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Title: Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Honore De Balzac

Translated by James Waring

PREPARER’S NOTE: The story of Lucien de Rubempre begins in the
Lost Illusions trilogy which consists of Two Poets, A Distinguished
Provincial at Paris, and Eve and David. The action in Scenes From A
Courtesan’s Life commences directly after the end of Eve and David.


                          To His Highness
                 Prince Alfonso Serafino di Porcia.

  Allow me to place your name at the beginning of an essentially
  Parisian work, thought out in your house during these latter days.
  Is it not natural that I should offer you the flowers of rhetoric
  that blossomed in your garden, watered with the regrets I suffered
  from home-sickness, which you soothed, as I wandered under the
  boschetti whose elms reminded me of the Champs-Elysees? Thus,
  perchance, may I expiate the crime of having dreamed of Paris
  under the shadow of the Duomo, of having longed for our muddy
  streets on the clean and elegant flagstones of Porta-Renza. When I
  have some book to publish which may be dedicated to a Milanese
  lady, I shall have the happiness of finding names already dear to
  your old Italian romancers among those of women whom we love, and
  to whose memory I would beg you to recall your sincerely

                                                          DE BALZAC.
    July 1838.



In 1824, at the last opera ball of the season, several masks were
struck by the beauty of a youth who was wandering about the passages
and greenroom with the air of a man in search of a woman kept at home by
unexpected circumstances. The secret of this behavior, now dilatory and
again hurried, is known only to old women and to certain experienced
loungers. In this immense assembly the crowd does not trouble itself
much to watch the crowd; each one’s interest is impassioned, and even
idlers are preoccupied.

The young dandy was so much absorbed in his anxious quest that he
did not observe his own success; he did not hear, he did not see the
ironical exclamations of admiration, the genuine appreciation, the
biting gibes, the soft invitations of some of the masks. Though he was
so handsome as to rank among those exceptional persons who come to an
opera ball in search of an adventure, and who expect it as confidently
as men looked for a lucky coup at roulette in Frascati’s day, he seemed
quite philosophically sure of his evening; he must be the hero of one
of those mysteries with three actors which constitute an opera ball, and
are known only to those who play a part in them; for, to young wives
who come merely to say, “I have seen it,” to country people, to
inexperienced youths, and to foreigners, the opera house must on those
nights be the palace of fatigue and dulness. To these, that black swarm,
slow and serried--coming, going, winding, turning, returning, mounting,
descending, comparable only to ants on a pile of wood--is no more
intelligible than the Bourse to a Breton peasant who has never heard of
the Grand livre.

With a few rare exceptions, men wear no masks in Paris; a man in a
domino is thought ridiculous. In this the spirit of the nation betrays
itself. Men who want to hide their good fortune can enjoy the opera ball
without going there; and masks who are absolutely compelled to go in
come out again at once. One of the most amusing scenes is the crush at
the doors produced as soon as the dancing begins, by the rush of persons
getting away and struggling with those who are pushing in. So the men
who wear masks are either jealous husbands who come to watch their
wives, or husbands on the loose who do not wish to be watched by
them--two situations equally ridiculous.

Now, our young man was followed, though he knew it not, by a man in a
mask, dogging his steps, short and stout, with a rolling gait, like a
barrel. To every one familiar with the opera this disguise betrayed
a stock-broker, a banker, a lawyer, some citizen soul suspicious of
infidelity. For in fact, in really high society, no one courts such
humiliating proofs. Several masks had laughed as they pointed this
preposterous figure out to each other; some had spoken to him, a few
young men had made game of him, but his stolid manner showed entire
contempt for these aimless shafts; he went on whither the young man
led him, as a hunted wild boar goes on and pays no heed to the bullets
whistling about his ears, or the dogs barking at his heels.

Though at first sight pleasure and anxiety wear the same livery--the
noble black robe of Venice--and though all is confusion at an opera
ball, the various circles composing Parisian society meet there,
recognize, and watch each other. There are certain ideas so clear to the
initiated that this scrawled medley of interests is as legible to them
as any amusing novel. So, to these old hands, this man could not be here
by appointment; he would infallibly have worn some token, red, white, or
green, such as notifies a happy meeting previously agreed on. Was it a
case of revenge?

Seeing the domino following so closely in the wake of a man apparently
happy in an assignation, some of the gazers looked again at the handsome
face, on which anticipation had set its divine halo. The youth was
interesting; the longer he wandered, the more curiosity he excited.
Everything about him proclaimed the habits of refined life. In obedience
to a fatal law of the time we live in, there is not much difference,
physical or moral, between the most elegant and best bred son of a duke
and peer and this attractive youth, whom poverty had not long since held
in its iron grip in the heart of Paris. Beauty and youth might cover him
in deep gulfs, as in many a young man who longs to play a part in Paris
without having the capital to support his pretensions, and who, day
after day, risks all to win all, by sacrificing to the god who has most
votaries in this royal city, namely, Chance. At the same time, his dress
and manners were above reproach; he trod the classic floor of the opera
house as one accustomed there. Who can have failed to observe that
there, as in every zone in Paris, there is a manner of being which shows
who you are, what you are doing, whence you come, and what you want?

“What a handsome young fellow; and here we may turn round to look
at him,” said a mask, in whom accustomed eyes recognized a lady of

“Do you not remember him?” replied the man on whose arm she was leaning.
“Madame du Chatelet introduced him to you----”

“What, is that the apothecary’s son she fancied herself in love with,
who became a journalist, Mademoiselle Coralie’s lover?”

“I fancied he had fallen too low ever to pull himself up again, and I
cannot understand how he can show himself again in the world of Paris,”
 said the Comte Sixte du Chatelet.

“He has the air of a prince,” the mask went on, “and it is not
the actress he lived with who could give it to him. My cousin, who
understood him, could not lick him into shape. I should like to know the
mistress of this Sargine; tell me something about him that will enable
me to mystify him.”

This couple, whispering as they watched the young man, became the object
of study to the square-shouldered domino.

“Dear Monsieur Chardon,” said the Prefet of the Charente, taking the
dandy’s hand, “allow me to introduce you to some one who wishes to renew
acquaintance with you----”

“Dear Comte Chatelet,” replied the young man, “that lady taught me how
ridiculous was the name by which you address me. A patent from the king
has restored to me that of my mother’s family--the Rubempres. Although
the fact has been announced in the papers, it relates to so unimportant
a person that I need not blush to recall it to my friends, my enemies,
and those who are neither----You may class yourself where you will, but
I am sure you will not disapprove of a step to which I was advised by
your wife when she was still only Madame de Bargeton.”

This neat retort, which made the Marquise smile, gave the Prefet of la
Charente a nervous chill. “You may tell her,” Lucien went on, “that I
now bear gules, a bull raging argent on a meadow vert.”

“Raging argent,” echoed Chatelet.

“Madame la Marquise will explain to you, if you do not know, why that
old coat is a little better than the chamberlain’s key and Imperial gold
bees which you bear on yours, to the great despair of Madame Chatelet,
nee Negrepelisse d’Espard,” said Lucien quickly.

“Since you recognize me, I cannot puzzle you; and I could never tell
you how much you puzzle me,” said the Marquise d’Espard, amazed at
the coolness and impertinence to which the man had risen whom she had
formerly despised.

“Then allow me, madame, to preserve my only chance of occupying your
thoughts by remaining in that mysterious twilight,” said he, with the
smile of a man who does not wish to risk assured happiness.

“I congratulate you on your changed fortunes,” said the Comte du
Chatelet to Lucien.

“I take it as you offer it,” replied Lucien, bowing with much grace to
the Marquise.

“What a coxcomb!” said the Count in an undertone to Madame d’Espard. “He
has succeeded in winning an ancestry.”

“With these young men such coxcombry, when it is addressed to us, almost
always implies some success in high places,” said the lady; “for with
you older men it means ill-fortune. And I should very much like to
know which of my grand lady friends has taken this fine bird under her
patronage; then I might find the means of amusing myself this evening.
My ticket, anonymously sent, is no doubt a bit of mischief planned by a
rival and having something to do with this young man. His impertinence
is to order; keep an eye on him. I will take the Duc de Navarrein’s arm.
You will be able to find me again.”

Just as Madame d’Espard was about to address her cousin, the mysterious
mask came between her and the Duke to whisper in her ear:

“Lucien loves you; he wrote the note. Your Prefet is his greatest foe;
how can he speak in his presence?”

The stranger moved off, leaving Madame d’Espard a prey to a double
surprise. The Marquise knew no one in the world who was capable of
playing the part assumed by this mask; she suspected a snare, and went
to sit down out of sight. The Comte Sixte du Chatelet--whom Lucien
had abridged of his ambitious _du_ with an emphasis that betrayed long
meditated revenge--followed the handsome dandy, and presently met a
young man to whom he thought he could speak without reserve.

“Well, Rastignac, have you seen Lucien? He has come out in a new skin.”

“If I were half as good looking as he is, I should be twice as rich,”
 replied the fine gentleman, in a light but meaning tone, expressive of
keen raillery.

“No!” said the fat mask in his ear, repaying a thousand ironies in one
by the accent he lent the monosyllable.

Rastignac, who was not the man to swallow an affront, stood as if struck
by lightning, and allowed himself to be led into a recess by a grasp of
iron which he could not shake off.

“You young cockerel, hatched in Mother Vauquer’s coop--you, whose heart
failed you to clutch old Taillefer’s millions when the hardest part of
the business was done--let me tell you, for your personal safety, that
if you do not treat Lucien like the brother you love, you are in our
power, while we are not in yours. Silence and submission! or I shall
join your game and upset the skittles. Lucien de Rubempre is under the
protection of the strongest power of the day--the Church. Choose between
life and death--Answer.”

Rastignac felt giddy, like a man who has slept in a forest and wakes to
see by his side a famishing lioness. He was frightened, and there was no
one to see him; the boldest men yield to fear under such circumstances.

“No one but HE can know--or would dare----” he murmured to himself.

The mask clutched his hand tighter to prevent his finishing his

“Act as if I were _he_,” he said.

Rastignac then acted like a millionaire on the highroad with a brigand’s
pistol at his head; he surrendered.

“My dear Count,” said he to du Chatelet, to whom he presently returned,
“if you care for your position in life, treat Lucien de Rubempre as
a man whom you will one day see holding a place far above where you

The mask made a imperceptible gesture of approbation, and went off in
search of Lucien.

“My dear fellow, you have changed your opinion of him very suddenly,”
 replied the Prefet with justifiable surprise.

“As suddenly as men change who belong to the centre and vote with the
right,” replied Rastignac to the Prefet-Depute, whose vote had for a few
days failed to support the Ministry.

“Are there such things as opinions nowadays? There are only interests,”
 observed des Lupeaulx, who had heard them. “What is the case in point?”

“The case of the Sieur de Rubempre, whom Rastignac is setting up as a
person of consequence,” said du Chatelet to the Secretary-General.

“My dear Count,” replied des Lupeaulx very seriously, “Monsieur de
Rubempre is a young man of the highest merit, and has such good interest
at his back that I should be delighted to renew my acquaintance with

“There he is, rushing into the wasps’ nest of the rakes of the day,”
 said Rastignac.

The three speakers looked towards a corner where a group of recognized
wits had gathered, men of more or less celebrity, and several men
of fashion. These gentlemen made common stock of their jests, their
remarks, and their scandal, trying to amuse themselves till something
should amuse them. Among this strangely mingled party were some men with
whom Lucien had had transactions, combining ostensibly kind offices with
covert false dealing.

“Hallo! Lucien, my boy, why here we are patched up again--new stuffing
and a new cover. Where have we come from? Have we mounted the high
horse once more with little offerings from Florine’s boudoir? Bravo, old
chap!” and Blondet released Finot to put his arm affectionately around
Lucien and press him to his heart.

Andoche Finot was the proprietor of a review on which Lucien had
worked for almost nothing, and to which Blondet gave the benefit of his
collaboration, of the wisdom of his suggestions and the depth of
his views. Finot and Blondet embodied Bertrand and Raton, with this
difference--that la Fontaine’s cat at last showed that he knew himself
to be duped, while Blondet, though he knew that he was being fleeced,
still did all he could for Finot. This brilliant condottiere of the pen
was, in fact, long to remain a slave. Finot hid a brutal strength of
will under a heavy exterior, under polish of wit, as a laborer rubs
his bread with garlic. He knew how to garner what he gleaned, ideas
and crown-pieces alike, in the fields of the dissolute life led by men
engaged in letters or in politics.

Blondet, for his sins, had placed his powers at the service of Finot’s
vices and idleness. Always at war with necessity, he was one of the
race of poverty-stricken and superior men who can do everything for the
fortune of others and nothing for their own, Aladdins who let other men
borrow their lamp. These excellent advisers have a clear and penetrating
judgment so long as it is not distracted by personal interest. In them
it is the head and not the arm that acts. Hence the looseness of their
morality, and hence the reproach heaped upon them by inferior minds.
Blondet would share his purse with a comrade he had affronted the day
before; he would dine, drink, and sleep with one whom he would demolish
on the morrow. His amusing paradoxes excused everything. Accepting the
whole world as a jest, he did not want to be taken seriously; young,
beloved, almost famous and contented, he did not devote himself, like
Finot, to acquiring the fortune an old man needs.

The most difficult form of courage, perhaps, is that which Lucien needed
at this moment to get rid of Blondet as he had just got rid of Madame
d’Espard and Chatelet. In him, unfortunately, the joys of vanity
hindered the exercise of pride--the basis, beyond doubt, of many great
things. His vanity had triumphed in the previous encounter; he had
shown himself as a rich man, happy and scornful, to two persons who had
scorned him when he was poor and wretched. But how could a poet, like
an old diplomate, run the gauntlet with two self-styled friends, who had
welcomed him in misery, under whose roof he had slept in the worst of
his troubles? Finot, Blondet, and he had groveled together; they had
wallowed in such orgies as consume something more than money. Like
soldiers who find no market for their courage, Lucien had just done what
many men do in Paris: he had still further compromised his character by
shaking Finot’s hand, and not rejecting Blondet’s affection.

Every man who has dabbled, or still dabbles, in journalism is under
the painful necessity of bowing to men he despises, of smiling at his
dearest foe, of compounding the foulest meanness, of soiling his fingers
to pay his aggressors in their own coin. He becomes used to seeing
evil done, and passing it over; he begins by condoning it, and ends by
committing it. In the long run the soul, constantly strained by shameful
and perpetual compromise, sinks lower, the spring of noble thoughts
grows rusty, the hinges of familiarity wear easy, and turn of their own
accord. Alceste becomes Philinte, natures lose their firmness, talents
are perverted, faith in great deeds evaporates. The man who yearned
to be proud of his work wastes himself in rubbishy articles which
his conscience regards, sooner or later, as so many evil actions. He
started, like Lousteau or Vernou, to be a great writer; he finds himself
a feeble scrivener. Hence it is impossible to honor too highly men whose
character stands as high as their talent--men like d’Arthez, who know
how to walk surefooted across the reefs of literary life.

Lucien could make no reply to Blondet’s flattery; his wit had an
irresistible charm for him, and he maintained the hold of the corrupter
over his pupil; besides, he held a position in the world through his
connection with the Comtesse de Montcornet.

“Has an uncle left you a fortune?” said Finot, laughing at him.

“Like you, I have marked some fools for cutting down,” replied Lucien in
the same tone.

“Then Monsieur has a review--a newspaper of his own?” Andoche Finot
retorted, with the impertinent presumption of a chief to a subordinate.

“I have something better,” replied Lucien, whose vanity, nettled by the
assumed superiority of his editor, restored him to the sense of his new

“What is that, my dear boy?”

“I have a party.”

“There is a Lucien party?” said Vernou, smiling

“Finot, the boy has left you in the lurch; I told you he would. Lucien
is a clever fellow, and you never were respectful to him. You used him
as a hack. Repent, blockhead!” said Blondet.

Blondet, as sharp as a needle, could detect more than one secret in
Lucien’s air and manner; while stroking him down, he contrived to
tighten the curb. He meant to know the reasons of Lucien’s return to
Paris, his projects, and his means of living.

“On your knees to a superiority you can never attain to, albeit you are
Finot!” he went on. “Admit this gentleman forthwith to be one of the
great men to whom the future belongs; he is one of us! So witty and
so handsome, can he fail to succeed by your quibuscumque viis? Here he
stands, in his good Milan armor, his strong sword half unsheathed, and
his pennon flying!--Bless me, Lucien, where did you steal that smart
waistcoat? Love alone can find such stuff as that. Have you an address?
At this moment I am anxious to know where my friends are domiciled;
I don’t know where to sleep. Finot has turned me out of doors for the
night, under the vulgar pretext of ‘a lady in the case.’”

“My boy,” said Lucien, “I put into practice a motto by which you may
secure a quiet life: Fuge, late, tace. I am off.”

“But I am not off till you pay me a sacred debt--that little supper, you
know, heh?” said Blondet, who was rather too much given to good cheer,
and got himself treated when he was out of funds.

“What supper?” asked Lucien with a little stamp of impatience.

“You don’t remember? In that I recognize my prosperous friend; he has
lost his memory.”

“He knows what he owes us; I will go bail for his good heart,” said
Finot, taking up Blondet’s joke.

“Rastignac,” said Blondet, taking the young dandy by the arm as he came
up the room to the column where the so-called friends were standing.
“There is a supper in the wind; you will join us--unless,” he added
gravely, turning to Lucien, “Monsieur persists in ignoring a debt of
honor. He can.”

“Monsieur de Rubempre is incapable of such a thing; I will answer for
him,” said Rastignac, who never dreamed of a practical joke.

“And there is Bixiou, he will come too,” cried Blondet; “there is no
fun without him. Without him champagne cloys my tongue, and I find
everything insipid, even the pepper of satire.”

“My friends,” said Bixiou, “I see you have gathered round the wonder of
the day. Our dear Lucien has revived the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Just as
the gods used to turn into strange vegetables and other things to seduce
the ladies, he has turned the Chardon (the Thistle) into a gentleman to
bewitch--whom? Charles X.!--My dear boy,” he went on, holding Lucien
by his coat button, “a journalist who apes the fine gentleman deserves
rough music. In their place,” said the merciless jester, as he pointed
to Finot and Vernou, “I should take you up in my society paper; you
would bring in a hundred francs for ten columns of fun.”

“Bixiou,” said Blondet, “an Amphitryon is sacred for twenty-four hours
before a feast and twelve hours after. Our illustrious friend is giving
us a supper.”

“What then!” cried Bixiou; “what is more imperative than the duty of
saving a great name from oblivion, of endowing the indigent aristocracy
with a man of talent? Lucien, you enjoy the esteem of the press of
which you were a distinguished ornament, and we will give you our
support.--Finot, a paragraph in the ‘latest items’!--Blondet, a
little butter on the fourth page of your paper!--We must advertise the
appearance of one of the finest books of the age, _l’Archer de Charles
IX._! We will appeal to Dauriat to bring out as soon as possible _les
Marguerites_, those divine sonnets by the French Petrarch! We must carry
our friend through on the shield of stamped paper by which reputations
are made and unmade.”

“If you want a supper,” said Lucien to Blondet, hoping to rid himself
of this mob, which threatened to increase, “it seems to me that you need
not work up hyperbole and parable to attack an old friend as if he were
a booby. To-morrow night at Lointier’s----” he cried, seeing a woman
come by, whom he rushed to meet.

“Oh! oh! oh!” said Bixiou on three notes, with a mocking glance, and
seeming to recognize the mask to whom Lucien addressed himself. “This
needs confirmation.”

He followed the handsome pair, got past them, examined them keenly, and
came back, to the great satisfaction of all the envious crowd, who were
eager to learn the source of Lucien’s change of fortune.

“Friends,” said Bixiou, “you have long known the goddess of the Sire de
Rubempre’s fortune: She is des Lupeaulx’s former ‘rat.’”

A form of dissipation, now forgotten, but still customary at the
beginning of this century, was the keeping of “rats.” The “rat”--a slang
word that has become old-fashioned--was a girl of ten or twelve in the
chorus of some theatre, more particularly at the opera, who was trained
by young roues to vice and infamy. A “rat” was a sort of demon page, a
tomboy who was forgiven a trick if it were but funny. The “rat” might
take what she pleased; she was to be watched like a dangerous animal,
and she brought an element of liveliness into life, like Scapin,
Sganarelle, and Frontin in old-fashioned comedy. But a “rat” was too
expensive; it made no return in honor, profit, or pleasure; the fashion
of rats so completely went out, that in these days few people knew
anything of this detail of fashionable life before the Restoration till
certain writers took up the “rat” as a new subject.

“What! after having seen Coralie killed under him, Lucien means to rob
us of La Torpille?” (the torpedo fish) said Blondet.

As he heard the name the brawny mask gave a significant start, which,
though repressed, was understood by Rastignac.

“It is out of the question,” replied Finot; “La Torpille has not a
sou to give away; Nathan tells me she borrowed a thousand francs of

“Come, gentlemen, gentlemen!” said Rastignac, anxious to defend Lucien
against so odious an imputation.

“Well,” cried Vernou, “is Coralie’s kept man likely to be so very

“Oh!” replied Bixiou, “those thousand francs prove to me that our friend
Lucien lives with La Torpille----”

“What an irreparable loss to literature, science, art, and politics!”
 exclaimed Blondet. “La Torpille is the only common prostitute in whom I
ever found the stuff for a superior courtesan; she has not been spoiled
by education--she can neither read nor write, she would have understood
us. We might have given to our era one of those magnificent Aspasias
without which there can be no golden age. See how admirably Madame du
Barry was suited to the eighteenth century, Ninon de l’Enclos to the
seventeenth, Marion Delorme to the sixteenth, Imperia to the fifteenth,
Flora to Republican Rome, which she made her heir, and which paid off
the public debt with her fortune! What would Horace be without Lydia,
Tibullus without Delia, Catullus without Lesbia, Propertius without
Cynthia, Demetrius without Lamia, who is his glory at this day?”

“Blondet talking of Demetrius in the opera house seems to me rather too
strong of the _Debats_,” said Bixiou in his neighbor’s ears.

“And where would the empire of the Caesars have been but for these
queens?” Blondet went on; “Lais and Rhodope are Greece and Egypt. They
all indeed are the poetry of the ages in which they lived. This poetry,
which Napoleon lacked--for the Widow of his Great Army is a barrack
jest, was not wanting to the Revolution; it had Madame Tallien! In these
days there is certainly a throne to let in France which is for her who
can fill it. We among us could make a queen. I should have given La
Torpille an aunt, for her mother is too decidedly dead on the field of
dishonor; du Tillet would have given her a mansion, Lousteau a carriage,
Rastignac her footmen, des Lupeaulx a cook, Finot her hats”--Finot
could not suppress a shrug at standing the point-blank fire of this
epigram--“Vernou would have composed her advertisements, and Bixiou her
repartees! The aristocracy would have come to enjoy themselves with our
Ninon, where we would have got artists together, under pain of death
by newspaper articles. Ninon the second would have been magnificently
impertinent, overwhelming in luxury. She would have set up opinions.
Some prohibited dramatic masterpiece should have been read in her
drawing-room; it should have been written on purpose if necessary. She
would not have been liberal; a courtesan is essentially monarchical. Oh,
what a loss! She ought to have embraced her whole century, and she makes
love with a little young man! Lucien will make a sort of hunting-dog of

“None of the female powers of whom you speak ever trudged the streets,”
 said Finot, “and that pretty little ‘rat’ has rolled in the mire.”

“Like a lily-seed in the soil,” replied Vernou, “and she has improved
in it and flowered. Hence her superiority. Must we not have known
everything to be able to create the laughter and joy which are part of

“He is right,” said Lousteau, who had hitherto listened without
speaking; “La Torpille can laugh and make others laugh. That gift of all
great writers and great actors is proper to those who have investigated
every social deep. At eighteen that girl had already known the greatest
wealth, the most squalid misery--men of every degree. She bears about
her a sort of magic wand by which she lets loose the brutal appetites so
vehemently suppressed in men who still have a heart while occupied with
politics or science, literature or art. There is not in Paris another
woman who can say to the beast as she does: ‘Come out!’ And the beast
leaves his lair and wallows in excesses. She feeds you up to the chin,
she helps you to drink and smoke. In short, this woman is the salt of
which Rabelais writes, which, thrown on matter, animates it and
elevates it to the marvelous realms of art; her robe displays unimagined
splendor, her fingers drop gems as her lips shed smiles; she gives the
spirit of the occasion to every little thing; her chatter twinkles with
bright sayings, she has the secret of the quaintest onomatopoeia, full
of color, and giving color; she----”

“You are wasting five francs’ worth of copy,” said Bixiou, interrupting
Lousteau. “La Torpille is something far better than all that; you have
all been in love with her more or less, not one of you can say that
she ever was his mistress. She can always command you; you will
never command her. You may force your way in and ask her to do you a

“Oh, she is more generous than a brigand chief who knows his business,
and more devoted than the best of school-fellows,” said Blondet. “You
may trust her with your purse or your secrets. But what made me choose
her as queen is her Bourbon-like indifference for a fallen favorite.”

“She, like her mother, is much too dear,” said des Lupeaulx. “The
handsome Dutch woman would have swallowed up the income of the
Archbishop of Toledo; she ate two notaries out of house and home----”

“And kept Maxime de Trailles when he was a court page,” said Bixiou.

“La Torpille is too dear, as Raphael was, or Careme, or Taglioni, or
Lawrence, or Boule, or any artist of genius is too dear,” said Blondet.

“Esther never looked so thoroughly a lady,” said Rastignac, pointing to
the masked figure to whom Lucien had given his arm. “I will bet on its
being Madame de Serizy.”

“Not a doubt of it,” cried du Chatelet, “and Monsieur du Rubempre’s
fortune is accounted for.”

“Ah, the Church knows how to choose its Levites; what a sweet
ambassador’s secretary he will make!” remarked des Lupeaulx.

“All the more so,” Rastignac went on, “because Lucien is a really clever
fellow. These gentlemen have had proof of it more than once,” and he
turned to Blondet, Finot, and Lousteau.

“Yes, the boy is cut out of the right stuff to get on,” said Lousteau,
who was dying of jealousy. “And particularly because he has what we call
independent ideas...”

“It is you who trained him,” said Vernou.

“Well,” replied Bixiou, looking at des Lupeaulx, “I trust to the memory
of Monsieur the Secretary-General and Master of Appeals--that mask is La
Torpille, and I will stand a supper on it.”

“I will hold the stakes,” said du Chatelet, curious to know the truth.

“Come, des Lupeaulx,” said Finot, “try to identify your rat’s ears.”

“There is no need for committing the crime of treason against a mask,”
 replied Bixiou. “La Torpille and Lucien must pass us as they go up the
room again, and I pledge myself to prove that it is she.”

“So our friend Lucien has come above water once more,” said Nathan,
joining the group. “I thought he had gone back to Angoumois for the rest
of his days. Has he discovered some secret to ruin the English?”

“He has done what you will not do in a hurry,” retorted Rastignac; “he
has paid up.”

The burly mask nodded in confirmation.

“A man who has sown his wild oats at his age puts himself out of court.
He has no pluck; he puts money in the funds,” replied Nathan.

“Oh, that youngster will always be a fine gentleman, and will always
have such lofty notions as will place him far above many men who think
themselves his betters,” replied Rastignac.

At this moment journalists, dandies, and idlers were all examining the
charming subject of their bet as horse-dealers examine a horse for sale.
These connoisseurs, grown old in familiarity with every form of Parisian
depravity, all men of superior talent each his own way, equally corrupt,
equally corrupting, all given over to unbridled ambition, accustomed
to assume and to guess everything, had their eyes centered on a masked
woman, a woman whom no one else could identify. They, and certain
habitual frequenters of the opera balls, could alone recognize under the
long shroud of the black domino, the hood and falling ruff which make
the wearer unrecognizable, the rounded form, the individuality of figure
and gait, the sway of the waist, the carriage of the head--the most
intangible trifles to ordinary eyes, but to them the easiest to discern.

In spite of this shapeless wrapper they could watch the most appealing
of dramas, that of a woman inspired by a genuine passion. Were she La
Torpille, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, or Madame de Serizy, on the
lowest or highest rung of the social ladder, this woman was an exquisite
creature, a flash from happy dreams. These old young men, like these
young old men, felt so keen an emotion, that they envied Lucien the
splendid privilege of working such a metamorphosis of a woman into a
goddess. The mask was there as though she had been alone with Lucien;
for that woman the thousand other persons did not exist, nor the evil
and dust-laden atmosphere; no, she moved under the celestial vault of
love, as Raphael’s Madonnas under their slender oval glory. She did not
feel herself elbowed; the fire of her glance shot from the holes in
her mask and sank into Lucien’s eyes; the thrill of her frame seemed to
answer to every movement of her companion. Whence comes this flame that
radiates from a woman in love and distinguishes her above all others?
Whence that sylph-like lightness which seems to negative the laws
of gravitation? Is the soul become ambient? Has happiness a physical

The ingenuousness of a girl, the graces of a child were discernible
under the domino. Though they walked apart, these two beings suggested
the figures of Flora and Zephyr as we see them grouped by the cleverest
sculptors; but they were beyond sculpture, the greatest of the arts;
Lucien and his pretty domino were more like the angels busied with
flowers or birds, which Gian Bellini has placed beneath the effigies of
the Virgin Mother. Lucien and this girl belonged to the realm of fancy,
which is as far above art as cause is above effect.

When the domino, forgetful of everything, was within a yard of the
group, Bixiou exclaimed:


The unhappy girl turned her head quickly at hearing herself called,
recognized the mischievous speaker, and bowed her head like a dying
creature that has drawn its last breath.

A sharp laugh followed, and the group of men melted among the crowd
like a knot of frightened field-rats whisking into their holes by the
roadside. Rastignac alone went no further than was necessary, just to
avoid making any show of shunning Lucien’s flashing eye. He could thus
note two phases of distress equally deep though unconfessed; first,
the hapless Torpille, stricken as by a lightning stroke, and then the
inscrutable mask, the only one of the group who had remained. Esther
murmured a word in Lucien’s ear just as her knees gave way, and Lucien,
supporting her, led her away.

Rastignac watched the pretty pair, lost in meditation.

“How did she get her name of La Torpille?” asked a gloomy voice that
struck to his vitals, for it was no longer disguised.

“_He_ again--he has made his escape!” muttered Rastignac to himself.

“Be silent or I murder you,” replied the mask, changing his voice. “I am
satisfied with you, you have kept your word, and there is more than
one arm ready to serve you. Henceforth be as silent as the grave; but,
before that, answer my question.”

“Well, the girl is such a witch that she could have magnetized
the Emperor Napoleon; she could magnetize a man more difficult to
influence--you yourself,” replied Rastignac, and he turned to go.

“One moment,” said the mask; “I will prove to you that you have never
seen me anywhere.”

The speaker took his mask off; for a moment Rastignac hesitated,
recognizing nothing of the hideous being he had known formerly at Madame

“The devil has enabled you to change in every particular, excepting your
eyes, which it is impossible to forget,” said he.

The iron hand gripped his arm to enjoin eternal secrecy.

At three in the morning des Lupeaulx and Finot found the elegant
Rastignac on the same spot, leaning against the column where the
terrible mask had left him. Rastignac had confessed to himself; he had
been at once priest and pentient, culprit and judge. He allowed himself
to be led away to breakfast, and reached home perfectly tipsy, but

The Rue de Langlade and the adjacent streets are a blot on the Palais
Royal and the Rue de Rivoli. This portion of one of the handsomest
quarters of Paris will long retain the stain of foulness left by the
hillocks formed of the middens of old Paris, on which mills formerly
stood. These narrow streets, dark and muddy, where such industries are
carried on as care little for appearances wear at night an aspect of
mystery full of contrasts. On coming from the well-lighted regions of
the Rue Saint-Honore, the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, and the Rue de
Richelieu, where the crowd is constantly pushing, where glitter the
masterpieces of industry, fashion, and art, every man to whom Paris by
night is unknown would feel a sense of dread and melancholy, on finding
himself in the labyrinth of little streets which lie round that blaze of
light reflected even from the sky. Dense blackness is here, instead of
floods of gaslight; a dim oil-lamp here and there sheds its doubtful
and smoky gleam, and many blind alleys are not lighted at all. Foot
passengers are few, and walk fast. The shops are shut, the few that are
open are of a squalid kind; a dirty, unlighted wineshop, or a seller
of underclothing and eau-de-Cologne. An unwholesome chill lays a clammy
cloak over your shoulders. Few carriages drive past. There are sinister
places here, especially the Rue de Langlade, the entrance to the Passage
Saint-Guillaume, and the turnings of some streets.

The municipal council has not yet been to purge this vast lazar-place,
for prostitution long since made it its headquarters. It is, perhaps,
a good thing for Paris that these alleys should be allowed to preserve
their filthy aspect. Passing through them by day, it is impossible
to imagine what they become by night; they are pervaded by strange
creatures of no known world; white, half-naked forms cling to the
walls--the darkness is alive. Between the passenger and the wall a dress
steals by--a dress that moves and speaks. Half-open doors suddenly
shout with laughter. Words fall on the ear such as Rabelais speaks of
as frozen and melting. Snatches of songs come up from the pavement. The
noise is not vague; it means something. When it is hoarse it is a voice;
but if it suggests a song, there is nothing human about it, it is
more like a croak. Often you hear a sharp whistle, and then the tap of
boot-heels has a peculiarly aggressive and mocking ring. This medley of
things makes you giddy. Atmospheric conditions are reversed there--it is
warm in winter and cool in summer.

Still, whatever the weather, this strange world always wears the same
aspect; it is the fantastic world of Hoffmann of Berlin. The most
mathematical of clerks never thinks of it as real, after returning
through the straits that lead into decent streets, where there are
passengers, shops, and taverns. Modern administration, or modern policy,
more scornful or more shamefaced than the queens and kings of past ages,
no longer dare look boldly in the face of this plague of our capitals.
Measures, of course, must change with the times, and such as bear on
individuals and on their liberty are a ticklish matter; still, we
ought, perhaps, to show some breadth and boldness as to merely material
measures--air, light, and construction. The moralist, the artist, and
the sage administrator alike must regret the old wooden galleries of the
Palais Royal, where the lambs were to be seen who will always be found
where there are loungers; and is it not best that the loungers should go
where they are to be found? What is the consequence? The gayest parts of
the Boulevards, that delightfulest of promenades, are impossible in the
evening for a family party. The police has failed to take advantage of
the outlet afforded by some small streets to purge the main street.

The girl whom we have seen crushed by a word at the opera ball had
been for the last month or two living in the Rue de Langlade, in a
very poor-looking house. This structure, stuck on to the wall of an
enormously large one, badly stuccoed, of no depth, and immensely high,
has all its windows on the street, and bears some resemblance to a
parrot’s perch. On each floor are two rooms, let as separate flats.
There is a narrow staircase clinging to the wall, queerly lighted by
windows which mark its ascent on the outer wall, each landing being
indicated by a stink, one of the most odious peculiarities of Paris. The
shop and entresol at that time were tenanted by a tinman; the landlord
occupied the first floor; the four upper stories were rented by
very decent working girls, who were treated by the portress and the
proprietor with some consideration and an obligingness called forth by
the difficulty of letting a house so oddly constructed and situated.
The occupants of the quarter are accounted for by the existence there of
many houses of the same character, for which trade has no use, and which
can only be rented by the poorer kinds of industry, of a precarious or
ignominious nature.

At three in the afternoon the portress, who had seen Mademoiselle Esther
brought home half dead by a young man at two in the morning, had just
held council with the young woman of the floor above, who, before
setting out in a cab to join some party of pleasure, had expressed her
uneasiness about Esther; she had not heard her move. Esther was, no
doubt, still asleep, but this slumber seemed suspicious. The portress,
alone in her cell, was regretting that she could not go to see what was
happening on the fourth floor, where Mademoiselle Esther lodged.

Just as she had made up her mind to leave the tinman’s son in charge of
her room, a sort of den in a recess on the entresol floor, a cab stopped
at the door. A man stepped out, wrapped from head to foot in a cloak
evidently intended to conceal his dress or his rank in life, and
asked for Mademoiselle Esther. The portress at one felt relieved; this
accounted for Esther’s silence and quietude. As the stranger mounted
the stairs above the portress’ room, she noticed silver buckles in his
shoes, and fancied she caught sight of the black fringe of a priest’s
sash; she went downstairs and catechised the driver, who answered
without speech, and again the woman understood.

The priest knocked, received no answer, heard a slight gasp, and forced
the door open with a thrust of his shoulder; charity, no doubt lent him
strength, but in any one else it would have been ascribed to practice.
He rushed to the inner room, and there found poor Esther in front of an
image of the Virgin in painted plaster, kneeling, or rather doubled up,
on the floor, her hands folded. The girl was dying. A brazier of burnt
charcoal told the tale of that dreadful morning. The domino cloak and
hood were lying on the ground. The bed was undisturbed. The unhappy
creature, stricken to the heart by a mortal thrust, had, no doubt,
made all her arrangements on her return from the opera. A candle-wick,
collapsed in the pool of grease that filled the candle-sconce, showed
how completely her last meditations had absorbed her. A handkerchief
soaked with tears proved the sincerity of the Magdalen’s despair, while
her classic attitude was that of the irreligious courtesan. This abject
repentance made the priest smile.

Esther, unskilled in dying, had left the door open, not thinking that
the air of two rooms would need a larger amount of charcoal to make it
suffocating; she was only stunned by the fumes; the fresh air from the
staircase gradually restored her to a consciousness of her woes.

The priest remained standing, lost in gloomy meditation, without being
touched by the girl’s divine beauty, watching her first movements as if
she had been some animal. His eyes went from the crouching figure to
the surrounding objects with evident indifference. He looked at the
furniture in the room; the paved floor, red, polished, and cold,
was poorly covered with a shabby carpet worn to the string. A little
bedstead, of painted wood and old-fashioned shape, was hung with yellow
cotton printed with red stars, one armchair and two small chairs, also
of painted wood, and covered with the same cotton print of which the
window-curtains were also made; a gray wall-paper sprigged with flowers
blackened and greasy with age; a fireplace full of kitchen utensils of
the vilest kind, two bundles of fire-logs; a stone shelf, on which lay
some jewelry false and real, a pair of scissors, a dirty pincushion, and
some white scented gloves; an exquisite hat perched on the water-jug,
a Ternaux shawl stopping a hole in the window, a handsome gown hanging
from a nail; a little hard sofa, with no cushions; broken clogs and
dainty slippers, boots that a queen might have coveted; cheap china
plates, cracked or chipped, with fragments of a past meal, and nickel
forks--the plate of the Paris poor; a basket full of potatoes and dirty
linen, with a smart gauze cap on the top; a rickety wardrobe, with
a glass door, open and empty, and on the shelves sundry
pawn-tickets,--this was the medley of things, dismal or pleasing, abject
and handsome, that fell on his eye.

These relics of splendor among the potsherds, these household
belongings--so appropriate to the bohemian existence of the girl who
knelt stricken in her unbuttoned garments, like a horse dying in harness
under the broken shafts entangled in the reins--did the whole strange
scene suggest any thoughts to the priest? Did he say to himself that
this erring creature must at least be disinterested to live in such
poverty when her lover was young and rich? Did he ascribe the disorder
of the room to the disorder of her life? Did he feel pity or terror? Was
his charity moved?

To see him, his arms folded, his brow dark, his lips set, his eye harsh,
any one must have supposed him absorbed in morose feelings of hatred,
considerations that jostled each other, sinister schemes. He was
certainly insensible to the soft roundness of a bosom almost crushed
under the weight of the bowed shoulders, and to the beautiful modeling
of the crouching Venus that was visible under the black petticoat, so
closely was the dying girl curled up. The drooping head which, seen from
behind, showed the white, slender, flexible neck and the fine shoulders
of a well-developed figure, did not appeal to him. He did not raise
Esther, he did not seem to hear the agonizing gasps which showed that
she was returning to life; a fearful sob and a terrifying glance from
the girl were needed before he condescended to lift her, and he carried
her to the bed with an ease that revealed enormous strength.

“Lucien!” she murmured.

“Love is there, the woman is not far behind,” said the priest with some

The victim of Parisian depravity then observed the dress worn by
her deliverer, and said, with a smile like a child’s when it takes
possession of something longed for:

“Then I shall not die without being reconciled to Heaven?”

“You may yet expiate your sins,” said the priest, moistening her
forehead with water, and making her smell at a cruet of vinegar he found
in a corner.

“I feel that life, instead of departing, is rushing in on me,” said she,
after accepting the Father’s care and expressing her gratitude by simple
gestures. This engaging pantomime, such as the Graces might have used to
charm, perfectly justified the nickname given to this strange girl.

“Do you feel better?” said the priest, giving her a glass of sugar and
water to drink.

This man seemed accustomed to such queer establishments; he knew all
about it. He was quite at home there. This privilege of being everywhere
at home is the prerogative of kings, courtesans, and thieves.

“When you feel quite well,” this strange priest went on after a pause,
“you must tell me the reasons which prompted you to commit this last
crime, this attempted suicide.”

“My story is very simple, Father,” replied she. “Three months ago I was
living the evil life to which I was born. I was the lowest and vilest
of creatures; now I am only the most unhappy. Excuse me from telling you
the history of my poor mother, who was murdered----”

“By a Captain, in a house of ill-fame,” said the priest, interrupting
the penitent. “I know your origin, and I know that if a being of your
sex can ever be excused for leading a life of shame, it is you, who have
always lacked good examples.”

“Alas! I was never baptized, and have no religious teaching.”

“All may yet be remedied then,” replied the priest, “provided that your
faith, your repentance, are sincere and without ulterior motive.”

“Lucien and God fill my heart,” said she with ingenuous pathos.

“You might have said God and Lucien,” answered the priest, smiling. “You
remind me of the purpose of my visit. Omit nothing that concerns that
young man.”

“You have come from him?” she asked, with a tender look that would have
touched any other priest! “Oh, he thought I should do it!”

“No,” replied the priest; “it is not your death, but your life that we
are interested in. Come, explain your position toward each other.”

“In one word,” said she.

The poor child quaked at the priest’s stern tone, but as a woman quakes
who has long ceased to be surprised at brutality.

“Lucien is Lucien,” said she, “the handsomest young man, the kindest
soul alive; if you know him, my love must seem to you quite natural. I
met him by chance, three months ago, at the Porte-Saint-Martin theatre,
where I went one day when I had leave, for we had a day a week at Madame
Meynardie’s, where I then was. Next day, you understand, I went out
without leave. Love had come into my heart, and had so completely
changed me, that on my return from the theatre I did not know myself:
I had a horror of myself. Lucien would never have known. Instead of
telling him what I was, I gave him my address at these rooms, where a
friend of mine was then living, who was so kind as to give them up to
me. I swear on my sacred word----”

“You must not swear.”

“Is it swearing to give your sacred word?--Well, from that day I have
worked in this room like a lost creature at shirt-making at twenty-eight
sous apiece, so as to live by honest labor. For a month I have had
nothing to eat but potatoes, that I might keep myself a good girl and
worthy of Lucien, who loves me and respects me as a pattern of virtue.
I have made my declaration before the police to recover my rights, and
submitted to two years’ surveillance. They are ready enough to enter
your name on the lists of disgrace, but make every difficulty about
scratching it out again. All I asked of Heaven was to enable me to keep
my resolution.

“I shall be nineteen in the month of April; at my age there is still a
chance. It seems to me that I was never born till three months ago.--I
prayed to God every morning that Lucien might never know what my former
life had been. I bought that Virgin you see there, and I prayed to her
in my own way, for I do not know any prayers; I cannot read nor write,
and I have never been into a church; I have never seen anything of God
excepting in processions, out of curiosity.”

“And what do you say to the Virgin?”

“I talk to her as I talk to Lucien, with all my soul, till I make him

“Oh, so he cries?”

“With joy,” said she eagerly, “poor dear boy! We understand each other
so well that we have but one soul! He is so nice, so fond, so sweet
in heart and mind and manners! He says he is a poet; I say he is
god.--Forgive me! You priests, you see, don’t know what love is. But,
in fact, only girls like me know enough of men to appreciate such as
Lucien. A Lucien, you see, is as rare as a woman without sin. When you
come across him you can love no one else; so there! But such a being
must have his fellow; so I want to be worthy to be loved by my Lucien.
That is where my trouble began. Last evening, at the opera, I was
recognized by some young men who have no more feeling than a tiger
has pity--for that matter, I could come round the tiger! The veil of
innocence I had tried to wear was worn off; their laughter pierced
my brain and my heart. Do not think you have saved me; I shall die of

“Your veil of innocence?” said the priest. “Then you have treated Lucien
with the sternest severity?”

“Oh, Father, how can you, who know him, ask me such a question!” she
replied with a smile. “Who can resist a god?”

“Do not be blasphemous,” said the priest mildly. “No one can be like
God. Exaggeration is out of place with true love; you had not a pure
and genuine love for your idol. If you had undergone the conversion you
boast of having felt, you would have acquired the virtues which are
a part of womanhood; you would have known the charm of chastity,
the refinements of modesty, the two virtues that are the glory of a
maiden.--You do not love.”

Esther’s gesture of horror was seen by the priest, but it had no effect
on the impassibility of her confessor.

“Yes; for you love him for yourself and not for himself, for the
temporal enjoyments that delight you, and not for love itself. If he has
thus taken possession of you, you cannot have felt that sacred thrill
that is inspired by a being on whom God has set the seal of the most
adorable perfections. Has it never occurred to you that you would
degrade him by your past impurity, that you would corrupt a child by
the overpowering seductions which earned you your nickname glorious in
infamy? You have been illogical with yourself, and your passion of a

“Of a day?” she repeated, raising her eyes.

“By what other name can you call a love that is not eternal, that does
not unite us in the future life of the Christian, to the being we love?”

“Ah, I will be a Catholic!” she cried in a hollow, vehement tone, that
would have earned her the mercy of the Lord.

“Can a girl who has received neither the baptism of the Church nor that
of knowledge; who can neither read, nor write, nor pray; who cannot
take a step without the stones in the street rising up to accuse her;
noteworthy only for the fugitive gift of beauty which sickness may
destroy to-morrow; can such a vile, degraded creature, fully aware too
of her degradation--for if you had been ignorant of it and less devoted,
you would have been more excusable--can the intended victim to suicide
and hell hope to be the wife of Lucien de Rubempre?”

Every word was a poniard thrust piercing the depths of her heart. At
every word the louder sobs and abundant tears of the desperate girl
showed the power with which light had flashed upon an intelligence as
pure as that of a savage, upon a soul at length aroused, upon a nature
over which depravity had laid a sheet of foul ice now thawed in the
sunshine of faith.

“Why did I not die!” was the only thought that found utterance in the
midst of a torrent of ideas that racked and ravaged her brain.

“My daughter,” said the terrible judge, “there is a love which is
unconfessed before men, but of which the secret is received by the
angels with smiles of gladness.”

“What is that?”

“Love without hope, when it inspires our life, when it fills us with
the spirit of sacrifice, when it ennobles every act by the thought of
reaching some ideal perfection. Yes, the angels approve of such love;
it leads to the knowledge of God. To aim at perfection in order to
be worthy of the one you love, to make for him a thousand secret
sacrifices, adoring him from afar, giving your blood drop by drop,
abnegating your self-love, never feeling any pride or anger as regards
him, even concealing from him all knowledge of the dreadful jealousy he
fires in your heart, giving him all he wishes were it to your own loss,
loving what he loves, always turning your face to him to follow him
without his knowing it--such love as that religion would have forgiven;
it is no offence to laws human or divine, and would have led you into
another road than that of your foul voluptuousness.”

