage. Our business principle is to
sell things for more than they cost us; we shall stick in that rut, and
neither God nor the devil can get us out of it. I will, however, give
you some advice, and good advice is an egg in the hand. There is in
this town a retired banker in whose wisdom I have--I, particularly--the
greatest confidence. If you can obtain his support, I will add mine. If
your proposals have real merit, if we are convinced of the advantage of
your enterprise, the approval of Monsieur Margaritis (which carries with
it mine) will open to you at least twenty rich houses in Vouvray who
will be glad to try your specifics.”

When Madame Vernier heard the name of the lunatic she raised her head
and looked at her husband.

“Ah, precisely; my wife intends to call on Madame Margaritis with one
of our neighbors. Wait a moment, and you can accompany these ladies--You
can pick up Madame Fontanieu on your way,” said the wily dyer, winking
at his wife.

To pick out the greatest gossip, the sharpest tongue, the most
inveterate cackler of the neighborhood! It meant that Madame Vernier
was to take a witness to the scene between the traveller and the lunatic
which should keep the town in laughter for a month. Monsieur and Madame
Vernier played their part so well that Gaudissart had no suspicions, and
straightway fell into the trap. He gallantly offered his arm to Madame
Vernier, and believed that he made, as they went along, the conquest
of both ladies, for those benefit he sparkled with wit and humor and
undetected puns.

The house of the pretended banker stood at the entrance to the Valley
Coquette. The place, called La Fuye, had nothing remarkable about it. On
the ground floor was a large wainscoted salon, on either side of which
opened the bedroom of the good-man and that of his wife. The salon
was entered from an ante-chamber, which served as the dining-room and
communicated with the kitchen. This lower door, which was wholly without
the external charm usually seen even in the humblest dwellings in
Touraine, was covered by a mansard story, reached by a stairway built
on the outside of the house against the gable end and protected by
a shed-roof. A little garden, full of marigolds, syringas, and
elder-bushes, separated the house from the fields; and all around the
courtyard were detached buildings which were used in the vintage season
for the various processes of making wine.



CHAPTER IV

Margaritis was seated in an arm-chair covered with yellow Utrecht
velvet, near the window of the salon, and he did not stir as the two
ladies entered with Gaudissart. His thoughts were running on the casks
of wine. He was a spare man, and his bald head, garnished with a few
spare locks at the back of it, was pear-shaped in conformation.
His sunken eyes, overtopped by heavy black brows and surrounded by
discolored circles, his nose, thin and sharp like the blade of a knife,
the strongly marked jawbone, the hollow cheeks, and the oblong tendency
of all these lines, together with his unnaturally long and flat chin,
contributed to give a peculiar expression to his countenance,--something
between that of a retired professor of rhetoric and a rag-picker.

“Monsieur Margaritis,” cried Madame Vernier, addressing him, “come, stir
about! Here is a gentleman whom my husband sends to you, and you must
listen to him with great attention. Put away your mathematics and talk
to him.”

On hearing these words the lunatic rose, looked at Gaudissart, made him
a sign to sit down, and said, “Let us converse, Monsieur.”

The two women went into Madame Margaritis’ bedroom, leaving the
door open so as to hear the conversation, and interpose if it became
necessary. They were hardly installed before Monsieur Vernier crept
softly up through the field and, opening a window, got into the bedroom
without noise.

“Monsieur has doubtless been in business--?” began Gaudissart.

“Public business,” answered Margaritis, interrupting him. “I pacificated
Calabria under the reign of King Murat.”

“Bless me! if he hasn’t gone to Calabria!” whispered Monsieur Vernier.

“In that case,” said Gaudissart, “we shall quickly understand each
other.”

“I am listening,” said Margaritis, striking the attitude taken by a man
when he poses to a portrait-painter.

“Monsieur,” said Gaudissart, who chanced to be turning his watch-key
with a rotatory and periodical click which caught the attention of the
lunatic and contributed no doubt to keep him quiet. “Monsieur, if you
were not a man of superior intelligence” (the fool bowed), “I should
content myself with merely laying before you the material advantages of
this enterprise, whose psychological aspects it would be a waste of time
to explain to you. Listen! Of all kinds of social wealth, is not
time the most precious? To economize time is, consequently, to become
wealthy. Now, is there anything that consumes so much time as those
anxieties which I call ‘pot-boiling’?--a vulgar expression, but it puts
the whole question in a nutshell. For instance, what can eat up more
time than the inability to give proper security to persons from whom you
seek to borrow money when, poor at the moment, you are nevertheless rich
in hope?”

“Money,--yes, that’s right,” said Margaritis.

“Well, Monsieur, I am sent into the departments by a company of bankers
and capitalists, who have apprehended the enormous waste which
rising men of talent are thus making of time, and, consequently,
of intelligence and productive ability. We have seized the idea of
capitalizing for such men their future prospects, and cashing their
talents by discounting--what? TIME; securing the value of it to their
survivors. I may say that it is no longer a question of economizing
time, but of giving it a price, a quotation; of representing in a
pecuniary sense those products developed by time which presumably you
possess in the region of your intellect; of representing also the moral
qualities with which you are endowed, and which are, Monsieur, living
forces,--as living as a cataract, as a steam-engine of three, ten,
twenty, fifty horse-power. Ha! this is progress! the movement onward to
a better state of things; a movement born of the spirit of our epoch; a
movement essentially progressive, as I shall prove to you when we come
to consider the principles involved in the logical co-ordination of
the social fabric. I will now explain my meaning by literal examples,
leaving aside all purely abstract reasoning, which I call the
mathematics of thought. Instead of being, as you are, a proprietor
living upon your income, let us suppose that you are painter, a
musician, an artist, or a poet--”

“I am a painter,” said the lunatic.

“Well, so be it. I see you take my metaphor. You are a painter; you have
a glorious future, a rich future before you. But I go still farther--”

At these words the madman looked anxiously at Gaudissart, thinking he
meant to go away; but was reassured when he saw that he kept his seat.

“You may even be nothing at all,” said Gaudissart, going on with his
phrases, “but you are conscious of yourself; you feel yourself--”

“I feel myself,” said the lunatic.

“--you feel yourself a great man; you say to yourself, ‘I will be a
minister of state.’ Well, then, you--painter, artist, man of letters,
statesman of the future--you reckon upon your talents, you estimate
their value, you rate them, let us say, at a hundred thousand crowns--”

“Do you give me a hundred thousand crowns?”

“Yes, Monsieur, as you will see. Either your heirs and assigns will
receive them if you die, for the company contemplates that event, or
you will receive them in the long run through your works of art, your
writings, or your fortunate speculations during your lifetime. But, as
I have already had the honor to tell you, when you have once fixed
upon the value of your intellectual capital,--for it is intellectual
capital,--seize that idea firmly,--intellectual--”

“I understand,” said the fool.

“You sign a policy of insurance with a company which recognizes in you a
value of a hundred thousand crowns; in you, poet--”

“I am a painter,” said the lunatic.

“Yes,” resumed Gaudissart,--“painter, poet, musician, statesman--and
binds itself to pay them over to your family, your heirs, if, by reason
of your death, the hopes foundered on your intellectual capital should
be overthrown for you personally. The payment of the premium is all that
is required to protect--”

“The money-box,” said the lunatic, sharply interrupting him.

“Ah! naturally; yes. I see that Monsieur understands business.”

“Yes,” said the madman. “I established the Territorial Bank in the Rue
des Fosses-Montmartre at Paris in 1798.”

“For,” resumed Gaudissart, going back to his premium, “in order to meet
the payments on the intellectual capital which each man recognizes and
esteems in himself, it is of course necessary that each should pay a
certain premium, three per cent; an annual due of three per cent. Thus,
by the payment of this trifling sum, a mere nothing, you protect your
family from disastrous results at your death--”

“But I live,” said the fool.

“Ah! yes; you mean if you should live long? That is the usual
objection,--a vulgar prejudice. I fully agree that if we had
not foreseen and demolished it we might feel we were unworthy of
being--what? What are we, after all? Book-keepers in the great Bureau of
Intellect. Monsieur, I don’t apply these remarks to you, but I meet on
all sides men who make it a business to teach new ideas and disclose
chains of reasoning to people who turn pale at the first word. On my
word of honor, it is pitiable! But that’s the way of the world, and I
don’t pretend to reform it. Your objection, Monsieur, is really sheer
nonsense.”

“Why?” asked the lunatic.

“Why?--this is why: because, if you live and possess the qualities which
are estimated in your policy against the chances of death,--now, attend
to this--”

“I am attending.”

“Well, then, you have succeeded in life; and you have succeeded because
of the said insurance. You doubled your chances of success by getting
rid of the anxieties you were dragging about with you in the shape of
wife and children who might otherwise be left destitute at your death.
If you attain this certainty, you have touched the value of your
intellectual capital, on which the cost of insurance is but a trifle,--a
mere trifle, a bagatelle.”

“That’s a fine idea!”

“Ah! is it not, Monsieur?” cried Gaudissart. “I call this enterprise the
exchequer of beneficence; a mutual insurance against poverty; or, if
you like it better, the discounting, the cashing, of talent. For talent,
Monsieur, is a bill of exchange which Nature gives to the man of genius,
and which often has a long time to run before it falls due.”

“That is usury!” cried Margaritis.

“The devil! he’s keen, the old fellow! I’ve made a mistake,” thought
Gaudissart, “I must catch him with other chaff. I’ll try humbug No. 1.
Not at all,” he said aloud, “for you who--”

“Will you take a glass of wine?” asked Margaritis.

“With pleasure,” replied Gaudissart.

“Wife, give us a bottle of the wine that is in the puncheons. You are
here at the very head of Vouvray,” he continued, with a gesture of the
hand, “the vineyard of Margaritis.”

The maid-servant brought glasses and a bottle of wine of the vintage of
1819. The good-man filled a glass with circumspection and offered it to
Gaudissart, who drank it up.

“Ah, you are joking, Monsieur!” exclaimed the commercial traveller.
“Surely this is Madeira, true Madeira?”

“So you think,” said the fool. “The trouble with our Vouvray wine is
that it is neither a common wine, nor a wine that can be drunk with the
entremets. It is too generous, too strong. It is often sold in Paris
adulterated with brandy and called Madeira. The wine-merchants buy it
up, when our vintage has not been good enough for the Dutch and Belgian
markets, to mix it with wines grown in the neighborhood of Paris, and
call it Bordeaux. But what you are drinking just now, my good Monsieur,
is a wine for kings, the pure Head of Vouvray,--that’s it’s name. I
have two puncheons, only two puncheons of it left. People who like fine
wines, high-class wines, who furnish their table with qualities that
can’t be bought in the regular trade,--and there are many persons in
Paris who have that vanity,--well, such people send direct to us for
this wine. Do you know any one who--?”

“Let us go on with what we were saying,” interposed Gaudissart.

“We are going on,” said the fool. “My wine is capital; you are capital,
capitalist, intellectual capital, capital wine,--all the same etymology,
don’t you see? hein? Capital, ‘caput,’ head, Head of Vouvray, that’s my
wine,--it’s all one thing.”

“So that you have realized your intellectual capital through your wines?
Ah, I see!” said Gaudissart.

“I have realized,” said the lunatic. “Would you like to buy my
puncheons? you shall have them on good terms.”

“No, I was merely speaking,” said the illustrious Gaudissart, “of the
results of insurance and the employment of intellectual capital. I will
resume my argument.”

The lunatic calmed down, and fell once more into position.

“I remarked, Monsieur, that if you die the capital will be paid to your
family without discussion.”

“Without discussion?”

“Yes, unless there were suicide.”

“That’s quibbling.”

“No, Monsieur; you are aware that suicide is one of those acts which are
easy to prove--”

“In France,” said the fool; “but--”

“But in other countries?” said Gaudissart. “Well, Monsieur, to cut
short discussion on this point, I will say, once for all, that death in
foreign countries or on the field of battle is outside of our--”

“Then what are you insuring? Nothing at all!” cried Margaritis. “My
bank, my Territorial Bank, rested upon--”

“Nothing at all?” exclaimed Gaudissart, interrupting the good-man.
“Nothing at all? What do you call sickness, and afflictions, and
poverty, and passions? Don’t go off on exceptional points.”

“No, no! no points,” said the lunatic.

“Now, what’s the result of all this?” cried Gaudissart. “To you, a
banker, I can sum up the profits in a few words. Listen. A man lives;
he has a future; he appears well; he lives, let us say, by his art; he
wants money; he tries to get it,--he fails. Civilization withholds cash
from this man whose thought could master civilization, and ought to
master it, and will master it some day with a brush, a chisel, with
words, ideas, theories, systems. Civilization is atrocious! It denies
bread to the men who give it luxury. It starves them on sneers and
curses, the beggarly rascal! My words may be strong, but I shall
not retract them. Well, this great but neglected man comes to us; we
recognize his greatness; we salute him with respect; we listen to him.
He says to us: ‘Gentlemen, my life and talents are worth so much; on my
productions I will pay you such or such percentage.’ Very good; what
do we do? Instantly, without reserve or hesitation, we admit him to the
great festivals of civilization as an honored guest--”

“You need wine for that,” interposed the madman.

“--as an honored guest. He signs the insurance policy; he takes our bits
of paper,--scraps, rags, miserable rags!--which, nevertheless, have more
power in the world than his unaided genius. Then, if he wants money,
every one will lend it to him on those rags. At the Bourse, among
bankers, wherever he goes, even at the usurers, he will find money
because he can give security. Well, Monsieur, is not that a great gulf
to bridge over in our social system? But that is only one aspect of our
work. We insure debtors by another scheme of policies and premiums. We
offer annuities at rates graduated according to ages, on a sliding-scale
infinitely more advantageous than what are called tontines, which are
based on tables of mortality that are notoriously false. Our company
deals with large masses of men; consequently the annuitants are
secure from those distressing fears which sadden old age,--too sad
already!--fears which pursue those who receive annuities from private
sources. You see, Monsieur, that we have estimated life under all its
aspects.”

“Sucked it at both ends,” said the lunatic. “Take another glass of wine.
You’ve earned it. You must line your inside with velvet if you are going
to pump at it like that every day. Monsieur, the wine of Vouvray, if
well kept, is downright velvet.”

“Now, what do you think of it all?” said Gaudissart, emptying his glass.

“It is very fine, very new, very useful; but I like the discounts I get
at my Territorial Bank, Rue des Fosses-Montmartre.”

“You are quite right, Monsieur,” answered Gaudissart; “but that sort of
thing is taken and retaken, made and remade, every day. You have also
hypothecating banks which lend upon landed property and redeem it on
a large scale. But that is a narrow idea compared to our system of
consolidating hopes,--consolidating hopes! coagulating, so to speak,
the aspirations born in every soul, and insuring the realization of
our dreams. It needed our epoch, Monsieur, the epoch of
transition--transition and progress--”

“Yes, progress,” muttered the lunatic, with his glass at his lips. “I
like progress. That is what I’ve told them many times--”

“The ‘Times’!” cried Gaudissart, who did not catch the whole sentence.
“The ‘Times’ is a bad newspaper. If you read that, I am sorry for you.”

“The newspaper!” cried Margaritis. “Of course! Wife! wife! where is the
newspaper?” he cried, going towards the next room.

“If you are interested in newspapers,” said Gaudissart, changing his
attack, “we are sure to understand each other.”

“Yes; but before we say anything about that, tell me what you think of
this wine.”

“Delicious!”

“Then let us finish the bottle.” The lunatic poured out a thimbleful
for himself and filled Gaudissart’s glass. “Well, Monsieur, I have two
puncheons left of the same wine; if you find it good we can come to
terms.”

“Exactly,” said Gaudissart. “The fathers of the Saint-Simonian faith
have authorized me to send them all the commodities I--But allow me to
tell you about their noble newspaper. You, who have understood the whole
question of insurance so thoroughly, and who are willing to assist my
work in this district--”

“Yes,” said Margaritis, “if--”

“If I take your wine; I understand perfectly. Your wine is very good,
Monsieur; it puts the stomach in a glow.”

“They make champagne out of it; there is a man from Paris who comes here
and makes it in Tours.”

“I have no doubt of it, Monsieur. The ‘Globe,’ of which we were
speaking--”

“Yes, I’ve gone over it,” said Margaritis.

“I was sure of it!” exclaimed Gaudissart. “Monsieur, you have a fine
frontal development; a pate--excuse the word--which our gentlemen call
‘horse-head.’ There’s a horse element in the head of every great man.
Genius will make itself known; but sometimes it happens that great men,
in spite of their gifts, remain obscure. Such was very nearly the case
with Saint-Simon; also with Monsieur Vico,--a strong man just beginning
to shoot up; I am proud of Vico. Now, here we enter upon the new theory
and formula of humanity. Attention, if you please.”

“Attention!” said the fool, falling into position.

“Man’s spoliation of man--by which I mean bodies of men living upon the
labor of other men--ought to have ceased with the coming of Christ, I
say CHRIST, who was sent to proclaim the equality of man in the sight
of God. But what is the fact? Equality up to our day has been an ‘ignus
fatuus,’ a chimera. Saint-Simon has arisen as the complement of Christ;
as the modern exponent of the doctrine of equality, or rather of its
practice, for theory has served its time--”

“Is he liberated?” asked the lunatic.

“Like liberalism, it has had its day. There is a nobler future before
us: a new faith, free labor, free growth, free production, individual
progress, a social co-ordination in which each man shall receive the
full worth of his individual labor, in which no man shall be preyed upon
by other men who, without capacity of their own, compel ALL to work for
the profit of ONE. From this comes the doctrine of--”

“How about servants?” demanded the lunatic.

“They will remain servants if they have no capacity beyond it.”

“Then what’s the good of your doctrine?”

“To judge of this doctrine, Monsieur, you must consider it from a higher
point of view: you must take a general survey of humanity. Here we come
to the theories of Ballance: do you know his Palingenesis?”

“I am fond of them,” said the fool, who thought he said “ices.”

“Good!” returned Gaudissart. “Well, then, if the palingenistic aspects
of the successive transformations of the spiritualized globe
have struck, stirred, roused you, then, my dear sir, the ‘Globe’
newspaper,--noble name which proclaims its mission,--the ‘Globe’ is an
organ, a guide, who will explain to you with the coming of each day
the conditions under which this vast political and moral change will be
effected. The gentlemen who--”

“Do they drink wine?”

“Yes, Monsieur; their houses are kept up in the highest style; I may
say, in prophetic style. Superb salons, large receptions, the apex of
social life--”

“Well,” remarked the lunatic, “the workmen who pull things down want
wine as much as those who put things up.”

“True,” said the illustrious Gaudissart, “and all the more, Monsieur,
when they pull down with one hand and build up with the other, like the
apostles of the ‘Globe.’”

“They want good wine; Head of Vouvray, two puncheons, three hundred
bottles, only one hundred francs,--a trifle.”

“How much is that a bottle?” said Gaudissart, calculating. “Let me see;
there’s the freight and the duty,--it will come to about seven sous.
Why, it wouldn’t be a bad thing: they give more for worse wines--(Good!
I’ve got him!” thought Gaudissart, “he wants to sell me wine which I
want; I’ll master him)--Well, Monsieur,” he continued, “those who argue
usually come to an agreement. Let us be frank with each other. You have
great influence in this district--”

“I should think so!” said the madman; “I am the Head of Vouvray!”

“Well, I see that you thoroughly comprehend the insurance of
intellectual capital--”

“Thoroughly.”

“--and that you have measured the full importance of the ‘Globe’--”

“Twice; on foot.”

Gaudissart was listening to himself and not to the replies of his
hearer.

“Therefore, in view of your circumstances and of your age, I quite
understand that you have no need of insurance for yourself; but,
Monsieur, you might induce others to insure, either because of their
inherent qualities which need development, or for the protection of
their families against a precarious future. Now, if you will subscribe
to the ‘Globe,’ and give me your personal assistance in this district
on behalf of insurance, especially life-annuity,--for the provinces are
much attached to annuities--Well, if you will do this, then we can come
to an understanding about the wine. Will you take the ‘Globe’?”

“I stand on the globe.”

“Will you advance its interests in this district?”

“I advance.”

“And?”

“And--”

“And I--but you do subscribe, don’t you, to the ‘Globe’?”

“The globe, good thing, for life,” said the lunatic.

“For life, Monsieur?--ah, I see! yes, you are right: it is full of
life, vigor, intellect, science,--absolutely crammed with science,--well
printed, clear type, well set up; what I call ‘good nap.’ None of your
botched stuff, cotton and wool, trumpery; flimsy rubbish that rips
if you look at it. It is deep; it states questions on which you can
meditate at your leisure; it is the very thing to make time pass
agreeably in the country.”

“That suits me,” said the lunatic.

“It only costs a trifle,--eighty francs.”

“That won’t suit me,” said the lunatic.

“Monsieur!” cried Gaudissart, “of course you have got grandchildren?
There’s the ‘Children’s Journal’; that only costs seven francs a year.”

“Very good; take my wine, and I will subscribe to the children. That
suits me very well: a fine idea! intellectual product, child. That’s man
living upon man, hein?”

“You’ve hit it, Monsieur,” said Gaudissart.

“I’ve hit it!”

“You consent to push me in the district?”

“In the district.”

“I have your approbation?”

“You have it.”

“Well, then, Monsieur, I take your wine at a hundred francs--”

“No, no! hundred and ten--”

“Monsieur! A hundred and ten for the company, but a hundred to me. I
enable you to make a sale; you owe me a commission.”

“Charge ‘em a hundred and twenty,”--“cent vingt” (“sans vin,” without
wine).

“Capital pun that!”

“No, puncheons. About that wine--”

“Better and better! why, you are a wit.”

“Yes, I’m that,” said the fool. “Come out and see my vineyards.”

“Willingly, the wine is getting into my head,” said the illustrious
Gaudissart, following Monsieur Margaritis, who marched him from row
to row and hillock to hillock among the vines. The three ladies and
Monsieur Vernier, left to themselves, went off into fits of laughter as
they watched the traveller and the lunatic discussing, gesticulating,
stopping short, resuming their walk, and talking vehemently.

“I wish the good-man hadn’t carried him off,” said Vernier.

Finally the pair returned, walking with the eager step of men who were
in haste to finish up a matter of business.

“He has got the better of the Parisian, damn him!” cried Vernier.

And so it was. To the huge delight of the lunatic our illustrious
Gaudissart sat down at a card-table and wrote an order for the delivery
of the two casks of wine. Margaritis, having carefully read it over,
counted out seven francs for his subscription to the “Children’s
Journal” and gave them to the traveller.

“Adieu until to-morrow, Monsieur,” said Gaudissart, twisting his
watch-key. “I shall have the honor to call for you to-morrow. Meantime,
send the wine at once to Paris to the address I have given you, and the
price will be remitted immediately.”

Gaudissart, however, was a Norman, and he had no idea of making any
agreement which was not reciprocal. He therefore required his promised
supporter to sign a bond (which the lunatic carefully read over) to
deliver two puncheons of the wine called “Head of Vouvray,” vineyard of
Margaritis.

This done, the illustrious Gaudissart departed in high feather, humming,
as he skipped along,--

  “The King of the South,
  He burned his mouth,” etc.



CHAPTER V

The illustrious Gaudissart returned to the Soleil d’Or, where he
naturally conversed with the landlord while waiting for dinner.
Mitouflet was an old soldier, guilelessly crafty, like the peasantry of
the Loire; he never laughed at a jest, but took it with the gravity of
a man accustomed to the roar of cannon and to make his own jokes under
arms.

“You have some very strong-minded people here,” said Gaudissart, leaning
against the door-post and lighting his cigar at Mitouflet’s pipe.

“How do you mean?” asked Mitouflet.

“I mean people who are rough-shod on political and financial ideas.”

“Whom have you seen? if I may ask without indiscretion,” said the
landlord innocently, expectorating after the adroit and periodical
fashion of smokers.

“A fine, energetic fellow named Margaritis.”

Mitouflet cast two glances in succession at his guest which were
expressive of chilling irony.

“May be; the good-man knows a deal. He knows too much for other folks,
who can’t always understand him.”

“I can believe it, for he thoroughly comprehends the abstruse principles
of finance.”

“Yes,” said the innkeeper, “and for my part, I am sorry he is a
lunatic.”

“A lunatic! What do you mean?”

“Well, crazy,--cracked, as people are when they are insane,” answered
Mitouflet. “But he is not dangerous; his wife takes care of him. Have
you been arguing with him?” added the pitiless landlord; “that must have
been funny!”

“Funny!” cried Gaudissart. “Funny! Then your Monsieur Vernier has been
making fun of me!”

“Did he send you there?”

“Yes.”

“Wife! wife! come here and listen. If Monsieur Vernier didn’t take it
into his head to send this gentleman to talk to Margaritis!”

“What in the world did you say to each other, my dear, good Monsieur?”
 said the wife. “Why, he’s crazy!”

“He sold me two casks of wine.”

“Did you buy them?”

“Yes.”

“But that is his delusion; he thinks he sells his wine, and he hasn’t
any.”

“Ha!” snorted the traveller, “then I’ll go straight to Monsieur Vernier
and thank him.”

And Gaudissart departed, boiling over with rage, to shake the ex-dyer,
whom he found in his salon, laughing with a company of friends to whom
he had already recounted the tale.

“Monsieur,” said the prince of travellers, darting a savage glance at
his enemy, “you are a scoundrel and a blackguard; and under pain
of being thought a turn-key,--a species of being far below a
galley-slave,--you will give me satisfaction for the insult you dared
to offer me in sending me to a man whom you knew to be a lunatic! Do you
hear me, Monsieur Vernier, dyer?”

Such was the harangue which Gaudissart prepared as he went along, as a
tragedian makes ready for his entrance on the scene.

“What!” cried Vernier, delighted at the presence of an audience, “do
you think we have no right to make fun of a man who comes here, bag and
baggage, and demands that we hand over our property because, forsooth,
he is pleased to call us great men, painters, artists, poets,--mixing us
up gratuitously with a set of fools who have neither house nor home, nor
sous nor sense? Why should we put up with a rascal who comes here
and wants us to feather his nest by subscribing to a newspaper which
preaches a new religion whose first doctrine is, if you please, that we
are not to inherit from our fathers and mothers? On my sacred word of
honor, Pere Margaritis said things a great deal more sensible. And now,
what are you complaining about? You and Margaritis seemed to understand
each other. The gentlemen here present can testify that if you had
talked to the whole canton you couldn’t have been as well understood.”

“That’s all very well for you to say; but I have been insulted,
Monsieur, and I demand satisfaction!”

“Very good, Monsieur! consider yourself insulted, if you like. I shall
not give you satisfaction, because there is neither rhyme nor reason nor
satisfaction to be found in the whole business. What an absurd fool he
is, to be sure!”

At these words Gaudissart flew at the dyer to give him a slap on
the face, but the listening crowd rushed between them, so that the
illustrious traveller only contrived to knock off the wig of his enemy,
which fell on the head of Mademoiselle Clara Vernier.

“If you are not satisfied, Monsieur,” he said, “I shall be at the Soleil
d’Or until to-morrow morning, and you will find me ready to show you
what it means to give satisfaction. I fought in July, Monsieur.”

“And you shall fight in Vouvray,” answered the dyer; “and what is more,
you shall stay here longer than you imagine.”

Gaudissart marched off, turning over in his mind this prophetic remark,
which seemed to him full of sinister portent. For the first time in his
life the prince of travellers did not dine jovially. The whole town of
Vouvray was put in a ferment about the “affair” between Monsieur Vernier
and the apostle of Saint-Simonism. Never before had the tragic event of
a duel been so much as heard of in that benign and happy valley.

“Monsieur Mitouflet, I am to fight to-morrow with Monsieur Vernier,”
 said Gaudissart to his landlord. “I know no one here: will you be my
second?”

“Willingly,” said the host.

Gaudissart had scarcely finished his dinner before Madame Fontanieu
and the assistant-mayor of Vouvray came to the Soleil d’Or and took
Mitouflet aside. They told him it would be a painful and injurious thing
to the whole canton if a violent death were the result of this affair;
they represented the pitiable distress of Madame Vernier, and conjured
him to find some way to arrange matters and save the credit of the
district.

“I take it all upon myself,” said the sagacious landlord.

In the evening he went up to the traveller’s room carrying pens, ink,
and paper.

“What have you got there?” asked Gaudissart.

“If you are going to fight to-morrow,” answered Mitouflet, “you had
better make some settlement of your affairs; and perhaps you have
letters to write,--we all have beings who are dear to us. Writing
doesn’t kill, you know. Are you a good swordsman? Would you like to get
your hand in? I have some foils.”

“Yes, gladly.”

Mitouflet returned with foils and masks.

“Now, then, let us see what you can do.”

The pair put themselves on guard. Mitouflet, with his former prowess as
grenadier of the guard, made sixty-two passes at Gaudissart, pushed him
about right and left, and finally pinned him up against the wall.

“The deuce! you are strong,” said Gaudissart, out of breath.

“Monsieur Vernier is stronger than I am.”

“The devil! Damn it, I shall fight with pistols.”

“I advise you to do so; because, if you take large holster pistols and
load them up to their muzzles, you can’t risk anything. They are SURE to
fire wide of the mark, and both parties can retire from the field with
honor. Let me manage all that. Hein! ‘sapristi,’ two brave men would be
arrant fools to kill each other for a joke.”

“Are you sure the pistols will carry WIDE ENOUGH? I should be sorry to
kill the man, after all,” said Gaudissart.

“Sleep in peace,” answered Mitouflet, departing.

The next morning the two adversaries, more or less pale, met beside the
bridge of La Cise. The brave Vernier came near shooting a cow which was
peaceably feeding by the roadside.

“Ah, you fired in the air!” cried Gaudissart.

At these words the enemies embraced.

“Monsieur,” said the traveller, “your joke was rather rough, but it was
a good one for all that. I am sorry I apostrophized you: I was excited.
I regard you as a man of honor.”

“Monsieur, we take twenty subscriptions to the ‘Children’s Journal,’”
 replied the dyer, still pale.

“That being so,” said Gaudissart, “why shouldn’t we all breakfast
together? Men who fight are always the ones to come to a good
understanding.”

“Monsieur Mitouflet,” said Gaudissart on his return to the inn, “of
course you have got a sheriff’s officer here?”

“What for?”

“I want to send a summons to my good friend Margaritis to deliver the
two casks of wine.”

“But he has not got them,” said Vernier.

“No matter for that; the affair can be arranged by the payment of an
indemnity. I won’t have it said that Vouvray outwitted the illustrious
Gaudissart.”

Madame Margaritis, alarmed at the prospect of a suit in which the
plaintiff would certainly win his case, brought thirty francs to the
placable traveller, who thereupon considered himself quits with the
happiest region of sunny France,--a region which is also, we must add,
the most recalcitrant to new and progressive ideas.

On returning from his trip through the southern departments, the
illustrious Gaudissart occupied the coupe of a diligence, where he met
a young man to whom, as they journeyed between Angouleme and Paris, he
deigned to explain the enigmas of life, taking him, apparently, for an
infant.

As they passed Vouvray the young man exclaimed, “What a fine site!”

“Yes, Monsieur,” said Gaudissart, “but not habitable on account of the
people. You get into duels every day. Why, it is not three months since
I fought one just there,” pointing to the bridge of La Cise, “with a
damned dyer; but I made an end of him,--he bit the dust!”



ADDENDUM

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

      Finot, Andoche
        Cesar Birotteau
        A Bachelor’s Establishment
        A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
        Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
        The Government Clerks
        A Start in Life
        The Firm of Nucingen

      Gaudissart, Felix
        Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
        Cousin Pons
        Cesar Birotteau
        Honorine

      Popinot, Anselme
        Cesar Birotteau
        Cousin Pons
        Cousin Betty



THE MUSE OF THE DEPARTMENT


Translated by James Waring


DEDICATION

  To Monsieur le Comte Ferdinand de Gramont.

  MY DEAR FERDINAND,--If the chances of the world of literature--
  _habent sua fata libelli_--should allow these lines to be an
  enduring record, that will still be but a trifle in return for the
  trouble you have taken--you, the Hozier, the Cherin, the King-at-
  Arms of these Studies of Life; you, to whom the Navarreins,
  Cadignans, Langeais, Blamont-Chauvrys, Chaulieus, Arthez,
  Esgrignons, Mortsaufs, Valois--the hundred great names that form
  the Aristocracy of the “Human Comedy” owe their lordly mottoes and
  ingenious armorial bearings. Indeed, “the Armorial of the Etudes,
  devised by Ferdinand de Gramont, gentleman,” is a complete manual
  of French Heraldry, in which nothing is forgotten, not even the
  arms of the Empire, and I shall preserve it as a monument of
  friendship and of Benedictine patience. What profound knowledge of
  the old feudal spirit is to be seen in the motto of the
  Beauseants, _Pulchre sedens, melius agens_; in that of the
  Espards, _Des partem leonis_; in that of the Vandenesses, _Ne se
  vend_. And what elegance in the thousand details of the learned
  symbolism which will always show how far accuracy has been carried
  in my work, to which you, the poet, have contributed.

  Your old friend,
  DE BALZAC.



On the skirts of Le Berry stands a town which, watered by the Loire,
infallibly attracts the traveler’s eye. Sancerre crowns the topmost
height of a chain of hills, the last of the range that gives variety to
the Nivernais. The Loire floods the flats at the foot of these slopes,
leaving a yellow alluvium that is extremely fertile, excepting in those
places where it has deluged them with sand and destroyed them forever,
by one of those terrible risings which are also incidental to the
Vistula--the Loire of the northern coast.

The hill on which the houses of Sancerre are grouped is so far from the
river that the little river-port of Saint-Thibault thrives on the life
of Sancerre. There wine is shipped and oak staves are landed, with all
the produce brought from the upper and lower Loire. At the period when
this story begins the suspension bridges at Cosne and at Saint-Thibault
were already built. Travelers from Paris to Sancerre by the
southern road were no longer ferried across the river from Cosne to
Saint-Thibault; and this of itself is enough to show that the great
cross-shuffle of 1830 was a thing of the past, for the House of Orleans
has always had a care for substantial improvements, though somewhat
after the fashion of a husband who makes his wife presents out of her
marriage portion.

Excepting that part of Sancerre which occupies the little plateau, the
streets are more or less steep, and the town is surrounded by slopes
known as the Great Ramparts, a name which shows that they are the
highroads of the place.

Outside the ramparts lies a belt of vineyards. Wine forms the chief
industry and the most important trade of the country, which yields
several vintages of high-class wine full of aroma, and so nearly
resembling the wines of Burgundy, that the vulgar palate is deceived. So
Sancerre finds in the wineshops of Paris the quick market indispensable
for liquor that will not keep for more than seven or eight years. Below
the town lie a few villages, Fontenoy and Saint-Satur, almost suburbs,
reminding us by their situation of the smiling vineyards about Neuchatel
in Switzerland.

The town still bears much of its ancient aspect; the streets are narrow
and paved with pebbles carted up from the Loire. Some old houses are to
be seen there. The citadel, a relic of military power and feudal times,
stood one of the most terrible sieges of our religious wars, when French
Calvinists far outdid the ferocious Cameronians of Walter Scott’s tales.

The town of Sancerre, rich in its greater past, but widowed now of its
military importance, is doomed to an even less glorious future, for the
course of trade lies on the right bank of the Loire. The sketch here
given shows that Sancerre will be left more and more lonely in spite of
the two bridges connecting it with Cosne.

Sancerre, the pride of the left bank, numbers three thousand five
hundred inhabitants at most, while at Cosne there are now more than
six thousand. Within half a century the part played by these two
towns standing opposite each other has been reversed. The advantage of
situation, however, remains with the historic town, whence the view on
every side is perfectly enchanting, where the air is deliciously pure,
the vegetation splendid, and the residents, in harmony with nature,
are friendly souls, good fellows, and devoid of Puritanism, though
two-thirds of the population are Calvinists. Under such conditions,
though there are the usual disadvantages of life in a small town, and
each one lives under the officious eye which makes private life almost
a public concern, on the other hand, the spirit of township--a sort
of patriotism, which cannot indeed take the place of a love of
home--flourishes triumphantly.

Thus the town of Sancerre is exceedingly proud of having given birth to
one of the glories of modern medicine, Horace Bianchon, and to an
author of secondary rank, Etienne Lousteau, one of our most successful
journalists. The district included under the municipality of Sancerre,
distressed at finding itself practically ruled by seven or eight large
landowners, the wire-pullers of the elections, tried to shake off the
electoral yoke of a creed which had reduced it to a rotten borough.
This little conspiracy, plotted by a handful of men whose vanity was
provoked, failed through the jealousy which the elevation of one of
them, as the inevitable result, roused in the breasts of the others.
This result showed the radical defect of the scheme, and the remedy then
suggested was to rally round a champion at the next election, in the
person of one of the two men who so gloriously represented Sancerre in
Paris circles.

This idea was extraordinarily advanced for the provinces, for since 1830
the nomination of parochial dignitaries has increased so greatly that
real statesmen are becoming rare indeed in the lower chamber.

In point of fact, this plan, of very doubtful outcome, was hatched in
the brain of the Superior Woman of the borough, _dux femina fasti_, but
with a view to personal interest. This idea was so widely rooted in this
lady’s past life, and so entirely comprehended her future prospects,
that it can scarcely be understood without some sketch of her antecedent
career.



Sancerre at that time could boast of a Superior Woman, long misprized
indeed, but now, about 1836, enjoying a pretty extensive local
reputation. This, too, was the period at which two Sancerrois in Paris
were attaining, each in his own line, to the highest degree of glory
for one, and of fashion for the other. Etienne Lousteau, a writer in
reviews, signed his name to contributions to a paper that had eight
thousand subscribers; and Bianchon, already chief physician to a
hospital, Officer of the Legion of Honor, and member of the Academy of
Sciences, had just been made a professor.

If it were not that the word would to many readers seem to imply a
degree of blame, it might be said that George Sand created _Sandism_, so
true is it that, morally speaking, all good has a reverse of evil. This
leprosy of sentimentality would have been charming. Still, _Sandism_ has
its good side, in that the woman attacked by it bases her assumption of
superiority on feelings scorned; she is a blue-stocking of sentiment;
and she is rather less of a bore, love to some extent neutralizing
literature. The most conspicuous result of George Sand’s celebrity
was to elicit the fact that France has a perfectly enormous number of
superior women, who have, however, till now been so generous as to leave
the field to the Marechal de Saxe’s granddaughter.

The Superior Woman of Sancerre lived at La Baudraye, a town-house
and country-house in one, within ten minutes of the town, and in the
village, or, if you will, the suburb of Saint-Satur. The La Baudrayes of
the present day have, as is frequently the case, thrust themselves in,
and are but a substitute for those La Baudrayes whose name, glorious in
the Crusades, figured in the chief events of the history of Le Berry.

The story must be told.

In the time of Louis XIV. a certain sheriff named Milaud, whose
forefathers had been furious Calvinists, was converted at the time of
the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. To encourage this movement in
one of the strong-holds of Calvinism, the King gave said Milaud a good
appointment in the “Waters and Forests,” granted him arms and the title
of Sire (or Lord) de la Baudraye, with the fief of the old and genuine
La Baudrayes. The descendants of the famous Captain la Baudraye fell,
sad to say, into one of the snares laid for heretics by the new decrees,
and were hanged--an unworthy deed of the great King’s.

Under Louis XV. Milaud de la Baudraye, from being a mere squire,
was made Chevalier, and had influence enough to obtain for his son
a cornet’s commission in the Musketeers. This officer perished at
Fontenoy, leaving a child, to whom King Louis XVI. subsequently granted
the privileges, by patent, of a farmer-general, in remembrance of his
father’s death on the field of battle.

This financier, a fashionable wit, great at charades, capping verses,
and posies to Chlora, lived in society, was a hanger-on to the Duc
de Nivernais, and fancied himself obliged to follow the nobility into
exile; but he took care to carry his money with him. Thus the rich
_emigre_ was able to assist more than one family of high rank.

In 1800, tired of hoping, and perhaps tired of lending, he returned
to Sancerre, bought back La Baudraye out of a feeling of vanity and
imaginary pride, quite intelligible in a sheriff’s grandson, though
under the consulate his prospects were but slender; all the more so,
indeed, because the ex-farmer-general had small hopes of his heir’s
perpetuating the new race of La Baudraye.

Jean Athanase Polydore Milaud de la Baudraye, his only son, more than
delicate from his birth, was very evidently the child of a man whose
constitution had early been exhausted by the excesses in which rich men
indulge, who then marry at the first stage of premature old age, and
thus bring degeneracy into the highest circles of society. During the
years of the emigration Madame de la Baudraye, a girl of no fortune,
chosen for her noble birth, had patiently reared this sallow, sickly
boy, for whom she had the devoted love mothers feel for such changeling
creatures. Her death--she was a Casteran de la Tour--contributed to
bring about Monsieur de la Baudraye’s return to France.

This Lucullus of the Milauds, when he died, left his son the fief,
stripped indeed of its fines and dues, but graced with weathercocks
bearing his coat-of-arms, a thousand louis-d’or--in 1802 a considerable
sum of money--and certain receipts for claims on very distinguished
_emigres_ enclosed in a pocketbook full of verses, with this inscription
on the wrapper, _Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas_.

Young La Baudraye did not die, but he owed his life to habits of
monastic strictness; to the economy of action which Fontenelle preached
as the religion of the invalid; and, above all, to the air of Sancerre
and the influence of its fine elevation, whence a panorama over the
valley of the Loire may be seen extending for forty leagues.

From 1802 to 1815 young La Baudraye added several plots to his
vineyards, and devoted himself to the culture of the vine. The
Restoration seemed to him at first so insecure that he dared not go to
Paris to claim his debts; but after Napoleon’s death he tried to
turn his father’s collection of autographs into money, though not
understanding the deep philosophy which had thus mixed up I O U’s and
copies of verses. But the winegrower lost so much time in impressing his
identity on the Duke of Navarreins “and others,” as he phrased it,
that he came back to Sancerre, to his beloved vintage, without having
obtained anything but offers of service.

The Restoration had raised the nobility to such a degree of lustre as
made La Baudraye wish to justify his ambitions by having an heir. This
happy result of matrimony he considered doubtful, or he would not so
long have postponed the step; however, finding himself still above
ground in 1823, at the age of forty-three, a length of years which no
doctor, astrologer, or midwife would have dared to promise him, he hoped
to earn the reward of his sober life. And yet his choice showed such a
lack of prudence in regard to his frail constitution, that the malicious
wit of a country town could not help thinking it must be the result of
some deep calculation.