As she heard this horrible verdict, uttered in a word--and such a word!
and spoken in such a tone!--Esther’s spirit rose up in fairly legitimate
distrust. This word was like a thunder-clap giving warning of a storm
about to break. She looked at the priest, and felt the grip on her
vitals which wrings the bravest when face to face with sudden and
imminent danger. No eye could have read what was passing in this man’s
mind; but the boldest would have found more to quail at than to hope for
in the expression of his eyes, once bright and yellow like those of a
tiger, but now shrouded, from austerities and privations, with a haze
like that which overhangs the horizon in the dog-days, when, though the
earth is hot and luminous, the mist makes it indistinct and dim--almost

The gravity of a Spaniard, the deep furrows which the myriad scars of
virulent smallpox made hideously like broken ruts, were ploughed into
his face, which was sallow and tanned by the sun. The hardness of this
countenance was all the more conspicuous, being framed in the meagre
dry wig of a priest who takes no care of his person, a black wig looking
rusty in the light. His athletic frame, his hands like an old soldier’s,
his broad, strong shoulders were those of the Caryatides which the
architects of the Middle Ages introduced into some Italian palaces,
remotely imitated in those of the front of the Porte-Saint-Martin
theatre. The least clear-sighted observer might have seen that fiery
passions or some unwonted accident must have thrown this man into the
bosom of the Church; certainly none but the most tremendous shocks
of lightning could have changed him, if indeed such a nature were
susceptible of change.

Women who have lived the life that Esther had so violently repudiated
come to feel absolute indifference as to the critics of our day, who
may be compared with them in some respects, and who feel at last perfect
disregard of the formulas of art; they have read so many books, they see
so many pass away, they are so much accustomed to written pages, they
have gone through so many plots, they have seen so many dramas, they
have written so many articles without saying what they meant, and have
so often been treasonable to the cause of Art in favor of their personal
likings and aversions, that they acquire a feeling of disgust of
everything, and yet continue to pass judgment. It needs a miracle to
make such a writer produce sound work, just as it needs another miracle
to give birth to pure and noble love in the heart of a courtesan.

The tone and manner of this priest, who seemed to have escaped from
a picture by Zurbaran, struck this poor girl as so hostile, little as
externals affected her, that she perceived herself to be less the object
of his solitude than the instrument he needed for some scheme. Being
unable to distinguish between the insinuating tongue of personal
interest and the unction of true charity, for we must be acutely
awake to recognize false coin when it is offered by a friend, she felt
herself, as it were, in the talons of some fierce and monstrous bird of
prey who, after hovering over her for long, had pounced down on her; and
in her terror she cried in a voice of alarm:

“I thought it was a priest’s duty to console us, and you are killing

At this innocent outcry the priest started and paused; he meditated a
moment before replying. During that instant the two persons so strangely
brought together studied each other cautiously. The priest understood
the girl, though the girl could not understand the priest.

He, no doubt, put aside some plan which had threatened the unhappy
Esther, and came back to his first ideas.

“We are physicians of the soul,” said he, in a mild voice, “and we know
what remedies suit their maladies.”

“Much must be forgiven to the wretched,” said Esther.

She fancied she had been wrong; she slipped off the bed, threw herself
at the man’s feet, kissed his gown with deep humility, and looked up at
him with eyes full of tears.

“I thought I had done so much!” she said.

“Listen, my child. Your terrible reputation has cast Lucien’s family
into grief. They are afraid, and not without reason, that you may lead
him into dissipation, into endless folly----”

“That is true; it was I who got him to the ball to mystify him.”

“You are handsome enough to make him wish to triumph in you in the
eyes of the world, to show you with pride, and make you an object for
display. And if he wasted money only!--but he will waste his time, his
powers; he will lose his inclination for the fine future his friends can
secure to him. Instead of being some day an ambassador, rich, admired
and triumphant, he, like so many debauchees who choke their talents in
the mud of Paris, will have been the lover of a degraded woman.

“As for you, after rising for a time to the level of a sphere of
elegance, you will presently sink back to your former life, for you have
not in you the strength bestowed by a good education to enable you to
resist vice and think of the future. You would no more be able to break
with the women of your own class than you have broken with the men who
shamed you at the opera this morning. Lucien’s true friends, alarmed
by his passion for you, have dogged his steps and know all. Filled with
horror, they have sent me to you to sound your views and decide your
fate; but though they are powerful enough to clear a stumbling-stone
out of the young man’s way, they are merciful. Understand this, child:
a girl whom Lucien loves has claims on their regard, as a true Christian
worships the slough on which, by chance, the divine light falls. I came
to be the instrument of a beneficent purpose;--still, if I had found you
utterly reprobate, armed with effrontery and astuteness, corrupt to the
marrow, deaf to the voice of repentance, I should have abandoned you to
their wrath.

“The release, civil and political, which it is so hard to win, which the
police is so right to withhold for a time in the interests of society,
and which I heard you long for with all the ardor of true repentance--is
here,” said the priest, taking an official-looking paper out of his
belt. “You were seen yesterday, this letter of release is dated to-day.
You see how powerful the people are who take an interest in Lucien.”

At the sight of this document Esther was so ingenuously overcome by the
convulsive agitation produced by unlooked-for joy, that a fixed smile
parted her lips, like that of a crazy creature. The priest paused,
looking at the girl to see whether, when once she had lost the horrible
strength which corrupt natures find in corruption itself, and was thrown
back on her frail and delicate primitive nature, she could endure so
much excitement. If she had been a deceitful courtesan, Esther would
have acted a part; but now that she was innocent and herself once more,
she might perhaps die, as a blind man cured may lose his sight again if
he is exposed to too bright a light. At this moment this man looked into
the very depths of human nature, but his calmness was terrible in its
rigidity; a cold alp, snow-bound and near to heaven, impenetrable and
frowning, with flanks of granite, and yet beneficent.

Such women are essentially impressionable beings, passing without reason
from the most idiotic distrust to absolute confidence. In this respect
they are lower than animals. Extreme in everything--in their joy and
despair, in their religion and irreligion--they would almost all go mad
if they were not decimated by the mortality peculiar to their class, and
if happy chances did not lift one now and then from the slough in which
they dwell. To understand the very depths of the wretchedness of this
horrible existence, one must know how far in madness a creature can go
without remaining there, by studying La Torpille’s violent ecstasy at
the priest’s feet. The poor girl gazed at the paper of release with
an expression which Dante has overlooked, and which surpassed the
inventiveness of his Inferno. But a reaction came with tears. Esther
rose, threw her arms round the priest’s neck, laid her head on his
breast, which she wetted with her weeping, kissing the coarse stuff that
covered that heart of steel as if she fain would touch it. She seized
hold of him; she covered his hands with kisses; she poured out in a
sacred effusion of gratitude her most coaxing caresses, lavished fond
names on him, saying again and again in the midst of her honeyed words,
“Let me have it!” in a thousand different tones of voice; she wrapped
him in tenderness, covered him with her looks with a swiftness that
found him defenceless; at last she charmed away his wrath.

The priest perceived how well the girl had deserved her nickname; he
understood how difficult it was to resist this bewitching creature; he
suddenly comprehended Lucien’s love, and just what must have fascinated
the poet. Such a passion hides among a thousand temptations a dart-like
hook which is most apt to catch the lofty soul of an artist. These
passions, inexplicable to the vulgar, are perfectly accounted for by the
thirst for ideal beauty, which is characteristic of a creative mind.
For are we not, in some degree, akin to the angels, whose task it is to
bring the guilty to a better mind? are we not creative when we purify
such a creature? How delightful it is to harmonize moral with physical
beauty! What joy and pride if we succeed! How noble a task is that which
has no instrument but love!

Such alliances, made famous by the example of Aristotle, Socrates,
Plato, Alcibiades, Cethegus, and Pompey, and yet so monstrous in the
eyes of the vulgar, are based on the same feeling that prompted Louis
XIV. to build Versailles, or that makes men rush into any ruinous
enterprise--into converting the miasma of a marsh into a mass of
fragrance surrounded by living waters; placing a lake at the top of a
hill, as the Prince de Conti did at Nointel; or producing Swiss scenery
at Cassan, like Bergeret, the farmer-general. In short, it is the
application of art in the realm of morals.

The priest, ashamed of having yielded to this weakness, hastily pushed
Esther away, and she sat down quite abashed, for he said:

“You are still the courtesan.” And he calmly replaced the paper in his

Esther, like a child who has a single wish in its head, kept her eyes
fixed on the spot where the document lay hidden.

“My child,” the priest went on after a pause, “your mother was a Jewess,
and you have not been baptized; but, on the other hand, you have never
been taken to the synagogue. You are in the limbo where little children

“Little children!” she echoed, in a tenderly pathetic tone.

“As you are on the books of the police, a cipher outside the pale of
social beings,” the priest went on, unmoved. “If love, seen as it swept
past, led you to believe three months since that you were then born, you
must feel that since that day you have been really an infant. You
must, therefore, be led as if you were a child; you must be completely
changed, and I will undertake to make you unrecognizable. To begin with,
you must forget Lucien.”

The words crushed the poor girl’s heart; she raised her eyes to the
priest and shook her head; she could not speak, finding the executioner
in the deliverer again.

“At any rate, you must give up seeing him,” he went on. “I will take
you to a religious house where young girls of the best families are
educated; there you will become a Catholic, you will be trained in the
practice of Christian exercises, you will be taught religion. You may
come out an accomplished young lady, chaste, pure, well brought up,
if----” The man lifted up a finger and paused.

“If,” he went on, “you feel brave enough to leave the ‘Torpille’ behind
you here.”

“Ah!” cried the poor thing, to whom each word had been like a note of
some melody to which the gates of Paradise were slowly opening. “Ah! if
it were possible to shed all my blood here and have it renewed!”

“Listen to me.”

She was silent.

“Your future fate depends on your power of forgetting. Think of the
extent to which you pledge yourself. A word, a gesture, which betrays
La Torpille will kill Lucien’s wife. A word murmured in a dream, an
involuntary thought, an immodest glance, a gesture of impatience, a
reminiscence of dissipation, an omission, a shake of the head that might
reveal what you know, or what is known about you for your woes----”

“Yes, yes, Father,” said the girl, with the exaltation of a saint. “To
walk in shoes of red-hot iron and smile, to live in a pair of stays set
with nails and maintain the grace of a dancer, to eat bread salted with
ashes, to drink wormwood,--all will be sweet and easy!”

She fell again on her knees, she kissed the priest’s shoes, she melted
into tears that wetted them, she clasped his knees, and clung to them,
murmuring foolish words as she wept for joy. Her long and beautiful
light hair waved to the ground, a sort of carpet under the feet of the
celestial messenger, whom she saw as gloomy and hard as ever when she
lifted herself up and looked at him.

“What have I done to offend you?” cried she, quite frightened. “I
have heard of a woman, such as I am, who washed the feet of Jesus with
perfumes. Alas! virtue has made me so poor that I have nothing but tears
to offer you.”

“Have you not understood?” he answered, in a cruel voice. “I tell you,
you must be able to come out of the house to which I shall take you so
completely changed, physically and morally, that no man or woman you
have ever known will be able to call you ‘Esther’ and make you look
round. Yesterday your love could not give you strength enough so
completely to bury the prostitute that she could never reappear; and
again to-day she revives in adoration which is due to none but God.”

“Was it not He who sent you to me?” said she.

“If during the course of your education you should even see Lucien, all
would be lost,” he went on; “remember that.”

“Who will comfort him?” said she.

“What was it that you comforted him for?” asked the priest, in a tone in
which, for the first time during this scene, there was a nervous quaver.

“I do not know; he was often sad when he came.”

“Sad!” said the priest. “Did he tell you why?”

“Never,” answered she.

“He was sad at loving such a girl as you!” exclaimed he.

“Alas! and well he might be,” said she, with deep humility. “I am the
most despicable creature of my sex, and I could find favor in his eyes
only by the greatness of my love.”

“That love must give you the courage to obey me blindly. If I were to
take you straight from hence to the house where you are to be educated,
everybody here would tell Lucien that you had gone away to-day, Sunday,
with a priest; he might follow in your tracks. In the course of a week,
the portress, not seeing me again, might suppose me to be what I am not.
So, one evening--this day week--at seven o’clock, go out quietly and
get into a cab that will be waiting for you at the bottom of the Rue des
Frondeurs. During this week avoid Lucien, find excuses, have him sent
from the door, and if he should come in, go up to some friend’s room.
I shall know if you have seen him, and in that event all will be at an
end. I shall not even come back. These eight days you will need to make
up some suitable clothing and to hide your look of a prostitute,” said
he, laying a purse on the chimney-shelf. “There is something in your
manner, in your clothes--something indefinable which is well known to
Parisians, and proclaims you what you are. Have you never met in the
streets or on the Boulevards a modest and virtuous girl walking with her

“Oh yes, to my sorrow! The sight of a mother and daughter is one of
our most cruel punishments; it arouses the remorse that lurks in the
innermost folds of our hearts, and that is consuming us.--I know too
well all I lack.”

“Well, then, you know how you should look next Sunday,” said the priest,

“Oh!” said she, “teach me one real prayer before you go, that I may pray
to God.”

It was a touching thing to see the priest making this girl repeat Ave
_Maria_ and _Paternoster_ in French.

“That is very fine!” said Esther, when she had repeated these two grand
and universal utterances of the Catholic faith without making a mistake.

“What is your name?” she asked the priest when he took leave of her.

“Carlos Herrera; I am a Spaniard banished from my country.”

Esther took his hand and kissed it. She was no longer the courtesan; she
was an angel rising after a fall.

In a religious institution, famous for the aristocratic and pious
teaching imparted there, one Monday morning in the beginning of March
1824 the pupils found their pretty flock increased by a newcomer, whose
beauty triumphed without dispute not only over that of her companions,
but over the special details of beauty which were found severally in
perfection in each one of them. In France it is extremely rare, not to
say impossible, to meet with the thirty points of perfection, described
in Persian verse, and engraved, it is said, in the Seraglio, which are
needed to make a woman absolutely beautiful. Though in France the whole
is seldom seen, we find exquisite parts. As to that imposing union which
sculpture tries to produce, and has produced in a few rare examples like
the Diana and the Callipyge, it is the privileged possession of Greece
and Asia Minor.

Esther came from that cradle of the human race; her mother was a Jewess.
The Jews, though so often deteriorated by their contact with other
nations, have, among their many races, families in which this sublime
type of Asiatic beauty has been preserved. When they are not repulsively
hideous, they present the splendid characteristics of Armenian beauty.
Esther would have carried off the prize at the Seraglio; she had the
thirty points harmoniously combined. Far from having damaged the finish
of her modeling and the freshness of her flesh, her strange life had
given her the mysterious charm of womanhood; it is no longer the close,
waxy texture of green fruit and not yet the warm glow of maturity; there
is still the scent of the flower. A few days longer spent in dissolute
living, and she would have been too fat. This abundant health, this
perfection of the animal in a being in whom voluptuousness took
the place of thought, must be a remarkable fact in the eyes of
physiologists. A circumstance so rare, that it may be called impossible
in very young girls, was that her hands, incomparably fine in shape,
were as soft, transparent, and white as those of a woman after the birth
of her second child. She had exactly the hair and the foot for which the
Duchesse de Berri was so famous, hair so thick that no hairdresser
could gather it into his hand, and so long that it fell to the ground in
rings; for Esther was of that medium height which makes a woman a sort
of toy, to be taken up and set down, taken up again and carried without
fatigue. Her skin, as fine as rice-paper, of a warm amber hue showing
the purple veins, was satiny without dryness, soft without being clammy.

Esther, excessively strong though apparently fragile, arrested attention
by one feature that is conspicuous in the faces in which Raphael has
shown his most artistic feeling, for Raphael is the painter who has
most studied and best rendered Jewish beauty. This remarkable effect was
produced by the depth of the eye-socket, under which the eye moved free
from its setting; the arch of the brow was so accurate as to resemble
the groining of a vault. When youth lends this beautiful hollow its pure
and diaphanous coloring, and edges it with closely-set eyebrows, when
the light stealing into the circular cavity beneath lingers there with a
rosy hue, there are tender treasures in it to delight a lover, beauties
to drive a painter to despair. Those luminous curves, where the shadows
have a golden tone, that tissue as firm as a sinew and as mobile as the
most delicate membrane, is a crowning achievement of nature. The eye at
rest within is like a miraculous egg in a nest of silken wings. But as
time goes on this marvel acquires a dreadful melancholy, when passions
have laid dark smears on those fine forms, when grief had furrowed that
network of delicate veins. Esther’s nationality proclaimed itself in
this Oriental modeling of her eyes with their Turkish lids; their color
was a slate-gray which by night took on the blue sheen of a raven’s
wing. It was only the extreme tenderness of her expression that could
moderate their fire.

Only those races that are native to deserts have in the eye the power
of fascinating everybody, for any woman can fascinate some one person.
Their eyes preserve, no doubt, something of the infinitude they have
gazed on. Has nature, in her foresight, armed their retina with some
reflecting background to enable them to endure the mirage of the sand,
the torrents of sunshine, and the burning cobalt of the sky? or,
do human beings, like other creatures, derive something from the
surroundings among which they grow up, and preserve for ages the
qualities they have imbibed from them? The great solution of this
problem of race lies perhaps in the question itself. Instincts are
living facts, and their cause dwells in past necessity. Variety in
animals is the result of the exercise of these instincts.

To convince ourselves of this long-sought-for truth, it is enough to
extend to the herd of mankind the observation recently made on flocks
of Spanish and English sheep which, in low meadows where pasture is
abundant, feed side by side in close array, but on mountains, where
grass is scarce, scatter apart. Take these two kinds of sheep, transfer
them to Switzerland or France; the mountain breeds will feed apart even
in a lowland meadow of thick grass, the lowland sheep will keep together
even on an alp. Hardly will a succession of generations eliminate
acquired and transmitted instincts. After a century the highland spirit
reappears in a refractory lamb, just as, after eighteen centuries of
exile, the spirit of the East shone in Esther’s eyes and features.

Her look had no terrible fascination; it shed a mild warmth, it was
pathetic without being startling, and the sternest wills were melted in
its flame. Esther had conquered hatred, she had astonished the depraved
souls of Paris; in short, that look and the softness of her skin had
earned her the terrible nickname which had just led her to the verge
of the grave. Everything about her was in harmony with these
characteristics of the Peri of the burning sands. Her forehead was
firmly and proudly molded. Her nose, like that of the Arab race, was
delicate and narrow, with oval nostrils well set and open at the base.
Her mouth, fresh and red, was a rose unblemished by a flaw, dissipation
had left no trace there. Her chin, rounded as though some amorous
sculptor had polished its fulness, was as white as milk. One thing only
that she had not been able to remedy betrayed the courtesan fallen very
low: her broken nails, which needed time to recover their shape, so much
had they been spoiled by the vulgarest household tasks.

The young boarders began by being jealous of these marvels of beauty,
but they ended by admiring them. Before the first week was at an end
they were all attached to the artless Jewess, for they were interested
in the unknown misfortunes of a girl of eighteen who could neither read
nor write, to whom all knowledge and instruction were new, and who was
to earn for the Archbishop the triumph of having converted a Jewess
to Catholicism and giving the convent a festival in her baptism. They
forgave her beauty, finding themselves her superiors in education.

Esther very soon caught the manners, the accent, the carriage and
attitudes of these highly-bred girls; in short, her first nature
reasserted itself. The change was so complete that on his first visit
Herrera was astonished as it would seem--and the Mother Superior
congratulated him on his ward. Never in their existence as teachers had
these sisters met with a more charming nature, more Christian meekness,
true modesty, nor a greater eagerness to learn. When a girl has suffered
such misery as had overwhelmed this poor child, and looks forward to
such a reward as the Spaniard held out to Esther, it is hard if she does
not realize the miracles of the early Church which the Jesuits revived
in Paraguay.

“She is edifying,” said the Superior, kissing her on the brow.

And this essentially Catholic word tells all.

In recreation hours Esther would question her companions, but
discreetly, as to the simplest matters in fashionable life, which to
her were like the first strange ideas of life to a child. When she heard
that she was to be dressed in white on the day of her baptism and first
Communion, that she should wear a white satin fillet, white bows, white
shoes, white gloves, and white rosettes in her hair, she melted into
tears, to the amazement of her companions. It was the reverse of the
scene of Jephtha on the mountain. The courtesan was afraid of being
understood; she ascribed this dreadful dejection to the joy with which
she looked forward to the function. As there is certainly as wide a gulf
between the habits she had given up and the habits she was acquiring as
there is between the savage state and civilization, she had the grace
and simplicity and depth which distinguished the wonderful heroine of
the American Puritans. She had too, without knowing it, a love that was
eating out her heart--a strange love, a desire more violent in her who
knew everything than it can be in a maiden who knows nothing, though the
two forms of desire have the same cause, and the same end in view.

During the first few months the novelty of a secluded life, the
surprises of learning, the handiworks she was taught, the practices
of religion, the fervency of a holy resolve, the gentle affections
she called forth, and the exercise of the faculties of her awakened
intelligence, all helped to repress her memory, even the effort she made
to acquire a new one, for she had as much to unlearn as to learn. There
is more than one form of memory: the body and mind have each their own;
home-sickness, for instance, is a malady of the physical memory. Thus,
during the third month, the vehemence of this virgin soul, soaring to
Paradise on outspread wings, was not indeed quelled, but fettered by a
dull rebellion, of which Esther herself did not know the cause. Like the
Scottish sheep, she wanted to pasture in solitude, she could not conquer
the instincts begotten of debauchery.

Was it that the foul ways of the Paris she had abjured were calling her
back to them? Did the chains of the hideous habits she had renounced
cling to her by forgotten rivets, and was she feeling them, as old
soldiers suffer still, the surgeons tell us, in the limbs they have
lost? Had vice and excess so soaked into her marrow that holy waters had
not yet exorcised the devil lurking there? Was the sight of him for
whom her angelic efforts were made, necessary to the poor soul, whom God
would surely forgive for mingling human and sacred love? One had led
to the other. Was there some transposition of the vital force in her
involving her in inevitable suffering? Everything is doubtful and
obscure in a case which science scorns to study, regarding the subject
as too immoral and too compromising, as if the physician and the writer,
the priest and the political student, were not above all suspicion.
However, a doctor who was stopped by death had the courage to begin an
investigation which he left unfinished.

Perhaps the dark depression to which Esther fell a victim, and which
cast a gloom over her happy life, was due to all these causes; and
perhaps, unable as she was to suspect them herself, she suffered as sick
creatures suffer who know nothing of medicine or surgery.

The fact is strange. Wholesome and abundant food in the place of bad
and inflammatory nourishment did not sustain Esther. A pure and regular
life, divided between recreation and studies intentionally abridged,
taking the place of a disorderly existence of which the pleasures and
the pains were equally horrible, exhausted the convent-boarder. The
coolest rest, the calmest nights, taking the place of crushing fatigue
and the most torturing agitation, gave her low fever, in which the
common symptoms were imperceptible to the nursing Sister’s eye or
finger. In fact, virtue and happiness following on evil and misfortune,
security in the stead of anxiety, were as fatal to Esther as her
past wretchedness would have been to her young companions. Planted in
corruption, she had grown up in it. That infernal home still had a hold
on her, in spite of the commands of a despotic will. What she loathed
was life to her, what she loved was killing her.

Her faith was so ardent that her piety was a delight to those about
her. She loved to pray. She had opened her spirit to the lights of true
religion, and received it without an effort or a doubt. The priest who
was her director was delighted with her. Still, at every turn her body
resisted the spirit.

To please a whim of Madame de Maintenon’s, who fed them with scraps from
the royal table, some carp were taken out of a muddy pool and placed in
a marble basin of bright, clean water. The carp perished. The animals
might be sacrificed, but man could never infect them with the leprosy
of flattery. A courtier remarked at Versailles on this mute resistance.
“They are like me,” said the uncrowned queen; “they pine for their
obscure mud.”

This speech epitomizes Esther’s story.

At times the poor girl was driven to run about the splendid convent
gardens; she hurried from tree to tree, she rushed into the darkest
nooks--seeking? What? She did not know, but she fell a prey to the
demon; she carried on a flirtation with the trees, she appealed to them
in unspoken words. Sometimes, in the evening, she stole along under the
walls, like a snake, without any shawl over her bare shoulders. Often
in chapel, during the service, she remained with her eyes fixed on the
Crucifix, melted to tears; the others admired her; but she was crying
with rage. Instead of the sacred images she hoped to see, those glaring
nights when she had led some orgy as Habeneck leads a Beethoven symphony
at the Conservatoire--nights of laughter and lasciviousness, with
vehement gestures, inextinguishable laughter, rose before her, frenzied,
furious, and brutal. She was as mild to look upon as a virgin that
clings to earth only by her woman’s shape; within raged an imperial

She alone knew the secret of this struggle between the devil and the
angel. When the Superior reproved her for having done her hair more
fashionably than the rule of the House allowed, she altered it with
prompt and beautiful submission; she would have cut her hair off if
the Mother had required it of her. This moral home-sickness was truly
pathetic in a girl who would rather have perished than have returned to
the depths of impurity. She grew pale and altered and thin. The Superior
gave her shorter lessons, and called the interesting creature to her
room to question her. But Esther was happy; she enjoyed the society
of her companions; she felt no pain in any vital part; still, it was
vitality itself that was attacked. She regretted nothing; she wanted
nothing. The Superior, puzzled by her boarder’s answers, did not know
what to think when she saw her pining under consuming debility.

The doctor was called in when the girl’s condition seemed serious; but
this doctor knew nothing of Esther’s previous life, and could not guess
it; he found every organ sound, the pain could not be localized. The
invalid’s replies were such as to upset every hypothesis. There remained
one way of clearing up the learned man’s doubts, which now lighted on
a frightful suggestion; but Esther obstinately refused to submit to a
medical examination.

In this difficulty the Superior appealed to the Abbe Herrera. The
Spaniard came, saw that Esther’s condition was desperate, and took the
physician aside for a moment. After this confidential interview, the man
of science told the man of faith that the only cure lay in a journey to
Italy. The Abbe would not hear of such a journey before Esther’s baptism
and first Communion.

“How long will it be till then?” asked the doctor.

“A month,” replied the Superior.

“She will be dead,” said the doctor.

“Yes, but in a state of grace and salvation,” said the Abbe.

In Spain the religious question is supreme, above all political, civil,
or vital considerations; so the physician did not answer the Spaniard.
He turned to the Mother Superior, but the terrible Abbe took him by the
arm and stopped him.

“Not a word, monsieur!” said he.

The doctor, though a religious man and a Monarchist, looked at Esther
with an expression of tender pity. The girl was as lovely as a lily
drooping on its stem.

“God help her, then!” he exclaimed as he went away.

On the very day of this consultation, Esther was taken by her protector
to the _Rocher de Cancale_, a famous restaurant, for his wish to save
her had suggested strange expedients to the priest. He tried the effect
of two excesses--an excellent dinner, which might remind the poor child
of past orgies; and the opera, which would give her mind some images of
worldliness. His despotic authority was needed to tempt the young saint
to such profanation. Herrera disguised himself so effectually as a
military man, that Esther hardly recognized him; he took care to make
his companion wear a veil, and put her in a box where she was hidden
from all eyes.

This palliative, which had no risks for innocence so sincerely regained,
soon lost its effect. The convent-boarder viewed her protector’s dinners
with disgust, had a religious aversion for the theatre, and relapsed
into melancholy.

“She is dying of love for Lucien,” said Herrera to himself; he had
wanted to sound the depths of this soul, and know how much could be
exacted from it.

So the moment came when the poor child was no longer upheld by moral
force, and the body was about to break down. The priest calculated the
time with the hideous practical sagacity formerly shown by executioners
in the art of torture. He found his protegee in the garden, sitting on a
bench under a trellis on which the April sun fell gently; she seemed to
be cold and trying to warm herself; her companions looked with interest
at her pallor as of a folded plant, her eyes like those of a dying
gazelle, her drooping attitude. Esther rose and went to meet the
Spaniard with a lassitude that showed how little life there was in her,
and, it may be added, how little care to live. This hapless outcast,
this wild and wounded swallow, moved Carlos Herrera to compassion for
the second time. The gloomy minister, whom God should have employed only
to carry out His revenges, received the sick girl with a smile, which
expressed, indeed, as much bitterness as sweetness, as much vengeance
as charity. Esther, practised in meditation, and used to revulsions of
feeling since she had led this almost monastic life, felt on her part,
for the second time, distrust of her protector; but, as on the former
occasion, his speech reassured her.

“Well, my dear child,” said he, “and why have you never spoken to me of

“I promised you,” she said, shuddering convulsively from head to foot;
“I swore to you that I would never breathe his name.”

“And yet you have not ceased to think of him.”

“That, monsieur, is the only fault I have committed. I think of him
always; and just as you came, I was saying his name to myself.”

“Absence is killing you?”

Esther’s only answer was to hang her head as the sick do who already
scent the breath of the grave.

“If you could see him----?” said he.

“It would be life!” she cried.

“And do you think of him only spiritually?”

“Ah, monsieur, love cannot be dissected!”

“Child of an accursed race! I have done everything to save you; I send
you back to your fate.--You shall see him again.”

“Why insult my happiness? Can I not love Lucien and be virtuous? Am I
not ready to die here for virtue, as I should be ready to die for him?
Am I not dying for these two fanaticisms--for virtue, which was to make
me worthy of him, and for him who flung me into the embrace of virtue?
Yes, and ready to die without seeing him or to live by seeing him. God
is my Judge.”

The color had mounted to her face, her whiteness had recovered its amber
warmth. Esther looked beautiful again.

“The day after that on which you are washed in the waters of baptism you
shall see Lucien once more; and if you think you can live in virtue by
living for him, you shall part no more.”

The priest was obliged to lift up Esther, whose knees failed her; the
poor child dropped as if the ground had slipped from under her feet.
The Abbe seated her on a bench; and when she could speak again she asked

“Why not to-day?”

“Do you want to rob Monseigneur of the triumph of your baptism and
conversion? You are too close to Lucien not to be far from God.”

“Yes, I was not thinking----”

“You will never be of any religion,” said the priest, with a touch of
the deepest irony.

“God is good,” said she; “He can read my heart.”

Conquered by the exquisite artlessness and gestures, Herrera kissed her
on the forehead for the first time.

“Your libertine friends named you well; you would bewitch God the
Father.--A few days more must pass, and then you will both be free.”

“Both!” she echoed in an ecstasy of joy.

This scene, observed from a distance, struck pupils and superiors alike;
they fancied they had looked on at a miracle as they compared Esther
with herself. She was completely changed; she was alive. She reappeared
her natural self, all love, sweet, coquettish, playful, and gay; in
short, it was a resurrection.

Herrera lived in the Rue Cassette, near Saint-Sulpice, the church to
which he was attached. This building, hard and stern in style, suited
this Spaniard, whose discipline was that of the Dominicans. A lost son
of Ferdinand VII.’s astute policy, he devoted himself to the cause of
the constitution, knowing that this devotion could never be rewarded
till the restoration of the _Rey netto_. Carlos Herrera had thrown
himself body and soul into the _Camarilla_ at the moment when the Cortes
seemed likely to stand and hold their own. To the world this conduct
seemed to proclaim a superior soul. The Duc d’Angouleme’s expedition had
been carried out, King Ferdinand was on the throne, and Carlos Herrera
did not go to claim the reward of his services at Madrid. Fortified
against curiosity by his diplomatic taciturnity, he assigned as his
reason for remaining in Paris his strong affection for Lucien de
Rubempre, to which the young man already owed the King’s patent relating
to his change of name.

Herrera lived very obscurely, as priests employed on secret missions
traditionally live. He fulfilled his religious duties at Saint-Sulpice,
never went out but on business, and then after dark, and in a hackney
cab. His day was filled up with a siesta in the Spanish fashion, which
arranges for sleep between the two chief meals, and so occupies the
hours when Paris is in a busy turmoil. The Spanish cigar also played
its part, and consumed time as well as tobacco. Laziness is a mask as
gravity is, and that again is laziness.

Herrera lived on the second floor in one wing of the house, and Lucien
occupied the other wing. The two apartments were separated and joined by
a large reception room of antique magnificence, suitable equally to the
grave priest and to the young poet. The courtyard was gloomy; large,
thick trees shaded the garden. Silence and reserve are always found in
the dwellings chosen by priests. Herrera’s lodging may be described in
one word--a cell. Lucien’s, splendid with luxury, and furnished with
every refinement of comfort, combined everything that the elegant life
of a dandy demands--a poet, a writer, ambitious and dissipated, at once
vain and vainglorious, utterly heedless, and yet wishing for order,
one of those incomplete geniuses who have some power to wish, to
conceive--which is perhaps the same thing--but no power at all to

These two, Lucien and Herrera, formed a body politic. This, no doubt,
was the secret of their union. Old men in whom the activities of life
have been uprooted and transplanted to the sphere of interest, often
feel the need of a pleasing instrument, a young and impassioned actor,
to carry out their schemes. Richelieu, too late, found a handsome pale
face with a young moustache to cast in the way of women whom he wanted
to amuse. Misunderstood by giddy-pated younger men, he was compelled to
banish his master’s mother and terrify the Queen, after having tried to
make each fall in love with him, though he was not cut out to be loved
by queens.

Do what we will, always, in the course of an ambitious life, we find
a woman in the way just when we least expect such an obstacle. However
great a political man may be, he always needs a woman to set against
a woman, just as the Dutch use a diamond to cut a diamond. Rome at
the height of its power yielded to this necessity. And observe how
immeasurably more imposing was the life of Mazarin, the Italian
cardinal, than that of Richelieu, the French cardinal. Richelieu met
with opposition from the great nobles, and he applied the axe; he died
in the flower of his success, worn out by this duel, for which he had
only a Capuchin monk as his second. Mazarin was repulsed by the citizen
class and the nobility, armed allies who sometimes victoriously put
royalty to flight; but Anne of Austria’s devoted servant took off no
heads, he succeeded in vanquishing the whole of France, and trained
Louis XIV., who completed Richelieu’s work by strangling the nobility
with gilded cords in the grand Seraglio of Versailles. Madame de
Pompadour dead, Choiseul fell!

Had Herrera soaked his mind in these high doctrines? Had he judged
himself at an earlier age than Richelieu? Had he chosen Lucien to be his
Cinq-Mars, but a faithful Cinq-Mars? No one could answer these questions
or measure this Spaniard’s ambition, as no one could foresee what his
end might be. These questions, asked by those who were able to see
anything of this coalition, which was long kept a secret, might have
unveiled a horrible mystery which Lucien himself had known but a few
days. Carlos was ambitious for two; that was what his conduct made plain
to those persons who knew him, and who all imagined that Lucien was the
priest’s illegitimate son.

Fifteen months after Lucien’s reappearance at the opera ball, which led
him too soon into a world where the priest had not wished to see him
till he should have fully armed him against it, he had three fine horses
in his stable, a coupe for evening use, a cab and a tilbury to drive
by day. He dined out every day. Herrera’s foresight was justified; his
pupil was carried away by dissipation; he thought it necessary to effect
some diversion in the frenzied passion for Esther that the young man
still cherished in his heart. After spending something like forty
thousand francs, every folly had brought Lucien back with increased
eagerness to La Torpille; he searched for her persistently; and as he
could not find her, she became to him what game is to the sportsman.

Could Herrera understand the nature of a poet’s love?

When once this feeling has mounted to the brain of one of these great
little men, after firing his heart and absorbing his senses, the poet
becomes as far superior to humanity through love as he already is
through the power of his imagination. A freak of intellectual heredity
has given him the faculty of expressing nature by imagery, to which he
gives the stamp both of sentiment and of thought, and he lends his love
the wings of his spirit; he feels, and he paints, he acts and meditates,
he multiplies his sensations by thought, present felicity becomes
threefold through aspiration for the future and memory of the past; and
with it he mingles the exquisite delights of the soul, which makes him
the prince of artists. Then the poet’s passion becomes a fine poem in
which human proportion is often set at nought. Does not the poet then
place his mistress far higher than women crave to sit? Like the sublime
Knight of la Mancha, he transfigures a peasant girl to be a princess.
He uses for his own behoof the wand with which he touches everything,
turning it into a wonder, and thus enhances the pleasure of loving by
the glorious glamour of the ideal.

Such a love is the very essence of passion. It is extreme in all things,
in its hopes, in its despair, in its rage, in its melancholy, in its
joy; it flies, it leaps, it crawls; it is not like any of the emotions
known to ordinary men; it is to everyday love what the perennial Alpine
torrent is to the lowland brook.

These splendid geniuses are so rarely understood that they spend
themselves in hopes deceived; they are exhausted by the search for their
ideal mistress, and almost always die like gorgeous insects splendidly
adorned for their love-festival by the most poetical of nature’s
inventions, and crushed under the foot of a passer-by. But there is
another danger! When they meet with the form that answers to their soul,
and which not unfrequently is that of a baker’s wife, they do as Raphael
did, as the beautiful insect does, they die in the Fornarina’s arms.

Lucien was at this pass. His poetical temperament, excessive in all
things, in good as in evil, had discerned the angel in this girl, who
was tainted by corruption rather than corrupt; he always saw her
white, winged, pure, and mysterious, as she had made herself for him,
understanding that he would have her so.

Towards the end of the month of May 1825 Lucien had lost all his good
spirits; he never went out, dined with Herrera, sat pensive, worked,
read volumes of diplomatic treatises, squatted Turkish-fashion on a
divan, and smoked three or four hookahs a day. His groom had more to do
in cleaning and perfuming the tubes of this noble pipe than in currying
and brushing down the horses’ coats, and dressing them with cockades
for driving in the Bois. As soon as the Spaniard saw Lucien pale, and
detected a malady in the frenzy of suppressed passion, he determined to
read to the bottom of this man’s heart on which he founded his life.

One fine evening, when Lucien, lounging in an armchair, was mechanically
contemplating the hues of the setting sun through the trees in the
garden, blowing up the mist of scented smoke in slow, regular clouds,
as pensive smokers are wont, he was roused from his reverie by hearing a
deep sigh. He turned and saw the Abbe standing by him with folded arms.

“You were there!” said the poet.

“For some time,” said the priest, “my thoughts have been following the
wide sweep of yours.” Lucien understood his meaning.

“I have never affected to have an iron nature such as yours is. To me
life is by turns paradise and hell; when by chance it is neither, it
bores me; and I am bored----”

“How can you be bored when you have such splendid prospects before you?”

“If I have no faith in those prospects, or if they are too much

“Do not talk nonsense,” said the priest. “It would be far more worthy of
you and of me that you should open your heart to me. There is now that
between us which ought never to have come between us--a secret. This
secret has subsisted for sixteen months. You are in love.”

“And what then?”

“A foul hussy called La Torpille----”


“My boy, I told you you might have a mistress, but a woman of rank,
pretty, young, influential, a Countess at least. I had chosen Madame
d’Espard for you, to make her the instrument of your fortune without
scruple; for she would never have perverted your heart, she would have
left you free.--To love a prostitute of the lowest class when you
have not, like kings, the power to give her high rank, is a monstrous

“And am I the first man who had renounced ambition to follow the lead of
a boundless passion?”

“Good!” said the priest, stooping to pick up the mouthpiece of the
hookah which Lucien had dropped on the floor. “I understand the retort.
Cannot love and ambition be reconciled? Child, you have a mother in old
Herrera--a mother who is wholly devoted to you----”

“I know it, old friend,” said Lucien, taking his hand and shaking it.

“You wished for the toys of wealth; you have them. You want to shine;
I am guiding you into the paths of power, I kiss very dirty hands to
secure your advancement, and you will get on. A little while yet and you
will lack nothing of what can charm man or woman. Though effeminate in
your caprices, your intellect is manly. I have dreamed all things of
you; I forgive you all. You have only to speak to have your ephemeral
passions gratified. I have aggrandized your life by introducing into it
that which makes it delightful to most people--the stamp of political
influence and dominion. You will be as great as you now are small; but
you must not break the machine by which we coin money. I grant you all
you will excepting such blunders as will destroy your future prospects.
When I can open the drawing-rooms of the Faubourg Saint-Germain to you,
I forbid your wallowing in the gutter. Lucien, I mean to be an iron
stanchion in your interest; I will endure everything from you, for you.
Thus I have transformed your lack of tact in the game of life into the
shrewd stroke of a skilful player----”

Lucien looked up with a start of furious impetuosity.

“I carried off La Torpille!”

“You?” cried Lucien.

In a fit of animal rage the poet jumped up, flung the jeweled mouthpiece
in the priest’s face, and pushed him with such violence as to throw down
that strong man.

“I,” said the Spaniard, getting up and preserving his terrible gravity.

His black wig had fallen off. A bald skull, as shining as a death’s
head, showed the man’s real countenance. It was appalling. Lucien sat on
his divan, his hands hanging limp, overpowered, and gazing at the Abbe
with stupefaction.

“I carried her off,” the priest repeated.

“What did you do with her? You took her away the day after the opera

“Yes, the day after I had seen a woman who belonged to you insulted by
wretches whom I would not have condescended to kick downstairs.”

“Wretches!” interrupted Lucien, “say rather monsters, compared with
whom those who are guillotined are angels. Do you know what the unhappy
Torpille had done for three of them? One of them was her lover for two
months. She was poor, and picked up a living in the gutter; he had not
a sou; like me, when you rescued me, he was very near the river; this
fellow would get up at night and go to the cupboard where the girl kept
the remains of her dinner and eat it. At last she discovered the trick;
she understood the shameful thing, and took care to leave a great deal;
then she was happy. She never told any one but me, that night, coming
home from the opera.

“The second had stolen some money; but before the theft was found out,
she lent him the sum, which he was enabled to replace, and which he
always forgot to repay to the poor child.

“As to the third, she made his fortune by playing out a farce worthy of
Figaro’s genius. She passed as his wife and became the mistress of a man
in power, who believed her to be the most innocent of good citizens. To
one she gave life, to another honor, to the third fortune--what does it
all count for to-day? And this is how they reward her!”

“Would you like to see them dead?” said Herrera, in whose eyes there
were tears.

“Come, that is just like you! I know you by that----”

“Nay, hear all, raving poet,” said the priest. “La Torpille is no more.”

Lucien flew at Herrera to seize him by the throat, with such violence
that any other man must have fallen backwards; but the Spaniard’s arm
held off his assailant.

“Come, listen,” said he coldly. “I have made another woman of her,
chaste, pure, well bred, religious, a perfect lady. She is being
educated. She can, if she may, under the influence of your love, become
a Ninon, a Marion Delorme, a du Barry, as the journalist at the opera
ball remarked. You may proclaim her your mistress, or you may retire
behind a curtain of your own creating, which will be wiser. By either
method you will gain profit and pride, pleasure and advancement; but if
you are as great a politician as you are a poet, Esther will be no more
to you than any other woman of the town; for, later, perhaps she may
help us out of difficulties; she is worth her weight in gold. Drink, but
do not get tipsy.

“If I had not held the reins of your passion, where would you be now?
Rolling with La Torpille in the slough of misery from which I dragged
you. Here, read this,” said Herrera, as simply as Talma in _Manlius_,
which he had never seen.

A sheet of paper was laid on the poet’s knees, and startled him from
the ecstasy and surprise with which he had listened to this astounding
speech; he took it, and read the first letter written by Mademoiselle

  To Monsieur l’Abbe Carlos Herrera.

  “MY DEAR PROTECTOR,--Will you not suppose that gratitude is
  stronger in me than love, when you see that the first use I make
  of the power of expressing my thoughts is to thank you, instead of
  devoting it to pouring forth a passion that Lucien has perhaps
  forgotten. But to you, divine man, I can say what I should not
  dare to tell him, who, to my joy, still clings to earth.

  “Yesterday’s ceremony has filled me with treasures of grace, and I
  place my fate in your hands. Even if I must die far away from my
  beloved, I shall die purified like the Magdalen, and my soul will
  become to him the rival of his guardian angel. Can I ever forget
  yesterday’s festival? How could I wish to abdicate the glorious
  throne to which I was raised? Yesterday I washed away every stain
  in the waters of baptism, and received the Sacred Body of my
  Redeemer; I am become one of His tabernacles. At that moment I
  heard the songs of angels, I was more than a woman, born to a life
  of light amid the acclamations of the whole earth, admired by the
  world in a cloud of incense and prayers that were intoxicating,
  adorned like a virgin for the Heavenly Spouse.

  “Thus finding myself worthy of Lucien, which I had never hoped to
  be, I abjured impure love and vowed to walk only in the paths of
  virtue. If my flesh is weaker than my spirit, let it perish. Be
  the arbiter of my destiny; and if I die, tell Lucien that I died
  to him when I was born to God.”

Lucien looked up at the Abbe with eyes full of tears.

“You know the rooms fat Caroline Bellefeuille had, in the Rue Taitbout,”
 the Spaniard said. “The poor creature, cast off by her magistrate, was
in the greatest poverty; she was about to be sold up. I bought the place
all standing, and she turned out with her clothes. Esther, the angel who
aspired to heaven, has alighted there, and is waiting for you.”

At this moment Lucien heard his horses pawing the ground in the
courtyard; he was incapable of expressing his admiration for a devotion
which he alone could appreciate; he threw himself into the arms of the
man he had insulted, made amends for all by a look and the speechless
effusion of his feelings. Then he flew downstairs, confided Esther’s
address to his tiger’s ear, and the horses went off as if their master’s
passion had lived in their legs.

The next day a man, who by his dress might have been mistaken by the
passers-by for a gendarme in disguise, was passing the Rue Taitbout,
opposite a house, as if he were waiting for some one to come out; he
walked with an agitated air. You will often see in Paris such vehement
promenaders, real gendarmes watching a recalcitrant National Guardsman,
bailiffs taking steps to effect an arrest, creditors planning a trick
on the debtor who has shut himself in, lovers, or jealous and suspicious
husbands, or friends doing sentry for a friend; but rarely do you meet a
face portending such coarse and fierce thoughts as animated that of the
gloomy and powerful man who paced to and fro under Mademoiselle Esther’s
windows with the brooding haste of a bear in its cage.

At noon a window was opened, and a maid-servant’s hand was put out
to push back the padded shutters. A few minutes later, Esther, in her
dressing-gown, came to breathe the air, leaning on Lucien; any one who
saw them might have taken them for the originals of some pretty English
vignette. Esther was the first to recognize the basilisk eyes of the
Spanish priest; and the poor creature, stricken as if she had been shot,
gave a cry of horror.

“There is that terrible priest,” said she, pointing him out to Lucien.

“He!” said Lucien, smiling, “he is no more a priest than you are.”

“What then?” she said in alarm.

“Why, an old villain who believes in nothing but the devil,” said

This light thrown on the sham priest’s secrets, if revealed to any one
less devoted than Esther, might have ruined Lucien for ever.

As they went along the corridor from their bedroom to the dining-room,
where their breakfast was served, the lovers met Carlos Herrera.

“What have you come here for?” said Lucien roughly.

“To bless you,” replied the audacious scoundrel, stopping the pair and
detaining them in the little drawing-room of the apartment. “Listen
to me, my pretty dears. Amuse yourselves, be happy--well and good!
Happiness at any price is my motto.--But you,” he went on to Esther,
“you whom I dragged from the mud, and have soaped down body and soul,
you surely do not dream that you can stand in Lucien’s way?--As for you,
my boy,” he went on after a pause, looking at Lucien, “you are no longer
poet enough to allow yourself another Coralie. This is sober prose. What
can be done with Esther’s lover? Nothing. Can Esther become Madame de
Rubempre? No.

“Well, my child,” said he, laying his hand on Esther’s, and making her
shiver as if some serpent had wound itself round her, “the world must
never know of your existence. Above all, the world must never know that
a certain Mademoiselle Esther loves Lucien, and that Lucien is in love
with her.--These rooms are your prison, my pigeon. If you wish to go
out--and your health will require it--you must take exercise at night,
at hours when you cannot be seen; for your youth and beauty, and the
style you have acquired at the Convent, would at once be observed in
Paris. The day when any one in the world, whoever it be,” he added in
an awful voice, seconded by an awful look, “learns that Lucien is your
lover, or that you are his mistress, that day will be your last but one
on earth. I have procured that boy a patent permitting him to bear the
name and arms of his maternal ancestors. Still, this is not all; we have
not yet recovered the title of Marquis; and to get it, he must marry
a girl of good family, in whose favor the King will grant this
distinction. Such an alliance will get Lucien on in the world and at
Court. This boy, of whom I have made a man, will be first Secretary to
an Embassy; later, he shall be Minister at some German Court, and God,
or I--better still--helping him, he will take his seat some day on the
bench reserved for peers----”

“Or on the bench reserved for----” Lucien began, interrupting the man.

“Hold your tongue!” cried Carlos, laying his broad hand on Lucien’s
mouth. “Would you tell such a secret to a woman?” he muttered in his

“Esther! A woman!” cried the poet of _Les Marguerites_.

“Still inditing sonnets!” said the Spaniard. “Nonsense! Sooner or later
all these angels relapse into being women, and every woman at moments
is a mixture of a monkey and a child, two creatures who can kill us for
fun.--Esther, my jewel,” said he to the terrified girl, “I have secured
as your waiting-maid a creature who is as much mine as if she were my
daughter. For your cook, you shall have a mulatto woman, which
gives style to a house. With Europe and Asie you can live here for a
thousand-franc note a month like a queen--a stage queen. Europe has
been a dressmaker, a milliner, and a stage super; Asie has cooked for an
epicure Milord. These two women will serve you like two fairies.”

Seeing Lucien go completely to the wall before this man, who was guilty
at least of sacrilege and forgery, this woman, sanctified by her love,
felt an awful fear in the depths of her heart. She made no reply, but
dragged Lucien into her room, and asked him:

“Is he the devil?”

“He is far worse to me!” he vehemently replied. “But if you love me,
try to imitate that man’s devotion to me, and obey him on pain of

“Of death!” she exclaimed, more frightened than ever.

“Of death,” repeated Lucien. “Alas! my darling, no death could be
compared with that which would befall me if----”

Esther turned pale at his words, and felt herself fainting.

“Well, well,” cried the sacrilegious forger, “have you not yet spelt out
your daisy-petals?”

Esther and Lucien came out, and the poor girl, not daring to look at the
mysterious man, said:

“You shall be obeyed as God is obeyed, monsieur.”

“Good,” said he. “You may be very happy for a time, and you will need
only nightgowns and wrappers--that will be very economical.”

The two lovers went on towards the dining-room, but Lucien’s patron
signed to the pretty pair to stop. And they stopped.

“I have just been talking of your servants, my child,” said he to
Esther. “I must introduce them to you.”

The Spaniard rang twice. The women he had called Europe and Asie came
in, and it was at once easy to see the reason of these names.

Asie, who looked as if she might have been born in the Island of Java,
showed a face to scare the eye, as flat as a board, with the copper
complexion peculiar to Malays, with a nose that looked as if it had been
driven inwards by some violent pressure. The strange conformation of the
maxillary bones gave the lower part of this face a resemblance to
that of the larger species of apes. The brow, though sloping, was not
deficient in intelligence produced by habits of cunning. Two fierce
little eyes had the calm fixity of a tiger’s, but they never looked you
straight in the face. Asie seemed afraid lest she might terrify people.
Her lips, a dull blue, were parted over prominent teeth of dazzling
whiteness, but grown across. The leading expression of this animal
countenance was one of meanness. Her black hair, straight and
greasy-looking like her skin, lay in two shining bands, forming an edge
to a very handsome silk handkerchief. Her ears were remarkably pretty,
and graced with two large dark pearls. Small, short, and squat, Asie
bore a likeness to the grotesque figures the Chinese love to paint on
screens, or, more exactly, to the Hindoo idols which seem to be imitated
from some non-existent type, found, nevertheless, now and again by
travelers. Esther shuddered as she looked at this monstrosity, dressed
out in a white apron over a stuff gown.

“Asie,” said the Spaniard, to whom the woman looked up with a gesture
that can only be compared to that of a dog to its master, “this is your

And he pointed to Esther in her wrapper.

Asie looked at the young fairy with an almost distressful expression;
but at the same moment a flash, half hidden between her thick,
short eyelashes, shot like an incendiary spark at Lucien, who, in a
magnificent dressing-gown thrown open over a fine Holland linen shirt
and red trousers, with a fez on his head, beneath which his fair hair
fell in thick curls, presented a godlike appearance.

Italian genius could invent the tale of Othello; English genius could
put it on the stage; but Nature alone reserves the power of throwing
into a single glance an expression of jealousy grander and more complete
than England and Italy together could imagine. This look, seen by
Esther, made her clutch the Spaniard by the arm, setting her nails in it
as a cat sets its claws to save itself from falling into a gulf of which
it cannot see the bottom.

The Spaniard spoke a few words, in some unfamiliar tongue, to the
Asiatic monster, who crept on her knees to Esther’s feet and kissed

“She is not merely a good cook,” said Herrera to Esther; “she is a
past-master, and might make Careme mad with jealousy. Asie can do
everything by way of cooking. She will turn you out a simple dish of
beans that will make you wonder whether the angels have not come down to
add some herb from heaven. She will go to market herself every morning,
and fight like the devil she is to get things at the lowest prices; she
will tire out curiosity by silence.

“You are to be supposed to have been in India, and Asie will help you to
give effect to this fiction, for she is one of those Parisians who are
born to be of any nationality they please. But I do not advise that you
should give yourself out to be a foreigner.--Europe, what do you say?”

Europe was a perfect contrast to Asie, for she was the smartest
waiting-maid that Monrose could have hoped to see as her rival on the
stage. Slight, with a scatter-brain manner, a face like a weasel, and a
sharp nose, Europe’s features offered to the observer a countenance worn
by the corruption of Paris life, the unhealthy complexion of a girl fed
on raw apples, lymphatic but sinewy, soft but tenacious. One little foot
was set forward, her hands were in her apron-pockets, and she fidgeted
incessantly without moving, from sheer excess of liveliness. Grisette
and stage super, in spite of her youth she must have tried many trades.
As full of evil as a dozen Madelonnettes put together, she might have
robbed her parents, and sat on the bench of a police-court.

Asie was terrifying, but you knew her thoroughly from the first; she
descended in a straight line from Locusta; while Europe filled you with
uneasiness, which could not fail to increase the more you had to do with
her; her corruption seemed boundless. You felt that she could set the
devils by the ears.

“Madame might say she had come from Valenciennes,” said Europe in a
precise little voice. “I was born there--Perhaps monsieur,” she added
to Lucien in a pedantic tone, “will be good enough to say what name he
proposes to give to madame?”

“Madame van Bogseck,” the Spaniard put in, reversing Esther’s name.
“Madame is a Jewess, a native of Holland, the widow of a merchant,
and suffering from a liver-complaint contracted in Java. No great
fortune--not to excite curiosity.”

“Enough to live on--six thousand francs a year; and we shall complain of
her stinginess?” said Europe.

“That is the thing,” said the Spaniard, with a bow. “You limbs of
Satan!” he went on, catching Asie and Europe exchanging a glance that
displeased him, “remember what I have told you. You are serving a queen;
you owe her as much respect as to a queen; you are to cherish her as you
would cherish a revenge, and be as devoted to her as to me. Neither
the door-porter, nor the neighbors, nor the other inhabitants of the
house--in short, not a soul on earth is to know what goes on here. It is
your business to balk curiosity if any should be roused.--And madame,”
 he went on laying his broad hairy hand on Esther’s arm, “madame must not
commit the smallest imprudence; you must prevent it in case of need, but
always with perfect respect.

“You, Europe, are to go out for madame in anything that concerns her
dress, and you must do her sewing from motives of economy. Finally,
nobody, not even the most insignificant creature, is ever to set foot in
this apartment. You two, between you, must do all there is to be done.

“And you, my beauty,” he went on, speaking to Esther, “when you want
to go out in your carriage by night, you can tell Europe; she will know
where to find your men, for you will have a servant in livery, of my
choosing, like those two slaves.”

Esther and Lucien had not a word ready. They listened to the Spaniard,
and looked at the two precious specimens to whom he gave his orders.
What was the secret hold to which he owed the submission and servitude
that were written on these two faces--one mischievously recalcitrant,
the other so malignantly cruel?

He read the thoughts of Lucien and Esther, who seemed paralyzed, as Paul
and Virginia might have been at the sight of two dreadful snakes, and he
said in a good-natured undertone:

“You can trust them as you can me; keep no secrets from them; that
will flatter them.--Go to your work, my little Asie,” he added to the
cook.--“And you, my girl, lay another place,” he said to Europe; “the
children cannot do less than ask papa to breakfast.”

When the two women had shut the door, and the Spaniard could hear Europe
moving to and fro, he turned to Lucien and Esther, and opening a wide
palm, he said:

“I hold them in the hollow of my hand.”

The words and gesture made his hearers shudder.

“Where did you pick them up?” cried Lucien.

“What the devil! I did not look for them at the foot of the throne!”
 replied the man. “Europe has risen from the mire, and is afraid of
sinking into it again. Threaten them with Monsieur Abbe when they do
not please you, and you will see them quake like mice when the cat is
mentioned. I am used to taming wild beasts,” he added with a smile.

“You strike me as being a demon,” said Esther, clinging closer to

“My child, I tried to win you to heaven; but a repentant Magdalen is
always a practical joke on the Church. If ever there were one, she would
relapse into the courtesan in Paradise. You have gained this much: you
are forgotten, and have acquired the manners of a lady, for you learned
in the convent what you never could have learned in the ranks of infamy
in which you were living.--You owe me nothing,” said he, observing a
beautiful look of gratitude on Esther’s face. “I did it all for him,”
 and he pointed to Lucien. “You are, you will always be, you will die a
prostitute; for in spite of the delightful theories of cattle-breeders,
you can never, here below, become anything but what you are. The man who
feels bumps is right. You have the bump of love.”

The Spaniard, it will be seen, was a fatalist, like Napoleon, Mahomet,
and many other great politicians. It is a strange thing that most men of
action have a tendency to fatalism, just as most great thinkers have a
tendency to believe in Providence.

“What I am, I do not know,” said Esther with angelic sweetness; “but I
love Lucien, and shall die worshiping him.”

“Come to breakfast,” said the Spaniard sharply. “And pray to God that
Lucien may not marry too soon, for then you would never see him again.”

“His marriage would be my death,” said she.

She allowed the sham priest to lead the way, that she might stand on
tiptoe and whisper to Lucien without being seen.

“Is it your wish,” said she, “that I should remain in the power of this
man who sets two hyenas to guard me?”

Lucien bowed his head.

The poor child swallowed down her grief and affected gladness, but
she felt cruelly oppressed. It needed more than a year of constant and
devoted care before she was accustomed to these two dreadful creatures
whom Carlos Herrera called the two watch-dogs.

Lucien’s conduct since his return to Paris had borne the stamp of such
profound policy that it excited--and could not fail to excite--the
jealousy of all his former friends, on whom he took no vengeance but by
making them furious at his success, at his exquisite “get up,” and his
way of keeping every one at a distance. The poet, once so communicative,
so genial, had turned cold and reserved. De Marsay, the model adopted by
all the youth of Paris, did not make a greater display of reticence in
speech and deed than did Lucien. As to brains, the journalist had ere
now proved his mettle. De Marsay, against whom many people chose to
pit Lucien, giving a preference to the poet, was small-minded enough to
resent this.

Lucien, now in high favor with men who secretly pulled the wires of
power, was so completely indifferent to literary fame, that he did not
care about the success of his romance, republished under its real title,
_L’Archer de Charles IX._, or the excitement caused by his volume of
sonnets called _Les Marguerites_, of which Dauriat sold out the edition
in a week.

“It is posthumous fame,” said he, with a laugh, to Mademoiselle des
Touches, who congratulated him.

The terrible Spaniard held his creature with an iron hand, keeping him
in the road towards the goal where the trumpets and gifts of victory
await patient politicians. Lucien had taken Beaudenord’s bachelor
quarters on the Quai Malaquais, to be near the Rue Taitbout, and his
adviser was lodging under the same roof on the fourth floor. Lucien kept
only one horse to ride and drive, a man-servant, and a groom. When he
was not dining out, he dined with Esther.

Carlos Herrera kept such a keen eye on the service in the house on the
Quai Malaquais, that Lucien did not spend ten thousand francs a year,
all told. Ten thousand more were enough for Esther, thanks to the
unfailing and inexplicable devotion of Asie and Europe. Lucien took the
utmost precautions in going in and out at the Rue Taitbout. He never
came but in a cab, with the blinds down, and always drove into the
courtyard. Thus his passion for Esther and the very existence of the
establishment in the Rue Taitbout, being unknown to the world, did him
no harm in his connections or undertakings. No rash word ever escaped
him on this delicate subject. His mistakes of this sort with regard
to Coralie, at the time of his first stay in Paris, had given him

In the first place, his life was marked by the correct regularity under
which many mysteries can be hidden; he remained in society every night
till one in the morning; he was always at home from ten till one in the
afternoon; then he drove in the Bois de Boulogne and paid calls
till five. He was rarely seen to be on foot, and thus avoided old
acquaintances. When some journalist or one of his former associates
waved him a greeting, he responded with a bow, polite enough to avert
annoyance, but significant of such deep contempt as killed all French
geniality. He thus had very soon got rid of persons whom he would rather
never have known.

An old-established aversion kept him from going to see Madame d’Espard,
who often wished to get him to her house; but when he met her at those
of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, of Mademoiselle des Touches, of the
Comtesse de Montcornet or elsewhere, he was always exquisitely polite
to her. This hatred, fully reciprocated by Madame d’Espard, compelled
Lucien to act with prudence; but it will be seen how he had added fuel
to it by allowing himself a stroke of revenge, which gained him indeed a
severe lecture from Carlos.

“You are not yet strong enough to be revenged on any one, whoever it may
be,” said the Spaniard. “When we are walking under a burning sun we do
not stop to gather even the finest flowers.”

Lucien was so genuinely superior, and had so fine a future before him,
that the young men who chose to be offended or puzzled by his return to
Paris and his unaccountable good fortune were enchanted whenever they
could do him an ill turn. He knew that he had many enemies, and was well
aware of those hostile feelings among his friends. The Abbe, indeed,
took admirable care of his adopted son, putting him on his guard against
the treachery of the world and the fatal imprudence of youth. Lucien
was expected to tell, and did in fact tell the Abbe each evening, every
trivial incident of the day. Thanks to his Mentor’s advice, he put the
keenest curiosity--the curiosity of the world--off the scent. Entrenched
in the gravity of an Englishman, and fortified by the redoubts cast up
by diplomatic circumspection, he never gave any one the right or the
opportunity of seeing a corner even of his concerns. His handsome young
face had, by practice, become as expressionless in society as that of a
princess at a ceremonial.

Towards the middle of 1829 his marriage began to be talked of to the
eldest daughter of the Duchesse de Grandlieu, who at that time had no
less than four daughters to provide for. No one doubted that in honor of
such an alliance the King would revive for Lucien the title of Marquis.
This distinction would establish Lucien’s fortune as a diplomate, and he
would probably be accredited as Minister to some German Court. For the
last three years Lucien’s life had been regular and above reproach;
indeed, de Marsay had made this remarkable speech about him:

“That young fellow must have a very strong hand behind him.”

Thus Lucien was almost a person of importance. His passion for Esther
had, in fact, helped him greatly to play his part of a serious man. A
habit of this kind guards an ambitious man from many follies; having
no connection with any woman of fashion, he cannot be caught by the
reactions of mere physical nature on his moral sense.

As to happiness, Lucien’s was the realization of a poet’s dreams--a
penniless poet’s, hungering in a garret. Esther, the ideal courtesan in
love, while she reminded Lucien of Coralie, the actress with whom he
had lived for a year, completely eclipsed her. Every loving and devoted
woman invents seclusion, incognito, the life of a pearl in the depths of
the sea; but to most of them this is no more than one of the delightful
whims which supply a subject for conversation; a proof of love which
they dream of giving, but do not give; whereas Esther, to whom her first
enchantment was ever new, who lived perpetually in the glow of Lucien’s
first incendiary glance, never, in four yours, had an impulse of
curiosity. She gave her whole mind to the task of adhering to the terms
of the programme prescribed by the sinister Spaniard. Nay, more! In the
midst of intoxicating happiness she never took unfair advantage of the
unlimited power that the constantly revived desire of a lover gives to
the woman he loves to ask Lucien a single question regarding Herrera, of
whom indeed she lived in constant awe; she dared not even think of him.
The elaborate benefactions of that extraordinary man, to whom Esther
undoubtedly owed her feminine accomplishment and her well-bred manner,
struck the poor girl as advances on account of hell.

“I shall have to pay for all this some day,” she would tell herself with

Every fine night she went out in a hired carriage. She was driven with
a rapidity no doubt insisted on by the Abbe, in one or another of
the beautiful woods round Paris, Boulogne, Vincennes, Romainville, or
Ville-d’Avray, often with Lucien, sometimes alone with Europe. There she
could walk about without fear; for when Lucien was not with her, she was
attended by a servant dressed like the smartest of outriders, armed
with a real knife, whose face and brawny build alike proclaimed him a
ruthless athlete. This protector was also provided, in the fashion of
English footmen, with a stick, but such as single-stick players use,
with which they can keep off more than one assailant. In obedience to an
order of the Abbe’s, Esther had never spoken a word to this escort.
When madame wished to go home, Europe gave a call; the man in waiting
whistled to the driver, who was always within hearing.

When Lucien was walking with Esther, Europe and this man remained about
a hundred paces behind, like two of the infernal minions that figure in
the _Thousand and One Nights_, which enchanters place at the service of
their devotees.

The men, and yet more the women of Paris, know nothing of the charm of a
walk in the woods on a fine night. The stillness, the moonlight effects,
the solitude, have the soothing effect of a bath. Esther usually went
out at ten, walked about from midnight till one o’clock, and came in at
half-past two. It was never daylight in her rooms till eleven. She then
bathed and went through an elaborate toilet which is unknown to most
women, for it takes up too much time, and is rarely carried out by
any but courtesans, women of the town, or fine ladies who have the day
before them. She was only just ready when Lucien came, and appeared
before him as a newly opened flower. Her only care was that her poet
should be happy; she was his toy, his chattel; she gave him entire
liberty. She never cast a glance beyond the circle where she shone. On
this the Abbe had insisted, for it was part of his profound policy that
Lucien should have gallant adventures.

Happiness has no history, and the story-tellers of all lands have
understood this so well that the words, “They are happy,” are the end of
every love tale. Hence only the ways and means can be recorded of this
really romantic happiness in the heart of Paris. It was happiness in its
loveliest form, a poem, a symphony, of four years’ duration. Every woman
will exclaim, “That was much!” Neither Esther nor Lucien had ever
said, “This is too much!” And the formula, “They were happy,” was
more emphatically true, than even in a fairy tale, for “they had _no_

So Lucien could coquet with the world, give way to his poet’s caprices,
and, it may be plainly admitted, to the necessities of his position. All
this time he was slowly making his way, and was able to render secret
service to certain political personages by helping them in their work.
In such matters he was eminently discreet. He cultivated Madame de
Serizy’s circle, being, it was rumored, on the very best terms with
that lady. Madame de Serizy had carried him off from the Duchesse
de Maufrigneuse, who, it was said, had “thrown him over,” one of the
phrases by which women avenge themselves on happiness they envy. Lucien
was in the lap, so to speak, of the High Almoner’s set, and intimate
with women who were the Archbishop’s personal friends. He was modest and
reserved; he waited patiently. So de Marsay’s speech--de Marsay was
now married, and made his wife live as retired a life as Esther--was
significant in more ways that one.

But the submarine perils of such a course as Lucien’s will be
sufficiently obvious in the course of this chronicle.

Matters were in this position when, one fine night in August, the Baron
de Nucingen was driving back to Paris from the country residence of a
foreign banker, settled in France, with whom he had been dining. The
estate lay at eight leagues from Paris in the district of la Brie. Now,
the Baron’s coachman having undertaken to drive his master there and
back with his own horses, at nightfall ventured to moderate the pace.

As they entered the forest of Vincennes the position of beast, man, and
master was as follows:--The coachman, liberally soaked in the kitchen
of the aristocrat of the Bourse, was perfectly tipsy, and slept soundly,
while still holding the reins to deceive other wayfarers. The footman,
seated behind, was snoring like a wooden top from Germany--the land
of little carved figures, of large wine-vats, and of humming-tops. The
Baron had tried to think; but after passing the bridge at Gournay, the
soft somnolence of digestion had sealed his eyes. The horses understood
the coachman’s plight from the slackness of the reins; they heard the
footman’s basso continuo from his perch behind; they saw that they
were masters of the situation, and took advantage of their few minutes’
freedom to make their own pace. Like intelligent slaves, they gave
highway robbers the chance of plundering one of the richest capitalists
in France, the most deeply cunning of the race which, in France,
have been energetically styled lynxes--loups-cerviers. Finally, being
independent of control, and tempted by the curiosity which every one
must have remarked in domestic animals, they stopped where four roads
met, face to face with some other horses, whom they, no doubt, asked
in horses’ language: “Who may you be? What are you doing? Are you

When the chaise stopped, the Baron awoke from his nap. At first he
fancied that he was still in his friend’s park; then he was startled
by a celestial vision, which found him unarmed with his usual
weapon--self-interest. The moonlight was brilliant; he could have read
by it--even an evening paper. In the silence of the forest, under this
pure light, the Baron saw a woman, alone, who, as she got into a hired
chaise, looked at the strange spectacle of this sleep-stricken carriage.
At the sight of this angel the Baron felt as though a light had flashed
into glory within him. The young lady, seeing herself admired, pulled
down her veil with terrified haste. The man-servant gave a signal which
the driver perfectly understood, for the vehicle went off like an arrow.

The old banker was fearfully agitated; the blood left his feet cold and
carried fire to his brain, his head sent the flame back to his heart; he
was chocking. The unhappy man foresaw a fit of indigestion, but in spite
of that supreme terror he stood up.

“Follow qvick, fery qvick.--Tam you, you are ashleep!” he cried. “A
hundert franc if you catch up dat chaise.”

At the words “A hundred francs,” the coachman woke up. The servant
behind heard them, no doubt, in his dreams. The baron reiterated his
orders, the coachman urged the horses to a gallop, and at the Barriere
du Trone had succeeded in overtaking a carriage resembling that in which
Nucingen had seen the divine fair one, but which contained a swaggering
head-clerk from some first-class shop and a lady of the Rue Vivienne.

This blunder filled the Baron with consternation.

“If only I had prought Chorge inshtead of you, shtupid fool, he should
have fount dat voman,” said he to the servant, while the excise officers
were searching the carriage.

“Indeed, Monsieur le Baron, the devil was behind the chaise, I believe,
disguised as an armed escort, and he sent this chaise instead of hers.”

“Dere is no such ting as de Teufel,” said the Baron.

The Baron de Nucingen owned to sixty; he no longer cared for women, and
for his wife least of all. He boasted that he had never known such love
as makes a fool of a man. He declared that he was happy to have done
with women; the most angelic of them, he frankly said, was not worth
what she cost, even if you got her for nothing. He was supposed to be so
entirely blase, that he no longer paid two thousand francs a month for
the pleasure of being deceived. His eyes looked coldly down from
his opera box on the corps de ballet; never a glance was shot at the
capitalist by any one of that formidable swarm of old young girls, and
young old women, the cream of Paris pleasure.

Natural love, artificial and love-of-show love, love based on
self-esteem and vanity, love as a display of taste, decent, conjugal
love, eccentric love--the Baron had paid for them all, had known them
all excepting real spontaneous love. This passion had now pounced down
on him like an eagle on its prey, as it did on Gentz, the confidential
friend of His Highness the Prince of Metternich. All the world knows
what follies the old diplomate committed for Fanny Elssler, whose
rehearsals took up a great deal more of his time than the concerns of

The woman who had just overthrown that iron-bound money-box, called
Nucingen, had appeared to him as one of those who are unique in their
generation. It is not certain that Titian’s mistress, or Leonardo da
Vinci’s Monna Lisa, or Raphael’s Fornarina were as beautiful as this
exquisite Esther, in whom not the most practised eye of the most
experienced Parisian could have detected the faintest trace of the
ordinary courtesan. The Baron was especially startled by the noble and
stately air, the air of a well-born woman, which Esther, beloved, and
lapped in luxury, elegance, and devotedness, had in the highest degree.
Happy love is the divine unction of women; it makes them all as lofty as

For eight nights in succession the Baron went to the forest of
Vincennes, then to the Bois de Boulogne, to the woods of Ville-d’Avray,
to Meudon, in short, everywhere in the neighborhood of Paris, but failed
to meet Esther. That beautiful Jewish face, which he called “a face out
of te Biple,” was always before his eyes. By the end of a fortnight he
had lost his appetite.

Delphine de Nucingen, and her daughter Augusta, whom the Baroness was
now taking out, did not at first perceive the change that had come over
the Baron. The mother and daughter only saw him at breakfast in the
morning and at dinner in the evening, when they all dined at home, and
this was only on the evenings when Delphine received company. But by
the end of two months, tortured by a fever of impatience, and in a state
like that produced by acute home-sickness, the Baron, amazed to find
his millions impotent, grew so thin, and seemed so seriously ill, that
Delphine had secret hopes of finding herself a widow. She pitied her
husband, somewhat hypocritically, and kept her daughter in seclusion.
She bored her husband with questions; he answered as Englishmen answer
when suffering from spleen, hardly a word.

Delphine de Nucingen gave a grand dinner every Sunday. She had chosen
that day for her receptions, after observing that no people of fashion
went to the play, and that the day was pretty generally an open one. The
emancipation of the shopkeeping and middle classes makes Sunday almost
as tiresome in Paris as it is deadly in London. So the Baroness invited
the famous Desplein to dinner, to consult him in spite of the sick man,
for Nucingen persisted in asserting that he was perfectly well.

Keller, Rastignac, de Marsay, du Tillet, all their friends had made the
Baroness understand that a man like Nucingen could not be allowed to die
without any notice being taken of it; his enormous business transactions
demanded some care; it was absolutely necessary to know where he stood.
These gentlemen also were asked to dinner, and the Comte de Gondreville,
Francois Keller’s father-in-law, the Chevalier d’Espard, des Lupeaulx,
Doctor Bianchon--Desplein’s best beloved pupil--Beaudenord and his wife,
the Comte and Comtesse de Montcornet, Blondet, Mademoiselle des Touches
and Conti, and finally, Lucien de Rubempre, for whom Rastignac had for
the last five years manifested the warmest regard--by order, as the
advertisements have it.

“We shall not find it easy to get rid of that young fellow,” said
Blondet to Rastignac, when he saw Lucien come in handsomer than ever,
and uncommonly well dressed.

“It is wiser to make friends with him, for he is formidable,” said

“He?” said de Marsay. “No one is formidable to my knowledge but men
whose position is assured, and his is unattacked rather than attackable!
Look here, what does he live on? Where does his money come from? He has,
I am certain, sixty thousand francs in debts.”

“He has found a friend in a very rich Spanish priest who has taken a
fancy to him,” replied Rastignac.

“He is going to be married to the eldest Mademoiselle de Grandlieu,”
 said Mademoiselle des Touches.

“Yes,” said the Chevalier d’Espard, “but they require him to buy an
estate worth thirty thousand francs a year as security for the fortune
he is to settle on the young lady, and for that he needs a million
francs, which are not to be found in any Spaniard’s shoes.”

“That is dear, for Clotilde is very ugly,” said the Baroness.

Madame de Nucingen affected to call Mademoiselle de Grandlieu by her
Christian name, as though she, nee Goriot, frequented that society.

“No,” replied du Tillet, “the daughter of a duchess is never ugly to the
like of us, especially when she brings with her the title of Marquis
and a diplomatic appointment. But the great obstacle to the marriage is
Madame de Serizy’s insane passion for Lucien. She must give him a great
deal of money.”

“Then I am not surprised at seeing Lucien so serious; for Madame de
Serizy will certainly not give him a million francs to help him to marry
Mademoiselle de Grandlieu. He probably sees no way out of the scrape,”
 said de Marsay.

“But Mademoiselle de Grandlieu worships him,” said the Comtesse de
Montcornet; “and with the young person’s assistance, he may perhaps make
better terms.”

“And what will he do with his sister and brother-in-law at Angouleme?”
 asked the Chevalier d’Espard.

“Well, his sister is rich,” replied Rastignac, “and he now speaks of her
as Madame Sechard de Marsac.”

“Whatever difficulties there may be, he is a very good-looking fellow,”
 said Bianchon, rising to greet Lucien.

“How ‘do, my dear fellow?” said Rastignac, shaking hands warmly with

De Marsay bowed coldly after Lucien had first bowed to him.

Before dinner Desplein and Bianchon, who studied the Baron while amusing
him, convinced themselves that this malady was entirely nervous; but
neither could guess the cause, so impossible did it seem that the great
politician of the money market could be in love. When Bianchon, seeing
nothing but love to account for the banker’s condition, hinted as much
to Delphine de Nucingen, she smiled as a woman who has long known all
her husband’s weaknesses. After dinner, however, when they all adjourned
to the garden, the more intimate of the party gathered round the banker,
eager to clear up this extraordinary case when they heard Bianchon
pronounce that Nucingen must be in love.

“Do you know, Baron,” said de Marsay, “that you have grown very thin?
You are suspected of violating the laws of financial Nature.”

“Ach, nefer!” said the Baron.

“Yes, yes,” replied de Marsay. “They dare to say that you are in love.”

“Dat is true,” replied Nucingen piteously; “I am in lof for somebody I
do not know.”

“You, in love, you? You are a coxcomb!” said the Chevalier d’Espard.

“In lof, at my aje! I know dat is too ridiculous. But vat can I help it!
Dat is so.”

“A woman of the world?” asked Lucien.

“Nay,” said de Marsay. “The Baron would not grow so thin but for a
hopeless love, and he has money enough to buy all the women who will or
can sell themselves!”

“I do not know who she it,” said the Baron. “And as Motame de Nucingen
is inside de trawing-room, I may say so, dat till now I have nefer known
what it is to lof. Lof! I tink it is to grow tin.”

“And where did you meet this innocent daisy?” asked Rastignac.

“In a carriage, at mitnight, in de forest of Fincennes.”

“Describe her,” said de Marsay.

“A vhite gaze hat, a rose gown, a vhite scharf, a vhite feil--a face
just out of de Biple. Eyes like Feuer, an Eastern color----”

“You were dreaming,” said Lucien, with a smile.

“Dat is true; I vas shleeping like a pig--a pig mit his shkin full,” he
added, “for I vas on my vay home from tinner at mine friend’s----”

“Was she alone?” said du Tillet, interrupting him.

“Ja,” said the Baron dolefully; “but she had ein heiduque behind dat
carriage and a maid-shervant----”

“Lucien looks as if he knew her,” exclaimed Rastignac, seeing Esther’s
lover smile.

“Who doesn’t know the woman who would go out at midnight to meet
Nucingen?” said Lucien, turning on his heel.

“Well, she is not a woman who is seen in society, or the Baron would
have recognized the man,” said the Chevalier d’Espard.

“I have nefer seen him,” replied the Baron. “And for forty days now I
have had her seeked for by de Police, and dey do not find her.”

“It is better that she should cost you a few hundred francs than cost
you your life,” said Desplein; “and, at your age, a passion without hope
is dangerous, you might die of it.”

“Ja, ja,” replied the Baron, addressing Desplein. “And vat I eat does
me no goot, de air I breade feels to choke me. I go to de forest of
Fincennes to see de place vat I see her--and dat is all my life. I could
not tink of de last loan--I trust to my partners vat haf pity on me. I
could pay one million franc to see dat voman--and I should gain by dat,
for I do nothing on de Bourse.--Ask du Tillet.”

“Very true,” replied du Tillet; “he hates business; he is quite unlike
himself; it is a sign of death.”

“A sign of lof,” replied Nucingen; “and for me, dat is all de same

The simple candor of the old man, no longer the stock-jobber, who, for
the first time in his life, saw that something was more sacred and
more precious than gold, really moved these world-hardened men; some
exchanged smiles; other looked at Nucingen with an expression that
plainly said, “Such a man to have come to this!”--And then they all
returned to the drawing-room, talking over the event.

For it was indeed an event calculated to produce the greatest sensation.
Madame de Nucingen went into fits of laughter when Lucien betrayed her
husband’s secret; but the Baron, when he heard his wife’s sarcasms, took
her by the arm and led her into the recess of a window.

“Motame,” said he in an undertone, “have I ever laughed at all at your
passions, that you should laugh at mine? A goot frau should help her
husband out of his difficulty vidout making game of him like vat you

From the description given by the old banker, Lucien had recognized his
Esther. Much annoyed that his smile should have been observed, he took
advantage of a moment when coffee was served, and the conversation
became general, to vanish from the scene.

“What has become of Monsieur de Rubempre?” said the Baroness.

“He is faithful to his motto: Quid me continebit?” said Rastignac.

“Which means, ‘Who can detain me?’ or ‘I am unconquerable,’ as you
choose,” added de Marsay.

“Just as Monsieur le Baron was speaking of his unknown lady, Lucien
smiled in a way that makes me fancy he may know her,” said Horace
Bianchon, not thinking how dangerous such a natural remark might be.

“Goot!” said the banker to himself.

Like all incurables, the Baron clutched at everything that seemed at all
hopeful; he promised himself that he would have Lucien watched by some
one besides Louchard and his men--Louchard, the sharpest commercial
detective in Paris--to whom he had applied about a fortnight since.

Before going home to Esther, Lucien was due at the Hotel Grandlieu,
to spend the two hours which made Mademoiselle Clotilde Frederique
de Grandlieu the happiest girl in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. But the
prudence characteristic of this ambitious youth warned him to inform
Carlos Herrera forthwith of the effect resulting from the smile wrung
from him by the Baron’s description of Esther. The banker’s passion for
Esther, and the idea that had occurred to him of setting the police to
seek the unknown beauty, were indeed events of sufficient importance
to be at once communicated to the man who had sought, under a priest’s
robe, the shelter which criminals of old could find in a church. And
Lucien’s road from the Rue Saint-Lazare, where Nucingen at that time
lived, to the Rue Saint-Dominique, where was the Hotel Grandlieu, led
him past his lodgings on the Quai Malaquais.

Lucien found his formidable friend smoking his breviary--that is to say,
coloring a short pipe before retiring to bed. The man, strange rather
than foreign, had given up Spanish cigarettes, finding them too mild.

“Matters look serious,” said the Spaniard, when Lucien had told him all.
“The Baron, who employs Louchard to hunt up the girl, will certainly be
sharp enough to set a spy at your heels, and everything will come out.
To-night and to-morrow morning will not give me more than enough time
to pack the cards for the game I must play against the Baron; first and
foremost, I must prove to him that the police cannot help him. When our
lynx has given up all hope of finding his ewe-lamb, I will undertake to
sell her for all she is worth to him----”

“Sell Esther!” cried Lucien, whose first impulse was always the right

“Do you forget where we stand?” cried Carlos Herrera.

“No money left,” the Spaniard went on, “and sixty thousand francs of
debts to be paid! If you want to marry Clotilde de Grandlieu, you must
invest a million of francs in land as security for that ugly creature’s
settlement. Well, then, Esther is the quarry I mean to set before that
lynx to help us to ease him of that million. That is my concern.”

“Esther will never----”

“That is my concern.”

“She will die of it.”

“That is the undertaker’s concern. Besides, what then?” cried the
savage, checking Lucien’s lamentations merely by his attitude. “How many
generals died in the prime of life for the Emperor Napoleon?” he asked,
after a short silence. “There are always plenty of women. In 1821
Coralie was unique in your eyes; and yet you found Esther. After her
will come--do you know who?--the unknown fair. And she of all women
is the fairest, and you will find her in the capital where the Duc de
Grandlieu’s son-in-law will be Minister and representative of the King
of France.--And do you tell me now, great Baby, that Esther will die of
it? Again, can Mademoiselle de Grandlieu’s husband keep Esther?

“You have only to leave everything to me; you need not take the trouble
to think at all; that is my concern. Only you must do without Esther for
a week or two; but go to the Rue Taitbout, all the same.--Come, be off
to bill and coo on your plank of salvation, and play your part well;
slip the flaming note you wrote this morning into Clotilde’s hand, and
bring me back a warm response. She will recompense herself for many woes
in writing. I take to that girl.

“You will find Esther a little depressed, but tell her to obey. We must
display our livery of virtue, our doublet of honesty, the screen behind
which all great men hide their infamy.--I must show off my handsomer
self--you must never be suspected. Chance has served us better than
my brain, which has been beating about in a void for these two months

All the while he was jerking out these dreadful sentences, one by one,
like pistol shots, Carlos Herrera was dressing himself to go out.

“You are evidently delighted,” cried Lucien. “You never liked poor
Esther, and you look forward with joy to the moment when you will be rid
of her.”

“You have never tired of loving her, have you? Well, I have never
tired of detesting her. But have I not always behaved as though I were
sincerely attached to the hussy--I, who, through Asie, hold her life
in my hands? A few bad mushrooms in a stew--and there an end. But
Mademoiselle Esther still lives!--and is happy!--And do you know why?
Because you love her. Do not be a fool. For four years we have been
waiting for a chance to turn up, for us or against us; well, it will
take something more than mere cleverness to wash the cabbage luck has
flung at us now. There are good and bad together in this turn of the
wheel--as there are in everything. Do you know what I was thinking of
when you came in?”


“Of making myself heir here, as I did at Barcelona, to an old bigot, by
Asie’s help.”

“A crime?”

“I saw no other way of securing your fortune. The creditors are making
a stir. If once the bailiffs were at your heels, and you were turned out
of the Hotel Grandlieu, where would you be? There would be the devil to
pay then.”

And Carlos Herrera, by a pantomimic gesture, showed the suicide of a man
throwing himself into the water; then he fixed on Lucien one of those
steady, piercing looks by which the will of a strong man is injected,
so to speak, into a weak one. This fascinating glare, which relaxed
all Lucien’s fibres of resistance, revealed the existence not merely
of secrets of life and death between him and his adviser, but also of
feelings as far above ordinary feeling as the man himself was above his
vile position.

Carlos Herrera, a man at once ignoble and magnanimous, obscure and
famous, compelled to live out of the world from which the law had banned
him, exhausted by vice and by frenzied and terrible struggles, though
endowed with powers of mind that ate into his soul, consumed especially
by a fever of vitality, now lived again in the elegant person of Lucien
de Rubempre, whose soul had become his own. He was represented in social
life by the poet, to whom he lent his tenacity and iron will. To him
Lucien was more than a son, more than a woman beloved, more than a
family, more than his life; he was his revenge; and as souls cling more
closely to a feeling than to existence, he had bound the young man to
him by insoluble ties.

After rescuing Lucien’s life at the moment when the poet in desperation
was on the verge of suicide, he had proposed to him one of those
infernal bargains which are heard of only in romances, but of which
the hideous possibility has often been proved in courts of justice by
celebrated criminal dramas. While lavishing on Lucien all the delights
of Paris life, and proving to him that he yet had a great future before
him, he had made him his chattel.

But, indeed, no sacrifice was too great for this strange man when it
was to gratify his second self. With all his strength, he was so weak to
this creature of his making that he had even told him all his secrets.
Perhaps this abstract complicity was a bond the more between them.

Since the day when La Torpille had been snatched away, Lucien had known
on what a vile foundation his good fortune rested. That priest’s robe
covered Jacques Collin, a man famous on the hulks, who ten years since
had lived under the homely name of Vautrin in the Maison Vauquer, where
Rastignac and Bianchon were at that time boarders.

Jacques Collin, known as _Trompe-la-Mort_, had escaped from Rochefort
almost as soon as he was recaptured, profiting by the example of the
famous Comte de Sainte-Helene, while modifying all that was ill planned
in Coignard’s daring scheme. To take the place of an honest man and
carry on the convict’s career is a proposition of which the two terms
are too contradictory for a disastrous outcome not to be inevitable,
especially in Paris; for, by establishing himself in a family, a convict
multiplies tenfold the perils of such a substitution. And to be safe
from all investigation, must not a man assume a position far above the
ordinary interests of life. A man of the world is subject to risks such
as rarely trouble those who have no contact with the world; hence the
priest’s gown is the safest disguise when it can be authenticated by an
exemplary life in solitude and inactivity.

“So a priest I will be,” said the legally dead man, who was quite
determined to resuscitate as a figure in the world, and to satisfy
passions as strange as himself.

The civil war caused by the Constitution of 1812 in Spain, whither this
energetic man had betaken himself, enabled him to murder secretly the
real Carlos Herrera from an ambush. This ecclesiastic, the bastard son
of a grandee, long since deserted by his father, and not knowing to what
woman he owed his birth, was intrusted by King Ferdinand VII., to whom
a bishop had recommended him, with a political mission to France. The
bishop, the only man who took any interest in Carlos Herrera, died
while this foundling son of the Church was on his journey from Cadiz
to Madrid, and from Madrid to France. Delighted to have met with this
longed-for opportunity, and under the most desirable conditions, Jacques
Collin scored his back to efface the fatal letters, and altered his
complexion by the use of chemicals. Thus metamorphosing himself face
to face with the corpse, he contrived to achieve some likeness to his
Sosia. And to complete a change almost as marvelous as that related in
the Arabian tale, where a dervish has acquired the power, old as he is,
of entering into a young body, by a magic spell, the convict, who spoke
Spanish, learned as much Latin as an Andalusian priest need know.

As banker to three hulks, Collin was rich in the cash intrusted to his
known, and indeed enforced, honesty. Among such company a mistake is
paid for by a dagger thrust. To this capital he now added the money
given by the bishop to Don Carlos Herrera. Then, before leaving Spain,
he was able to possess himself of the treasure of an old bigot at
Barcelona, to whom he gave absolution, promising that he would make
restitution of the money constituting her fortune, which his penitent
had stolen by means of murder.

Jacques Collin, now a priest, and charged with a secret mission which
would secure him the most brilliant introductions in Paris, determined
to do nothing that might compromise the character he had assumed, and
had given himself up to the chances of his new life, when he met Lucien
on the road between Angouleme and Paris. In this youth the sham priest
saw a wonderful instrument for power; he saved him from suicide saying:

“Give yourself over to me as to a man of God, as men give themselves
over to the devil, and you will have every chance of a new career. You
will live as in a dream, and the worst awakening that can come to you
will be death, which you now wish to meet.”

The alliance between these two beings, who were to become one, as
it were, was based on this substantial reasoning, and Carlos Herrera
cemented it by an ingeniously plotted complicity. He had the very genius
of corruption, and undermined Lucien’s honesty by plunging him into
cruel necessity, and extricating him by obtaining his tacit consent to
bad or disgraceful actions, which nevertheless left him pure, loyal, and
noble in the eyes of the world. Lucien was the social magnificence under
whose shadow the forger meant to live.

“I am the author, you are the play; if you fail, it is I who shall be
hissed,” said he on the day when he confessed his sacrilegious disguise.

Carlos prudently confessed only a little at a time, measuring the
horrors of his revelations by Lucien’s progress and needs. Thus
_Trompe-la-Mort_ did not let out his last secret till the habit of
Parisian pleasures and success, and gratified vanity, had enslaved the
weak-minded poet body and soul. Where Rastignac, when tempted by this
demon, had stood firm, Lucien, better managed, and more ingeniously
compromised, succumbed, conquered especially by his satisfaction in
having attained an eminent position. Incarnate evil, whose poetical
embodiment is called the Devil, displayed every delightful seduction
before this youth, who was half a woman, and at first gave much and
asked for little. The great argument used by Carlos was the eternal
secret promised by Tartufe to Elmire.

The repeated proofs of absolute devotion, such as that of Said to
Mahomet, put the finishing touch to the horrible achievement of Lucien’s
subjugation by a Jacques Collin.

At this moment not only had Esther and Lucien devoured all the funds
intrusted to the honesty of the banker of the hulks, who, for their
sakes, had rendered himself liable to a dreadful calling to account, but
the dandy, the forger, and the courtesan were also in debt. Thus, as the
very moment of Lucien’s expected success, the smallest pebble under
the foot of either of these three persons might involve the ruin of the
fantastic structure of fortune so audaciously built up.

At the opera ball Rastignac had recognized the man he had known as
Vautrin at Madame Vauquer’s; but he knew that if he did not hold his
tongue, he was a dead man. So Madame de Nucingen’s lover and Lucien
had exchanged glances in which fear lurked, on both sides, under an
expression of amity. In the moment of danger, Rastignac, it is clear,
would have been delighted to provide the vehicle that should convey
Jacques Collin to the scaffold. From all this it may be understood that
Carlos heard of the Baron’s passion with a glow of sombre satisfaction,
while he perceived in a single flash all the advantage a man of his
temper might derive by means of a hapless Esther.

“Go on,” said he to Lucien. “The Devil is mindful of his chaplain.”

“You are smoking on a powder barrel.”

“Incedo per ignes,” replied Carlos with a smile. “That is my trade.”

The House of Grandlieu divided into two branches about the middle of the
last century: first, the ducal line destined to lapse, since the present
duke has only daughters; and then the Vicomtes de Grandlieu, who will
now inherit the title and armorial bearings of the elder branch. The
ducal house bears gules, three broad axes or in fess, with the famous
motto: Caveo non timeo, which epitomizes the history of the family.

The coat of the Vicomtes de Grandlieu is the same quartered with that
of Navarreins: gules, a fess crenelated or, surmounted by a knight’s
helmet, with the motto: Grands faits, grand lieu. The present
Viscountess, widowed in 1813, has a son and a daughter. Though she
returned from the Emigration almost ruined, she recovered a considerable
fortune by the zealous aid of Derville the lawyer.

The Duc and Duchesse de Grandlieu, on coming home in 1804, were the
object of the Emperor’s advances; indeed, Napoleon, seeing them come to
his court, restored to them all of the Grandlieu estates that had been
confiscated to the nation, to the amount of about forty thousand francs
a year. Of all the great nobles of the Faubourg Saint-Germain
who allowed themselves to be won over by Napoleon, this Duke and
Duchess--she was an Ajuda of the senior branch, and connected with the
Braganzas--were the only family who afterwards never disowned him and
his liberality. When the Faubourg Saint-Germain remembered this as a
crime against the Grandlieus, Louis XVIII. respected them for it; but
perhaps his only object was to annoy _Monsieur_.

A marriage was considered likely between the young Vicomte de Grandlieu
and Marie-Athenais, the Duke’s youngest daughter, now nine years old.
Sabine, the youngest but one, married the Baron du Guenic after
the revolution of July 1830; Josephine, the third, became Madame
d’Ajuda-Pinto after the death of the Marquis’ first wife, Mademoiselle
de Rochefide, or Rochegude. The eldest had taken the veil in 1822. The
second, Mademoiselle Clotilde Frederique, at this time seven-and-twenty
years of age, was deeply in love with Lucien de Rubempre. It need not be
asked whether the Duc de Grandlieu’s mansion, one of the finest in
the Rue Saint-Dominique, did not exert a thousand spells over Lucien’s
imagination. Every time the heavy gate turned on its hinges to admit his
cab, he experienced the gratified vanity to which Mirabeau confessed.

“Though my father was a mere druggist at l’Houmeau, I may enter here!”
 This was his thought.

And, indeed, he would have committed far worse crimes than allying
himself with a forger to preserve his right to mount the steps of that
entrance, to hear himself announced, “Monsieur de Rubempre” at the door
of the fine Louis XIV. drawing-room, decorated in the time of the grand
monarque on the pattern of those at Versailles, where that choicest
circle met, that cream of Paris society, called then le petit chateau.