Just at this time His Eminence, Monseigneur the Archbishop of Bourges,
had converted to the Catholic faith a young person, the daughter of one
of the citizen families, who were the first upholders of Calvinism, and
who, thanks to their obscurity or to some compromise with Heaven, had
escaped from the persecutions under Louis XIV. The Piedefers--a name
that was obviously one of the quaint nicknames assumed by the champions
of the Reformation--had set up as highly respectable cloth merchants.
But in the reign of Louis XVI., Abraham Piedefer fell into difficulties,
and at his death in 1786 left his two children in extreme poverty. One
of them, Tobie Piedefer, went out to the Indies, leaving the pittance
they had inherited to his elder brother. During the Revolution Moise
Piedefer bought up the nationalized land, pulled down abbeys and
churches with all the zeal of his ancestors, oddly enough, and married
a Catholic, the only daughter of a member of the Convention who had
perished on the scaffold. This ambitious Piedefer died in 1819, leaving
a little girl of remarkable beauty. This child, brought up in the
Calvinist faith, was named Dinah, in accordance with the custom in use
among the sect, of taking their Christian names from the Bible, so as to
have nothing in common with the Saints of the Roman Church.

Mademoiselle Dinah Piedefer was placed by her mother in one of the best
schools in Bourges, that kept by the Demoiselles Chamarolles, and was
soon as highly distinguished for the qualities of her mind as for her
beauty; but she found herself snubbed by girls of birth and fortune,
destined by-and-by to play a greater part in the world than a mere
plebeian, the daughter of a mother who was dependent on the settlement
of Piedefer’s estate. Dinah, having raised herself for the moment above
her companions, now aimed at remaining on a level with them for the rest
of her life. She determined, therefore, to renounce Calvinism, in the
hope that the Cardinal would extend his favor to his proselyte
and interest himself in her prospects. You may from this judge of
Mademoiselle Dinah’s superiority, since at the age of seventeen she was
a convert solely from ambition.

The Archbishop, possessed with the idea that Dinah Piedefer would adorn
society, was anxious to see her married. But every family to whom the
prelate made advances took fright at a damsel gifted with the looks of
a princess, who was reputed to be the cleverest of Mademoiselle
Chamarolles’ pupils and who, at the somewhat theatrical ceremonial of
prize-giving, always took a leading part. A thousand crowns a year,
which was as much as she could hope for from the estate of La Hautoy
when divided between the mother and daughter, would be a mere trifle in
comparison with the expenses into which a husband would be led by the
personal advantages of so brilliant a creature.

As soon as all these facts came to the ears of little Polydore de la
Baudraye--for they were the talk of every circle in the Department of
the Cher--he went to Bourges just when Madame Piedefer, a devotee at
high services, had almost made up her own mind and her daughter’s to
take the first comer with well-lined pockets--the first _chien coiffe_,
as they say in Le Berry. And if the Cardinal was delighted to receive
Monsieur de la Baudraye, Monsieur de la Baudraye was even better pleased
to receive a wife from the hands of the Cardinal. The little gentleman
only demanded of His Eminence a formal promise to support his claims
with the President of the Council to enable him to recover his debts
from the Duc de Navarreins “and others” by a lien on their indemnities.
This method, however, seemed to the able Minister then occupying the
Pavillon Marsan rather too sharp practice, and he gave the vine-owner to
understand that his business should be attended to all in good time.

It is easy to imagine the excitement produced in the Sancerre district
by the news of Monsieur de la Baudraye’s imprudent marriage.

“It is quite intelligible,” said President Boirouge; “the little man was
very much startled, as I am told, at hearing that handsome young Milaud,
the Attorney-General’s deputy at Nevers, say to Monsieur de Clagny as
they were looking at the turrets of La Baudraye, ‘That will
be mine some day.’--‘But,’ says Clagny, ‘he may marry and have
children.’--‘Impossible!’--So you may imagine how such a changeling as
little La Baudraye must hate that colossal Milaud.”

There was at Nevers a plebeian branch of the Milauds, which had grown so
rich in the cutlery trade that the present representative of that branch
had been brought up to the civil service, in which he had enjoyed the
patronage of Marchangy, now dead.

It will be as well to eliminate from this story, in which moral
developments play the principal part, the baser material interests which
alone occupied Monsieur de la Baudraye, by briefly relating the results
of his negotiations in Paris. This will also throw light on certain
mysterious phenomena of contemporary history, and the underground
difficulties in matters of politics which hampered the Ministry at the
time of the Restoration.



The promises of Ministers were so illusory that Monsieur de la Baudraye
determined on going to Paris at the time when the Cardinal’s presence
was required there by the sitting of the Chambers.

This is how the Duc de Navarreins, the principal debtor threatened by
Monsieur de la Baudraye, got out of the scrape.

The country gentleman, lodging at the Hotel de Mayence, Rue
Saint-Honore, near the Place Vendome, one morning received a visit from
a confidential agent of the Ministry, who was an expert in “winding up”
 business. This elegant personage, who stepped out of an elegant cab, and
was dressed in the most elegant style, was requested to walk up to No.
3--that is to say, to the third floor, to a small room where he found
his provincial concocting a cup of coffee over his bedroom fire.

“Is it to Monsieur Milaud de la Baudraye that I have the honor--”

“Yes,” said the little man, draping himself in his dressing-gown.

After examining this garment, the illicit offspring of an old chine
wrapper of Madame Piedefer’s and a gown of the late lamented Madame de
la Baudraye, the emissary considered the man, the dressing-gown, and
the little stove on which the milk was boiling in a tin saucepan, as so
homogeneous and characteristic, that he deemed it needless to beat about
the bush.

“I will lay a wager, monsieur,” said he, audaciously, “that you dine for
forty sous at Hurbain’s in the Palais Royal.”

“Pray, why?”

“Oh, I know you, having seen you there,” replied the Parisian with
perfect gravity. “All the princes’ creditors dine there. You know that
you recover scarcely ten per cent on debts from these fine gentlemen.
I would not give you five per cent on a debt to be recovered from
the estate of the late Duc d’Orleans--nor even,” he added in a low
voice--“from MONSIEUR.”

“So you have come to buy up the bills?” said La Baudraye, thinking
himself very clever.

“Buy them!” said his visitor. “Why, what do you take me for? I am
Monsieur des Lupeaulx, Master of Appeals, Secretary-General to the
Ministry, and I have come to propose an arrangement.”

“What is that?”

“Of course, monsieur, you know the position of your debtor--”

“Of my debtors--”

“Well, monsieur, you understand the position of your debtors; they stand
high in the King’s good graces, but they have no money, and are obliged
to make a good show.--Again, you know the difficulties of the political
situation. The aristocracy has to be rehabilitated in the face of a very
strong force of the third estate. The King’s idea--and France does
him scant justice--is to create a peerage as a national institution
analogous to the English peerage. To realize this grand idea we need
years--and millions.--_Noblesse oblige_. The Duc de Navarreins, who is,
as you know, first gentleman of the Bedchamber to the King, does not
repudiate his debt; but he cannot--Now, be reasonable.--Consider the
state of politics. We are emerging from the pit of the Revolution.--and
you yourself are noble--He simply cannot pay--”

“Monsieur--”

“You are hasty,” said des Lupeaulx. “Listen. He cannot pay in money.
Well, then; you, a clever man, can take payment in favors--Royal or
Ministerial.”

“What! When in 1793 my father put down one hundred thousand--”

“My dear sir, recrimination is useless. Listen to a simple statement in
political arithmetic: The collectorship at Sancerre is vacant; a certain
paymaster-general of the forces has a claim on it, but he has no chance
of getting it; you have the chance--and no claim. You will get the
place. You will hold it for three months, you will then resign, and
Monsieur Gravier will give twenty thousand francs for it. In addition,
the Order of the Legion of Honor will be conferred on you.”

“Well, that is something,” said the wine-grower, tempted by the money
rather than by the red ribbon.

“But then,” said des Lupeaulx, “you must show your gratitude to His
Excellency by restoring to Monseigneur the Duc de Navarreins all your
claims on him.”

La Baudraye returned to Sancerre as Collector of Taxes. Six months
later he was superseded by Monsieur Gravier, regarded as one of the most
agreeable financiers who had served under the Empire, and who was of
course presented by Monsieur de la Baudraye to his wife.

As soon as he was released from his functions, Monsieur de la Baudraye
returned to Paris to come to an understanding with some other debtors.
This time he was made a Referendary under the Great Seal, Baron, and
Officer of the Legion of Honor. He sold the appointment as Referendary;
and then the Baron de la Baudraye called on his last remaining debtors,
and reappeared at Sancerre as Master of Appeals, with an appointment
as Royal Commissioner to a commercial association established in the
Nivernais, at a salary of six thousand francs, an absolute sinecure. So
the worthy La Baudraye, who was supposed to have committed a financial
blunder, had, in fact, done very good business in the choice of a wife.

Thanks to sordid economy and an indemnity paid him for the estate
belonging to his father, nationalized and sold in 1793, by the year 1827
the little man could realize the dream of his whole life. By paying
four hundred thousand francs down, and binding himself to further
instalments, which compelled him to live for six years on the air as it
came, to use his own expression, he was able to purchase the estate of
Anzy on the banks of the Loire, about two leagues above Sancerre, and
its magnificent castle built by Philibert de l’Orme, the admiration of
every connoisseur, and for five centuries the property of the Uxelles
family. At last he was one of the great landowners of the province!
It is not absolutely certain that the satisfaction of knowing that an
entail had been created, by letters patent dated back to December 1820,
including the estates of Anzy, of La Baudraye, and of La Hautoy, was
any compensation to Dinah on finding herself reduced to unconfessed
penuriousness till 1835.

This sketch of the financial policy of the first Baron de la Baudraye
explains the man completely. Those who are familiar with the manias of
country folks will recognize in him the _land-hunger_ which becomes such
a consuming passion to the exclusion of every other; a sort of avarice
displayed in the sight of the sun, which often leads to ruin by a want
of balance between the interest on mortgages and the products of the
soil. Those who, from 1802 till 1827, had merely laughed at the little
man as they saw him trotting to Saint-Thibault and attending to his
business, like a merchant living on his vineyards, found the answer to
the riddle when the ant-lion seized his prey, after waiting for the day
when the extravagance of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse culminated in the
sale of that splendid property.

Madame Piedefer came to live with her daughter. The combined fortunes of
Monsieur de la Baudraye and his mother-in-law, who had been content to
accept an annuity of twelve hundred francs on the lands of La Hautoy
which she handed over to him, amounted to an acknowledged income of
about fifteen thousand francs.

During the early days of her married life, Dinah had effected some
alterations which had made the house at La Baudraye a very pleasant
residence. She turned a spacious forecourt into a formal garden, pulling
down wine-stores, presses, and shabby outhouses. Behind the manor-house,
which, though small, did not lack style with its turrets and gables,
she laid out a second garden with shrubs, flower-beds, and lawns, and
divided it from the vineyards by a wall hidden under creepers. She
also made everything within doors as comfortable as their narrow
circumstances allowed.

In order not to be ruined by a young lady so very superior as Dinah
seemed to be, Monsieur de la Baudraye was shrewd enough to say nothing
as to the recovery of debts in Paris. This dead secrecy as to his money
matters gave a touch of mystery to his character, and lent him dignity
in his wife’s eyes during the first years of their married life--so
majestic is silence!

The alterations effected at La Baudraye made everybody eager to see the
young mistress, all the more so because Dinah would never show herself,
nor receive any company, before she felt quite settled in her home and
had thoroughly studied the inhabitants, and, above all, her taciturn
husband. When, one spring morning in 1825, pretty Madame de la Baudraye
was first seen walking on the Mall in a blue velvet dress, with her
mother in black velvet, there was quite an excitement in Sancerre. This
dress confirmed the young woman’s reputation for superiority, brought
up, as she had been, in the capital of Le Berry. Every one was afraid
lest in entertaining this phoenix of the Department, the conversation
should not be clever enough; and, of course, everybody was constrained
in the presence of Madame de la Baudraye, who produced a sort of terror
among the woman-folk. As they admired a carpet of Indian shawl-pattern
in the La Baudraye drawing-room, a Pompadour writing-table carved and
gilt, brocade window curtains, and a Japanese bowl full of flowers on
the round table among a selection of the newest books; when they heard
the fair Dinah playing at sight, without making the smallest demur
before seating herself at the piano, the idea they conceived of her
superiority assumed vast proportions. That she might never allow herself
to become careless or the victim of bad taste, Dinah had determined to
keep herself up to the mark as to the fashions and latest developments
of luxury by an active correspondence with Anna Grossetete, her bosom
friend at Mademoiselle Chamarolles’ school.

Anna, thanks to a fine fortune, had married the Comte de Fontaine’s
third son. Thus those ladies who visited at La Baudraye were perpetually
piqued by Dinah’s success in leading the fashion; do what they would,
they were always behind, or, as they say on the turf, distanced.

While all these trifles gave rise to malignant envy in the ladies of
Sancerre, Dinah’s conversation and wit engendered absolute aversion.
In her ambition to keep her mind on the level of Parisian brilliancy,
Madame de la Baudraye allowed no vacuous small talk in her presence, no
old-fashioned compliments, no pointless remarks; she would never endure
the yelping of tittle-tattle, the backstairs slander which forms the
staple of talk in the country. She liked to hear of discoveries in
science or art, or the latest pieces at the theatres, the newest poems,
and by airing the cant words of the day she made a show of uttering
thoughts.

The Abbe Duret, Cure of Sancerre, an old man of a lost type of clergy
in France, a man of the world with a liking for cards, had not dared to
indulge this taste in so liberal a district as Sancerre; he, therefore,
was delighted at Madame de la Baudraye’s coming, and they got on
together to admiration. The _sous-prefet_, one Vicomte de Chargeboeuf,
was delighted to find in Madame de la Baudraye’s drawing-room a sort
of oasis where there was a truce to provincial life. As to Monsieur de
Clagny, the Public Prosecutor, his admiration for the fair Dinah kept
him bound to Sancerre. The enthusiastic lawyer refused all promotion,
and became a quite pious adorer of this angel of grace and beauty. He
was a tall, lean man, with a minatory countenance set off by terrible
eyes in deep black circles, under enormous eyebrows; and his eloquence,
very unlike his love-making, could be incisive.

Monsieur Gravier was a little, round man, who in the days of the Empire
had been a charming ballad-singer; it was this accomplishment that had
won him the high position of Paymaster-General of the forces. Having
mixed himself up in certain important matters in Spain with generals at
that time in opposition, he had made the most of these connections to
the Minister, who, in consideration of the place he had lost, promised
him the Receivership at Sancerre, and then allowed him to pay for the
appointment. The frivolous spirit and light tone of the Empire had
become ponderous in Monsieur Gravier; he did not, or would not,
understand the wide difference between manners under the Restoration
and under the Empire. Still, he conceived of himself as far superior
to Monsieur de Clagny; his style was in better taste; he followed the
fashion, was to be seen in a buff waistcoat, gray trousers, and neat,
tightly-fitting coats; he wore a fashionable silk tie slipped through
a diamond ring, while the lawyer never dressed in anything but
black--coat, trousers, and waistcoat alike, and those often shabby.

These four men were the first to go into ecstasies over Dinah’s
cultivation, good taste, and refinement, and pronounced her a woman of
most superior mind. Then the women said to each other, “Madame de la
Baudraye must laugh at us behind our back.”

This view, which was more or less correct, kept them from visiting at La
Baudraye. Dinah, attainted and convicted of pedantry, because she
spoke grammatically, was nicknamed the Sappho of Saint-Satur. At last
everybody made insolent game of the great qualities of the woman who
had thus roused the enmity of the ladies of Sancerre. And they ended by
denying a superiority--after all, merely comparative!--which emphasized
their ignorance, and did not forgive it. Where the whole population is
hunch-backed, a straight shape is the monstrosity; Dinah was regarded as
monstrous and dangerous, and she found herself in a desert.

Astonished at seeing the women of the neighborhood only at long
intervals, and for visits of a few minutes, Dinah asked Monsieur de
Clagny the reason of this state of things.

“You are too superior a woman to be liked by other women,” said the
lawyer.

Monsieur Gravier, when questioned by the forlorn fair, only, after much
entreaty, replied:

“Well, lady fair, you are not satisfied to be merely charming. You are
clever and well educated, you know every book that comes out, you love
poetry, you are a musician, and you talk delightfully. Women cannot
forgive so much superiority.”

Men said to Monsieur de la Baudraye:

“You who have such a Superior Woman for a wife are very fortunate----”
 And at last he himself would say:

“I who have a Superior Woman for a wife, am very fortunate,” etc.

Madame Piedefer, flattered through her daughter, also allowed herself to
say such things--“My daughter, who is a very Superior Woman, was writing
yesterday to Madame de Fontaine such and such a thing.”

Those who know the world--France, Paris--know how true it is that many
celebrities are thus created.



Two years later, by the end of the year 1825, Dinah de la Baudraye was
accused of not choosing to have any visitors but men; then it was said
that she did not care for women--and that was a crime. Not a thing
could she do, not her most trifling action, could escape criticism and
misrepresentation. After making every sacrifice that a well-bred woman
can make, and placing herself entirely in the right, Madame de la
Baudraye was so rash as to say to a false friend who condoled with her
on her isolation:

“I would rather have my bowl empty than with anything in it!”

This speech produced a terrible effect on Sancerre, and was cruelly
retorted on the Sappho of Saint-Satur when, seeing her childless after
five years of married life, _little_ de la Baudraye became a byword
for laughter. To understand this provincial witticism, readers may be
reminded of the Bailli de Ferrette--some, no doubt, having known him--of
whom it was said that he was the bravest man in Europe for daring to
walk on his legs, and who was accused of putting lead in his shoes to
save himself from being blown away. Monsieur de la Baudraye, a sallow
and almost diaphanous creature, would have been engaged by the Bailli de
Ferrette as first gentleman-in-waiting if that diplomatist had been the
Grand Duke of Baden instead of being merely his envoy.

Monsieur de la Baudraye, whose legs were so thin that, for mere decency,
he wore false calves, whose thighs were like the arms of an average
man, whose body was not unlike that of a cockchafer, would have been an
advantageous foil to the Bailli de Ferrette. As he walked, the little
vine-owner’s leg-pads often twisted round on to his shins, so little did
he make a secret of them, and he would thank any one who warned him of
this little mishap. He wore knee-breeches, black silk stockings, and a
white waistcoat till 1824. After his marriage he adopted blue trousers
and boots with heels, which made Sancerre declare that he had added two
inches to his stature that he might come up to his wife’s chin. For ten
years he was always seen in the same little bottle-green coat with large
white-metal buttons, and a black stock that accentuated his cold stingy
face, lighted up by gray-blue eyes as keen and passionless as a cat’s.
Being very gentle, as men are who act on a fixed plan of conduct, he
seemed to make his wife happy by never contradicting her; he allowed
her to do the talking, and was satisfied to move with the deliberate
tenacity of an insect.

Dinah, adored for her beauty, in which she had no rival, and admired
for her cleverness by the most gentlemanly men of the place, encouraged
their admiration by conversations, for which it was subsequently
asserted, she prepared herself beforehand. Finding herself listened to
with rapture, she soon began to listen to herself, enjoyed haranguing
her audience, and at last regarded her friends as the chorus in a
tragedy, there only to give her her cues. In fact, she had a very
fine collection of phrases and ideas, derived either from books or by
assimilating the opinions of her companions, and thus became a sort of
mechanical instrument, going off on a round of phrases as soon as some
chance remark released the spring. To do her justice, Dinah was choke
full of knowledge, and read everything, even medical books, statistics,
science, and jurisprudence; for she did not know how to spend her
days when she had reviewed her flower-beds and given her orders to the
gardener. Gifted with an excellent memory, and the talent which some
women have for hitting on the right word, she could talk on any subject
with the lucidity of a studied style. And so men came from Cosne, from
la Charite, and from Nevers, on the right bank; from Lere, Vailly,
Argent, Blancafort, and Aubigny, on the left bank, to be introduced to
Madame de la Baudraye, as they used in Switzerland, to be introduced to
Madame de Stael. Those who only once heard the round of tunes emitted by
this musical snuff-box went away amazed, and told such wonders of Dinah
as made all the women jealous for ten leagues round.

There is an indescribable mental headiness in the admiration we inspire,
or in the effect of playing a part, which fends off criticism from
reaching the idol. An atmosphere, produced perhaps by unceasing nervous
tension, forms a sort of halo, through which the world below is seen.
How otherwise can we account for the perennial good faith which leads
to so many repeated presentments of the same effects, and the constant
ignoring of warnings given by children, such a terror to their parents,
or by husbands, so familiar as they are with the peacock airs of their
wives? Monsieur de la Baudraye had the frankness of a man who opens an
umbrella at the first drop of rain. When his wife was started on the
subject of Negro emancipation or the improvement of convict prisons,
he would take up his little blue cap and vanish without a sound, in the
certainty of being able to get to Saint-Thibault to see off a cargo of
puncheons, and return an hour later to find the discussion approaching a
close. Or, if he had no business to attend to, he would go for a walk on
the Mall, whence he commanded the lovely panorama of the Loire valley,
and take a draught of fresh air while his wife was performing a sonata
in words, or a dialectical duet.

Once fairly established as a Superior Woman, Dinah was eager to prove
her devotion to the most remarkable creations of art. She threw herself
into the propaganda of the romantic school, including, under Art, poetry
and painting, literature and sculpture, furniture and the opera. Thus
she became a mediaevalist. She was also interested in any treasures that
dated from the Renaissance, and employed her allies as so many devoted
commission agents. Soon after she was married, she had become possessed
of the Rougets’ furniture, sold at Issoudun early in 1824. She purchased
some very good things at Nivernais and the Haute-Loire. At the New
Year and on her birthday her friends never failed to give her some
curiosities. These fancies found favor in the eyes of Monsieur de la
Baudraye; they gave him an appearance of sacrificing a few crowns to his
wife’s taste. In point of fact, his land mania allowed him to think of
nothing but the estate of Anzy.

These “antiquities” at that time cost much less than modern furniture.
By the end of five or six years the ante-room, the dining-room, the two
drawing-rooms, and the boudoir which Dinah had arranged on the ground
floor of La Baudraye, every spot even to the staircase, were crammed
with masterpieces collected in the four adjacent departments. These
surroundings, which were called _queer_ by the neighbors, were quite in
harmony with Dinah. All these Marvels, so soon to be the rage, struck
the imagination of the strangers introduced to her; they came expecting
something unusual; and they found their expectations surpassed when,
behind a bower of flowers, they saw these catacombs full of old things,
piled up as Sommerard used to pile them--that “Old Mortality” of
furniture. And then these finds served as so many springs which, turned
on by a question, played off an essay on Jean Goujon, Michel Columb,
Germain Pilon, Boulle, Van Huysum, and Boucher, the great native painter
of Le Berry; on Clodion, the carver of wood, on Venetian mirrors, on
Brustolone, an Italian tenor who was the Michael-Angelo of boxwood
and holm oak; on the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and
seventeenth centuries, on the glazes of Bernard de Palissy, the enamels
of Petitot, the engravings of Albrecht Durer--whom she called Dur;
on illuminations on vellum, on Gothic architecture, early decorated,
flamboyant and pure--enough to turn an old man’s brain and fire a young
man with enthusiasm.

Madame de la Baudraye, possessed with the idea of waking up Sancerre,
tried to form a so-called literary circle. The Presiding Judge, Monsieur
Boirouge, who happened to have a house and garden on his hands, part of
the Popinot-Chandier property, favored the notion of this _coterie_.
The wily Judge talked over the rules of the society with Madame de la
Baudraye; he proposed to figure as one of the founders, and to let the
house for fifteen years to the literary club. By the time it had existed
a year the members were playing dominoes, billiards, and bouillotte, and
drinking mulled wine, punch, and liqueurs. A few elegant little suppers
were then given, and some masked balls during the Carnival. As to
literature--there were the newspapers. Politics and business were
discussed. Monsieur de la Baudraye was constantly there--on his wife’s
account, as she said jestingly.

This result deeply grieved the Superior Woman, who despaired of
Sancerre, and collected the wit of the neighborhood in her own
drawing-room. Nevertheless, and in spite of the efforts of Messieurs de
Chargeboeuf, Gravier, and de Clagny, of the Abbe Duret and the two chief
magistrates, of a young doctor, and a young Assistant Judge--all blind
admirers of Dinah’s--there were occasions when, weary of discussion,
they allowed themselves an excursion into the domain of agreeable
frivolity which constitutes the common basis of worldly conversation.
Monsieur Gravier called this “from grave to gay.” The Abbe Duret’s
rubber made another pleasing variety on the monologues of the oracle.
The three rivals, tired of keeping their minds up to the level of the
“high range of discussion”--as they called their conversation--but not
daring to confess it, would sometimes turn with ingratiating hints to
the old priest.

“Monsieur le Cure is dying for his game,” they would say.

The wily priest lent himself very readily to the little trick. He
protested.

“We should lose too much by ceasing to listen to our inspired hostess!”
 and so he would incite Dinah’s magnanimity to take pity at last on her
dear Abbe.

This bold manoeuvre, a device of the Sous-prefet’s, was repeated with
so much skill that Dinah never suspected her slaves of escaping to the
prison yard, so to speak, of the cardtable; and they would leave her one
of the younger functionaries to harry.

One young landowner, and the dandy of Sancerre, fell away from Dinah’s
good graces in consequence of some rash demonstrations. After soliciting
the honor of admission to this little circle, where he flattered himself
he could snatch the blossom from the constituted authorities who guarded
it, he was so unfortunate as to yawn in the middle of an explanation
Dinah was favoring him with--for the fourth time, it is true--of the
philosophy of Kant. Monsieur de la Thaumassiere, the grandson of the
historian of Le Berry, was thenceforth regarded as a man entirely bereft
of soul and brains.

The three devotees _en titre_ each submitted to these exorbitant demands
on their mind and attention, in hope of a crowning triumph, when at last
Dinah should become human; for neither of them was so bold as to imagine
that Dinah would give up her innocence as a wife till she should have
lost all her illusions. In 1826, when she was surrounded by adorers,
Dinah completed her twentieth year, and the Abbe Duret kept her in
a sort of fervid Catholicism; so her worshipers had to be content to
overwhelm her with little attentions and small services, only too happy
to be taken for the carpet-knights of this sovereign lady, by strangers
admitted to spend an evening or two at La Baudraye.

“Madame de la Baudraye is a fruit that must be left to ripen.” This was
the opinion of Monsieur Gravier, who was waiting.

As to the lawyer, he wrote letters four pages long, to which Dinah
replied in soothing speech as she walked, leaning on his arm, round and
round the lawn after dinner.

Madame de la Baudraye, thus guarded by three passions, and always under
the eye of her pious mother, escaped the malignity of slander. It was so
evident to all Sancerre that no two of these three men would ever leave
the third alone with Madame de la Baudraye, that their jealousy was a
comedy to the lookers-on.

To reach Saint-Thibault from Caesar’s Gate there is a way much shorter
than that by the ramparts, down what is known in mountainous districts
as a _coursiere_, called at Sancerre _le Casse-cou_, or Break-neck
Alley. The name is significant as applied to a path down the steepest
part of the hillside, thickly strewn with stones, and shut in by the
high banks of the vineyards on each side. By way of the Break-neck the
distance from Sancerre to La Baudraye is much abridged. The ladies of
the place, jealous of the Sappho of Saint-Satur, were wont to walk on
the Mall, looking down this Longchamp of the bigwigs, whom they would
stop and engage in conversation--sometimes the Sous-prefet and
sometimes the Public Prosecutor--and who would listen with every sign of
impatience or uncivil absence of mind. As the turrets of La Baudraye are
visible from the Mall, many a younger man came to contemplate the abode
of Dinah while envying the ten or twelve privileged persons who might
spend their afternoons with the Queen of the neighborhood.

Monsieur de la Baudraye was not slow to discover the advantage he, as
Dinah’s husband, held over his wife’s adorers, and he made use of them
without any disguise, obtaining a remission of taxes, and gaining two
lawsuits. In every litigation he used the Public Prosecutor’s name with
such good effect that the matter was carried no further, and, like all
undersized men, he was contentious and litigious in business, though in
the gentlest manner.

At the same time, the more certainly guiltless she was, the less
conceivable did Madame de la Baudraye’s position seem to the prying eyes
of these women. Frequently, at the house of the Presidente de Boirouge,
the ladies of a certain age would spend a whole evening discussing
the La Baudraye household, among themselves of course. They all had
suspicions of a mystery, a secret such as always interests women who
have had some experience of life. And, in fact, at La Baudraye one of
those slow and monotonous conjugal tragedies was being played out which
would have remained for ever unknown if the merciless scalpel of the
nineteenth century, guided by the insistent demand for novelty, had not
dissected the darkest corners of the heart, or at any rate those which
the decency of past centuries left unopened. And that domestic drama
sufficiently accounts for Dinah’s immaculate virtue during her early
married life.



A young lady, whose triumphs at school had been the outcome of her
pride, and whose first scheme in life had been rewarded by a victory,
was not likely to pause in such a brilliant career. Frail as Monsieur
de la Baudraye might seem, he was really an unhoped-for good match for
Mademoiselle Dinah Piedefer. But what was the hidden motive of this
country landowner when, at forty-four, he married a girl of seventeen;
and what could his wife make out of the bargain? This was the text of
Dinah’s first meditations.

The little man never behaved quite as his wife expected. To begin with,
he allowed her to take the five precious acres now wasted in pleasure
grounds round La Baudraye, and paid, almost with generosity, the seven
or eight thousand francs required by Dinah for improvements in the
house, enabling her to buy the furniture at the Rougets’ sale at
Issoudun, and to redecorate her rooms in various styles--Mediaeval,
Louis XIV., and Pompadour. The young wife found it difficult to believe
that Monsieur de la Baudraye was so miserly as he was reputed, or else
she must have great influence with him. The illusion lasted a year and a
half.

After Monsieur de la Baudraye’s second journey to Paris, Dinah
discovered in him the Artic coldness of a provincial miser whenever
money was in question. The first time she asked for supplies she played
the sweetest of the comedies of which Eve invented the secret; but
the little man put it plainly to his wife that he gave her two hundred
francs a month for her personal expenses, and paid Madame Piedefer
twelve hundred francs a year as a charge on the lands of La Hautoy, and
that this was two hundred francs a year more than was agreed to under
the marriage settlement.

“I say nothing of the cost of housekeeping,” he said in conclusion. “You
may give your friends cake and tea in the evening, for you must have
some amusement. But I, who spent but fifteen hundred francs a year as a
bachelor, now spend six thousand, including rates and repairs, and
this is rather too much in relation to the nature of our property. A
winegrower is never sure of what his expenses may be--the making, the
duty, the casks--while the returns depend on a scorching day or a sudden
frost. Small owners, like us, whose income is far from being fixed, must
base their estimates on their minimum, for they have no means of making
up a deficit or a loss. What would become of us if a wine merchant
became bankrupt? In my opinion, promissory notes are so many
cabbage-leaves. To live as we are living, we ought always to have
a year’s income in hand and count on no more than two-thirds of our
returns.”

Any form of resistance is enough to make a woman vow to subdue it; Dinah
flung herself against a will of iron padded round with gentleness. She
tried to fill the little man’s soul with jealousy and alarms, but it
was stockaded with insolent confidence. He left Dinah, when he went to
Paris, with all the conviction of Medor in Angelique’s fidelity. When
she affected cold disdain, to nettle this changeling by the scorn a
courtesan sometimes shows to her “protector,” and which acts on him with
the certainty of the screw of a winepress, Monsieur de la Baudraye gazed
at his wife with fixed eyes, like those of a cat which, in the midst of
domestic broils, waits till a blow is threatened before stirring from
its place. The strange, speechless uneasiness that was perceptible under
his mute indifference almost terrified the young wife of twenty; she
could not at first understand the selfish quiescence of this man, who
might be compared to a cracked pot, and who, in order to live, regulated
his existence with the unchangeable regularity which a clockmaker
requires of a clock. So the little man always evaded his wife, while she
always hit out, as it were, ten feet above his head.

Dinah’s fits of fury when she saw herself condemned never to escape from
La Baudraye and Sancerre are more easily imagined than described--she
who had dreamed of handling a fortune and managing the dwarf whom she,
the giant, had at first humored in order to command. In the hope of some
day making her appearance on the greater stage of Paris, she accepted
the vulgar incense of her attendant knights with a view to seeing
Monsieur de la Baudraye’s name drawn from the electoral urn; for she
supposed him to be ambitious, after seeing him return thrice from Paris,
each time a step higher on the social ladder. But when she struck on the
man’s heart, it was as though she had tapped on marble! The man who had
been Receiver-General and Referendary, who was now Master of Appeals,
Officer of the Legion of Honor, and Royal Commissioner, was but a mole
throwing up its little hills round and round a vineyard! Then some
lamentations were poured into the heart of the Public Prosecutor, of the
Sous-prefet, even of Monsieur Gravier, and they all increased in
their devotion to this sublime victim; for, like all women, she never
mentioned her speculative schemes, and--again like all women--finding
such speculation vain, she ceased to speculate.

Dinah, tossed by mental storms, was still undecided when, in the autumn
of 1827, the news was told of the purchase by the Baron de la Baudraye
of the estate of Anzy. Then the little old man showed an impulsion of
pride and glee which for a few months changed the current of his wife’s
ideas; she fancied there was a hidden vein of greatness in the man when
she found him applying for a patent of entail. In his triumph the Baron
exclaimed:

“Dinah, you shall be a countess yet!”

There was then a patched-up reunion between the husband and wife, such
as can never endure, and which only humiliated and fatigued a woman
whose apparent superiority was unreal, while her unseen superiority was
genuine. This whimsical medley is commoner than people think. Dinah, who
was ridiculous from the perversity of her cleverness, had really great
qualities of soul, but circumstances did not bring these rarer powers to
light, while a provincial life debased the small change of her wit from
day to day. Monsieur de la Baudraye, on the contrary, devoid of soul, of
strength, and of wit, was fated to figure as a man of character, simply
by pursuing a plan of conduct which he was too feeble to change.



There was in their lives a first phase, lasting six years, during which
Dinah, alas! became utterly provincial. In Paris there are several kinds
of women: the duchess and the financier’s wife, the ambassadress and the
consul’s wife, the wife of the minister who is a minister, and of him
who is no longer a minister; then there is the lady--quite the lady--of
the right bank of the Seine and of the left. But in the country there is
but one kind of woman, and she, poor thing, is the provincial woman.

This remark points to one of the sores of modern society. It must be
clearly understood: France in the nineteenth century is divided into two
broad zones--Paris, and the provinces. The provinces jealous of Paris;
Paris never thinking of the provinces but to demand money. Of old, Paris
was the Capital of the provinces, and the court ruled the Capital; now,
all Paris is the Court, and all the country is the town.

However lofty, beautiful, and clever a girl born in any department of
France may be on entering life, if, like Dinah Piedefer, she marries
in the country and remains there, she inevitably becomes the provincial
woman. In spite of every determination, the commonplace of second-rate
ideas, indifference to dress, the culture of vulgar people, swamp the
sublimer essence hidden in the youthful plant; all is over, it falls
into decay. How should it be otherwise? From their earliest years
girls bred in the country see none but provincials; they cannot imagine
anything superior, their choice lies among mediocrities; provincial
fathers marry their daughters to provincial sons; crossing the races is
never thought of, and the brain inevitably degenerates, so that in many
country towns intellect is as rare as the breed is hideous. Mankind
becomes dwarfed in mind and body, for the fatal principle of conformity
of fortune governs every matrimonial alliance. Men of talent, artists,
superior brains--every bird of brilliant plumage flies to Paris. The
provincial woman, inferior in herself, is also inferior through
her husband. How is she to live happy under this crushing twofold
consciousness?

But there is a third and terrible element besides her congenital and
conjugal inferiority which contributes to make the figure arid and
gloomy; to reduce it, narrow it, distort it fatally. Is not one of the
most flattering unctions a woman can lay to her soul the assurance of
being something in the existence of a superior man, chosen by herself,
wittingly, as if to have some revenge on marriage, wherein her tastes
were so little consulted? But if in the country the husbands are
inferior beings, the bachelors are no less so. When a provincial wife
commits her “little sin,” she falls in love with some so-called handsome
native, some indigenous dandy, a youth who wears gloves and is supposed
to ride well; but she knows at the bottom of her soul that her fancy
is in pursuit of the commonplace, more or less well dressed. Dinah was
preserved from this danger by the idea impressed upon her of her own
superiority. Even if she had not been as carefully guarded in her early
married life as she was by her mother, whose presence never weighed upon
her till the day when she wanted to be rid of it, her pride, and her
high sense of her own destinies, would have protected her. Flattered as
she was to find herself surrounded by admirers, she saw no lover
among them. No man here realized the poetical ideal which she and Anna
Grossetete had been wont to sketch. When, stirred by the involuntary
temptations suggested by the homage she received, she asked herself, “If
I had to make a choice, who should it be?” she owned to a preference for
Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, a gentleman of good family, whose appearance
and manners she liked, but whose cold nature, selfishness, and narrow
ambition, never rising above a prefecture and a good marriage, repelled
her. At a word from his family, who were alarmed lest he should be
killed for an intrigue, the Vicomte had already deserted a woman he had
loved in the town where he previously had been Sous-prefet.

Monsieur de Clagny, on the other hand, the only man whose mind appealed
to hers, whose ambition was founded on love, and who knew what love
means, Dinah thought perfectly odious. When Dinah saw herself condemned
to six years’ residence at Sancerre she was on the point of accepting
the devotion of Monsieur le Vicomte de Chargeboeuf; but he was appointed
to a prefecture and left the district. To Monsieur de Clagny’s great
satisfaction, the new Sous-prefet was a married man whose wife made
friends with Dinah. The lawyer had now no rival to fear but Monsieur
Gravier. Now Monsieur Gravier was the typical man of forty of whom women
make use while they laugh at him, whose hopes they intentionally and
remorselessly encourage, as we are kind to a beast of burden. In six
years, among all the men who were introduced to her from twenty leagues
round, there was not one in whose presence Dinah was conscious of the
excitement caused by personal beauty, by a belief in promised happiness,
by the impact of a superior soul, or the anticipation of a love affair,
even an unhappy one.

Thus none of Dinah’s choicest faculties had a chance of developing;
she swallowed many insults to her pride, which was constantly suffering
under the husband who so calmly walked the stage as supernumerary in the
drama of her life. Compelled to bury her wealth of love, she showed only
the surface to the world. Now and then she would try to rouse herself,
try to form some manly resolution; but she was kept in leading strings
by the need for money. And so, slowly and in spite of the ambitious
protests and grievous recriminations of her own mind, she underwent
the provincial metamorphosis here described. Each day took with it a
fragment of her spirited determination. She had laid down a rule for the
care of her person, which she gradually departed from. Though at first
she kept up with the fashions and the little novelties of elegant life,
she was obliged to limit her purchases by the amount of her allowance.
Instead of six hats, caps, or gowns, she resigned herself to one gown
each season. She was so much admired in a certain bonnet that she made
it do duty for two seasons. So it was in everything.

Not unfrequently her artistic sense led her to sacrifice the
requirements of her person to secure some bit of Gothic furniture. By
the seventh year she had come so low as to think it convenient to
have her morning dresses made at home by the best needlewoman in the
neighborhood; and her mother, her husband, and her friends pronounced
her charming in these inexpensive costumes which did credit to her
taste. Her ideas were imitated! As she had no standard of comparison,
Dinah fell into the snares that surround the provincial woman. If a
Parisian woman’s hips are too narrow or too full, her inventive wit and
the desire to please help to find some heroic remedy; if she has some
defect, some ugly spot, or small disfigurement, she is capable of making
it an adornment; this is often seen; but the provincial woman--never! If
her waist is too short and her figure ill balanced, well, she makes up
her mind to the worst, and her adorers--or they do not adore her--must
take her as she is, while the Parisian always insists on being taken for
what she is not. Hence the preposterous bustles, the audacious flatness,
the ridiculous fulness, the hideous outlines ingeniously displayed, to
which a whole town will become accustomed, but which are so astounding
when a provincial woman makes her appearance in Paris or among
Parisians. Dinah, who was extremely slim, showed it off to excess, and
never knew a dull moment when it became ridiculous; when, reduced by the
dull weariness of her life, she looked like a skeleton in clothes; and
her friends, seeing her every day, did not observe the gradual change in
her appearance.

This is one of the natural results of a provincial life. In spite of
marriage, a young woman preserves her beauty for some time, and the town
is proud of her; but everybody sees her every day, and when people meet
every day their perception is dulled. If, like Madame de la Baudraye,
she loses her color, it is scarcely noticed; or, again, if she flushes
a little, that is intelligible and interesting. A little neglect is
thought charming, and her face is so carefully studied, so well known,
that slight changes are scarcely noticed, and regarded at last as
“beauty spots.” When Dinah ceased to have a new dress with a new season,
she seemed to have made a concession to the philosophy of the place.

It is the same with matters of speech, choice of words and ideas, as it
is with matters of feeling. The mind can rust as well as the body if
it is not rubbed up in Paris; but the thing on which provincialism
most sets its stamp is gesture, gait, and movement; these soon lose the
briskness which Paris constantly keeps alive. The provincial is used to
walk and move in a world devoid of accident or change, there is nothing
to be avoided; so in Paris she walks on as raw recruits do, never
remembering that there may be hindrances, for there are none in her
way in her native place, where she is known, where she is always in her
place, and every one makes way for her. Thus she loses all the charm of
the unforeseen.

And have you ever noticed the effect on human beings of a life in
common? By the ineffaceable instinct of simian mimicry they all tend to
copy each other. Each one, without knowing it, acquires the gestures,
the tone of voice, the manner, the attitudes, the very countenance of
others. In six years Dinah had sunk to the pitch of the society she
lived in. As she acquired Monsieur de Clagny’s ideas she assumed his
tone of voice; she unconsciously fell into masculine manners from seeing
none but men; she fancied that by laughing at what was ridiculous in
them she was safe from catching it; but, as often happens, some hue of
what she laughed at remained in the grain.

A Parisian woman sees so many examples of good taste that a contrary
result ensues. In Paris women learn to seize the hour and moment when
they may appear to advantage; while Madame de la Baudraye, accustomed
to take the stage, acquired an indefinable theatrical and domineering
manner, the air of a _prima donna_ coming forward on the boards, of
which ironical smiles would soon have cured her in the capital.

But after she had acquired this stock of absurdities, and, deceived by
her worshipers, imagined them to be added graces, a moment of terrible
awakening came upon her like the fall of an avalanche from a mountain.
In one day she was crushed by a frightful comparison.