The noble Portuguese lady, one of those who never care to go out of
their own home, was usually the centre of her neighbors’ attentions--the
Chaulieus, the Navarreins, the Lenoncourts. The pretty Baronne de
Macumer--nee de Chaulieu--the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, Madame d’Espard,
Madame de Camps, and Mademoiselle des Touches--a connection of the
Grandlieus, who are a Breton family--were frequent visitors on their way
to a ball or on their return from the opera. The Vicomte de Grandlieu,
the Duc de Rhetore, the Marquis de Chaulieu--afterwards Duc de
Lenoncourt-Chaulieu--his wife, Madeleine de Mortsauf, the Duc de
Lenoncourt’s grand-daughter, the Marquis d’Ajuda-Pinto, the Prince de
Blamont-Chauvry, the Marquis de Beauseant, the Vidame de Pamiers,
the Vandenesses, the old Prince de Cadignan, and his son the Duc de
Maufrigneuse, were constantly to be seen in this stately drawing-room,
where they breathed the atmosphere of a Court, where manners, tone, and
wit were in harmony with the dignity of the Master and Mistress whose
aristocratic mien and magnificence had obliterated the memory of their
servility to Napoleon.

The old Duchesse d’Uxelles, mother of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, was
the oracle of this circle, to which Madame de Serizy had never gained
admittance, though nee de Ronquerolles.

Lucien was brought thither by Madame de Maufrigneuse, who had won over
her mother to speak in his favor, for she had doted on him for two
years; and the engaging young poet had kept his footing there, thanks
to the influence of the high Almoner of France, and the support of
the Archbishop of Paris. Still, he had not been admitted till he had
obtained the patent restoring to him the name and arms of the Rubempre
family. The Duc de Rhetore, the Chevalier d’Espard, and some others,
jealous of Lucien, periodically stirred up the Duc de Grandlieu’s
prejudices against him by retailing anecdotes of the young man’s
previous career; but the Duchess, a devout Catholic surrounded by the
great prelates of the Church, and her daughter Clotilde would not give
him up.

Lucien accounted for these hostilities by his connection with Madame de
Bargeton, Madame d’Espard’s cousin, and now Comtesse du Chatelet. Then,
feeling the importance of allying himself to so powerful a family, and
urged by his privy adviser to win Clotilde, Lucien found the courage of
the parvenu; he came to the house five days in the week, he swallowed
all the affronts of the envious, he endured impertinent looks, and
answered irony with wit. His persistency, the charm of his manners, and
his amiability, at last neutralized opposition and reduced obstacles. He
was still in the highest favor with Madame de Maufrigneuse, whose ardent
letters, written under the influence of her passion, were preserved by
Carlos Herrera; he was idolized by Madame de Serizy, and stood well
in Mademoiselle des Touches’ good graces; and well content with being
received in these houses, Lucien was instructed by the Abbe to be as
reserved as possible in all other quarters.

“You cannot devote yourself to several houses at once,” said his Mentor.
“The man who goes everywhere finds no one to take a lively interest in
him. Great folks only patronize those who emulate their furniture, whom
they see every day, and who have the art of becoming as necessary to
them as the seat they sit on.”

Thus Lucien, accustomed to regard the Grandlieus’ drawing-room as his
arena, reserved his wit, his jests, his news, and his courtier’s graces
for the hours he spent there every evening. Insinuating, tactful, and
warned by Clotilde of the shoals he should avoid, he flattered Monsieur
de Grandlieu’s little weaknesses. Clotilde, having begun by envying
Madame de Maufrigneuse her happiness, ended by falling desperately in
love with Lucien.

Perceiving all the advantages of such a connection, Lucien played his
lover’s part as well as it could have been acted by Armand, the latest
_jeune premier_ at the _Comedie Francaise_.

He wrote to Clotilde, letters which were certainly masterpieces of
literary workmanship; and Clotilde replied, vying with him in genius in
the expression of perfervid love on paper, for she had no other outlet.
Lucien went to church at Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin every Sunday, giving
himself out as a devout Catholic, and he poured forth monarchical
and pious harangues which were a marvel to all. He also wrote some
exceedingly remarkable articles in papers devoted to the “Congregation,”
 refusing to be paid for them, and signing them only with an “L.” He
produced political pamphlets when required by King Charles X. or the
High Almoner, and for these he would take no payment.

“The King,” he would say, “has done so much for me, that I owe him my

For some days past there had been an idea of attaching Lucien to the
prime minister’s cabinet as his private secretary; but Madame d’Espard
brought so many persons into the field in opposition to Lucien, that
Charles X.’s _Maitre Jacques_ hesitated to clinch the matter. Nor was
Lucien’s position by any means clear; not only did the question, “What
does he live on?” on everybody’s lips as the young man rose in life,
require an answer, but even benevolent curiosity--as much as malevolent
curiosity--went on from one inquiry to another, and found more than one
joint in the ambitious youth’s harness.

Clotilde de Grandlieu unconsciously served as a spy for her father and
mother. A few days since she had led Lucien into a recess and told him
of the difficulties raised by her family.

“Invest a million francs in land, and my hand is yours: that is my
mother’s ultimatum,” Clotilde had explained.

“And presently they will ask you where you got the money,” said Carlos,
when Lucien reported this last word in the bargain.

“My brother-in-law will have made his fortune,” remarked Lucien; “we can
make him the responsible backer.”

“Then only the million is needed,” said Carlos. “I will think it over.”

To be exact as to Lucien’s position in the Hotel Grandlieu, he had never
dined there. Neither Clotilde, nor the Duchesse d’Uxelles, nor Madame de
Maufrigneuse, who was always extremely kind to Lucien, could ever
obtain this favor from the Duke, so persistently suspicious was the old
nobleman of the man that he designated as “le Sire de Rubempre.” This
shade of distinction, understood by every one who visited at the house,
constantly wounded Lucien’s self-respect, for he felt that he was no
more than tolerated. But the world is justified in being suspicious; it
is so often taken in!

To cut a figure in Paris with no known source of wealth and no
recognized employment is a position which can by no artifice be long
maintained. So Lucien, as he crept up in the world, gave more and more
weight to the question, “What does he live on?” He had been obliged
indeed to confess to Madame de Serizy, to whom he owed the patronage of
Monsieur Granville, the Public Prosecutor, and of the Comte Octave de
Bauvan, a Minister of State, and President of one of the Supreme Courts:
“I am dreadfully in debt.”

As he entered the courtyard of the mansion where he found an excuse
for all his vanities, he was saying to himself as he reflected on
_Trompe-la-Mort’s_ scheming:

“I can hear the ground cracking under my feet!”

He loved Esther, and he wanted to marry Mademoiselle de Grandlieu! A
strange dilemma! One must be sold to buy the other.

Only one person could effect this bargain without damage to Lucien’s
honor, and that was the supposed Spaniard. Were they not bound to be
equally secret, each for the other? Such a compact, in which each is in
turn master and slave, is not to be found twice in any one life.

Lucien drove away the clouds that darkened his brow, and walked into the
Grandlieu drawing-room gay and beaming. At this moment the windows were
open, the fragrance from the garden scented the room, the flower-basket
in the centre displayed its pyramid of flowers. The Duchess, seated on
a sofa in the corner, was talking to the Duchesse de Chaulieu. Several
women together formed a group remarkable for their various attitudes,
stamped with the different expression which each strove to give to an
affected sorrow. In the fashionable world nobody takes any interest in
grief or suffering; everything is talk. The men were walking up and
down the room or in the garden. Clotilde and Josephine were busy at
the tea-table. The Vidame de Pamiers, the Duc de Grandlieu, the Marquis
d’Ajuda-Pinto, and the Duc de Maufrigneuse were playing Wisk, as they
called it, in a corner of the room.

When Lucien was announced he walked across the room to make his bow to
the Duchess, asking the cause of the grief he could read in her face.

“Madame de Chaulieu has just had dreadful news; her son-in-law, the
Baron de Macumer, ex-duke of Soria, is just dead. The young Duc de Soria
and his wife, who had gone to Chantepleurs to nurse their brother, have
written this sad intelligence. Louise is heart-broken.”

“A women is not loved twice in her life as Louise was loved by her
husband,” said Madeleine de Mortsauf.

“She will be a rich widow,” observed the old Duchesse d’Uxelles, looking
at Lucien, whose face showed no change of expression.

“Poor Louise!” said Madame d’Espard. “I understand her and pity her.”

The Marquise d’Espard put on the pensive look of a woman full of soul
and feeling. Sabine de Grandlieu, who was but ten years old, raised
knowing eyes to her mother’s face, but the satirical glance was
repressed by a glance from the Duchess. This is bringing children up

“If my daughter lives through the shock,” said Madame de Chaulieu,
with a very maternal manner, “I shall be anxious about her future life.
Louise is so very romantic.”

“It is so difficult nowadays,” said a venerable Cardinal, “to reconcile
feeling with the proprieties.”

Lucien, who had not a word to say, went to the tea-table to do what was
polite to the demoiselles de Grandlieu. When the poet had gone a few
yards away, the Marquise d’Espard leaned over to whisper in the Duchess’

“And do you really think that that young fellow is so much in love with
your Clotilde?”

The perfidy of this question cannot be fully understood but with the
help of a sketch of Clotilde. That young lady was, at this moment,
standing up. Her attitude allowed the Marquise d’Espard’s mocking eye to
take in Clotilde’s lean, narrow figure, exactly like an asparagus stalk;
the poor girl’s bust was so flat that it did not allow of the artifice
known to dressmakers as _fichus menteurs_, or padded habitshirts. And
Clotilde, who knew that her name was a sufficient advantage in life, far
from trying to conceal this defect, heroically made a display of it. By
wearing plain, tight dresses she achieved the effect of that stiff prim
shape which medieval sculptors succeeded in giving to the statuettes
whose profiles are conspicuous against the background of the niches in
which they stand in cathedrals.

Clotilde was more than five feet four in height; if we may be allowed
to use a familiar phrase, which has the merit at any rate of being
perfectly intelligible--she was all legs. These defective proportions
gave her figure an almost deformed appearance. With a dark complexion,
harsh black hair, very thick eyebrows, fiery eyes, set in sockets that
were already deeply discolored, a side face shaped like the moon in
its first quarter, and a prominent brow, she was the caricature of her
mother, one of the handsomest women in Portugal. Nature amuses herself
with such tricks. Often we see in one family a sister of wonderful
beauty, whose features in her brother are absolutely hideous, though the
two are amazingly alike. Clotilde’s lips, excessively thin and sunken,
wore a permanent expression of disdain. And yet her mouth, better than
any other feature of her face, revealed every secret impulse of her
heart, for affection lent it a sweet expression, which was all the more
remarkable because her cheeks were too sallow for blushes, and her
hard, black eyes never told anything. Notwithstanding these defects,
notwithstanding her board-like carriage, she had by birth and education
a grand air, a proud demeanor, in short, everything that has been well
named le je ne sais quoi, due partly, perhaps, to her uncompromising
simplicity of dress, which stamped her as a woman of noble blood. She
dressed her hair to advantage, and it might be accounted to her for a
beauty, for it grew vigorously, thick and long.

She had cultivated her voice, and it could cast a spell; she sang
exquisitely. Clotilde was just the woman of whom one says, “She has fine
eyes,” or, “She has a delightful temper.” If any one addressed her in
the English fashion as “Your Grace,” she would say, “You mean ‘Your

“Why should not my poor Clotilde have a lover?” replied the Duchess to
the Marquise. “Do you know what she said to me yesterday? ‘If I am
loved for ambition’s sake, I undertake to make him love me for my own
sake.’--She is clever and ambitious, and there are men who like those
two qualities. As for him--my dear, he is as handsome as a vision; and
if he can but repurchase the Rubempre estates, out of regard for us the
King will reinstate him in the title of Marquis.--After all, his mother
was the last of the Rubempres.”

“Poor fellow! where is he to find a million francs?” said the Marquise.

“That is no concern of ours,” replied the Duchess. “He is certainly
incapable of stealing the money.--Besides, we would never give Clotilde
to an intriguing or dishonest man even if he were handsome, young, and a
poet, like Monsieur de Rubempre.”

“You are late this evening,” said Clotilde, smiling at Lucien with
infinite graciousness.

“Yes, I have been dining out.”

“You have been quite gay these last few days,” said she, concealing her
jealousy and anxiety behind a smile.

“Quite gay?” replied Lucien. “No--only by the merest chance I have been
dining every day this week with bankers; to-day with the Nucingens,
yesterday with du Tillet, the day before with the Kellers----”

Whence, it may be seen, that Lucien had succeeded in assuming the tone
of light impertinence of great people.

“You have many enemies,” said Clotilde, offering him--how graciously!--a
cup of tea. “Some one told my father that you have debts to the amount
of sixty thousand francs, and that before long Sainte-Pelagie will be
your summer quarters.--If you could know what all these calumnies are to
me!--It all recoils on me.--I say nothing of my own suffering--my
father has a way of looking that crucifies me--but of what you must be
suffering if any least part of it should be the truth.”

“Do not let such nonsense worry you; love me as I love you, and give
me time--a few months----” said Lucien, replacing his empty cup on the
silver tray.

“Do not let my father see you; he would say something disagreeable; and
as you could not submit to that, we should be done for.--That odious
Marquise d’Espard told him that your mother had been a monthly nurse and
that your sister did ironing----”

“We were in the most abject poverty,” replied Lucien, the tears rising
to his eyes. “That is not calumny, but it is most ill-natured gossip. My
sister now is a more than millionaire, and my mother has been dead
two years.--This information has been kept in stock to use just when I
should be on the verge of success here----”

“But what have you done to Madame d’Espard?”

“I was so rash, at Madame de Serizy’s, as to tell the story, with some
added pleasantries, in the presence of MM. de Bauvan and de Granville,
of her attempt to get a commission of lunacy appointed to sit on her
husband, the Marquis d’Espard. Bianchon had told it to me. Monsieur de
Granville’s opinion, supported by those of Bauvan and Serizy, influenced
the decision of the Keeper of the Seals. They all were afraid of the
_Gazette des Tribunaux_, and dreaded the scandal, and the Marquise got
her knuckles rapped in the summing up for the judgment finally recorded
in that miserable business.

“Though M. de Serizy by his tattle has made the Marquise my mortal foe,
I gained his good offices, and those of the Public Prosecutor, and Comte
Octave de Bauvan; for Madame de Serizy told them the danger in which I
stood in consequence of their allowing the source of their information
to be guessed at. The Marquis d’Espard was so clumsy as to call upon me,
regarding me as the first cause of his winning the day in that atrocious

“I will rescue you from Madame d’Espard,” said Clotilde.

“How?” cried Lucien.

“My mother will ask the young d’Espards here; they are charming boys,
and growing up now. The father and sons will sing your praises, and then
we are sure never to see their mother again.”

“Oh, Clotilde, you are an angel! If I did not love you for yourself, I
should love you for being so clever.”

“It is not cleverness,” said she, all her love beaming on her lips.
“Goodnight. Do not come again for some few days. When you see me in
church, at Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin, with a pink scarf, my father will be in
a better temper.--You will find an answer stuck to the back of the chair
you are sitting in; it will comfort you perhaps for not seeing me. Put
the note you have brought under my handkerchief----”

This young person was evidently more than seven-and-twenty.

Lucien took a cab in the Rue de la Planche, got out of it on the
Boulevards, took another by the Madeleine, and desired the driver to
have the gates opened and drive in at the house in the Rue Taitbout.

On going in at eleven o’clock, he found Esther in tears, but dressed as
she was wont to dress to do him honor. She awaited her Lucien reclining
on a sofa covered with white satin brocaded with yellow flowers, dressed
in a bewitching wrapper of India muslin with cherry-colored bows;
without her stays, her hair simply twisted into a knot, her feet in
little velvet slippers lined with cherry-colored satin; all the candles
were burning, the hookah was prepared. But she had not smoked her own,
which stood beside her unlighted, emblematical of her loneliness. On
hearing the doors open she sprang up like a gazelle, and threw her arms
round Lucien, wrapping him like a web caught by the wind and flung about
a tree.

“Parted.--Is it true?”

“Oh, just for a few days,” replied Lucien.

Esther released him, and fell back on her divan like a dead thing.

In these circumstances, most women babble like parrots. Oh! how they
love! At the end of five years they feel as if their first happiness
were a thing of yesterday, they cannot give you up, they are magnificent
in their indignation, despair, love, grief, dread, dejection,
presentiments. In short, they are as sublime as a scene from
Shakespeare. But make no mistake! These women do not love. When they are
really all that they profess, when they love truly, they do as Esther
did, as children do, as true love does; Esther did not say a word, she
lay with her face buried in the pillows, shedding bitter tears.

Lucien, on his part, tried to lift her up, and spoke to her.

“But, my child, we are not to part. What, after four years of happiness,
is this the way you take a short absence.--What on earth do I do to all
these girls?” he added to himself, remembering that Coralie had loved
him thus.

“Ah, monsieur, you are so handsome,” said Europe.

The senses have their own ideal. When added to this fascinating beauty
we find the sweetness of nature, the poetry, that characterized Lucien,
it is easy to conceive of the mad passion roused in such women, keenly
alive as they are to external gifts, and artless in their admiration.
Esther was sobbing quietly, and lay in an attitude expressive of the
deepest distress.

“But, little goose,” said Lucien, “did you not understand that my life
is at stake?”

At these words, which he chose on purpose, Esther started up like a wild
animal, her hair fell, tumbling about her excited face like wreaths of
foliage. She looked steadily at Lucien.

“Your life?” she cried, throwing up her arms, and letting them drop with
a gesture known only to a courtesan in peril. “To be sure; that friend’s
note speaks of serious risk.”

She took a shabby scrap of paper out of her sash; then seeing Europe,
she said, “Leave us, my girl.”

When Europe had shut the door she went on--“Here, this is what he
writes,” and she handed to Lucien a note she had just received from
Carlos, which Lucien read aloud:--

  “You must leave to-morrow at five in the morning; you will be
  taken to a keeper’s lodge in the heart of the Forest of
  Saint-Germain, where you will have a room on the first floor. Do
  not quit that room till I give you leave; you will want for nothing.
  The keeper and his wife are to be trusted. Do not write to Lucien.
  Do not go to the window during daylight; but you may walk by night
  with the keeper if you wish for exercise. Keep the carriage blinds
  down on the way. Lucien’s life is at stake.

  “Lucien will go to-night to bid you good-bye; burn this in his

Lucien burned the note at once in the flame of a candle.

“Listen, my own Lucien,” said Esther, after hearing him read this letter
as a criminal hears the sentence of death; “I will not tell you that
I love you; it would be idiotic. For nearly five years it has been as
natural to me to love you as to breathe and live. From the first day
when my happiness began under the protection of that inscrutable being,
who placed me here as you place some little curious beast in a cage, I
have known that you must marry. Marriage is a necessary factor in your
career, and God preserve me from hindering the development of your

“That marriage will be my death. But I will not worry you; I will not
do as the common girls do who kill themselves by means of a brazier
of charcoal; I had enough of that once; twice raises your gorge, as
Mariette says. No, I will go a long way off, out of France. Asie
knows the secrets of her country; she will help me to die quietly. A
prick--whiff, it is all over!

“I ask but one thing, my dearest, and that is that you will not deceive
me. I have had my share of living. Since the day I first saw you, in
1824, till this day, I have known more happiness than can be put into
the lives of ten fortunate wives. So take me for what I am--a woman as
strong as I am weak. Say ‘I am going to be married.’ I will ask no more
of you than a fond farewell, and you shall never hear of me again.”

There was a moment’s silence after this explanation as sincere as her
action and tone were guileless.

“Is it that you are going to be married?” she repeated, looking into
Lucien’s blue eyes with one of her fascinating glances, as brilliant as
a steel blade.

“We have been toiling at my marriage for eighteen months past, and it is
not yet settled,” replied Lucien. “I do not know when it can be settled;
but it is not in question now, child!--It is the Abbe, I, you.--We are
in real peril. Nucingen saw you----”

“Yes, in the wood at Vincennes,” said she. “Did he recognize me?”

“No,” said Lucien. “But he has fallen so desperately in love with
you, that he would sacrifice his coffers. After dinner, when he
was describing how he had met you, I was so foolish as to smile
involuntarily, and most imprudently, for I live in a world like a savage
surrounded by the traps of a hostile tribe. Carlos, who spares me
the pains of thinking, regards the position as dangerous, and he has
undertaken to pay Nucingen out if the Baron takes it into his head
to spy on us; and he is quite capable of it; he spoke to me of the
incapacity of the police. You have lighted a flame in an old chimney
choked with soot.”

“And what does your Spaniard propose to do?” asked Esther very softly.

“I do not know in the least,” said Lucien; “he told me I might sleep
soundly and leave it to him;”--but he dared not look at Esther.

“If that is the case, I will obey him with the dog-like submission I
profess,” said Esther, putting her hand through Lucien’s arm and leading
him into her bedroom, saying, “At any rate, I hope you dined well, my
Lulu, at that detestable Baron’s?”

“Asie’s cooking prevents my ever thinking a dinner good, however famous
the chef may be, where I happen to dine. However, Careme did the dinner
to-night, as he does every Sunday.”

Lucien involuntarily compared Esther with Clotilde. The mistress was so
beautiful, so unfailingly charming, that she had as yet kept at arm’s
length the monster who devours the most perennial loves--Satiety.

“What a pity,” thought he, “to find one’s wife in two volumes. In
one--poetry, delight, love, devotion, beauty, sweetness----”

Esther was fussing about, as women do, before going to bed; she came and
went and fluttered round, singing all the time; you might have thought
her a humming-bird.

“In the other--a noble name, family, honors, rank, knowledge of the
world!--And no earthly means of combining them!” cried Lucien to

Next morning, at seven, when the poet awoke in the pretty pink-and-white
room, he found himself alone. He rang, and Europe hurried in.

“What are monsieur’s orders?”


“Madame went off this morning at a quarter to five. By Monsieur l’Abbe’s
order, I admitted a new face--carriage paid.”

“A woman?”

“No, sir, an English woman--one of those people who do their day’s work
by night, and we are ordered to treat her as if she were madame. What
can you have to say to such hack!--Poor Madame, how she cried when she
got into the carriage. ‘Well, it has to be done!’ cried she. ‘I left
that poor dear boy asleep,’ said she, wiping away her tears; ‘Europe, if
he had looked at me or spoken my name, I should have stayed--I could but
have died with him.’--I tell you, sir, I am so fond of madame, that I
did not show her the person who has taken her place; some waiting maids
would have broken her heart by doing so.”

“And is the stranger there?”

“Well, sir, she came in the chaise that took away madame, and I hid her
in my room in obedience to my instructions----”

“Is she nice-looking?”

“So far as such a second-hand article can be. But she will find her part
easy enough if you play yours, sir,” said Europe, going to fetch the
false Esther.

The night before, ere going to bed, the all-powerful banker had given
his orders to his valet, who, at seven in the morning, brought in to him
the notorious Louchard, the most famous of the commercial police, whom
he left in a little sitting-room; there the Baron joined him, in a
dressing gown and slippers.

“You haf mate a fool of me!” he said, in reply to this official’s

“I could not help myself, Monsieur le Baron. I do not want to lose my
place, and I had the honor of explaining to you that I could not meddle
in a matter that had nothing to do with my functions. What did I promise
you? To put you into communication with one of our agents, who, as it
seemed to me, would be best able to serve you. But you know, Monsieur le
Baron, the sharp lines that divide men of different trades: if you build
a house, you do not set a carpenter to do smith’s work. Well, there
are two branches of the police--the political police and the judicial
police. The political police never interfere with the other branch, and
vice versa. If you apply to the chief of the political police, he must
get permission from the Minister to take up our business, and you would
not dare to explain it to the head of the police throughout the kingdom.
A police-agent who should act on his own account would lose his place.

“Well, the ordinary police are quite as cautious as the political
police. So no one, whether in the Home Office or at the Prefecture of
Police, ever moves excepting in the interests of the State or for the
ends of Justice.

“If there is a plot or a crime to be followed up, then, indeed, the
heads of the corps are at your service; but you must understand,
Monsieur le Baron, that they have other fish to fry than looking after
the fifty thousand love affairs in Paris. As to me and my men, our only
business is to arrest debtors; and as soon as anything else is to be
done, we run enormous risks if we interfere with the peace and quiet of
any man or woman. I sent you one of my men, but I told you I could not
answer for him; you instructed him to find a particular woman in Paris;
Contenson bled you of a thousand-franc note, and did not even move. You
might as well look for a needle in the river as for a woman in Paris,
who is supposed to haunt Vincennes, and of whom the description answers
to every pretty woman in the capital.”

“And could not Contenson haf tolt me de truf, instead of making me pleed
out one tousand franc?”

“Listen to me, Monsieur le Baron,” said Louchard. “Will you give me a
thousand crowns? I will give you--sell you--a piece of advice?”

“Is it vort one tousand crowns--your atvice?” asked Nucingen.

“I am not to be caught, Monsieur le Baron,” answered Louchard. “You
are in love, you want to discover the object of your passion; you are
getting as yellow as a lettuce without water. Two physicians came to see
you yesterday, your man tells me, who think your life is in danger; now,
I alone can put you in the hands of a clever fellow.--But the deuce is
in it! If your life is not worth a thousand crowns----”

“Tell me de name of dat clefer fellow, and depent on my generosity----”

Louchard took up his hat, bowed, and left the room.

“Wat ein teufel!” cried Nucingen. “Come back--look here----”

“Take notice,” said Louchard, before taking the money, “I am only
selling a piece of information, pure and simple. I can give you the name
and address of the only man who is able to be of use to you--but he is a

“Get out mit you,” cried Nucingen. “Dere is not no name dat is vort one
tousant crown but dat von Varschild--and dat only ven it is sign at the
bottom of a bank-bill.--I shall gif you one tousant franc.”

Louchard, a little weasel, who had never been able to purchase an
office as lawyer, notary, clerk, or attorney, leered at the Baron in a
significant fashion.

“To you--a thousand crowns, or let it alone. You will get them back in a
few seconds on the Bourse,” said he.

“I will gif you one tousant franc,” repeated the Baron.

“You would cheapen a gold mine!” said Louchard, bowing and leaving.

“I shall get dat address for five hundert franc!” cried the Baron, who
desired his servant to send his secretary to him.

Turcaret is no more. In these days the smallest banker, like the
greatest, exercises his acumen in the smallest transactions; he bargains
over art, beneficence, and love; he would bargain with the Pope for a
dispensation. Thus, as he listened to Louchard, Nucingen had hastily
concluded that Contenson, Louchard’s right-hand man, must certainly
know the address of that master spy. Contenson would tell him for five
hundred francs what Louchard wanted to see a thousand crowns for.
The rapid calculation plainly proves that if the man’s heart was in
possession of love, his head was still that of the lynx stock-jobber.

“Go your own self, mensieur,” said the Baron to his secretary,
“to Contenson, dat spy of Louchart’s de bailiff man--but go in one
capriolette, very qvick, and pring him here qvick to me. I shall
vait.--Go out trough de garten.--Here is dat key, for no man shall see
dat man in here. You shall take him into dat little garten-house. Try to
do dat little business very clefer.”

Visitors called to see Nucingen on business; but he waited for
Contenson, he was dreaming of Esther, telling himself that before long
he would see again the woman who had aroused in him such unhoped-for
emotions, and he sent everybody away with vague replies and double-edged
promises. Contenson was to him the most important person in Paris, and
he looked out into the garden every minute. Finally, after giving orders
that no one else was to be admitted, he had his breakfast served in the
summer-house at one corner of the garden. In the banker’s office the
conduct and hesitancy of the most knowing, the most clearsighted, the
shrewdest of Paris financiers seemed inexplicable.

“What ails the chief?” said a stockbroker to one of the head-clerks.

“No one knows; they are anxious about his health, it would seem.
Yesterday, Madame la Baronne got Desplein and Bianchon to meet.”

One day, when Sir Isaac Newton was engaged in physicking one of his
dogs, named “Beauty” (who, as is well known, destroyed a vast amount of
work, and whom he reproved only in these words, “Ah! Beauty, you little
know the mischief you have done!”), some strangers called to see him;
but they at once retired, respecting the great man’s occupation. In
every more or less lofty life, there is a little dog “Beauty.” When the
Marechal de Richelieu came to pay his respects to Louis XV. after taking
Mahon, one of the greatest feats of arms of the eighteenth century,
the King said to him, “Have you heard the great news? Poor Lansmatt is
dead.”--Lansmatt was a gatekeeper in the secret of the King’s intrigues.

The bankers of Paris never knew how much they owed to Contenson. That
spy was the cause of Nucingen’s allowing an immense loan to be issued in
which his share was allotted to him, and which he gave over to them.
The stock-jobber could aim at a fortune any day with the artillery of
speculation, but the man was a slave to the hope of happiness.

The great banker drank some tea, and was nibbling at a slice of bread
and butter, as a man does whose teeth have for long been sharpened by
appetite, when he heard a carriage stop at the little garden gate. In a
few minutes his secretary brought in Contenson, whom he had run to earth
in a cafe not far from Sainte-Pelagie, where the man was breakfasting on
the strength of a bribe given to him by an imprisoned debtor for certain
allowances that must be paid for.

Contenson, you must know, was a whole poem--a Paris poem. Merely to
see him would have been enough to tell you that Beaumarchais’
_Figaro_, Moliere’s _Mascarille_, Marivaux’s _Frontin_, and Dancourt’s
_Lafleur_--those great representatives of audacious swindling, of
cunning driven to bay, of stratagem rising again from the ends of its
broken wires--were all quite second-rate by comparison with this giant
of cleverness and meanness. When in Paris you find a real type, he is no
longer a man, he is a spectacle; no longer a factor in life, but a whole
life, many lives.

Bake a plaster cast four times in a furnace, and you get a sort of
bastard imitation of Florentine bronze. Well, the thunderbolts of
numberless disasters, the pressure of terrible necessities, had bronzed
Contenson’s head, as though sweating in an oven had three times over
stained his skin. Closely-set wrinkles that could no longer be relaxed
made eternal furrows, whiter in their cracks. The yellow face was all
wrinkles. The bald skull, resembling Voltaire’s, was as parched as a
death’s-head, and but for a few hairs at the back it would have seemed
doubtful whether it was that of a living man. Under a rigid brow, a
pair of Chinese eyes, like those of an image under a glass shade in a
tea-shop--artificial eyes, which sham life but never vary--moved but
expressed nothing. The nose, as flat as that of a skull, sniffed at
fate; and the mouth, as thin-lipped as a miser’s, was always open, but
as expressionless as the grin of a letterbox.

Contenson, as apathetic as a savage, with sunburned hands, affected
that Diogenes-like indifference which can never bend to any formality of

And what a commentary on his life was written on his dress for any one
who can decipher a dress! Above all, what trousers! made, by long wear,
as black and shiny as the camlet of which lawyers’ gowns are made! A
waistcoat, bought in an old clothes shop in the Temple, with a deep
embroidered collar! A rusty black coat!--and everything well brushed,
clean after a fashion, and graced by a watch and an imitation gold
chain. Contenson allowed a triangle of shirt to show, with pleats in
which glittered a sham diamond pin; his black velvet stock set stiff
like a gorget, over which lay rolls of flesh as red as that of a
Caribbee. His silk hat was as glossy as satin, but the lining would have
yielded grease enough for two street lamps if some grocer had bought it
to boil down.

But to enumerate these accessories is nothing; if only I could give an
idea of the air of immense importance that Contenson contrived to impart
to them! There was something indescribably knowing in the collar of his
coat, and the fresh blacking on a pair of boots with gaping soles, to
which no language can do justice. However, to give some notion of this
medley of effect, it may be added that any man of intelligence would
have felt, only on seeing Contenson, that if instead of being a spy he
had been a thief, all these odds and ends, instead of raising a smile,
would have made one shudder with horror. Judging only from his dress,
the observer would have said to himself, “That is a scoundrel; he
gambles, he drinks, he is full of vices; but he does not get drunk, he
does not cheat, he is neither a thief nor a murderer.” And Contenson
remained inscrutable till the word spy suggested itself.

This man had followed as many unrecognized trades as there are
recognized ones. The sly smile on his lips, the twinkle of his green
eyes, the queer twitch of his snub nose, showed that he was not
deficient in humor. He had a face of sheet-tin, and his soul must
probably be like his face. Every movement of his countenance was a
grimace wrung from him by politeness rather than by any expression of
an inmost impulse. He would have been alarming if he had not seemed so

Contenson, one of the most curious products of the scum that rises to
the top of the seething Paris caldron, where everything ferments, prided
himself on being, above all things, a philosopher. He would say, without
any bitter feeling:

“I have great talents, but of what use are they? I might as well have
been an idiot.”

And he blamed himself instead of accusing mankind. Find, if you can,
many spies who have not had more venom about them than Contenson had.

“Circumstances are against me,” he would say to his chiefs. “We might be
fine crystal; we are but grains of sand, that is all.”

His indifference to dress had some sense. He cared no more about his
everyday clothes than an actor does; he excelled in disguising himself,
in “make-up”; he could have given Frederic Lemaitre a lesson, for he
could be a dandy when necessary. Formerly, in his younger days, he must
have mingled in the out-at-elbows society of people living on a humble
scale. He expressed excessive disgust for the criminal police corps;
for, under the Empire, he had belonged to Fouche’s police, and looked
upon him as a great man. Since the suppression of this Government
department, he had devoted his energies to the tracking of commercial
defaulters; but his well-known talents and acumen made him a valuable
auxiliary, and the unrecognized chiefs of the political police had kept
his name on their lists. Contenson, like his fellows, was only a super
in the dramas of which the leading parts were played by his chief when a
political investigation was in the wind.

“Go ‘vay,” said Nucingen, dismissing his secretary with a wave of the

“Why should this man live in a mansion and I in a lodging?” wondered
Contenson to himself. “He has dodged his creditors three times; he has
robbed them; I never stole a farthing; I am a cleverer fellow than he

“Contenson, mein freund,” said the Baron, “you haf vat you call pleed me
of one tousand-franc note.”

“My girl owed God and the devil----”

“Vat, you haf a girl, a mistress!” cried Nucingen, looking at Contenson
with admiration not unmixed with envy.

“I am but sixty-six,” replied Contenson, as a man whom vice has kept
young as a bad example.

“And vat do she do?”

“She helps me,” said Contenson. “When a man is a thief, and an honest
woman loves him, either she becomes a thief or he becomes an honest man.
I have always been a spy.”

“And you vant money--alvays?” asked Nucingen.

“Always,” said Contenson, with a smile. “It is part of my business
to want money, as it is yours to make it; we shall easily come to an
understanding. You find me a little, and I will undertake to spend it.
You shall be the well, and I the bucket.”

“Vould you like to haf one note for fife hundert franc?”

“What a question! But what a fool I am!--You do not offer it out of a
disinterested desire to repair the slights of Fortune?”

“Not at all. I gif it besides the one tousand-franc note vat you pleed
me off. Dat makes fifteen hundert franc vat I gif you.”

“Very good, you give me the thousand francs I have had and you will add
five hundred francs.”

“Yust so,” said Nucingen, nodding.

“But that still leaves only five hundred francs,” said Contenson

“Dat I gif,” added the Baron.

“That I take. Very good; and what, Monsieur le Baron, do you want for

“I haf been told dat dere vas in Paris one man vat could find the voman
vat I lof, and dat you know his address.... A real master to spy.”

“Very true.”

“Vell den, gif me dat address, and I gif you fife hundert franc.”

“Where are they?” said Contenson.

“Here dey are,” said the Baron, drawing a note out of his pocket.

“All right, hand them over,” said Contenson, holding out his hand.

“Noting for noting! Le us see de man, and you get de money; you might
sell to me many address at dat price.”

Contenson began to laugh.

“To be sure, you have a right to think that of me,” said he, with an air
of blaming himself. “The more rascally our business is, the more honesty
is necessary. But look here, Monsieur le Baron, make it six hundred, and
I will give you a bit of advice.”

“Gif it, and trust to my generosity.”

“I will risk it,” Contenson said, “but it is playing high. In such
matters, you see, we have to work underground. You say, ‘Quick
march!’--You are rich; you think that money can do everything. Well,
money is something, no doubt. Still, money can only buy men, as the two
or three best heads in our force so often say. And there are many things
you would never think of which money cannot buy.--You cannot buy good
luck. So good police work is not done in this style. Will you show
yourself in a carriage with me? We should be seen. Chance is just as
often for us as against us.”

“Really-truly?” said the Baron.

“Why, of course, sir. A horseshoe picked up in the street led the chief
of the police to the discovery of the infernal machine. Well, if we were
to go to-night in a hackney coach to Monsieur de Saint-Germain, he would
not like to see you walk in any more than you would like to be seen
going there.”

“Dat is true,” said the Baron.

“Ah, he is the greatest of the great! such another as the famous
Corentin, Fouche’s right arm, who was, some say, his natural son, born
while he was still a priest; but that is nonsense. Fouche knew how to
be a priest as he knew how to be a Minister. Well, you will not get this
man to do anything for you, you see, for less than ten thousand-franc
notes--think of that.--But he will do the job, and do it well. Neither
seen nor heard, as they say. I ought to give Monsieur de Saint-Germanin
notice, and he will fix a time for your meeting in some place where no
one can see or hear, for it is a dangerous game to play policeman for
private interests. Still, what is to be said? He is a good fellow, the
king of good fellows, and a man who has undergone much persecution, and
for having saving his country too!--like me, like all who helped to save

“Vell den, write and name de happy day,” said the Baron, smiling at his
humble jest.

“And Monsieur le Baron will allow me to drink his health?” said
Contenson, with a manner at once cringing and threatening.

“Shean,” cried the Baron to the gardener, “go and tell Chorge to sent me
one twenty francs, and pring dem to me----”

“Still, Monsieur le Baron, if you have no more information than you have
just given me, I doubt whether the great man can be of any use to you.”

“I know off oders!” replied the Baron with a cunning look.

“I have the honor to bid you good-morning, Monsieur le Baron,” said
Contenson, taking the twenty-franc piece. “I shall have the honor of
calling again to tell Georges where you are to go this evening, for we
never write anything in such cases when they are well managed.”

“It is funny how sharp dese rascals are!” said the Baron to himself; “it
is de same mit de police as it is in buss’niss.”

When he left the Baron, Contenson went quietly from the Rue Saint-Lazare
to the Rue Saint-Honore, as far as the Cafe David. He looked in through
the windows, and saw an old man who was known there by the name of le
Pere Canquoelle.

The Cafe David, at the corner of the Rue de la Monnaie and the Rue
Saint-Honore, enjoyed a certain celebrity during the first thirty years
of the century, though its fame was limited to the quarter known as
that of the Bourdonnais. Here certain old retired merchants, and large
shopkeepers still in trade, were wont to meet--the Camusots, the Lebas,
the Pilleraults, the Popinots, and a few house-owners like little old
Molineux. Now and again old Guillaume might be seen there, coming
from the Rue du Colombier. Politics were discussed in a quiet way, but
cautiously, for the opinions of the Cafe David were liberal. The gossip
of the neighborhood was repeated, men so urgently feel the need of
laughing at each other!

This cafe, like all cafes for that matter, had its eccentric character
in the person of the said Pere Canquoelle, who had been regular in
his attendance there since 1811, and who seemed to be so completely in
harmony with the good folks who assembled there, that they all talked
politics in his presence without reserve. Sometimes this old fellow,
whose guilelessness was the subject of much laughter to the customers,
would disappear for a month or two; but his absence never surprised
anybody, and was always attributed to his infirmities or his great age,
for he looked more than sixty in 1811.

“What has become of old Canquoelle?” one or another would ask of the
manageress at the desk.

“I quite expect that one fine day we shall read in the
advertisement-sheet that he is dead,” she would reply.

Old Canquoelle bore a perpetual certificate of his native province
in his accent. He spoke of _une estatue_ (a statue), _le peuble_ (the
people), and said _ture_ for _turc_. His name was that of a tiny estate
called les Canquoelles, a word meaning cockchafer in some districts,
situated in the department of Vaucluse, whence he had come. At last
every one had fallen into the habit of calling him Canquoelle, instead
of des Canquoelles, and the old man took no offence, for in his
opinion the nobility had perished in 1793; and besides, the land of les
Canquoelles did not belong to him; he was a younger son’s younger son.

Nowadays old Canquoelle’s costume would look strange, but between 1811
and 1820 it astonished no one. The old man wore shoes with cut-steel
buckles, silk stockings with stripes round the leg, alternately blue and
white, corded silk knee-breeches with oval buckles cut to match those
on his shoes. A white embroidered waistcoat, an old coat of olive-brown
with metal buttons, and a shirt with a flat-pleated frill completed his
costume. In the middle of the shirt-frill twinkled a small gold locket,
in which might be seen, under glass, a little temple worked in hair, one
of those pathetic trifles which give men confidence, just as a scarecrow
frightens sparrows. Most men, like other animals, are frightened or
reassured by trifles. Old Canquoelle’s breeches were kept in place by a
buckle which, in the fashion of the last century, tightened them across
the stomach; from the belt hung on each side a short steel chain,
composed of several finer chains, and ending in a bunch of seals. His
white neckcloth was fastened behind by a small gold buckle. Finally,
on his snowy and powdered hair, he still, in 1816, wore the municipal
cocked hat which Monsieur Try, the President of the Law Courts, also
used to wear. But Pere Canquoelle had recently substituted for this hat,
so dear to old men, the undignified top-hat, which no one dares to rebel
against. The good man thought he owed so much as this to the spirit of
the age. A small pigtail tied with a ribbon had traced a semicircle on
the back of his coat, the greasy mark being hidden by powder.

If you looked no further than the most conspicuous feature of his face,
a nose covered with excrescences red and swollen enough to figure in
a dish of truffles, you might have inferred that the worthy man had an
easy temper, foolish and easy-going, that of a perfect gaby; and you
would have been deceived, like all at the Cafe David, where no one had
ever remarked the studious brow, the sardonic mouth, and the cold eyes
of this old man, petted by his vices, and as calm as Vitellius, whose
imperial and portly stomach reappeared in him palingenetically, so to

In 1816 a young commercial traveler named Gaudissart, who frequented
the Cafe David, sat drinking from eleven o’clock till midnight with a
half-pay officer. He was so rash as to discuss a conspiracy against the
Bourbons, a rather serious plot then on the point of execution. There
was no one to be seen in the cafe but Pere Canquoelle, who seemed to
be asleep, two waiters who were dozing, and the accountant at the desk.
Within four-and-twenty hours Gaudissart was arrested, the plot was
discovered. Two men perished on the scaffold. Neither Gaudissart nor any
one else ever suspected that worthy old Canquoelle of having peached.
The waiters were dismissed; for a year they were all on their guard and
afraid of the police--as Pere Canquoelle was too; indeed, he talked of
retiring from the Cafe David, such horror had he of the police.

Contenson went into the cafe, asked for a glass of brandy, and did not
look at Canquoelle, who sat reading the papers; but when he had gulped
down the brandy, he took out the Baron’s gold piece, and called the
waiter by rapping three short raps on the table. The lady at the
desk and the waiter examined the coin with a minute care that was not
flattering to Contenson; but their suspicions were justified by the
astonishment produced on all the regular customers by Contenson’s

“Was that gold got by theft or by murder?”

This was the idea that rose to some clear and shrewd minds as they
looked at Contenson over their spectacles, while affecting to read the
news. Contenson, who saw everything and never was surprised at anything,
scornfully wiped his lips with a bandana, in which there were but three
darns, took his change, slipped all the coppers into his side pocket,
of which the lining, once white, was now as black as the cloth of the
trousers, and did not leave one for the waiter.

“What a gallows-bird!” said Pere Canquoelle to his neighbor Monsieur

“Pshaw!” said Monsieur Camusot to all the company, for he alone had
expressed no astonishment, “it is Contenson, Louchard’s right-hand man,
the police agent we employ in business. The rascals want to nab some one
who is hanging about perhaps.”

It would seem necessary to explain here the terrible and profoundly
cunning man who was hidden under the guise of Pere Canquoelle, as
Vautrin was hidden under that of the Abbe Carlos.

Born at Canquoelles, the only possession of his family, which was highly
respectable, this Southerner’s name was Peyrade. He belonged, in fact,
to the younger branch of the Peyrade family, an old but impoverished
house of Franche Comte, still owning the little estate of la Peyrade.
The seventh child of his father, he had come on foot to Paris in 1772
at the age of seventeen, with two crowns of six francs in his pocket,
prompted by the vices of an ardent spirit and the coarse desire to “get
on,” which brings so many men to Paris from the south as soon as they
understand that their father’s property can never supply them with means
to gratify their passions. It is enough to say of Peyrade’s youth that
in 1782 he was in the confidence of chiefs of the police and the hero
of the department, highly esteemed by MM. Lenoir and d’Albert, the last
Lieutenant-Generals of Police.

The Revolution had no police; it needed none. Espionage, though common
enough, was called public spirit.

The Directorate, a rather more regular government than that of the
Committee of Public Safety, was obliged to reorganize the Police, and
the first Consul completed the work by instituting a Prefect of Police
and a department of police supervision.

Peyrade, a man knowing the traditions, collected the force with the
assistance of a man named Corentin, a far cleverer man than Peyrade,
though younger; but he was a genius only in the subterranean ways of
police inquiries. In 1808 the great services Peyrade was able to
achieve were rewarded by an appointment to the eminent position of
Chief Commissioner of Police at Antwerp. In Napoleon’s mind this sort of
Police Governorship was equivalent to a Minister’s post, with the duty
of superintending Holland. At the end of the campaign of 1809, Peyrade
was removed from Antwerp by an order in Council from the Emperor,
carried in a chaise to Paris between two gendarmes, and imprisoned in la
Force. Two months later he was let out on bail furnished by his friend
Corentin, after having been subjected to three examinations, each
lasting six hours, in the office of the head of the Police.

Did Peyrade owe his overthrow to the miraculous energy he displayed in
aiding Fouche in the defence of the French coast when threatened by
what was known at the time as the Walcheren expedition, when the Duke of
Otranto manifested such abilities as alarmed the Emperor? Fouche thought
it probable even then; and now, when everybody knows what went on in the
Cabinet Council called together by Cambaceres, it is absolutely certain.
The Ministers, thunderstruck by the news of England’s attempt, a
retaliation on Napoleon for the Boulogne expedition, and taken by
surprise when the Master was entrenched in the island of Lobau, where
all Europe believed him to be lost, had not an idea which way to turn.
The general opinion was in favor of sending post haste to the Emperor;
Fouche alone was bold enough to sketch a plan of campaign, which, in
fact, he carried into execution.

“Do as you please,” said Cambaceres; “but I, who prefer to keep my head
on my shoulders, shall send a report to the Emperor.”

It is well known that the Emperor on his return found an absurd pretext,
at a full meeting of the Council of State, for discarding his Minister
and punishing him for having saved France without the Sovereign’s help.
From that time forth, Napoleon had doubled the hostility of Prince
de Talleyrand and the Duke of Otranto, the only two great politicians
formed by the Revolution, who might perhaps have been able to save
Napoleon in 1813.

To get rid of Peyrade, he was simply accused of connivance in favoring
smuggling and sharing certain profits with the great merchants. Such an
indignity was hard on a man who had earned the Marshal’s baton of the
Police Department by the great services he had done. This man, who had
grown old in active business, knew all the secrets of every Government
since 1775, when he had entered the service. The Emperor, who believed
himself powerful enough to create men for his own uses, paid no heed to
the representations subsequently laid before him in favor of a man who
was reckoned as one of the most trustworthy, most capable, and most
acute of the unknown genii whose task it is to watch over the safety
of a State. He thought he could put Contenson in Peyrade’s place; but
Contenson was at that time employed by Corentin for his own benefit.

Peyrade felt the blow all the more keenly because, being greedy and a
libertine, he had found himself, with regard to women, in the position
of a pastry-cook who loves sweetmeats. His habits of vice had become to
him a second nature; he could not live without a good dinner, without
gambling, in short, without the life of an unpretentious fine gentleman,
in which men of powerful faculties so generally indulge when they have
allowed excessive dissipation to become a necessity. Hitherto, he had
lived in style without ever being expected to entertain; and living
well, for no one ever looked for a return from him, or from his friend
Corentin. He was cynically witty, and he liked his profession; he was
a philosopher. And besides, a spy, whatever grade he may hold in the
machinery of the police, can no more return to a profession regarded as
honorable or liberal, than a prisoner from the hulks can. Once branded,
once matriculated, spies and convicts, like deacons, have assumed an
indelible character. There are beings on whom social conditions impose
an inevitable fate.

Peyrade, for his further woe, was very fond of a pretty little girl whom
he knew to be his own child by a celebrated actress to whom he had done
a signal service, and who, for three months, had been grateful to him.
Peyrade, who had sent for his child from Antwerp, now found himself
without employment in Paris and with no means beyond a pension of twelve
hundred francs a year allowed him by the Police Department as Lenoir’s
old disciple. He took lodgings in the Rue des Moineaux on the fourth
floor, five little rooms, at a rent of two hundred and fifty francs.

If any man should be aware of the uses and sweets of friendship, is
it not the moral leper known to the world as a spy, to the mob as a
_mouchard_, to the department as an “agent”? Peyrade and Corentin were
such friends as Orestes and Pylades. Peyrade had trained Corentin as
Vien trained David; but the pupil soon surpassed his master. They had
carried out more than one undertaking together. Peyrade, happy at having
discerned Corentin’s superior abilities, had started him in his career
by preparing a success for him. He obliged his disciple to make use of
a mistress who had scorned him as a bait to catch a man (see _The
Chouans_). And Corentin at that time was hardly five-and-twenty.

Corentin, who had been retained as one of the generals of whom the
Minister of Police is the High Constable, still held under the Duc de
Rovigo the high position he had filled under the Duke of Otranto. Now
at that time the general police and the criminal police were managed on
similar principles. When any important business was on hand, an account
was opened, as it were, for the three, four, five, really capable
agents. The Minister, on being warned of some plot, by whatever means,
would say to one of his colonels of the police force:

“How much will you want to achieve this or that result?”

Corentin or Contenson would go into the matter and reply:

“Twenty, thirty, or forty thousand francs.”

Then, as soon as the order was given to go ahead, all the means and the
men were left to the judgment of Corentin or the agent selected. And the
criminal police used to act in the same way to discover crimes with the
famous Vidocq.

Both branches of the police chose their men chiefly from among the ranks
of well-known agents, who have matriculated in the business, and are,
as it were, as soldiers of the secret army, so indispensable to a
government, in spite of the public orations of philanthropists or
narrow-minded moralists. But the absolute confidence placed in two men
of the temper of Peyrade and Corentin conveyed to them the right
of employing perfect strangers, under the risk, moreover, of being
responsible to the Minister in all serious cases. Peyrade’s experience
and acumen were too valuable to Corentin, who, after the storm of 1820
had blown over, employed his old friend, constantly consulted him, and
contributed largely to his maintenance. Corentin managed to put about a
thousand francs a month into Peyrade’s hands.

Peyrade, on his part, did Corentin good service. In 1816 Corentin, on
the strength of the discovery of the conspiracy in which the Bonapartist
Gaudissart was implicated, tried to get Peyrade reinstated in his place
in the police office; but some unknown influence was working against
Peyrade. This was the reason why.

In their anxiety to make themselves necessary, Peyrade, Corentin, and
Contenson, at the Duke of Otranto’s instigation, had organized for
the benefit of Louis XVIII. a sort of opposition police in which very
capable agents were employed. Louis XVIII. died possessed of secrets
which will remain secrets from the best informed historians. The
struggle between the general police of the kingdom, and the King’s
opposition police, led to many horrible disasters, of which a certain
number of executions sealed the secrets. This is neither the place
nor the occasion for entering into details on this subject, for these
“Scenes of Paris Life” are not “Scenes of Political Life.” Enough has
been said to show what were the means of living of the man who at the
Cafe David was known as good old Canquoelle, and by what threads he was
tied to the terrible and mysterious powers of the police.

Between 1817 and 1822, Corentin, Contenson, Peyrade, and their
myrmidons, were often required to keep watch over the Minister of Police
himself. This perhaps explains why the Minister declined to employ
Peyrade and Contenson, on whom Corentin contrived to cast the Minister’s
suspicions, in order to be able to make use of his friend when his
reinstatement was evidently out of the question. The Ministry put their
faith in Corentin; they enjoined him to keep an eye on Peyrade, which
amused Louis XVIII. Corentin and Peyrade were then masters of the
position. Contenson, long attached to Peyrade, was still at his
service. He had joined the force of the commercial police (the Gardes du
Commerce) by his friend’s orders. And, in fact, as a result of the sort
of zeal that is inspired by a profession we love, these two chiefs liked
to place their best men in those posts where information was most likely
to flow in.

And, indeed, Contenson’s vices and dissipated habits, which had dragged
him lower than his two friends, consumed so much money, that he needed a
great deal of business.

Contenson, without committing any indiscretion, had told Louchard that
he knew the only man who was capable of doing what the Baron de Nucingen
required. Peyrade was, in fact, the only police-agent who could act
on behalf of a private individual with impunity. At the death of Louis
XVIII., Peyrade had not only ceased to be of consequence, but had lost
the profits of his position as spy-in-ordinary to His Majesty. Believing
himself to be indispensable, he had lived fast. Women, high feeding,
and the club, the _Cercle des Etrangers_, had prevented this man from
saving, and, like all men cut out for debauchery, he enjoyed an iron
constitution. But between 1826 and 1829, when he was nearly seventy-four
years of age, he had stuck half-way, to use his own expression. Year by
year he saw his comforts dwindling. He followed the police department
to its grave, and saw with regret that Charles X.’s government was
departing from its good old traditions. Every session saw the estimates
pared down which were necessary to keep up the police, out of hatred
for that method of government and a firm determination to reform that

“It is as if they thought they could cook in white gloves,” said Peyrade
to Corentin.

In 1822 this couple foresaw 1830. They knew how bitterly Louis XVIII.
hated his successor, which accounts for his recklessness with regard to
the younger branch, and without which his reign would be an unanswerable

As Peyrade grew older, his love for his natural daughter had increased.
For her sake he had adopted his citizen guise, for he intended that his
Lydie should marry respectably. So for the last three years he had been
especially anxious to find a corner, either at the Prefecture of Police,
or in the general Police Office--some ostensible and recognized post.
He had ended by inventing a place, of which the necessity, as he told
Corentin, would sooner or later be felt. He was anxious to create an
inquiry office at the Prefecture of Police, to be intermediate between
the Paris police in the strictest sense, the criminal police, and the
superior general police, so as to enable the supreme board to profit by
the various scattered forces. No one but Peyrade, at his age, and after
fifty-five years of confidential work, could be the connecting link
between the three branches of the police, or the keeper of the records
to whom political and judicial authority alike could apply for the
elucidation of certain cases. By this means Peyrade hoped, with
Corentin’s assistance, to find a husband and scrape together a portion
for his little Lydie. Corentin had already mentioned the matter to
the Director-General of the police forces of the realm, without naming
Peyrade; and the Director-General, a man from the south, thought it
necessary that the suggestion should come from the chief of the city

At the moment when Contenson struck three raps on the table with the
gold piece, a signal conveying, “I want to speak to you,” the senior was
reflecting on this problem: “By whom, and under what pressure can the
Prefet of Police be made to move?”--And he looked like a noodle studying
his _Courrier Francais_.

“Poor Fouche!” thought he to himself, as he made his way along the Rue
Saint-Honore, “that great man is dead! our go-betweens with Louis XVIII.
are out of favor. And besides, as Corentin said only yesterday, nobody
believes in the activity or the intelligence of a man of seventy. Oh,
why did I get into a habit of dining at Very’s, of drinking choice
wines, of singing _La Mere Godichon_, of gambling when I am in funds?
To get a place and keep it, as Corentin says, it is not enough to be
clever, you must have the gift of management. Poor dear M. Lenoir was
right when he wrote to me in the matter of the Queen’s necklace, ‘You
will never do any good,’ when he heard that I did not stay under that
slut Oliva’s bed.”

If the venerable Pere Canquoelle--he was called so in the house--lived
on in the Rue des Moineaux, on a fourth floor, you may depend on it
he had found some peculiarity in the arrangement of the premises which
favored the practice of his terrible profession.

The house, standing at the corner of the Rue Saint-Roch, had no
neighbors on one side; and as the staircase up the middle divided it
into two, there were on each floor two perfectly isolated rooms. Those
two rooms looked out on the Rue Saint-Roch. There were garret rooms
above the fourth floor, one of them a kitchen, and the other a bedroom
for Pere Canquoelle’s only servant, a Fleming named Katt, formerly
Lydie’s wet-nurse. Old Canquoelle had taken one of the outside rooms
for his bedroom, and the other for his study. The study ended at the
party-wall, a very thick one. The window opening on the Rue des Moineaux
looked on a blank wall at the opposite corner. As this study was divided
from the stairs by the whole width of Peyrade’s bedroom, the friends
feared no eye, no ear, as they talked business in this study made on
purpose for his detestable trade.

Peyrade, as a further precaution, had furnished Katt’s room with a thick
straw bed, a felt carpet, and a very heavy rug, under the pretext
of making his child’s nurse comfortable. He had also stopped up the
chimney, warming his room by a stove, with a pipe through the wall
to the Rue Saint-Roch. Finally, he laid several rugs on his floor to
prevent the slightest sound being heard by the neighbors beneath. An
expert himself in the tricks of spies, he sounded the outer wall, the
ceiling, and the floor once a week, examining them as if he were in
search of noxious insects. It was the security of this room from
all witnesses or listeners that had made Corentin select it as his
council-chamber when he did not hold a meeting in his own room.

Where Corentin lived was known to no one but the Chief of the Superior
Police and to Peyrade; he received there such personages as the Ministry
or the King selected to conduct very serious cases; but no agent or
subordinate ever went there, and he plotted everything connected with
their business at Peyrade’s. In this unpretentious room schemes were
matured, and resolutions passed, which would have furnished strange
records and curious dramas if only walls could talk. Between 1816 and
1826 the highest interests were discussed there. There first germinated
the events which grew to weigh on France. There Peyrade and Corentin,
with all the foresight, and more than all the information of Bellart,
the Attorney-General, had said even in 1819: “If Louis XVIII. does not
consent to strike such or such a blow, to make away with such or such
a prince, is it because he hates his brother? He must wish to leave him
heir to a revolution.”

Peyrade’s door was graced with a slate, on which very strange marks
might sometimes be seen, figures scrawled in chalk. This sort of devil’s
algebra bore the clearest meaning to the initiated.

Lydie’s rooms, opposite to Peyrade’s shabby lodging, consisted of an
ante-room, a little drawing-room, a bedroom, and a small dressing-room.
The door, like that of Peyrade’s room, was constructed of a plate of
sheet-iron three lines thick, sandwiched between two strong oak planks,
fitted with locks and elaborate hinges, making it as impossible to force
it as if it were a prison door. Thus, though the house had a public
passage through it, with a shop below and no doorkeeper, Lydie lived
there without a fear. The dining-room, the little drawing-room, and her
bedroom--every window-balcony a hanging garden--were luxurious in their
Dutch cleanliness.

The Flemish nurse had never left Lydie, whom she called her daughter.
The two went to church with a regularity that gave the royalist grocer,
who lived below, in the corner shop, an excellent opinion of the worthy
Canquoelle. The grocer’s family, kitchen, and counter-jumpers occupied
the first floor and the entresol; the landlord inhabited the second
floor; and the third had been let for twenty years past to a lapidary.
Each resident had a key of the street door. The grocer’s wife was all
the more willing to receive letters and parcels addressed to these three
quiet households, because the grocer’s shop had a letter-box.

Without these details, strangers, or even those who know Paris well,
could not have understood the privacy and quietude, the isolation and
safety which made this house exceptional in Paris. After midnight,
Pere Canquoelle could hatch plots, receive spies or ministers, wives or
hussies, without any one on earth knowing anything about it.

Peyrade, of whom the Flemish woman would say to the grocer’s cook, “He
would not hurt a fly!” was regarded as the best of men. He grudged his
daughter nothing. Lydie, who had been taught music by Schmucke, was
herself a musician capable of composing; she could wash in a sepia
drawing, and paint in gouache and water-color. Every Sunday Peyrade
dined at home with her. On that day this worthy was wholly paternal.

Lydie, religious but not a bigot, took the Sacrament at Easter, and
confessed every month. Still, she allowed herself from time to time to
be treated to the play. She walked in the Tuileries when it was fine.
These were all her pleasures, for she led a sedentary life. Lydie, who
worshiped her father, knew absolutely nothing of his sinister gifts and
dark employments. Not a wish had ever disturbed this pure child’s pure
life. Slight and handsome like her mother, gifted with an exquisite
voice, and a delicate face framed in fine fair hair, she looked like
one of those angels, mystical rather than real, which some of the early
painters grouped in the background of the Holy Family. The glance of her
blue eyes seemed to bring a beam from the sky on those she favored with
a look. Her dress, quite simple, with no exaggeration of fashion, had a
delightful middle-class modesty. Picture to yourself an old Satan as the
father of an angel, and purified in her divine presence, and you will
have an idea of Peyrade and his daughter. If anybody had soiled this
jewel, her father would have invented, to swallow him alive, one of
those dreadful plots in which, under the Restoration, the unhappy
wretches were trapped who were designate to die on the scaffold. A
thousand crowns were ample maintenance for Lydie and Katt, whom she
called nurse.

As Peyrade turned into the Rue des Moineaux, he saw Contenson; he
outstripped him, went upstairs before him, heard the man’s steps on the
stairs, and admitted him before the woman had put her nose out of the
kitchen door. A bell rung by the opening of a glass door, on the third
story where the lapidary lived warned the residents on that and the
fourth floors when a visitor was coming to them. It need hardly be said
that, after midnight, Peyrade muffled this bell.

“What is up in such a hurry, Philosopher?”

Philosopher was the nickname bestowed on Contenson by Peyrade, and well
merited by the Epictetus among police agents. The name of Contenson,
alas! hid one of the most ancient names of feudal Normandy.

“Well, there is something like ten thousand francs to be netted.”

“What is it? Political?”

“No, a piece of idiocy. Baron de Nucingen, you know, the old certified
swindler, is neighing after a woman he saw in the Bois de Vincennes,
and she has got to be found, or he will die of love.--They had a
consultation of doctors yesterday, by what his man tells me.--I have
already eased him of a thousand francs under pretence of seeking the
fair one.”

And Contenson related Nucingen’s meeting with Esther, adding that the
Baron had now some further information.

“All right,” said Peyrade, “we will find his Dulcinea; tell the Baron
to come to-night in a carriage to the Champs-Elysees--the corner of the
Avenue de Gabriel and the Allee de Marigny.”

Peyrade saw Contenson out, and knocked at his daughter’s rooms, as
he always knocked to be let in. He was full of glee; chance had just
offered the means, at last, of getting the place he longed for.

He flung himself into a deep armchair, after kissing Lydie on the
forehead, and said:

“Play me something.”

Lydie played him a composition for the piano by Beethoven.

“That is very well played, my pet,” said he, taking Lydie on his knees.
“Do you know that we are one-and-twenty years old? We must get married
soon, for our old daddy is more than seventy----”

“I am quite happy here,” said she.

“You love no one but your ugly old father?” asked Peyrade.

“Why, whom should I love?”

“I am dining at home, my darling; go and tell Katt. I am thinking of
settling, of getting an appointment, and finding a husband worthy of
you; some good young man, very clever, whom you may some day be proud

“I have never seen but one yet that I should have liked for a

“You have seen one then?”

“Yes, in the Tuileries,” replied Lydie. “He walked past me; he was
giving his arm to the Comtesse de Serizy.”

“And his name is?”

“Lucien de Rubempre.--I was sitting with Katt under a lime-tree,
thinking of nothing. There were two ladies sitting by me, and one said
to the other, ‘There are Madame de Serizy and that handsome Lucien de
Rubempre.’--I looked at the couple that the two ladies were watching.
‘Oh, my dear!’ said the other, ‘some women are very lucky! That woman
is allowed to do everything she pleases just because she was a de
Ronquerolles, and her husband is in power.’--‘But, my dear,’ said the
other lady, ‘Lucien costs her very dear.’--What did she mean, papa?”

“Just nonsense, such as people of fashion will talk,” replied Peyrade,
with an air of perfect candor. “Perhaps they were alluding to political

“Well, in short, you asked me a question, so I answer you. If you want
me to marry, find me a husband just like that young man.”

“Silly child!” replied her father. “The fact that a man is handsome
is not always a sign of goodness. Young men gifted with an attractive
appearance meet with no obstacles at the beginning of life, so they make
no use of any talent; they are corrupted by the advances made to them
by society, and they have to pay interest later for their
attractiveness!--What I should like for you is what the middle classes,
the rich, and the fools leave unholpen and unprotected----”

“What, father?”

“An unrecognized man of talent. But, there, child; I have it in my power
to hunt through every garret in Paris, and carry out your programme by
offering for your affection a man as handsome as the young scamp you
speak of; but a man of promise, with a future before him destined to
glory and fortune.--By the way, I was forgetting. I must have a whole
flock of nephews, and among them there must be one worthy of you!--I
will write, or get some one to write to Provence.”

A strange coincidence! At this moment a young man, half-dead of hunger
and fatigue, who had come on foot from the department of Vaucluse--a
nephew of Pere Canquoelle’s in search of his uncle, was entering Paris
through the Barriere de l’Italie. In the day-dreams of the family,
ignorant of this uncle’s fate, Peyrade had supplied the text for many
hopes; he was supposed to have returned from India with millions!
Stimulated by these fireside romances, this grand-nephew, named
Theodore, had started on a voyage round the world in quest of this
eccentric uncle.

After enjoying for some hours the joys of paternity, Peyrade, his hair
washed and dyed--for his powder was a disguise--dressed in a stout,
coarse, blue frock-coat buttoned up to the chin, and a black cloak, shod
in strong, thick-soled boots, furnished himself with a private card and
walked slowly along the Avenue Gabriel, where Contenson, dressed as
an old costermonger woman, met him in front of the gardens of the

“Monsieur de Saint-Germain,” said Contenson, giving his old chief the
name he was officially known by, “you have put me in the way of making
five hundred pieces (francs); but what I came here for was to tell you
that that damned Baron, before he gave me the shiners, had been to ask
questions at the house (the Prefecture of Police).”

“I shall want you, no doubt,” replied Peyrade. “Look up numbers 7, 10,
and 21; we can employ those men without any one finding it out, either
at the Police Ministry or at the Prefecture.”

Contenson went back to a post near the carriage in which Monsieur de
Nucingen was waiting for Peyrade.

“I am Monsieur de Saint-Germain,” said Peyrade to the Baron, raising
himself to look over the carriage door.

“Ver’ goot; get in mit me,” replied the Baron, ordering the coachman to
go on slowly to the Arc de l’Etoile.

“You have been to the Prefecture of Police, Monsieur le Baron? That was
not fair. Might I ask what you said to M. le Prefet, and what he said in
reply?” asked Peyrade.

“Before I should gif fife hundert francs to a filain like Contenson, I
vant to know if he had earned dem. I simply said to the Prefet of Police
dat I vant to employ ein agent named Peyrate to go abroat in a delicate
matter, an’ should I trust him--unlimited!--The Prefet telt me you vas a
very clefer man an’ ver’ honest man. An’ dat vas everything.”

“And now that you have learned my true name, Monsieur le Baron, will you
tell me what it is you want?”

When the Baron had given a long and copious explanation, in his hideous
Polish-Jew dialect, of his meeting with Esther and the cry of the man
behind the carriage, and his vain efforts, he ended by relating what had
occurred at his house the night before, Lucien’s involuntary smile,
and the opinion expressed by Bianchon and some other young dandies that
there must be some acquaintance between him and the unknown fair.

“Listen to me, Monsieur le Baron; you must, in the first instance, place
ten thousand francs in my hands, on account for expenses; for, to
you, this is a matter of life or death; and as your life is a
business-manufactory, nothing must be left undone to find this woman for
you. Oh, you are caught!----”

“Ja, I am caught!”

“If more money is wanted, Baron, I will let you know; put your trust in
me,” said Peyrade. “I am not a spy, as you perhaps imagine. In 1807 I
was Commissioner-General of Police at Antwerp; and now that Louis XVIII.
is dead, I may tell you in confidence that for seven years I was the
chief of his counter-police. So there is no beating me down. You
must understand, Monsieur le Baron, that it is impossible to make any
estimate of the cost of each man’s conscience before going into the
details of such an affair. Be quite easy; I shall succeed. Do not fancy
that you can satisfy me with a sum of money; I want something for my

“So long as dat is not a kingtom!” said the Baron.

“It is less than nothing to you.”

“Den I am your man.”

“You know the Kellers?”

“Oh! ver’ well.”

“Francois Keller is the Comte de Gondreville’s son-in-law, and the Comte
de Gondreville and his son-in-law dined with you yesterday.”

“Who der teufel tolt you dat?” cried the Baron. “Dat vill be Georche;
he is always a gossip.” Peyrade smiled, and the banker at once formed
strange suspicions of his man-servant.

“The Comte de Gondreville is quite in a position to obtain me a place I
covet at the Prefecture of Police; within forty-eight hours the prefet
will have notice that such a place is to be created,” said Peyrade
in continuation. “Ask for it for me; get the Comte de Gondreville to
interest himself in the matter with some degree of warmth--and you will
thus repay me for the service I am about to do you. I ask your word
only; for, if you fail me, sooner or later you will curse the day you
were born--you have Peyrade’s word for that.”

“I gif you mein vort of honor to do vat is possible.”

“If I do no more for you than is possible, it will not be enough.”

“Vell, vell, I vill act qvite frankly.”

“Frankly--that is all I ask,” said Peyrade, “and frankness is the only
thing at all new that you and I can offer to each other.”

“Frankly,” echoed the Baron. “Vere shall I put you down.”

“At the corner of the Pont Louis XVI.”

“To the Pont de la Chambre,” said the Baron to the footman at the
carriage door.

“Then I am to get dat unknown person,” said the Baron to himself as he
drove home.

“What a queer business!” thought Peyrade, going back on foot to the
Palais-Royal, where he intended trying to multiply his ten thousand
francs by three, to make a little fortune for Lydie. “Here I am required
to look into the private concerns of a very young man who has bewitched
my little girl by a glance. He is, I suppose, one of those men who
have an eye for a woman,” said he to himself, using an expression of
a language of his own, in which his observations, or Corentin’s, were
summed up in words that were anything rather than classical, but, for
that very reason, energetic and picturesque.

The Baron de Nucingen, when he went in, was an altered man; he
astonished his household and his wife by showing them a face full of
life and color, so cheerful did he feel.

“Our shareholders had better look out for themselves,” said du Tillet to

They were all at tea, in Delphine de Nucingen’s boudoir, having come in
from the opera.

“Ja,” said the Baron, smiling; “I feel ver’ much dat I shall do some

“Then you have seen the fair being?” asked Madame de Nucingen.

“No,” said he; “I have only hoped to see her.”

“Do men ever love their wives so?” cried Madame de Nucingen, feeling, or
affecting to feel, a little jealous.

“When you have got her, you must ask us to sup with her,” said du Tillet
to the Baron, “for I am very curious to study the creature who has made
you so young as you are.”

“She is a _cheff-d’oeufre_ of creation!” replied the old banker.

“He will be swindled like a boy,” said Rastignac in Delphine’s ear.

“Pooh! he makes quite enough money to----”

“To give a little back, I suppose,” said du Tillet, interrupting the

Nucingen was walking up and down the room as if his legs had the

“Now is your time to make him pay your fresh debts,” said Rastignac in
the Baroness’ ear.

At this very moment Carlos was leaving the Rue Taitbout full of hope; he
had been there to give some last advice to Europe, who was to play the
principal part in the farce devised to take in the Baron de Nucingen.
He was accompanied as far as the Boulevard by Lucien, who was not at all
easy at finding this demon so perfectly disguised that even he had only
recognized him by his voice.

“Where the devil did you find a handsomer woman than Esther?” he asked
his evil genius.

“My boy, there is no such thing to be found in Paris. Such a complexion
is not made in France.”

“I assure you, I am still quite amazed. Venus Callipyge has not such
a figure. A man would lose his soul for her. But where did she spring

“She was the handsomest girl in London. Drunk with gin, she killed her
lover in a fit of jealousy. The lover was a wretch of whom the London
police are well quit, and this woman was packed off to Paris for a time
to let the matter blow over. The hussy was well brought up--the daughter
of a clergyman. She speaks French as if it were her mother tongue. She
does not know, and never will know, why she is here. She was told that
if you took a fancy to her she might fleece you of millions, but that
you were as jealous as a tiger, and she was told how Esther lived.”

“But supposing Nucingen should prefer her to Esther?”

“Ah, it is out at last!” cried Carlos. “You dread now lest what dismayed
you yesterday should not take place after all! Be quite easy. That
fair and fair-haired girl has blue eyes; she is the antipodes of the
beautiful Jewess, and only such eyes as Esther’s could ever stir a man
so rotten as Nucingen. What the devil! you could not hide an ugly
woman. When this puppet has played her part, I will send her off in safe
custody to Rome or to Madrid, where she will be the rage.”

“If we have her only for a short time,” said Lucien, “I will go back to

“Go, my boy, amuse yourself. You will be a day older to-morrow. For my
part, I must wait for some one whom I have instructed to learn what is
going on at the Baron de Nucingen’s.”


“His valet’s mistress; for, after all, we must keep ourselves informed
at every moment of what is going on in the enemy’s camp.”

At midnight, Paccard, Esther’s tall chasseur, met Carlos on the Pont des
Arts, the most favorable spot in all Paris for saying a few words which
no one must overhear. All the time they talked the servant kept an eye
on one side, while his master looked out on the other.

“The Baron went to the Prefecture of Police this morning between four
and five,” said the man, “and he boasted this evening that he should
find the woman he saw in the Bois de Vincennes--he had been promised

“We are watched!” said Carlos. “By whom?”

“They have already employed Louchard the bailiff.”

“That would be child’s play,” replied Carlos. “We need fear nothing but
the guardians of public safety, the criminal police; and so long as that
is not set in motion, we can go on!”

“That is not all.”

“What else?”

“Our chums of the hulks.--I saw Lapouraille yesterday----He has choked
off a married couple, and has bagged ten thousand five-franc pieces--in

“He will be nabbed,” said Jacques Collin. “That is the Rue Boucher

“What is the order of the day?” said Paccard, with the respectful
demeanor a marshal must have assumed when taking his orders from Louis

“You must get out every evening at ten o’clock,” replied Herrera. “Make
your way pretty briskly to the Bois de Vincennes, the Bois de Meudon,
and de Ville-d’Avray. If any one should follow you, let them do it; be
free of speech, chatty, open to a bribe. Talk about Rubempre’s jealousy
and his mad passion for madame, saying that he would not on any account
have it known that he had a mistress of that kind.”

“Enough.--Must I have any weapons?”

“Never!” exclaimed Carlos vehemently. “A weapon? Of what use would that
be? To get us into a scrape. Do not under any circumstances use your
hunting-knife. When you know that you can break the strongest man’s
legs by the trick I showed you--when you can hold your own against three
armed warders, feeling quite sure that you can account for two of them
before they have got out flint and steel, what is there to be afraid of?
Have not you your cane?”

“To be sure,” said the man.

Paccard, nicknamed The Old Guard, Old Wide-Awake, or The Right Man--a
man with legs of iron, arms of steel, Italian whiskers, hair like an
artist’s, a beard like a sapper’s, and a face as colorless and immovable
as Contenson’s, kept his spirit to himself, and rejoiced in a sort of
drum-major appearance which disarmed suspicion. A fugitive from Poissy
or Melun has no such serious self-consciousness and belief in his own
merit. As Giafar to the Haroun el Rasheed of the hulks, he served him
with the friendly admiration which Peyrade felt for Corentin.

This huge fellow, with a small body in proportion to his legs,
flat-chested, and lean of limb, stalked solemnly about on his two long
pins. Whenever his right leg moved, his right eye took in everything
around him with the placid swiftness peculiar to thieves and spies.
The left eye followed the right eye’s example. Wiry, nimble, ready for
anything at any time, but for a weakness of Dutch courage Paccard would
have been perfect, Jacques Collin used to say, so completely was he
endowed with the talents indispensable to a man at war with society; but
the master had succeeded in persuading his slave to drink only in the
evening. On going home at night, Paccard tippled the liquid gold poured
into small glasses out of a pot-bellied stone jar from Danzig.

“We will make them open their eyes,” said Paccard, putting on his grand
hat and feathers after bowing to Carlos, whom he called his Confessor.

These were the events which had led three men, so clever, each in his
way, as Jacques Collin, Peyrade, and Corentin, to a hand-to-hand fight
on the same ground, each exerting his talents in a struggle for his
own passions or interests. It was one of those obscure but terrible
conflicts on which are expended in marches and countermarches, in
strategy, skill, hatred, and vexation, the powers that might make a fine
fortune. Men and means were kept absolutely secret by Peyarde, seconded
in this business by his friend Corentin--a business they thought but
a trifle. And so, as to them, history is silent, as it is on the true
causes of many revolutions.

But this was the result.

Five days after Monsieur de Nucingen’s interview with Peyrade in the
Champs Elysees, a man of about fifty called in the morning, stepping
out of a handsome cab, and flinging the reins to his servant. He had the
dead-white complexion which a life in the “world” gives to diplomates,
was dressed in blue cloth, and had a general air of fashion--almost that
of a Minister of State.

He inquired of the servant who sat on a bench on the steps whether the
Baron de Nucingen were at home; and the man respectfully threw open the
splendid plate-glass doors.

“Your name, sir?” said the footman.

“Tell the Baron that I have come from the Avenue Gabriel,” said
Corentin. “If anybody is with him, be sure not to say so too loud, or
you will find yourself out of place!”

A minute later the man came back and led Corentin by the back passages
to the Baron’s private room.

Corentin and the banker exchanged impenetrable glances, and both bowed

“Monsieur le Baron,” said Corentin, “I come in the name of Peyrade----”

“Ver’ gott!” said the Baron, fastening the bolts of both doors.

“Monsieur de Rubempre’s mistress lives in the Rue Taitbout, in the
apartment formerly occupied by Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille, M. de
Granville’s ex-mistress--the Attorney-General----”

“Vat, so near to me?” exclaimed the Baron. “Dat is ver’ strange.”

“I can quite understand your being crazy about that splendid creature;
it was a pleasure to me to look at her,” replied Corentin. “Lucien is so
jealous of the girl that he never allows her to be seen; and she loves
him devotedly; for in four years, since she succeeded la Bellefeuille
in those rooms, inheriting her furniture and her profession, neither the
neighbors, nor the porter, nor the other tenants in the house have ever
set eyes on her. My lady never stirs out but at night. When she sets
out, the blinds of the carriage are pulled down, and she is closely

“Lucien has other reasons besides jealousy for concealing this woman.
He is to be married to Clotilde de Grandlieu, and he is at this moment
Madame de Serizy’s favorite fancy. He naturally wishes to keep a hold on
his fashionable mistress and on his promised bride. So, you are master
of the position, for Lucien will sacrifice his pleasure to his interests
and his vanity. You are rich; this is probably your last chance of
happiness; be liberal. You can gain your end through her waiting-maid.
Give the slut ten thousand francs; she will hide you in her mistress’
bedroom. It must be quite worth that to you.”

No figure of speech could describe the short, precise tone of finality
in which Corentin spoke; the Baron could not fail to observe it, and his
face expressed his astonishment--an expression he had long expunged from
his impenetrable features.

“I have also to ask you for five thousand francs for my friend Peyrade,
who has dropped five of your thousand-franc notes--a tiresome accident,”
 Corentin went on, in a lordly tone of command. “Peyrade knows his Paris
too well to spend money in advertising, and he trusts entirely to you.
But this is not the most important point,” added Corentin, checking
himself in such a way as to make the request for money seem quite a
trifle. “If you do not want to end your days miserably, get the place
for Peyrade that he asked you to procure for him--and it is a thing you
can easily do. The Chief of the General Police must have had notice of
the matter yesterday. All that is needed is to get Gondreville to
speak to the Prefet of Police.--Very well, just say to Malin, Comte de
Gondreville, that it is to oblige one of the men who relieved him of MM.
de Simeuse, and he will work it----”

“Here den, mensieur,” said the Baron, taking out five thousand-franc
notes and handing them to Corentin.

“The waiting-maid is great friends with a tall chasseur named Paccard,
living in the Rue de Provence, over a carriage-builder’s; he goes out
as heyduque to persons who give themselves princely airs. You can get at
Madame van Bogseck’s woman through Paccard, a brawny Piemontese, who has
a liking for vermouth.”

This information, gracefully thrown in as a postscript, was evidently
the return for the five thousand francs. The Baron was trying to guess
Corentin’s place in life, for he quite understood that the man was
rather a master of spies than a spy himself; but Corentin remained
to him as mysterious as an inscription is to an archaeologist when
three-quarters of the letters are missing.

“Vat is dat maid called?” he asked.

“Eugenie,” replied Corentin, who bowed and withdrew.

The Baron, in a transport of joy, left his business for the day, shut
up his office, and went up to his rooms in the happy frame of mind of a
young man of twenty looking forward to his first meeting with his first

The Baron took all the thousand-franc notes out of his private
cash-box--a sum sufficient to make the whole village happy, fifty-five
thousand francs--and stuffed them into the pocket of his coat. But a
millionaire’s lavishness can only be compared with his eagerness for
gain. As soon as a whim or a passion is to be gratified, money is dross
to a Croesus; in fact, he finds it harder to have whims than gold. A
keen pleasure is the rarest thing in these satiated lives, full of the
excitement that comes of great strokes of speculation, in which these
dried-up hearts have burned themselves out.

For instance, one of the richest capitalists in Paris one day met an
extremely pretty little working-girl. Her mother was with her, but the
girl had taken the arm of a young fellow in very doubtful finery, with a
very smart swagger. The millionaire fell in love with the girl at first
sight; he followed her home, he went in; he heard all her story, a
record of alternations of dancing at Mabille and days of starvation,
of play-going and hard work; he took an interest in it, and left five
thousand-franc notes under a five-franc piece--an act of generosity
abused. Next day a famous upholsterer, Braschon, came to take the
damsel’s orders, furnished rooms that she had chosen, and laid out
twenty thousand francs. She gave herself up to the wildest hopes,
dressed her mother to match, and flattered herself she would find a
place for her ex-lover in an insurance office. She waited--a day, two
days--then a week, two weeks. She thought herself bound to be faithful;
she got into debt. The capitalist, called away to Holland, had forgotten
the girl; he never went once to the Paradise where he had placed her,
and from which she fell as low as it is possible to fall even in Paris.

Nucingen did not gamble, Nucingen did not patronize the Arts, Nucingen
had no hobby; thus he flung himself into his passion for Esther with a
headlong blindness, on which Carlos Herrera had confidently counted.

After his breakfast, the Baron sent for Georges, his body-servant, and
desired him to go to the Rue Taitbout and ask Mademoiselle Eugenie,
Madame van Bogseck’s maid, to come to his office on a matter of

“You shall look out for her,” he added, “an’ make her valk up to my
room, and tell her I shall make her fortune.”

Georges had the greatest difficulty in persuading Europe-Eugenie to

“Madame never lets me go out,” said she; “I might lose my place,” and
so forth; and Georges sang her praises loudly to the Baron, who gave him
ten louis.

“If madame goes out without her this evening,” said Georges to his
master, whose eyes glowed like carbuncles, “she will be here by ten

“Goot. You shall come to dress me at nine o’clock--and do my hair.
I shall look so goot as possible. I belief I shall really see dat
mistress--or money is not money any more.”

The Baron spent an hour, from noon till one, in dyeing his hair and
whiskers. At nine in the evening, having taken a bath before dinner,
he made a toilet worthy of a bridegroom and scented himself--a perfect
Adonis. Madame de Nucingen, informed of this metamorphosis, gave herself
the treat of inspecting her husband.

“Good heavens!” cried she, “what a ridiculous figure! Do, at least, put
on a black satin stock instead of that white neckcloth which makes your
whiskers look so black; besides, it is so ‘Empire,’ quite the old fogy.
You look like some super-annuated parliamentary counsel. And take
off these diamond buttons; they are worth a hundred thousand francs
apiece--that slut will ask you for them, and you will not be able to
refuse her; and if a baggage is to have them, I may as well wear them as

The unhappy banker, struck by the wisdom of his wife’s reflections,
obeyed reluctantly.

“Ridikilous, ridikilous! I hafe never telt you dat you shall be
ridikilous when you dressed yourself so smart to see your little
Mensieur de Rastignac!”

“I should hope that you never saw me make myself ridiculous. Am I the
woman to make such blunders in the first syllable of my dress? Come,
turn about. Button your coat up to the neck, all but the two top
buttons, as the Duc de Maufrigneuse does. In short, try to look young.”

“Monsieur,” said Georges, “here is Mademoiselle Eugenie.”

“Adie, motame,” said the banker, and he escorted his wife as far as her
own rooms, to make sure that she should not overhear their conference.

On his return, he took Europe by the hand and led her into his room with
a sort of ironical respect.

“Vell, my chilt, you are a happy creature, for you are de maid of dat
most beautiful voman in de vorlt. And your fortune shall be made if you
vill talk to her for me and in mine interests.”

“I would not do such a thing for ten thousand francs!” exclaimed Europe.
“I would have you to know, Monsieur le Baron, that I am an honest girl.”

“Oh yes. I expect to pay dear for your honesty. In business dat is vat
ve call curiosity.”

“And that is not everything,” Europe went on. “If you should not take
madame’s fancy--and that is on the cards--she would be angry, and I am
done for!--and my place is worth a thousand francs a year.”

“De capital to make ein tousant franc is twenty tousand franc; and if I
shall gif you dat, you shall not lose noting.”

“Well, to be sure, if that is the tone you take about it, my worthy
old fellow,” said Europe, “that is quite another story.--Where is the

“Here,” replied the Baron, holding up the banknotes, one at a time.

He noted the flash struck by each in turn from Europe’s eyes, betraying
the greed he had counted on.

“That pays for my place, but how about my principles, my conscience?”
 said Europe, cocking her crafty little nose and giving the Baron a
serio-comic leer.

“Your conscience shall not be pait for so much as your place; but I
shall say fife tousand franc more,” said he adding five thousand-franc

“No, no. Twenty thousand for my conscience, and five thousand for my
place if I lose it----”

“Yust vat you please,” said he, adding the five notes. “But to earn dem
you shall hite me in your lady’s room by night ven she shall be ‘lone.”

“If you swear never to tell who let you in, I agree. But I warn you of
one thing.--Madame is as strong as a Turk, she is madly in love with
Monsieur de Rubempre, and if you paid a million francs in banknotes she
would never be unfaithful to him. It is very silly, but that is her way
when she is in love; she is worse than an honest woman, I tell you! When
she goes out for a drive in the woods at night, monsieur very seldom
stays at home. She is gone out this evening, so I can hide you in my
room. If madame comes in alone, I will fetch you; you can wait in the
drawing-room. I will not lock the door into her room, and then--well,
the rest is your concern--so be ready.”

“I shall pay you the twenty-fife tousand francs in dat
drawing-room.--You gife--I gife!”

“Indeed!” said Europe, “you are so confiding as all that? On my word!”

“Oh, you will hafe your chance to fleece me yet. We shall be friends.”

“Well, then, be in the Rue Taitbout at midnight; but bring thirty
thousand francs about you. A waiting-woman’s honesty, like a hackney
cab, is much dearer after midnight.”

“It shall be more prudent if I gif you a cheque on my bank----”

“No, no” said Europe. “Notes, or the bargain is off.”

So at one in the morning the Baron de Nucingen, hidden in the garret
where Europe slept, was suffering all the anxieties of a man who hopes
to triumph. His blood seemed to him to be tingling in his toe-nails, and
his head ready to burst like an overheated steam engine.

“I had more dan one hundert tousand crowns’ vort of enjoyment--in my
mind,” he said to du Tillet when telling him the story.

He listened to every little noise in the street, and at two in the
morning he heard his mistress’ carriage far away on the boulevard. His
heart beat vehemently under his silk waistcoat as the gate turned on
its hinges. He was about to behold the heavenly, the glowing face of
his Esther!--the clatter of the carriage-step and the slam of the door
struck upon his heart. He was more agitated in expectation of this
supreme moment than he would have been if his fortune had been at stake.

“Ah, ha!” cried he, “dis is vat I call to lif--it is too much to lif; I
shall be incapable of everything.”

“Madame is alone; come down,” said Europe, looking in. “Above all, make
no noise, great elephant.”

“Great Elephant!” he repeated, laughing, and walking as if he trod on
red-hot iron.

Europe led the way, carrying a candle.

“Here--count dem!” said the Baron when he reached the drawing-room,
holding out the notes to Europe.

Europe took the thirty notes very gravely and left the room, locking the
banker in.

Nucingen went straight to the bedroom, where he found the handsome

“Is that you, Lucien?” said she.

“Nein, my peauty,” said Nucingen, but he said no more.

He stood speechless on seeing a woman the very antipodes to Esther;
fair hair where he had seen black, slenderness where he had admired
a powerful frame! A soft English evening where he had looked for the
bright sun of Arabia.

“Heyday! were have you come from?--who are you?--what do you want?”
 cried the Englishwoman, pulling the bell, which made no sound.

“The bells dey are in cotton-vool, but hafe not any fear--I shall go
‘vay,” said he. “Dat is dirty tousant franc I hafe tron in de vater. Are
you dat mistress of Mensieur Lucien de Rubempre?”

“Rather, my son,” said the lady, who spoke French well, “But vat vas
you?” she went on, mimicking Nucingen’s accent.

“Ein man vat is ver’ much took in,” replied he lamentably.

“Is a man took in ven he finds a pretty voman?” asked she, with a laugh.

“Permit me to sent you to-morrow some chewels as a soufenir of de Baron
von Nucingen.”

“Don’t know him!” said she, laughing like a crazy creature. “But the
chewels will be welcome, my fat burglar friend.”

“You shall know him. Goot night, motame. You are a tidbit for ein king;
but I am only a poor banker more dan sixty year olt, and you hafe made
me feel vat power the voman I lofe hafe ofer me since your difine beauty
hafe not make me forget her.”

“Vell, dat is ver’ pretty vat you say,” replied the Englishwoman.

“It is not so pretty vat she is dat I say it to.”

“You spoke of thirty thousand francs--to whom did you give them?”

“To dat hussy, your maid----”

The Englishwoman called Europe, who was not far off.

“Oh!” shrieked Europe, “a man in madame’s room, and he is not
monsieur--how shocking!”

“Did he give you thirty thousand francs to let him in?”

“No, madame, for we are not worth it, the pair of us.”

And Europe set to screaming “Thief” so determinedly, that the banker
made for the door in a fright, and Europe, tripping him up, rolled him
down the stairs.

“Old wretch!” cried she, “you would tell tales to my mistress! Thief!
thief! stop thief!”

The enamored Baron, in despair, succeeded in getting unhurt to his
carriage, which he had left on the boulevard; but he was now at his
wits’ end as to whom to apply to.

“And pray, madame, did you think to get my earnings out of me?” said
Europe, coming back like a fury to the lady’s room.

“I know nothing of French customs,” said the Englishwoman.

“But one word from me to-morrow to monsieur, and you, madame, would find
yourself in the streets,” retorted Europe insolently.

“Dat dam’ maid!” said the Baron to Georges, who naturally asked his
master if all had gone well, “hafe do me out of dirty tousant franc--but
it vas my own fault, my own great fault----”

“And so monsieur’s dress was all wasted. The deuce is in it, I should
advise you, Monsieur le Baron, not to have taken your tonic for

“Georches, I shall be dying of despair. I hafe cold--I hafe ice on mein
heart--no more of Esther, my good friend.”

Georges was always the Baron’s friend when matters were serious.

Two days after this scene, which Europe related far more amusingly than
it can be written, because she told it with much mimicry, Carlos and
Lucien were breakfasting tete-a-tete.

“My dear boy, neither the police nor anybody else must be allowed to
poke a nose into our concerns,” said Herrera in a low voice, as he
lighted his cigar from Lucien’s. “It would not agree with us. I have hit
on a plan, daring but effectual, to keep our Baron and his agents quiet.
You must go to see Madame de Serizy, and make yourself very agreeable to
her. Tell her, in the course of conversation, that to oblige Rastignac,
who has long been sick of Madame de Nucingen, you have consented to play
fence for him to conceal a mistress. Monsieur de Nucingen, desperately
in love with this woman Rastignac keeps hidden--that will make her
laugh--has taken it into his head to set the police to keep an eye on
you--on you, who are innocent of all his tricks, and whose interest
with the Grandlieus may be seriously compromised. Then you must beg the
Countess to secure her husband’s support, for he is a Minister of State,
to carry you to the Prefecture of Police.

“When you have got there, face to face with the Prefet, make your
complaint, but as a man of political consequence, who will sooner or
later be one of the motor powers of the huge machine of government. You
will speak of the police as a statesman should, admiring everything, the
Prefet included. The very best machines make oil-stains or splutter. Do
not be angry till the right moment. You have no sort of grudge against
Monsieur le Prefet, but persuade him to keep a sharp lookout on his
people, and pity him for having to blow them up. The quieter and more
gentlemanly you are, the more terrible will the Prefet be to his men.
Then we shall be left in peace, and we may send for Esther back, for she
must be belling like the does in the forest.”

The Prefet at that time was a retired magistrate. Retired magistrates
make far too young Prefets. Partisans of the right, riding the high
horse on points of law, they are not light-handed in arbitary action
such as critical circumstances often require; cases in which the Prefet
should be as prompt as a fireman called to a conflagration. So, face
to face with the Vice-President of the Council of State, the Prefet
confessed to more faults than the police really has, deplored its
abuses, and presently was able to recollect the visit paid to him by
the Baron de Nucingen and his inquiries as to Peyrade. The Prefet,
while promising to check the rash zeal of his agents, thanked Lucien
for having come straight to him, promised secrecy, and affected to
understand the intrigue.

A few fine speeches about personal liberty and the sacredness of home
life were bandied between the Prefet and the Minister; Monsieur de
Serizy observing in conclusion that though the high interests of the
kingdom sometimes necessitated illegal action in secret, crime began
when these State measures were applied to private cases.

Next day, just as Peyrade was going to his beloved Cafe David, where he
enjoyed watching the bourgeois eat, as an artist watches flowers open, a
gendarme in private clothes spoke to him in the street.

“I was going to fetch you,” said he in his ear. “I have orders to take
you to the Prefecture.”

Peyrade called a hackney cab, and got in without saying a single word,
followed by the gendarme.

The Prefet treated Peyrade as though he were the lowest warder on
the hulks, walking to and fro in a side path of the garden of the
Prefecture, which at that time was on the Quai des Orfevres.

“It is not without good reason, monsieur, that since 1830 you have been
kept out of office. Do not you know to what risk you expose us, not to
mention yourself?”

The lecture ended in a thunderstroke. The Prefet sternly informed poor
Peyrade that not only would his yearly allowance be cut off, but that
he himself would be narrowly watched. The old man took the shock with an
air of perfect calm. Nothing can be more rigidly expressionless than a
man struck by lightning. Peyrade had lost all his stake in the game. He
had counted on getting an appointment, and he found himself bereft of
everything but the alms bestowed by his friend Corentin.

“I have been the Prefet of Police myself; I think you perfectly right,”
 said the old man quietly to the functionary who stood before him in his
judicial majesty, and who answered with a significant shrug.

“But allow me, without any attempt to justify myself, to point out that
you do not know me at all,” Peyrade went on, with a keen glance at the
Prefet. “Your language is either too severe to a man who has been the
head of the police in Holland, or not severe enough for a mere spy. But,
Monsieur le Prefet,” Peyrade added after a pause, while the other kept
silence, “bear in mind what I now have the honor to telling you: I
have no intention of interfering with your police nor of attempting to
justify myself, but you will presently discover that there is some one
in this business who is being deceived; at this moment it is your humble
servant; by and by you will say, ‘It was I.’”

And he bowed to the chief, who sat passive to conceal his amazement.