In 1829, after the departure of Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, she was excited
by the anticipation of a little pleasure; she was expecting the Baronne
de Fontaine. Anna’s husband, who was now Director-General under the
Minister of Finance, took advantage of leave of absence on the occasion
of his father’s death to take his wife to Italy. Anna wished to spend
the day at Sancerre with her school-friend. This meeting was strangely
disastrous. Anna, who at school had been far less handsome than Dinah,
now, as Baronne de Fontaine, was a thousand times handsomer than the
Baronne de la Baudraye, in spite of her fatigue and her traveling
dress. Anna stepped out of an elegant traveling chaise loaded with Paris
milliners’ boxes, and she had with her a lady’s maid, whose airs quite
frightened Dinah. All the difference between a woman of Paris and a
provincial was at once evident to Dinah’s intelligent eye; she saw
herself as her friend saw her--and Anna found her altered beyond
recognition. Anna spent six thousand francs a year on herself alone, as
much as kept the whole household at La Baudraye.

In twenty-four hours the friends had exchanged many confidences; and the
Parisian, seeing herself so far superior to the phoenix of Mademoiselle
Chamarolles’ school, showed her provincial friend such kindness, such
attentions, while giving her certain explanations, as were so many stabs
to Dinah, though she perfectly understood that Anna’s advantages all lay
on the surface, while her own were for ever buried.

When Anna had left, Madame de la Baudraye, by this time two-and-twenty,
fell into the depths of despair.

“What is it that ails you?” asked Monsieur de Clagny, seeing her so
dejected.

“Anna,” said she, “has learned to live, while I have been learning to
endure.”

A tragi-comedy was, in fact, being enacted in Madame de la Baudraye’s
house, in harmony with her struggles over money matters and her
successive transformations--a drama to which no one but Monsieur de
Clagny and the Abbe Duret ever knew the clue, when Dinah in sheer
idleness, or perhaps sheer vanity, revealed the secret of her anonymous
fame.

Though a mixture of verse and prose is a monstrous anomaly in French
literature, there must be exceptions to the rule. This tale will be
one of the two instances in these Studies of violation of the laws of
narrative; for to give a just idea of the unconfessed struggle which
may excuse, though it cannot absolve Dinah, it is necessary to give an
analysis of a poem which was the outcome of her deep despair.

Her patience and her resignation alike broken by the departure of the
Vicomte de Chargeboeuf, Dinah took the worthy Abbe’s advice to exhale
her evil thoughts in verse--a proceeding which perhaps accounts for some
poets.

“You will find such relief as those who write epitaphs or elegies over
those whom they have lost. Pain is soothed in the heart as lines surge
up in the brain.”

This strange production caused a great ferment in the departments of
the Allier, the Nievre, and the Cher, proud to possess a poet capable
of rivalry with the glories of Paris. _Paquita la Sevillane_, by
_Jan Diaz_, was published in the _Echo du Morvan_, a review which
for eighteen months maintained its existence in spite of provincial
indifference. Some knowing persons at Nevers declared that Jan Diaz
was making fun of the new school, just then bringing out its eccentric
verse, full of vitality and imagery, and of brilliant effects produced
by defying the Muse under pretext of adapting German, English, and
Romanesque mannerisms.

The poem began with this ballad:

  Ah! if you knew the fragrant plain,
  The air, the sky, of golden Spain,
  Its fervid noons, its balmy spring,
  Sad daughters of the northern gloom,
  Of love, of heav’n, of native home,
  You never would presume to sing!

  For men are there of other mould
  Than those who live in this dull cold.
  And there to music low and sweet
  Sevillian maids, from eve till dawn,
  Dance lightly on the moonlit lawn
  In satin shoes, on dainty feet.

  Ah, you would be the first to blush
  Over your dancers’ romp and rush,
  And your too hideous carnival,
  That turns your cheeks all chill and blue,
  And skips the mud in hob-nail’d shoe--
  A truly dismal festival.

  To pale-faced girls, and in a squalid room,
  Paquita sang; the murky town beneath
  Was Rouen whence the slender spires rise
    To chew the storm with teeth.
  Rouen so hideous, noisy, full of rage--

And here followed a magnificent description of Rouen--where Dinah had
never been--written with the affected brutality which, a little later,
inspired so many imitations of Juvenal; a contrast drawn between the
life of a manufacturing town and the careless life of Spain, between
the love of Heaven and of human beauty, and the worship of machinery, in
short, between poetry and sordid money-making.

Then Jan Diaz accounted for Paquita’s horror of Normandy by saying:

  Seville, you see, had been her native home,
    Seville, where skies are blue and evening sweet.
  She, at thirteen, the sovereign of the town,
    Had lovers at her feet.

  For her three Toreadors had gone to death
  Or victory, the prize to be a kiss--
  One kiss from those red lips of sweetest breath--
     A longed-for touch of bliss!

The features of the Spanish girl’s portrait have served so often as
those of the courtesan in so many self-styled _poems_, that it would be
tiresome to quote here the hundred lines of description. To judge of the
lengths to which audacity had carried Dinah, it will be enough to give
the conclusion. According to Madame de la Baudraye’s ardent pen, Paquita
was so entirely created for love that she can hardly have met with a
knight worthy of her; for

.... In her passionate fire    Every man would have swooned from the heat,
  When she at love’s feast, in her fervid desire,
    As yet had but taken her seat.

“And yet she could quit the joys of Seville, its woods and fields of
orange-trees, for a Norman soldier who won her love and carried her away
to his hearth and home. She did not weep for her Andalusia, the Soldier
was her whole joy.... But the day came when he was compelled to start
for Russia in the footsteps of the great Emperor.”

Nothing could be more dainty than the description of the parting between
the Spanish girl and the Normandy Captain of Artillery, who, in the
delirium of passion expressed with feeling worthy of Byron, exacted from
Paquita a vow of absolute fidelity, in the Cathedral at Rouen in front
of the alter of the Blessed Virgin, who

  Though a Maid is a woman, and never forgives
    When lovers are false to their vows.

A large part of the poem was devoted to describing Paquita’s sufferings
when alone in Rouen waiting till the campaign was over; she stood
writhing at the window bars as she watched happy couples go by; she
suppressed her passion in her heart with a determination that consumed
her; she lived on narcotics, and exhausted herself in dreams.

  Almost she died, but still her heart was true;
  And when at last her soldier came again,
  He found her beauty ever fresh and new--
     He had not loved in vain!

“But he, pale and frozen by the cold of Russia, chilled to the very
marrow, met his yearning fair one with a melancholy smile.”

The whole poem was written up to this situation, which was worked out
with such vigor and boldness as too entirely justified the Abbe Duret.

Paquita, on reaching the limits set to real love, did not, like Julie
and Heloise, throw herself into the ideal; no, she rushed into the paths
of vice, which is, no doubt, shockingly natural; but she did it without
any touch of magnificence, for lack of means, as it would be difficult
to find in Rouen men impassioned enough to place Paquita in a suitable
setting of luxury and splendor. This horrible realism, emphasized by
gloomy poetic feeling, had inspired some passages such as modern poetry
is too free with, rather too like the flayed anatomical figures known to
artists as _ecorches_. Then, by a highly philosophical revulsion, after
describing the house of ill-fame where the Andalusian ended her days,
the writer came back to the ballad at the opening:

  Paquita now is faded, shrunk, and old,
    But she it was who sang:

  “If you but knew the fragrant plain,
  The air, the sky, of golden Spain,” etc.

The gloomy vigor of this poem, running to about six hundred lines,
and serving as a powerful foil, to use a painter’s word, to the two
_seguidillas_ at the beginning and end, the masculine utterance of
inexpressible grief, alarmed the woman who found herself admired by
three departments, under the black cloak of the anonymous. While she
fully enjoyed the intoxicating delights of success, Dinah dreaded the
malignity of provincial society, where more than one woman, if the
secret should slip out, would certainly find points of resemblance
between the writer and Paquita. Reflection came too late; Dinah
shuddered with shame at having made “copy” of some of her woes.

“Write no more,” said the Abbe Duret. “You will cease to be a woman; you
will be a poet.”

Moulins, Nevers, Bourges were searched to find Jan Diaz; but Dinah was
impenetrable. To remove any evil impression, in case any unforeseen
chance should betray her name, she wrote a charming poem in two cantos
on _The Mass-Oak_, a legend of the Nivernais:

“Once upon a time the folks of Nevers and the folks of Saint-Saulge, at
war with each other, came at daybreak to fight a battle, in which one or
other should perish, and met in the forest of Faye. And then there stood
between them, under an oak, a priest whose aspect in the morning sun was
so commanding that the foes at his bidding heard Mass as he performed it
under the oak, and at the words of the Gospel they made friends.”--The
oak is still shown in the forest of Faye.

This poem, immeasurably superior to _Paquita la Sevillane_, was far less
admired.

After these two attempts Madame de la Baudraye, feeling herself a poet,
had a light on her brow and a flash in her eyes that made her handsomer
than ever. She cast longing looks at Paris, aspiring to fame--and fell
back into her den of La Baudraye, her daily squabbles with her husband,
and her little circle, where everybody’s character, intentions, and
remarks were too well known not to have become a bore. Though she found
relief from her dreary life in literary work, and poetry echoed loudly
in her empty life, though she thus found an outlet for her energies,
literature increased her hatred of the gray and ponderous provincial
atmosphere.



When, after the Revolution of 1830, the glory of George Sand was
reflected on Le Berry, many a town envied La Chatre the privilege of
having given birth to this rival of Madame de Stael and Camille Maupin,
and were ready to do homage to minor feminine talent. Thus there arose
in France a vast number of tenth Muses, young girls or young wives
tempted from a silent life by the bait of glory. Very strange doctrines
were proclaimed as to the part women should play in society. Though the
sound common sense which lies at the root of the French nature was not
perverted, women were suffered to express ideas and profess opinions
which they would not have owned to a few years previously.

Monsieur de Clagny took advantage of this outbreak of freedom to
collect the works of Jan Diaz in a small volume printed by Desroziers at
Moulins. He wrote a little notice of the author, too early snatched from
the world of letters, which was amusing to those who were in the secret,
but which even then had not the merit of novelty. Such practical jokes,
capital so long as the author remains unknown, fall rather flat if
subsequently the poet stands confessed.

From this point of view, however, the memoir of Jan Diaz, born at
Bourges in 1807, the son of a Spanish prisoner, may very likely some
day deceive the compiler of some _Universal Biography_. Nothing is
overlooked; neither the names of the professors at the Bourges College,
nor those of his deceased schoolfellows, such as Lousteau, Bianchon, and
other famous natives of the province, who, it is said, knew the dreamy,
melancholy boy, and his precocious bent towards poetry. An elegy called
_Tristesse_ (Melancholy), written at school; the two poems _Paquita la
Sevillane_ and _Le Chene de la Messe_; three sonnets, a description of
the Cathedral and the House of Jacques Coeur at Bourges, with a tale
called _Carola_, published as the work he was engaged on at the time
of his death, constituted the whole of these literary remains; and the
poet’s last hours, full of misery and despair, could not fail to wring
the hearts of the feeling public of the Nievre, the Bourbonnais, the
Cher, and the Morvan, where he died near Chateau-Chinon, unknown to all,
even to the woman he had loved!

Of this little yellow paper volume two hundred copies were printed;
one hundred and fifty were sold--about fifty in each department. This
average of tender and poetic souls in three departments of France is
enough to revive the enthusiasm of writers as to the _Furia Francese_,
which nowadays is more apt to expend itself in business than in books.

When Monsieur de Clagny had given away a certain number of copies,
Dinah still had seven or eight, wrapped up in the newspapers which had
published notices of the work. Twenty copies forwarded to the Paris
papers were swamped in the editors’ offices. Nathan was taken in as well
as several of his fellow-countrymen of Le Berry, and wrote an article on
the great man, in which he credited him with all the fine qualities we
discover in those who are dead and buried.

Lousteau, warned by his fellow-schoolfellows, who could not remember Jan
Diaz, waited for information from Sancerre, and learned that Jan Diaz
was a pseudonym assumed by a woman.

Then, in and around Sancerre, Madame de la Baudraye became the rage; she
was the future rival of George Sand. From Sancerre to Bourges a poem was
praised which, at any other time, would certainly have been hooted. The
provincial public--like every French public, perhaps--does not share the
love of the King of the French for the happy medium: it lifts you to the
skies or drags you in the mud.

By this time the good Abbe, Madame de la Baudraye’s counselor, was dead;
he would certainly have prevented her rushing into public life. But
three years of work without recognition weighed on Dinah’s soul, and
she accepted the clatter of fame as a substitute for her disappointed
ambitions. Poetry and dreams of celebrity, which had lulled her grief
since her meeting with Anna Grossetete, no longer sufficed to exhaust
the activity of her morbid heart. The Abbe Duret, who had talked of the
world when the voice of religion was impotent, who understood Dinah, and
promised her a happy future by assuring her that God would compensate
her for her sufferings bravely endured,--this good old man could no
longer stand between the opening to sin and the handsome young woman he
had called his daughter.

The wise old priest had more than once endeavored to enlighten Dinah
as to her husband’s character, telling her that the man could hate; but
women are not ready to believe in such force in weak natures, and hatred
is too constantly in action not to be a vital force. Dinah, finding her
husband incapable of love, denied him the power to hate.

“Do not confound hatred and vengeance,” said the Abbe. “They are two
different sentiments. One is the instinct of small minds; the other is
the outcome of law which great souls obey. God is avenged, but He does
not hate. Hatred is a vice of narrow souls; they feed it with all
their meanness, and make it a pretext for sordid tyranny. So beware
of offending Monsieur de la Baudraye; he would forgive an infidelity,
because he could make capital of it, but he would be doubly implacable
if you should touch him on the spot so cruelly wounded by Monsieur
Milaud of Nevers, and would make your life unendurable.”

Now, at the time when the whole countryside--Nevers and Sancerre, Le
Morvan and Le Berry--was priding itself on Madame de la Baudraye, and
lauding her under the name of Jan Diaz, “little La Baudraye” felt her
glory a mortal blow. He alone knew the secret source of _Paquita la
Sevillane_. When this terrible work was spoken of, everybody said of
Dinah--“Poor woman! Poor soul!”

The women rejoiced in being able to pity her who had so long oppressed
them; never had Dinah seemed to stand higher in the eyes of the
neighborhood.

The shriveled old man, more wrinkled, yellower, feebler than ever, gave
no sign; but Dinah sometimes detected in his eyes, as he looked at her,
a sort of icy venom which gave the lie to his increased politeness
and gentleness. She understood at last that this was not, as she had
supposed, a mere domestic squabble; but when she forced an explanation
with her “insect,” as Monsieur Gravier called him, she found the cold,
hard impassibility of steel. She flew into a passion; she reproached
him for her life these eleven years past; she made--intentionally--what
women call a scene. But “little La Baudraye” sat in an armchair with his
eyes shut, and listened phlegmatically to the storm. And, as usual, the
dwarf got the better of his wife. Dinah saw that she had done wrong in
writing; she vowed never to write another line, and she kept her vow.

Then was there desolation in the Sancerrois.

“Why did not Madame de la Baudraye compose any more verses?” was the
universal cry.

At this time Madame de la Baudraye had no enemies; every one rushed to
see her, not a week passed without fresh introductions. The wife of the
presiding judge, an august _bourgeoise_, _nee_ Popinot-Chandier, desired
her son, a youth of two-and-twenty, to pay his humble respects to La
Baudraye, and flattered herself that she might see her Gatien in the
good graces of this Superior Woman.--The words Superior Woman had
superseded the absurd nickname of _The Sappho of Saint-Satur_.--This
lady, who for nine years had led the opposition, was so delighted at the
good reception accorded to her son, that she became loud in her praises
of the Muse of Sancerre.

“After all,” she exclaimed, in reply to a tirade from Madame de Clagny,
who hated her husband’s supposed mistress, “she is the handsomest and
cleverest woman in the whole province!”

After scrambling through so many brambles and setting off on so many
different roads, after dreaming of love in splendor and scenting the
darkest dramas, thinking such terrible joys would be cheaply purchased
so weary was she of her dreary existence, one day Dinah fell into the
pit she had sworn to avoid. Seeing Monsieur de Clagny always sacrificing
himself, and at last refusing a high appointment in Paris, where his
family wanted to see him, she said to herself, “He loves me!” She
vanquished her repulsion, and seemed willing to reward so much
constancy.

It was to this impulse of generosity on her part that a coalition was
due, formed in Sancerre to secure the return of Monsieur de Clagny at
the next elections. Madame de la Baudraye had dreamed of going to Paris
in the wake of the new deputy.

But, in spite of the most solemn promises, the hundred and fifty votes
to be recorded in favor of this adorer of the lovely Dinah--who hoped
to see this defender of the widow and the orphan wearing the gown of the
Keeper of the Seals--figured as an imposing minority of fifty votes. The
jealousy of the President de Boirouge, and Monsieur Gravier’s hatred,
for he believed in the candidate’s supremacy in Dinah’s heart, had been
worked upon by a young Sous-prefet; and for this worthy deed the allies
got the young man made a prefet elsewhere.

“I shall never cease to regret,” said he, as he quitted Sancerre, “that
I did not succeed in pleasing Madame de la Baudraye; that would have
made my triumph complete!”

The household that was thus racked by domestic troubles was calm on
the surface; here were two ill-assorted but resigned beings, and the
indescribable propriety, the lie that society insists on, and which to
Dinah was an unendurable yoke. Why did she long to throw off the mask
she had worn for twelve years? Whence this weariness which, every day,
increased her hope of finding herself a widow?

The reader who has noted all the phases of her existence will have
understood the various illusions by which Dinah, like many another
woman, had been deceived. After an attempt to master Monsieur de la
Baudraye, she had indulged the hope of becoming a mother. Between those
miserable disputes over household matters and the melancholy conviction
as to her fate, quite a long time had elapsed. Then, when she had looked
for consolation, the consoler, Monsieur de Chargeboeuf had left her.
Thus, the overwhelming temptation which commonly causes women to sin had
hitherto been absent. For if there are, after all, some women who make
straight for unfaithfulness, are there not many more who cling to hope,
and do not fall till they have wandered long in a labyrinth of secret
woes?

Such was Dinah. She had so little impulse to fail in her duty, that she
did not care enough for Monsieur de Clagny to forgive him his defeat.

Then the move to the Chateau d’Anzy, the rearrangement of her collected
treasures and curiosities, which derived added value from the splendid
setting which Philibert de Lorme seemed to have planned on purpose for
this museum, occupied her for several months, giving her leisure to
meditate one of those decisive steps that startle the public, ignorant
of the motives which, however, it sometimes discovers by dint of gossip
and suppositions.

Madame de la Baudraye had been greatly struck by the reputation of
Lousteau, who was regarded as a lady’s man of the first water in
consequence of his intimacies among actresses; she was anxious to know
him; she read his books, and was fired with enthusiasm, less perhaps for
his talents than for his successes with women; and to attract him to the
country, she started the notion that it was obligatory on Sancerre to
return one of its great men at the elections. She made Gatien Boirouge
write to the great physician Bianchon, whom he claimed as a cousin
through the Popinots. Then she persuaded an old friend of the departed
Madame Lousteau to stir up the journalist’s ambitions by letting him
know that certain persons in Sancerre were firmly bent on electing a
deputy from among the distinguished men in Paris.

Tired of her commonplace neighbors, Madame de la Baudraye would thus at
last meet really illustrious men, and might give her fall the lustre of
fame.

Neither Lousteau nor Bianchon replied; they were waiting perhaps till
the holidays. Bianchon, who had won his professor’s chair the year
before after a brilliant contest, could not leave his lectures.

In the month of September, when the vintage was at its height, the two
Parisians arrived in their native province, and found it absorbed in the
unremitting toil of the wine-crop of 1836; there could therefore be
no public demonstration in their favor. “We have fallen flat,” said
Lousteau to his companion, in the slang of the stage.

In 1836, Lousteau, worn by sixteen years of struggle in the Capital,
and aged quite as much by pleasure as by penury, hard work, and
disappointments, looked eight-and-forty, though he was no more than
thirty-seven. He was already bald, and had assumed a Byronic air in
harmony with his early decay and the lines furrowed in his face
by over-indulgence in champagne. He ascribed these signs-manual of
dissipation to the severities of a literary life, declaring that the
Press was murderous; and he gave it to be understood that it consumed
superior talents, so as to lend a grace to his exhaustion. In his native
town he thought proper to exaggerate his affected contempt of life and
his spurious misanthropy. Still, his eyes could flash with fire like
a volcano supposed to be extinct, and he endeavored, by dressing
fashionably, to make up for the lack of youth that might strike a
woman’s eye.

Horace Bianchon, who wore the ribbon of the Legion of Honor, was fat and
burly, as beseems a fashionable physician, with a patriarchal air, his
hair thick and long, a prominent brow, the frame of a hard worker, and
the calm expression of a philosopher. This somewhat prosaic personality
set off his more frivolous companion to advantage.



The two great men remained unrecognized during a whole morning at the
inn where they had put up, and it was only by chance that Monsieur de
Clagny heard of their arrival. Madame de la Baudraye, in despair at
this, despatched Gatien Boirouge, who had no vineyards, to beg the two
gentlemen to spend a few days at the Chateau d’Anzy. For the last
year Dinah had played the chatelaine, and spent the winter only at La
Baudraye. Monsieur Gravier, the Public Prosecutor, the Presiding Judge,
and Gatien Boirouge combined to give a banquet to the great men, to meet
the literary personages of the town.

On hearing that the beautiful Madame de la Baudraye was Jan Diaz,
the Parisians went to spend three days at Anzy, fetched in a sort of
wagonette driven by Gatien himself. The young man, under a genuine
illusion, spoke of Madame de la Baudraye not only as the handsomest
woman in those parts, a woman so superior that she might give George
Sand a qualm, but as a woman who would produce a great sensation in
Paris. Hence the extreme though suppressed astonishment of Doctor
Bianchon and the waggish journalist when they beheld, on the garden
steps of Anzy, a lady dressed in thin black cashmere with a deep tucker,
in effect like a riding-habit cut short, for they quite understood the
pretentiousness of such extreme simplicity. Dinah also wore a black
velvet cap, like that in the portrait of Raphael, and below it her hair
fell in thick curls. This attire showed off a rather pretty figure, fine
eyes, and handsome eyelids somewhat faded by the weariful life that has
been described. In Le Berry the singularity of this _artistic_ costume
was a cloak for the romantic affectations of the Superior Woman.

On seeing the affectations of their too amiable hostess--which were,
indeed, affectations of soul and mind--the friends glanced at each
other, and put on a deeply serious expression to listen to Madame de la
Baudraye, who made them a set speech of thanks for coming to cheer the
monotony of her days. Dinah walked her guests round and round the
lawn, ornamented with large vases of flowers, which lay in front of the
Chateau d’Anzy.

“How is it,” said Lousteau, the practical joker, “that so handsome a
woman as you, and apparently so superior, should have remained buried in
the country? What do you do to make life endurable?”

“Ah! that is the crux,” said the lady. “It is unendurable. Utter despair
or dull resignation--there is no third alternative; that is the arid
soil in which our existence is rooted, and on which a thousand stagnant
ideas fall; they cannot fertilize the ground, but they supply food
for the etiolated flowers of our desert souls. Never believe in
indifference! Indifference is either despair or resignation. Then each
woman takes up the pursuit which, according to her character, seems to
promise some amusement. Some rush into jam-making and washing, household
management, the rural joys of the vintage or the harvest, bottling
fruit, embroidering handkerchiefs, the cares of motherhood, the
intrigues of a country town. Others torment a much-enduring piano,
which, at the end of seven years, sounds like an old kettle, and ends
its asthmatic life at the Chateau d’Anzy. Some pious dames talk over the
different brands of the Word of God--the Abbe Fritaud as compared with
the Abbe Guinard. They play cards in the evening, dance with the same
partners for twelve years running, in the same rooms, at the same dates.
This delightful life is varied by solemn walks on the Mall, visits of
politeness among the women, who ask each other where they bought their
gowns.

“Conversation is bounded on the south by remarks on the intrigues lying
hidden under the stagnant water of provincial life, on the north by
proposed marriages, on the west by jealousies, and on the east by sour
remarks.

“And so,” she went on, striking an attitude, “you see a woman wrinkled
at nine-and-twenty, ten years before the time fixed by the rules of
Doctor Bianchon, a woman whose skin is ruined at an early age, who turns
as yellow as a quince when she is yellow at all--we have seen some turn
green. When we have reached that point, we try to justify our normal
condition; then we turn and rend the terrible passion of Paris with
teeth as sharp as rat’s teeth. We have Puritan women here, sour enough
to tear the laces of Parisian finery, and eat out all the poetry of your
Parisian beauties, who undermine the happiness of others while they cry
up their walnuts and rancid bacon, glorify this squalid mouse-hole,
and the dingy color and conventual smell of our delightful life at
Sancerre.”

“I admire such courage, madame,” said Bianchon. “When we have to
endure such misfortunes, it is well to have the wit to make a virtue of
necessity.”

Amazed at the brilliant move by which Dinah thus placed provincial life
at the mercy of her guests, in anticipation of their sarcasms, Gatien
Boirouge nudged Lousteau’s elbow, with a glance and a smile, which said:

“Well! did I say too much?”

“But, madame,” said Lousteau, “you are proving that we are still in
Paris. I shall steal this gem of description; it will be worth ten
thousand francs to me in an article.”

“Oh, monsieur,” she retorted, “never trust provincial women.”

“And why not?” said Lousteau.

Madame de la Baudraye was wily enough--an innocent form of cunning, to
be sure--to show the two Parisians, one of whom she would choose to be
her conquerer, the snare into which he would fall, reflecting that she
would have the upper hand at the moment when he should cease to see it.

“When you first come,” said she, “you laugh at us. Then when you have
forgotten the impression of Paris brilliancy, and see us in our own
sphere, you pay court to us, if only as a pastime. And you, who are
famous for your past passions, will be the object of attentions which
will flatter you. Then take care!” cried Dinah, with a coquettish
gesture, raising herself above provincial absurdities and Lousteau’s
irony by her own sarcastic speech. “When a poor little country-bred
woman has an eccentric passion for some superior man, some Parisian
who has wandered into the provinces, it is to her something more than a
sentiment; she makes it her occupation and part of all her life. There
is nothing more dangerous than the attachment of such a woman; she
compares, she studies, she reflects, she dreams; and she will not give
up her dream, she thinks still of the man she loves when he has ceased
to think of her.

“Now one of the catastrophes that weigh most heavily on a woman in the
provinces is that abrupt termination of her passion which is so often
seen in England. In the country, a life under minute observation as keen
as an Indian’s compels a woman either to keep on the rails or to start
aside like a steam engine wrecked by an obstacle. The strategies of
love, the coquetting which form half the composition of a Parisian
woman, are utterly unknown here.”

“That is true,” said Lousteau. “There is in a country-bred woman’s heart
a store of surprises, as in some toys.”

“Dear me!” Dinah went on, “a woman will have spoken to you three times
in the course of a winter, and without your knowing it, you will be
lodged in her heart. Then comes a picnic, an excursion, what not, and
all is said--or, if you prefer it, all is done! This conduct, which
seems odd to unobserving persons, is really very natural. A poet, such
as you are, or a philosopher, an observer, like Doctor Bianchon, instead
of vilifying the provincial woman and believing her depraved, would be
able to guess the wonderful unrevealed poetry, every chapter, in short,
of the sweet romance of which the last phrase falls to the benefit of
some happy sub-lieutenant or some provincial bigwig.”

“The provincial women I have met in Paris,” said Lousteau, “were, in
fact, rapid in their proceedings--”

“My word, they are strange,” said the lady, giving a significant shrug
of her shoulders.

“They are like the playgoers who book for the second performance,
feeling sure that the piece will not fail,” replied the journalist.

“And what is the cause of all these woes?” asked Bianchon.

“Paris is the monster that brings us grief,” replied the Superior
Woman. “The evil is seven leagues round, and devastates the whole
land. Provincial life is not self-existent. It is only when a nation is
divided into fifty minor states that each can have a physiognomy of its
own, and then a woman reflects the glory of the sphere where she reigns.
This social phenomenon, I am told, may be seen in Italy, Switzerland,
and Germany; but in France, as in every country where there is but
one capital, a dead level of manners must necessarily result from
centralization.”

“Then you would say that manners could only recover their individuality
and native distinction by the formation of a federation of French states
into one empire?” said Lousteau.

“That is hardly to be wished, for France would have to conquer too many
countries,” said Bianchon.

“This misfortune is unknown in England,” exclaimed Dinah. “London does
not exert such tyranny as that by which Paris oppresses France--for
which, indeed, French ingenuity will at last find a remedy; however, it
has a worse disease in its vile hypocrisy, which is a far greater evil!”

“The English aristocracy,” said Lousteau, hastening to put a word in,
for he foresaw a Byronic paragraph, “has the advantage over ours
of assimilating every form of superiority; it lives in the midst of
magnificent parks; it is in London for no more than two months. It lives
in the country, flourishing there, and making it flourish.”

“Yes,” said Madame de la Baudraye, “London is the capital of trade and
speculation and the centre of government. The aristocracy hold a ‘mote’
there for sixty days only; it gives and takes the passwords of the day,
looks in on the legislative cookery, reviews the girls to marry, the
carriages to be sold, exchanges greetings, and is away again; and is so
far from amusing, that it cannot bear itself for more than the few days
known as ‘the season.’”

“Hence,” said Lousteau, hoping to stop this nimble tongue by an epigram,
“in Perfidious Albion, as the _Constitutionnel_ has it, you may happen
to meet a charming woman in any part of the kingdom.”

“But charming _English_ women!” replied Madame de la Baudraye with
a smile. “Here is my mother, I will introduce you,” said she, seeing
Madame Piedefer coming towards them.

Having introduced the two Paris lions to the ambitious skeleton that
called itself woman under the name of Madame Piedefer--a tall, lean
personage, with a red face, teeth that were doubtfully genuine, and hair
that was undoubtedly dyed, Dinah left her visitors to themselves for a
few minutes.

“Well,” said Gatien to Lousteau, “what do you think of her?”

“I think that the clever woman of Sancerre is simply the greatest
chatterbox,” replied the journalist.

“A woman who wants to see you deputy!” cried Gatien. “An angel!”

“Forgive me, I forgot you were in love with her,” said Lousteau.
“Forgive the cynicism of an old scamp.--Ask Bianchon; I have no
illusions left. I see things as they are. The woman has evidently dried
up her mother like a partridge left to roast at too fierce a fire.”

Gatien de Boirouge contrived to let Madame de la Baudraye know what
the journalist had said of her in the course of the dinner, which was
copious, not to say splendid, and the lady took care not to talk
too much while it was proceeding. This lack of conversation betrayed
Gatien’s indiscretion. Etienne tried to regain his footing, but all
Dinah’s advances were directed to Bianchon.

However, half-way through the evening, the Baroness was gracious to
Lousteau again. Have you never observed what great meanness may
be committed for small ends? Thus the haughty Dinah, who would not
sacrifice herself for a fool, who in the depths of the country led such
a wretched life of struggles, of suppressed rebellion, of unuttered
poetry, who to get away from Lousteau had climbed the highest and
steepest peak of her scorn, and who would not have come down if she
had seen the sham Byron at her feet, suddenly stepped off it as she
recollected her album.

Madame de la Baudraye had caught the mania for autographs; she possessed
an oblong volume which deserved the name of album better than most, as
two-thirds of the pages were still blank. The Baronne de Fontaine, who
had kept it for three months, had with great difficulty obtained a line
from Rossini, six bars written by Meyerbeer, the four lines that Victor
Hugo writes in every album, a verse from Lamartine, a few words from
Beranger, _Calypso ne pouvait se consoler du depart d’Ulysse_ (the first
words of _Telemaque_) written by George Sand, Scribe’s famous lines on
the Umbrella, a sentence from Charles Nodier, an outline of distance by
Jules Dupre, the signature of David d’Angers, and three notes written
by Hector Berlioz. Monsieur de Clagny, during a visit to Paris, added a
song by Lacenaire--a much coveted autograph, two lines from Fieschi, and
an extremely short note from Napoleon, which were pasted on to pages of
the album. Then Monsieur Gravier, in the course of a tour, had persuaded
Mademoiselle Mars to write her name on this album, with Mademoiselles
Georges, Taglioni, and Grisi, and some distinguished actors, such as
Frederick Lemaitre, Monrose, Bouffe, Rubini, Lablache, Nourrit, and
Arnal; for he knew a set of old fellows brought up in the seraglio, as
they phrased it, who did him this favor.

This beginning of a collection was all the more precious to Dinah
because she was the only person for ten leagues round who owned an
album. Within the last two years, however, several young ladies had
acquired such books, in which they made their friends and acquaintances
write more or less absurd quotations or sentiments. You who spend your
lives in collecting autographs, simple and happy souls, like Dutch tulip
fanciers, you will excuse Dinah when, in her fear of not keeping her
guests more than two days, she begged Bianchon to enrich the volume she
handed to him with a few lines of his writing.

The doctor made Lousteau smile by showing him this sentence on the first
page:

  “What makes the populace dangerous is that it has in its pocket an
  absolution for every crime.

  “J. B. DE CLAGNY.”


“We will second the man who is brave enough to plead in favor of the
Monarchy,” Desplein’s great pupil whispered to Lousteau, and he wrote
below:

  “The distinction between Napoleon and a water-carrier is evident
  only to Society; Nature takes no account of it. Thus Democracy,
  which resists inequality, constantly appeals to Nature.

  “H. BIANCHON.”


“Ah!” cried Dinah, amazed, “you rich men take a gold piece out of your
purse as poor men bring out a farthing.... I do not know,” she went
on, turning to Lousteau, “whether it is taking an unfair advantage of a
guest to hope for a few lines--”

“Nay, madame, you flatter me. Bianchon is a great man, but I am too
insignificant!--Twenty years hence my name will be more difficult to
identify than that of the Public Prosecutor whose axiom, written in your
album, will designate him as an obscurer Montesquieu. And I should
want at least twenty-four hours to improvise some sufficiently bitter
reflections, for I could only describe what I feel.”

“I wish you needed a fortnight,” said Madame de la Baudraye graciously,
as she handed him the book. “I should keep you here all the longer.”



At five next morning all the party in the Chateau d’Anzy were astir,
little La Baudraye having arranged a day’s sport for the Parisians--less
for their pleasure than to gratify his own conceit. He was delighted to
make them walk over the twelve hundred acres of waste land that he
was intending to reclaim, an undertaking that would cost some hundred
thousand francs, but which might yield an increase of thirty to sixty
thousand francs a year in the returns of the estate of Anzy.

“Do you know why the Public Prosecutor has not come out with us?” asked
Gatien Boirouge of Monsieur Gravier.

“Why he told us that he was obliged to sit to-day; the minor cases are
before the Court,” replied the other.

“And did you believe that?” cried Gatien. “Well, my papa said to me,
‘Monsieur Lebas will not join you early, for Monsieur de Clagny has
begged him as his deputy to sit for him!’

“Indeed!” said Gravier, changing countenance. “And Monsieur de la
Baudraye is gone to La Charite!”

“But why do you meddle in such matters?” said Bianchon to Gatien.

“Horace is right,” said Lousteau. “I cannot imagine why you trouble your
heads so much about each other; you waste your time in frivolities.”

Horace Bianchon looked at Etienne Lousteau, as much as to say
that newspaper epigrams and the satire of the “funny column” were
incomprehensible at Sancerre.

On reaching a copse, Monsieur Gravier left the two great men and Gatien,
under the guidance of a keeper, to make their way through a little
ravine.

“Well, we must wait for Monsieur Gravier,” said Bianchon, when they had
reached a clearing.

“You may be a great physician,” said Gatien, “but you are ignorant of
provincial life. You mean to wait for Monsieur Gravier?--By this time
he is running like a hare, in spite of his little round stomach; he is
within twenty minutes of Anzy by now----” Gatien looked at his watch.
“Good! he will be just in time.”

“Where?”

“At the chateau for breakfast,” replied Gatien. “Do you suppose I could
rest easy if Madame de la Baudraye were alone with Monsieur de Clagny?
There are two of them now; they will keep an eye on each other. Dinah
will be well guarded.”

“Ah, ha! Then Madame de la Baudraye has not yet made up her mind?” said
Lousteau.

“So mamma thinks. For my part, I am afraid that Monsieur de Clagny has
at last succeeded in bewitching Madame de la Baudraye. If he has been
able to show her that he had any chance of putting on the robes of the
Keeper of the Seals, he may have hidden his moleskin complexion, his
terrible eyes, his touzled mane, his voice like a hoarse crier’s, his
bony figure, like that of a starveling poet, and have assumed all the
charms of Adonis. If Dinah sees Monsieur de Clagny as Attorney-General,
she may see him as a handsome youth. Eloquence has great
privileges.--Besides, Madame de la Baudraye is full of ambition. She
does not like Sancerre, and dreams of the glories of Paris.”

“But what interest have you in all this?” said Lousteau. “If she is in
love with the Public Prosecutor!--Ah! you think she will not love him
for long, and you hope to succeed him.”

“You who live in Paris,” said Gatien, “meet as many different women as
there are days in the year. But at Sancerre, where there are not half
a dozen, and where, of those six, five set up for the most extravagant
virtue, when the handsomest of them all keeps you at an infinite
distance by looks as scornful as though she were of the blood royal, a
young man of two-and-twenty may surely be allowed to make a guess at her
secrets, since she must then treat him with some consideration.”

“Consideration! So that is what you call it in these parts?” said the
journalist with a smile.

“I should suppose Madame de la Baudraye to have too much good taste to
trouble her head about that ugly ape,” said Bianchon.

“Horace,” said Lousteau, “look here, O learned interpreter of human
nature, let us lay a trap for the Public Prosecutor; we shall be doing
our friend Gatien a service, and get a laugh out of it. I do not love
Public Prosecutors.”

“You have a keen intuition of destiny,” said Horace. “But what can we
do?”

“Well, after dinner we will tell sundry little anecdotes of wives
caught out by their husbands, killed, murdered under the most terrible
circumstances.--Then we shall see the faces that Madame de la Baudraye
and de Clagny will make.”

“Not amiss!” said Bianchon; “one or the other must surely, by look or
gesture--”

“I know a newspaper editor,” Lousteau went on, addressing Gatien, “who,
anxious to forefend a grievous fate, will take no stories but such as
tell the tale of lovers burned, hewn, pounded, or cut to pieces; of
wives boiled, fried, or baked; he takes them to his wife to read, hoping
that sheer fear will keep her faithful--satisfied with that humble
alternative, poor man! ‘You see, my dear, to what the smallest error may
lead you!’ says he, epitomizing Arnolfe’s address to Agnes.”

“Madame de la Baudraye is quite guiltless; this youth sees double,”
 said Bianchon. “Madame Piedefer seems to me far too pious to invite her
daughter’s lover to the Chateau d’Anzy. Madame de la Baudraye would have
to hoodwink her mother, her husband, her maid, and her mother’s maid;
that is too much to do. I acquit her.”

“Well with more reason because her husband never ‘quits her,’ said
Gatien, laughing at his own wit.

“We can easily remember two or three stories that will make Dinah
quake,” said Lousteau. “Young man--and you too, Bianchon--let me beg you
to maintain a stern demeanor; be thorough diplomatists, an easy manner
without exaggeration, and watch the faces of the two criminals, you
know, without seeming to do so--out of the corner of your eye, or in a
glass, on the sly. This morning we will hunt the hare, this evening we
will hunt the Public Prosecutor.”

The evening began with a triumph for Lousteau, who returned the album to
the lady with this elegy written in it:


  SPLEEN

  You ask for verse from me, the feeble prey
  Of this self-seeking world, a waif and stray
    With none to whom to cling;
  From me--unhappy, purblind, hopeless devil!
  Who e’en in what is good see only evil
    In any earthly thing!

  This page, the pastime of a dame so fair,
  May not reflect the shadow of my care,
    For all things have their place.
  Of love, to ladies bright, the poet sings,
  Of joy, and balls, and dress, and dainty things--
     Nay, or of God and Grace.

  It were a bitter jest to bid the pen
  Of one so worn with life, so hating men,
    Depict a scene of joy.
  Would you exult in sight to one born blind,
  Or--cruel! of a mother’s love remind
    Some hapless orphan boy?

  When cold despair has gripped a heart still fond,
  When there is no young heart that will respond
    To it in love, the future is a lie.
  If there is none to weep when he is sad,
  And share his woe, a man were better dead!--
     And so I soon must die.

  Give me your pity! often I blaspheme
  The sacred name of God. Does it not seem
    That I was born in vain?
  Why should I bless him? Or why thank Him, since
  He might have made me handsome, rich, a prince--
     And I am poor and plain?

  ETIENNE LOUSTEAU.
  September 1836, Chateau d’Anzy.


“And you have written those verses since yesterday?” cried Clagny in a
suspicious tone.

“Dear me, yes, as I was following the game; it is only too evident! I
would gladly have done something better for madame.”

“The verses are exquisite!” cried Dinah, casting up her eyes to heaven.

“They are, alas! the expression of a too genuine feeling,” replied
Lousteau, in a tone of deep dejection.

The reader will, of course, have guessed that the journalist had stored
these lines in his memory for ten years at least, for he had written
them at the time of the Restoration in disgust at being unable to get
on. Madame de la Baudraye gazed at him with such pity as the woes of
genius inspire; and Monsieur de Clagny, who caught her expression,
turned in hatred against this sham _Jeune Malade_ (the name of an
Elegy written by Millevoye). He sat down to backgammon with the cure
of Sancerre. The Presiding Judge’s son was so extremely obliging as to
place a lamp near the two players in such a way as that the light
fell full on Madame de la Baudraye, who took up her work; she was
embroidering in coarse wool a wicker-plait paper-basket. The three
conspirators sat close at hand.

“For whom are you decorating that pretty basket, madame?” said Lousteau.
“For some charity lottery, perhaps?”

“No,” she said, “I think there is too much display in charity done to
the sound of a trumpet.”

“You are very indiscreet,” said Monsieur Gravier.

“Can there be any indiscretion,” said Lousteau, “in inquiring who the
happy mortal may be in whose room that basket is to stand?”

“There is no happy mortal in the case,” said Dinah; “it is for Monsieur
de la Baudraye.”

The Public Prosecutor looked slily at Madame de la Baudraye and her
work, as if he had said to himself, “I have lost my paper-basket!”

“Why, madame, may we not think him happy in having a lovely wife, happy
in her decorating his paper-baskets so charmingly? The colors are red
and black, like Robin Goodfellow. If ever I marry, I only hope that
twelve years after, my wife’s embroidered baskets may still be for me.”

“And why should they not be for you?” said the lady, fixing her fine
gray eyes, full of invitation, on Etienne’s face.