Peyrade returned home, his legs and arms feeling broken, and full
of cold fury with the Baron. Nobody but that burly banker could have
betrayed a secret contained in the minds of Contenson, Peyrade, and
Corentin. The old man accused the banker of wishing to avoid paying now
that he had gained his end. A single interview had been enough to enable
him to read the astuteness of this most astute of bankers.

“He tries to compound with every one, even with us; but I will be
revenged,” thought the old fellow. “I have never asked a favor of
Corentin; I will ask him now to help me to be revenged on that imbecile
money-box. Curse the Baron!--Well, you will know the stuff I am made
of one fine morning when you find your daughter disgraced!--But does he
love his daughter, I wonder?”

By the evening of the day when this catastrophe had upset the old man’s
hopes he had aged by ten years. As he talked to his friend Corentin, he
mingled his lamentations with tears wrung from him by the thought of
the melancholy prospects he must bequeath to his daughter, his idol, his
treasure, his peace-offering to God.

“We will follow the matter up,” said Corentin. “First of all, we must
be sure that it was the Baron who peached. Were we wise in enlisting
Gondreville’s support? That old rascal owes us too much not to be
anxious to swamp us; indeed, I am keeping an eye on his son-in-law
Keller, a simpleton in politics, and quite capable of meddling in
some conspiracy to overthrow the elder Branch to the advantage of the
younger.--I shall know to-morrow what is going on at Nucingen’s, whether
he has seen his beloved, and to whom we owe this sharp pull up.--Do
not be out of heart. In the first place, the Prefet will not hold
his appointment much longer; the times are big with revolution, and
revolutions make good fishing for us.”

A peculiar whistle was just then heard in the street.

“That is Contenson,” said Peyrade, who put a light in the window, “and
he has something to say that concerns me.”

A minute later the faithful Contenson appeared in the presence of the
two gnomes of the police, whom he revered as though they were two genii.

“What is up?” asked Corentin.

“A new thing! I was coming out of 113, where I lost everything, when
whom do I spy under the gallery? Georges! The man has been dismissed by
the Baron, who suspects him of treachery.”

“That is the effect of a smile I gave him,” said Peyrade.

“Bah! when I think of all the mischief I have known caused by smiles!”
 said Corentin.

“To say nothing of that caused by a whip-lash,” said Peyrade, referring
to the Simeuse case. (In _Une Tenebreuse affaire_.) “But come,
Contenson, what is going on?”

“This is what is going on,” said Contenson. “I made Georges blab by
getting him to treat me to an endless series of liqueurs of every
color--I left him tipsy; I must be as full as a still myself!--Our Baron
has been to the Rue Taitbout, crammed with Pastilles du Serail. There he
found the fair one you know of; but--a good joke! The English beauty is
not his fair unknown!--And he has spent thirty thousand francs to bribe
the lady’s-maid, a piece of folly!

“That creature thinks itself a great man because it does mean things
with great capital. Reverse the proposition, and you have the problem
of which a man of genius is the solution.--The Baron came home in a
pitiable condition. Next day Georges, to get his finger in the pie, said
to his master:

“‘Why, Monsieur le Baron, do you employ such blackguards? If you would
only trust to me, I would find the unknown lady, for your description
of her is enough. I shall turn Paris upside down.’--‘Go ahead,’ says the
Baron; ‘I shall reward you handsomely!’--Georges told me the whole story
with the most absurd details. But--man is born to be rained upon!

“Next day the Baron received an anonymous letter something to this
effect: ‘Monsieur de Nucingen is dying of love for an unknown lady; he
has already spent a great deal utterly in vain; if he will repair at
midnight to the end of the Neuilly Bridge, and get into the carriage
behind which the chasseur he saw at Vincennes will be standing, allowing
himself to be blindfolded, he will see the woman he loves. As his wealth
may lead him to suspect the intentions of persons who proceed in such
a fashion, he may bring, as an escort, his faithful Georges. And there
will be nobody in the carriage.’--Off the Baron goes, taking Georges
with him, but telling him nothing. They both submit to have their eyes
bound up and their heads wrapped in veils; the Baron recognizes the

“Two hours later, the carriage, going at the pace of Louis XVIII.--God
rest his soul! He knew what was meant by the police, he did!--pulled up
in the middle of a wood. The Baron had the handkerchief off, and saw, in
a carriage standing still, his adored fair--when, whiff! she vanished.
And the carriage, at the same lively pace, brought him back to the
Neuilly Bridge, where he found his own.

“Some one had slipped into Georges’ hand a note to this effect: ‘How
many banknotes will the Baron part with to be put into communication
with his unknown fair? Georges handed this to his master; and the
Baron, never doubting that Georges was in collusion with me or with you,
Monsieur Peyrade, to drive a hard bargain, turned him out of the house.
What a fool that banker is! He ought not to have sent away Georges
before he had known the unknown!”

“Then Georges saw the woman?” said Corentin.

“Yes,” replied Contenson.

“Well,” cried Peyrade, “and what is she like?”

“Oh,” said Contenson, “he said but one word--‘A sun of loveliness.’”

“We are being tricked by some rascals who beat us at the game,” said
Peyrade. “Those villains mean to sell their woman very dear to the

“Ja, mein Herr,” said Contenson. “And so, when I heard you got slapped
in the face at the Prefecture, I made Georges blab.”

“I should like very much to know who it is that has stolen a march on
me,” said Peyrade. “We would measure our spurs!”

“We must play eavesdropper,” said Contenson.

“He is right,” said Peyrade. “We must get into chinks to listen, and

“We will study that side of the subject,” cried Corentin. “For the
present, I am out of work. You, Peyrade, be a very good boy. We must
always obey Monsieur le Prefet!”

“Monsieur de Nucingen wants bleeding,” said Contenson; “he has too many
banknotes in his veins.”

“But it was Lydie’s marriage-portion I looked for there!” said Peyrade,
in a whisper to Corentin.

“Now, come along, Contenson, let us be off, and leave our daddy to
by-bye, by-bye!”

“Monsieur,” said Contenson to Corentin on the doorstep, “what a queer
piece of brokerage our good friend was planning! Heh!--What, marry a
daughter with the price of----Ah, ha! It would make a pretty little
play, and very moral too, entitled ‘A Girl’s Dower.’”

“You are highly organized animals, indeed,” replied Corentin. “What
ears you have! Certainly Social Nature arms all her species with the
qualities needed for the duties she expects of them! Society is second

“That is a highly philosophical view to take,” cried Contenson. “A
professor would work it up into a system.”

“Let us find out all we can,” replied Corentin with a smile, as he made
his way down the street with the spy, “as to what goes on at Monsieur
de Nucingen’s with regard to this girl--the main facts; never mind the

“Just watch to see if his chimneys are smoking!” said Contenson.

“Such a man as the Baron de Nucingen cannot be happy incognito,” replied
Corentin. “And besides, we for whom men are but cards, ought never to be
tricked by them.”

“By gad! it would be the condemned jail-bird amusing himself by cutting
the executioner’s throat.”

“You always have something droll to say,” replied Corentin, with a dim
smile, that faintly wrinkled his set white face.

This business was exceedingly important in itself, apart from its
consequences. If it were not the Baron who had betrayed Peyrade,
who could have had any interest in seeing the Prefet of Police? From
Corentin’s point of view it seemed suspicious. Were there any traitors
among his men? And as he went to bed, he wondered what Peyrade, too, was

“Who can have gone to complain to the Prefet? Whom does the woman belong

And thus, without knowing each other, Jacques Collin, Peyrade, and
Corentin were converging to a common point; while the unhappy Esther,
Nucingen, and Lucien were inevitably entangled in the struggle which
had already begun, and of which the point of pride, peculiar to police
agents, was making a war to the death.

Thanks to Europe’s cleverness, the more pressing half of the sixty
thousand francs of debt owed by Esther and Lucien was paid off. The
creditors did not even lose confidence. Lucien and his evil genius could
breathe for a moment. Like some pool, they could start again along the
edge of the precipice where the strong man was guiding the weak man to
the gibbet or to fortune.

“We are staking now,” said Carlos to his puppet, “to win or lose all.
But, happily, the cards are beveled, and the punters young.”

For some time Lucien, by his terrible Mentor’s orders, had been very
attentive to Madame de Serizy. It was, in fact, indispensable that
Lucien should not be suspected of having kept a woman for his mistress.
And in the pleasure of being loved, and the excitement of fashionable
life, he found a spurious power of forgetting. He obeyed Mademoiselle
Clotilde de Grandlieu by never seeing her excepting in the Bois or the

On the day after Esther was shut up in the park-keeper’s house, the
being who was to her so enigmatic and terrible, who weighed upon her
soul, came to desire her to sign three pieces of stamped paper, made
terrible by these fateful words: on the first, accepted payable for
sixty thousand francs; on the second, accepted payable for a hundred and
twenty thousand francs; on the third, accepted payable for a hundred and
twenty thousand francs--three hundred thousand francs in all. By writing
_Bon pour_, you simply promise to pay. The word _accepted_ constitutes
a bill of exchange, and makes you liable to imprisonment. The word
entails, on the person who is so imprudent as to sign, the risk of five
years’ imprisonment--a punishment which the police magistrate hardly
ever inflicts, and which is reserved at the assizes for confirmed
rogues. The law of imprisonment for debt is a relic of the days of
barbarism, which combines with its stupidity the rare merit of being
useless, inasmuch as it never catches swindlers.

“The point,” said the Spaniard to Esther, “is to get Lucien out of his
difficulties. We have debts to the tune of sixty thousand francs, and
with these three hundred thousand francs we may perhaps pull through.”

Having antedated the bills by six months, Carlos had had them drawn on
Esther by a man whom the county court had “misunderstood,” and whose
adventures, in spite of the excitement they had caused, were soon
forgotten, hidden, lost, in the uproar of the great symphony of July

This young fellow, a most audacious adventurer, the son of a lawyer’s
clerk of Boulogne, near Paris, was named Georges Marie Destourny. His
father, obliged by adverse circumstances to sell his connection, died
in 1824, leaving his son without the means of living, after giving him
a brilliant education, the folly of the lower middle class. At
twenty-three the clever young law-student had denied his paternity by
printing on his cards

              Georges d’Estourny.

This card gave him an odor of aristocracy; and now, as a man of fashion,
he was so impudent as to set up a tilbury and a groom and haunt the
clubs. One line will account for this: he gambled on the Bourse with the
money intrusted to him by the kept women of his acquaintance. Finally he
fell into the hands of the police, and was charged with playing at cards
with too much luck.

He had accomplices, youths whom he had corrupted, his compulsory
satellites, accessory to his fashion and his credit. Compelled to fly,
he forgot to pay his differences on the Bourse. All Paris--the Paris of
the Stock Exchange and Clubs--was still shaken by this double stroke of

In the days of his splendor Georges d’Estourny, a handsome youth, and
above all, a jolly fellow, as generous as a brigand chief, had for a few
months “protected” La Torpille. The false Abbe based his calculations
on Esther’s former intimacy with this famous scoundrel, an incident
peculiar to women of her class.

Georges d’Estourny, whose ambition grew bolder with success, had taken
under his patronage a man who had come from the depths of the country to
carry on a business in Paris, and whom the Liberal party were anxious
to indemnify for certain sentences endured with much courage in the
struggle of the press with Charles X.’s government, the persecution
being relaxed, however, during the Martignac administration. The Sieur
Cerizet had then been pardoned, and he was henceforth known as the Brave

Cerizet then, being patronized for form’s sake by the bigwigs of the
Left, founded a house which combined the business of a general agency
with that of a bank and a commission agency. It was one of those
concerns which, in business, remind one of the servants who advertise in
the papers as being able and willing to do everything. Cerizet was very
glad to ally himself with Georges d’Estourny, who gave him hints.

Esther, in virtue of the anecdote about Nonon, might be regarded as
the faithful guardian of part of Georges d’Estourny’s fortune. An
endorsement in the name of Georges d’Estourny made Carlos Herrera master
of the money he had created. This forgery was perfectly safe so long as
Mademoiselle Esther, or some one for her, could, or was bound to pay.

After making inquiries as to the house of Cerizet, Carlos perceived
that he had to do with one of those humble men who are bent on making
a fortune, but--lawfully. Cerizet, with whom d’Estourny had really
deposited his moneys, had in hand a considerable sum with which he was
speculating for a rise on the Bourse, a state of affairs which allowed
him to style himself a banker. Such things are done in Paris; a man may
be despised,--but money, never.

Carlos went off to Cerizet intending to work him after his manner;
for, as it happened, he was master of all this worthy’s secrets--a meet
partner for d’Estourny.

Cerizet the Brave lived in an entresol in the Rue du Gros-Chenet, and
Carlos, who had himself mysteriously announced as coming from Georges
d’Estourny, found the self-styled banker quite pale at the name. The
Abbe saw in this humble private room a little man with thin, light hair;
and recognized him at once, from Lucien’s description, as the Judas who
had ruined David Sechard.

“Can we talk here without risk of being overheard?” said the Spaniard,
now metamorphosed into a red-haired Englishman with blue spectacles, as
clean and prim as a Puritan going to meeting.

“Why, monsieur?” said Cerizet. “Who are you?”

“Mr. William Barker, a creditor of M. d’Estourny’s; and I can prove to
you the necessity for keeping your doors closed if you wish it. We
know, monsieur, all about your connections with the Petit-Clauds, the
Cointets, and the Sechards of Angouleme----”

On hearing these words, Cerizet rushed to the door and shut it, flew
to another leading into a bedroom and bolted it; then he said to the

“Speak lower, monsieur,” and he studied the sham Englishman as he asked
him, “What do you want with me?”

“Dear me,” said William Barker, “every one for himself in this world.
You had the money of that rascal d’Estourny.--Be quite easy, I have not
come to ask for it; but that scoundrel, who deserves hanging, between
you and me, gave me these bills, saying that there might be some chance
of recovering the money; and as I do not choose to prosecute in my own
name, he told me you would not refuse to back them.”

Cerizet looked at the bills.

“But he is no longer at Frankfort,” said he.

“I know it,” replied Barker, “but he may still have been there at the
date of those bills----”

“I will not take the responsibility,” said Cerizet.

“I do not ask such a sacrifice of you,” replied Barker; “you may be
instructed to receive them. Endorse them, and I will undertake to
recover the money.”

“I am surprised that d’Estourny should show so little confidence in me,”
 said Cerizet.

“In his position,” replied Barker, “you can hardly blame him for having
put his eggs in different baskets.”

“Can you believe----” the little broker began, as he handed back to the
Englishman the bills of exchange formally accepted.

“I believe that you will take good care of his money,” said Barker. “I
am sure of it! It is already on the green table of the Bourse.”

“My fortune depends----”

“On your appearing to lose it,” said Barker.

“Sir!” cried Cerizet.

“Look here, my dear Monsieur Cerizet,” said Barker, coolly interrupting
him, “you will do me a service by facilitating this payment. Be so good
as to write me a letter in which you tell me that you are sending me
these bills receipted on d’Estourny’s account, and that the collecting
officer is to regard the holder of the letter as the possessor of the
three bills.”

“Will you give me your name?”

“No names,” replied the English capitalist. “Put ‘The bearer of this
letter and these bills.’--You will be handsomely repaid for obliging

“How?” said Cerizet.

“In one word--You mean to stay in France, do not you?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Well, Georges d’Estourny will never re-enter the country.”

“Pray why?”

“There are five persons at least to my knowledge who would murder him,
and he knows it.”

“Then no wonder he is asking me for money enough to start him trading
to the Indies?” cried Cerizet. “And unfortunately he has compelled me to
risk everything in State speculation. We already owe heavy differences
to the house of du Tillet. I live from hand to mouth.”

“Withdraw your stakes.”

“Oh! if only I had known this sooner!” exclaimed Cerizet. “I have missed
my chance!”

“One last word,” said Barker. “Keep your own counsel, you are capable
of that; but you must be faithful too, which is perhaps less certain. We
shall meet again, and I will help you to make a fortune.”

Having tossed this sordid soul a crumb of hope that would secure silence
for some time to come, Carlos, still disguised as Barker, betook himself
to a bailiff whom he could depend on, and instructed him to get the
bills brought home to Esther.

“They will be paid all right,” said he to the officer. “It is an affair
of honor; only we want to do the thing regularly.”

Barker got a solicitor to represent Esther in court, so that judgment
might be given in presence of both parties. The collecting officer,
who was begged to act with civility, took with him all the warrants
for procedure, and came in person to seize the furniture in the Rue
Taitbout, where he was received by Europe. Her personal liability once
proved, Esther was ostensibly liable, beyond dispute, for three hundred
and more thousand francs of debts.

In all this Carlos displayed no great powers of invention. The farce of
false debts is often played in Paris. There are many sub-Gobsecks
and sub-Gigonnets who, for a percentage, will lend themselves to
this subterfuge, and regard the infamous trick as a jest. In France
everything--even a crime--is done with a laugh. By this means refractory
parents are made to pay, or rich mistresses who might drive a hard
bargain, but who, face to face with flagrant necessity, or some
impending dishonor, pay up, if with a bad grace. Maxime de Trailles
had often used such means, borrowed from the comedies of the old stage.
Carlos Herrera, who wanted to save the honor of his gown, as well as
Lucien’s, had worked the spell by a forgery not dangerous for him, but
now so frequently practised that Justice is beginning to object. There
is, it is said, a Bourse for falsified bills near the Palais Royal,
where you may get a forged signature for three francs.

Before entering on the question of the hundred thousand crowns that were
to keep the door of the bedroom, Carlos determined first to extract a
hundred thousand more from M. de Nucingen.

And this was the way: By his orders Asie got herself up for the Baron’s
benefit as an old woman fully informed as to the unknown beauty’s

Hitherto, novelists of manners have placed on the stage a great many
usurers; but the female money-lender has been overlooked, the Madame la
Ressource of the present day--a very singular figure, euphemistically
spoken of as a “ward-robe purchaser”; a part that the ferocious Asie
could play, for she had two old-clothes shops managed by women she could
trust--one in the Temple, and the other in the Rue Neuve-Saint-Marc.

“You must get into the skin of Madame de Saint-Esteve,” said he.

Herrera wished to see Asie dressed.

The go-between arrived in a dress of flowered damask, made of the
curtains of some dismantled boudoir, and one of those shawls of Indian
design--out of date, worn, and valueless, which end their career on the
backs of these women. She had a collar of magnificent lace, though torn,
and a terrible bonnet; but her shoes were of fine kid, in which the
flesh of her fat feet made a roll of black-lace stocking.

“And my waist buckle!” she exclaimed, displaying a piece of
suspicious-looking finery, prominent on her cook’s stomach, “There’s
style for you! and my front!--Oh, Ma’me Nourrisson has turned me out
quite spiff!”

“Be as sweet as honey at first,” said Carlos; “be almost timid, as
suspicious as a cat; and, above all, make the Baron ashamed of having
employed the police, without betraying that you quake before the
constable. Finally, make your customer understand in more or less plain
terms that you defy all the police in the world to discover his jewel.
Take care to destroy your traces.

“When the Baron gives you a right to tap him on the stomach, and call
him a pot-bellied old rip, you may be as insolent as you please, and
make him trot like a footman.”

Nucingen--threatened by Asie with never seeing her again if he attempted
the smallest espionage--met the woman on his way to the Bourse, in
secret, in a wretched entresol in the Rue Nueve-Saint-Marc. How often,
and with what rapture, have amorous millionaires trodden these squalid
paths! the pavements of Paris know. Madame de Saint-Esteve, by tossing
the Baron from hope to despair by turns, brought him to the point when
he insisted on being informed of all that related to the unknown beauty
at ANY COST. Meanwhile, the law was put in force, and with such
effect that the bailiffs, finding no resistance from Esther, put in an
execution on her effects without losing a day.

Lucien, guided by his adviser, paid the recluse at Saint-Germain five or
six visits. The merciless author of all these machinations thought this
necessary to save Esther from pining to death, for her beauty was now
their capital. When the time came for them to quit the park-keeper’s
lodge, he took Lucien and the poor girl to a place on the road whence
they could see Paris, where no one could overhear them. They all three
sat down in the rising sun, on the trunk of a felled poplar, looking
over one of the finest prospects in the world, embracing the course of
the Seine, with Montmartre, Paris, and Saint-Denis.

“My children,” said Carlos, “your dream is over.--You, little one, will
never see Lucien again; or if you should, you must have known him only
for a few days, five years ago.”

“Death has come upon me then,” said she, without shedding a tear.

“Well, you have been ill these five years,” said Herrera. “Imagine
yourself to be consumptive, and die without boring us with your
lamentations. But you will see, you can still live, and very comfortably
too.--Leave us, Lucien--go and gather sonnets!” said he, pointing to a
field a little way off.

Lucien cast a look of humble entreaty at Esther, one of the looks
peculiar to such men--weak and greedy, with tender hearts and cowardly
spirits. Esther answered with a bow of her head, which said: “I will
hear the executioner, that I may know how to lay my head under the axe,
and I shall have courage enough to die decently.”

The gesture was so gracious, but so full of dreadful meaning, that the
poet wept; Esther flew to him, clasped him in her arms, drank away the
tears, and said, “Be quite easy!” one of those speeches that are spoken
with the manner, the look, the tones of delirium.

Carlos then explained to her quite clearly, without attenuation, often
with horrible plainness of speech, the critical position in which Lucien
found himself, his connection with the Hotel Grandlieu, his splendid
prospects if he should succeed; and finally, how necessary it was that
Esther should sacrifice herself to secure him this triumphant future.

“What must I do?” cried she, with the eagerness of a fanatic.

“Obey me blindly,” said Carlos. “And what have you to complain of? It
rests with you to achieve a happy lot. You may be what Tullia is, what
your old friends Florine, Mariette, and la Val-Noble are--the mistress
of a rich man whom you need not love. When once our business is settled,
your lover is rich enough to make you happy.”

“Happy!” said she, raising her eyes to heaven.

“You have lived in Paradise for four years,” said he. “Can you not live
on such memories?”

“I will obey you,” said she, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.
“For the rest, do not worry yourself. You have said it; my love is a
mortal disease.”

“That is not enough,” said Carlos; “you must preserve your looks. At a
little past two-and-twenty you are in the prime of your beauty, thanks
to your past happiness. And, above all, be the ‘Torpille’ again. Be
roguish, extravagant, cunning, merciless to the millionaire I put in
your power. Listen to me! That man is a robber on a grand scale; he has
been ruthless to many persons; he has grown fat on the fortunes of the
widow and the orphan; you will avenge them!

“Asie is coming to fetch you in a hackney coach, and you will be in
Paris this evening. If you allow any one to suspect your connection with
Lucien, you may as well blow his brains out at once. You will be
asked where you have been for so long. You must say that you have been
traveling with a desperately jealous Englishman.--You used to have wit
enough to humbug people. Find such wit again now.”

Have you ever seen a gorgeous kite, the giant butterfly of childhood,
twinkling with gilding, and soaring to the sky? The children forget the
string that holds it, some passer-by cuts it, the gaudy toy turns head
over heels, as the boys say, and falls with terrific rapidity. Such was
Esther as she listened to Carlos.

                      WHAT LOVE COSTS AN OLD MAN

For a whole week Nucingen went almost every day to the shop in the Rue
Nueve-Saint-Marc to bargain for the woman he was in love with. Here,
sometimes under the name of Saint-Esteve, sometimes under that of her
tool, Madame Nourrisson, Asie sat enthroned among beautiful clothes in
that hideous condition when they have ceased to be dresses and are not
yet rags.

The setting was in harmony with the appearance assumed by the woman,
for these shops are among the most hideous characteristics of Paris. You
find there the garments tossed aside by the skinny hand of Death; you
hear, as it were, the gasping of consumption under a shawl, or you
detect the agonies of beggery under a gown spangled with gold. The
horrible struggle between luxury and starvation is written on filmy
laces; you may picture the countenance of a queen under a plumed turban
placed in an attitude that recalls and almost reproduces the absent
features. It is all hideous amid prettiness! Juvenal’s lash, in the
hands of the appraiser, scatters the shabby muffs, the ragged furs of
courtesans at bay.

There is a dunghill of flowers, among which here and there we find a
bright rose plucked but yesterday and worn for a day; and on this an old
hag is always to be seen crouching--first cousin to Usury, the skinflint
bargainer, bald and toothless, and ever ready to sell the contents, so
well is she used to sell the covering--the gown without the woman, or
the woman without the gown!

Here Asie was in her element, like the warder among convicts, like a
vulture red-beaked amid corpses; more terrible than the savage horrors
that made the passer-by shudder in astonishment sometimes, at seeing
one of their youngest and sweetest reminiscences hung up in a dirty shop
window, behind which a Saint-Esteve sits and grins.

From vexation to vexation, a thousand francs at a time, the banker had
gone so far as to offer sixty thousand francs to Madame de Saint-Esteve,
who still refused to help him, with a grimace that would have outdone
any monkey. After a disturbed night, after confessing to himself that
Esther completely upset his ideas, after realizing some unexpected turns
of fortune on the Bourse, he came to her one day, intending to give the
hundred thousand francs on which Asie insisted, but he was determined to
have plenty of information for the money.

“Well, have you made up your mind, old higgler?” said Asie, clapping him
on the shoulder.

The most dishonoring familiarity is the first tax these women levy on
the frantic passions or griefs that are confided to them; they never
rise to the level of their clients; they make them seem squat beside
them on their mudheap. Asie, it will be seen, obeyed her master

“Need must!” said Nucingen.

“And you have the best of the bargain,” said Asie. “Women have been sold
much dearer than this one to you--relatively speaking. There are women
and women! De Marsay paid sixty thousand francs for Coralie, who is dead
now. The woman you want cost a hundred thousand francs when new; but to
you, you old goat, it is a matter of agreement.”

“But vere is she?”

“Ah! you shall see. I am like you--a gift for a gift! Oh, my good man,
your adored one has been extravagant. These girls know no moderation.
Your princess is at this moment what we call a fly by night----”

“A fly----?”

“Come, come, don’t play the simpleton.--Louchard is at her heels, and
I--I--have lent her fifty thousand francs----”

“Twenty-fife say!” cried the banker.

“Well, of course, twenty-five for fifty, that is only natural,” replied
Asie. “To do the woman justice, she is honesty itself. She had nothing
left but herself, and says she to me: ‘My good Madame Saint-Esteve,
the bailiffs are after me; no one can help me but you. Give me twenty
thousand francs. I will pledge my heart to you.’ Oh, she has a sweet
heart; no one but me knows where it lies. Any folly on my part, and I
should lose my twenty thousand francs.

“Formerly she lived in the Rue Taitbout. Before leaving--(her furniture
was seized for costs--those rascally bailiffs--You know them, you who
are one of the great men on the Bourse)--well, before leaving, she is
no fool, she let her rooms for two months to an Englishwoman, a splendid
creature who had a little thingummy--Rubempre--for a lover, and he was
so jealous that he only let her go out at night. But as the furniture is
to be seized, the Englishwoman has cut her stick, all the more because
she cost too much for a little whipper-snapper like Lucien.”

“You cry up de goots,” said Nucingen.

“Naturally,” said Asie. “I lend to the beauties; and it pays, for you
get two commissions for one job.”

Asie was amusing herself by caricaturing the manners of a class of women
who are even greedier but more wheedling and mealy-mouthed than the
Malay woman, and who put a gloss of the best motives on the trade they
ply. Asie affected to have lost all her illusions, five lovers, and some
children, and to have submitted to be robbed by everybody in spite of
her experience. From time to time she exhibited some pawn-tickets,
to prove how much bad luck there was in her line of business. She
represented herself as pinched and in debt, and to crown all, she was so
undisguisedly hideous that the Baron at last believed her to be all she
said she was.

“Vell den, I shall pay the hundert tousant, and vere shall I see
her?” said he, with the air of a man who has made up his mind to any

“My fat friend, you shall come this evening--in your carriage, of
course--opposite the Gymnase. It is on the way,” said Asie. “Stop at the
corner of the Rue Saint-Barbe. I will be on the lookout, and we will go
and find my mortgaged beauty, with the black hair.--Oh, she has splendid
hair, has my mortgage. If she pulls out her comb, Esther is covered as
if it were a pall. But though you are knowing in arithmetic, you strike
me as a muff in other matters; and I advise you to hide the girl safely,
for if she is found she will be clapped into Sainte-Pelagie the very
next day.--And they are looking for her.”

“Shall it not be possible to get holt of de bills?” said the
incorrigible bill-broker.

“The bailiffs have got them--but it is impossible. The girl has had a
passion, and has spent some money left in her hands, which she is now
called upon to pay. By the poker!--a queer thing is a heart of two

“Ver’ goot, ver’ goot, I shall arrange all dat,” said Nucingen, assuming
a cunning look. “It is qvite settled dat I shall protect her.”

“Well, old noodle, it is your business to make her fall in love with
you, and you certainly have ample means to buy sham love as good as the
real article. I will place your princess in your keeping; she is bound
to stick to you, and after that I don’t care.--But she is accustomed to
luxury and the greatest consideration. I tell you, my boy, she is quite
the lady.--If not, should I have given her twenty thousand francs?”

“Ver’ goot, it is a pargain. Till dis efening.”

The Baron repeated the bridal toilet he had already once achieved; but
this time, being certain of success, he took a double dose of pillules.

At nine o’clock he found the dreadful woman at the appointed spot, and
took her into his carriage.

“Vere to?” said the Baron.

“Where?” echoed Asie. “Rue de la Perle in the Marais--an address for the
nonce; for your pearl is in the mud, but you will wash her clean.”

Having reached the spot, the false Madame de Saint-Esteve said to
Nucingen with a hideous smile:

“We must go a short way on foot; I am not such a fool as to have given
you the right address.”

“You tink of eferytink!” said the baron.

“It is my business,” said she.

Asie led Nucingen to the Rue Barbette, where, in furnished lodgings kept
by an upholsterer, he was led up to the fourth floor.

On finding Esther in a squalid room, dressed as a work-woman, and
employed on some embroidery, the millionaire turned pale. At the end of
a quarter of an hour, while Asie affected to talk in whispers to Esther,
the young old man could hardly speak.

“Montemisselle,” said he at length to the unhappy girl, “vill you be so
goot as to let me be your protector?”

“Why, I cannot help myself, monsieur,” replied Esther, letting fall two
large tears.

“Do not veep. I shall make you de happiest of vomen. Only permit that I
shall lof you--you shall see.”

“Well, well, child, the gentleman is reasonable,” said Asie. “He knows
that he is more than sixty, and he will be very kind to you. You see,
my beauty, I have found you quite a father--I had to say so,” Asie
whispered to the banker, who was not best pleased. “You cannot catch
swallows by firing a pistol at them.--Come here,” she went on, leading
Nucingen into the adjoining room. “You remember our bargain, my angel?”

Nucingen took out his pocketbook and counted out the hundred thousand
francs, which Carlos, hidden in a cupboard, was impatiently waiting for,
and which the cook handed over to him.

“Here are the hundred thousand francs our man stakes on Asie. Now we
must make him lay on Europe,” said Carlos to his confidante when they
were on the landing.

And he vanished after giving his instruction to the Malay who went back
into the room. She found Esther weeping bitterly. The poor girl, like a
criminal condemned to death, had woven a romance of hope, and the fatal
hour had tolled.

“My dear children,” said Asie, “where do you mean to go?--For the Baron
de Nucingen----”

Esther looked at the great banker with a start of surprise that was
admirably acted.

“Ja, mein kind, I am dat Baron von Nucingen.”

“The Baron de Nucingen must not, cannot remain in such a room as this,”
 Asie went on. “Listen to me; your former maid Eugenie.”

“Eugenie, from the Rue Taitbout?” cried the Baron.

“Just so; the woman placed in possession of the furniture,” replied
Asie, “and who let the apartment to that handsome Englishwoman----”

“Hah! I onderstant!” said the Baron.

“Madame’s former waiting-maid,” Asie went on, respectfully alluding
to Esther, “will receive you very comfortably this evening; and the
commercial police will never think of looking for her in her old rooms
which she left three months ago----”

“Feerst rate, feerst rate!” cried the Baron. “An’ besides, I know dese
commercial police, an’ I know vat sorts shall make dem disappear.”

“You will find Eugenie a sharp customer,” said Asie. “I found her for

“Hah! I know her!” cried the millionaire, laughing. “She haf fleeced me
out of dirty tousant franc.”

Esther shuddered with horror in a way that would have led a man of any
feeling to trust her with his fortune.

“Oh, dat vas mein own fault,” the Baron said. “I vas seeking for you.”

And he related the incident that had arisen out of the letting of
Esther’s rooms to the Englishwoman.

“There, now, you see, madame, Eugenie never told you all that, the sly
thing!” said Asie.--“Still, madame is used to the hussy,” she added to
the Baron. “Keep her on, all the same.”

She drew Nucingen aside and said:

“If you give Eugenie five hundred francs a month, which will fill up her
stocking finely, you can know everything that madame does: make her the
lady’s-maid. Eugenie will be all the more devoted to you since she has
already done you.--Nothing attaches a woman to a man more than the fact
that she has once fleeced him. But keep a tight rein on Eugenie; she
will do any earthly thing for money; she is a dreadful creature!”

“An’ vat of you?”

“I,” said Asie, “I make both ends meet.”

Nucingen, the astute financier, had a bandage over his eyes; he allowed
himself to be led like a child. The sight of that spotless and adorable
Esther wiping her eyes and pricking in the stitches of her embroidery
as demurely as an innocent girl, revived in the amorous old man the
sensations he had experienced in the Forest of Vincennes; he would
have given her the key of his safe. He felt so young, his heart was so
overflowing with adoration; he only waited till Asie should be gone to
throw himself at the feet of this Raphael’s Madonna.

This sudden blossoming of youth in the heart of a stockbroker, of an old
man, is one of the social phenomena which must be left to physiology to
account for. Crushed under the burden of business, stifled under endless
calculations and the incessant anxieties of million-hunting, young
emotions revive with their sublime illusions, sprout and flower like
a forgotten cause or a forgotten seed, whose effects, whose gorgeous
bloom, are the sport of chance, brought out by a late and sudden gleam
of sunshine.

The Baron, a clerk by the time he was twelve years old in the ancient
house of Aldrigger at Strasbourg, had never set foot in the world of
sentiment. So there he stood in front of his idol, hearing in his brain
a thousand modes of speech, while none came to his lips, till at length
he acted on the brutal promptings of desire that betrayed a man of

“Vill you come to Rue Taitbout?” said he.

“Wherever you please, monsieur,” said Esther, rising.

“Verever I please!” he echoed in rapture. “You are ein anchel from de
sky, and I lofe you more as if I was a little man, vile I hafe gray

“You had better say white, for they are too fine a black to be only
gray,” said Asie.

“Get out, foul dealer in human flesh! You hafe got your moneys; do not
slobber no more on dis flower of lofe!” cried the banker, indemnifying
himself by this violent abuse for all the insolence he had submitted to.

“You old rip! I will pay you out for that speech!” said Asie,
threatening the banker with a gesture worthy of the Halle, at which the
Baron merely shrugged his shoulders. “Between the lip of the pot and
that of the guzzler there is often a viper, and you will find me there!”
 she went on, furious at Nucingen’s contempt.

Millionaires, whose money is guarded by the Bank of France, whose
mansions are guarded by a squad of footmen, whose person in the streets
is safe behind the rampart of a coach with swift English horses, fear no
ill; so the Baron looked calmly at Asie, as a man who had just given her
a hundred thousand francs.

This dignity had its effect. Asie beat a retreat, growling down the
stairs in highly revolutionary language; she spoke of the guillotine!

“What have you said to her?” asked the Madonna a la broderie, “for she
is a good soul.”

“She hafe solt you, she hafe robbed you----”

“When we are beggared,” said she, in a tone to rend the heart of a
diplomate, “who has ever any money or consideration for us?”

“Poor leetle ting!” said Nucingen. “Do not stop here ein moment longer.”

The Baron offered her his arm; he led her away just as she was, and put
her into his carriage with more respect perhaps than he would have shown
to the handsome Duchesse de Maufrigneuse.

“You shall hafe a fine carriage, de prettiest carriage in Paris,” said
Nucingen, as they drove along. “Everyting dat luxury shall sopply shall
be for you. Not any qveen shall be more rich dan vat you shall be.
You shall be respected like ein Cherman Braut. I shall hafe you to
be free.--Do not veep! Listen to me--I lofe you really, truly, mit de
purest lofe. Efery tear of yours breaks my heart.”

“Can one truly love a woman one has bought?” said the poor girl in the
sweetest tones.

“Choseph vas solt by his broders for dat he was so comely. Dat is so in
de Biple. An’ in de Eastern lants men buy deir wifes.”

On arriving at the Rue Taitbout, Esther could not return to the scene
of her happiness without some pain. She remained sitting on a couch,
motionless, drying away her tears one by one, and never hearing a word
of the crazy speeches poured out by the banker. He fell at her feet, and
she let him kneel without saying a word to him, allowing him to take her
hands as he would, and never thinking of the sex of the creature who was
rubbing her feet to warm them; for Nucingen found that they were cold.

This scene of scalding tears shed on the Baron’s head, and of ice-cold
feet that he tried to warm, lasted from midnight till two in the

“Eugenie,” cried the Baron at last to Europe, “persvade your mis’ess
that she shall go to bet.”

“No!” cried Esther, starting to her feet like a scared horse. “Never in
this house!”

“Look her, monsieur, I know madame; she is as gentle and kind as a
lamb,” said Europe to the Baron. “Only you must not rub her the wrong
way, you must get at her sideways--she had been so miserable here.--You
see how worn the furniture is.--Let her go her own way.

“Furnish some pretty little house for her, very nicely. Perhaps when she
sees everything new about her she will feel a stranger there, and think
you better looking than you are, and be angelically sweet.--Oh! madame
has not her match, and you may boast of having done a very good stroke
of business: a good heart, genteel manners, a fine instep--and a skin, a
complexion! Ah!----

“And witty enough to make a condemned wretch laugh. And madame can feel
an attachment.--And then how she can dress!--Well, if it is costly,
still, as they say, you get your money’s worth.--Here all the gowns were
seized, everything she has is three months old.--But madame is so
kind, you see, that I love her, and she is my mistress!--But in all
justice--such a woman as she is, in the midst of furniture that has been
seized!--And for whom? For a young scamp who has ruined her. Poor little
thing, she is not at all herself.”

“Esther, Esther; go to bet, my anchel! If it is me vat frighten you, I
shall stay here on dis sofa----” cried the Baron, fired by the purest
devotion, as he saw that Esther was still weeping.

“Well, then,” said Esther, taking the “lynx’s” hand, and kissing it with
an impulse of gratitude which brought something very like a tear to his
eye, “I shall be grateful to you----”

And she fled into her room and locked the door.

“Dere is someting fery strange in all dat,” thought Nucingen, excited by
his pillules. “Vat shall dey say at home?”

He got up and looked out of the window. “My carriage still is dere. It
shall soon be daylight.” He walked up and down the room.

“Vat Montame de Nucingen should laugh at me ven she should know how I
hafe spent dis night!”

He applied his ear to the bedroom door, thinking himself rather too much
of a simpleton.


No reply.

“Mein Gott! and she is still veeping!” said he to himself, as he
stretched himself on the sofa.

About ten minutes after sunrise, the Baron de Nucingen, who was sleeping
the uneasy slumbers that are snatched by compulsion in an awkward
position on a couch, was aroused with a start by Europe from one of
those dreams that visit us in such moments, and of which the swift
complications are a phenomenon inexplicable by medical physiology.

“Oh, God help us, madame!” she shrieked. “Madame!--the
soldiers--gendarmes--bailiffs! They have come to take us.”

At the moment when Esther opened her door and appeared, hurriedly,
wrapped in her dressing-gown, her bare feet in slippers, her hair in
disorder, lovely enough to bring the angel Raphael to perdition, the
drawing-room door vomited into the room a gutter of human mire that came
on, on ten feet, towards the beautiful girl, who stood like an angel
in some Flemish church picture. One man came foremost. Contenson, the
horrible Contenson, laid his hand on Esther’s dewy shoulder.

“You are Mademoiselle van----” he began. Europe, by a back-handed slap
on Contenson’s cheek, sent him sprawling to measure his length on the
carpet, and with all the more effect because at the same time she caught
his leg with the sharp kick known to those who practise the art as a
coup de savate.

“Hands off!” cried she. “No one shall touch my mistress.”

“She has broken my leg!” yelled Contenson, picking himself up; “I will
have damages!”

From the group of bumbailiffs, looking like what they were, all
standing with their horrible hats on their yet more horrible heads,
with mahogany-colored faces and bleared eyes, damaged noses, and hideous
mouths, Louchard now stepped forth, more decently dressed than his men,
but keeping his hat on, his expression at once smooth-faced and smiling.

“Mademoiselle, I arrest you!” said he to Esther. “As for you, my girl,”
 he added to Europe, “any resistance will be punished, and perfectly

The noise of muskets, let down with a thud of their stocks on the floor
of the dining-room, showing that the invaders had soldiers to bake them,
gave emphasis to this speech.

“And what am I arrested for?” said Esther.

“What about our little debts?” said Louchard.

“To be sure,” cried Esther; “give me leave to dress.”

“But, unfortunately, mademoiselle, I am obliged to make sure that you
have no way of getting out of your room,” said Louchard.

All this passed so quickly that the Baron had not yet had time to

“Well, and am I still a foul dealer in human flesh, Baron de Nucingen?”
 cried the hideous Asie, forcing her way past the sheriff’s officers to
the couch, where she pretended to have just discovered the banker.

“Contemptible wretch!” exclaimed Nucingen, drawing himself up in
financial majesty.

He placed himself between Esther and Louchard, who took off his hat as
Contenson cried out, “Monsieur le Baron de Nucingen.”

At a signal from Louchard the bailiffs vanished from the room,
respectfully taking their hats off. Contenson alone was left.

“Do you propose to pay, Monsieur le Baron?” asked he, hat in hand.

“I shall pay,” said the banker; “but I must know vat dis is all about.”

“Three hundred and twelve thousand francs and some centimes, costs paid;
but the charges for the arrest not included.”

“Three hundred thousand francs,” cried the Baron; “dat is a fery
‘xpensive vaking for a man vat has passed the night on a sofa,” he added
in Europe’s ear.

“Is that man really the Baron de Nucingen?” asked Europe to Louchard,
giving weight to the doubt by a gesture which Mademoiselle Dupont, the
low comedy servant of the Francais, might have envied.

“Yes, mademoiselle,” said Louchard.

“Yes,” replied Contenson.

“I shall be answerable,” said the Baron, piqued in his honor by Europe’s
doubt. “You shall ‘llow me to say ein vort to her.”

Esther and her elderly lover retired to the bedroom, Louchard finding it
necessary to apply his ear to the keyhole.

“I lofe you more as my life, Esther; but vy gife to your creditors
moneys vich shall be so much better in your pocket? Go into prison. I
shall undertake to buy up dose hundert tousant crowns for ein hundert
tousant francs, an’ so you shall hafe two hundert tousant francs for

“That scheme is perfectly useless,” cried Louchard through the door.
“The creditor is not in love with mademoiselle--not he! You understand?
And he means to have more than all, now he knows that you are in love
with her.”

“You dam’ sneak!” cried Nucingen, opening the door, and dragging
Louchard into the bedroom; “you know not dat vat you talk about. I shall
gife you, you’self, tventy per cent if you make the job.”

“Impossible, M. le Baron.”

“What, monsieur, you could have the heart to let my mistress go to
prison?” said Europe, intervening. “But take my wages, my savings; take
them, madame; I have forty thousand francs----”

“Ah, my good girl, I did not really know you!” cried Esther, clasping
Europe in her arms.

Europe proceeded to melt into tears.

“I shall pay,” said the Baron piteously, as he drew out a pocket-book,
from which he took one of the little printed forms which the Bank of
France issues to bankers, on which they have only to write a sum in
figures and in words to make them available as cheques to bearer.

“It is not worth the trouble, Monsieur le Baron,” said Louchard; “I
have instructions not to accept payment in anything but coin of the
realm--gold or silver. As it is you, I will take banknotes.”

“Der Teufel!” cried the Baron. “Well, show me your papers.”

Contenson handed him three packets covered with blue paper, which the
Baron took, looking at the man, and adding in an undertone:

“It should hafe been a better day’s vork for you ven you had gife me

“Why, how should I know you were here, Monsieur le Baron?” replied
the spy, heedless whether Louchard heard him. “You lost my services
by withdrawing your confidence. You are done,” added this philosopher,
shrugging his shoulders.

“Qvite true,” said the baron. “Ah, my chilt,” he exclaimed, seeing
the bills of exchange, and turning to Esther, “you are de fictim of a
torough scoundrel, ein highway tief!”

“Alas, yes,” said poor Esther; “but he loved me truly.”

“Ven I should hafe known--I should hafe made you to protest----”

“You are off your head, Monsieur le Baron,” said Louchard; “there is a
third endorsement.”

“Yes, dere is a tird endorsement--Cerizet! A man of de opposition.”

“Will you write an order on your cashier, Monsieur le Baron?” said
Louchard. “I will send Contenson to him and dismiss my men. It is
getting late, and everybody will know that----”

“Go den, Contenson,” said Nucingen. “My cashier lives at de corner of
Rue des Mathurins and Rue de l’Arcate. Here is ein vort for dat he shall
go to du Tillet or to de Kellers, in case ve shall not hafe a hundert
tousant franc--for our cash shall be at de Bank.--Get dress’, my
anchel,” he said to Esther. “You are at liberty.--An’ old vomans,” he
went on, looking at Asie, “are more dangerous as young vomans.”

“I will go and give the creditor a good laugh,” said Asie, “and he will
give me something for a treat to-day.--We bear no malice, Monsieur le
Baron,” added Saint-Esteve with a horrible courtesy.

Louchard took the bills out of the Baron’s hands, and remained alone
with him in the drawing-room, whither, half an hour later, the cashier
came, followed by Contenson. Esther then reappeared in a bewitching,
though improvised, costume. When the money had been counted by Louchard,
the Baron wished to examine the bills; but Esther snatched them with a
cat-like grab, and carried them away to her desk.

“What will you give the rabble?” said Contenson to Nucingen.

“You hafe not shown much consideration,” said the Baron.

“And what about my leg?” cried Contenson.

“Louchard, you shall gife ein hundert francs to Contenson out of the
change of the tousand-franc note.”

“De lady is a beauty,” said the cashier to the Baron, as they left the
Rue Taitbout, “but she is costing you ver’ dear, Monsieur le Baron.”

“Keep my segret,” said the Baron, who had said the same to Contenson and

Louchard went away with Contenson; but on the boulevard Asie, who was
looking out for him, stopped Louchard.

“The bailiff and the creditor are there in a cab,” said she. “They are
thirsty, and there is money going.”

While Louchard counted out the cash, Contenson studied the customers. He
recognized Carlos by his eyes, and traced the form of his forehead under
the wig. The wig he shrewdly regarded as suspicious; he took the number
of the cab while seeming quite indifferent to what was going on; Asie
and Europe puzzled him beyond measure. He thought that the Baron was the
victim of excessively clever sharpers, all the more so because Louchard,
when securing his services, had been singularly close. And besides, the
twist of Europe’s foot had not struck his shin only.

“A trick like that is learned at Saint-Lazare,” he had reflected as he
got up.

Carlos dismissed the bailiff, paying him liberally, and as he did so,
said to the driver of the cab, “To the Perron, Palais Royal.”

“The rascal!” thought Contenson as he heard the order. “There is
something up!” Carlos drove to the Palais Royal at a pace which
precluded all fear of pursuit. He made his way in his own fashion
through the arcades, took another cab on the Place du Chateau d’Eau, and
bid the man go “to the Passage de l’Opera, the end of the Rue Pinon.”

A quarter of a hour later he was in the Rue Taitbout. On seeing him,
Esther said:

“Here are the fatal papers.”

Carlos took the bills, examined them, and then burned them in the
kitchen fire.