“Parisians believe in nothing,” said the lawyer bitterly. “The virtue of
women is doubted above all things with terrible insolence. Yes, for some
time past the books you have written, you Paris authors, your farces,
your dramas, all your atrocious literature, turn on adultery--”

“Come, come, Monsieur the Public Prosecutor,” retorted Etienne,
laughing, “I left you to play your game in peace, I did not attack you,
and here you are bringing an indictment against me. On my honor as a
journalist, I have launched above a hundred articles against the writers
you speak of; but I confess that in attacking them it was to attempt
something like criticism. Be just; if you condemn them, you must condemn
Homer, whose _Iliad_ turns on Helen of Troy; you must condemn Milton’s
_Paradise Lost_. Eve and her serpent seem to me a pretty little case of
symbolical adultery; you must suppress the Psalms of David, inspired by
the highly adulterous love affairs of that Louis XIV. of Judah; you must
make a bonfire of _Mithridate, le Tartuffe, l’Ecole des Femmes, Phedre,
Andromaque, le Mariage de Figaro_, Dante’s _Inferno_, Petrarch’s
Sonnets, all the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the romances of the
Middle Ages, the History of France, and of Rome, etc., etc. Excepting
Bossuet’s _Histoire des Variations_ and Pascal’s _Provinciales_, I do
not think there are many books left to read if you insist on eliminating
all those in which illicit love is mentioned.”

“Much loss that would be!” said Monsieur de Clagny.

Etienne, nettled by the superior air assumed by Monsieur de Clagny,
wanted to infuriate him by one of those cold-drawn jests which consist
in defending an opinion in which we have no belief, simply to rouse the
wrath of a poor man who argues in good faith; a regular journalist’s
pleasantry.

“If we take up the political attitude into which you would force
yourself,” he went on, without heeding the lawyer’s remark, “and assume
the part of Public Prosecutor of all the ages--for every Government
has its public ministry--well, the Catholic religion is infected at its
fountain-head by a startling instance of illegal union. In the opinion
of King Herod, and of Pilate as representing the Roman Empire, Joseph’s
wife figured as an adulteress, since, by her avowal, Joseph was not
the father of Jesus. The heathen judge could no more recognize the
Immaculate Conception than you yourself would admit the possibility of
such a miracle if a new religion should nowadays be preached as based
on a similar mystery. Do you suppose that a judge and jury in a police
court would give credence to the operation of the Holy Ghost! And yet
who can venture to assert that God will never again redeem mankind? Is
it any better now than it was under Tiberius?”

“Your argument is blasphemy,” said Monsieur de Clagny.

“I grant it,” said the journalist, “but not with malicious intent.
You cannot suppress historical fact. In my opinion, Pilate, when he
sentenced Jesus, and Anytus--who spoke for the aristocratic party at
Athens--when he insisted on the death of Socrates, both represented
established social interests which held themselves legitimate, invested
with co-operative powers, and obliged to defend themselves. Pilate and
Anytus in their time were not less logical than the public prosecutors
who demanded the heads of the sergeants of La Rochelle; who, at this
day, are guillotining the republicans who take up arms against the
throne as established by the revolution of July, and the innovators
who aim at upsetting society for their own advantage under pretence of
organizing it on a better footing. In the eyes of the great families
of Greece and Rome, Socrates and Jesus were criminals; to those ancient
aristocracies their opinions were akin to those of the Mountain; and if
their followers had been victorious, they would have produced a little
‘ninety-three’ in the Roman Empire or in Attica.”

“What are you trying to come to, monsieur?” asked the lawyer.

“To adultery!--For thus, monsieur, a Buddhist as he smokes his pipe may
very well assert that the Christian religion is founded in adultery; as
we believe that Mahomet is an impostor; that his Koran is an epitome
of the Old Testament and the Gospels; and that God never had the least
intention of constituting that camel-driver His Prophet.”

“If there were many men like you in France--and there are more than
enough, unfortunately--all government would be impossible.”

“And there would be no religion at all,” said Madame Piedefer, who had
been making strangely wry faces all through this discussion.

“You are paining them very much,” said Bianchon to Lousteau in an
undertone. “Do not talk of religion; you are saying things that are
enough to upset them.”

“If I were a writer or a romancer,” said Monsieur Gravier, “I should
take the side of the luckless husbands. I, who have seen many things,
and strange things too, know that among the ranks of deceived husbands
there are some whose attitude is not devoid of energy, men who, at a
crisis, can be very dramatic, to use one of your words, monsieur,” he
said, addressing Etienne.

“You are very right, my dear Monsieur Gravier,” said Lousteau. “I never
thought that deceived husbands were ridiculous; on the contrary, I think
highly of them--”

“Do you not think a husband’s confidence a sublime thing?” said
Bianchon. “He believes in his wife, he does not suspect her, he trusts
her implicitly. But if he is so weak as to trust her, you make game of
him; if he is jealous and suspicious, you hate him; what, then, I ask
you, is the happy medium for a man of spirit?”

“If Monsieur de Clagny had not just expressed such vehement disapproval
of the immorality of stories in which the matrimonial compact is
violated, I could tell you of a husband’s revenge,” said Lousteau.

Monsieur de Clagny threw the dice with a convulsive jerk, and dared not
look up at the journalist.

“A story, from you!” cried Madame de la Baudraye. “I should hardly have
dared to hope for such a treat--”

“It is not my story, madame; I am not clever enough to invent such a
tragedy. It was told me--and how delightfully!--by one of our greatest
writers, the finest literary musician of our day, Charles Nodier.”

“Well, tell it,” said Dinah. “I never met Monsieur Nodier, so you have
no comparison to fear.”

“Not long after the 18th Brumaire,” Etienne began, “there was, as
you know, a call to arms in Brittany and la Vendee. The First Consul,
anxious before all things for peace in France, opened negotiations
with the rebel chiefs, and took energetic military measures; but, while
combining his plans of campaign with the insinuating charm of Italian
diplomacy, he also set the Machiavelian springs of the police in
movement, Fouche then being at its head. And none of these means were
superfluous to stifle the fire of war then blaring in the West.

“At this time a young man of the Maille family was despatched by the
Chouans from Brittany to Saumur, to open communications between certain
magnates of that town and its environs and the leaders of the Royalist
party. The envoy was, in fact, arrested on the very day he landed--for
he traveled by boat, disguised as a master mariner. However, as a man
of practical intelligence, he had calculated all the risks of the
undertaking; his passport and papers were all in order, and the men told
off to take him were afraid of blundering.

“The Chevalier de Beauvoir--I now remember his name--had studied
his part well; he appealed to the family whose name he had borrowed,
persisted in his false address, and stood his examination so boldly that
he would have been set at large but for the blind belief that the spies
had in their instructions, which were unfortunately only too minute. In
this dilemma the authorities were more ready to risk an arbitrary act
than to let a man escape to whose capture the Minister attached great
importance. In those days of liberty the agents of the powers in
authority cared little enough for what we now regard as _legal_. The
Chevalier was therefore imprisoned provisionally, until the superior
officials should come to some decision as to his identity. He had not
long to wait for it; orders were given to guard the prisoner closely in
spite of his denials.

“The Chevalier de Beauvoir was next transferred, in obedience to further
orders, to the Castle of l’Escarpe, a name which sufficiently indicates
its situation. This fortress, perched on very high rocks, has precipices
for its trenches; it is reached on all sides by steep and dangerous
paths; and, like every ancient castle, its principal gate has a
drawbridge over a wide moat. The commandant of this prison, delighted
to have charge of a man of family whose manners were most agreeable,
who expressed himself well, and seemed highly educated, received the
Chevalier as a godsend; he offered him the freedom of the place on
parole, that they might together the better defy its dulness. The
prisoner was more than content.

“Beauvoir was a loyal gentleman, but, unfortunately, he was also a very
handsome youth. He had attractive features, a dashing air, a pleasing
address, and extraordinary strength. Well made, active, full of
enterprise, and loving danger, he would have made an admirable leader
of guerillas, and was the very man for the part. The commandant gave his
prisoner the most comfortable room, entertained him at his table, and
at first had nothing but praise for the Vendean. This officer was a
Corsican and married; his wife was pretty and charming, and he thought
her, perhaps, not to be trusted--at any rate, he was as jealous as a
Corsican and a rather ill-looking soldier may be. The lady took a fancy
to Beauvoir, and he found her very much to his taste; perhaps they
loved! Love in a prison is quick work. Did they commit some imprudence?
Was the sentiment they entertained something warmer than the superficial
gallantry which is almost a duty of men towards women?

“Beauvoir never fully explained this rather obscure episode of the
story; it is at least certain that the commandant thought himself
justified in treating his prisoner with excessive severity. Beauvoir was
placed in the dungeon, fed on black bread and cold water, and fettered
in accordance with the time-honored traditions of the treatment lavished
on captives. His cell, under the fortress-yard, was vaulted with hard
stone, the walls were of desperate thickness; the tower overlooked the
precipice.

“When the luckless man had convinced himself of the impossibility of
escape, he fell into those day-dreams which are at once the comfort and
the crowning despair of prisoners. He gave himself up to the trifles
which in such cases seem so important; he counted the hours and the
days; he studied the melancholy trade of being prisoner; he became
absorbed in himself, and learned the value of air and sunshine; then,
at the end of a fortnight, he was attacked by that terrible malady, that
fever for liberty, which drives prisoners to those heroic efforts of
which the prodigious achievements seem to us impossible, though true,
and which my friend the doctor” (and he turned to Bianchon) “would
perhaps ascribe to some unknown forces too recondite for his
physiological analysis to detect, some mysteries of the human will of
which the obscurity baffles science.”

Bianchon shook his head in negation.

“Beauvoir was eating his heart out, for death alone could set him
free. One morning the turnkey, whose duty it was to bring him his food,
instead of leaving him when he had given him his meagre pittance, stood
with his arms folded, looking at him with strange meaning. Conversation
between them was brief, and the warder never began it. The Chevalier
was therefore greatly surprised when the man said to him: ‘Of course,
monsieur, you know your own business when you insist on being always
called Monsieur Lebrun, or citizen Lebrun. It is no concern of mine;
ascertaining your name is no part of my duty. It is all the same to
me whether you call yourself Peter or Paul. If every man minds his own
business, the cows will not stray. At the same time, _I_ know,’ said he,
with a wink, ‘that you are Monsieur Charles-Felix-Theodore, Chevalier
de Beauvoir, and cousin to Madame la Duchesse de Maille.--Heh?’ he added
after a short silence, during which he looked at his prisoner.

“Beauvoir, seeing that he was safe under lock and key, did not imagine
that his position could be any the worse if his real name were known.

“‘Well, and supposing I were the Chevalier de Beauvoir, what should I
gain by that?’ said he.

“‘Oh, there is everything to be gained by it,’ replied the jailer in an
undertone. ‘I have been paid to help you to get away; but wait a minute!
If I were suspected in the smallest degree, I should be shot out of
hand. So I have said that I will do no more in the matter than will just
earn the money.--Look here,’ said he, taking a small file out of his
pocket, ‘this is your key; with this you can cut through one of your
bars. By the Mass, but it will not be any easy job,’ he went on,
glancing at the narrow loophole that let daylight into the dungeon.

“It was in a splayed recess under the deep cornice that ran round the
top of the tower, between the brackets that supported the embrasures.

“‘Monsieur,’ said the man, ‘you must take care to saw through the iron
low enough to get your body through.’

“‘I will get through, never fear,’ said the prisoner.

“‘But high enough to leave a stanchion to fasten a cord to,’ the warder
went on.

“‘And where is the cord?’ asked Beauvoir.

“‘Here,’ said the man, throwing down a knotted rope. ‘It is made of
raveled linen, that you may be supposed to have contrived it yourself,
and it is long enough. When you have got to the bottom knot, let
yourself drop gently, and the rest you must manage for yourself. You
will probably find a carriage somewhere in the neighborhood, and friends
looking out for you. But I know nothing about that.--I need not remind
you that there is a man-at-arms to the right of the tower. You will take
care, of course, to choose a dark night, and wait till the sentinel is
asleep. You must take your chance of being shot; but--’

“‘All right! All right! At least I shall not rot here,’ cried the young
man.

“‘Well, that may happen nevertheless,’ replied the jailer, with a stupid
expression.

“Beauvoir thought this was merely one of the aimless remarks that such
folks indulge in. The hope of freedom filled him with such joy that he
could not be troubled to consider the words of a man who was no more
than a better sort of peasant. He set to work at once, and had filed
the bars through in the course of the day. Fearing a visit from the
Governor, he stopped up the breaches with bread crumb rubbed in rust
to make it look like iron; he hid his rope, and waited for a favorable
night with the intensity of anticipation, the deep anguish of soul that
makes a prisoner’s life dramatic.

“At last, one murky night, an autumn night, he finished cutting through
the bars, tied the cord firmly to the stump, and perched himself on the
sill outside, holding on by one hand to the piece of iron remaining.
Then he waited for the darkest hour of the night, when the sentinels
would probably be asleep; this would be not long before dawn. He knew
the hours of their rounds, the length of each watch, every detail with
which prisoners, almost involuntarily, become familiar. He waited till
the moment when one of the men-at-arms had spent two-thirds of his watch
and gone into his box for shelter from the fog. Then, feeling sure that
the chances were at the best for his escape, he let himself down knot by
knot, hanging between earth and sky, and clinging to his rope with the
strength of a giant. All was well. At the last knot but one, just as he
was about to let himself drop, a prudent impulse led him to feel for
the ground with his feet, and he found no footing. The predicament
was awkward for a man bathed in sweat, tired, and perplexed, and in a
position where his life was at stake on even chances. He was about to
risk it, when a trivial incident stopped him; his hat fell off; happily,
he listened for the noise it must make in striking the ground, and he
heard not a sound.

“The prisoner felt vaguely suspicious as to this state of affairs. He
began to wonder whether the Commandant had not laid a trap for him--but
if so, why? Torn by doubts, he almost resolved to postpone the attempt
till another night. At any rate, he would wait for the first gleam of
day, when it would still not be impossible to escape. His great strength
enabled him to climb up again to his window; still, he was almost
exhausted by the time he gained the sill, where he crouched on the
lookout, exactly like a cat on the parapet of a gutter. Before long, by
the pale light of dawn, he perceived as he waved the rope that there
was a little interval of a hundred feet between the lowest knot and the
pointed rocks below.

“‘Thank you, my friend, the Governor!’ said he, with characteristic
coolness. Then, after a brief meditation on this skilfully-planned
revenge, he thought it wise to return to his cell.

“He laid his outer clothes conspicuously on the bed, left the rope
outside to make it seem that he had fallen, and hid himself behind the
door to await the arrival of the treacherous turnkey, arming himself
with one of the iron bars he had filed out. The jailer, who returned
rather earlier than usual to secure the dead man’s leavings, opened the
door, whistling as he came in; but when he was at arm’s length, Beauvoir
hit him such a tremendous blow on the head that the wretch fell in a
heap without a cry; the bar had cracked his skull.

“The Chevalier hastily stripped him and put on his clothes, mimicked his
walk, and, thanks to the early hour and the undoubting confidence of the
warders of the great gate, he walked out and away.”

It did not seem to strike either the lawyer or Madame de la Baudraye
that there was in this narrative the least allusion that should apply
to them. Those in the little plot looked inquiringly at each other,
evidently surprised at the perfect coolness of the two supposed lovers.

“Oh! I can tell you a better story than that,” said Bianchon.

“Let us hear,” said the audience, at a sign from Lousteau, conveying
that Bianchon had a reputation as a story-teller.

Among the stock of narratives he had in store, for every clever man
has a fund of anecdotes as Madame de la Baudraye had a collection of
phrases, the doctor chose that which is known as _La Grande Breteche_,
and is so famous indeed, that it was put on the stage at the
_Gymnase-Dramatique_ under the title of _Valentine_. So it is not
necessary to repeat it here, though it was then new to the inhabitants
of the Chateau d’Anzy. And it was told with the same finish of gesture
and tone which had won such praise for Bianchon when at Mademoiselle
des Touches’ supper-party he had told it for the first time. The final
picture of the Spanish grandee, starved to death where he stood in the
cupboard walled up by Madame de Merret’s husband, and that husband’s
last word as he replied to his wife’s entreaty, “You swore on that
crucifix that there was no one in that closet!” produced their full
effect. There was a silent minute, highly flattering to Bianchon.

“Do you know, gentlemen,” said Madame de la Baudraye, “love must be
a mighty thing that it can tempt a woman to put herself in such a
position?”

“I, who have certainly seen some strange things in the course of my
life,” said Gravier, “was cognizant in Spain of an adventure of the same
kind.”

“You come forward after two great performers,” said Madame de la
Baudraye, with coquettish flattery, as she glanced at the two Parisians.
“But never mind--proceed.”

“Some little time after his entry into Madrid,” said the
Receiver-General, “the Grand Duke of Berg invited the magnates of the
capital to an entertainment given to the newly conquered city by the
French army. In spite of the splendor of the affair, the Spaniards were
not very cheerful; their ladies hardly danced at all, and most of the
company sat down to cards. The gardens of the Duke’s palace were so
brilliantly illuminated, that the ladies could walk about in as perfect
safety as in broad daylight. The fete was of imperial magnificence.
Nothing was grudged to give the Spaniards a high idea of the Emperor, if
they were to measure him by the standard of his officers.

“In an arbor near the house, between one and two in the morning, a party
of French officers were discussing the chances of war, and the not too
hopeful outlook prognosticated by the conduct of the Spaniards present
at that grand ball.

“‘I can only tell you,’ said the surgeon-major of the company of which I
was paymaster, ‘I applied formally to Prince Murat only yesterday to
be recalled. Without being afraid exactly of leaving my bones in the
Peninsula, I would rather dress the wounds made by our worthy neighbors
the Germans. Their weapons do not run quite so deep into the body as
these Castilian daggers. Besides, a certain dread of Spain is, with
me, a sort of superstition. From my earliest youth I have read Spanish
books, and a heap of gloomy romances and tales of adventures in this
country have given me a serious prejudice against its manners and
customs.

“‘Well, now, since my arrival in Madrid, I have already been, not
indeed the hero, but the accomplice of a dangerous intrigue, as dark and
mysterious as any romance by Lady (Mrs.) Radcliffe. I am apt to attend
to my presentiments, and I am off to-morrow. Murat will not refuse me
leave, for, thanks to our varied services, we always have influential
friends.’

“‘Since you mean to cut your stick, tell us what’s up,’ said an old
Republican colonel, who cared not a rap for Imperial gentility and
choice language.

“The surgeon-major looked about him cautiously, as if to make sure
who were his audience, and being satisfied that no Spaniard was within
hearing, he said:

“‘We are none but Frenchmen--then, with pleasure, Colonel Hulot. About
six days since, I was quietly going home, at about eleven at night,
after leaving General Montcornet, whose hotel is but a few yards from
mine. We had come away together from the Quartermaster-General’s, where
we had played rather high at _bouillotte_. Suddenly, at the corner of a
narrow high-street, two strangers, or rather, two demons, rushed upon me
and flung a large cloak round my head and arms. I yelled out, as you may
suppose, like a dog that is thrashed, but the cloth smothered my voice,
and I was lifted into a chaise with dexterous rapidity. When my two
companions released me from the cloak, I heard these dreadful words
spoken by a woman, in bad French:

“‘“If you cry out, or if you attempt to escape, if you make the very
least suspicious demonstration, the gentleman opposite to you will stab
you without hesitation. So you had better keep quiet.--Now, I will tell
you why you have been carried off. If you will take the trouble to put
your hand out in this direction, you will find your case of instruments
lying between us; we sent a messenger for them to your rooms, in your
name. You will need them. We are taking you to a house that you may
save the honor of a lady who is about to give birth to a child that
she wishes to place in this gentleman’s keeping without her husband’s
knowledge. Though monsieur rarely leaves his wife, with whom he is
still passionately in love, watching over her with all the vigilance
of Spanish jealousy, she had succeeded in concealing her condition; he
believes her to be ill. You must bring the child into the world. The
dangers of this enterprise do not concern us: only, you must obey us,
otherwise the lover, who is sitting opposite to you in this carriage,
and who does not understand a word of French, will kill you on the least
rash movement.”

“‘“And who are you?” I asked, feeling for the speaker’s hand, for her
arm was inside the sleeve of a soldier’s uniform.

“‘“I am my lady’s waiting-woman,” said she, “and ready to reward you
with my own person if you show yourself gallant and helpful in our
necessities.”

“‘“Gladly,” said I, seeing that I was inevitably started on a perilous
adventure.

“‘Under favor of the darkness, I felt whether the person and figure of
the girl were in keeping with the idea I had formed of her from her tone
of voice. The good soul had, no doubt, made up her mind from the first
to accept all the chances of this strange act of kidnapping, for she
kept silence very obligingly, and the coach had not been more than ten
minutes on the way when she accepted and returned a very satisfactory
kiss. The lover, who sat opposite to me, took no offence at an
occasional quite involuntary kick; as he did not understand French, I
conclude he paid no heed to them.

“‘“I can be your mistress on one condition only,” said the woman, in
reply to the nonsense I poured into her ear, carried away by the fervor
of an improvised passion, to which everything was unpropitious.

“‘“And what is it?”

“‘“That you will never attempt to find out whose servant I am. If I am
to go to you, it must be at night, and you must receive me in the dark.”

“‘“Very good,” said I.

“‘We had got as far as this, when the carriage drew up under a garden
wall.

“‘“You must allow me to bandage your eyes,” said the maid. “You can lean
on my arm, and I will lead you.”

“‘She tied a handkerchief over my eyes, fastening it in a tight knot at
the back of my head. I heard the sound of a key being cautiously fitted
to the lock of a little side door by the speechless lover who had sat
opposite to me. In a moment the waiting-woman, whose shape was slender,
and who walked with an elegant jauntiness’--_meneho_, as they call it,”
 Monsieur Gravier explained in a superior tone, “a word which describes
the swing which women contrive to give a certain part of their dress
that shall be nameless.--‘The waiting-woman’--it is the surgeon-major
who is speaking,” the narrator went on--“‘led me along the gravel walks
of a large garden, till at a certain spot she stopped. From the louder
sound of our footsteps, I concluded that we were close to the house.
“Now silence!” said she in a whisper, “and mind what you are about. Do
not overlook any of my signals; I cannot speak without terrible
danger for both of us, and at this moment your life is of the first
importance.” Then she added: “My mistress is in a room on the ground
floor. To get into it we must pass through her husband’s room and close
to his bed. Do not cough, walk softly, and follow me closely, so as not
to knock against the furniture or tread anywhere but on the carpets I
laid down.”

“‘Here the lover gave an impatient growl, as a man annoyed by so much
delay.

“‘The woman said no more, I heard a door open, I felt the warm air of
the house, and we stole in like thieves. Presently the girl’s light hand
removed the bandage. I found myself in a lofty and spacious room, badly
lighted by a smoky lamp. The window was open, but the jealous husband
had fitted it with iron bars. I was in the bottom of a sack, as it were.

“‘On the ground a woman was lying on a mat; her head was covered with
a muslin veil, but I could see her eyes through it full of tears and
flashing with the brightness of stars; she held a handkerchief in her
mouth, biting it so hard that her teeth were set in it: I never saw
finer limbs, but her body was writhing with pain like a harp-string
thrown on the fire. The poor creature had made a sort of struts of her
legs by setting her feet against a chest of drawers, and with both hands
she held on to the bar of a chair, her arms outstretched, with every
vein painfully swelled. She might have been a criminal undergoing
torture. But she did not utter a cry; there was not a sound, all
three speechless and motionless. The husband snored with reassuring
regularity. I wanted to study the waiting-woman’s face, but she had
put on a mask, which she had removed, no doubt, during our drive, and
I could see nothing but a pair of black eyes and a pleasingly rounded
figure.

“‘The lover threw some towels over his mistress’ legs and folded the
muslin veil double over her face. As soon as I had examined the lady
with care, I perceived from certain symptoms which I had noted once
before on a very sad occasion in my life, that the infant was dead. I
turned to the maid in order to tell her this. Instantly the suspicious
stranger drew his dagger; but I had time to explain the matter to the
woman, who explained in a word or two to him in a low voice. On hearing
my opinion, a quick, slight shudder ran through him from head to foot
like a lightning flash; I fancied I could see him turn pale under his
black velvet mask.

“‘The waiting-woman took advantage of a moment when he was bending in
despair over the dying woman, who had turned blue, to point to some
glasses of lemonade standing on a table, at the same time shaking her
head negatively. I understood that I was not to drink anything in spite
of the dreadful thirst that parched my throat. The lover was thirsty
too; he took an empty glass, poured out some fresh lemonade, and drank
it off.

“‘At this moment the lady had a violent attack of pain, which showed
me that now was the time to operate. I summoned all my courage, and in
about an hour had succeeded in delivering her of the child, cutting
it up to extract it. The Spaniard no longer thought of poisoning me,
understanding that I had saved the mother’s life. Large tears fell on
his cloak. The woman uttered no sound, but she trembled like a hunted
animal, and was bathed in sweat.

“‘At one horribly critical moment she pointed in the direction of her
husband’s room; he had turned in his sleep, and she alone had heard the
rustle of the sheets, the creaking of the bed or of the curtain. We all
paused, and the lover and the waiting-woman, through the eyeholes of
their masks, gave each other a look that said, “If he wakes, shall we
kill him?”

“‘At that instant I put out my hand to take the glass of lemonade the
Spaniard had drunk of. He, thinking that I was about to take one of the
full glasses, sprang forward like a cat, and laid his long dagger over
the two poisoned goblets, leaving me his own, and signing to me to drink
what was left. So much was conveyed by this quick action, and it was
so full of good feeling, that I forgave him his atrocious schemes for
killing me, and thus burying every trace of this event.

“‘After two hours of care and alarms, the maid and I put her mistress
to bed. The lover, forced into so perilous an adventure, had, to provide
means in case of having to fly, a packet of diamonds stuck to paper;
these he put into my pocket without my knowing it; and I may add
parenthetically, that as I was ignorant of the Spaniard’s magnificent
gift, my servant stole the jewels the day after, and went off with a
perfect fortune.

“‘I whispered my instructions to the waiting-woman as to the further
care of her patient, and wanted to be gone. The maid remained with her
mistress, which was not very reassuring, but I was on my guard. The
lover made a bundle of the dead infant and the blood-stained clothes,
tying it up tightly, and hiding it under his cloak; he passed his hand
over my eyes as if to bid me to see nothing, and signed to me to take
hold of the skirt of his coat. He went first out of the room, and I
followed, not without a parting glance at my lady of an hour. She,
seeing the Spaniard had gone out, snatched off her mask and showed me an
exquisite face.

“‘When I found myself in the garden, in the open air, I confess that I
breathed as if a heavy load had been lifted from my breast. I followed
my guide at a respectful distance, watching his least movement with keen
attention. Having reached the little door, he took my hand and pressed a
seal to my lips, set in a ring which I had seen him wearing on a finger
of his left hand, and I gave him to understand that this significant
sign would be obeyed. In the street two horses were waiting; we each
mounted one. My Spaniard took my bridle, held his own between his teeth,
for his right hand held the bloodstained bundle, and we went off at
lightning speed.

“‘I could not see the smallest object by which to retrace the road we
came by. At dawn I found myself close by my own door, and the Spaniard
fled towards the Atocha gate.’

“‘And you saw nothing which could lead you to suspect who the woman was
whom you had attended?’ the Colonel asked of the surgeon.

“‘One thing only,’ he replied. ‘When I turned the unknown lady over, I
happened to remark a mole on her arm, about half-way down, as big as
a lentil, and surrounded with brown hairs.’--At this instant the rash
speaker turned pale. All our eyes, that had been fixed on his, followed
his glance, and we saw a Spaniard, whose glittering eyes shone through
a clump of orange-trees. On finding himself the object of our attention,
the man vanished with the swiftness of a sylph. A young captain rushed
in pursuit.

“‘By Heaven!’ cried the surgeon, ‘that basilisk stare has chilled me
through, my friends. I can hear bells ringing in my ears! I may take
leave of you; you will bury me here!’

“‘What a fool you are!’ exclaimed Colonel Hulot. ‘Falcon is on the track
of the Spaniard who was listening, and he will call him to account.’

“‘Well,’ cried one and another, seeing the captain return quite out of
breath.

“‘The devil’s in it,’ said Falcon; ‘the man went through a wall, I
believe! As I do not suppose that he is a wizard, I fancy he must belong
to the house! He knows every corner and turning, and easily escaped.’

“‘I am done for,’ said the surgeon, in a gloomy voice.

“‘Come, come, keep calm, Bega,’ said I (his name was Bega), ‘we will sit
on watch with you till you leave. We will not leave you this evening.’

“In point of fact, three young officers who had been losing at play went
home with the surgeon to his lodgings, and one of us offered to stay
with him.

“Within two days Bega had obtained his recall to France; he made
arrangements to travel with a lady to whom Murat had given a strong
escort, and had just finished dinner with a party of friends, when
his servant came to say that a young lady wished to speak to him.
The surgeon and the three officers went down suspecting mischief. The
stranger could only say, ‘Be on your guard--’ when she dropped down
dead. It was the waiting-woman, who, finding she had been poisoned, had
hoped to arrive in time to warn her lover.

“‘Devil take it!’ cried Captain Falcon, ‘that is what I call love! No
woman on earth but a Spaniard can run about with a dose of poison in her
inside!’

“Bega remained strangely pensive. To drown the dark presentiments that
haunted him, he sat down to table again, and with his companions drank
immoderately. The whole party went early to bed, half drunk.

“In the middle of the night the hapless Bega was aroused by the sharp
rattle of the curtain rings pulled violently along the rods. He sat up
in bed, in the mechanical trepidation which we all feel on waking with
such a start. He saw standing before him a Spaniard wrapped in a cloak,
who fixed on him the same burning gaze that he had seen through the
bushes.

“Bega shouted out, ‘Help, help, come at once, friends!’ But the Spaniard
answered his cry of distress with a bitter laugh.--‘Opium grows for
all!’ said he.

“Having thus pronounced sentence as it were, the stranger pointed to the
three other men sleeping soundly, took from under his cloak the arm of
a woman, freshly amputated, and held it out to Bega, pointing to a mole
like that he had so rashly described. ‘Is it the same?’ he asked. By
the light of the lantern the man had set on the bed, Bega recognized the
arm, and his speechless amazement was answer enough.

“Without waiting for further information, the lady’s husband stabbed him
to the heart.”

“You must tell that to the marines!” said Lousteau. “It needs their
robust faith to swallow it! Can you tell me which told the tale, the
dead man or the Spaniard?”

“Monsieur,” replied the Receiver-General, “I nursed poor Bega, who died
five days after in dreadful suffering.--That is not the end.

“At the time of the expedition sent out to restore Ferdinand VII. I was
appointed to a place in Spain; but, happily for me, I got no further
than Tours when I was promised the post of Receiver here at Sancerre. On
the eve of setting out I was at a ball at Madame de Listomere’s, where
we were to meet several Spaniards of high rank. On rising from the
card-table, I saw a Spanish grandee, an _afrancesado_ in exile, who had
been about a fortnight in Touraine. He had arrived very late at this
ball--his first appearance in society--accompanied by his wife, whose
right arm was perfectly motionless. Everybody made way in silence for
this couple, whom we all watched with some excitement. Imagine a picture
by Murillo come to life. Under black and hollow brows the man’s eyes
were like a fixed blaze; his face looked dried up, his bald skull was
red, and his frame was a terror to behold, he was so emaciated. His
wife--no, you cannot imagine her. Her figure had the supple swing for
which the Spaniards created the word _meneho_; though pale, she was
still beautiful; her complexion was dazzlingly fair--a rare thing in
a Spaniard; and her gaze, full of the Spanish sun, fell on you like a
stream of melted lead.

“‘Madame,’ said I to her, towards the end of the evening, ‘what
occurrence led to the loss of your arm?’

“‘I lost it in the war of independence,’ said she.”

“Spain is a strange country,” said Madame de la Baudraye. “It still
shows traces of Arab manners.”

“Oh!” said the journalist, laughing, “the mania for cutting off arms
is an old one there. It turns up every now and then like some of our
newspaper hoaxes, for the subject has given plots for plays on the
Spanish stage so early as 1570--”

“Then do you think me capable of inventing such a story?” said Monsieur
Gravier, nettled by Lousteau’s impertinent tone.

“Quite incapable of such a thing,” said the journalist with grave irony.

“Pooh!” said Bianchon, “the inventions of romances and play-writers are
quite as often transferred from their books and pieces into real life,
as the events of real life are made use of on the stage or adapted to a
tale. I have seen the comedy of _Tartufe_ played out--with the exception
of the close; Orgon’s eyes could not be opened to the truth.”

“And the tragi-comedy of _Adolphe_ by Benjamin Constant is constantly
enacted,” cried Lousteau.

“And do you suppose,” asked Madame de la Baudraye, “that such adventures
as Monsieur Gravier has related could ever occur now, and in France?”

“Dear me!” cried Clagny, “of the ten or twelve startling crimes that are
annually committed in France, quite half are mixed up with circumstances
at least as extraordinary as these, and often outdoing them in romantic
details. Indeed, is not this proved by the reports in the _Gazette des
Tribunaux_--the Police news--in my opinion, one of the worst abuses of
the Press? This newspaper, which was started only in 1826 or ‘27, was
not in existence when I began my professional career, and the facts of
the crime I am about to speak of were not known beyond the limits of the
department where it was committed.

“In the quarter of Saint-Pierre-des-Corps at Tours a woman whose husband
had disappeared at the time when the army of the Loire was disbanded,
and who had mourned him deeply, was conspicuous for her excess of
devotion. When the mission priests went through all the provinces to
restore the crosses that had been destroyed and to efface the traces
of revolutionary impiety, this widow was one of their most zealous
proselytes, she carried a cross and nailed to it a silver heart pierced
by an arrow; and, for a long time after, she went every evening to pray
at the foot of the cross which was erected behind the Cathedral apse.

“At last, overwhelmed by remorse, she confessed to a horrible crime. She
had killed her husband, as Fualdes was murdered, by bleeding him; she
had salted the body and packed it in pieces into old casks, exactly as
if it have been pork; and for a long time she had taken a piece every
morning and thrown it into the Loire. Her confessor consulted his
superiors, and told her that it would be his duty to inform the
public prosecutor. The woman awaited the action of the Law. The public
prosecutor and the examining judge, on examining the cellar, found the
husband’s head still in pickle in one of the casks.--‘Wretched woman,’
said the judge to the accused, ‘since you were so barbarous as to throw
your husband’s body into the river, why did you not get rid of the head?
Then there would have been no proof.’

“‘I often tried, monsieur,’ said she, ‘but it was too heavy.’”

“Well, and what became of the woman?” asked the two Parisians.

“She was sentenced and executed at Tours,” replied the lawyer; “but her
repentance and piety had attracted interest in spite of her monstrous
crime.”

“And do you suppose,” said Bianchon, “that we know all the tragedies
that are played out behind the curtain of private life that the public
never lifts?--It seems to me that human justice is ill adapted to judge
of crimes as between husband and wife. It has every right to intervene
as the police; but in equity it knows nothing of the heart of the
matter.”

“The victim has in many cases been for so long the tormentor,” said
Madame de la Baudraye guilelessly, “that the crime would sometimes seem
almost excusable if the accused could tell all.”

This reply, led up to by Bianchon and by the story which Clagny had
told, left the two Parisians excessively puzzled as to Dinah’s position.

At bedtime council was held, one of those discussions which take place
in the passages of old country-houses where the bachelors linger, candle
in hand, for mysterious conversations.

Monsieur Gravier was now informed of the object in view during this
entertaining evening which had brought Madame de la Baudraye’s innocence
to light.

“But, after all,” said Lousteau, “our hostess’ serenity may indicate
deep depravity instead of the most child-like innocence. The Public
Prosecutor looks to me quite capable of suggesting that little La
Baudraye should be put in pickle----”

“He is not to return till to-morrow; who knows what may happen in the
course of the night?” said Gatien.

“We will know!” cried Monsieur Gravier.

In the life of a country house a number of practical jokes are
considered admissible, some of them odiously treacherous. Monsieur
Gravier, who had seen so much of the world, proposed setting seals on
the door of Madame de la Baudraye and of the Public Prosecutor. The
ducks that denounced the poet Ibycus are as nothing in comparison with
the single hair that these country spies fasten across the opening of a
door by means of two little flattened pills of wax, fixed so high up, or
so low down, that the trick is never suspected. If the gallant comes out
of his own door and opens the other, the broken hair tells the tale.

When everybody was supposed to be asleep, the doctor, the journalist,
the receiver of taxes, and Gatien came barefoot, like robbers, and
silently fastened up the two doors, agreeing to come again at five
in the morning to examine the state of the fastenings. Imagine their
astonishment and Gatien’s delight when all four, candle in hand, and
with hardly any clothes on, came to look at the hairs, and found them in
perfect preservation on both doors.

“Is it the same wax?” asked Monsieur Gravier.

“Are they the same hairs?” asked Lousteau.

“Yes,” replied Gatien.

“This quite alters the matter!” cried Lousteau. “You have been beating
the bush for a will-o’-the-wisp.”

Monsieur Gravier and Gatien exchanged questioning glances which were
meant to convey, “Is there not something offensive to us in that speech?
Ought we to laugh or to be angry?”

“If Dinah is virtuous,” said the journalist in a whisper to Bianchon,
“she is worth an effort on my part to pluck the fruit of her first
love.”

The idea of carrying by storm a fortress that had for nine years stood
out against the besiegers of Sancerre smiled on Lousteau.

With this notion in his head, he was the first to go down and into the
garden, hoping to meet his hostess. And this chance fell out all the
more easily because Madame de la Baudraye on her part wished to converse
with her critic. Half such chances are planned.

“You were out shooting yesterday, monsieur,” said Madame de la Baudraye.
“This morning I am rather puzzled as to how to find you any new
amusement; unless you would like to come to La Baudraye, where you may
study more of our provincial life than you can see here, for you have
made but one mouthful of my absurdities. However, the saying about the
handsomest girl in the world is not less true of the poor provincial
woman!”

“That little simpleton Gatien has, I suppose, related to you a speech I
made simply to make him confess that he adored you,” said Etienne.
“Your silence, during dinner the day before yesterday and throughout the
evening, was enough to betray one of those indiscretions which we never
commit in Paris.--What can I say? I do not flatter myself that you
will understand me. In fact, I laid a plot for the telling of all those
stories yesterday solely to see whether I could rouse you and Monsieur
de Clagny to a pang of remorse.--Oh! be quite easy; your innocence is
fully proved.

“If you had the slightest fancy for that estimable magistrate, you would
have lost all your value in my eyes.--I love perfection.

“You do not, you cannot love that cold, dried-up, taciturn little
usurer on wine casks and land, who would leave any man in the lurch for
twenty-five centimes on a renewal. Oh, I have fully recognized Monsieur
de la Baudraye’s similarity to a Parisian bill-discounter; their nature
is identical.--At eight-and-twenty, handsome, well conducted, and
childless--I assure you, madame, I never saw the problem of virtue more
admirably expressed.--The author of _Paquita la Sevillane_ must have
dreamed many dreams!

“I can speak of such things without the hypocritical gloss lent them by
young men, for I am old before my time. I have no illusions left. Can a
man have any illusions in the trade I follow?”

By opening the game in this tone, Lousteau cut out all excursions in the
_Pays de Tendre_, where genuine passion beats the bush so long; he went
straight to the point and placed himself in a position to force the
offer of what women often make a man pray for, for years; witness the
hapless Public Prosecutor, to whom the greatest favor had consisted
in clasping Dinah’s hand to his heart more tenderly than usual as they
walked, happy man!

And Madame de la Baudraye, to be true to her reputation as a Superior
Woman, tried to console the Manfred of the Press by prophesying such a
future of love as he had not had in his mind.

“You have sought pleasure,” said she, “but you have never loved. Believe
me, true love often comes late in life. Remember Monsieur de Gentz, who
fell in love in his old age with Fanny Ellsler, and left the Revolution
of July to take its course while he attended the dancer’s rehearsals.”

“It seems to me unlikely,” replied Lousteau. “I can still believe in
love, but I have ceased to believe in woman. There are in me, I suppose,
certain defects which hinder me from being loved, for I have often been
thrown over. Perhaps I have too strong a feeling for the ideal--like all
men who have looked too closely into reality----”

Madame de la Baudraye at last heard the mind of a man who, flung into
the wittiest Parisian circles, represented to her its most daring
axioms, its almost artless depravity, its advanced convictions; who, if
he were not really superior, acted superiority extremely well. Etienne,
performing before Dinah, had all the success of a first night. _Paquita_
of Sancerre scented the storms, the atmosphere of Paris. She spent one
of the most delightful days of her life with Lousteau and Bianchon, who
told her strange tales about the great men of the day, the anecdotes
which will some day form the _Ana_ of our century; sayings and doings
that were the common talk of Paris, but quite new to her.

Of course, Lousteau spoke very ill of the great female celebrity of Le
Berry, with the obvious intention of flattering Madame de la Baudraye
and leading her into literary confidences, by suggesting that she could
rival so great a writer. This praise intoxicated Madame de la Baudraye;
and Monsieur de Clagny, Monsieur Gravier, and Gatien, all thought her
warmer in her manner to Etienne than she had been on the previous day.
Dinah’s three _attaches_ greatly regretted having all gone to Sancerre
to blow the trumpet in honor of the evening at Anzy; nothing, to hear
them, had ever been so brilliant. The Hours had fled on feet so light
that none had marked their pace. The two Parisians they spoke of as
perfect prodigies.

These exaggerated reports loudly proclaimed on the Mall brought
sixteen persons to Anzy that evening, some in family coaches, some in
wagonettes, and a few bachelors on hired saddle horses. By about seven
o’clock this provincial company had made a more or less graceful entry
into the huge Anzy drawing-room, which Dinah, warned of the invasion,
had lighted up, giving it all the lustre it was capable of by taking
the holland covers off the handsome furniture, for she regarded this
assembly as one of her great triumphs. Lousteau, Bianchon, and Dinah
exchanged meaning looks as they studied the attitudes and listened to
the speeches of these visitors, attracted by curiosity.

What invalided ribbons, what ancestral laces, what ancient flowers,
more imaginative than imitative, were boldly displayed on some perennial
caps! The Presidente Boirouge, Bianchon’s cousin, exchanged a few
words with the doctor, from whom she extracted some “advice gratis”
 by expatiating on certain pains in the chest, which she declared were
nervous, but which he ascribed to chronic indigestion.