“We have done the trick,” he said, showing her three hundred and ten
thousand francs in a roll, which he took out of the pocket of his coat.
“This, and the hundred thousand francs squeezed out by Asie, set us free
to act.”

“Oh God, oh God!” cried poor Esther.

“But, you idiot,” said the ferocious swindler, “you have only to be
ostensibly Nucingen’s mistress, and you can always see Lucien; he is
Nucingen’s friend; I do not forbid your being madly in love with him.”

Esther saw a glimmer of light in her darkened life; she breathed once

“Europe, my girl,” said Carlos, leading the creature into a corner of
the boudoir where no one could overhear a word, “Europe, I am pleased
with you.”

Europe held up her head, and looked at this man with an expression which
so completely changed her faded features, that Asie, witnessing the
interview, as she watched her from the door, wondered whether the
interest by which Carlos held Europe might not perhaps be even stronger
than that by which she herself was bound to him.

“That is not all, my child. Four hundred thousand francs are a mere
nothing to me. Paccard will give you an account for some plate,
amounting to thirty thousand francs, on which money has been paid
on account; but our goldsmith, Biddin, has paid money for us. Our
furniture, seized by him, will no doubt be advertised to-morrow. Go
and see Biddin; he lives in the Rue de l’Arbre Sec; he will give you
Mont-de-Piete tickets for ten thousand francs. You understand, Esther
ordered the plate; she had not paid for it, and she put it up the spout.
She will be in danger of a little summons for swindling. So we must pay
the goldsmith the thirty thousand francs, and pay up ten thousand francs
to the Mont-de-Piete to get the plate back. Forty-three thousand francs
in all, including the costs. The silver is very much alloyed; the Baron
will give her a new service, and we shall bone a few thousand francs out
of that. You owe--what? two years’ account with the dressmaker?”

“Put it at six thousand francs,” replied Europe.

“Well, if Madame Auguste wants to be paid and keep our custom, tell her
to make out a bill for thirty thousand francs over four years. Make a
similar arrangement with the milliner. The jeweler, Samuel Frisch the
Jew, in the Rue Saint-Avoie, will lend you some pawn-tickets; we must
owe him twenty-five thousand francs, and we must want six thousand for
jewels pledged at the Mont-de-Piete. We will return the trinkets to
the jeweler, half the stones will be imitation, but the Baron will not
examine them. In short, you will make him fork out another hundred and
fifty thousand francs to add to our nest-eggs within a week.”

“Madame might give me a little help,” said Europe. “Tell her so, for she
sits there mumchance, and obliges me to find more inventions than three
authors for one piece.”

“If Esther turns prudish, just let me know,” said Carlos. “Nucingen
must give her a carriage and horses; she will have to choose and buy
everything herself. Go to the horse-dealer and the coachmaker who
are employed by the job-master where Paccard finds work. We shall get
handsome horses, very dear, which will go lame within a month, and we
shall have to change them.”

“We might get six thousand francs out of a perfumer’s bill,” said

“Oh!” said he, shaking his head, “we must go gently. Nucingen has only
got his arm into the press; we must have his head. Besides all this, I
must get five hundred thousand francs.”

“You can get them,” replied Europe. “Madame will soften towards the fat
fool for about six hundred thousand, and insist on four hundred thousand
more to love him truly!”

“Listen to me, my child,” said Carlos. “The day when I get the last
hundred thousand francs, there shall be twenty thousand for you.”

“What good will they do me?” said Europe, letting her arms drop like a
woman to whom life seems impossible.

“You could go back to Valenciennes, buy a good business, and set up as
an honest woman if you chose; there are many tastes in human nature.
Paccard thinks of settling sometimes; he has no encumbrances on his
hands, and not much on his conscience; you might suit each other,”
 replied Carlos.

“Go back to Valenciennes! What are you thinking of, monsieur?” cried
Europe in alarm.

Europe, who was born at Valenciennes, the child of very poor parents,
had been sent at seven years of age to a spinning factory, where the
demands of modern industry had impaired her physical strength, just as
vice had untimely depraved her. Corrupted at the age of twelve, and
a mother at thirteen, she found herself bound to the most degraded of
human creatures. On the occasion of a murder case, she had been as a
witness before the Court. Haunted at sixteen by a remnant of rectitude,
and the terror inspired by the law, her evidence led to the prisoner
being sentenced to twenty years of hard labor.

The convict, one of those men who have been in the hands of justice more
than once, and whose temper is apt at terrible revenge, had said to the
girl in open court:

“In ten years, as sure as you live, Prudence” (Europe’s name was
Prudence Servien), “I will return to be the death of you, if I am
scragged for it.”

The President of the Court tried to reassure the girl by promising
her the protection and the care of the law; but the poor child was so
terror-stricken that she fell ill, and was in hospital nearly a year.
Justice is an abstract being, represented by a collection of individuals
who are incessantly changing, whose good intentions and memories are,
like themselves, liable to many vicissitudes. Courts and tribunals can
do nothing to hinder crimes; their business is to deal with them when
done. From this point of view, a preventive police would be a boon to
a country; but the mere word Police is in these days a bugbear
to legislators, who no longer can distinguish between the three
words--Government, Administration, and Law-making. The legislator tends
to centralize everything in the State, as if the State could act.

The convict would be sure always to remember his victim, and to avenge
himself when Justice had ceased to think of either of them.

Prudence, who instinctively appreciated the danger--in a general sense,
so to speak--left Valenciennes and came to Paris at the age of seventeen
to hide there. She tried four trades, of which the most successful was
that of a “super” at a minor theatre. She was picked up by Paccard,
and to him she told her woes. Paccard, Jacques Collin’s disciple and
right-hand man, spoke of this girl to his master, and when the master
needed a slave he said to Prudence:

“If you will serve me as the devil must be served, I will rid you of

Durut was the convict; the Damocles’ sword hung over Prudence Servien’s

But for these details, many critics would have thought Europe’s
attachment somewhat grotesque. And no one could have understood the
startling announcement that Carlos had ready.

“Yes, my girl, you can go back to Valenciennes. Here, read this.”

And he held out to her yesterday’s paper, pointing to this paragraph:

  “TOULON--Yesterday, Jean Francois Durut was executed here. Early
  in the morning the garrison,” etc.

Prudence dropped the paper; her legs gave way under the weight of her
body; she lived again; for, to use her own words, she never liked the
taste of her food since the day when Durut had threatened her.

“You see, I have kept my word. It has taken four years to bring Durut to
the scaffold by leading him into a snare.--Well, finish my job here, and
you will find yourself at the head of a little country business in your
native town, with twenty thousand francs of your own as Paccard’s wife,
and I will allow him to be virtuous as a form of pension.”

Europe picked up the paper and read with greedy eyes all the details, of
which for twenty years the papers have never been tired, as to the death
of convicted criminals: the impressive scene, the chaplain--who has
always converted the victim--the hardened criminal preaching to his
fellow convicts, the battery of guns, the convicts on their knees; and
then the twaddle and reflections which never lead to any change in the
management of the prisons where eighteen hundred crimes are herded.

“We must place Asie on the staff once more,” said Carlos.

Asie came forward, not understanding Europe’s pantomime.

“In bringing her back here as cook, you must begin by giving the Baron
such a dinner as he never ate in his life,” he went on. “Tell him that
Asie has lost all her money at play, and has taken service once more. We
shall not need an outdoor servant. Paccard shall be coachman. Coachmen
do not leave their box, where they are safe out of the way; and he will
run less risk from spies. Madame must turn him out in a powdered wig and
a braided felt cocked hat; that will alter his appearance. Besides, I
will make him us.”

“Are we going to have men-servants in the house?” asked Asie with a

“All honest folks,” said Carlos.

“All soft-heads,” retorted the mulatto.

“If the Baron takes a house, Paccard has a friend who will suit as the
lodge porter,” said Carlos. “Then we shall only need a footman and a
kitchen-maid, and you can surely keep an eye on two strangers----”

As Carlos was leaving, Paccard made his appearance.

“Wait a little while, there are people in the street,” said the man.

This simple statement was alarming. Carlos went up to Europe’s room, and
stayed there till Paccard came to fetch him, having called a hackney
cab that came into the courtyard. Carlos pulled down the blinds, and was
driven off at a pace that defied pursuit.

Having reached the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, he got out at a short
distance from a hackney coach stand, to which he went on foot, and
thence returned to the Quai Malaquais, escaping all inquiry.

“Here, child,” said he to Lucien, showing him four hundred banknotes for
a thousand francs, “here is something on account for the purchase of
the estates of Rubempre. We will risk a hundred thousand. Omnibuses
have just been started; the Parisians will take to the novelty; in three
months we shall have trebled our capital. I know the concern; they will
pay splendid dividends taken out of the capital, to put a head on the
shares--an old idea of Nucingen’s revived. If we acquire the Rubempre
land, we shall not have to pay on the nail.

“You must go and see des Lupeaulx, and beg him to give you a personal
recommendation to a lawyer named Desroches, a cunning dog, whom you must
call on at his office. Get him to go to Rubempre and see how the land
lies; promise him a premium of twenty thousand francs if he manages
to secure you thirty thousand francs a year by investing eight hundred
thousand francs in land round the ruins of the old house.”

“How you go on--on! on!”

“I am always going on. This is no time for joking.--You must then invest
a hundred thousand crowns in Treasury bonds, so as to lose no interest;
you may safely leave it to Desroches, he is as honest as he is
knowing.--That being done, get off to Angouleme, and persuade your
sister and your brother-in-law to pledge themselves to a little fib in
the way of business. Your relations are to have given you six hundred
thousand francs to promote your marriage with Clotilde de Grandlieu;
there is no disgrace in that.”

“We are saved!” cried Lucien, dazzled.

“You are, yes!” replied Carlos. “But even you are not safe till you walk
out of Saint-Thomas d’Aquin with Clotilde as your wife.”

“And what have you to fear?” said Lucien, apparently much concerned for
his counselor.

“Some inquisitive souls are on my track--I must assume the manners of a
genuine priest; it is most annoying. The Devil will cease to protect me
if he sees me with a breviary under my arm.”

At this moment the Baron de Nucingen, who was leaning on his cashier’s
arm, reached the door of his mansion.

“I am ver’ much afrait,” said he, as he went in, “dat I hafe done a bat
day’s vork. Vell, we must make it up some oder vays.”

“De misfortune is dat you shall hafe been caught, mein Herr Baron,” said
the worthy German, whose whole care was for appearances.

“Ja, my miss’ess en titre should be in a position vody of me,” said this
Louis XIV. of the counting-house.

Feeling sure that sooner or later Esther would be his, the Baron was now
himself again, a masterly financier. He resumed the management of his
affairs, and with such effect that his cashier, finding him in his
office room at six o’clock next morning, verifying his securities,
rubbed his hands with satisfaction.

“Ah, ha! mein Herr Baron, you shall hafe saved money last night!” said
he, with a half-cunning, half-loutish German grin.

Though men who are as rich as the Baron de Nucingen have more
opportunities than others for losing money, they also have more chances
of making it, even when they indulge their follies. Though the financial
policy of the house of Nucingen has been explained elsewhere, it may be
as well to point out that such immense fortunes are not made, are not
built up, are not increased, and are not retained in the midst of the
commercial, political, and industrial revolutions of the present day but
at the cost of immense losses, or, if you choose to view it so, of heavy
taxes on private fortunes. Very little newly-created wealth is thrown
into the common treasury of the world. Every fresh accumulation
represents some new inequality in the general distribution of wealth.
What the State exacts it makes some return for; but what a house like
that of Nucingen takes, it keeps.

Such covert robbery escapes the law for the reason which would have made
a Jacques Collin of Frederick the Great, if, instead of dealing with
provinces by means of battles, he had dealt in smuggled goods or
transferable securities. The high politics of money-making consist in
forcing the States of Europe to issue loans at twenty or at ten per
cent, in making that twenty or ten per cent by the use of public funds,
in squeezing industry on a vast scale by buying up raw material, in
throwing a rope to the first founder of a business just to keep him
above water till his drowned-out enterprise is safely landed--in short,
in all the great battles for money-getting.

The banker, no doubt, like the conqueror, runs risks; but there are
so few men in a position to wage this warfare, that the sheep have no
business to meddle. Such grand struggles are between the shepherds.
Thus, as the defaulters are guilty of having wanted to win too much,
very little sympathy is felt as a rule for the misfortunes brought about
by the coalition of the Nucingens. If a speculator blows his brains
out, if a stockbroker bolts, if a lawyer makes off with the fortune of a
hundred families--which is far worse than killing a man--if a banker is
insolvent, all these catastrophes are forgotten in Paris in few months,
and buried under the oceanic surges of the great city.

The colossal fortunes of Jacques Coeur, of the Medici, of the Angos
of Dieppe, of the Auffredis of la Rochelle, of the Fuggers, of the
Tiepolos, of the Corners, were honestly made long ago by the advantages
they had over the ignorance of the people as to the sources of precious
products; but nowadays geographical information has reached the masses,
and competition has so effectually limited the profits, that every
rapidly made fortune is the result of chance, or of a discovery, or of
some legalized robbery. The lower grades of mercantile enterprise have
retorted on the perfidious dealings of higher commerce, especially
during the last ten years, by base adulteration of the raw material.
Wherever chemistry is practised, wine is no longer procurable; the vine
industry is consequently waning. Manufactured salt is sold to avoid
the excise. The tribunals are appalled by this universal dishonesty. In
short, French trade is regarded with suspicion by the whole world, and
England too is fast being demoralized.

With us the mischief has its origin in the political situation. The
Charter proclaimed the reign of Money, and success has become the
supreme consideration of an atheistic age. And, indeed, the corruption
of the higher ranks is infinitely more hideous, in spite of the dazzling
display and specious arguments of wealth, than that ignoble and more
personal corruption of the inferior classes, of which certain details
lend a comic element--terrible, if you will--to this drama. The
Government, always alarmed by a new idea, has banished these materials
of modern comedy from the stage. The citizen class, less liberal than
Louis XIV., dreads the advent of its _Mariage de Figaro_, forbids the
appearance of a political _Tartuffe_, and certainly would not allow
_Turcaret_ to be represented, for Turcaret is king. Consequently, comedy
has to be narrated, and a book is now the weapon--less swift, but no
more sure--that writers wield.

In the course of this morning, amid the coming and going of callers,
orders to be given, and brief interviews, making Nucingen’s private
office a sort of financial lobby, one of his stockbrokers announced to
him the disappearance of a member of the Company, one of the richest
and cleverest too--Jacques Falleix, brother of Martin Falleix, and
the successor of Jules Desmarets. Jacques Falleix was stockbroker in
ordinary to the house of Nucingen. In concert with du Tillet and the
Kellers, the Baron had plotted the ruin of this man in cold blood, as if
it had been the killing of a Passover lamb.

“He could not hafe helt on,” replied the Baron quietly.

Jacques Falleix had done them immense service in stock-jobbing. During
a crisis a few months since he had saved the situation by acting boldly.
But to look for gratitude from a money-dealer is as vain as to try to
touch the heart of the wolves of the Ukraine in winter.

“Poor fellow!” said the stockbroker. “He so little anticipated such a
catastrophe, that he had furnished a little house for his mistress
in the Rue Saint-Georges; he has spent one hundred and fifty thousand
francs in decorations and furniture. He was so devoted to Madame du
Val-Noble! The poor woman must give it all up. And nothing is paid for.”

“Goot, goot!” thought Nucingen, “dis is de very chance to make up for
vat I hafe lost dis night!--He hafe paid for noting?” he asked his

“Why,” said the stockbroker, “where would you find a tradesman so ill
informed as to refuse credit to Jacques Falleix? There is a splendid
cellar of wine, it would seem. By the way, the house is for sale; he
meant to buy it. The lease is in his name.--What a piece of folly!
Plate, furniture, wine, carriage-horses, everything will be valued in a
lump, and what will the creditors get out of it?”

“Come again to-morrow,” said Nucingen. “I shall hafe seen all dat;
and if it is not a declared bankruptcy, if tings can be arranged and
compromised, I shall tell you to offer some reasonaple price for dat
furniture, if I shall buy de lease----”

“That can be managed,” said his friend. “If you go there this morning,
you will find one of Falleix’s partners there with the tradespeople,
who want to establish a first claim; but la Val-Noble has their accounts
made out to Falleix.”

The Baron sent off one of his clerks forthwith to his lawyer. Jacques
Falleix had spoken to him about this house, which was worth sixty
thousand francs at most, and he wished to be put in possession of it at
once, so as to avail himself of the privileges of the householder.

The cashier, honest man, came to inquire whether his master had lost
anything by Falleix’s bankruptcy.

“On de contrar’ mein goot Volfgang, I stant to vin ein hundert tousant

“How vas dat?”

“Vell, I shall hafe de little house vat dat poor Teufel Falleix should
furnish for his mis’ess this year. I shall hafe all dat for fifty
tousant franc to de creditors; and my notary, Maitre Cardot, shall hafe
my orders to buy de house, for de lan’lord vant de money--I knew dat,
but I hat lost mein head. Ver’ soon my difine Esther shall life in a
little palace.... I hafe been dere mit Falleix--it is close to here.--It
shall fit me like a glofe.”

Falleix’s failure required the Baron’s presence at the Bourse; but he
could not bear to leave his house in the Rue Saint-Lazare without going
to the Rue Taitbout; he was already miserable at having been away from
Esther for so many hours. He would have liked to keep her at his elbow.
The profits he hoped to make out of his stockbrokers’ plunder made the
former loss of four hundred thousand francs quite easy to endure.

Delighted to announce to his “anchel” that she was to move from the Rue
Taitbout to the Rue Saint-Georges, where she was to have “ein little
palace” where her memories would no longer rise up in antagonism to
their happiness, the pavement felt elastic under his feet; he walked
like a young man in a young man’s dream. As he turned the corner of the
Rue des Trois Freres, in the middle of his dream, and of the road, the
Baron beheld Europe coming towards him, looking very much upset.

“Vere shall you go?” he asked.

“Well, monsieur, I was on my way to you. You were quite right yesterday.
I see now that poor madame had better have gone to prison for a few
days. But how should women understand money matters? When madame’s
creditors heard that she had come home, they all came down upon us like
birds of prey.--Last evening, at seven o’clock, monsieur, men came
and stuck terrible posters up to announce a sale of furniture on
Saturday--but that is nothing.--Madame, who is all heart, once upon a
time to oblige that wretch of a man you know----”

“Vat wretch?”

“Well, the man she was in love with, d’Estourny--well, he was charming!
He was only a gambler----”

“He gambled with beveled cards!”

“Well--and what do you do at the Bourse?” said Europe. “But let me go
on. One day, to hinder Georges, as he said, from blowing out his brains,
she pawned all her plate and her jewels, which had never been paid for.
Now on hearing that she had given something to one of her creditors,
they came in a body and made a scene. They threaten her with the
police-court--your angel at that bar! Is it not enough to make a wig
stand on end? She is bathed in tears; she talks of throwing herself into
the river--and she will do it.”

“If I shall go to see her, dat is goot-bye to de Bourse; an’ it is
impossible but I shall go, for I shall make some money for her--you
shall compose her. I shall pay her debts; I shall go to see her at four
o’clock. But tell me, Eugenie, dat she shall lofe me a little----”

“A little?--A great deal!--I tell you what, monsieur, nothing but
generosity can win a woman’s heart. You would, no doubt, have saved a
hundred thousand francs or so by letting her go to prison. Well, you
would never have won her heart. As she said to me--‘Eugenie, he has been
noble, grand--he has a great soul.’”

“She hafe said dat, Eugenie?” cried the Baron.

“Yes, monsieur, to me, myself.”

“Here--take dis ten louis.”

“Thank you.--But she is crying at this moment; she has been crying ever
since yesterday as much as a weeping Magdalen could have cried in six
months. The woman you love is in despair, and for debts that are
not even hers! Oh! men--they devour women as women devour old

“Dey all is de same!--She hafe pledge’ herself.--Vy, no one shall ever
pledge herself.--Tell her dat she shall sign noting more.--I shall pay;
but if she shall sign something more--I----”

“What will you do?” said Europe with an air.

“Mein Gott! I hafe no power over her.--I shall take de management of her
little affairs----Dere, dere, go to comfort her, and you shall say that
in ein mont she shall live in a little palace.”

“You have invested heavily, Monsieur le Baron, and for large interest,
in a woman’s heart. I tell you--you look to me younger. I am but
a waiting-maid, but I have often seen such a change. It is
happiness--happiness gives a certain glow.... If you have spent a little
money, do not let that worry you; you will see what a good return it
will bring. And I said to madame, I told her she would be the lowest of
the low, a perfect hussy, if she did not love you, for you have picked
her out of hell.--When once she has nothing on her mind, you will
see. Between you and me, I may tell you, that night when she cried so
much--What is to be said, we value the esteem of the man who maintains
us--and she did not dare tell you everything. She wanted to fly.”

“To fly!” cried the Baron, in dismay at the notion. “But the Bourse, the
Bourse!--Go ‘vay, I shall not come in.--But tell her that I shall see
her at her window--dat shall gife me courage!”

Esther smiled at Monsieur de Nucingen as he passed the house, and he
went ponderously on his way, saying:

“She is ein anchel!”

This was how Europe had succeeded in achieving the impossible. At about
half-past two Esther had finished dressing, as she was wont to dress
when she expected Lucien; she was looking charming. Seeing this,
Prudence, looking out of the window, said, “There is monsieur!”

The poor creature flew to the window, thinking she would see Lucien; she
saw Nucingen.

“Oh! how cruelly you hurt me!” she said.

“There is no other way of getting you to seem to be gracious to a poor
old man, who, after all, is going to pay your debts,” said Europe. “For
they are all to be paid.”

“What debts?” said the girl, who only cared to preserve her love, which
dreadful hands were scattering to the winds.

“Those which Monsieur Carlos made in your name.”

“Why, here are nearly four hundred and fifty thousand francs,” cried

“And you owe a hundred and fifty thousand more. But the Baron took it
all very well.--He is going to remove you from hence, and place you in a
little palace.--On my honor, you are not so badly off. In your place,
as you have got on the right side of this man, as soon as Carlos is
satisfied, I should make him give me a house and a settled income. You
are certainly the handsomest woman I ever saw, madame, and the most
attractive, but we so soon grow ugly! I was fresh and good-looking, and
look at me! I am twenty-three, about the same age as madame, and I look
ten years older. An illness is enough.--Well, but when you have a house
in Paris and investments, you need never be afraid of ending in the

Esther had ceased to listen to Europe-Eugenie-Prudence Servien. The will
of a man gifted with the genius of corruption had thrown Esther back
into the mud with as much force as he had used to drag her out of it.

Those who know love in its infinitude know that those who do not accept
its virtues do not experience its pleasures. Since the scene in the
den in the Rue de Langlade, Esther had utterly forgotten her former
existence. She had since lived very virtuously, cloistered by her
passion. Hence, to avoid any obstacle, the skilful fiend had been clever
enough to lay such a train that the poor girl, prompted by her devotion,
had merely to utter her consent to swindling actions already done, or on
the point of accomplishment. This subtlety, revealing the mastery of
the tempter, also characterized the methods by which he had subjugated
Lucien. He created a terrible situation, dug a mine, filled it with
powder, and at the critical moment said to his accomplice, “You have
only to nod, and the whole will explode!”

Esther of old, knowing only the morality peculiar to courtesans, thought
all these attentions so natural, that she measured her rivals only
by what they could get men to spend on them. Ruined fortunes are the
conduct-stripes of these creatures. Carlos, in counting on Esther’s
memory, had not calculated wrongly.

These tricks of warfare, these stratagems employed a thousand times, not
only by these women, but by spendthrifts too, did not disturb Esther’s
mind. She felt nothing but her personal degradation; she loved Lucien,
she was to be the Baron de Nucingen’s mistress “by appointment”;
this was all she thought of. The supposed Spaniard might absorb the
earnest-money, Lucien might build up his fortune with the stones of
her tomb, a single night of pleasure might cost the old banker so many
thousand-franc notes more or less, Europe might extract a few hundred
thousand francs by more or less ingenious trickery,--none of these
things troubled the enamored girl; this alone was the canker that ate
into her heart. For five years she had looked upon herself as being as
white as an angel. She loved, she was happy, she had never committed the
smallest infidelity. This beautiful pure love was now to be defiled.

There was, in her mind, no conscious contrasting of her happy isolated
past and her foul future life. It was neither interest nor sentiment
that moved her, only an indefinable and all powerful feeling that she
had been white and was now black, pure and was now impure, noble and
was now ignoble. Desiring to be the ermine, moral taint seemed to her
unendurable. And when the Baron’s passion had threatened her, she had
really thought of throwing herself out of the window. In short, she
loved Lucien wholly, and as women very rarely love a man. Women who say
they love, who often think they love best, dance, waltz, and flirt with
other men, dress for the world, and look for a harvest of concupiscent
glances; but Esther, without any sacrifice, had achieved miracles of
true love. She had loved Lucien for six years as actresses love and
courtesans--women who, having rolled in mire and impurity, thirst for
something noble, for the self-devotion of true love, and who practice
exclusiveness--the only word for an idea so little known in real life.

Vanished nations, Greece, Rome, and the East, have at all times kept
women shut up; the woman who loves should shut herself up. So it may
easily be imagined that on quitting the palace of her fancy, where this
poem had been enacted, to go to this old man’s “little palace,” Esther
felt heartsick. Urged by an iron hand, she had found herself waist-deep
in disgrace before she had time to reflect; but for the past two days
she had been reflecting, and felt a mortal chill about her heart.

At the words, “End in the street,” she started to her feet and said:

“In the street!--No, in the Seine rather.”

“In the Seine? And what about Monsieur Lucien?” said Europe.

This single word brought Esther to her seat again; she remained in her
armchair, her eyes fixed on a rosette in the carpet, the fire in her
brain drying up her tears.

At four o’clock Nucingen found his angel lost in that sea of meditations
and resolutions whereon a woman’s spirit floats, and whence she emerges
with utterances that are incomprehensible to those who have not sailed
it in her convoy.

“Clear your brow, meine Schone,” said the Baron, sitting down by her.
“You shall hafe no more debts--I shall arrange mit Eugenie, an’ in ein
mont you shall go ‘vay from dese rooms and go to dat little palace.--Vas
a pretty hant.--Gife it me dat I shall kiss it.” Esther gave him her
hand as a dog gives a paw. “Ach, ja! You shall gife de hant, but not de
heart, and it is dat heart I lofe!”

The words were spoken with such sincerity of accent, that poor Esther
looked at the old man with a compassion in her eyes that almost maddened
him. Lovers, like martyrs, feel a brotherhood in their sufferings!
Nothing in the world gives such a sense of kindred as community of

“Poor man!” said she, “he really loves.”

As he heard the words, misunderstanding their meaning, the Baron turned
pale, the blood tingled in his veins, he breathed the airs of heaven. At
his age a millionaire, for such a sensation, will pay as much gold as a
woman can ask.

“I lofe you like vat I lofe my daughter,” said he. “An’ I feel
dere”--and he laid her hand over his heart--“dat I shall not bear to see
you anyting but happy.”

“If you would only be a father to me, I would love you very much; I
would never leave you; and you would see that I am not a bad woman, not
grasping or greedy, as I must seem to you now----”

“You hafe done some little follies,” said the Baron, “like all dose
pretty vomen--dat is all. Say no more about dat. It is our pusiness to
make money for you. Be happy! I shall be your fater for some days yet,
for I know I must make you accustom’ to my old carcase.”

“Really!” she exclaimed, springing on to Nucingen’s knees, and clinging
to him with her arm round his neck.

“Really!” repeated he, trying to force a smile.

She kissed his forehead; she believed in an impossible combination--she
might remain untouched and see Lucien.

She was so coaxing to the banker that she was La Torpille once more.
She fairly bewitched the old man, who promised to be a father to her
for forty days. Those forty days were to be employed in acquiring and
arranging the house in the Rue Saint-Georges.

When he was in the street again, as he went home, the Baron said to
himself, “I am an old flat.”

But though in Esther’s presence he was a mere child, away from her he
resumed his lynx’s skin; just as the gambler (in _le Joueur_) becomes
affectionate to Angelique when he has not a liard.

“A half a million francs I hafe paid, and I hafe not yet seen vat her
leg is like.--Dat is too silly! but, happily, nobody shall hafe known
it!” said he to himself three weeks after.

And he made great resolutions to come to the point with the woman who
had cost him so dear; then, in Esther’s presence once more, he spent all
the time he could spare her in making up for the roughness of his first

“After all,” said he, at the end of a month, “I cannot be de fater

Towards the end of the month of December 1829, just before installing
Esther in the house in the Rue Saint-Georges, the Baron begged du
Tillet to take Florine there, that she might see whether everything
was suitable to Nucingen’s fortune, and if the description of “a little
palace” were duly realized by the artists commissioned to make the cage
worthy of the bird.

Every device known to luxury before the Revolution of 1830 made this
residence a masterpiece of taste. Grindot the architect considered it
his greatest achievement as a decorator. The staircase, which had been
reconstructed of marble, the judicious use of stucco ornament, textiles,
and gilding, the smallest details as much as the general effect, outdid
everything of the kind left in Paris from the time of Louis XV.

“This is my dream!--This and virtue!” said Florine with a smile. “And
for whom are you spending all this money?”

“For a voman vat is going up there,” replied the Baron.

“A way of playing Jupiter?” replied the actress. “And when is she on

“On the day of the house-warming,” cried du Tillet.

“Not before dat,” said the Baron.

“My word, how we must lace and brush and fig ourselves out,” Florine
went on. “What a dance the women will lead their dressmakers and
hairdressers for that evening’s fun!--And when is it to be?”

“Dat is not for me to say.”

“What a woman she must be!” cried Florine. “How much I should like to
see her!”

“An’ so should I,” answered the Baron artlessly.

“What! is everything new together--the house, the furniture, and the

“Even the banker,” said du Tillet, “for my old friend seems to me quite
young again.”

“Well, he must go back to his twentieth year,” said Florine; “at any
rate, for once.”

In the early days of 1830 everybody in Paris was talking of Nucingen’s
passion and the outrageous splendor of his house. The poor Baron,
pointed at, laughed at, and fuming with rage, as may easily be imagined,
took it into his head that on the occasion of giving the house-warming
he would at the same time get rid of his paternal disguise, and get the
price of so much generosity. Always circumvented by “La Torpille,” he
determined to treat of their union by correspondence, so as to win from
her an autograph promise. Bankers have no faith in anything less than a
promissory note.

So one morning early in the year he rose early, locked himself into his
room, and composed the following letter in very good French; for though
he spoke the language very badly, he could write it very well:--

  “DEAR ESTHER, the flower of my thoughts and the only joy of my
  life, when I told you that I loved you as I love my daughter, I
  deceived you, I deceived myself. I only wished to express the
  holiness of my sentiments, which are unlike those felt by other
  men, in the first place, because I am an old man, and also because
  I have never loved till now. I love you so much, that if you cost
  me my fortune I should not love you the less.

  “Be just! Most men would not, like me, have seen the angel in you;
  I have never even glanced at your past. I love you both as I love
  my daughter, Augusta, and as I might love my wife, if my wife
  could have loved me. Since the only excuse for an old man’s love
  is that he should be happy, ask yourself if I am not playing a too
  ridiculous part. I have taken you to be the consolation and joy of
  my declining days. You know that till I die you will be as happy
  as a woman can be; and you know, too, that after my death you will
  be rich enough to be the envy of many women. In every stroke of
  business I have effected since I have had the happiness of your
  acquaintance, your share is set apart, and you have a standing
  account with Nucingen’s bank. In a few days you will move into a
  house, which sooner or later, will be your own if you like it.
  Now, plainly, will you still receive me then as a father, or will
  you make me happy?

  “Forgive me for writing so frankly, but when I am with you I lose
  all courage; I feel too keenly that you are indeed my mistress. I
  have no wish to hurt you; I only want to tell you how much I
  suffer, and how hard it is to wait at my age, when every day takes
  with it some hopes and some pleasures. Besides, the delicacy of my
  conduct is a guarantee of the sincerity of my intentions. Have I
  ever behaved as your creditor? You are like a citadel, and I am
  not a young man. In answer to my appeals, you say your life is at
  stake, and when I hear you, you make me believe it; but here I
  sink into dark melancholy and doubts dishonorable to us both. You
  seemed to me as sweet and innocent as you are lovely; but you
  insist on destroying my convictions. Ask yourself!--You tell me
  you bear a passion in your heart, an indomitable passion, but you
  refuse to tell me the name of the man you love.--Is this natural?

  “You have turned a fairly strong man into an incredibly weak one.
  You see what I have come to; I am induced to ask you at the end of
  five months what future hope there is for my passion. Again, I
  must know what part I am to play at the opening of your house.
  Money is nothing to me when it is spent for you; I will not be so
  absurd as to make a merit to you of this contempt; but though my
  love knows no limits, my fortune is limited, and I care for it
  only for your sake. Well, if by giving you everything I possess I
  might, as a poor man, win your affection, I would rather be poor
  and loved than rich and scorned by you.

  “You have altered me so completely, my dear Esther, that no one
  knows me; I paid ten thousand francs for a picture by Joseph
  Bridau because you told me that he was clever and unappreciated. I
  give every beggar I meet five francs in your name. Well, and what
  does the poor man ask, who regards himself as your debtor when you
  do him the honor of accepting anything he can give you? He asks
  only for a hope--and what a hope, good God! Is it not rather the
  certainty of never having anything from you but what my passion
  may seize? The fire in my heart will abet your cruel deceptions.
  You find me ready to submit to every condition you can impose on
  my happiness, on my few pleasures; but promise me at least that on
  the day when you take possession of your house you will accept the
  heart and service of him who, for the rest of his days, must sign
  himself your slave,

                                             “FREDERIC DE NUCINGEN.”

“Faugh! how he bores me--this money bag!” cried Esther, a courtesan
once more. She took a small sheet of notepaper and wrote all over it,
as close as it could go, Scribe’s famous phrase, which has become a
proverb, “Prenez mon ours.”

A quarter of an hour later, Esther, overcome by remorse, wrote the
following letter:--


  “Pay no heed to the note you have just received from me; I had
  relapsed into the folly of my youth. Forgive, monsieur, a poor
  girl who ought to be your slave. I never more keenly felt the
  degradation of my position than on the day when I was handed over
  to you. You have paid; I owe myself to you. There is nothing more
  sacred than a debt of dishonor. I have no right to compound it by
  throwing myself into the Seine.

  “A debt can always be discharged in that dreadful coin which is
  good only to the debtor; you will find me yours to command. I will
  pay off in one night all the sums for which that fatal hour has
  been mortgaged; and I am sure that such an hour with me is worth
  millions--all the more because it will be the only one, the last.
  I shall then have paid the debt, and may get away from life. A
  good woman has a chance of restoration after a fall; but we, the
  like of us, fall too low.

  “My determination is so fixed that I beg you will keep this letter
  in evidence of the cause of death of her who remains, for one day,
  your servant,


Having sent this letter, Esther felt a pang of regret. Ten minutes after
she wrote a third note, as follows:--

  “Forgive me, dear Baron--it is I once more. I did not mean either
  to make game of you or to wound you; I only want you to reflect on
  this simple argument: If we were to continue in the position
  towards each other of father and daughter, your pleasure would be
  small, but it would be enduring. If you insist on the terms of the
  bargain, you will live to mourn for me.

  “I will trouble you no more: the day when you shall choose
  pleasure rather than happiness will have no morrow for me.--Your


On receiving the first letter, the Baron fell into a cold fury such as
a millionaire may die of; he looked at himself in the glass and rang the

“An hot bat for mein feet,” said he to his new valet.

While he was sitting with his feet in the bath, the second letter came;
he read it, and fainted away. He was carried to bed.

When the banker recovered consciousness, Madame de Nucingen was sitting
at the foot of the bed.

“The hussy is right!” said she. “Why do you try to buy love? Is it to be
bought in the market!--Let me see your letter to her.”

The Baron gave her sundry rough drafts he had made; Madame de Nucingen
read them, and smiled. Then came Esther’s third letter.

“She is a wonderful girl!” cried the Baroness, when she had read it.

“Vat shall I do, montame?” asked the Baron of his wife.


“Wait? But nature is pitiless!” he cried.

“Look here, my dear, you have been admirably kind to me,” said Delphine;
“I will give you some good advice.”

“You are a ver’ goot voman,” said he. “Ven you hafe any debts I shall

“Your state on receiving these letters touches a woman far more than the
spending of millions, or than all the letters you could write, however
fine they may be. Try to let her know it, indirectly; perhaps she will
be yours! And--have no scruples, she will not die of that,” added she,
looking keenly at her husband.

But Madame de Nucingen knew nothing whatever of the nature of such

“Vat a clefer voman is Montame de Nucingen!” said the Baron to himself
when his wife had left him.

Still, the more the Baron admired the subtlety of his wife’s counsel,
the less he could see how he might act upon it; and he not only felt
that he was stupid, but he told himself so.

The stupidity of wealthy men, though it is almost proverbial, is only
comparative. The faculties of the mind, like the dexterity of the limbs,
need exercise. The dancer’s strength is in his feet; the blacksmith’s in
his arms; the market porter is trained to carry loads; the singer works
his larynx; and the pianist hardens his wrist. A banker is practised
in business matters; he studies and plans them, and pulls the wires
of various interests, just as a playwright trains his intelligence in
combining situations, studying his actors, giving life to his dramatic

We should no more look for powers of conversation in the Baron de
Nucingen than for the imagery of a poet in the brain of a mathematician.
How many poets occur in an age, who are either good prose writers, or
as witty in the intercourse of daily life as Madame Cornuel? Buffon
was dull company; Newton was never in love; Lord Byron loved nobody but
himself; Rousseau was gloomy and half crazy; La Fontaine absent-minded.
Human energy, equally distributed, produces dolts, mediocrity in all;
unequally bestowed it gives rise to those incongruities to whom the name
of Genius is given, and which, if we only could see them, would look
like deformities. The same law governs the body; perfect beauty is
generally allied with coldness or silliness. Though Pascal was both a
great mathematician and a great writer, though Beaumarchais was a good
man of business, and Zamet a profound courtier, these rare exceptions
prove the general principle of the specialization of brain faculties.

Within the sphere of speculative calculations the banker put forth as
much intelligence and skill, finesse and mental power, as a practised
diplomatist expends on national affairs. If he were equally remarkable
outside his office, the banker would be a great man. Nucingen made
one with the Prince de Ligne, with Mazarin or with Diderot, is a human
formula that is almost inconceivable, but which has nevertheless been
known as Pericles, Aristotle, Voltaire, and Napoleon. The splendor of
the Imperial crown must not blind us to the merits of the individual;
the Emperor was charming, well informed, and witty.

Monsieur de Nucingen, a banker and nothing more, having no inventiveness
outside his business, like most bankers, had no faith in anything but
sound security. In matters of art he had the good sense to go, cash
in hand, to experts in every branch, and had recourse to the best
architect, the best surgeon, the greatest connoisseur in pictures or
statues, the cleverest lawyer, when he wished to build a house, to
attend to his health, to purchase a work of art or an estate. But as
there are no recognized experts in intrigue, no connoisseurs in love
affairs, a banker finds himself in difficulties when he is in love, and
much puzzled as to the management of a woman. So Nucingen could think
of no better method than that he had hitherto pursued--to give a sum of
money to some Frontin, male or female, to act and think for him.

Madame de Saint-Esteve alone could carry out the plan imagined by the
Baroness. Nucingen bitterly regretted having quarreled with the odious
old clothes-seller. However, feeling confident of the attractions of his
cash-box and the soothing documents signed Garat, he rang for his man
and told him in inquire for the repulsive widow in the Rue Saint-Marc,
and desire her to come to see him.

In Paris extremes are made to meet by passion. Vice is constantly
binding the rich to the poor, the great to the mean. The Empress
consults Mademoiselle Lenormand; the fine gentleman in every age can
always find a Ramponneau.

The man returned within two hours.

“Monsieur le Baron,” said he, “Madame de Saint-Esteve is ruined.”

“Ah! so much de better!” cried the Baron in glee. “I shall hafe her safe

“The good woman is given to gambling, it would seem,” the valet went
on. “And, moreover, she is under the thumb of a third-rate actor in a
suburban theatre, whom, for decency’s sake, she calls her godson. She is
a first-rate cook, it would seem, and wants a place.”

“Dose teufel of geniuses of de common people hafe alvays ten vays of
making money, and ein dozen vays of spending it,” said the Baron to
himself, quite unconscious that Panurge had thought the same thing.

He sent his servant off in quest of Madame de Saint-Esteve, who did not
come till the next day. Being questioned by Asie, the servant revealed
to this female spy the terrible effects of the notes written to Monsieur
le Baron by his mistress.

“Monsieur must be desperately in love with the woman,” said he in
conclusion, “for he was very near dying. For my part, I advised him
never to go back to her, for he will be wheedled over at once. A woman
who has already cost Monsieur le Baron five hundred thousand francs,
they say, without counting what he has spent on the house in the Rue
Saint-Georges! But the woman cares for money, and for money only.--As
madame came out of monsieur’s room, she said with a laugh: ‘If this goes
on, that slut will make a widow of me!’”

“The devil!” cried Asie; “it will never do to kill the goose that lays
the golden eggs.”

“Monsieur le Baron has no hope now but in you,” said the valet.

“Ay! The fact is, I do know how to make a woman go.”

“Well, walk in,” said the man, bowing to such occult powers.

“Well,” said the false Saint-Esteve, going into the sufferer’s room with
an abject air, “Monsieur le Baron has met with some difficulties? What
can you expect! Everybody is open to attack on his weak side. Dear me,
I have had my troubles too. Within two months the wheel of Fortune has
turned upside down for me. Here I am looking out for a place!--We have
neither of us been very wise. If Monsieur le Baron would take me as cook
to Madame Esther, I would be the most devoted of slaves. I should be
useful to you, monsieur, to keep an eye on Eugenie and madame.”

“Dere is no hope of dat,” said the Baron. “I cannot succeet in being de
master, I am let such a tance as----”

“As a top,” Asie put in. “Well, you have made others dance, daddy, and
the little slut has got you, and is making a fool of you.--Heaven is

“Just?” said the Baron. “I hafe not sent for you to preach to me----”

“Pooh, my boy! A little moralizing breaks no bones. It is the salt of
life to the like of us, as vice is to your bigots.--Come, have you been
generous? You have paid her debts?”

“Ja,” said the Baron lamentably.

“That is well; and you have taken her things out of pawn, and that is
better. But you must see that it is not enough. All this gives her no
occupation, and these creatures love to cut a dash----”

“I shall hafe a surprise for her, Rue Saint-Georches--she knows dat,”
 said the Baron. “But I shall not be made a fool of.”

“Very well then, let her go.”

“I am only afrait dat she shall let me go!” cried the Baron.

“And we want our money’s worth, my boy,” replied Asie. “Listen to me. We
have fleeced the public of some millions, my little friend? Twenty-five
millions I am told you possess.”

The Baron could not suppress a smile.

“Well, you must let one go.”

“I shall let one go, but as soon as I shall let one go, I shall hafe to
give still another.”

“Yes, I understand,” replied Asie. “You will not say B for fear of having
to go on to Z. Still, Esther is a good girl----”

“A ver’ honest girl,” cried the banker. “An’ she is ready to submit; but
only as in payment of a debt.”

“In short, she does not want to be your mistress; she feels an
aversion.--Well, and I understand it; the child has always done just
what she pleased. When a girl has never known any but charming young
men, she cannot take to an old one. You are not handsome; you are as
big as Louis XVIII., and rather dull company, as all men are who try to
cajole fortune instead of devoting themselves to women.--Well, if you
don’t think six hundred thousand francs too much,” said Asie, “I pledge
myself to make her whatever you can wish.”

“Six huntert tousant franc!” cried the Baron, with a start. “Esther is
to cost me a million to begin with!”

“Happiness is surely worth sixteen hundred thousand francs, you old
sinner. You must know, men in these days have certainly spent more than
one or two millions on a mistress. I even know women who have cost men
their lives, for whom heads have rolled into the basket.--You know the
doctor who poisoned his friend? He wanted the money to gratify a woman.”

“Ja, I know all dat. But if I am in lofe, I am not ein idiot, at
least vile I am here; but if I shall see her, I shall gife her my

“Well, listen Monsieur le Baron,” said Asie, assuming the attitude of a
Semiramis. “You have been squeezed dry enough already. Now, as sure as
my name is Saint-Esteve--in the way of business, of course--I will stand
by you.”

“Goot, I shall repay you.”

“I believe you, my boy, for I have shown you that I know how to be
revenged. Besides, I tell you this, daddy, I know how to snuff out your
Madame Esther as you would snuff a candle. And I know my lady! When the
little huzzy has once made you happy, she will be even more necessary
to you than she is at this moment. You paid me well; you have allowed
yourself to be fooled, but, after all, you have forked out.--I have
fulfilled my part of the agreement, haven’t I? Well, look here, I will
make a bargain with you.”

“Let me hear.”

“You shall get me the place as cook to Madame, engage me for ten
years, and pay the last five in advance--what is that? Just a little
earnest-money. When once I am about madame, I can bring her to these
terms. Of course, you must first order her a lovely dress from Madame
Auguste, who knows her style and taste; and order the new carriage to
be at the door at four o’clock. After the Bourse closes, go to her rooms
and take her for a little drive in the Bois de Boulogne. Well, by
that act the woman proclaims herself your mistress; she has advertised
herself to the eyes and knowledge of all Paris: A hundred thousand
francs.--You must dine with her--I know how to cook such a dinner!--You
must take her to the play, to the Varietes, to a stage-box, and then all
Paris will say, ‘There is that old rascal Nucingen with his mistress.’
It is very flattering to know that such things are said.--Well, all
this, for I am not grasping, is included for the first hundred thousand
francs.--In a week, by such conduct, you will have made some way----”

“But I shall hafe paid ein hundert tousant franc.”

“In the course of the second week,” Asie went on, as though she had
not heard this lamentable ejaculation, “madame, tempted by these
preliminaries, will have made up her mind to leave her little apartment
and move to the house you are giving her. Your Esther will have seen the
world again, have found her old friends; she will wish to shine and do
the honors of her palace--it is in the nature of things: Another
hundred thousand francs!--By Heaven! you are at home there, Esther
compromised--she must be yours. The rest is a mere trifle, in which you
must play the principal part, old elephant. (How wide the monster opens
his eyes!) Well, I will undertake that too: Four hundred thousand--and
that, my fine fellow, you need not pay till the day after. What do you
think of that for honesty? I have more confidence in you than you
have in me. If I persuade madame to show herself as your mistress, to
compromise herself, to take every gift you offer her,--perhaps this very
day, you will believe that I am capable of inducing her to throw open
the pass of the Great Saint Bernard. And it is a hard job, I can tell
you; it will take as much pulling to get your artillery through as it
took the first Consul to get over the Alps.”

“But vy?”

“Her heart is full of love, old shaver, rasibus, as you say who know
Latin,” replied Asie. “She thinks herself the Queen of Sheba, because
she has washed herself in sacrifices made for her lover--an idea that
that sort of woman gets into her head! Well, well, old fellow, we must
be just.--It is fine! That baggage would die of grief at being your
mistress--I really should not wonder. But what I trust to, and I tell
you to give you courage, is that there is good in the girl at bottom.”

“You hafe a genius for corruption,” said the Baron, who had listened to
Asie in admiring silence, “just as I hafe de knack of de banking.”

“Then it is settled, my pigeon?” said Asie.

“Done for fifty tousant franc insteat of ein hundert tousant!--An’ I
shall give you fife hundert tousant de day after my triumph.”

“Very good, I will set to work,” said Asie. “And you may come,
monsieur,” she added respectfully. “You will find madame as soft already
as a cat’s back, and perhaps inclined to make herself pleasant.”

“Go, go, my goot voman,” said the banker, rubbing his hands.

And after seeing the horrible mulatto out of the house, he said to

“How vise it is to hafe much money.”

He sprang out of bed, went down to his office, and resumed the conduct
of his immense business with a light heart.