“Simply drink a cup of tea every day an hour after dinner, as the
English do, and you will get over it, for what you suffer from is an
English malady,” Bianchon replied very gravely.

“He is certainly a great physician,” said the Presidente, coming back to
Madame de Clagny, Madame Popinot-Chandier, and Madame Gorju, the Mayor’s
wife.

“They say,” replied Madame de Clagny behind her fan, “that Dinah sent
for him, not so much with a view to the elections as to ascertain why
she has no children.”

In the first excitement of this success, Lousteau introduced the great
doctor as the only possible candidate at the ensuing elections. But
Bianchon, to the great satisfaction of the new Sous-prefet, remarked
that it seemed to him almost impossible to give up science in favor of
politics.

“Only a physician without a practice,” said he, “could care to be
returned as a deputy. Nominate statesmen, thinkers, men whose knowledge
is universal, and who are capable of placing themselves on the high
level which a legislator should occupy. That is what is lacking in our
Chambers, and what our country needs.”

Two or three young ladies, some of the younger men, and the elder women
stared at Lousteau as if he were a mountebank.

“Monsieur Gatien Boirouge declares that Monsieur Lousteau makes twenty
thousand francs a year by his writings,” observed the Mayor’s wife to
Madame de Clagny. “Can you believe it?”

“Is it possible? Why, a Public Prosecutor gets but a thousand crowns!”

“Monsieur Gatien,” said Madame Chandier, “get Monsieur Lousteau to talk
a little louder. I have not heard him yet.”

“What pretty boots he wears,” said Mademoiselle Chandier to her brother,
“and how they shine!”

“Yes--patent leather.”

“Why haven’t you the same?”

Lousteau began to feel that he was too much on show, and saw in the
manners of the good townsfolk indications of the desires that had
brought them there.

“What trick can I play them?” thought he.

At this moment the footman, so called--a farm-servant put into
livery--brought in the letters and papers, and among them a packet
of proof, which the journalist left for Bianchon; for Madame de la
Baudraye, on seeing the parcel, of which the form and string were
obviously from the printers, exclaimed:

“What, does literature pursue you even here?”

“Not literature,” replied he, “but a review in which I am now finishing
a story to come out ten days hence. I have reached the stage of ‘_To
be concluded in our next_,’ so I was obliged to give my address to
the printer. Oh, we eat very hard-earned bread at the hands of these
speculators in black and white! I will give you a description of these
editors of magazines.”

“When will the conversation begin?” Madame de Clagny asked of Dinah, as
one might ask, “When do the fireworks go off?”

“I fancied we should hear some amusing stories,” said Madame Popinot to
her cousin, the Presidente Boirouge.

At this moment, when the good folks of Sancerre were beginning to murmur
like an impatient pit, Lousteau observed that Bianchon was lost in
meditation inspired by the wrapper round the proofs.

“What is it?” asked Etienne.

“Why, here is the most fascinating romance possible on some spoiled
proof used to wrap yours in. Here, read it. _Olympia, or Roman
Revenge_.”

“Let us see,” said Lousteau, taking the sheet the doctor held out to
him, and he read aloud as follows:--

  240          OLYMPIA

  cavern. Rinaldo, indignant at his
  companions’ cowardice, for they had
  no courage but in the open field, and
  dared not venture into Rome, looked
  at them with scorn.

  “Then I go alone?” said he. He
  seemed to reflect, and then he went
  on: “You are poor wretches. I shall
  proceed alone, and have the rich
  booty to myself.--You hear me!
  Farewell.”

  “My Captain,” said Lamberti, “if
  you should be captured without
  having succeeded?”

  “God protects me!” said Rinaldo,
  pointing to the sky.

  With these words he went out,
  and on his way he met the steward

“That is the end of the page,” said Lousteau, to whom every one had
listened devoutly.

“He is reading his work to us,” said Gatien to Madame Popinot-Chandier’s
son.

“From the first word, ladies,” said the journalist, jumping at an
opportunity of mystifying the natives, “it is evident that the brigands
are in a cave. But how careless romancers of that date were as to
details which are nowadays so closely, so elaborately studied under
the name of ‘local color.’ If the robbers were in a cavern, instead of
pointing to the sky he ought to have pointed to the vault above him.--In
spite of this inaccuracy, Rinaldo strikes me as a man of spirit, and his
appeal to God is quite Italian. There must have been a touch of local
color in this romance. Why, what with brigands, and a cavern, and
one Lamberti who could foresee future possibilities--there is a whole
melodrama in that page. Add to these elements a little intrigue, a
peasant maiden with her hair dressed high, short skirts, and a hundred
or so of bad couplets.--Oh! the public will crowd to see it! And then
Rinaldo--how well the name suits Lafont! By giving him black whiskers,
tightly-fitting trousers, a cloak, a moustache, a pistol, and a peaked
hat--if the manager of the Vaudeville Theatre were but bold enough to
pay for a few newspaper articles, that would secure fifty performances,
and six thousand francs for the author’s rights, if only I were to cry
it up in my columns.

“To proceed:--

         OR ROMAN REVENGE    219

  The Duchess of Bracciano found
  her glove. Adolphe, who had brought
  her back to the orange grove, might
  certainly have supposed that there
  was some purpose in her forgetful-
   ness, for at this moment the arbor
  was deserted. The sound of the fes-
   tivities was audible in the distance.
  The puppet show that had been
  promised had attracted all the
  guests to the ballroom. Never had
  Olympia looked more beautiful.
  Her lover’s eyes met hers with an
  answering glow, and they under-
   stood each other. There was a mo-
   ment of silence, delicious to their
  souls, and impossible to describe.
  They sat down on the same bench
  where they had sat in the presence
  of the Cavaliere Paluzzi and the

“Devil take it! Our Rinaldo has vanished!” cried Lousteau. “But a
literary man once started by this page would make rapid progress in
the comprehension of the plot. The Duchesse Olympia is a lady who could
intentionally forget her gloves in a deserted arbor.”

“Unless she may be classed between the oyster and head-clerk of an
office, the two creatures nearest to marble in the zoological kingdom,
it is impossible to discern in Olympia--” Bianchon began.

“A woman of thirty,” Madame de la Baudraye hastily interposed, fearing
some all too medical term.

“Then Adolphe must be two-and-twenty,” the doctor went on, “for an
Italian woman at thirty is equivalent to a Parisian of forty.”

“From these two facts, the romance may easily be reconstructed,” said
Lousteau. “And this Cavaliere Paluzzi--what a man!--The style is weak in
these two passages; the author was perhaps a clerk in the Excise Office,
and wrote the novel to pay his tailor!”

“In his time,” said Bianchon, “the censor flourished; you must show as
much indulgence to a man who underwent the ordeal by scissors in 1805 as
to those who went to the scaffold in 1793.”

“Do you understand in the least?” asked Madame Gorju timidly of Madame
de Clagny.

The Public Prosecutor’s wife, who, to use a phrase of Monsieur
Gravier’s, might have put a Cossack to flight in 1814, straightened
herself in her chair like a horseman in his stirrups, and made a face at
her neighbor, conveying, “They are looking at us; we must smile as if we
understood.”

“Charming!” said the Mayoress to Gatien. “Pray go on, Monsieur
Lousteau.”

Lousteau looked at the two women, two Indian idols, and contrived to
keep his countenance. He thought it desirable to say, “Attention!”
 before going on as follows:--

          OR ROMAN REVENGE      209

  dress rustled in the silence. Sud-
   denly Cardinal Borborigano stood
  before the Duchess.

  “His face was gloomy, his brow
  was dark with clouds, and a bitter
  smile lurked in his wrinkles.

  “Madame,” said he, “you are under
  suspicion. If you are guilty, fly. If
  you are not, still fly; because,
  whether criminal or innocent, you
  will find it easier to defend yourself
  from a distance.”

  “I thank your Eminence for your
  solicitude,” said she. “The Duke of
  Bracciano will reappear when I find
  it needful to prove that he is alive.”

“Cardinal Borborigano!” exclaimed Bianchon. “By the Pope’s keys! If you
do not agree with me that there is a magnificent creation in the very
name, if at those words _dress rustled in the silence_ you do not feel
all the poetry thrown into the part of Schedoni by Mrs. Radcliffe in
_The Black Penitent_, you do not deserve to read a romance.”

“For my part,” said Dinah, who had some pity on the eighteen faces
gazing up at Lousteau, “I see how the story is progressing. I know it
all. I am in Rome; I can see the body of a murdered husband whose wife,
as bold as she is wicked, has made her bed on the crater of a
volcano. Every night, at every kiss, she says to herself, ‘All will be
discovered!’”

“Can you see her,” said Lousteau, “clasping Monsieur Adolphe in her
arms, to her heart, throwing her whole life into a kiss?--Adolphe I see
as a well-made young man, but not clever--the sort of man an Italian
woman likes. Rinaldo hovers behind the scenes of a plot we do not know,
but which must be as full of incident as a melodrama by Pixerecourt.
Or we can imagine Rinaldo crossing the stage in the background like a
figure in one of Victor Hugo’s plays.”

“He, perhaps, is the husband,” exclaimed Madame de la Baudraye.

“Do you understand anything of it all?” Madame Piedefer asked of the
Presidente.

“Why, it is charming!” said Dinah to her mother.

All the good folks of Sancerre sat with eyes as large as five-franc
pieces.

“Go on, I beg,” said the hostess.

Lousteau went on:--

  210           OLYMPIA

  “Your key----”

  “Have you lost it?”

  “It is in the arbor.”

  “Let us hasten.”

  “Can the Cardinal have taken it?”

  “No, here it is.”

  “What danger we have escaped!”

  Olympia looked at the key, and
  fancied she recognized it as her own.
  But Rinaldo had changed it; his
  cunning had triumphed; he had the
  right key. Like a modern Cartouche,
  he was no less skilful than bold,
  and suspecting that nothing but a
  vast treasure could require a duchess
  to carry it constantly at her belt.

“Guess!” cried Lousteau. “The corresponding page is not here. We must
look to page 212 to relieve our anxiety.”

  212        OLYMPIA

  “If the key had been lost?”

  “He would now be a dead man.”

  “Dead? But ought you not to
  grant the last request he made, and
  to give him his liberty on the con-
   ditions----”

  “You do not know him.”

  “But--”

  “Silence! I took you for my
  lover, not for my confessor.”

  Adolphe was silent.

“And then comes an exquisite galloping goat, a tail-piece drawn by
Normand, and cut by Duplat.--the names are signed,” said Lousteau.

“Well, and then?” said such of the audience as understood.

“That is the end of the chapter,” said Lousteau. “The fact of this
tailpiece changes my views as to the authorship. To have his book got
up, under the Empire, with vignettes engraved on wood, the writer must
have been a Councillor of State, or Madame Barthelemy-Hadot, or the late
lamented Desforges, or Sewrin.”

“‘Adolphe was silent.’--Ah!” cried Bianchon, “the Duchess must have been
under thirty.”

“If there is no more, invent a conclusion,” said Madame de la Baudraye.

“You see,” said Lousteau, “the waste sheet has been printed fair on
one side only. In printer’s lingo, it is a back sheet, or, to make it
clearer, the other side which would have to be printed is covered all
over with pages printed one above another, all experiments in making
up. It would take too long to explain to you all the complications of a
making-up sheet; but you may understand that it will show no more trace
of the first twelve pages that were printed on it than you would in the
least remember the first stroke of the bastinado if a Pasha condemned
you to have fifty on the soles of your feet.”

“I am quite bewildered,” said Madame Popinot-Chandier to Monsieur
Gravier. “I am vainly trying to connect the Councillor of State, the
Cardinal, the key, and the making-up----”

“You have not the key to the jest,” said Monsieur Gravier. “Well! no
more have I, fair lady, if that can comfort you.”

“But here is another sheet,” said Bianchon, hunting on the table where
the proofs had been laid.

“Capital!” said Lousteau, “and it is complete and uninjured. It is
signed IV.; J, Second Edition. Ladies, the figure IV. means that this
is part of the fourth volume. The letter J, the tenth letter of the
alphabet, shows that this is the tenth sheet. And it is perfectly clear
to me, that in spite of any publisher’s tricks, this romance in four
duodecimo volumes, had a great success, since it came to a second
edition.--We will read on and find a clue to the mystery.

          OR ROMAN REVENGE     21

  corridor; but finding that he was
  pursued by the Duchess’ people

“Oh, get along!”

“But,” said Madame de la Baudraye, “some important events have taken
place between your waste sheet and this page.”

“This complete sheet, madame, this precious made-up sheet. But does the
waste sheet in which the Duchess forgets her gloves in the arbor belong
to the fourth volume? Well, deuce take it--to proceed.

  Rinaldo saw no safer refuge than to
  make forthwith for the cellar where
  the treasures of the Bracciano fam-
   ily no doubt lay hid. As light of
  foot as Camilla sung by the Latin
  poet, he flew to the entrance to the
  Baths of Vespasian. The torchlight
  already flickered on the walls when
  Rinaldo, with the readiness be-
   stowed on him by nature, discovered
  the door concealed in the stone-
   work, and suddenly vanished. A
  hideous thought then flashed on
  Rinaldo’s brain like lightning rend-
   ing a cloud: He was imprisoned!
  He felt the wall with uneasy haste

“Yes, this made-up sheet follows the waste sheet. The last page of the
damaged sheet was 212, and this is 217. In fact, since Rinaldo, who
in the earlier fragment stole the key of the Duchess’ treasure by
exchanging it for another very much like it, is now--on the made-up
sheet--in the palace of the Dukes of Bracciano, the story seems to me to
be advancing to a conclusion of some kind. I hope it is as clear to you
as it is to me.--I understand that the festivities are over, the lovers
have returned to the Bracciano Palace; it is night--one o’clock in the
morning. Rinaldo will have a good time.”

“And Adolphe too!” said President Boirouge, who was considered rather
free in his speech.

“And the style!” said Bianchon.--“Rinaldo, who saw _no better refuge
than to make for the cellar_.”

“It is quite clear that neither Maradan, nor Treuttel and Wurtz,
nor Doguereau, were the printers,” said Lousteau, “for they employed
correctors who revised the proofs, a luxury in which our publishers
might very well indulge, and the writers of the present day, would
benefit greatly. Some scrubby pamphlet printer on the Quay--”

“What quay?” a lady asked of her neighbor. “They spoke of baths--”

“Pray go on,” said Madame de la Baudraye.

“At any rate, it is not by a councillor,” said Bianchon.

“It may be by Madame Hadot,” replied Lousteau.

“What has Madame Hadot of La Charite to do with it?” the Presidente
asked of her son.

“This Madame Hadot, my dear friend,” the hostess answered, “was an
authoress, who lived at the time of the Consulate.”

“What, did women write in the Emperor’s time?” asked Madame
Popinot-Chandier.

“What of Madame de Genlis and Madame de Stael?” cried the Public
Prosecutor, piqued on Dinah’s account by this remark.

“To be sure!”

“I beg you to go on,” said Madame de la Baudraye to Lousteau.

Lousteau went on saying: “Page 218.

  218          OLYMPIA

  and gave a shriek of despair when
  he had vainly sought any trace of a
  secret spring. It was impossible to
  ignore the horrible truth. The door,
  cleverly constructed to serve the
  vengeful purposes of the Duchess,
  could not be opened from within.
  Rinaldo laid his cheek against the
  wall in various spots; nowhere
  could he feel the warmer air from
  the passage. He had hoped he
  might find a crack that would show
  him where there was an opening in
  the wall, but nothing, nothing! The
  whole seemed to be of one block of
  marble.

  Then he gave a hollow roar like
  that of a hyaena----

“Well, we fancied that the cry of the hyaena was a recent invention
of our own!” said Lousteau, “and here it was already known to the
literature of the Empire. It is even introduced with a certain skill in
natural history, as we see in the word _hollow_.”

“Make no more comments, monsieur,” said Madame de la Baudraye.

“There, you see!” cried Bianchon. “Interest, the romantic demon, has you
by the collar, as he had me a while ago.”

“Read on,” cried de Clagny, “I understand.”

“What a coxcomb!” said the Presiding Judge in a whisper to his neighbor
the Sous-prefet.

“He wants to please Madame de la Baudraye,” replied the new Sous-prefet.

“Well, then I will read straight on,” said Lousteau solemnly.

Everybody listened in dead silence.

         OR ROMAN REVENGE     219

  A deep groan answered Rinaldo’s
  cry, but in his alarm he took it for
  an echo, so weak and hollow was
  the sound. It could not proceed
  from any human breast.

  “Santa Maria!” said the voice.

  “If I stir from this spot I shall
  never find it again,” thought Ri-
   naldo, when he had recovered his
  usual presence of mind. “If I knock,
  I shall be discovered. What am I
  to do?”

  “Who is here?” asked the voice.

  “Hallo!” cried the brigand; “do
  the toads here talk?”

  “I am the Duke of Bracciano.
  Whoever you may be, if you are not
  a follower of the Duchess’, in the
  name of all the saints, come towards
  me.”

  220         OLYMPIA

  “I should have to know where to
  find you, Monsieur le Duc,” said Ri-
   naldo, with the insolence of a man
  who knows himself to be necessary.

  “I can see you, my friend, for my
  eyes are accustomed to the darkness.
  Listen: walk straight forward--
   good; now turn to the left--come
  on--this way. There, we are close
  to each other.”

  Rinaldo putting out his hands as
  a precaution, touched some iron
  bars.

  “I am being deceived,” cried the
  bandit.

  “No, you are touching my cage.

         OR ROMAN REVENGE       221

  Sit down on a broken shaft of por-
   phyry that is there.”

  “How can the Duke of Bracciano
  be in a cage?” asked the brigand.

  “My friend, I have been here for
  thirty months, standing up, unable
  to sit down----But you, who are
  you?”

  “I am Rinaldo, prince of the Cam-
   pagna, the chief of four-and-twenty
  brave men whom the law describes
  as miscreants, whom all the ladies
  admire, and whom judges hang in
  obedience to an old habit.”

  “God be praised! I am saved.
  An honest man would have been
  afraid, whereas I am sure of coming
  to an understanding with you,”
   cried the Duke. “Oh, my worthy

  222           OLYMPIA

  deliverer, you must be armed to the
  teeth.”

  “_E verissimo_” (most true).

  “Do you happen to have--”

  “Yes, files, pincers--_Corpo di
  Bacco_! I came to borrow the treas-
   ures of the Bracciani on a long
  loan.”

  “You will earn a handsome share
  of them very legitimately, my good
  Rinaldo, and we may possibly go
  man hunting together--”

  “You surprise me, Eccellenza!”

  “Listen to me, Rinaldo. I will
  say nothing of the craving for
  vengeance that gnaws at my heart.
  I have been here for thirty months
  --you too are Italian--you will un-
         OR ROMAN REVENGE       223

  derstand me! Alas, my friend, my
  fatigue and my horrible incarcera-
   tion are nothing in comparison
  with the rage that devours my soul.
  The Duchess of Bracciano is still
  one of the most beautiful women in
  Rome. I loved her well enough to
  be jealous--”

  “You, her husband!”

  “Yes, I was wrong, no doubt.”

  “It is not the correct thing, to be
  sure,” said Rinaldo.

  “My jealousy was roused by the
  Duchess’ conduct,” the Duke went
  on. “The event proved me right. A
  young Frenchman fell in love with
  Olympia, and she loved him. I had
  proofs of their reciprocal affection

“Pray excuse me, ladies,” said Lousteau, “but I find it impossible to go
on without remarking to you how direct this Empire literature is, going
to the point without any details, a characteristic, as it seems to me,
of a primitive time. The literature of that period holds a place between
the summaries of chapters in _Telemaque_ and the categorical reports of
a public office. It had ideas, but refrained from expressing them,
it was so scornful! It was observant, but would not communicate its
observations to any one, it was so miserly! Nobody but Fouche ever
mentioned what he had observed. ‘At that time,’ to quote the words
of one of the most imbecile critics in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_,
‘literature was content with a clear sketch and the simple outline of
all antique statues. It did not dance over its periods.’--I should think
not! It had no periods to dance over. It had no words to play with. You
were plainly told that Lubin loved Toinette; that Toinette did not love
Lubin; that Lubin killed Toinette and the police caught Lubin, who was
put in prison, tried at the assizes, and guillotined.--A strong sketch,
a clear outline! What a noble drama! Well, in these days the barbarians
make words sparkle.”

“Like a hair in a frost,” said Monsieur de Clagny.

“So those are the airs you affect?”[*] retorted Lousteau.


[*] The rendering given above is only intended to link the various
    speeches into coherence; it has no resemblance with the French. In
    the original, “Font chatoyer les _mots_.”

    “Et quelquefois les _morts_,” dit Monsieur de Clagny.

    “Ah! Lousteau! vous vous donnez de ces R-la (airs-la).”

    Literally: “And sometimes the dead.”--“Ah, are those the airs you
    assume?”--the play on the insertion of the letter R (_mots,
    morts_) has no meaning in English.

“What can he mean?” asked Madame de Clagny, puzzled by this vile pun.

“I seem to be walking in the dark,” replied the Mayoress.

“The jest would be lost in an explanation,” remarked Gatien.

“Nowadays,” Lousteau went on, “a novelist draws characters, and instead
of a ‘simple outline,’ he unveils the human heart and gives you some
interest either in Lubin or in Toinette.”

“For my part, I am alarmed at the progress of public knowledge in the
matter of literature,” said Bianchon. “Like the Russians, beaten by
Charles XII., who at least learned the art of war, the reader has
learned the art of writing. Formerly all that was expected of a romance
was that it should be interesting. As to style, no one cared for that,
not even the author; as to ideas--zero; as to local color--_non est_.
By degrees the reader has demanded style, interest, pathos, and complete
information; he insists on the five literary senses--Invention, Style,
Thought, Learning, and Feeling. Then some criticism commenting on
everything. The critic, incapable of inventing anything but calumny,
pronounces every work that proceeds from a not perfect brain to be
deformed. Some magicians, as Walter Scott, for instance, having appeared
in the world, who combined all the five literary senses, such writers
as had but one--wit or learning, style or feeling--these cripples, these
acephalous, maimed or purblind creatures--in a literary sense--have
taken to shrieking that all is lost, and have preached a crusade against
men who were spoiling the business, or have denounced their works.”

“The history of your last literary quarrel!” Dinah observed.

“For pity’s sake, come back to the Duke of Bracciano,” cried Monsieur de
Clagny.

To the despair of all the company, Lousteau went on with the made-up
sheet.

  224           OLYMPIA

  I then wished to make sure of my
  misfortune that I might be avenged
  under the protection of Providence
  and the Law. The Duchess guessed
  my intentions. We were at war in
  our purposes before we fought with
  poison in our hands. We tried to
  tempt each other to such confidence
  as we could not feel, I to induce her
  to drink a potion, she to get posses-
   sion of me. She was a woman, and
  she won the day; for women have a
  snare more than we men. I fell into
  it--I was happy; but I awoke next
  day in this iron cage. All through
  the day I bellowed with rage in the

          OR ROMAN REVENGE         225

  darkness of this cellar, over which
  is the Duchess’ bedroom. At night
  an ingenious counterpoise acting as
  a lift raised me through the floor,
  and I saw the Duchess in her lover’s
  arms. She threw me a piece of
  bread, my daily pittance.

  “Thus have I lived for thirty
  months! From this marble prison
  my cries can reach no ear. There is
  no chance for me. I will hope no
  more. Indeed, the Duchess’ room is
  at the furthest end of the palace,
  and when I am carried up there
  none can hear my voice. Each time
  I see my wife she shows me the

  226          OLYMPIA

  poison I had prepared for her and
  her lover. I crave it for myself, but
  she will not let me die; she gives
  me bread, and I eat it.

  “I have done well to eat and live;
  I had not reckoned on robbers!”

  “Yes, Eccellenza, when those fools
  the honest men are asleep, we are
  wide awake.”

  “Oh, Rinaldo, all I possess shall
  be yours; we will share my treasure
  like brothers; I would give you
  everything--even to my Duchy----”

  “Eccellenza, procure from the
  Pope an absolution _in articulo mor-
   tis_. It would be of more use to me
  in my walk of life.”

          OR ROMAN REVENGE        227

  “What you will. Only file
  through the bars of my cage and
  lend me your dagger. We have but
  little time, quick, quick! Oh, if my
  teeth were but files!--I have tried
  to eat through this iron.”

  “Eccellenza,” said Rinaldo, “I
  have already filed through one bar.”

  “You are a god!”

  “Your wife was at the fete given
  by the Princess Villaviciosa. She
  brought home her little Frenchman;
  she is drunk with love.--You have
  plenty of time.”

  “Have you done?”

  “Yes.”

  228            OLYMPIA

  “Your dagger?” said the Duke
  eagerly to the brigand.

  “Here it is.”

  “Good. I hear the clatter of the
  spring.”

  “Do not forget me!” cried the
  robber, who knew what gratitude
  was.

  “No more than my father,” cried
  the Duke.

  “Good-bye!” said Rinaldo. “Lord!
  How he flies up!” he added to him-
   self as the Duke disappeared.--“No
  more than his father! If that is
  all he means to do for me.--And I

         OR ROMAN REVENGE        229

  had sworn a vow never to injure a
  woman!”

  But let us leave the robber for a
  moment to his meditations and go
  up, like the Duke, to the rooms in
  the palace.

“Another tailpiece, a Cupid on a snail! And page 230 is blank,” said the
journalist. “Then there are two more blank pages before we come to the
word it is such a joy to write when one is unhappily so happy as to be a
novelist--_Conclusion_!

              CONCLUSION

  Never had the Duchess been more
  lovely; she came from her bath
  clothed like a goddess, and on seeing

  234            OLYMPIA

  Adolphe voluptuously reclining on
  piles of cushions--

  “You are beautiful,” said she.

  “And so are you, Olympia!”

  “And you still love me?”

  “More and more,” said he.

  “Ah, none but a Frenchman
  knows how to love!” cried the
  Duchess. “Do you love me well to-
   night?”

  “Yes.”

  “Then come!”

  And with an impulse of love and
  hate--whether it was that Cardinal
  Borborigano had reminded her of
  her husband, or that she felt un-
   wonted passion to display, she
  pressed the springs and held out her
  arms.

“That is all,” said Lousteau, “for the foreman has torn off the rest in
wrapping up my proofs. But it is enough to show that the author was full
of promise.”

“I cannot make head or tail of it,” said Gatien Boirouge, who was the
first to break the silence of the party from Sancerre.

“Nor I,” replied Monsieur Gravier.

“And yet it is a novel of the time of the Empire,” said Lousteau.

“By the way in which the brigand is made to speak,” said Monsieur
Gravier, “it is evident that the author knew nothing of Italy. Banditti
do not allow themselves such graceful conceits.”

Madame Gorju came up to Bianchon, seeing him pensive, and with a glance
towards her daughter Mademoiselle Euphemie Gorju, the owner of a fairly
good fortune--“What a rhodomontade!” said she. “The prescriptions you
write are worth more than all that rubbish.”

The Mayoress had elaborately worked up this speech, which, in her
opinion, showed strong judgment.

“Well, madame, we must be lenient, we have but twenty pages out of a
thousand,” said Bianchon, looking at Mademoiselle Gorju, whose figure
threatened terrible things after the birth of her first child.

“Well, Monsieur de Clagny,” said Lousteau, “we were talking yesterday
of the forms of revenge invented by husbands. What do you say to those
invented by wives?”

“I say,” replied the Public Prosecutor, “that the romance is not by
a Councillor of State, but by a woman. For extravagant inventions the
imagination of women far outdoes that of men; witness _Frankenstein_ by
Mrs. Shelley, _Leone Leoni_ by George Sand, the works of Anne Radcliffe,
and the _Nouveau Promethee_ (New Prometheus) of Camille de Maupin.”

Dinah looked steadily at Monsieur de Clagny, making him feel, by an
expression that gave him a chill, that in spite of the illustrious
examples he had quoted, she regarded this as a reflection on _Paquita la
Sevillane_.

“Pooh!” said little Baudraye, “the Duke of Bracciano, whom his wife puts
into a cage, and to whom she shows herself every night in the arms of
her lover, will kill her--and do you call that revenge?--Our laws and
our society are far more cruel.”

“Why, little La Baudraye is talking!” said Monsieur Boirouge to his
wife.

“Why, the woman is left to live on a small allowance, the world turns
its back on her, she has no more finery, and no respect paid her--the
two things which, in my opinion, are the sum-total of woman,” said the
little old man.

“But she has happiness!” said Madame de la Baudraye sententiously.

“No,” said the master of the house, lighting his candle to go to bed,
“for she has a lover.”

“For a man who thinks of nothing but his vine-stocks and poles, he has
some spunk,” said Lousteau.

“Well, he must have something!” replied Bianchon.

Madame de la Baudraye, the only person who could hear Bianchon’s
remark, laughed so knowingly, and at the same time so bitterly, that the
physician could guess the mystery of this woman’s life; her premature
wrinkles had been puzzling him all day.

But Dinah did not guess, on her part, the ominous prophecy contained for
her in her husband’s little speech, which her kind old Abbe Duret, if he
had been alive, would not have failed to elucidate. Little La Baudraye
had detected in Dinah’s eyes, when she glanced at the journalist
returning the ball of his jests, that swift and luminous flash of
tenderness which gilds the gleam of a woman’s eye when prudence is cast
to the winds, and she is fairly carried away. Dinah paid no more heed to
her husband’s hint to her to observe the proprieties than Lousteau had
done to Dinah’s significant warnings on the day of his arrival.

Any other man than Bianchon would have been surprised at Lousteau’s
immediate success; but he was so much the doctor, that he was not even
nettled at Dinah’s marked preference for the newspaper-rather than the
prescription-writer! In fact, Dinah, herself famous, was naturally
more alive to wit than to fame. Love generally prefers contrast to
similitude. Everything was against the physician--his frankness, his
simplicity, and his profession. And this is why: Women who want
to love--and Dinah wanted to love as much as to be loved--have an
instinctive aversion for men who are devoted to an absorbing
occupation; in spite of superiority, they are all women in the matter
of encroachment. Lousteau, a poet and journalist, and a libertine with
a veneer of misanthropy, had that tinsel of the intellect, and led
the half-idle life that attracts women. The blunt good sense and keen
insight of the really great man weighed upon Dinah, who would not
confess her own smallness even to herself. She said in her mind--“The
doctor is perhaps the better man, but I do not like him.”

Then, again, she reflected on his professional duties, wondering whether
a woman could ever be anything but a _subject_ to a medical man, who saw
so many subjects in the course of a day’s work. The first sentence of
the aphorism written by Bianchon in her album was a medical observation
striking so directly at woman, that Dinah could not fail to be hit by
it. And then Bianchon was leaving on the morrow; his practice required
his return. What woman, short of having Cupid’s mythological dart in her
heart, could decide in so short a time?

These little things, which lead to such great catastrophes--having been
seen in a mass by Bianchon, he pronounced the verdict he had come to as
to Madame de la Baudraye in a few words to Lousteau, to the journalist’s
great amazement.

While the two friends stood talking together, a storm was gathering in
the Sancerre circle, who could not in the least understand Lousteau’s
paraphrases and commentaries, and who vented it on their hostess. Far
from finding in his talk the romance which the Public Prosecutor, the
Sous-prefet, the Presiding Judge, and his deputy, Lebas, had discovered
there--to say nothing of Monsieur de la Baudraye and Dinah--the ladies
now gathered round the tea-table, took the matter as a practical joke,
and accused the Muse of Sancerre of having a finger in it. They had all
looked forward to a delightful evening, and had all strained in vain
every faculty of their mind. Nothing makes provincial folks so angry as
the notion of having been a laughing-stock for Paris folks.

Madame Piedefer left the table to say to her daughter, “Do go and talk
to the ladies; they are quite annoyed by your behavior.”

Lousteau could not fail to see Dinah’s great superiority over the best
women of Sancerre; she was better dressed, her movements were graceful,
her complexion was exquisitely white by candlelight--in short, she stood
out against this background of old faces, shy and ill-dressed girls,
like a queen in the midst of her court. Visions of Paris faded from his
brain; Lousteau was accepting the provincial surroundings; and while he
had too much imagination to remain unimpressed by the royal splendor
of this chateau, the beautiful carvings, and the antique beauty of the
rooms, he had also too much experience to overlook the value of the
personality which completed this gem of the Renaissance. So by the time
the visitors from Sancerre had taken their leave one by one--for
they had an hour’s drive before them--when no one remained in the
drawing-room but Monsieur de Clagny, Monsieur Lebas, Gatien, and
Monsieur Gravier, who were all to sleep at Anzy--the journalist had
already changed his mind about Dinah. His opinion had gone through the
evolution that Madame de la Baudraye had so audaciously prophesied at
their first meeting.

“Ah, what things they will say about us on the drive home!” cried the
mistress of the house, as she returned to the drawing-room after seeing
the President and the Presidente to their carriage with Madame and
Mademoiselle Popinot-Chandier.

The rest of the evening had its pleasant side. In the intimacy of a
small party each one brought to the conversation his contribution
of epigrams on the figure the visitors from Sancerre had cut during
Lousteau’s comments on the paper wrapped round the proofs.

“My dear fellow,” said Bianchon to Lousteau as they went to bed--they
had an enormous room with two beds in it--“you will be the happy man of
this woman’s choice--_nee_ Piedefer!”

“Do you think so?”

“It is quite natural. You are supposed here to have had many mistresses
in Paris; and to a woman there is something indescribably inviting in a
man whom other women favor--something attractive and fascinating; is it
that she prides herself on being longer remembered than all the rest?
that she appeals to his experience, as a sick man will pay more to
a famous physician? or that she is flattered by the revival of a
world-worn heart?”

“Vanity and the senses count for so much in love affairs,” said
Lousteau, “that there may be some truth in all those hypotheses.
However, if I remain, it will be in consequence of the certificate
of innocence, without ignorance, that you have given Dinah. She is
handsome, is she not?”

“Love will make her beautiful,” said the doctor. “And, after all, she
will be a rich widow some day or other! And a child would secure her the
life-interest in the Master of La Baudraye’s fortune--”

“Why, it is quite an act of virtue to make love to her,” said Lousteau,
rolling himself up in the bed-clothes, “and to-morrow, with your
help--yes, to-morrow, I--well, good-night.”

On the following day, Madame de la Baudraye, to whom her husband had six
months since given a pair of horses, which he also used in the fields,
and an old carriage that rattled on the road, decided that she would
take Bianchon so far on his way as Cosne, where he would get into the
Lyons diligence as it passed through. She also took her mother and
Lousteau, but she intended to drop her mother at La Baudraye, to go on
to Cosne with the two Parisians, and return alone with Etienne. She
was elegantly dressed, as the journalist at once perceived--bronze kid
boots, gray silk stockings, a muslin dress, a green silk scarf with
shaded fringe at the ends, and a pretty black lace bonnet with flowers
in it. As to Lousteau, the wretch had assumed his war-paint--patent
leather boots, trousers of English kerseymere with pleats in front,
a very open waistcoat showing a particularly fine shirt and the black
brocade waterfall of his handsome cravat, and a very thin, very short
black riding-coat.

Monsieur de Clagny and Monsieur Gravier looked at each other, feeling
rather silly as they beheld the two Parisians in the carriage, while
they, like two simpletons, were left standing at the foot of the steps.
Monsieur de la Baudraye, who stood at the top waving his little hand in
a little farewell to the doctor, could not forbear from smiling as he
heard Monsieur de Clagny say to Monsieur Gravier:

“You should have escorted them on horseback.”

At this juncture, Gatien, riding Monsieur de la Baudraye’s quiet little
mare, came out of the side road from the stables and joined the party in
the chaise.

“Ah, good,” said the Receiver-General, “the boy has mounted guard.”

“What a bore!” cried Dinah as she saw Gatien. “In thirteen years--for I
have been married nearly thirteen years--I have never had three hours’
liberty.

“Married, madame?” said the journalist with a smile. “You remind me of
a saying of Michaud’s--he was so witty! He was setting out for the Holy
Land, and his friends were remonstrating with him, urging his age,
and the perils of such an expedition. ‘And then,’ said one, ‘you are
married.’--‘Married!’ said he, ‘so little married.’”

Even the rigid Madame Piedefer could not repress a smile.

“I should not be surprised to see Monsieur de Clagny mounted on my pony
to complete the escort,” said Dinah.

“Well, if the Public Prosecutor does not pursue us, you can get rid
of this little fellow at Sancerre. Bianchon must, of course, have left
something behind on his table--the notes for the first lecture of his
course--and you can ask Gatien to go back to Anzy to fetch it.”

This simple little plot put Madame de la Baudraye into high spirits.
From the road between Anzy to Sancerre, a glorious landscape frequently
comes into view, of the noble stretches of the Loire, looking like
a lake, and it was got over very pleasantly, for Dinah was happy in
finding herself well understood. Love was discussed in theory, a subject
allowing lovers _in petto_ to take the measure, as it were, of each
other’s heart. The journalist took a tone of refined corruption to prove
that love obeys no law, that the character of the lovers gives infinite
variety to its incidents, that the circumstances of social life add to
the multiplicity of its manifestations, that in love all is possible and
true, and that any given woman, after resisting every temptation and the
seductions of the most passionate lover, may be carried off her feet in
the course of a few hours by a fancy, an internal whirlwind of which God
alone would ever know the secret!

“Why,” said he, “is not that the key to all the adventures we have
talked over these three days past?”

For these three days, indeed, Dinah’s lively imagination had been
full of the most insidious romances, and the conversation of the two
Parisians had affected the woman as the most mischievous reading might
have done. Lousteau watched the effects of this clever manoeuvre, to
seize the moment when his prey, whose readiness to be caught was hidden
under the abstraction caused by irresolution, should be quite dizzy.

Dinah wished to show La Baudraye to her two visitors, and the farce was
duly played out of remembering the papers left by Bianchon in his room
at Anzy. Gatien flew off at a gallop to obey his sovereign; Madame
Piedefer went to do some shopping in Sancerre; and Dinah went on to
Cosne alone with the two friends. Lousteau took his seat by the lady,
Bianchon riding backwards. The two friends talked affectionately
and with deep compassion for the fate of this choice nature so ill
understood and in the midst of such vulgar surroundings. Bianchon
served Lousteau well by making fun of the Public Prosecutor, of Monsieur
Gravier, and of Gatien; there was a tone of such genuine contempt in
his remarks, that Madame de la Baudraye dared not take the part of her
adorers.

“I perfectly understand the position you have maintained,” said the
doctor as they crossed the Loire. “You were inaccessible excepting to
that brain-love which often leads to heart-love; and not one of those
men, it is very certain, is capable of disguising what, at an early
stage of life, is disgusting to the senses in the eyes of a refined
woman. To you, now, love is indispensable.”

“Indispensable!” cried Dinah, looking curiously at the doctor. “Do you
mean that you prescribe love to me?”

“If you go on living as you live now, in three years you will be
hideous,” replied Bianchon in a dictatorial tone.

“Monsieur!” said Madame de la Baudraye, almost frightened.

“Forgive my friend,” said Lousteau, half jestingly. “He is always the
medical man, and to him love is merely a question of hygiene. But he
is quite disinterested--it is for your sake only that he speaks--as is
evident, since he is starting in an hour--”

At Cosne a little crowd gathered round the old repainted chaise, with
the arms on the panels granted by Louis XIV. to the new La Baudraye.
Gules, a pair of scales or; on a chief azure (color on color) three
cross-crosslets argent. For supporters two greyhounds argent, collared
azure, chained or. The ironical motto, _Deo sic patet fides et
hominibus_, had been inflicted on the converted Calvinist by Hozier the
satirical.

“Let us get out; they will come and find us,” said the Baroness,
desiring her coachman to keep watch.

Dinah took Bianchon’s arm, and the doctor set off by the banks of the
Loire at so rapid a pace that the journalist had to linger behind. The
physician had explained by a single wink that he meant to do Lousteau a
good turn.

“You have been attracted by Etienne,” said Bianchon to Dinah; “he has
appealed strongly to your imagination; last night we were talking about
you.--He loves you. But he is frivolous, and difficult to hold; his
poverty compels him to live in Paris, while everything condemns you to
live at Sancerre.--Take a lofty view of life. Make Lousteau your friend;
do not ask too much of him; he will come three times a year to spend a
few days with you, and you will owe to him your beauty, happiness, and
fortune. Monsieur de la Baudraye may live to be a hundred; but he might
die in a few days if he should leave off the flannel winding-sheet in
which he swathes himself. So run no risks, be prudent both of you.--Say
not a word--I have read your heart.”

Madame de la Baudraye was defenceless under this serried attack, and in
the presence of a man who spoke at once as a doctor, a confessor, and
confidential friend.

“Indeed!” said she. “Can you suppose that any woman would care to
compete with a journalist’s mistresses?--Monsieur Lousteau strikes me as
agreeable and witty; but he is _blase_, etc., etc.----”

Dinah had turned back, and was obliged to check the flow of words by
which she tried to disguise her intentions; for Etienne, who seemed to
be studying progress in Cosne, was coming to meet them.

“Believe me,” said Bianchon, “what he wants is to be truly loved; and if
he alters his course of life, it will be to the benefit of his talent.”

Dinah’s coachman hurried up breathlessly to say that the diligence had
come in, and they walked on quickly, Madame de la Baudraye between the
two men.

“Good-bye, my children!” said Bianchon, before they got into the town,
“you have my blessing!”

He released Madame de la Baudraye’s hand from his arm, and allowed
Lousteau to draw it into his, with a tender look, as he pressed it
to his heart. What a difference to Dinah! Etienne’s arm thrilled
her deeply. Bianchon’s had not stirred her in the least. She and the
journalist exchanged one of those glowing looks that are more than an
avowal.

“Only provincial women wear muslin gowns in these days,” thought
Lousteau to himself, “the only stuff which shows every crease. This
woman, who has chosen me for her lover, will make a fuss over her frock!
If she had but put on a foulard skirt, I should be happy.--What is the
meaning of these difficulties----”

While Lousteau was wondering whether Dinah had put on a muslin gown on
purpose to protect herself by an insuperable obstacle, Bianchon, with
the help of the coachman, was seeing his luggage piled on the diligence.
Finally, he came to take leave of Dinah, who was excessively friendly
with him.

“Go home, Madame la Baronne, leave me here--Gatien will be coming,” he
added in an undertone. “It is getting late,” said he aloud. “Good-bye!”

“Good-bye--great man!” cried Lousteau, shaking hands with Bianchon.

When the journalist and Madame de la Baudraye, side by side in the
rickety old chaise, had recrossed the Loire, they both were unready to
speak. In these circumstances, the first words that break the silence
are full of terrible meaning.

“Do you know how much I love you?” said the journalist point blank.

Victory might gratify Lousteau, but defeat could cause him no grief.
This indifference was the secret of his audacity. He took Madame de la
Baudraye’s hand as he spoke these decisive words, and pressed it in both
his; but Dinah gently released it.

“Yes, I am as good as an actress or a _grisette_,” she said in a voice
that trembled, though she spoke lightly. “But can you suppose that a
woman who, in spite of her absurdities, has some intelligence, will have
reserved the best treasures of her heart for a man who will regard her
merely as a transient pleasure?--I am not surprised to hear from your
lips the words which so many men have said to me--but----”

The coachman turned round.

“Here comes Monsieur Gatien,” said he.

“I love you, I will have you, you shall be mine, for I have never felt
for any woman the passion I have for you!” said Lousteau in her ear.

“In spite of my will, perhaps?” said she, with a smile.

“At least you must seem to have been assaulted to save my honor,” said
the Parisian, to whom the fatal immaculateness of clean muslin suggested
a ridiculous notion.

Before Gatien had reached the end of the bridge, the outrageous
journalist had crumpled up Madame de la Baudraye’s muslin dress to such
an effect that she was absolutely not presentable.

“Oh, monsieur!” she exclaimed in dignified reproof.

“You defied me,” said the Parisian.

But Gatien now rode up with the vehemence of a duped lover. To regain a
little of Madame de la Baudraye’s esteem, Lousteau did his best to hide
the tumbled dress from Gatien’s eyes by leaning out of the chaise to
speak to him from Dinah’s side.

“Go back to our inn,” said he, “there is still time; the diligence does
not start for half an hour. The papers are on the table of the room
Bianchon was in; he wants them particularly, for he will be lost without
his notes for the lecture.”

“Pray go, Gatien,” said Dinah to her young adorer, with an imperious
glance. And the boy thus commanded turned his horse and was off with a
loose rein.

“Go quickly to La Baudraye,” cried Lousteau to the coachman. “Madame is
not well--Your mother only will know the secret of my trick,” added he,
taking his seat by Dinah.

“You call such infamous conduct a trick?” cried Madame de la Baudraye,
swallowing down a few tears that dried up with the fire of outraged
pride.

She leaned back in the corner of the chaise, crossed her arms, and gazed
out at the Loire and the landscape, at anything rather than at Lousteau.
The journalist put on his most ingratiating tone, and talked till they
reached La Baudraye, where Dinah fled indoors, trying not to be seen
by any one. In her agitation she threw herself on a sofa and burst into
tears.

“If I am an object of horror to you, of aversion or scorn, I will go,”
 said Lousteau, who had followed her. And he threw himself at her feet.

It was at this crisis that Madame Piedefer came in, saying to her
daughter:

“What is the matter? What has happened?”

“Give your daughter another dress at once,” said the audacious Parisian
in the prim old lady’s ear.

Hearing the mad gallop of Gatien’s horse, Madame de la Baudraye fled to
her bedroom, followed by her mother.

“There are no papers at the inn,” said Gatien to Lousteau, who went out
to meet him.

“And you found none at the Chateau d’Anzy either?” replied Lousteau.

“You have been making a fool of me,” said Gatien, in a cold, set voice.

“Quite so,” replied Lousteau. “Madame de la Baudraye was greatly annoyed
by your choosing to follow her without being invited. Believe me, to
bore a woman is a bad way of courting her. Dinah has played you a trick,
and you have given her a laugh; it is more than any of you has done in
these thirteen years past. You owe that success to Bianchon, for your
cousin was the author of the Farce of the ‘Manuscript.’--Will the horse
get over it?” asked Lousteau with a laugh, while Gatien was wondering
whether to be angry or not.

“The horse!” said Gatien.

At this moment Madame de la Baudraye came in, dressed in a velvet gown,
and accompanied by her mother, who shot angry flashes at Lousteau. It
would have been too rash for Dinah to seem cold or severe to Lousteau
in Gatien’s presence; and Etienne, taking advantage of this, offered his
arm to the supposed Lucretia; however, she declined it.

“Do you mean to cast off a man who has vowed to live for you?” said
he, walking close beside her. “I shall stop at Sancerre and go home
to-morrow.”

“Are you coming, mamma?” said Madame de la Baudraye to Madame Piedefer,
thus avoiding a reply to the direct challenge by which Lousteau was
forcing her to a decision.

Lousteau handed the mother into the chaise, he helped Madame de la
Baudraye by gently taking her arm, and he and Gatien took the front
seat, leaving the saddle horse at La Baudraye.

“You have changed your gown,” said Gatien, blunderingly, to Dinah.

“Madame la Baronne was chilled by the cool air off the river,” replied
Lousteau. “Bianchon advised her to put on a warm dress.”

Dinah turned as red as a poppy, and Madame Piedefer assumed a stern
expression.

“Poor Bianchon! he is on the road to Paris. A noble soul!” said
Lousteau.

“Oh, yes!” cried Madame de la Baudraye, “he is high-minded, full of
delicate feeling----”

“We were in such good spirits when we set out,” said Lousteau; “now
you are overdone, and you speak to me so bitterly--why? Are you not
accustomed to being told how handsome and how clever you are? For my
part, I say boldly, before Gatien, I give up Paris; I mean to stay at
Sancerre and swell the number of your _cavalieri serventi_. I feel so
young again in my native district; I have quite forgotten Paris and all
its wickedness, and its bores, and its wearisome pleasures.--Yes, my
life seems in a way purified.”

Dinah allowed Lousteau to talk without even looking at him; but at
last there was a moment when this serpent’s rhodomontade was really so
inspired by the effort he made to affect passion in phrases and ideas of
which the meaning, though hidden from Gatien, found a loud response
in Dinah’s heart, that she raised her eyes to his. This look seemed to
crown Lousteau’s joy; his wit flowed more freely, and at last he
made Madame de la Baudraye laugh. When, under circumstances which so
seriously compromise her pride, a woman has been made to laugh, she is
finally committed.

As they drove in by the spacious graveled forecourt, with its lawn in
the middle, and the large vases filled with flowers which so well set
off the facade of Anzy, the journalist was saying:

“When women love, they forgive everything, even our crimes; when they
do not love, they cannot forgive anything--not even our virtues.--Do you
forgive me,” he added in Madame de la Baudraye’s ear, and pressing her
arm to his heart with tender emphasis. And Dinah could not help smiling.

All through dinner, and for the rest of the evening, Etienne was in the
most delightful spirits, inexhaustibly cheerful; but while thus
giving vent to his intoxication, he now and then fell into the dreamy
abstraction of a man who seems rapt in his own happiness.

After coffee had been served, Madame de la Baudraye and her mother left
the men to wander about the gardens. Monsieur Gravier then remarked to
Monsieur de Clagny:

“Did you observe that Madame de la Baudraye, after going out in a muslin
gown came home in a velvet?”

“As she got into the carriage at Cosne, the muslin dress caught on a
brass nail and was torn all the way down,” replied Lousteau.

“Oh!” exclaimed Gatien, stricken to the heart by hearing two such
different explanations.

The journalist, who understood, took Gatien by the arm and pressed it
as a hint to him to be silent. A few minutes later Etienne left Dinah’s
three adorers and took possession of little La Baudraye. Then Gatien
was cross-questioned as to the events of the day. Monsieur Gravier and
Monsieur de Clagny were dismayed to hear that on the return from Cosne
Lousteau had been alone with Dinah, and even more so on hearing the
two versions explaining the lady’s change of dress. And the three
discomfited gentlemen were in a very awkward position for the rest of
the evening.

Next day each, on various business, was obliged to leave Anzy; Dinah
remained with her mother, Lousteau, and her husband. The annoyance
vented by the three victims gave rise to an organized rebellion in
Sancerre. The surrender of the Muse of Le Berry, of the Nivernais,
and of Morvan was the cause of a perfect hue and cry of slander, evil
report, and various guesses in which the story of the muslin gown held a
prominent place. No dress Dinah had ever worn had been so much commented
on, or was half as interesting to the girls, who could not conceive what
the connection might be, that made the married women laugh, between love
and a muslin gown.

The Presidente Boirouge, furious at her son’s discomfiture, forgot
the praise she had lavished on the poem of _Paquita_, and fulminated
terrific condemnation on the woman who could publish such a disgraceful
work.

“The wretched woman commits every crime she writes about,” said she.
“Perhaps she will come to the same end as her heroine!”

Dinah’s fate among the good folks of Sancerre was like that of Marechal
Soult in the opposition newspapers; as long as he is minister he lost
the battle of Toulouse; whenever he is out of the Government he won it!
While she was virtuous, Dinah was a match for Camille de Maupin, a
rival of the most famous women; but as soon as she was happy, she was an
_unhappy creature_.

Monsieur de Clagny was her valiant champion; he went several times to
the Chateau d’Anzy to acquire the right to contradict the rumors current
as to the woman he still faithfully adored, even in her fall; and he
maintained that she and Lousteau were engaged together on some great
work. But the lawyer was laughed to scorn.

The month of October was lovely; autumn is the finest season in the
valley of the Loire; but in 1836 it was unusually glorious. Nature
seemed to aid and abet Dinah, who, as Bianchon had predicted, gradually
developed a heart-felt passion. In one month she was an altered
woman. She was surprised to find in herself so many inert and dormant
qualities, hitherto in abeyance. To her Lousteau seemed an angel; for
heart-love, the crowning need of a great nature, had made a new woman
of her. Dinah was alive! She had found an outlet for her powers, she
saw undreamed-of vistas in the future--in short, she was happy, happy
without alarms or hindrances. The vast castle, the gardens, the park,
the forest, favored love.

Lousteau found in Madame de la Baudraye an artlessness, nay, if you
will, an innocence of mind which made her very original; there was much
more of the unexpected and winning in her than in a girl. Lousteau was
quite alive to a form of flattery which in most women is assumed, but
which in Dinah was genuine; she really learned from him the ways of
love; he really was the first to reign in her heart. And, indeed, he
took the trouble to be exceedingly amiable.

Men, like women, have a stock in hand of recitatives, of _cantabile_,
of _nocturnes_, airs and refrains--shall we say of recipes, although we
speak of love--which each one believes to be exclusively his own. Men
who have reached Lousteau’s age try to distribute the “movements”
 of this repertoire through the whole opera of a passion. Lousteau,
regarding this adventure with Dinah as a mere temporary connection, was
eager to stamp himself on her memory in indelible lines; and during that
beautiful October he was prodigal of his most entrancing melodies and
most elaborate _barcarolles_. In fact, he exhausted every resource of
the stage management of love, to use an expression borrowed from the
theatrical dictionary, and admirably descriptive of his manoeuvres.

“If that woman ever forgets me!” he would sometimes say to himself as
they returned together from a long walk in the woods, “I will owe her no
grudge--she will have found something better.”

When two beings have sung together all the duets of that enchanting
score, and still love each other, it may be said that they love truly.

Lousteau, however, had not time to repeat himself, for he was to leave
Anzy in the early days of November. His paper required his presence
in Paris. Before breakfast, on the day before he was to leave, the
journalist and Dinah saw the master of the house come in with an artist
from Nevers, who restored carvings of all kinds.

“What are you going to do?” asked Lousteau. “What is to be done to the
chateau?”

“This is what I am going to do,” said the little man, leading Lousteau,
the local artist, and Dinah out on the terrace.

He pointed out, on the front of the building, a shield supported by two
sirens, not unlike that which may be seen on the arcade, now closed,
through which there used to be a passage from the Quai des Tuileries to
the courtyard of the old Louvre, and over which the words may still be
seen, “_Bibliotheque du Cabinet du Roi_.” This shield bore the arms of
the noble House of Uxelles, namely, Or and gules party per fess, with
two lions or, dexter and sinister as supporters. Above, a knight’s
helm, mantled of the tincture of the shield, and surmounted by a ducal
coronet. Motto, _Cy paroist!_ A proud and sonorous device.

“I want to put my own coat of arms in the place of that of the Uxelles;
and as they are repeated six times on the two fronts and the two wings,
it is not a trifling affair.”

“Your arms, so new, and since 1830!” exclaimed Dinah.

“Have I not created an entail?”

“I could understand it if you had children,” said the journalist.

“Oh!” said the old man, “Madame de la Baudraye is still young; there is
no time lost.”

This allusion made Lousteau smile; he did not understand Monsieur de la
Baudraye.

“There, Didine!” said he in Dinah’s ear, “what a waste of remorse!”

Dinah begged him to give her one day more, and the lovers parted after
the manner of certain theatres, which give ten last performances of a
piece that is paying. And how many promises they made! How many solemn
pledges did not Dinah exact and the unblushing journalist give her!

Dinah, with superiority of the Superior Woman, accompanied Lousteau, in
the face of all the world, as far as Cosne, with her mother and little
La Baudraye. When, ten days later, Madame de la Baudraye saw in her
drawing-room at La Baudraye, Monsieur de Clagny, Gatien, and Gravier,
she found an opportunity of saying to each in turn:

“I owe it to Monsieur Lousteau that I discovered that I had not been
loved for my own sake.”

And what noble speeches she uttered, on man, on the nature of his
feelings, on the end of his base passions, and so forth. Of Dinah’s
three worshipers, Monsieur de Clagny only said to her: “I love you, come
what may”--and Dinah accepted him as her confidant, lavished on him all
the marks of friendship which women can devise for the Gurths who are
ready thus to wear the collar of gilded slavery.



In Paris once more, Lousteau had, in a few weeks, lost the impression of
the happy time he had spent at the Chateau d’Anzy. This is why: Lousteau
lived by his pen.

In this century, especially since the triumph of the _bourgeoisie_--the
commonplace, money-saving citizen--who takes good care not to imitate
Francis I. or Louis XIV.--to live by the pen is a form of penal
servitude to which a galley-slave would prefer death. To live by the pen
means to create--to create to-day, and to-morrow, and incessantly--or
to seem to create; and the imitation costs as dear as the reality. So,
besides his daily contribution to a newspaper, which was like the
stone of Sisyphus, and which came every Monday, crashing down on to the
feather of his pen, Etienne worked for three or four literary magazines.
Still, do not be alarmed; he put no artistic conscientiousness into his
work. This man of Sancerre had a facility, a carelessness, if you call
it so, which ranked him with those writers who are mere scriveners,
literary hacks. In Paris, in our day, hack-work cuts a man off from
every pretension to a literary position. When he can do no more, or no
longer cares for advancement, the man who can write becomes a journalist
and a hack.

The life he leads is not unpleasing. Blue-stockings, beginners in
every walk of life, actresses at the outset or the close of a career,
publishers and authors, all make much of these writers of the ready
pen. Lousteau, a thorough man about town, lived at scarcely any expense
beyond paying his rent. He had boxes at all the theatres; the sale of
the books he reviewed or left unreviewed paid for his gloves; and he
would say to those authors who published at their own expense, “I have
your book always in my hands!” He took toll from vanity in the form of
drawings or pictures. Every day had its engagements to dinner, every
night its theatre, every morning was filled up with callers, visits,
and lounging. His serial in the paper, two novels a year for weekly
magazines, and his miscellaneous articles were the tax he paid for this
easy-going life. And yet, to reach this position, Etienne had struggled
for ten years.

At the present time, known to the literary world, liked for the good or
the mischief he did with equally facile good humor, he let himself float
with the stream, never caring for the future. He ruled a little set
of newcomers, he had friendships--or rather, habits of fifteen years’
standing, and men with whom he supped, and dined, and indulged his wit.
He earned from seven to eight hundred francs a month, a sum which
he found quite insufficient for the prodigality peculiar to the
impecunious. Indeed, Lousteau found himself now just as hard up as when,
on first appearing in Paris, he had said to himself, “If I had but five
hundred francs a month, I should be rich!”

The cause of this phenomenon was as follows: Lousteau lived in the Rue
des Martyrs in pretty ground-floor rooms with a garden, and splendidly
furnished. When he settled there in 1833 he had come to an agreement
with an upholsterer that kept his pocket money low for a long time.
These rooms were let for twelve hundred francs. The months of January,
April, July, and October were, as he phrased it, his indigent months.
The rent and the porter’s account cleaned him out. Lousteau took no
fewer hackney cabs, spend a hundred francs in breakfasts all the same,
smoked thirty francs’ worth of cigars, and could never refuse the
mistress of a day a dinner or a new dress. He thus dipped so deeply into
the fluctuating earnings of the following months, that he could no more
find a hundred francs on his chimney-piece now, when he was making seven
or eight hundred francs a month, than he could in 1822, when he was
hardly getting two hundred.

Tired, sometimes, by the incessant vicissitudes of a literary life, and
as much bored by amusement as a courtesan, Lousteau would get out of the
tideway and sit on the bank, and say to one and another of his intimate
allies--Nathan or Bixiou, as they sat smoking in his scrap of garden,
looking out on an evergreen lawn as big as a dinner-table:

“What will be the end of us? White hairs are giving us respectful
hints!”

“Lord! we shall marry when we choose to give as much thought to the
matter as we give to a drama or a novel,” said Nathan.

“And Florine?” retorted Bixiou.

“Oh, we all have a Florine,” said Etienne, flinging away the end of his
cigar and thinking of Madame Schontz.

Madame Schontz was a pretty enough woman to put a very high price on the
interest on her beauty, while reserving absolute ownership for Lousteau,
the man of her heart. Like all those women who get the name in Paris of
_Lorettes_, from the Church of Notre Dame de Lorette, round about
which they dwell, she lived in the Rue Flechier, a stone’s throw from
Lousteau. This lady took a pride and delight in teasing her friends by
boasting of having a Wit for her lover.

These details of Lousteau’s life and fortune are indispensable, for this
penury and this bohemian existence of a man to whom Parisian luxury
had become a necessity, were fated to have a cruel influence on Dinah’s
life. Those to whom the bohemia of Paris is familiar will now understand
how it was that, by the end of a fortnight, the journalist, up to his
ears in the literary environment, could laugh about his Baroness with
his friends and even with Madame Schontz. To such readers as regard such
things as utterly mean, it is almost useless to make excuses which they
will not accept.

“What did you do at Sancerre?” asked Bixiou the first time he met
Lousteau.

“I did good service to three worthy provincials--a Receiver-General
of Taxes, a little cousin of his, and a Public Prosecutor, who for ten
years had been dancing round and round one of the hundred ‘Tenth Muses’
who adorn the Departments,” said he. “But they had no more dared
to touch her than we touch a decorated cream at dessert till some
strong-minded person has made a hole in it.”

“Poor boy!” said Bixiou. “I said you had gone to Sancerre to turn
Pegasus out to grass.”

“Your joke is as stupid as my Muse is handsome,” retorted Lousteau. “Ask
Bianchon, my dear fellow.”

“A Muse and a Poet! A homoeopathic cure then!” said Bixiou.

On the tenth day Lousteau received a letter with the Sancerre post-mark.

“Good! very good!” said Lousteau.

“‘Beloved friend, idol of my heart and soul----’ twenty pages of it! all
at one sitting, and dated midnight! She writes when she finds herself
alone. Poor woman! Ah, ha! And a postscript--

“‘I dare not ask you to write to me as I write, every day; still, I
hope to have a few lines from my dear one every week, to relieve my
mind.’--What a pity to burn it all! it is really well written,” said
Lousteau to himself, as he threw the ten sheets of paper into the fire
after having read them. “That woman was born to reel off copy!”

Lousteau was not much afraid of Madame Schontz, who really loved him for
himself, but he had supplanted a friend in the heart of a Marquise. This
Marquise, a lady nowise coy, sometimes dropped in unexpectedly at his
rooms in the evening, arriving veiled in a hackney coach; and she, as a
literary woman, allowed herself to hunt through all his drawers.

A week later, Lousteau, who hardly remembered Dinah, was startled by
another budget from Sancerre--eight leaves, sixteen pages! He heard a
woman’s step; he thought it announced a search from the Marquise, and
tossed these rapturous and entrancing proofs of affections into the
fire--unread!

“A woman’s letter!” exclaimed Madame Schontz, as she came in. “The
paper, the wax, are scented--”

“Here you are, sir,” said a porter from the coach office, setting down
two huge hampers in the ante-room. “Carriage paid. Please to sign my
book.”

“Carriage paid!” cried Madame Schontz. “It must have come from
Sancerre.”

“Yes, madame,” said the porter.

“Your Tenth Muse is a remarkably intelligent woman,” said the courtesan,
opening one of the hampers, while Lousteau was writing his name. “I like
a Muse who understands housekeeping, and who can make game pies as well
as blots. And, oh! what beautiful flowers!” she went on, opening the
second hamper. “Why, you could get none finer in Paris!--And here, and
here! A hare, partridges, half a roebuck!--We will ask your friends
and have a famous dinner, for Athalie has a special talent for dressing
venison.”

Lousteau wrote to Dinah; but instead of writing from the heart, he
was clever. The letter was all the more insidious; it was like one of
Mirabeau’s letters to Sophie. The style of a true lover is transparent.
It is a clear stream which allows the bottom of the heart to be seen
between two banks, bright with the trifles of existence, and covered
with the flowers of the soul that blossom afresh every day, full of
intoxicating beauty--but only for two beings. As soon as a love letter
has any charm for a third reader, it is beyond doubt the product of the
head, not of the heart. But a woman will always be beguiled; she always
believes herself to be the determining cause of this flow of wit.

By the end of December Lousteau had ceased to read Dinah’s letters; they
lay in a heap in a drawer of his chest that was never locked, under his
shirts, which they scented.

Then one of those chances came to Lousteau which such bohemians ought
to clutch by every hair. In the middle of December, Madame Schontz,
who took a real interest in Etienne, sent to beg him to call on her one
morning on business.

“My dear fellow, you have a chance of marrying.”

“I can marry very often, happily, my dear.”

“When I say marrying, I mean marrying well. You have no prejudices: I
need not mince matters. This is the position: A young lady has got
into trouble; her mother knows nothing of even a kiss. Her father is an
honest notary, a man of honor; he has been wise enough to keep it dark.
He wants to get his daughter married within a fortnight, and he will
give her a fortune of a hundred and fifty thousand francs--for he has
three other children; but--and it is not a bad idea--he will add a
hundred thousand francs, under the rose, hand to hand, to cover the
damages. They are an old family of Paris citizens, Rue des Lombards----”

“Well, then, why does not the lover marry her?”

“Dead.”

“What a romance! Such things are nowhere to be heard of but in the Rue
des Lombards.”

“But do not take it into your head that a jealous brother murdered the
seducer. The young man died in the most commonplace way of a pleurisy
caught as he came out of the theatre. A head-clerk and penniless,
the man entrapped the daughter in order to marry into the business--A
judgment from heaven, I call it!”

“Where did you hear the story?”

“From Malaga; the notary is her _milord_.”

“What, Cardot, the son of that little old man in hair-powder,
Florentine’s first friend?”

“Just so. Malaga, whose ‘fancy’ is a little tomtit of a fiddler of
eighteen, cannot in conscience make such a boy marry the girl. Besides,
she has no cause to do him an ill turn.--Indeed, Monsieur Cardot wants a
man of thirty at least. Our notary, I feel sure, will be proud to have a
famous man for his son-in-law. So just feel yourself all over.--You will
pay your debts, you will have twelve thousand francs a year, and be a
father without any trouble on your part; what do you say to that to the
good? And, after all, you only marry a very consolable widow. There is
an income of fifty thousand francs in the house, and the value of the
connection, so in due time you may look forward to not less than fifteen
thousand francs a year more for your share, and you will enter a family
holding a fine political position; Cardot is the brother-in-law of old
Camusot, the depute who lived so long with Fanny Beaupre.”

“Yes,” said Lousteau, “old Camusot married little Daddy Cardot’s eldest
daughter, and they had high times together!”

“Well!” Madame Schontz went on, “and Madame Cardot, the notary’s wife,
was a Chiffreville--manufacturers of chemical products, the aristocracy
of these days! Potash, I tell you! Still, this is the unpleasant side of
the matter. You will have a terrible mother-in-law, a woman capable of
killing her daughter if she knew--! This Cardot woman is a bigot; she
has lips like two faded narrow pink ribbons.

“A man of the town like you would never pass muster with that woman,
who, in her well-meaning way, will spy out your bachelor life and know
every fact of the past. However, Cardot says he means to exert his
paternal authority. The poor man will be obliged to do the civil to his
wife for some days; a woman made of wood, my dear fellow; Malaga, who
has seen her, calls her a penitential scrubber. Cardot is a man of
forty; he will be mayor of his district, and perhaps be elected deputy.
He is prepared to give in lieu of the hundred thousand francs a nice
little house in the Rue Saint-Lazare, with a forecourt and a garden,
which cost him no more than sixty thousand at the time of the July
overthrow; he would sell, and that would be an opportunity for you to
go and come at the house, to see the daughter, and be civil to the
mother.--And it would give you a look of property in Madame Cardot’s
eyes. You would be housed like a prince in that little mansion. Then,
by Camusot’s interest, you may get an appointment as librarian to some
public office where there is no library.--Well, and then if you invest
your money in backing up a newspaper, you will get ten thousand francs
a year on it, you can earn six, your librarianship will bring you in
four.--Can you do better for yourself?

“If you were to marry a lamb without spot, it might be a light woman by
the end of two years. What is the damage?--an anticipated dividend! It
is quite the fashion.

“Take my word for it, you can do no better than come to dine with Malaga
to-morrow. You will meet your father-in-law; he will know the secret has
been let out--by Malaga, with whom he cannot be angry--and then you are
master of the situation. As to your wife!--Why her misconduct leaves you
as free as a bachelor----”

“Your language is as blunt as a cannon ball.”

“I love you for your own sake, that is all--and I can reason. Well! why
do you stand there like a wax image of Abd-el-Kader? There is nothing to
meditate over. Marriage is heads or tails--well, you have tossed heads
up.”

“You shall have my reply to-morrow,” said Lousteau.

“I would sooner have it at once; Malaga will write you up to-night.”

“Well, then, yes.”

Lousteau spent the evening in writing a long letter to the Marquise,
giving her the reasons which compelled him to marry; his constant
poverty, the torpor of his imagination, his white hairs, his moral and
physical exhaustion--in short, four pages of arguments.--“As to Dinah,
I will send her a circular announcing the marriage,” said he to himself.
“As Bixiou says, I have not my match for knowing how to dock the tail of
a passion.”

Lousteau, who at first had been on some ceremony with himself, by next
day had come to the point of dreading lest the marriage should not come
off. He was pressingly civil to the notary.

“I knew monsieur your father,” said he, “at Florentine’s, so I may well
know you here, at Mademoiselle Turquet’s. Like father, like son. A very
good fellow and a philosopher, was little Daddy Cardot--excuse me,
we always called him so. At that time, Florine, Florentine, Tullia,
Coralie, and Mariette were the five fingers of your hand, so to
speak--it is fifteen years ago. My follies, as you may suppose, are a
thing of the past.--In those days it was pleasure that ran away with me;
now I am ambitious; but, in our day, to get on at all a man must be
free from debt, have a good income, a wife, and a family. If I pay taxes
enough to qualify me, I may be a deputy yet, like any other man.”

Maitre Cardot appreciated this profession of faith. Lousteau had laid
himself out to please and the notary liked him, feeling himself more
at his ease, as may be easily imagined, with a man who had known his
father’s secrets than he would have been with another. On the following
day Lousteau was introduced to the Cardot family as the purchaser of the
house in the Rue Saint-Lazare, and three days later he dined there.

Cardot lived in an old house near the Place du Chatelet. In this house
everything was “good.” Economy covered every scrap of gilding with green
gauze; all the furniture wore holland covers. Though it was impossible
to feel a shade of uneasiness as to the wealth of the inhabitants, at
the end of half an hour no one could suppress a yawn. Boredom perched
in every nook; the curtains hung dolefully; the dining-room was like
Harpagon’s. Even if Lousteau had not known all about Malaga, he could
have guessed that the notary’s real life was spent elsewhere.

The journalist saw a tall, fair girl with blue eyes, at once shy and
languishing. The elder brother took a fancy to him; he was the fourth
clerk in the office, but strongly attracted by the snares of literary
fame, though destined to succeed his father. The younger sister was
twelve years old. Lousteau, assuming a little Jesuitical air, played
the Monarchist and Churchman for the benefit of the mother, was quite
smooth, deliberate, and complimentary.

Within three weeks of their introduction, at his fourth dinner there,
Felicie Cardot, who had been watching Lousteau out of the corner of her
eye, carried him a cup of coffee where he stood in the window recess,
and said in a low voice, with tears in her eyes:

“I will devote my whole life, monsieur, to thanking you for your
sacrifice in favor of a poor girl----”

Lousteau was touched; there was so much expression in her look, her
accent, her attitude. “She would make a good man happy,” thought he,
pressing her hand in reply.

Madame Cardot looked upon her son-in-law as a man with a future before
him; but, above all the fine qualities she ascribed to him, she was
most delighted by his high tone of morals. Etienne, prompted by the wily
notary, had pledged his word that he had no natural children, no tie
that could endanger the happiness of her dear Felicie.

“You may perhaps think I go rather too far,” said the bigot to the
journalist; “but in giving such a jewel as my Felicie to any man, one
must think of the future. I am not one of those mothers who want to
be rid of their daughters. Monsieur Cardot hurries matters on, urges
forward his daughter’s marriage; he wishes it over. This is the only
point on which we differ.--Though with a man like you, monsieur, a
literary man whose youth has been preserved by hard work from the moral
shipwreck now so prevalent, we may feel quite safe; still, you would be
the first to laugh at me if I looked for a husband for my daughter with
my eyes shut. I know you are not an innocent, and I should be very sorry
for my Felicie if you were” (this was said in a whisper); “but if you
had any _liaison_--For instance, monsieur, you have heard of Madame
Roguin, the wife of a notary who, unhappily for our faculty, was sadly
notorious. Madame Roguin has, ever since 1820, been kept by a banker--”

“Yes, du Tillet,” replied Etienne; but he bit his tongue as he
recollected how rash it was to confess to an acquaintance with du
Tillet.

“Yes.--Well, monsieur, if you were a mother, would you not quake at the
thought that Madame du Tillet’s fate might be your child’s? At her age,
and _nee_ de Granville! To have as a rival a woman of fifty and more.
Sooner would I see my daughter dead than give her to a man who had such
a connection with a married woman. A grisette, an actress, you take her
and leave her.--There is no danger, in my opinion, from women of that
stamp; love is their trade, they care for no one, one down and another
to come on!--But a woman who has sinned against duty must hug her sin,
her only excuse is constancy, if such a crime can ever have an excuse.
At least, that is the view I hold of a respectable woman’s fall, and
that is what makes it so terrible----”

Instead of looking for the meaning of these speeches, Etienne made a
jest of them at Malaga’s, whither he went with his father-in-law elect;
for the notary and the journalist were the best of friends.

Lousteau had already given himself the airs of a person of importance;
his life at last was to have a purpose; he was in luck’s way, and in
a few days would be the owner of a delightful little house in the Rue
Saint-Lazare; he was going to be married to a charming woman, he would
have about twenty thousand francs a year, and could give the reins to
his ambition; the young lady loved him, and he would be connected with
several respectable families. In short, he was in full sail on the blue
waters of hope.



Madame Cardot had expressed a wish to see the prints for _Gil Blas_, one
of the illustrated volumes which the French publishers were at that time
bringing out, and Lousteau had taken the first numbers for the lady’s
inspection. The lawyer’s wife had a scheme of her own, she had borrowed
the book merely to return it; she wanted an excuse for walking in on her
future son-in-law quite unexpectedly. The sight of those bachelor rooms,
which her husband had described as charming, would tell her more, she
thought, as to Lousteau’s habits of life than any information she could
pick up. Her sister-in-law, Madame Camusot, who knew nothing of the
fateful secret, was terrified at such a marriage for her niece. Monsieur
Camusot, a Councillor of the Supreme Court, old Camusot’s son by his
first marriage, had given his step-mother, who was Cardot’s sister, a
far from flattering account of the journalist.

Lousteau, clever as he was, did not think it strange that the wife of
a rich notary should wish to inspect a volume costing fifteen francs
before deciding on the purchase. Your clever man never condescends to
study the middle-class, who escape his ken by this want of attention;
and while he is making game of them, they are at leisure to throttle
him.

So one day early in January 1837, Madame Cardot and her daughter took
a hackney coach and went to the Rue des Martyrs to return the parts
of _Gil Blas_ to Felicie’s betrothed, both delighted at the thought of
seeing Lousteau’s rooms. These domiciliary visitations are not unusual
in the old citizen class. The porter at the front gate was not in; but
his daughter, on being informed by the worthy lady that she was in the
presence of Monsieur Lousteau’s future mother-in-law and bride, handed
over the key of the apartment--all the more readily because Madame
Cardot placed a gold piece in her hand.

It was by this time about noon, the hour at which the journalist would
return from breakfasting at the Cafe Anglais. As he crossed the open
space between the Church of Notre-Dame de Lorette and the Rue des
Martyrs, Lousteau happened to look at a hired coach that was toiling up
the Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, and he fancied it was a dream when he
saw the face of Dinah! He stood frozen to the spot when, on reaching his
house, he beheld his Didine at the coach door.

“What has brought you here?” he inquired.--He adopted the familiar _tu_.
The formality of _vous_ was out of the question to a woman he must get
rid of.

“Why, my love,” cried she, “have you not read my letters?”

“Certainly I have,” said Lousteau.

“Well, then?”

“Well, then?”

“You are a father,” replied the country lady.

“Faugh!” cried he, disregarding the barbarity of such an exclamation.
“Well,” thought he to himself, “she must be prepared for the blow.”

He signed to the coachman to wait, gave his hand to Madame de la
Baudraye, and left the man with the chaise full of trunks, vowing that
he would send away _illico_, as he said to himself, the woman and her
luggage, back to the place she had come from.

“Monsieur, monsieur,” called out little Pamela.

The child had some sense, and felt that three women must not be allowed
to meet in a bachelor’s rooms.

“Well, well!” said Lousteau, dragging Dinah along.

Pamela concluded that the lady must be some relation; however, she
added:

“The key is in the door; your mother-in-law is there.”

In his agitation, while Madame de la Baudraye was pouring out a flood of
words, Etienne understood the child to say, “Mother is there,” the only
circumstance that suggested itself as possible, and he went in.

Felicie and her mother, who were by this time in the bed-room, crept
into a corner on seeing Etienne enter with a woman.

“At last, Etienne, my dearest, I am yours for life!” cried Dinah,
throwing her arms round his neck, and clasping him closely, while he
took the key from the outside of the door. “Life is a perpetual anguish
to me in that house at Anzy. I could bear it no longer; and when
the time came for me to proclaim my happiness--well, I had not the
courage.--Here I am, your wife with your child! And you have not written
to me; you have left me two months without a line.”

“But, Dinah, you place me in the greatest difficulty--”

“Do you love me?”

“How can I do otherwise than love you?--But would you not have been
wiser to remain at Sancerre?--I am in the most abject poverty, and I
fear to drag you into it--”

“Your misery will be paradise to me. I only ask to live here, never to
go out--”

“Good God! that is all very fine in words, but--” Dinah sat down and
melted into tears as she heard this speech, roughly spoken.

Lousteau could not resist this distress. He clasped the Baroness in his
arms and kissed her.

“Do not cry, Didine!” said he; and, as he uttered the words, he saw in
the mirror the figure of Madame Cardot, looking at him from the further
end of the rooms. “Come, Didine, go with Pamela and get your trunks
unloaded,” said he in her ear. “Go; do not cry; we will be happy!”

He led her to the door, and then came back to divert the storm.

“Monsieur,” said Madame Cardot, “I congratulate myself on having
resolved to see for myself the home of the man who was to have been my
son-in-law. If my daughter were to die of it, she should never be the
wife of such a man as you. You must devote yourself to making your
Didine happy, monsieur.”

And the virtuous lady walked out, followed by Felicie, who was crying
too, for she had become accustomed to Etienne. The dreadful Madame
Cardot got into her hackney-coach again, staring insolently at the
hapless Dinah, in whose heart the sting still rankled of “that is all
very fine in words”; but who, nevertheless, like every woman in love,
believed in the murmured, “Do not cry, Didine!”

Lousteau, who was not lacking in the sort of decision which grows out of
the vicissitudes of a storm-tossed life, reflected thus:

“Didine is high-minded; when once she knows of my proposed marriage,
she will sacrifice herself for my future prospects, and I know how I can
manage to let her know.” Delighted at having hit on a trick of which the
success seemed certain, he danced round to a familiar tune:

“_Larifla, fla, fla!_--And Didine once out of the way,” he went
on, talking to himself, “I will treat Maman Cardot to a call and a
novelette: I have seduced her Felicie at Saint-Eustache--Felicie, guilty
through passion, bears in her bosom the pledge of our affection--and
_larifla, fla, fla!_ the father _Ergo_, the notary, his wife, and his
daughter are caught, nabbed----”

And, to her great amazement, Dinah discovered Etienne performing a
prohibited dance.

“Your arrival and our happiness have turned my head with joy,” said he,
to explain this crazy mood.

“And I had fancied you had ceased to love me!” exclaimed the poor woman,
dropping the handbag she was carrying, and weeping with joy as she sank
into a chair.

“Make yourself at home, my darling,” said Etienne, laughing in his
sleeve; “I must write two lines to excuse myself from a bachelor party,
for I mean to devote myself to you. Give your orders; you are at home.”

Etienne wrote to Bixiou:

  “MY DEAR BOY,--My Baroness has dropped into my arms, and will be
  fatal to my marriage unless we perform one of the most familiar
  stratagems of the thousand and one comedies at the Gymnase. I rely
  on you to come here, like one of Moliere’s old men, to scold your
  nephew Leandre for his folly, while the Tenth Muse lies hidden in
  my bedroom; you must work on her feelings; strike hard, be brutal,
  offensive. I, you understand, shall express my blind devotion, and
  shall seem to be deaf, so that you may have to shout at me.

  “Come, if you can, at seven o’clock.

  “Yours,
  “E. LOUSTEAU.”


Having sent this letter by a commissionaire to the man who, in all
Paris, most delighted in such practical jokes--in the slang of artists,
a _charge_--Lousteau made a great show of settling the Muse of Sancerre
in his apartment. He busied himself in arranging the luggage she had
brought, and informed her as to the persons and ways of the house with
such perfect good faith, and a glee which overflowed in kind words and
caresses, that Dinah believed herself the best-beloved woman in the
world. These rooms, where everything bore the stamp of fashion, pleased
her far better than her old chateau.

Pamela Migeon, the intelligent damsel of fourteen, was questioned by
the journalist as to whether she would like to be waiting-maid to the
imposing Baroness. Pamela, perfectly enchanted, entered on her duties at
once, by going off to order dinner from a restaurant on the boulevard.
Dinah was able to judge of the extreme poverty that lay hidden under the
purely superficial elegance of this bachelor home when she found none
of the necessaries of life. As she took possession of the closets and
drawers, she indulged in the fondest dreams; she would alter Etienne’s
habits, she would make him home-keeping, she would fill his cup of
domestic happiness.

The novelty of the position hid its disastrous side; Dinah regarded
reciprocated love as the absolution of her sin; she did not yet look
beyond the walls of these rooms. Pamela, whose wits were as sharp as
those of a _lorette_, went straight to Madame Schontz to beg the loan of
some plate, telling her what had happened to Lousteau. After making
the child welcome to all she had, Madame Schontz went off to her friend
Malaga, that Cardot might be warned of the catastrophe that had befallen
his future son-in-law.

The journalist, not in the least uneasy about the crisis as affecting
his marriage, was more and more charming to the lady from the provinces.
The dinner was the occasion of the delightful child’s-play of lovers set
at liberty, and happy to be free. When they had had their coffee, and
Lousteau was sitting in front of the fire, Dinah on his knee, Pamela ran
in with a scared face.

“Here is Monsieur Bixiou!” said she.

“Go into the bedroom,” said the journalist to his mistress; “I will soon
get rid of him. He is one of my most intimate friends, and I shall have
to explain to him my new start in life.”

“Oh, ho! dinner for two, and a blue velvet bonnet!” cried Bixiou. “I
am off.--Ah! that is what comes of marrying--one must go through some
partings. How rich one feels when one begins to move one’s sticks, heh?”

“Who talks of marrying?” said Lousteau.

“What! are you not going to be married, then?” cried Bixiou.

“No!”

“No? My word, what next? Are you making a fool of yourself, if you
please?--What!--You, who, by the mercy of Heaven, have come across
twenty thousand francs a year, and a house, and a wife connected with
all the first families of the better middle class--a wife, in short, out
of the Rue des Lombards--”

“That will do, Bixiou, enough; it is at an end. Be off!”

“Be off? I have a friend’s privileges, and I shall take every advantage
of them.--What has come over you?”

“What has ‘come over’ me is my lady from Sancerre. She is a mother, and
we are going to live together happily to the end of our days.--You would
have heard it to-morrow, so you may as well be told it now.”

“Many chimney-pots are falling on my head, as Arnal says. But if this
woman really loves you, my dear fellow, she will go back to the place
she came from. Did any provincial woman ever yet find her sea-legs
in Paris? She will wound all your vanities. Have you forgotten what a
provincial is? She will bore you as much when she is happy as when she
is sad; she will have as great a talent for escaping grace as a Parisian
has in inventing it.

“Lousteau, listen to me. That a passion should lead you to forget to
some extent the times in which we live, is conceivable; but I, my dear
fellow, have not the mythological bandage over my eyes.--Well, then
consider your position. For fifteen years you have been tossing in the
literary world; you are no longer young, you have padded the hoof till
your soles are worn through!--Yes, my boy, you turn your socks under
like a street urchin to hide the holes, so that the legs cover the
heels! In short, the joke is too stale. Your excuses are more familiar
than a patent medicine--”

“I may say to you, like the Regent to Cardinal Dubois, ‘That is kicking
enough!’” said Lousteau, laughing.

“Oh, venerable young man,” replied Bixiou, “the iron has touched the
sore to the quick. You are worn out, aren’t you? Well, then; in the
heyday of youth, under the pressure of penury, what have you done? You
are not in the front rank, and you have not a thousand francs of your
own. That is the sum-total of the situation. Can you, in the decline of
your powers, support a family by your pen, when your wife, if she is an
honest woman, will not have at her command the resources of the woman
of the streets, who can extract her thousand-franc note from the depths
where milord keeps it safe? You are rushing into the lowest depths of
the social theatre.

“And this is only the financial side. Now, consider the political
position. We are struggling in an essentially _bourgeois_ age, in which
honor, virtue, high-mindedness, talent, learning--genius, in short, is
summed up in paying your way, owing nobody anything, and conducting
your affairs with judgment. Be steady, be respectable, have a wife, and
children, pay your rent and taxes, serve in the National Guard, and be
on the same pattern as all the men of your company--then you may indulge
in the loftiest pretensions, rise to the Ministry!--and you have the
best chances possible, since you are no Montmorency. You were preparing
to fulfil all the conditions insisted on for turning out a political
personage, you are capable of every mean trick that is necessary in
office, even of pretending to be commonplace--you would have acted it to
the life. And just for a woman, who will leave you in the lurch--the
end of every eternal passion--in three, five, or seven years--after
exhausting your last physical and intellectual powers, you turn your
back on the sacred Hearth, on the Rue des Lombards, on a political
career, on thirty thousand francs per annum, on respectability and
respect!--Ought that to be the end of a man who has done with illusions?

“If you had kept a pot boiling for some actress who gave you your fun
for it--well; that is what you may call a cabinet matter. But to live
with another man’s wife? It is a draft at sight on disaster; it is
bolting the bitter pills of vice with none of the gilding.”

“That will do. One word answers it all; I love Madame de la Baudraye,
and prefer her to every fortune, to every position the world can
offer.--I may have been carried away by a gust of ambition, but
everything must give way to the joy of being a father.”

“Ah, ha! you have a fancy for paternity? But, wretched man, we are the
fathers only of our legitimate children. What is a brat that does not
bear your name? The last chapter of the romance.--Your child will be
taken from you! We have seen that story in twenty plays these ten years
past.

“Society, my dear boy, will drop upon you sooner or later. Read
_Adolphe_ once more.--Dear me! I fancy I can see you when you and
she are used to each other;--I see you dejected, hang-dog, bereft of
position and fortune, and fighting like the shareholders of a bogus
company when they are tricked by a director!--Your director is
happiness.”

“Say no more, Bixiou.”

“But I have only just begun,” said Bixiou. “Listen, my dear boy.
Marriage has been out of favor for some time past; but, apart from the
advantages it offers in being the only recognized way of certifying
heredity, as it affords a good-looking young man, though penniless, the
opportunity of making his fortune in two months, it survives in spite
of disadvantages. And there is not the man living who would not repent,
sooner or later, of having, by his own fault, lost the chance of
marrying thirty thousand francs a year.”

“You won’t understand me,” cried Lousteau, in a voice of exasperation.
“Go away--she is there----”

“I beg your pardon; why did you not tell me sooner?--You are of age, and
so is she,” he added in a lower voice, but loud enough to be heard by
Dinah. “She will make you repent bitterly of your happiness!----”

“If it is a folly, I intend to commit it.--Good-bye.”

“A man gone overboard!” cried Bixiou.

“Devil take those friends who think they have a right to preach to you,”
 said Lousteau, opening the door of the bedroom, where he found Madame de
la Baudraye sunk in an armchair and dabbing her eyes with an embroidered
handkerchief.

“Oh, why did I come here?” sobbed she. “Good Heavens, why
indeed?--Etienne, I am not so provincial as you think me.--You are
making a fool of me.”

“Darling angel,” replied Lousteau, taking Dinah in his arms, lifting her
from her chair, and dragging her half dead into the drawing-room, “we
have both pledged our future, it is sacrifice for sacrifice. While I was
loving you at Sancerre, they were engaging me to be married here, but I
refused.--Oh! I was extremely distressed----”

“I am going,” cried Dinah, starting wildly to her feet and turning to
the door.

“You will stay here, my Didine. All is at an end. And is this fortune so
lightly earned after all? Must I not marry a gawky, tow-haired creature,
with a red nose, the daughter of a notary, and saddle myself with a
stepmother who could give Madame de Piedefer points on the score of
bigotry--”

Pamela flew in, and whispered in Lousteau’s ear:

“Madame Schontz!”

Lousteau rose, leaving Dinah on the sofa, and went out.

“It is all over with you, my dear,” said the woman. “Cardot does not
mean to quarrel with his wife for the sake of a son-in-law. The lady
made a scene--something like a scene, I can tell you! So, to conclude,
the head-clerk, who was the late head-clerk’s deputy for two years,
agrees to take the girl with the business.”

“Mean wretch!” exclaimed Lousteau. “What! in two hours he has made up
his mind?”

“Bless me, that is simple enough. The rascal, who knew all the dead
man’s little secrets, guessed what a fix his master was in from
overhearing a few words of the squabble with Madame Cardot. The notary
relies on your honor and good feeling, for the affair is settled. The
clerk, whose conduct has been admirable, went so far as to attend mass!
A finished hypocrite, I say--just suits the mamma. You and Cardot
will still be friends. He is to be a director in an immense financial
concern, and he may be of use to you.--So you have been waked from a
sweet dream.”

“I have lost a fortune, a wife, and--”

“And a mistress,” said Madame Schontz, smiling. “Here you are, more than
married; you will be insufferable, you will be always wanting to get
home, there will be nothing loose about you, neither your clothes nor
your habits. And, after all, my Arthur does things in style. I will be
faithful to him and cut Malaga’s acquaintance.

“Let me peep at her through the door--your Sancerre Muse,” she went
on. “Is there no finer bird than that to be found in the desert?” she
exclaimed. “You are cheated! She is dignified, lean, lachrymose; she
only needs Lady Dudley’s turban!”

“What is it now?” asked Madame de la Baudraye, who had heard the rustle
of a silk dress and the murmur of a woman’s voice.

“It is, my darling, that we are now indissolubly united.--I have just
had an answer to the letter you saw me write, which was to break off my
marriage----”

“So that was the party which you gave up?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I will be more than your wife--I am your slave, I give you my
life,” said the poor deluded creature. “I did not believe I could love
you more than I did!--Now I shall not be a mere incident, but your whole
life?”

“Yes, my beautiful, my generous Didine.”

“Swear to me,” said she, “that only death shall divide us.”

Lousteau was ready to sweeten his vows with the most fascinating
prettinesses. And this was why. Between the door of the apartment where
he had taken the lorette’s farewell kiss, and that of the drawing-room,
where the Muse was reclining, bewildered by such a succession of shocks,
Lousteau had remembered little De la Baudraye’s precarious health, his
fine fortune, and Bianchon’s remark about Dinah, “She will be a rich
widow!” and he said to himself, “I would a hundred times rather have
Madame de la Baudraye for a wife than Felicie!”

His plan of action was quickly decided on; he determined to play
the farce of passion once more, and to perfection. His mean
self-interestedness and his false vehemence of passion had disastrous
results. Madame de la Baudraye, when she set out from Sancerre for
Paris, had intended to live in rooms of her own quite near to Lousteau;
but the proofs of devotion her lover had given her by giving up such
brilliant prospects, and yet more the perfect happiness of the first
days of their illicit union, kept her from mentioning such a parting.
The second day was to be--and indeed was--a high festival, in which such
a suggestion proposed to “her angel” would have been a discordant note.

Lousteau, on his part, anxious to make Dinah feel herself dependent
on him, kept her in a state of constant intoxication by incessant
amusement. These circumstances hindered two persons so clever as these
were from avoiding the slough into which they fell--that of a life in
common, a piece of folly of which, unfortunately, many instances may be
seen in Paris in literary circles.

And thus was the whole programme played out of a provincial amour, so
satirically described by Lousteau to Madame de la Baudraye--a fact which
neither he nor she remembered. Passion is born a deaf-mute.



This winter in Paris was to Madame de la Baudraye all that the month of
October had been at Sancerre. Etienne, to initiate “his wife” into Paris
life, varied this honeymoon by evenings at the play, where Dinah would
only go to the stage box. At first Madame de la Baudraye preserved some
remnants of her countrified modesty; she was afraid of being seen; she
hid her happiness. She would say:

“Monsieur de Clagny or Monsieur Gravier may have followed me to Paris.”
 She was afraid of Sancerre even in Paris.

Lousteau, who was excessively vain, educated Dinah, took her to the best
dressmakers, and pointed out to her the most fashionable women, advising
her to take them as models for imitation. And Madame de la Baudraye’s
provincial appearance was soon a thing of the past. Lousteau, when his
friends met him, was congratulated on his conquest.

All through that season Etienne wrote little and got very much into
debt, though Dinah, who was proud, bought all her clothes out of her
savings, and fancied she had not been the smallest expense to her
beloved. By the end of three months Dinah was acclimatized; she had
reveled in the music at the Italian opera; she knew the pieces “on” at
all theatres, and the actors and jests of the day; she had become
inured to this life of perpetual excitement, this rapid torrent in which
everything is forgotten. She no longer craned her neck or stood with her
nose in the air, like an image of Amazement, at the constant surprises
that Paris has for a stranger. She had learned to breathe that witty,
vitalizing, teeming atmosphere where clever people feel themselves in
their element, and which they can no longer bear to quit.

One morning, as she read the papers, for Lousteau had them all, two
lines carried her back to Sancerre and the past, two lines that seemed
not unfamiliar--as follows:

“Monsieur le Baron de Clagny, Public Prosecutor to the Criminal Court
at Sancerre, has been appointed Deputy Public Prosecutor to the Supreme
Court in Paris.”

“How well that worthy lawyer loves you!” said the journalist, smiling.

“Poor man!” said she. “What did I tell you? He is following me.”

Etienne and Dinah were just then at the most dazzling and fervid stage
of a passion when each is perfectly accustomed to the other, and yet
love has not lost its freshness and relish. The lovers know each other
well, but all is not yet understood; they have not been a second time
to the same secret haunts of the soul; they have not studied each other
till they know, as they must later, the very thought, word, and gesture
that responds to every event, the greatest and the smallest. Enchantment
reigns; there are no collisions, no differences of opinion, no cold
looks. Their two souls are always on the same side. And Dinah would
speak the magical words, emphasized by the yet more magical expression
and looks which every woman can use under such circumstances.

“When you cease to love me, kill me.--If you should cease to love me, I
believe I could kill you first and myself after.”

To this sweet exaggeration, Lousteau would reply:

“All I ask of God is to see you as constant as I shall be. It is you who
will desert me!”

“My love is supreme.”

“Supreme,” echoed Lousteau. “Come, now? Suppose I am dragged away to
a bachelor party, and find there one of my former mistresses, and she
makes fun of me; I, out of vanity, behave as if I were free, and do not
come in here till next morning--would you still love me?”

“A woman is only sure of being loved when she is preferred; and if you
came back to me, if--Oh! you make me understand what the happiness would
be of forgiving the man I adore.”

“Well, then, I am truly loved for the first time in my life!” cried
Lousteau.

“At last you understand that!” said she.

Lousteau proposed that they should each write a letter setting forth the
reasons which would compel them to end by suicide. Once in possession
of such a document, each might kill the other without danger in case of
infidelity. But in spite of mutual promises, neither wrote the letter.

The journalist, happy for the moment, promised himself that he would
deceive Dinah when he should be tired of her, and would sacrifice
everything to the requirements of that deception. To him Madame de la
Baudraye was a fortune in herself. At the same time, he felt the yoke.

Dinah, by consenting to this union, showed a generous mind and the power
derived from self-respect. In this absolute intimacy, in which both
lovers put off their masks, the young woman never abdicated her modesty,
her masculine rectitude, and the strength peculiar to ambitious souls,
which formed the basis of her character. Lousteau involuntarily held
her in high esteem. As a Parisian, Dinah was superior to the most
fascinating courtesan; she could be as amusing and as witty as Malaga;
but her extensive information, her habits of mind, her vast reading
enabled her to generalize her wit, while the Florines and the Schontzes
exerted theirs over a very narrow circle.

“There is in Dinah,” said Etienne to Bixiou, “the stuff to make both a
Ninon and a De Stael.”

“A woman who combines an encyclopaedia and a seraglio is very
dangerous,” replied the mocking spirit.

When the expected infant became a visible fact, Madame de la Baudraye
would be seen no more; but before shutting herself up, never to go out
unless into the country, she was bent on being present at the first
performance of a play by Nathan. This literary solemnity occupied the
minds of the two thousand persons who regard themselves as constituting
“all Paris.” Dinah, who had never been at a first night’s performance,
was very full of natural curiosity. She had by this time arrived at such
a pitch of affection for Lousteau that she gloried in her misconduct;
she exerted a sort of savage strength to defy the world; she was
determined to look it in the face without turning her head aside.

She dressed herself to perfection, in a style suited to her delicate
looks and the sickly whiteness of her face. Her pallid complexion gave
her an expression of refinement, and her black hair in smooth bands
enhanced her pallor. Her brilliant gray eyes looked finer than ever,
set in dark rings. But a terribly distressing incident awaited her. By a
very simple chance, the box given to the journalist, on the first tier,
was next to that which Anna Grossetete had taken. The two intimate
friends did not even bow; neither chose to acknowledge the other. At
the end of the first act Lousteau left his seat, abandoning Dinah to the
fire of eyes, the glare of opera-glasses; while the Baronne de Fontaine
and the Comtesse Marie de Vandenesse, who accompanied her, received some
of the most distinguished men of fashion.

Dinah’s solitude was all the more distressing because she had not
the art of putting a good face to the matter by examining the company
through her opera-glass. In vain did she try to assume a dignified and
thoughtful attitude, and fix her eyes on vacancy; she was overpoweringly
conscious of being the object of general attention; she could not
disguise her discomfort, and lapsed a little into provincialism,
displaying her handkerchief and making involuntary movements of which
she had almost cured herself. At last, between the second and third
acts, a man had himself admitted to Dinah’s box! It was Monsieur de
Clagny.

“I am happy to see you, to tell you how much I am pleased by your
promotion,” said she.

“Oh! Madame, for whom should I come to Paris----?”

“What!” said she. “Have I anything to do with your appointment?”

“Everything,” said he. “Since you left Sancerre, it had become
intolerable to me; I was dying--”

“Your sincere friendship does me good,” replied she, holding out her
hand. “I am in a position to make much of my true friends; I now know
their value.--I feared I must have lost your esteem, but the proof you
have given me by this visit touches me more deeply than your ten years’
attachment.”

“You are an object of curiosity to the whole house,” said the lawyer.
“Oh! my dear, is this a part for you to be playing? Could you not be
happy and yet remain honored?--I have just heard that you are Monsieur
Etienne Lousteau’s mistress, that you live together as man and
wife!--You have broken for ever with society; even if you should some
day marry your lover, the time will come when you will feel the want
of the respectability you now despise. Ought you not to be in a home of
your own with your mother, who loves you well enough to protect you with
her aegis?--Appearances at least would be saved.”

“I am in the wrong to have come here,” replied she, “that is all.--I
have bid farewell to all the advantages which the world confers on women
who know how to reconcile happiness and the proprieties. My abnegation
is so complete that I only wish I could clear a vast space about me to
make a desert of my love, full of God, of _him_, and of myself.--We
have made too many sacrifices on both sides not to be united--united by
disgrace if you will, but indissolubly one. I am happy; so happy that I
can love freely, my friend, and confide in you more than of old--for I
need a friend.”

The lawyer was magnanimous, nay, truly great. To this declaration, in
which Dinah’s soul thrilled, he replied in heartrending tones:

“I wanted to go to see you, to be sure that you were loved: I shall now
be easy and no longer alarmed as to your future.--But will your lover
appreciate the magnitude of your sacrifice; is there any gratitude in
his affection?”

“Come to the Rue des Martyrs and you will see!”

“Yes, I will call,” he replied. “I have already passed your door without
daring to inquire for you.--You do not yet know the literary world.
There are glorious exceptions, no doubt; but these men of letters drag
terrible evils in their train; among these I account publicity as one
of the greatest, for it blights everything. A woman may commit herself
with--”

“With a Public Prosecutor?” the Baronne put in with a smile.

“Well!--and then after a rupture there is still something to fall back
on; the world has known nothing. But with a more or less famous man the
public is thoroughly informed. Why look there! What an example you have
close at hand! You are sitting back to back with the Comtesse Marie
Vandenesse, who was within an ace of committing the utmost folly for a
more celebrated man than Lousteau--for Nathan--and now they do not even
recognize each other. After going to the very edge of the precipice, the
Countess was saved, no one knows how; she neither left her husband nor
her house; but as a famous man was scorned, she was the talk of the town
for a whole winter. But her husband’s great fortune, great name,
and high position, but for the admirable management of that true
statesman--whose conduct to his wife, they say, was perfect--she would
have been ruined; in her position no other woman would have remained
respected as she is.”

“And how was Sancerre when you came away?” asked Madame de la Baudraye,
to change the subject.

“Monsieur de la Baudraye announced that your expected confinement after
so many years made it necessary that it should take place in Paris,
and that he had insisted on your going to be attended by the first
physicians,” replied Monsieur de Clagny, guessing what it was that Dinah
most wanted to know. “And so, in spite of the commotion to which your
departure gave rise, you still have your legal status.”

“Why!” she exclaimed, “can Monsieur de la Baudraye still hope----”

“Your husband, madame, did what he always does--made a little
calculation.”

The lawyer left the box when the journalist returned, bowing with
dignity.

“You are a greater hit than the piece,” said Etienne to Dinah.

This brief triumph brought greater happiness to the poor woman than she
had ever known in the whole of her provincial existence; still, as they
left the theatre she was very grave.

“What ails you, my Didine?” asked Lousteau.

“I am wondering how a woman succeeds in conquering the world?”

“There are two ways. One is by being Madame de Stael, the other is by
having two hundred thousand francs a year.”

“Society,” said she, “asserts its hold on us by appealing to our vanity,
our love of appearances.--Pooh! We will be philosophers!”



That evening was the last gleam of the delusive well-being in which
Madame de la Baudraye had lived since coming to Paris. Three days later
she observed a cloud on Lousteau’s brow as he walked round the little
garden-plot smoking a cigar. This woman, who had acquired from her
husband the habit and the pleasure of never owing anybody a sou, was
informed that the household was penniless, with two quarters’ rent
owing, and on the eve, in fact, of an execution.

This reality of Paris life pierced Dinah’s heart like a thorn; she
repented of having tempted Etienne into the extravagances of love. It is
so difficult to pass from pleasure to work, that happiness has wrecked
more poems than sorrows ever helped to flow in sparkling jets.
Dinah, happy in seeing Etienne taking his ease, smoking a cigar after
breakfast, his face beaming as he basked like a lizard in the sunshine,
could not summon up courage enough to make herself the bum-bailiff of a
magazine.

It struck her that through the worthy Migeon, Pamela’s father, she might
pawn the few jewels she possessed, on which her “uncle,” for she was
learning to talk the slang of the town, advanced her nine hundred
francs. She kept three hundred for her baby-clothes and the expenses
of her illness, and joyfully presented the sum due to Lousteau, who was
ploughing, furrow by furrow, or, if you will, line by line, through a
novel for a periodical.

“Dearest heart,” said she, “finish your novel without making any
sacrifice to necessity; polish the style, work up the subject.--I have
played the fine lady too long; I am going to be the housewife and attend
to business.”

For the last four months Etienne had been taking Dinah to the Cafe Riche
to dine every day, a corner being always kept for them. The countrywoman
was in dismay at being told that five hundred francs were owing for the
last fortnight.

“What! we have been drinking wine at six francs a bottle! A sole
_Normande_ costs five francs!--and twenty centimes for a roll?” she
exclaimed, as she looked through the bill Lousteau showed her.

“Well, it makes very little difference to us whether we are robbed at a
restaurant or by a cook,” said Lousteau.

“Henceforth, for the cost of your dinner, you shall live like a prince.”

Having induced the landlord to let her have a kitchen and two servants’
rooms, Madame de la Baudraye wrote a few lines to her mother, begging
her to send her some linen and a loan of a thousand francs. She received
two trunks full of linen, some plate, and two thousand francs, sent by
the hand of an honest and pious cook recommended her by her mother.

Ten days after the evening at the theatre when they had met, Monsieur
de Clagny came to call at four o’clock, after coming out of court, and
found Madame de la Baudraye making a little cap. The sight of this proud
and ambitious woman, whose mind was so accomplished, and who had queened
it so well at the Chateau d’Anzy, now condescending to household cares
and sewing for the coming infant, moved the poor lawyer, who had just
left the bench. And as he saw the pricks on one of the taper fingers he
had so often kissed, he understood that Madame de la Baudraye was not
merely playing at this maternal task.

In the course of this first interview the magistrate saw to the depths
of Dinah’s soul. This perspicacity in a man so much in love was a
superhuman effort. He saw that Didine meant to be the journalist’s
guardian spirit and lead him into a nobler road; she had seen that
the difficulties of his practical life were due to some moral defects.
Between two beings united by love--in one so genuine, and in the other
so well feigned--more than one confidence had been exchanged in the
course of four months. Notwithstanding the care with which Etienne
wrapped up his true self, a word now and then had not failed to
enlighten Dinah as to the previous life of a man whose talents were
so hampered by poverty, so perverted by bad examples, so thwarted by
obstacles beyond his courage to surmount. “He will be a greater man if
life is easy to him,” said she to herself. And she strove to make him
happy, to give him the sense of a sheltered home by dint of such economy
and method as are familiar to provincial folks. Thus Dinah became
a housekeeper, as she had become a poet, by the soaring of her soul
towards the heights.

“His happiness will be my absolution.”

These words, wrung from Madame de la Baudraye by her friend the lawyer,
accounted for the existing state of things. The publicity of his
triumph, flaunted by Etienne on the evening of the first performance,
had very plainly shown the lawyer what Lousteau’s purpose was. To
Etienne, Madame de la Baudraye was, to use his own phrase, “a fine
feather in his cap.” Far from preferring the joys of a shy and
mysterious passion, of hiding such exquisite happiness from the eyes of
the world, he found a vulgar satisfaction in displaying the first woman
of respectability who had ever honored him with her affection.

The Judge, however, was for some time deceived by the attentions which
any man would lavish on any woman in Madame de la Baudraye’s situation,
and Lousteau made them doubly charming by the ingratiating ways
characteristic of men whose manners are naturally attractive. There are,
in fact, men who have something of the monkey in them by nature, and to
whom the assumption of the most engaging forms of sentiment is so easy
that the actor is not detected; and Lousteau’s natural gifts had been
fully developed on the stage on which he had hitherto figured.

Between the months of April and July, when Dinah expected her
confinement, she discovered why it was that Lousteau had not triumphed
over poverty; he was idle and had no power of will. The brain, to be
sure, must obey its own laws; it recognizes neither the exigencies of
life nor the voice of honor; a man cannot write a great book because a
woman is dying, or to pay a discreditable debt, or to bring up a family;
at the same time, there is no great talent without a strong will.
These twin forces are requisite for the erection of the vast edifice of
personal glory. A distinguished genius keeps his brain in a productive
condition, just as the knights of old kept their weapons always ready
for battle. They conquer indolence, they deny themselves enervating
pleasures, or indulge only to a fixed limit proportioned to their
powers. This explains the life of such men as Walter Scott, Cuvier,
Voltaire, Newton, Buffon, Bayle, Bossuet, Leibnitz, Lopez de Vega,
Calderon, Boccacio, Aretino, Aristotle--in short, every man who
delighted, governed, or led his contemporaries.

A man may and ought to pride himself more on his will than on his
talent. Though Talent has its germ in a cultivated gift, Will means
the incessant conquest of his instincts, of proclivities subdued and
mortified, and difficulties of every kind heroically defeated. The abuse
of smoking encouraged Lousteau’s indolence. Tobacco, which can lull
grief, inevitably numbs a man’s energy.

Then, while the cigar deteriorated him physically, criticism as a
profession morally stultified a man so easily tempted by pleasure.
Criticism is as fatal to the critic as seeing two sides to a question is
to a pleader. In these professions the judgment is undermined, the mind
loses its lucid rectitude. The writer lives by taking sides. Thus,
we may distinguish two kinds of criticism, as in painting we may
distinguish art from practical dexterity. Criticism, after the pattern
of most contemporary leader-writers, is the expression of judgments
formed at random in a more or less witty way, just as an advocate pleads
in court on the most contradictory briefs. The newspaper critic always
finds a subject to work up in the book he is discussing. Done after this
fashion, the business is well adapted to indolent brains, to men devoid
of the sublime faculty of imagination, or, possessed of it indeed, but
lacking courage to cultivate it. Every play, every book comes to their
pen as a subject, making no demand on their imagination, and of which
they simply write a report, seriously or in irony, according to the
mood of the moment. As to an opinion, whatever it may be, French wit can
always justify it, being admirably ready to defend either side of any
case. And conscience counts for so little, these _bravi_ have so little
value for their own words, that they will loudly praise in the greenroom
the work they tear to tatters in print.

Nay, men have been known to transfer their services from one paper to
another without being at the pains to consider that the opinions of the
new sheet must be diametrically antagonistic to those of the old. Madame
de la Baudraye could smile to see Lousteau with one article on the
Legitimist side and one on the side of the new dynasty, both on the same
occasion. She admired the maxim he preached:

“We are the attorneys of public opinion.”

The other kind of criticism is a science. It necessitates a thorough
comprehension of each work, a lucid insight into the tendencies of the
age, the adoption of a system, and faith in fixed principles--that is to
say, a scheme of jurisprudence, a summing-up, and a verdict. The critic
is then a magistrate of ideas, the censor of his time; he fulfils a
sacred function; while in the former case he is but an acrobat who turns
somersaults for a living so long as he had a leg to stand on. Between
Claude Vignon and Lousteau lay the gulf that divides mere dexterity from
art.

Dinah, whose mind was soon freed from rust, and whose intellect was by
no means narrow, had ere long taken literary measure of her idol. She
saw Lousteau working up to the last minute under the most discreditable
compulsion, and scamping his work, as painters say of a picture from
which sound technique is absent; but she would excuse him by saying, “He
is a poet!” so anxious was she to justify him in her own eyes. When she
thus guessed the secret of many a writer’s existence, she also guessed
that Lousteau’s pen could never be trusted to as a resource.

Then her love for him led her to take a step she would never had thought
of for her own sake. Through her mother she tried to negotiate with her
husband for an allowance, but without Etienne’s knowledge; for, as she
thought, it would be an offence to his delicate feelings, which must be
considered. A few days before the end of July, Dinah crumbled up in her
wrath the letter from her mother containing Monsieur de la Baudraye’s
ultimatum:

“Madame de la Baudraye cannot need an allowance in Paris when she can
live in perfect luxury at her Chateau of Anzy: she may return.”

Lousteau picked up this letter and read it.

“I will avenge you!” said he to Dinah in the ominous tone that delights
a woman when her antipathies are flattered.

Five days after this Bianchon and Duriau, the famous ladies’ doctor,
were engaged at Lousteau’s; for he, ever since little La Baudraye’s
reply, had been making a great display of his joy and importance over
the advent of the infant. Monsieur de Clagny and Madame Piedefer--sent
for in all haste were to be the godparents, for the cautious magistrate
feared lest Lousteau should commit some compromising blunder. Madame de
la Baudraye gave birth to a boy that might have filled a queen with envy
who hoped for an heir-presumptive.

Bianchon and Monsieur de Clagny went off to register the child at the
Mayor’s office as the son of Monsieur and Madame de la Baudraye, unknown
to Etienne, who, on his part, rushed off to a printer’s to have this
circular set up:

  _“Madame la Baronne de la Baudraye is happily delivered of a son._

  _“Monsieur Etienne Lousteau has the pleasure of informing you of
  the fact_.

  _“The mother and child are doing well.”_

Lousteau had already sent out sixty of these announcements when Monsieur
de Clagny, on coming to make inquiries, happened to see the list of
persons at Sancerre to whom Lousteau proposed to send this amazing
notice, written below the names of the persons in Paris to whom it was
already gone. The lawyer confiscated the list and the remainder of the
circulars, showed them to Madame Piedefer, begging her on no account to
allow Lousteau to carry on this atrocious jest, and jumped into a
cab. The devoted friend then ordered from the same printer another
announcement in the following words:

  _“Madame la Baronne de la Baudraye is happily delivered of a son.

  “Monsieur le Baron de la Baudraye has the honor of informing you
  of the fact.

  “Mother and child are doing well.”_

After seeing the proofs destroyed, the form of type, everything that
could bear witness to the existence of the former document, Monsieur de
Clagny set to work to intercept those that had been sent; in many cases
he changed them at the porter’s lodge, he got back thirty into his
own hands, and at last, after three days of hard work, only one of the
original notes existed, that, namely sent to Nathan.

Five times had the lawyer called on the great man without finding
him. By the time Monsieur de Clagny was admitted, after requesting an
interview, the story of the announcement was known to all Paris. Some
persons regarded it as one of those waggish calumnies, a sort of stab to
which every reputation, even the most ephemeral, is exposed; others
said they had read the paper and returned it to some friend of the
La Baudraye family; a great many declaimed against the immorality of
journalists; in short, this last remaining specimen was regarded as a
curiosity. Florine, with whom Nathan was living, had shown it about,
stamped in the post as paid, and addressed in Etienne’s hand. So, as
soon as the judge spoke of the announcement, Nathan began to smile.

“Give up that monument of recklessness and folly?” cried he. “That
autograph is one of those weapons which an athlete in the circus cannot
afford to lay down. That note proves that Lousteau has no heart, no
taste, no dignity; that he knows nothing of the world nor of public
morality; that he insults himself when he can find no one else to
insult.--None but the son of a provincial citizen imported from Sancerre
to become a poet, but who is only the _bravo_ of some contemptible
magazine, could ever have sent out such a circular letter, as you must
allow, monsieur. This is a document indispensable to the archives of
the age.--To-day Lousteau flatters me, to-morrow he may ask for my
head.--Excuse me, I forgot you were a judge.

“I have gone through a passion for a lady, a great lady, as far superior
to Madame de la Baudraye as your fine feeling, monsieur, is superior to
Lousteau’s vulgar retaliation; but I would have died rather than utter
her name. A few months of her airs and graces cost me a hundred thousand
francs and my prospects for life; but I do not think the price too
high!--And I have never murmured!--If a woman betrays the secret of her
passion, it is the supreme offering of her love, but a man!--He must be
a Lousteau!

“No, I would not give up that paper for a thousand crowns.”

“Monsieur,” said the lawyer at last, after an eloquent battle lasting
half an hour, “I have called on fifteen or sixteen men of letters about
this affair, and can it be that you are the only one immovable by an
appeal of honor? It is not for Etienne Lousteau that I plead, but for
a woman and child, both equally ignorant of the damage done to their
fortune, their prospects, and their honor.--Who knows, monsieur, whether
you might not some day be compelled to plead for some favor of justice
for a friend, for some person whose honor was dearer to you than
your own.--It might be remembered against you that you had been
ruthless.--Can such a man as you are hesitate?” added Monsieur de
Clagny.

“I only wished you to understand the extent of the sacrifice,” replied
Nathan, giving up the letter, as he reflected on the judge’s influence
and accepted this implied bargain.

When the journalist’s stupid jest had been counteracted, Monsieur de
Clagny went to give him a rating in the presence of Madame Piedefer; but
he found Lousteau fuming with irritation.

“What I did monsieur, I did with a purpose!” replied Etienne. “Monsieur
de la Baudraye has sixty thousand francs a year and refuses to make his
wife an allowance; I wished to make him feel that the child is in my
power.”

“Yes, monsieur, I quite suspected it,” replied the lawyer. “For that
reason I readily agreed to be little Polydore’s godfather, and he is
registered as the son of the Baron and Baronne de la Baudraye; if you
have the feelings of a father, you ought to rejoice in knowing that the
child is heir to one of the finest entailed estates in France.”

“And pray, sir, is the mother to die of hunger?”

“Be quite easy,” said the lawyer bitterly, having dragged from Lousteau
the expression of feeling he had so long been expecting. “I will
undertake to transact the matter with Monsieur de la Baudraye.”

Monsieur de Clagny left the house with a chill at his heart.

Dinah, his idol, was loved for her money. Would she not, when too late,
have her eyes opened?

“Poor woman!” said the lawyer, as he walked away. And this justice we
will do him--for to whom should justice be done unless to a Judge?--he
loved Dinah too sincerely to regard her degradation as a means of
triumph one day; he was all pity and devotion; he really loved her.



The care and nursing of the infant, its cries, the quiet needed for the
mother during the first few days, and the ubiquity of Madame Piedefer,
were so entirely adverse to literary labors, that Lousteau moved up
to the three rooms taken on the first floor for the old bigot. The
journalist, obliged to go to the first performances without Dinah, and
living apart from her, found an indescribable charm in the use of his
liberty. More than once he submitted to be taken by the arm and dragged
off to some jollification; more than once he found himself at the house
of a friend’s mistress in the heart of bohemia. He again saw women
brilliantly young and splendidly dressed, in whom economy seemed treason
to their youth and power. Dinah, in spite of her striking beauty, after
nursing her baby for three months, could not stand comparison with these
perishable blossoms, so soon faded, but so showy as long as they live
rooted in opulence.

Home life had, nevertheless, a strong attraction for Etienne. In three
months the mother and daughter, with the help of the cook from
Sancerre and of little Pamela, had given the apartment a quite changed
appearance. The journalist found his breakfast and his dinner served
with a sort of luxury. Dinah, handsome and nicely dressed, was careful
to anticipate her dear Etienne’s wishes, and he felt himself the king
of his home, where everything, even the baby, was subject to his
selfishness. Dinah’s affection was to be seen in every trifle, Lousteau
could not possibly cease the entrancing deceptions of his unreal
passion.

Dinah, meanwhile, was aware of a source of ruin, both to her love and
to the household, in the kind of life into which Lousteau had allowed
himself to drift. At the end of ten months she weaned her baby,
installed her mother in the upstairs rooms, and restored the family
intimacy which indissolubly links a man and woman when the woman is
loving and clever. One of the most striking circumstances in Benjamin
Constant’s novel, one of the explanations of Ellenore’s desertion, is
the want of daily--or, if you will, of nightly--intercourse between
her and Adolphe. Each of the lovers has a separate home; they have both
submitted to the world and saved appearances. Ellenore, repeatedly
left to herself, is compelled to vast labors of affection to expel the
thoughts of release which captivate Adolphe when absent. The constant
exchange of glances and thoughts in domestic life gives a woman such
power that a man needs stronger reasons for desertion than she will ever
give him so long as she loves him.

This was an entirely new phase both to Etienne and to Dinah. Dinah
intended to be indispensable; she wanted to infuse fresh energy into
this man, whose weakness smiled upon her, for she thought it a security.
She found him subjects, sketched the treatment, and at a pinch, would
write whole chapters. She revived the vitality of this dying talent by
transfusing fresh blood into his veins; she supplied him with ideas and
opinions. In short, she produced two books which were a success. More
than once she saved Lousteau’s self-esteem by dictating, correcting, or
finishing his articles when he was in despair at his own lack of ideas.
The secret of this collaboration was strictly preserved; Madame Piedefer
knew nothing of it.

This mental galvanism was rewarded by improved pay, enabling them to
live comfortably till the end of 1838. Lousteau became used to seeing
Dinah do his work, and he paid her--as the French people say in
their vigorous lingo--in “monkey money,” nothing for her pains. This
expenditure in self-sacrifice becomes a treasure which generous souls
prize, and the more she gave the more she loved Lousteau; the time soon
came when Dinah felt that it would be too bitter a grief ever to give
him up.

But then another child was coming, and this year was a terrible trial.
In spite of the precautions of the two women, Etienne contracted debts;
he worked himself to death to pay them off while Dinah was laid up; and,
knowing him as she did, she thought him heroic. But after this effort,
appalled at having two women, two children, and two maids on his hands,
he was incapable of the struggle to maintain a family by his pen when he
had failed to maintain even himself. So he let things take their chance.
Then the ruthless speculator exaggerated the farce of love-making at
home to secure greater liberty abroad.

Dinah proudly endured the burden of life without support. The one idea,
“He loves me!” gave her superhuman strength. She worked as hard as
the most energetic spirits of our time. At the risk of her beauty
and health, Didine was to Lousteau what Mademoiselle Delachaux was to
Gardane in Diderot’s noble and true tale. But while sacrificing herself,
she committed the magnanimous blunder of sacrificing dress. She had her
gowns dyed, and wore nothing but black. She stank of black, as Malaga
said, making fun mercilessly of Lousteau.

By the end of 1839, Etienne, following the example of Louis XV., had,
by dint of gradual capitulations of conscience, come to the point of
establishing a distinction between his own money and the housekeeping
money, just as Louis XV. drew the line between his privy purse and the
public moneys. He deceived Dinah as to his earnings. On discovering
this baseness, Madame de la Baudraye went through fearful tortures of
jealousy. She wanted to live two lives--the life of the world and the
life of a literary woman; she accompanied Lousteau to every first-night
performance, and could detect in him many impulses of wounded vanity,
for her black attire rubbed off, as it were, on him, clouding his brow,
and sometimes leading him to be quite brutal. He was really the woman of
the two; and he had all a woman’s exacting perversity; he would reproach
Dinah for the dowdiness of her appearance, even while benefiting by the
sacrifice, which to a mistress is so cruel--exactly like a woman who,
after sending a man through a gutter to save her honor, tells him she
“cannot bear dirt!” when he comes out.

Dinah then found herself obliged to gather up the rather loose reins
of power by which a clever woman drives a man devoid of will. But in
so doing she could not fail to lose much of her moral lustre. Such
suspicions as she betrayed drag a woman into quarrels which lead to
disrespect, because she herself comes down from the high level on which
she had at first placed herself. Next she made some concession; Lousteau
was allowed to entertain several of his friends--Nathan, Bixiou,
Blondet, Finot, whose manners, language, and intercourse were depraving.
They tried to convince Madame de la Baudraye that her principles and
aversions were a survival of provincial prudishness; and they preached
the creed of woman’s superiority.

Before long, her jealousy put weapons into Lousteau’s hands. During
the carnival of 1840, she disguised herself to go to the balls at the
Opera-house, and to suppers where she met courtesans, in order to keep
an eye on all Etienne’s amusements.

On the day of Mid-Lent--or rather, at eight on the morning after--Dinah
came home from the ball in her fancy dress to go to bed. She had gone to
spy on Lousteau, who, believing her to be ill, had engaged himself for
that evening to Fanny Beaupre. The journalist, warned by a friend, had
behaved so as to deceive the poor woman, only too ready to be deceived.

As she stepped out of the hired cab, Dinah met Monsieur de la Baudraye,
to whom the porter pointed her out. The little old man took his wife by
the arm, saying, in an icy tone:

“So this is you, madame!”

This sudden advent of conjugal authority, before which she felt herself
so small, and, above all, these words, almost froze the heart of
the unhappy woman caught in the costume of a _debardeur_. To escape
Etienne’s eye the more effectually, she had chosen a dress he was not
likely to detect her in. She took advantage of the mask she still had
on to escape without replying, changed her dress, and went up to her
mother’s rooms, where she found her husband waiting for her. In spite of
her assumed dignity, she blushed in the old man’s presence.

“What do you want of me, monsieur?” she asked. “Are we not separated
forever?”

“Actually, yes,” said Monsieur de la Baudraye. “Legally, no.”

Madame Piedefer was telegraphing signals to her daughter, which Dinah
presently observed and understood.

“Nothing could have brought you here but your own interests,” she said,
in a bitter tone.

“_Our_ interests,” said the little man coldly, “for we have two
children.--Your Uncle Silas Piedefer is dead, at New York, where, after
having made and lost several fortunes in various parts of the world, he
has finally left some seven or eight hundred thousand francs--they say
twelve--but there is stock-in-trade to be sold. I am the chief in our
common interests, and act for you.”

“Oh!” cried Dinah, “in everything that relates to business, I trust no
one but Monsieur de Clagny. He knows the law, come to terms with him;
what he does, will be done right.”

“I have no occasion for Monsieur de Clagny,” answered Monsieur de la
Baudraye, “to take my children from you--”

“Your children!” exclaimed Dinah. “Your children, to whom you have not
sent a sou! _Your_ children!” She burst into a loud shout of laughter;
but Monsieur de la Baudraye’s unmoved coolness threw ice on the
explosion.

“Your mother has just brought them to show me,” he went on. “They are
charming boys. I do not intend to part from them. I shall take them to
our house at Anzy, if it were only to save them from seeing their mother
disguised like a--”

“Silence!” said Madame de la Baudraye imperatively. “What do you want of
me that brought you here?”

“A power of attorney to receive our Uncle Silas’ property.”

Dinah took a pen, wrote two lines to Monsieur de Clagny, and desired her
husband to call again in the afternoon.

At five o’clock, Monsieur de Clagny--who had been promoted to the
post of Attorney-General--enlightened Madame de la Baudraye as to her
position; still, he undertook to arrange everything by a bargain with
the old fellow, whose visit had been prompted by avarice alone. Monsieur
de la Baudraye, to whom his wife’s power of attorney was indispensable
to enable him to deal with the business as he wished, purchased it by
certain concessions. In the first place, he undertook to allow her
ten thousand francs a year so long as she found it convenient--so the
document was worded--to reside in Paris; the children, each on attaining
the age of six, were to be placed in Monsieur de la Baudraye’s keeping.
Finally, the lawyer extracted the payment of the allowance in advance.

Little La Baudraye, who came jauntily enough to say good-bye to his wife
and _his_ children, appeared in a white india-rubber overcoat. He was
so firm on his feet, and so exactly like the La Baudraye of 1836, that
Dinah despaired of ever burying the dreadful little dwarf. From the
garden, where he was smoking a cigar, the journalist could watch
Monsieur de la Baudraye for so long as it took the little reptile to
cross the forecourt, but that was enough for Lousteau; it was plain to
him that the little man had intended to wreck every hope of his dying
that his wife might have conceived.

This short scene made a considerable change in the writer’s secret
scheming. As he smoked a second cigar, he seriously reviewed the
position.

His life with Madame de la Baudraye had hitherto cost him quite as much
as it had cost her. To use the language of business, the two sides
of the account balanced, and they could, if necessary, cry quits.
Considering how small his income was, and how hardly he earned it,
Lousteau regarded himself, morally speaking, as the creditor. It was, no
doubt, a favorable moment for throwing the woman over. Tired at the end
of three years of playing a comedy which never can become a habit,
he was perpetually concealing his weariness; and this fellow, who was
accustomed to disguise none of his feelings, compelled himself to wear
a smile at home like that of a debtor in the presence of his creditor.
This compulsion was every day more intolerable.

Hitherto the immense advantages he foresaw in the future had given him
strength; but when he saw Monsieur de la Baudraye embark for the United
States, as briskly as if it were to go down to Rouen in a steamboat, he
ceased to believe in the future.

He went in from the garden to the pretty drawing-room, where Dinah had
just taken leave of her husband.

“Etienne,” said Madame de la Baudraye, “do you know what my lord and
master has proposed to me? In the event of my wishing to return to live
at Anzy during his absence, he has left his orders, and he hopes that my
mother’s good advice will weigh with me, and that I shall go back there
with my children.”

“It is very good advice,” replied Lousteau drily, knowing the passionate
disclaimer that Dinah expected, and indeed begged for with her eyes.

The tone, the words, the cold look, all hit the hapless woman so hard,
who lived only in her love, that two large tears trickled slowly down
her cheeks, while she did not speak a word, and Lousteau only saw them
when she took out her handkerchief to wipe away these two beads of
anguish.

“What is it, Didine?” he asked, touched to the heart by this excessive
sensibility.

“Just as I was priding myself on having won our freedom,” said she--“at
the cost of my fortune--by selling--what is most precious to a mother’s
heart--selling my children!--for he is to have them from the age of
six--and I cannot see them without going to Sancerre!--and that is
torture!--Ah, dear God! What have I done----?”

Lousteau knelt down by her and kissed her hands with a lavish display of
coaxing and petting.

“You do not understand me,” said he. “I blame myself, for I am not
worth such sacrifices, dear angel. I am, in a literary sense, a quite
second-rate man. If the day comes when I can no longer cut a figure at
the bottom of the newspaper, the editors will let me lie, like an old
shoe flung into the rubbish heap. Remember, we tight-rope dancers have
no retiring pension! The State would have too many clever men on its
hands if it started on such a career of beneficence. I am forty-two, and
I am as idle as a marmot. I feel it--I know it”--and he took her by the
hand--“my love can only be fatal to you.

“As you know, at two-and-twenty I lived on Florine; but what is
excusable in a youth, what then seems smart and charming, is a disgrace
to a man of forty. Hitherto we have shared the burden of existence, and
it has not been lovely for this year and half. Out of devotion to me you
wear nothing but black, and that does me no credit.”--Dinah gave one
of those magnanimous shrugs which are worth all the words ever
spoken.--“Yes,” Etienne went on, “I know you sacrifice everything to my
whims, even your beauty. And I, with a heart worn out in past struggles,
a soul full of dark presentiments as to the future, I cannot repay your
exquisite love with an equal affection. We were very happy--without a
cloud--for a long time.--Well, then, I cannot bear to see so sweet a
poem end badly. Am I wrong?”

Madame de la Baudraye loved Etienne so truly, that this prudence, worthy
of de Clagny, gratified her and stanched her tears.

“He loves me for myself alone!” thought she, looking at him with smiling
eyes.

After four years of intimacy, this woman’s love now combined every shade
of affection which our powers of analysis can discern, and which modern
society has created; one of the most remarkable men of our age, whose
death is a recent loss to the world of letters, Beyle (Stendhal), was
the first to delineate them to perfection.

Lousteau could produce in Dinah the acute agitation which may be
compared to magnetism, that upsets every power of the mind and body, and
overcomes every instinct of resistance in a woman. A look from him, or
his hand laid on hers, reduced her to implicit obedience. A kind word or
a smile wreathed the poor woman’s soul with flowers; a fond look elated,
a cold look depressed her. When she walked, taking his arm and keeping
step with him in the street or on the boulevard, she was so entirely
absorbed in him that she lost all sense of herself. Fascinated by this
fellow’s wit, magnetized by his airs, his vices were but trivial defects
in her eyes. She loved the puffs of cigar smoke that the wind brought
into her room from the garden; she went to inhale them, and made no
wry faces, hiding herself to enjoy them. She hated the publisher or
the newspaper editor who refused Lousteau money on the ground of the
enormous advances he had had already. She deluded herself so far as to
believe that her bohemian was writing a novel, for which the payment was
to come, instead of working off a debt long since incurred.

This, no doubt, is true love, and includes every mode of loving; the
love of the heart and of the head--passion, caprice, and taste--to
accept Beyle’s definitions. Didine loved him so wholly, that in certain
moments when her critical judgment, just by nature, and constantly
exercised since she had lived in Paris, compelled her to read to the
bottom of Lousteau’s soul, sense was still too much for reason, and
suggested excuses.

“And what am I?” she replied. “A woman who has put herself outside the
pale. Since I have sacrificed all a woman’s honor, why should you not
sacrifice to me some of a man’s honor? Do we not live outside the limits
of social conventionality? Why not accept from me what Nathan can accept
from Florine? We will square accounts when we part, and only death can
part us--you know. My happiness is your honor, Etienne, as my constancy
and your happiness are mine. If I fail to make you happy, all is at an
end. If I cause you a pang, condemn me.

“Our debts are paid; we have ten thousand francs a year, and between
us we can certainly make eight thousand francs a year--I will write
theatrical articles.--With fifteen hundred francs a month we shall be as
rich as Rothschild.--Be quite easy. I will have some lovely dresses,
and give you every day some gratified vanity, as on the first night of
Nathan’s play--”

“And what about your mother, who goes to Mass every day, and wants to
bring a priest to the house and make you give up this way of life?”

“Every one has a pet vice. You smoke, she preaches at me, poor woman!
But she takes great care of the children, she takes them out, she is
absolutely devoted, and idolizes me. Would you hinder her from crying?”

“What will be thought of me?”

“But we do not live for the world!” cried she, raising Etienne and
making him sit by her. “Besides, we shall be married some day--we have
the risks of a sea voyage----”

“I never thought of that,” said Lousteau simply; and he added to
himself, “Time enough to part when little La Baudraye is safe back
again.”



From that day forth Etienne lived in luxury; and Dinah, on first nights,
could hold her own with the best dressed women in Paris. Lousteau was
so fatuous as to affect, among his friends, the attitude of a man
overborne, bored to extinction, ruined by Madame de la Baudraye.

“Oh, what would I not give to the friend who would deliver me from
Dinah! But no one ever can!” said he. “She loves me enough to throw
herself out of the window if I told her.”

The journalist was duly pitied; he would take precautions against
Dinah’s jealousy when he accepted an invitation. And then he was
shamelessly unfaithful. Monsieur de Clagny, really in despair at seeing
Dinah in such disgraceful circumstances when she might have been so
rich, and in so wretched a position at the time when her original
ambitions would have been fulfilled, came to warn her, to tell her--“You
are betrayed,” and she only replied, “I know it.”

The lawyer was silenced; still he found his tongue to say one thing.

Madame de la Baudraye interrupted him when he had scarcely spoken a
word.

“Do you still love me?” she asked.

“I would lose my soul for you!” he exclaimed, starting to his feet.

The hapless man’s eyes flashed like torches, he trembled like a leaf,
his throat was rigid, his hair thrilled to the roots; he believed he was
so blessed as to be accepted as his idol’s avenger, and this poor joy
filled him with rapture.

“Why are you so startled?” said she, making him sit down again. “That is
how I love him.”

The lawyer understood this argument _ad hominem_. And there were tears
in the eyes of the Judge, who had just condemned a man to death!

Lousteau’s satiety, that odious conclusion of such illicit relations,
had betrayed itself in a thousand little things, which are like grains
of sand thrown against the panes of the little magical hut where
those who love dwell and dream. These grains of sand, which grow to
be pebbles, had never been discerned by Dinah till they were as big
as rocks. Madame de la Baudraye had at last thoroughly understood
Lousteau’s character.

“He is,” she said to her mother, “a poet, defenceless against disaster,
mean out of laziness, not for want of heart, and rather too prone to
pleasure; in short, a great cat, whom it is impossible to hate. What
would become of him without me? I hindered his marriage; he has no
prospects. His talent would perish in privations.”

“Oh, my Dinah!” Madame Piedefer had exclaimed, “what a hell you live in!
What is the feeling that gives you strength enough to persist?”

“I will be a mother to him!” she had replied.

There are certain horrible situations in which we come to no decision
till the moment when our friends discern our dishonor. We accept
compromises with ourself so long as we escape a censor who comes to play
prosecutor. Monsieur de Clagny, as clumsy as a tortured man, had been
torturing Dinah.

“To preserve my love I will be all that Madame de Pompadour was to
preserve her power,” said she to herself when Monsieur de Clagny had
left her. And this phrase sufficiently proves that her love was becoming
a burden to her, and would presently be a toil rather than a pleasure.

The part now assumed by Dinah was horribly painful, and Lousteau made
it no easier to play. When he wanted to go out after dinner he would
perform the tenderest little farces of affection, and address Dinah in
words full of devotion; he would take her by the chain, and when he had
bruised her with it, even while he hurt her, the lordly ingrate would
say, “Did I wound you?”

These false caresses and deceptions had degrading consequences for
Dinah, who believed in a revival of his love. The mother, alas, gave
way to the mistress with shameful readiness. She felt herself a mere
plaything in the man’s hands, and at last she confessed to herself:

“Well, then, I will be his plaything!” finding joy in it--the rapture of
damnation.

When this woman, of a really manly spirit, pictured herself as living in
solitude, she felt her courage fail. She preferred the anticipated and
inevitable miseries of this fierce intimacy to the absence of the joys,
which were all the more exquisite because they arose from the midst of
remorse, of terrible struggles with herself, of a _No_ persuaded to
be _Yes_. At every moment she seemed to come across the pool of bitter
water found in a desert, and drunk with greater relish than the traveler
would find in sipping the finest wines at a prince’s table.

When Dinah wondered to herself at midnight:

“Will he come home, or will he not?” she was not alive again till she
heard the familiar sound of Lousteau’s boots, and his well-known ring at
the bell.

She would often try to restrain him by giving him pleasure; she would
hope to be a match for her rivals, and leave them no hold on that
agitated heart. How many times a day would she rehearse the tragedy of
_Le Dernier Jour d’un condamne_, saying to herself, “To-morrow we part.”
 And how often would a word, a look, a kiss full of apparently artless
feeling, bring her back to the depths of her love!

It was terrible. More than once had she meditated suicide as she paced
the little town garden where a few pale flowers bloomed. In fact, she
had not yet exhausted the vast treasure of devotion and love which a
loving woman bears in her heart.

The romance of _Adolphe_ was her Bible, her study, for above all else
she would not be an Ellenore. She allowed herself no tears, she avoided
all the bitterness so cleverly described by the critic to whom we owe
an analysis of this striking work; whose comments indeed seemed to Dinah
almost superior to the book. And she read again and again this fine
essay by the only real critic who has written in the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_, an article now printed at the beginning of the new edition of
_Adolphe_.

“No,” she would say to herself, as she repeated the author’s fateful
words, “no, I will not ‘give my requests the form of an order,’ I will
not ‘fly to tears as a means of revenge,’ I will not ‘condemn the things
I once approved without reservation,’ I will not ‘dog his footsteps with
a prying eye’; if he plays truant, he shall not on his return ‘see a
scornful lip, whose kiss is an unanswerable command.’ No, ‘my silence
shall not be a reproach nor my first word a quarrel.’--I will not be
like every other woman!” she went on, laying on her table the little
yellow paper volume which had already attracted Lousteau’s remark,
“What! are you studying _Adolphe_?”--“If for one day only he should
recognize my merits and say, ‘That victim never uttered a cry!’--it will
be all I ask. And besides, the others only have him for an hour; I have
him for life!”

Thinking himself justified by his private tribunal in punishing his
wife, Monsieur de la Baudraye robbed her to achieve his cherished
enterprise of reclaiming three thousand acres of moorland, to which he
had devoted himself ever since 1836, living like a mouse. He manipulated
the property left by Monsieur Silas Piedefer so ingeniously, that he
contrived to reduce the proved value to eight hundred thousand francs,
while pocketing twelve hundred thousand. He did not announce his return;
but while his wife was enduring unspeakable woes, he was building farms,
digging trenches, and ploughing rough ground with a courage that ranked
him among the most remarkable agriculturists of the province.

The four hundred thousand francs he had filched from his wife were spent
in three years on this undertaking, and the estate of Anzy was expected
to return seventy-two thousand francs a year of net profits after the
taxes were paid. The eight hundred thousand he invested at four and a
half per cent in the funds, buying at eighty francs, at the time of the
financial crisis brought about by the Ministry of the First of March,
as it was called. By thus securing to his wife an income of forty-eight
thousand francs he considered himself no longer in her debt. Could he
not restore the odd twelve hundred thousand as soon as the four and a
half per cents had risen above a hundred? He was now the greatest man
in Sancerre, with the exception of one--the richest proprietor in
France--whose rival he considered himself. He saw himself with an income
of a hundred and forty thousand francs, of which ninety thousand formed
the revenue from the lands he had entailed. Having calculated that
besides this net income he paid ten thousand francs in taxes, three
thousand in working expenses, ten thousand to his wife, and twelve
hundred to his mother-in-law, he would say in the literary circles of
Sancerre:

“I am reputed miserly, and said to spend nothing; but my outlay amounts
to twenty-six thousand five hundred francs a year. And I have still to
pay for the education of my two children! I daresay it is not a pleasing
fact to the Milauds of Nevers, but the second house of La Baudraye may
yet have as noble a center as the first.--I shall most likely go to
Paris and petition the King of the French to grant me the title of
Count--Monsieur Roy is a Count--and my wife would be pleased to be
Madame la Comtesse.”

And this was said with such splendid coolness that no one would have
dared to laugh at the little man. Only Monsieur Boirouge, the Presiding
Judge, remarked:

“In your place, I should not be happy unless I had a daughter.”

“Well, I shall go to Paris before long----” said the Baron.

In the early part of 1842 Madame de la Baudraye, feeling that she was to
Lousteau no more than a reserve in the background, had again sacrificed
herself absolutely to secure his comfort; she had resumed her black
raiment, but now it was in sign of mourning, for her pleasure was
turning to remorse. She was too often put to shame not to feel the
weight of the chain, and her mother found her sunk in those moods of
meditation into which visions of the future cast unhappy souls in a sort
of torpor.

Madame Piedefer, by the advice of her spiritual director, was on the
watch for the moment of exhaustion, which the priest told her would
inevitably supervene, and then she pleaded in behalf of the children.
She restricted herself to urging that Dinah and Lousteau should live
apart, not asking her to give him up. In real life these violent
situations are not closed as they are in books, by death or cleverly
contrived catastrophes; they end far less poetically--in disgust, in the
blighting of every flower of the soul, in the commonplace of habit, and
very often too in another passion, which robs a wife of the interest
which is traditionally ascribed to women. So, when common sense, the law
of social proprieties, family interest--all the mixed elements which,
since the Restoration, have been dignified by the name of Public Morals,
out of sheer aversion to the name of the Catholic religion--where this
is seconded by a sense of insults a little too offensive; when the
fatigue of constant self-sacrifice has almost reached the point of
exhaustion; and when, under these circumstances, a too cruel blow--one
of those mean acts which a man never lets a woman know of unless he
believes himself to be her assured master--puts the crowning touch
to her revulsion and disenchantment, the moment has come for the
intervention of the friend who undertakes the cure. Madame Piedefer had
no great difficulty now in removing the film from her daughter’s eyes.

She sent for Monsieur de Clagny, who completed the work by assuring
Madame de la Baudraye that if she would give up Etienne, her husband
would allow her to keep the children and to live in Paris, and would
restore her to the command of her own fortune.

“And what a life you are leading!” said he. “With care and judgment, and
the support of some pious and charitable persons, you may have a salon
and conquer a position. Paris is not Sancerre.”

Dinah left it to Monsieur de Clagny to negotiate a reconciliation with
the old man.

Monsieur de la Baudraye had sold his wine well, he had sold his wool,
he had felled his timber, and, without telling his wife, he had come
to Paris to invest two hundred thousand francs in the purchase of a
delightful residence in the Rue de l’Arcade, that was being sold in
liquidation of an aristocratic House that was in difficulties. He had
been a member of the Council for the Department since 1826, and now,
paying ten thousand francs in taxes, he was doubly qualified for a
peerage under the conditions of the new legislation.

Some time before the elections of 1842 he had put himself forward as
candidate unless he were meanwhile called to the Upper House as Peer
of France. At the same time, he asked for the title of Count, and for
promotion to the higher grade of the Legion of Honor. In the matter of
the elections, the dynastic nominations; now, in the event of Monsieur
de la Baudraye being won over to the Government, Sancerre would be
more than ever a rotten borough of royalism. Monsieur de Clagny,
whose talents and modesty were more and more highly appreciated by the
authorities, gave Monsieur de la Baudraye his support; he pointed
out that by raising this enterprising agriculturist to the peerage, a
guarantee would be offered to such important undertakings.

Monsieur de la Baudraye, then, a Count, a Peer of France, and Commander
of the Legion of Honor, was vain enough to wish to cut a figure with
a wife and handsomely appointed house.--“He wanted to enjoy life,” he
said.

He therefore addressed a letter to his wife, dictated by Monsieur de
Clagny, begging her to live under his roof and to furnish the house,
giving play to the taste of which the evidences, he said, had charmed
him at the Chateau d’Anzy. The newly made Count pointed out to his wife
that while the interests of their property forbade his leaving Sancerre,
the education of their boys required her presence in Paris. The
accommodating husband desired Monsieur de Clagny to place sixty thousand
francs at the disposal of Madame la Comtesse for the interior decoration
of their mansion, requesting that she would have a marble tablet
inserted over the gateway with the inscription: _Hotel de la Baudraye_.

He then accounted to his wife for the money derived from the estate of
Silas Piedefer, told her of the investment at four and a half per cent
of the eight hundred thousand francs he had brought from New York, and
allowed her that income for her expenses, including the education of the
children. As he would be compelled to stay in Paris during some part of
the session of the House of Peers, he requested his wife to reserve for
him a little suite of rooms in an _entresol_ over the kitchens.

“Bless me! why, he is growing young again--a gentleman!--a
magnifico!--What will he become next? It is quite alarming,” said Madame
de la Baudraye.

“He now fulfils all your wishes at the age of twenty,” replied the
lawyer.

The comparison of her future prospects with her present position was
unendurable to Dinah. Only the day before, Anna de Fontaine had
turned her head away in order to avoid seeing her bosom friend at the
Chamarolles’ school.

“I am a countess,” said Dinah to herself. “I shall have the peer’s blue
hammer-cloth on my carriage, and the leaders of the literary world in my
drawing-room--and I will look at her!”--And it was this little triumph
that told with all its weight at the moment of her rehabilitation, as
the world’s contempt had of old weighed on her happiness.



One fine day, in May 1842, Madame de la Baudraye paid all her little
household debts and left a thousand crowns on top of the packet of
receipted bills. After sending her mother and the children away to the
Hotel de la Baudraye, she awaited Lousteau, dressed ready to leave the
house. When the deposed king of her heart came into dinner, she said:

“I have upset the pot, my dear. Madame de la Baudraye requests the
pleasure of your company at the _Rocher de Cancale_.”

She carried off Lousteau, quite bewildered by the light and easy manners
assumed by the woman who till that morning has been the slave of his
least whim, for she too had been acting a farce for two months past.

“Madame de la Baudraye is figged out as if for a first night,” said
he--_une premiere_, the slang abbreviation for a first performance.

“Do not forget the respect you owe to Madame de la Baudraye,” said Dinah
gravely. “I do not mean to understand such a word as _figged out_.”

“Didine a rebel!” said he, putting his arm round her waist.

“There is no such person as Didine; you have killed her, my dear,” she
replied, releasing herself. “I am taking you to the first performance of
_Madame la Comtesse de la Baudraye_.”

“It is true, then, that our insect is a peer of France?”

“The nomination is to be gazetted in this evening’s _Moniteur_, as I am
told by Monsieur de Clagny, who is promoted to the Court of Appeal.”

“Well, it is quite right,” said the journalist. “The entomology of
society ought to be represented in the Upper House.”

“My friend, we are parting for ever,” said Madame de la Baudraye,
trying to control the trembling of her voice. “I have dismissed the
two servants. When you go in, you will find the house in order, and no
debts. I shall always feel a mother’s affection for you, but in secret.
Let us part calmly, without a fuss, like decent people.

“Have you had a fault to find with my conduct during the past six
years?”

“None, but that you have spoiled my life, and wrecked my prospects,”
 said he in a hard tone. “You have read Benjamin Constant’s book very
diligently; you have even studied the last critique on it; but you
have read with a woman’s eyes. Though you have one of those superior
intellects which would make a fortune of a poet, you have never dared to
take the man’s point of view.

“That book, my dear, is of both sexes.--We agreed that books were male
or female, dark or fair. In _Adolphe_ women see nothing but Ellenore;
young men see only Adolphe; men of experience see Ellenore and Adolphe;
political men see the whole of social existence. You did not think it
necessary to read the soul of Adolphe--any more than your critic indeed,
who saw only Ellenore. What kills that poor fellow, my dear, is that
he has sacrificed his future for a woman; that he never can be what he
might have been--an ambassador, a minister, a chamberlain, a poet--and
rich. He gives up six years of his energy at that stage of his life when
a man is ready to submit to the hardships of any apprenticeship--to
a petticoat, which he outstrips in the career of ingratitude, for the
woman who has thrown over her first lover is certain sooner or later to
desert the second. Adolphe is, in fact, a tow-haired German, who has
not spirit enough to be false to Ellenore. There are Adolphes who spare
their Ellenores all ignominious quarreling and reproaches, who say to
themselves, ‘I will not talk of what I have sacrificed; I will not for
ever be showing the stump of my wrist to let that incarnate selfishness
I have made my queen,’ as Ramorny does in _The Fair Maid of Perth_. But
men like that, my dear, get cast aside.

“Adolphe is a man of birth, an aristocratic nature, who wants to get
back into the highroad to honors and recover his social birthright, his
blighted position.--You, at this moment, are playing both parts. You
are suffering from the pangs of having lost your position, and think
yourself justified in throwing over a hapless lover whose misfortune
it has been that he fancied you so far superior as to understand that,
though a man’s heart ought to be true, his sex may be allowed to indulge
its caprices.”

“And do you suppose that I shall not make it my business to restore to
you all you have lost by me? Be quite easy,” said Madame de la Baudraye,
astounded by this attack. “Your Ellenore is not dying; and if God
gives her life, if you amend your ways, if you give up courtesans and
actresses, we will find you a better match than a Felicie Cardot.”

The two lovers were sullen. Lousteau affected dejection, he aimed at
appearing hard and cold; while Dinah, really distressed, listened to the
reproaches of her heart.

“Why,” said Lousteau presently, “why not end as we ought to have
begun--hide our love from all eyes, and see each other in secret?”

“Never!” cried the new-made Countess, with an icy look. “Do you not
comprehend that we are, after all, but finite creatures? Our feelings
seem infinite by reason of our anticipation of heaven, but here on earth
they are limited by the strength of our physical being. There are some
feeble, mean natures which may receive an endless number of wounds and
live on; but there are some more highly-tempered souls which snap at
last under repeated blows. You have--”

“Oh! enough!” cried he. “No more copy! Your dissertation is unnecessary,
since you can justify yourself by merely saying--‘I have ceased to
love!’”

“What!” she exclaimed in bewilderment. “Is it I who have ceased to
love?”

“Certainly. You have calculated that I gave you more trouble, more
vexation than pleasure, and you desert your partner--”

“I desert!----” cried she, clasping her hands.

“Have not you yourself just said ‘Never’?”

“Well, then, yes! _Never_,” she repeated vehemently.

This final _Never_, spoken in the fear of falling once more under
Lousteau’s influence, was interpreted by him as the death-warrant of his
power, since Dinah remained insensible to his sarcastic scorn.

The journalist could not suppress a tear. He was losing a sincere and
unbounded affection. He had found in Dinah the gentlest La Valliere,
the most delightful Pompadour that any egoist short of a king could hope
for; and, like a boy who has discovered that by dint of tormenting a
cockchafer he has killed it, Lousteau shed a tear.

Madame de la Baudraye rushed out of the private room where they had been
dining, paid the bill, and fled home to the Rue de l’Arcade, scolding
herself and thinking herself a brute.



Dinah, who had made her house a model of comfort, now metamorphosed
herself. This double metamorphosis cost thirty thousand francs more than
her husband had anticipated.

The fatal accident which in 1842 deprived the House of Orleans of the
heir-presumptive having necessitated a meeting of the Chambers in August
of that year, little La Baudraye came to present his titles to the Upper
House sooner than he had expected, and then saw what his wife had
done. He was so much delighted, that he paid the thirty thousand
francs without a word, just as he had formerly paid eight thousand for
decorating La Baudraye.

On his return from the Luxembourg, where he had been presented according
to custom by two of his peers--the Baron de Nucingen and the Marquis
de Montriveau--the new Count met the old Duc de Chaulieu, a former
creditor, walking along, umbrella in hand, while he himself sat perched
in a low chaise on which his coat-of-arms was resplendent, with the
motto, _Deo sic patet fides et hominibus_. This contrast filled his
heart with a large draught of the balm on which the middle class has
been getting drunk ever since 1840.

Madame de la Baudraye was shocked to see her husband improved and
looking better than on the day of his marriage. The little dwarf, full
of rapturous delight, at sixty-four triumphed in the life which had so
long been denied him; in the family, which his handsome cousin Milaud of
Nevers had declared he would never have; and in his wife--who had asked
Monsieur and Madame de Clagny to dinner to meet the cure of the parish
and his two sponsors to the Chamber of Peers. He petted the children
with fatuous delight.

The handsome display on the table met with his approval.

“These are the fleeces of the Berry sheep,” said he, showing Monsieur de
Nucingen the dish-covers surmounted by his newly-won coronet. “They are
of silver, you see!”

Though consumed by melancholy, which she concealed with the
determination of a really superior woman, Dinah was charming, witty, and
above all, young again in her court mourning.

“You might declare,” cried La Baudraye to Monsieur de Nucingen with a
wave of his hand to his wife, “that the Countess was not yet thirty.”

“Ah, ha! Matame is a voman of dirty!” replied the baron, who was
prone to time-honored remarks, which he took to be the small change of
conversation.

“In every sense of the words,” replied the Countess. “I am, in fact,
five-and-thirty, and mean to set up a little passion--”

“Oh, yes, my wife ruins me in curiosities and china images--”

“She started that mania at an early age,” said the Marquis de Montriveau
with a smile.

“Yes,” said La Baudraye, with a cold stare at the Marquis, whom he had
known at Bourges, “you know that in ‘25, ‘26, and ‘27, she picked a
million francs’ worth of treasures. Anzy is a perfect museum.”

“What a cool hand!” thought Monsieur de Clagny, as he saw this little
country miser quite on the level of his new position.

But misers have savings of all kinds ready for use.

On the day after the vote on the Regency had passed the Chambers, the
little Count went back to Sancerre for the vintage and resumed his old
habits.

In the course of that winter, the Comtesse de la Baudraye, with the
support of the Attorney-General to the Court of Appeals, tried to form a
little circle. Of course, she had an “at home” day, she made a selection
among men of mark, receiving none but those of serious purpose and ripe
years. She tried to amuse herself by going to the Opera, French and
Italian. Twice a week she appeared there with her mother and Madame de
Clagny, who was made by her husband to visit Dinah. Still, in spite of
her cleverness, her charming manners, her fashionable stylishness, she
was never really happy but with her children, on whom she lavished all
her disappointed affection.

Worthy Monsieur de Clagny tried to recruit women for the Countess’
circle, and he succeeded; but he was more successful among the advocates
of piety than the women of fashion.

“And they bore her!” said he to himself with horror, as he saw his idol
matured by grief, pale from remorse, and then, in all the splendor of
recovered beauty, restored by a life of luxury and care for her boys.
This devoted friend, encouraged in his efforts by her mother and by the
cure was full of expedient. Every Wednesday he introduced some celebrity
from Germany, England, Italy, or Prussia to his dear Countess; he
spoke of her as a quite exceptional woman to people to whom she hardly
addressed two words; but she listened to them with such deep attention
that they went away fully convinced of her superiority. In Paris, Dinah
conquered by silence, as at Sancerre she had conquered by loquacity. Now
and then, some smart saying about affairs, or sarcasm on an absurdity,
betrayed a woman accustomed to deal with ideas--the woman who, four
years since, had given new life to Lousteau’s articles.

This phase was to the poor lawyer’s hapless passion like the late season
known as the Indian summer after a sunless year. He affected to be older
than he was, to have the right to befriend Dinah without doing her
an injury, and kept himself at a distance as though he were young,
handsome, and compromising, like a man who has happiness to conceal. He
tried to keep his little attentions a profound secret, and the trifling
gifts which Dinah showed to every one; he endeavored to suggest a
dangerous meaning for his little services.

“He plays at passion,” said the Countess, laughing. She made fun of
Monsieur de Clagny to his face, and the lawyer said, “She notices me.”

“I impress that poor man so deeply,” said she to her mother, laughing,
“that if I would say Yes, I believe he would say No.”

One evening Monsieur de Clagny and his wife were taking his dear
Countess home from the theatre, and she was deeply pensive. They had
been to the first performance of Leon Gozlan’s first play, _La Main
Droite et la Main Gauche_ (The Right Hand and the Left).

“What are you thinking about?” asked the lawyer, alarmed at his idol’s
dejection.

This deep and persistent melancholy, though disguised by the Countess,
was a perilous malady for which Monsieur de Clagny knew no remedy; for
true love is often clumsy, especially when it is not reciprocated. True
love takes its expression from the character. Now, this good man loved
after the fashion of Alceste, when Madame de la Baudraye wanted to be
loved after the manner of Philinte. The meaner side of love can never
get on with the Misanthrope’s loyalty. Thus, Dinah had taken care never
to open her heart to this man. How could she confess to him that she
sometimes regretted the slough she had left?

She felt a void in this fashionable life; she had no one for whom to
dress, or whom to tell of her successes and triumphs. Sometimes the
memory of her wretchedness came to her, mingled with memories of
consuming joys. She would hate Lousteau for not taking any pains to
follow her; she would have liked to get tender or furious letters from
him.

Dinah made no reply, so Monsieur de Clagny repeated the question, taking
the Countess’ hand and pressing it between his own with devout respect.

“Will you have the right hand or the left?” said she, smiling.

“The left,” said he, “for I suppose you mean the truth or a fib.”

“Well, then, I saw him,” she said, speaking into the lawyer’s ear. “And
as I saw him looking so sad, so out of heart, I said to myself, Has he a
cigar? Has he any money?”

“If you wish for the truth, I can tell it you,” said the lawyer. “He is
living as a husband with Fanny Beaupre. You have forced me to tell you
this secret; I should never have told you, for you might have suspected
me perhaps of an ungenerous motive.”

Madame de la Baudraye grasped his hand.

“Your husband,” said she to her chaperon, “is one of the rarest
souls!--Ah! Why----”

She shrank into her corner, looking out of the window, but she did not
finish her sentence, of which the lawyer could guess the end: “Why had
not Lousteau a little of your husband’s generosity of heart?”

This information served, however, to cure Dinah of her melancholy; she
threw herself into the whirl of fashion. She wished for success, and she
achieved it; still, she did not make much way with women, and found it
difficult to get introductions.

In the month of March, Madame Piedefer’s friends the priests and
Monsieur de Clagny made a fine stroke by getting Madame de la Baudraye
appointed receiver of subscriptions for the great charitable work
founded by Madame de Carcado. Then she was commissioned to collect from
the Royal Family their donations for the benefit of the sufferers from
the earthquake at Guadeloupe. The Marquise d’Espard, to whom Monsieur
de Canalis read the list of ladies thus appointed, one evening at the
Opera, said, on hearing that of the Countess:

“I have lived a long time in the world, and I can remember nothing finer
than the manoeuvres undertaken for the rehabilitation of Madame de la
Baudraye.”



In the early spring, which, by some whim of our planets, smiled on Paris
in the first week of March in 1843, making the Champs-Elysees green and
leafy before Longchamp, Fanny Beaupre’s attache had seen Madame de la
Baudraye several times without being seen by her. More than once he
was stung to the heart by one of those promptings of jealousy and envy
familiar to those who are born and bred provincials, when he beheld
his former mistress comfortably ensconced in a handsome carriage, well
dressed, with dreamy eyes, and his two little boys, one at each window.
He accused himself with all the more virulence because he was waging
war with the sharpest poverty of all--poverty unconfessed. Like all
essentially light and frivolous natures, he cherished the singular point
of honor which consists in never derogating in the eyes of one’s own
little public, which makes men on the Bourse commit crimes to escape
expulsion from the temple of the goddess Per-cent, and has given some
criminals courage enough to perform acts of virtue.

Lousteau dined and breakfasted and smoked as if he were a rich man. Not
for an inheritance would he have bought any but the dearest cigars, for
himself as well as for the playwright or author with whom he went into
the shop. The journalist took his walks abroad in patent leather boots;
but he was constantly afraid of an execution on goods which, to use the
bailiff’s slang, had already received the last sacrament. Fanny Beaupre
had nothing left to pawn, and her salary was pledged to pay her
debts. After exhausting every possible advance of pay from newspapers,
magazines, and publishers, Etienne knew not of what ink he could churn
gold. Gambling-houses, so ruthlessly suppressed, could no longer, as of
old, cash I O U’s drawn over the green table by beggary in despair. In
short, the journalist was reduced to such extremity that he had just
borrowed a hundred francs of the poorest of his friends, Bixiou, from
whom he had never yet asked for a franc. What distressed Lousteau was
not the fact of owing five thousand francs, but seeing himself bereft
of his elegance, and of the furniture purchased at the cost of so many
privations, and added to by Madame de la Baudraye.

On April the 3rd, a yellow poster, torn down by the porter after
being displayed on the wall, announced the sale of a handsome suite of
furniture on the following Saturday, the day fixed for sales under
legal authority. Lousteau was taking a walk, smoking cigars, and seeking
ideas--for, in Paris, ideas are in the air, they smile on you from a
street corner, they splash up with a spurt of mud from under the wheels
of a cab! Thus loafing, he had been seeking ideas for articles, and
subjects for novels for a month past, and had found nothing but friends
who carried him off to dinner or to the play, and who intoxicated his
woes, telling him that champagne would inspire him.

“Beware,” said the virulent Bixiou one night, the man who would at the
same moment give a comrade a hundred francs and stab him to the heart
with a sarcasm; “if you go to sleep drunk every night, one day you will
wake up mad.”

On the day before, the Friday, the unhappy wretch, although he was
accustomed to poverty, felt like a man condemned to death. Of old he
would have said:

“Well, the furniture is very old! I will buy new.”

But he was incapable now of literary legerdemain. Publishers, undermined
by piracy, paid badly; the newspapers made close bargains with
hard-driven writers, as the Opera managers did with tenors that sang
flat.

He walked on, his eye on the crowd, though seeing nothing, a cigar
in his mouth, and his hands in his pockets, every feature of his face
twitching, and an affected smile on his lips. Then he saw Madame de la
Baudraye go by in a carriage; she was going to the Boulevard by the Rue
de la Chaussee d’Antin to drive in the Bois.

“There is nothing else left!” said he to himself, and he went home to
smarten himself up.

That evening, at seven, he arrived in a hackney cab at Madame de
la Baudraye’s door, and begged the porter to send a note up to the
Countess--a few lines, as follows:

“Would Madame la Comtesse do Monsieur Lousteau the favor of receiving
him for a moment, and at once?”

This note was sealed with a seal which as lovers they had both used.
Madame de la Baudraye had had the word _Parce que_ engraved on a
genuine Oriental carnelian--a potent word--a woman’s word--the word that
accounts for everything, even for the Creation.

The Countess had just finished dressing to go to the Opera; Friday was
her night in turn for her box. At the sight of this seal she turned
pale.

“I will come,” she said, tucking the note into her dress.

She was firm enough to conceal her agitation, and begged her mother to
see the children put to bed. She then sent for Lousteau, and received
him in a boudoir, next to the great drawing-room, with open doors. She
was going to a ball after the Opera, and was wearing a beautiful dress
of brocade in stripes alternately plain and flowered with pale blue. Her
gloves, trimmed with tassels, showed off her beautiful white arms. She
was shimmering with lace and all the dainty trifles required by fashion.
Her hair, dressed _a la Sevigne_, gave her a look of elegance; a
necklace of pearls lay on her bosom like bubbles on snow.

“What is the matter, monsieur?” said the Countess, putting out her
foot from below her skirt to rest it on a velvet cushion. “I thought, I
hoped, I was quite forgotten.”

“If I should reply _Never_, you would refuse to believe me,” said
Lousteau, who remained standing, or walked about the room, chewing the
flowers he plucked from the flower-stands full of plants that scented
the room.

For a moment silence reigned. Madame de la Baudraye, studying Lousteau,
saw that he was dressed as the most fastidious dandy might have been.

“You are the only person in the world who can help me, or hold out a
plank to me--for I am drowning, and have already swallowed more than one
mouthful----” said he, standing still in front of Dinah, and seeming to
yield to an overpowering impulse. “Since you see me here, it is because
my affairs are going to the devil.”

“That is enough,” said she; “I understand.”

There was another pause, during which Lousteau turned away, took out his
handkerchief, and seemed to wipe away a tear.

“How much do you want, Etienne,” she went on in motherly tones. “We are
at this moment old comrades; speak to me as you would to--to Bixiou.”

“To save my furniture from vanishing into thin air to-morrow morning at
the auction mart, eighteen hundred francs! To repay my friends, as much
again! Three quarters’ rent to the landlord--whom you know.--My ‘uncle’
wants five hundred francs--”

“And you!--to live on?”

“Oh! I have my pen----”

“It is heavier to lift than any one could believe who reads your
articles,” said she, with a subtle smile.--“I have not such a sum as
you need, but come to-morrow at eight; the bailiff will surely wait till
nine, especially if you bring him away to pay him.”

She must, she felt, dismiss Lousteau, who affected to be unable to look
at her; she herself felt such pity as might cut every social Gordian
knot.

“Thank you,” she added, rising and offering her hand to Lousteau. “Your
confidence has done me good! It is long indeed since my heart has known
such joy----”

Lousteau took her hand and pressed it tenderly to his heart.

“A drop of water in the desert--and sent by the hand of an angel! God
always does things handsomely!”

He spoke half in jest and half pathetically; but, believe me, as a piece
of acting it was as fine as Talma’s in his famous part of _Leicester_,
which was played throughout with touches of this kind. Dinah felt his
heart beating through his coat; it was throbbing with satisfaction, for
the journalist had had a narrow escape from the hulks of justice; but
it also beat with a very natural fire at seeing Dinah rejuvenescent and
restored by wealth.

Madame de la Baudraye, stealing an examining glance at Etienne, saw that
his expression was in harmony with the flowers of love, which, as she
thought, had blossomed again in that throbbing heart; she tried to look
once into the eyes of the man she had loved so well, but the seething
blood rushed through her veins and mounted to her brain. Their eyes met
with the same fiery glow as had encouraged Lousteau on the Quay by the
Loire to crumple Dinah’s muslin gown. The Bohemian put his arm round her
waist, she yielded, and their cheeks were touching.

“Here comes my mother, hide!” cried Dinah in alarm. And she hurried
forward to intercept Madame Piedefer.

“Mamma,” said she--this word was to the stern old lady a coaxing
expression which never failed of its effect--“will you do me a great
favor? Take the carriage and go yourself to my banker, Monsieur
Mongenod, with a note I will give you, and bring back six thousand
francs. Come, come--it is an act of charity; come into my room.”

And she dragged away her mother, who seemed very anxious to see who it
was that her daughter had been talking with in the boudoir.

Two days afterwards, Madame Piedefer held a conference with the cure of
the parish. After listening to the lamentations of the old mother, who
was in despair, the priest said very gravely:

“Any moral regeneration which is not based on a strong religious
sentiment, and carried out in the bosom of the Church, is built on
sand.--The many means of grace enjoined by the Catholic religion, small
as they are, and not understood, are so many dams necessary to restrain
the violence of evil promptings. Persuade your daughter to perform all
her religious duties, and we shall save her yet.”

Within ten days of this meeting the Hotel de la Baudraye was shut
up. The Countess, the children, and her mother, in short, the whole
household, including a tutor, had gone away to Sancerre, where Dinah
intended to spend the summer. She was everything that was nice to the
Count, people said.

And so the Muse of Sancerre had simply come back to family and married
life; but certain evil tongues declared that she had been compelled
to come back, for that the little peer’s wishes would no doubt be
fulfilled--he hoped for a little girl.

Gatien and Monsieur Gravier lavished every care, every servile attention
on the handsome Countess. Gatien, who during Madame de la Baudraye’s
long absence had been to Paris to learn the art of _lionnerie_ or
dandyism, was supposed to have a good chance of finding favor in the
eyes of the disenchanted “Superior Woman.” Others bet on the tutor;
Madame Piedefer urged the claims of religion.

In 1844, about the middle of June, as the Comte de la Baudraye was
taking a walk on the Mall at Sancerre with the two fine little boys,
he met Monsieur Milaud, the Public Prosecutor, who was at Sancerre on
business, and said to him:

“These are my children, cousin.”

“Ah, ha! so these are our children!” replied the lawyer, with a
mischievous twinkle.


PARIS, June 1843-August 1844.



ADDENDUM

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

     Beaupre, Fanny
       A Start in Life
       Modeste Mignon
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life

     Berthier, Madame (Felicie Cardot)
       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 Imaginary Mistress
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Betty
       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
       Cousin Betty
       The Member for Arcis
       Beatrix
       A Man of Business
       Gaudissart II.
       The Unconscious Humorists
       Cousin Pons

     Camusot
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Cousin Pons
       Cesar Birotteau
       At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

     Cardot (Parisian notary)
       A Man of Business
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Pierre Grassou
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Pons

     Chargeboeuf, Melchior-Rene, Vicomte de
       The Member for Arcis

     Falcon, Jean
       The Chouans
       Cousin Betty

     Grosstete (younger brother of F. Grosstete)
       The Country Parson

     Hulot (Marshal)
       The Chouans
       Cousin Betty

     La Baudraye, Madame Polydore Milaud de
       A Prince of Bohemia
       Cousin Betty

     Lebas
       Cousin Betty

     Listomere, Baronne de
       The Vicar of Tours
       Cesar Birotteau

     Lousteau, Etienne
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       A Daughter of Eve
       Beatrix
       Cousin Betty
       A Prince of Bohemia
       A Man of Business
       The Middle Classes
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Lupeaulx, Clement Chardin des
       Eugenie Grandet
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       The Government Clerks
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Ursule Mirouet

     Maufrigneuse, Duchesse de
       The Secrets of a Princess
       Modeste Mignon
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Letters of Two Brides
       Another Study of Woman
       The Gondreville Mystery
       The Member for Arcis

     Milaud
       Lost Illusions

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

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

     Navarreins, Duc de
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Colonel Chabert
       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
       Cousin Betty

     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
       Cousin Betty
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Ronceret, Madame Fabien du
       Beatrix
       Cousin Betty
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Rouget, Jean-Jacques
       A Bachelor’s Establishment

     Touches, Mademoiselle Felicite des
       Beatrix
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Another Study of Woman
       A Daughter of Eve
       Honorine
       Beatrix

     Turquet, Marguerite
       The Imaginary Mistress
       A Man of Business
       Cousin Betty

     Vandenesse, Comtesse Felix de
       A Second Home
       A Daughter of Eve





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