Nothing could be more fatal to Esther than the steps taken by Nucingen.
The hapless girl, in defending her fidelity, was defending her life.
This very natural instinct was what Carlos called prudery. Now Asie,
not without taking such precautions as usual in such cases, went off to
report to Carlos the conference she had held with the Baron, and all the
profit she had made by it. The man’s rage, like himself, was terrible;
he came forthwith to Esther, in a carriage with the blinds drawn,
driving into the courtyard. Still almost white with fury, the
double-dyed forger went straight into the poor girl’s room; she looked
at him--she was standing up--and she dropped on to a chair as though her
legs had snapped.

“What is the matter, monsieur?” said she, quaking in every limb.

“Leave us, Europe,” said he to the maid.

Esther looked at the woman as a child might look at its mother, from
whom some assassin had snatched it to murder it.

“Do you know where you will send Lucien?” Carlos went on when he was
alone with Esther.

“Where?” asked she in a low voice, venturing to glance at her

“Where I come from, my beauty.” Esther, as she looked at the man, saw
red. “To the hulks,” he added in an undertone.

Esther shut her eyes and stretched herself out, her arms dropped, and
she turned white. The man rang, and Prudence appeared.

“Bring her round,” he said coldly; “I have not done.”

He walked up and down the drawing-room while waiting. Prudence-Europe
was obliged to come and beg monsieur to lift Esther on to the bed; he
carried her with the ease that betrayed athletic strength.

They had to procure all the chemist’s strongest stimulants to restore
Esther to a sense of her woes. An hour later the poor girl was able to
listen to this living nightmare, seated at the foot of her bed, his eyes
fixed and glowing like two spots of molten lead.

“My little sweetheart,” said he, “Lucien now stands between a splendid
life, honored, happy, and respected, and the hole full of water, mud,
and gravel into which he was going to plunge when I met him. The house
of Grandlieu requires of the dear boy an estate worth a million francs
before securing for him the title of Marquis, and handing over to him
that may-pole named Clotilde, by whose help he will rise to power.
Thanks to you, and me, Lucien has just purchased his maternal manor,
the old Chateau de Rubempre, which, indeed, did not cost much--thirty
thousand francs; but his lawyer, by clever negotiations, has succeeded
in adding to it estates worth a million, on which three hundred thousand
francs are paid. The chateau, the expenses, and percentages to the men
who were put forward as a blind to conceal the transaction from the
country people, have swallowed up the remainder.

“We have, to be sure, a hundred thousand francs invested in a business
here, which a few months hence will be worth two to three hundred
thousand francs; but there will still be four hundred thousand francs to
be paid.

“In three days Lucien will be home from Angouleme, where he has been,
because he must not be suspected of having found a fortune in remaking
your bed----”

“Oh no!” cried she, looking up with a noble impulse.

“I ask you, then, is this a moment to scare off the Baron?” he went on
calmly. “And you very nearly killed him the day before yesterday; he
fainted like a woman on reading your second letter. You have a fine
style--I congratulate you! If the Baron had died, where should we be
now?--When Lucien walks out of Saint-Thomas d’Aquin son-in-law to the
Duc de Grandlieu, if you want to try a dip in the Seine----Well, my
beauty, I offer you my hand for a dive together. It is one way of ending

“But consider a moment. Would it not be better to live and say to
yourself again and again ‘This fine fortune, this happy family’--for
he will have children--children!--Have you ever thought of the joy of
running your fingers through the hair of his children?”

Esther closed her eyes with a little shiver.

“Well, as you gaze on that structure of happiness, you may say to
yourself, ‘This is my doing!’”

There was a pause, and the two looked at each other.

“This is what I have tried to make out of such despair as saw no issue
but the river,” said Carlos. “Am I selfish? That is the way to love! Men
show such devotion to none but kings! But I have anointed Lucien king.
If I were riveted for the rest of my days to my old chain, I fancy I
could stay there resigned so long as I could say, ‘He is gay, he is at
Court.’ My soul and mind would triumph, while my carcase was given over
to the jailers! You are a mere female; you love like a female! But in
a courtesan, as in all degraded creatures, love should be a means to
motherhood, in spite of Nature, which has stricken you with barrenness!

“If ever, under the skin of the Abbe Carlos Herrera, any one were to
detect the convict I have been, do you know what I would do to avoid
compromising Lucien?”

Esther awaited the reply with some anxiety.

“Well,” he said after a brief pause, “I would die as the Negroes
do--without a word. And you, with all your airs will put folks on my
traces. What did I require of you?--To be La Torpille again for six
months--for six weeks; and to do it to clutch a million.

“Lucien will never forget you. Men do not forget the being of whom they
are reminded day after day by the joy of awaking rich every morning.
Lucien is a better fellow than you are. He began by loving Coralie. She
died--good; but he had not enough money to bury her; he did not do as
you did just now, he did not faint, though he is a poet; he wrote six
rollicking songs, and earned three hundred francs, with which he paid
for Coralie’s funeral. I have those songs; I know them by heart.
Well, then do you too compose your songs: be cheerful, be wild, be
irresistible and--insatiable! You hear me?--Do not let me have to speak

“Kiss papa. Good-bye.”

When, half an hour after, Europe went into her mistress’ room, she found
her kneeling in front of a crucifix, in the attitude which the most
religious of painters has given to Moses before the burning bush on
Horeb, to depict his deep and complete adoration of Jehovah. After
saying her prayers, Esther had renounced her better life, the honor she
had created for herself, her glory, her virtue, and her love.

She rose.

“Oh, madame, you will never look like that again!” cried Prudence
Servien, struck by her mistress’ sublime beauty.

She hastily turned the long mirror so that the poor girl should see
herself. Her eyes still had a light as of the soul flying heavenward.
The Jewess’ complexion was brilliant. Sparkling with tears unshed in the
fervor of prayer, her eyelashes were like leaves after a summer shower,
for the last time they shone with the sunshine of pure love. Her lips
seemed to preserve an expression as of her last appeal to the angels,
whose palm of martyrdom she had no doubt borrowed while placing in their
hands her past unspotted life. And she had the majesty which Mary Stuart
must have shown at the moment when she bid adieu to her crown, to earth,
and to love.

“I wish Lucien could have seen me thus!” she said with a smothered sigh.
“Now,” she added, in a strident tone, “now for a fling!”

Europe stood dumb at hearing the words, as though she had heard an angel

“Well, why need you stare at me to see if I have cloves in my mouth
instead of teeth? I am nothing henceforth but a vile, foul creature, a
thief--and I expect milord. So get me a hot bath, and put my dress out.
It is twelve o’clock; the Baron will look in, no doubt, when the Bourse
closes; I shall tell him I was waiting for him, and Asie is to prepare
us dinner, first-chop, mind you; I mean to turn the man’s brain.--Come,
hurry, hurry, my girl; we are going to have some fun--that is to say, we
must go to work.”

She sat down at the table and wrote the following note:--

  “MY FRIEND,--If the cook you have sent me had not already been in
  my service, I might have thought that your purpose was to let me
  know how often you had fainted yesterday on receiving my three
  notes. (What can I say? I was very nervous that day; I was
  thinking over the memories of my miserable existence.) But I know
  how sincere Asie is. Still, I cannot repent of having caused you
  so much pain, since it has availed to prove to me how much you
  love me. This is how we are made, we luckless and despised
  creatures; true affection touches us far more deeply than finding
  ourselves the objects of lavish liberality. For my part, I have
  always rather dreaded being a peg on which you would hang your
  vanities. It annoyed me to be nothing else to you. Yes, in spite
  of all your protestations, I fancied you regarded me merely as a
  woman paid for.

  “Well, you will now find me a good girl, but on condition of your
  always obeying me a little.

  “If this letter can in any way take the place of the doctor’s
  prescription, prove it by coming to see me after the Bourse
  closes. You will find me in full fig, dressed in your gifts, for I
  am for life your pleasure-machine,


At the Bourse the Baron de Nucingen was so gay, so cheerful, seemed so
easy-going, and allowed himself so many jests, that du Tillet and the
Kellers, who were on ‘change, could not help asking him the reason of
his high spirits.

“I am belofed. Ve shall soon gife dat house-varming,” he told du Tillet.

“And how much does it cost you?” asked Francois Keller rudely--it was
said that he had spent twenty-five thousand francs a year on Madame

“Dat voman is an anchel! She never has ask’ me for one sou.”

“They never do,” replied du Tillet. “And it is to avoid asking that they
have always aunts or mothers.”

Between the Bourse and the Rue Taitbout seven times did the Baron say to
his servant:

“You go so slow--vip de horse!”

He ran lightly upstairs, and for the first time he saw his mistress in
all the beauty of such women, who have no other occupation than the care
of their person and their dress. Just out of her bath the flower was
quite fresh, and perfumed so as to inspire desire in Robert d’Arbrissel.

Esther was in a charming toilette. A dress of black corded silk trimmed
with rose-colored gimp opened over a petticoat of gray satin, the
costume subsequently worn by Amigo, the handsome singer, in _I
Puritani_. A Honiton lace kerchief fell or floated over her shoulders.
The sleeves of her gown were strapped round with cording to divide the
puffs, which for some little time fashion has substituted for the large
sleeves which had grown too monstrous. Esther had fastened a Mechlin
lace cap on her magnificent hair with a pin, _a la folle_, as it is
called, ready to fall, but not really falling, giving her an appearance
of being tumbled and in disorder, though the white parting showed
plainly on her little head between the waves of her hair.

“Is it not a shame to see madame so lovely in a shabby drawing-room like
this?” said Europe to the Baron, as she admitted him.

“Vel, den, come to the Rue Saint-Georches,” said the Baron, coming to a
full stop like a dog marking a partridge. “The veather is splendit, ve
shall drife to the Champs Elysees, and Montame Saint-Estefe and Eugenie
shall carry dere all your clo’es an’ your linen, an’ ve shall dine in de
Rue Saint-Georches.”

“I will do whatever you please,” said Esther, “if only you will be so
kind as to call my cook Asie, and Eugenie Europe. I have given those
names to all the women who have served me ever since the first two. I do
not love change----”

“Asie, Europe!” echoed the Baron, laughing. “How ver’ droll you are.--You
hafe infentions.--I should hafe eaten many dinners before I should hafe
call’ a cook Asie.”

“It is our business to be droll,” said Esther. “Come, now, may not a
poor girl be fed by Asia and dressed by Europe when you live on the
whole world? It is a myth, I say; some women would devour the earth, I
only ask for half.--You see?”

“Vat a voman is Montame Saint-Estefe!” said the Baron to himself as he
admired Esther’s changed demeanor.

“Europe, my girl, I want my bonnet,” said Esther. “I must have a black
silk bonnet lined with pink and trimmed with lace.”

“Madame Thomas has not sent it home.--Come, Monsieur le Baron; quick,
off you go! Begin your functions as a man-of-all-work--that is to say,
of all pleasure! Happiness is burdensome. You have your carriage here,
go to Madame Thomas,” said Europe to the Baron. “Make your servant ask
for the bonnet for Madame van Bogseck.--And, above all,” she added in
his ear, “bring her the most beautiful bouquet to be had in Paris. It is
winter, so try to get tropical flowers.”

The Baron went downstairs and told his servants to go to “Montame

The coachman drove to a famous pastrycook’s.

“She is a milliner, you damn’ idiot, and not a cake-shop!” cried the
Baron, who rushed off to Madame Prevot’s in the Palais-Royal, where he
had a bouquet made up for the price of ten louis, while his man went to
the great modiste.

A superficial observer, walking about Paris, wonders who the fools
can be that buy the fabulous flowers that grace the illustrious
bouquetiere’s shop window, and the choice products displayed by Chevet
of European fame--the only purveyor who can vie with the _Rocher de
Cancale_ in a real and delicious _Revue des deux Mondes_.

Well, every day in Paris a hundred or more passions a la Nucingen come
into being, and find expression in offering such rarities as queens dare
not purchase, presented, kneeling, to baggages who, to use Asie’s word,
like to cut a dash. But for these little details, a decent citizen would
be puzzled to conceive how a fortune melts in the hands of these women,
whose social function, in Fourier’s scheme, is perhaps to rectify the
disasters caused by avarice and cupidity. Such squandering is, no doubt,
to the social body what a prick of the lancet is to a plethoric subject.
In two months Nucingen had shed broadcast on trade more than two hundred
thousand francs.

By the time the old lover returned, darkness was falling; the bouquet
was no longer of any use. The hour for driving in the Champs-Elysees
in winter is between two and four. However, the carriage was of use to
convey Esther from the Rue Taitbout to the Rue Saint-Georges, where she
took possession of the “little palace.” Never before had Esther been the
object of such worship or such lavishness, and it amazed her; but, like
all royal ingrates, she took care to express no surprise.

When you go into St. Peter’s at Rome, to enable you to appreciate the
extent and height of this queen of cathedrals, you are shown the little
finger of a statue which looks of a natural size, and which measures
I know not how much. Descriptions have been so severely criticised,
necessary as they are to a history of manners, that I must here follow
the example of the Roman Cicerone. As they entered the dining-room,
the Baron could not resist asking Esther to feel the stuff of which the
window curtains were made, draped with magnificent fulness, lined with
white watered silk, and bordered with a gimp fit to trim a Portuguese
princess’ bodice. The material was silk brought from Canton, on which
Chinese patience had painted Oriental birds with a perfection only to
be seen in mediaeval illuminations, or in the Missal of Charles V., the
pride of the Imperial library at Vienna.

“It hafe cost two tousand franc’ an ell for a milord who brought it from

“It is very nice, charming,” said Esther. “How I shall enjoy drinking
champagne here; the froth will not get dirty here on a bare floor.”

“Oh! madame!” cried Europe, “only look at the carpet!”

“Dis carpet hafe been made for de Duc de Torlonia, a frient of mine,
who fount it too dear, so I took it for you who are my qveen,” said

By chance this carpet, by one of our cleverest designers, matched
with the whimsicalities of the Chinese curtains. The walls, painted
by Schinner and Leon de Lora, represented voluptuous scenes, in carved
ebony frames, purchased for their weight in gold from Dusommerard, and
forming panels with a narrow line of gold that coyly caught the light.

From this you may judge of the rest.

“You did well to bring me here,” said Esther. “It will take me a week to
get used to my home and not to look like a parvenu in it----”

“_My_ home! Den you shall accept it?” cried the Baron in glee.

“Why, of course, and a thousand times of course, stupid animal,” said
she, smiling.

“Animal vas enough----”

“Stupid is a term of endearment,” said she, looking at him.

The poor man took Esther’s hand and pressed it to his heart. He was
animal enough to feel, but too stupid to find words.

“Feel how it beats--for ein little tender vort----”

And he conducted his goddess to her room.

“Oh, madame, I cannot stay here!” cried Eugenie. “It makes me long to go
to bed.”

“Well,” said Esther, “I mean to please the magician who has worked all
these wonders.--Listen, my fat elephant, after dinner we will go to the
play together. I am starving to see a play.”

It was just five years since Esther had been to a theatre. All Paris
was rushing at that time to the Porte-Saint-Martin, to see one of those
pieces to which the power of the actors lends a terrible expression of
reality, _Richard Darlington_. Like all ingenuous natures, Esther loved
to feel the thrills of fear as much as to yield to tears of pathos.

“Let us go to see Frederick Lemaitre,” said she; “he is an actor I

“It is a horrible piece,” said Nucingen foreseeing the moment when he
must show himself in public.

He sent his servant to secure one of the two stage-boxes on the grand
tier.--And this is another strange feature of Paris. Whenever success,
on feet of clay, fills a house, there is always a stage-box to be
had ten minutes before the curtain rises. The managers keep it for
themselves, unless it happens to be taken for a passion a la Nucingen.
This box, like Chevet’s dainties, is a tax levied on the whims of the
Parisian Olympus.

It would be superfluous to describe the plate and china. Nucingen had
provided three services of plate--common, medium, and best; and the
best--plates, dishes, and all, was of chased silver gilt. The banker,
to avoid overloading the table with gold and silver, had completed the
array of each service with porcelain of exquisite fragility in the
style of Dresden china, which had cost more than the plate. As to the
linen--Saxony, England, Flanders, and France vied in the perfection of
flowered damask.

At dinner it was the Baron’s turn to be amazed on tasting Asie’s

“I understant,” said he, “vy you call her Asie; dis is Asiatic cooking.”

“I begin to think he loves me,” said Esther to Europe; “he has said
something almost like a _bon mot_.”

“I said many vorts,” said he.

“Well! he is more like Turcaret than I had heard he was!” cried the
girl, laughing at this reply, worthy of the many artless speeches for
which the banker was famous.

The dishes were so highly spiced as to give the Baron an indigestion, on
purpose that he might go home early; so this was all he got in the way
of pleasure out of his first evening with Esther. At the theatre he was
obliged to drink an immense number of glasses of eau sucree, leaving
Esther alone between the acts.

By a coincidence so probable that it can scarcely be called chance,
Tullia, Mariette, and Madame du Val-Noble were at the play that
evening. _Richard Darlington_ enjoyed a wild success--and a deserved
success--such as is seen only in Paris. The men who saw this play all
came to the conclusion that a lawful wife might be thrown out of window,
and the wives loved to see themselves unjustly persecuted.

The women said to each other: “This is too much! we are driven to
it--but it often happens!”

Now a woman as beautiful as Esther, and dressed as Esther was, could not
show off with impunity in a stage-box at the Porte-Saint-Martin. And so,
during the second act, there was quite a commotion in the box where
the two dancers were sitting, caused by the undoubted identity of the
unknown fair one with La Torpille.

“Heyday! where has she dropped from?” said Mariette to Madame du
Val-Noble. “I thought she was drowned.”

“But is it she? She looks to me thirty-seven times younger and handsomer
than she was six years ago.”

“Perhaps she has preserved herself in ice like Madame d’Espard and
Madame Zayonchek,” said the Comte de Brambourg, who had brought the
three women to the play, to a pit-tier box. “Isn’t she the ‘rat’ you
meant to send me to hocus my uncle?” said he, addressing Tullia.

“The very same,” said the singer. “Du Bruel, go down to the stalls and
see if it is she.”

“What brass she has got!” exclaimed Madame du Val-Noble, using an
expressive but vulgar phrase.

“Oh!” said the Comte de Brambourg, “she very well may. She is with my
friend the Baron de Nucingen--I will go----”

“Is that the immaculate Joan of Arc who has taken Nucingen by storm, and
who has been talked of till we are all sick of her, these three months
past?” asked Mariette.

“Good-evening, my dear Baron,” said Philippe Bridau, as he went
into Nucingen’s box. “So here you are, married to Mademoiselle
Esther.--Mademoiselle, I am an old officer whom you once on a time were
to have got out of a scrape--at Issoudun--Philippe Bridau----”

“I know nothing of it,” said Esther, looking round the house through her

“Dis lady,” said the Baron, “is no longer known as ‘Esther’ so short!
She is called Montame de Champy--ein little estate vat I have bought for

“Though you do things in such style,” said the Comte, “these ladies are
saying that Madame de Champy gives herself too great airs.--If you do
not choose to remember me, will you condescend to recognize Mariette,
Tullia, Madame du Val-Noble?” the parvenu went on--a man for whom the
Duc de Maufrigneuse had won the Dauphin’s favor.

“If these ladies are kind to me, I am willing to make myself pleasant to
them,” replied Madame de Champy drily.

“Kind! Why, they are excellent; they have named you Joan of Arc,”
 replied Philippe.

“Vell den, if dese ladies vill keep you company,” said Nucingen, “I
shall go ‘vay, for I hafe eaten too much. Your carriage shall come for
you and your people.--Dat teufel Asie!”

“The first time, and you leave me alone!” said Esther. “Come, come, you
must have courage enough to die on deck. I must have my man with me as I
go out. If I were insulted, am I to cry out for nothing?”

The old millionaire’s selfishness had to give way to his duties as a
lover. The Baron suffered but stayed.

Esther had her own reasons for detaining “her man.” If she admitted her
acquaintance, she would be less closely questioned in his presence than
if she were alone. Philippe Bridau hurried back to the box where the
dancers were sitting, and informed them of the state of affairs.

“Oh! so it is she who has fallen heir to my house in the Rue
Saint-Georges,” observed Madame du Val-Noble with some bitterness; for
she, as she phrased it, was on the loose.

“Most likely,” said the Colonel. “Du Tillet told me that the Baron had
spent three times as much there as your poor Falleix.”

“Let us go round to her box,” said Tullia.

“Not if I know it,” said Mariette; “she is much too handsome, I will
call on her at home.”

“I think myself good-looking enough to risk it,” remarked Tullia.

So the much-daring leading dancer went round between the acts and
renewed acquaintance with Esther, who would talk only on general

“And where have you come back from, my dear child?” asked Tullia, who
could not restrain her curiosity.

“Oh, I was for five years in a castle in the Alps with an Englishman, as
jealous as a tiger, a nabob; I called him a nabot, a dwarf, for he was
not so big as le bailli de Ferrette.

“And then I came across a banker--from a savage to salvation, as Florine
might say. And now here I am in Paris again; I long so for amusement
that I mean to have a rare time. I shall keep open house. I have five
years of solitary confinement to make good, and I am beginning to do
it. Five years of an Englishman is rather too much; six weeks are the
allowance according to the advertisements.”

“Was it the Baron who gave you that lace?”

“No, it is a relic of the nabob.--What ill-luck I have, my dear! He was
as yellow as a friend’s smile at a success; I thought he would be dead
in ten months. Pooh! he was a strong as a mountain. Always distrust men
who say they have a liver complaint. I will never listen to a man who
talks of his liver.--I have had too much of livers--who cannot die. My
nabob robbed me; he died without making a will, and the family turned me
out of doors like a leper.--So, then, I said to my fat friend here, ‘Pay
for two!’--You may as well call me Joan of Arc; I have ruined England,
and perhaps I shall die at the stake----”

“Of love?” said Tullia.

“And burnt alive,” answered Esther, and the question made her

The Baron laughed at all this vulgar nonsense, but he did not always
follow it readily, so that his laughter sounded like the forgotten
crackers that go off after fireworks.

We all live in a sphere of some kind, and the inhabitants of every
sphere are endowed with an equal share of curiosity.

Next evening at the opera, Esther’s reappearance was the great news
behind the scenes. Between two and four in the afternoon all Paris in
the Champs-Elysees had recognized La Torpille, and knew at last who was
the object of the Baron de Nucingen’s passion.

“Do you know,” Blondet remarked to de Marsay in the greenroom at the
opera-house, “that La Torpille vanished the very day after the evening
when we saw her here and recognized her in little Rubempre’s mistress.”

In Paris, as in the provinces, everything is known. The police of the
Rue de Jerusalem are not so efficient as the world itself, for every
one is a spy on every one else, though unconsciously. Carlos had fully
understood the danger of Lucien’s position during and after the episode
of the Rue Taitbout.

No position can be more dreadful than that in which Madame du Val-Noble
now found herself; and the phrase to be on the loose, or, as the
French say, left on foot, expresses it perfectly. The recklessness and
extravagance of these women precludes all care for the future. In that
strange world, far more witty and amusing than might be supposed, only
such women as are not gifted with that perfect beauty which time can
hardly impair, and which is quite unmistakable--only such women, in
short, as can be loved merely as a fancy, ever think of old age and save
a fortune. The handsomer they are, the more improvident they are.

“Are you afraid of growing ugly that you are saving money?” was a speech
of Florine’s to Mariette, which may give a clue to one cause of this

Thus, if a speculator kills himself, or a spendthrift comes to the
end of his resources, these women fall with hideous promptitude from
audacious wealth to the utmost misery. They throw themselves into the
clutches of the old-clothes buyer, and sell exquisite jewels for a mere
song; they run into debt, expressly to keep up a spurious luxury, in the
hope of recovering what they have lost--a cash-box to draw upon.
These ups and downs of their career account for the costliness of such
connections, generally brought about as Asie had hooked (another word of
her vocabulary) Nucingen for Esther.

And so those who know their Paris are quite aware of the state
of affairs when, in the Champs-Elysees--that bustling and mongrel
bazaar--they meet some woman in a hired fly whom six months or a year
before they had seen in a magnificent and dazzling carriage, turned out
in the most luxurious style.

“If you fall on Sainte-Pelagie, you must contrive to rebound on the
Bois de Boulogne,” said Florine, laughing with Blondet over the little
Vicomte de Portenduere.

Some clever women never run the risk of this contrast. They bury
themselves in horrible furnished lodgings, where they expiate their
extravagance by such privations as are endured by travelers lost in a
Sahara; but they never take the smallest fancy for economy. They venture
forth to masked balls; they take journeys into the provinces; they turn
out well dressed on the boulevards when the weather is fine. And then
they find in each other the devoted kindness which is known only among
proscribed races. It costs a woman in luck no effort to bestow some
help, for she says to herself, “I may be in the same plight by Sunday!”

However, the most efficient protector still is the purchaser of dress.
When this greedy money-lender finds herself the creditor, she stirs
and works on the hearts of all the old men she knows in favor of the
mortgaged creature in thin boots and a fine bonnet.

In this way Madame du Val-Noble, unable to foresee the downfall of one
of the richest and cleverest of stockbrokers, was left quite unprepared.
She had spent Falleix’s money on her whims, and trusted to him for all
necessaries and to provide for the future.

“How could I have expected such a thing in a man who seemed such a good

In almost every class of society the good fellow is an open-handed man,
who will lend a few crowns now and again without expecting them back,
who always behaves in accordance with a certain code of delicate feeling
above mere vulgar, obligatory, and commonplace morality. Certain men,
regarded as virtuous and honest, have, like Nucingen, ruined their
benefactors; and certain others, who have been through a criminal court,
have an ingenious kind of honesty towards women. Perfect virtue, the
dream of Moliere, an Alceste, is exceedingly rare; still, it is to be
found everywhere, even in Paris. The “good fellow” is the product of a
certain facility of nature which proves nothing. A man is a good fellow,
as a cat is silky, as a slipper is made to slip on to the foot. And so,
in the meaning given to the word by a kept woman, Falleix ought to have
warned his mistress of his approaching bankruptcy and have given her
enough to live upon.

D’Estourny, the dashing swindler, was a good fellow; he cheated at
cards, but he had set aside thirty thousand francs for his mistress. And
at carnival suppers women would retort on his accusers: “No matter.
You may say what you like, Georges was a good fellow; he had charming
manners, he deserved a better fate.”

These girls laugh laws to scorn, and adore a certain kind of generosity;
they sell themselves, as Esther had done, for a secret ideal, which is
their religion.

After saving a few jewels from the wreck with great difficulty, Madame
du Val-Noble was crushed under the burden of the horrible report: “She
ruined Falleix.” She was almost thirty; and though she was in the prime
of her beauty, still she might be called an old woman, and all the
more so because in such a crisis all a woman’s rivals are against her.
Mariette, Florine, Tullia would ask their friend to dinner, and gave her
some help; but as they did not know the extent of her debts, they did
not dare to sound the depths of that gulf. An interval of six years
formed rather too long a gap in the ebb and flow of the Paris tide,
between La Torpille and Madame du Val-Noble, for the woman “on foot” to
speak to the woman in her carriage; but La Val-Noble knew that Esther
was too generous not to remember sometimes that she had, as she said,
fallen heir to her possessions, and not to seek her out by some meeting
which might seem accidental though arranged. To bring about such an
accident, Madame du Val-Noble, dressed in the most lady-like way, walked
out every day in the Champs-Elysees on the arm of Theodore Gaillard, who
afterwards married her, and who, in these straits, behaved very well to
his former mistress, giving her boxes at the play, and inviting her to
every spree. She flattered herself that Esther, driving out one fine
day, would meet her face to face.

Esther’s coachman was Paccard--for her household had been made up in
five days by Asie, Europe, and Paccard under Carlos’ instructions, and
in such a way that the house in the Rue Saint-Georges was an impregnable

Peyrade, on his part, prompted by deep hatred, by the thirst for
vengeance, and, above all, by his wish to see his darling Lydie married,
made the Champs-Elysees the end of his walks as soon as he heard from
Contenson that Monsieur de Nucingen’s mistress might be seen there.
Peyrade could dress so exactly like an Englishman, and spoke French so
perfectly with the mincing accent that the English give the language; he
knew England itself so well, and was so familiar with all the customs of
the country, having been sent to England by the police authorities three
times between 1779 and 1786, that he could play his part in London and
at ambassadors’ residences without awaking suspicion. Peyrade, who had
some resemblance to Musson the famous juggler, could disguise himself so
effectually that once Contenson did not recognize him.

Followed by Contenson dressed as a mulatto, Peyrade examined Esther and
her servants with an eye which, seeming heedless, took everything in.
Hence it quite naturally happened that in the side alley where the
carriage-company walk in fine dry weather, he was on the spot one day
when Esther met Madame du Val-Noble. Peyrade, his mulatto in livery
at his heels, was airing himself quite naturally, like a nabob who is
thinking of no one but himself, in a line with the two women, so as to
catch a few words of their conversation.

“Well, my dear child,” said Esther to Madame du Val-Noble, “come and see
me. Nucingen owes it to himself not to leave his stockbroker’s mistress
without a sou----”

“All the more so because it is said that he ruined Falleix,” remarked
Theodore Gaillard, “and that we have every right to squeeze him.”

“He dines with me to-morrow,” said Esther; “come and meet him.” Then she
added in an undertone:

“I can do what I like with him, and as yet he has not that!” and she put
the nail of a gloved finger under the prettiest of her teeth with the
click that is familiarly known to express with peculiar energy: “Just

“You have him safe----”

“My dear, as yet he has only paid my debts.”

“How mean!” cried Suzanne du Val-Noble.

“Oh!” said Esther, “I had debts enough to frighten a minister of
finance. Now, I mean to have thirty thousand a year before the first
stroke of midnight. Oh! he is excellent, I have nothing to complain
of. He does it well.--In a week we give a house-warming; you must
come.--That morning he is to make me a present of the lease of the house
in the Rue Saint-Georges. In decency, it is impossible to live in such
a house on less than thirty thousand francs a year--of my own, so as to
have them safe in case of accident. I have known poverty, and I want
no more of it. There are certain acquaintances one has had enough of at

“And you, who used to say, ‘My face is my fortune!’--How you have
changed!” exclaimed Suzanne.

“It is the air of Switzerland; you grow thrifty there.--Look here; go
there yourself, my dear! Catch a Swiss, and you may perhaps catch a
husband, for they have not yet learned what such women as we are can be.
And, at any rate, you may come back with a passion for investments in
the funds--a most respectable and elegant passion!--Good-bye.”

Esther got into her carriage again, a handsome carriage drawn by the
finest pair of dappled gray horses at that time to be seen in Paris.

“The woman who is getting into the carriage is handsome,” said Peyrade
to Contenson, “but I like the one who is walking best; follow her, and
find out who she is.”

“That is what that Englishman has just remarked in English,” said
Theodore Gaillard, repeating Peyrade’s remark to Madame du Val-Noble.

Before making this speech in English, Peyrade had uttered a word or
two in that language, which had made Theodore look up in a way that
convinced him that the journalist understood English.

Madame du Val-Noble very slowly made her way home to very decent
furnished rooms in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, glancing round now and then
to see if the mulatto were following her.

This establishment was kept by a certain Madame Gerard, whom Suzanne
had obliged in the days of her splendor, and who showed her gratitude
by giving her a suitable home. This good soul, an honest and virtuous
citizen, even pious, looked on the courtesan as a woman of a superior
order; she had always seen her in the midst of luxury, and thought of
her as a fallen queen; she trusted her daughters with her; and--which
is a fact more natural than might be supposed--the courtesan was as
scrupulously careful in taking them to the play as their mother
could have been, and the two Gerard girls loved her. The worthy, kind
lodging-house keeper was like those sublime priests who see in these
outlawed women only a creature to be saved and loved.

Madame du Val-Noble respected this worth; and often, as she chatted with
the good woman, she envied her while bewailing her own ill-fortune.

“Your are still handsome; you may make a good end yet,” Madame Gerard
would say.

But, indeed, Madame du Val-Noble was only relatively impoverished. This
woman’s wardrobe, so extravagant and elegant, was still sufficiently
well furnished to allow of her appearing on occasion--as on that evening
at the Porte-Saint-Martin to see _Richard Darlington_--in much splendor.
And Madame Gerard would most good-naturedly pay for the cabs needed by
the lady “on foot” to go out to dine, or to the play, and to come home

“Well, dear Madame Gerard,” said she to this worthy mother, “my luck is
about to change, I believe.”

“Well, well, madame, so much the better. But be prudent; do not run into
debt any more. I have such difficulty in getting rid of the people who
are hunting for you.”

“Oh, never worry yourself about those hounds! They have all made no end
of money out of me.--Here are some tickets for the Varietes for your
girls--a good box on the second tier. If any one should ask for me this
evening before I come in, show them up all the same. Adele, my old maid,
will be here; I will send her round.”

Madame du Val-Noble, having neither mother nor aunt, was obliged to
have recourse to her maid--equally on foot--to play the part of a
Saint-Esteve with the unknown follower whose conquest was to enable her
to rise again in the world. She went to dine with Theodore Gaillard,
who, as it happened, had a spree on that day, that is to say, a dinner
given by Nathan in payment of a bet he had lost, one of those orgies
when a man says to his guests, “You can bring a woman.”

It was not without strong reasons that Peyrade had made up his mind to
rush in person on to the field of this intrigue. At the same time, his
curiosity, like Corentin’s, was so keenly excited, that, even in the
absence of reasons, he would have tried to play a part in the drama.

At this moment Charles X.’s policy had completed its last evolution.
After confiding the helm of State to Ministers of his own choosing, the
King was preparing to conquer Algiers, and to utilize the glory that
should accrue as a passport to what has been called his _Coup d’Etat_.
There were no more conspiracies at home; Charles X. believed he had no
domestic enemies. But in politics, as at sea, a calm may be deceptive.

Thus Corentin had lapsed into total idleness. In such a case a true
sportsman, to keep his hand in, for lack of larks kills sparrows.
Domitian, we know, for lack of Christians, killed flies. Contenson,
having witnessed Esther’s arrest, had, with the keen instinct of a spy,
fully understood the upshot of the business. The rascal, as we have
seen, did not attempt to conceal his opinion of the Baron de Nucingen.

“Who is benefiting by making the banker pay so dear for his passion?”
 was the first question the allies asked each other. Recognizing Asie as
a leader in the piece, Contenson hoped to find out the author through
her; but she slipped through his fingers again and again, hiding like
an eel in the mud of Paris; and when he found her again as the cook
in Esther’s establishment, it seemed to him inexplicable that the
half-caste woman should have had a finger in the pie. Thus, for the
first time, these two artistic spies had come on a text that they could
not decipher, while suspecting a dark plot to the story.

After three bold attempts on the house in the Rue Taitbout, Contenson
still met with absolute dumbness. So long as Esther dwelt there the
lodge porter seemed to live in mortal terror. Asie had, perhaps,
promised poisoned meat-balls to all the family in the event of any

On the day after Esther’s removal, Contenson found this man rather
more amenable; he regretted the lady, he said, who had fed him with the
broken dishes from her table. Contenson, disguised as a broker, tried to
bargain for the rooms, and listened to the porter’s lamentations while
he fooled him, casting a doubt on all the man said by a questioning

“Yes, monsieur, the lady lived here for five years without ever going
out, and more by token, her lover, desperately jealous though she was
beyond reproach, took the greatest precautions when he came in or went
out. And a very handsome young man he was too!”

Lucien was at this time still staying with his sister, Madame Sechard;
but as soon as he returned, Contenson sent the porter to the Quai
Malaquais to ask Monsieur de Rubempre whether he were willing to part
with the furniture left in the rooms lately occupied by Madame van
Bogseck. The porter then recognized Lucien as the young widow’s
mysterious lover, and this was all that Contenson wanted. The deep but
suppressed astonishment may be imagined with which Lucien and Carlos
received the porter, whom they affected to regard as a madman; they
tried to upset his convictions.

Within twenty-four hours Carlos had organized a force which detected
Contenson red-handed in the act of espionage. Contenson, disguised as a
market-porter, had twice already brought home the provisions purchased
in the morning by Asie, and had twice got into the little mansion in the
Rue Saint-Georges. Corentin, on his part, was making a stir; but he was
stopped short by recognizing the certain identity of Carlos Herrera; for
he learned at once that this Abbe, the secret envoy of Ferdinand VII.,
had come to Paris towards the end of 1823. Still, Corentin thought it
worth while to study the reasons which had led the Spaniard to take an
interest in Lucien de Rubempre. It was soon clear to him, beyond
doubt, that Esther had for five years been Lucien’s mistress; so the
substitution of the Englishwoman had been effected for the advantage of
that young dandy.

Now Lucien had no means; he was rejected as a suitor for Mademoiselle de
Grandlieu; and he had just bought up the lands of Rubempre at the cost
of a million francs.

Corentin very skilfully made the head of the General Police take the
first steps; and the Prefet de Police a propos to Peyrade, informed his
chief that the appellants in that affair had been in fact the Comte de
Serizy and Lucien de Rubempre.

“We have it!” cried Peyrade and Corentin.

The two friends had laid plans in a moment.

“This hussy,” said Corentin, “has had intimacies; she must have some
women friends. Among them we shall certainly find one or another who is
down on her luck; one of us must play the part of a rich foreigner and
take her up. We will throw them together. They always want something of
each other in the game of lovers, and we shall then be in the citadel.”

Peyrade naturally proposed to assume his disguise as an Englishman.
The wild life he should lead during the time that he would take to
disentangle the plot of which he had been the victim, smiled on his
fancy; while Corentin, grown old in his functions, and weakly too,
did not care for it. Disguised as a mulatto, Contenson at once evaded
Carlos’ force. Just three days before Peyrade’s meeting with Madame du
Val-Noble in the Champs-Elysees, this last of the agents employed by
MM. de Sartine and Lenoir had arrived, provided with a passport, at the
Hotel Mirabeau, Rue de la Paix, having come from the Colonies via le
Havre, in a traveling chaise, as mud-splashed as though it had really
come from le Havre, instead of no further than by the road from
Saint-Denis to Paris.

Carlos Herrera, on his part, had his passport _vise_ at the Spanish
Embassy, and arranged everything at the Quai Malaquais to start for
Madrid. And this is why. Within a few days Esther was to become the
owner of the house in the Rue Saint-Georges and of shares yielding
thirty thousand francs a year; Europe and Asie were quite cunning enough
to persuade her to sell these shares and privately transmit the money
to Lucien. Thus Lucien, proclaiming himself rich through his sister’s
liberality, would pay the remainder of the price of the Rubempre
estates. Of this transaction no one could complain. Esther alone could
betray herself; but she would die rather than blink an eyelash.

Clotilde had appeared with a little pink kerchief round her crane’s
neck, so she had won her game at the Hotel de Grandlieu. The shares
in the Omnibus Company were already worth thrice their initial value.
Carlos, by disappearing for a few days, would put malice off the scent.
Human prudence had foreseen everything; no error was possible. The false
Spaniard was to start on the morrow of the day when Peyrade met Madame
du Val-Noble. But that very night, at two in the morning, Asie came in
a cab to the Quai Malaquais, and found the stoker of the machine smoking
in his room, and reconsidering all the points of the situation here
stated in a few words, like an author going over a page in his book to
discover any faults to be corrected. Such a man would not allow himself
a second time such an oversight as that of the porter in the Rue

“Paccard,” whispered Asie in her master’s ear, “recognized Contenson
yesterday, at half-past two, in the Champs-Elysees, disguised as a
mulatto servant to an Englishman, who for the last three days has been
seen walking in the Champs-Elysees, watching Esther. Paccard knew the
hound by his eyes, as I did when he dressed up as a market-porter.
Paccard drove the girl home, taking a round so as not to lose sight of
the wretch. Contenson is at the Hotel Mirabeau; but he exchanged so many
signs of intelligence with the Englishman, that Paccard says the other
cannot possibly be an Englishman.”

“We have a gadfly behind us,” said Carlos. “I will not leave till the
day after to-morrow. That Contenson is certainly the man who sent the
porter after us from the Rue Taitbout; we must ascertain whether this
sham Englishman is our foe.”

At noon Mr. Samuel Johnson’s black servant was solemnly waiting on his
master, who always breakfasted too heartily, with a purpose. Peyrade
wished to pass for a tippling Englishman; he never went out till he was
half-seas over. He wore black cloth gaiters up to his knees, and padded
to make his legs look stouter; his trousers were lined with the thickest
fustian; his waistcoat was buttoned up to his cheeks; a red scratch
wig hid half his forehead, and he had added nearly three inches to his
height; in short, the oldest frequenter of the Cafe David could not have
recognized him. From his squarecut coat of black cloth with full skirts
he might have been taken for an English millionaire.

Contenson made a show of the cold insolence of a nabob’s confidential
servant; he was taciturn, abrupt, scornful, and uncommunicative, and
indulged in fierce exclamations and uncouth gestures.

Peyrade was finishing his second bottle when one of the hotel waiters
unceremoniously showed in a man in whom Peyrade and Contenson both at
once discerned a gendarme in mufti.

“Monsieur Peyrade,” said the gendarme to the nabob, speaking in his ear,
“my instructions are to take you to the Prefecture.”

Peyrade, without saying a word, rose and took down his hat.

“You will find a hackney coach at the door,” said the man as they went
downstairs. “The Prefet thought of arresting you, but he decided on
sending for you to ask some explanation of your conduct through the
peace-officer whom you will find in the coach.”

“Shall I ride with you?” asked the gendarme of the peace-officer when
Peyrade had got in.

“No,” replied the other; “tell the coachman quietly to drive to the

Peyrade and Carlos were now face to face in the coach. Carlos had a
stiletto under his hand. The coach-driver was a man he could trust,
quite capable of allowing Carlos to get out without seeing him, or being
surprised, on arriving at his journey’s end, to find a dead body in
his cab. No inquiries are ever made about a spy. The law almost always
leaves such murders unpunished, it is so difficult to know the rights of
the case.

Peyrade looked with his keenest eye at the magistrate sent to examine
him by the Prefet of Police. Carlos struck him as satisfactory: a bald
head, deeply wrinkled at the back, and powdered hair; a pair of very
light gold spectacles, with double-green glasses over weak eyes, with
red rims, evidently needing care. These eyes seemed the trace of some
squalid malady. A cotton shirt with a flat-pleated frill, a shabby
black satin waistcoat, the trousers of a man of law, black spun silk
stockings, and shoes tied with ribbon; a long black overcoat, cheap
gloves, black, and worn for ten days, and a gold watch-chain--in every
point the lower grade of magistrate known by a perversion of terms as a

“My dear Monsieur Peyrade, I regret to find such a man as you the object
of surveillance, and that you should act so as to justify it. Your
disguise is not to the Prefet’s taste. If you fancy that you can thus
escape our vigilance, you are mistaken. You traveled from England by way
of Beaumont-sur-Oise, no doubt.”

“Beaumont-sur-Oise?” repeated Peyrade.

“Or by Saint-Denis?” said the sham lawyer.

Peyrade lost his presence of mind. The question must be answered. Now
any reply might be dangerous. In the affirmative it was farcical; in the
negative, if this man knew the truth, it would be Peyrade’s ruin.

“He is a sharp fellow,” thought he.

He tried to look at the man and smile, and he gave him a smile for an
answer; the smile passed muster without protest.

“For what purpose have you disguised yourself, taken rooms at the
Mirabeau, and dressed Contenson as a black servant?” asked the

“Monsieur le Prefet may do what he chooses with me, but I owe no account
of my actions to any one but my chief,” said Peyrade with dignity.

“If you mean me to infer that you are acting by the orders of the
General Police,” said the other coldly, “we will change our route, and
drive to the Rue de Grenelle instead of the Rue de Jerusalem. I have
clear instructions with regard to you. But be careful! You are not in
any deep disgrace, and you may spoil your own game in a moment. As for
me--I owe you no grudge.--Come; tell me the truth.”

“Well, then, this is the truth,” said Peyrade, with a glance at his
Cerberus’ red eyes.

The sham lawyer’s face remained expressionless, impassible; he was doing
his business, all truths were the same to him, he looked as though
he suspected the Prefet of some caprice. Prefets have their little

“I have fallen desperately in love with a woman--the mistress of that
stockbroker who is gone abroad for his own pleasure and the displeasure
of his creditors--Falleix.”

“Madame du Val-Noble?”

“Yes,” replied Peyrade. “To keep her for a month, which will not cost me
more than a thousand crowns, I have got myself up as a nabob and taken
Contenson as my servant. This is so absolutely true, monsieur, that
if you like to leave me in the coach, where I will wait for you, on my
honor as an old Commissioner-General of Police, you can go to the hotel
and question Contenson. Not only will Contenson confirm what I have the
honor of stating, but you may see Madame du Val-Noble’s waiting-maid,
who is to come this morning to signify her mistress’ acceptance of my
offers, or the conditions she makes.

“An old monkey knows what grimaces mean: I have offered her a thousand
francs a month and a carriage--that comes to fifteen hundred; five
hundred francs’ worth of presents, and as much again in some outings,
dinners and play-going; you see, I am not deceiving you by a centime
when I say a thousand crowns.--A man of my age may well spend a thousand
crowns on his last fancy.”

“Bless me, Papa Peyrade! and you still care enough for women to----?
But you are deceiving me. I am sixty myself, and I can do without
‘em.--However, if the case is as you state it, I quite understand that
you should have found it necessary to get yourself up as a foreigner to
indulge your fancy.”

“You can understand that Peyrade, or old Canquoelle of the Rue des

“Ay, neither of them would have suited Madame du Val-Noble,” Carlos
put in, delighted to have picked up Canquoelle’s address. “Before
the Revolution,” he went on, “I had for my mistress a woman who had
previously been kept by the gentleman-in-waiting, as they then called
the executioner. One evening at the play she pricked herself with a pin,
and cried out--a customary ejaculation in those days--‘Ah! Bourreau!’ on
which her neighbor asked her if this were a reminiscence?--Well, my dear
Peyrade, she cast off her man for that speech.

“I suppose you have no wish to expose yourself to such a slap in the
face.--Madame du Val-Noble is a woman for gentlemen. I saw her once at
the opera, and thought her very handsome.

“Tell the driver to go back to the Rue de la Paix, my dear Peyrade. I
will go upstairs with you to your rooms and see for myself. A verbal
report will no doubt be enough for Monsieur le Prefet.”

Carlos took a snuff-box from his side-pocket--a black snuff-box
lined with silver-gilt--and offered it to Peyrade with an impulse of
delightful good-fellowship. Peyrade said to himself:

“And these are their agents! Good Heavens! what would Monsieur Lenoir
say if he could come back to life, or Monsieur de Sartines?”

“That is part of the truth, no doubt, but it is not all,” said the sham
lawyer, sniffing up his pinch of snuff. “You have had a finger in the
Baron de Nucingen’s love affairs, and you wish, no doubt, to entangle
him in some slip-knot. You missed fire with the pistol, and you are
aiming at him with a field-piece. Madame du Val-Noble is a friend of
Madame de Champy’s----”

“Devil take it. I must take care not to founder,” said Peyrade to
himself. “He is a better man than I thought him. He is playing me; he
talks of letting me go, and he goes on making me blab.”

“Well?” asked Carlos with a magisterial air.

“Monsieur, it is true that I have been so foolish as to seek a woman in
Monsieur de Nucingen’s behoof, because he was half mad with love. That
is the cause of my being out of favor, for it would seem that quite
unconsciously I touched some important interests.”

The officer of the law remained immovable.

“But after fifty-two years’ experience,” Peyrade went on, “I know the
police well enough to have held my hand after the blowing up I had from
Monsieur le Prefet, who, no doubt, was right----”

“Then you would give up this fancy if Monsieur le Prefet required it
of you? That, I think, would be the best proof you could give of the
sincerity of what you say.”

“He is going it! he is going it!” thought Peyrade. “Ah! by all that’s
holy, the police to-day is a match for that of Monsieur Lenoir.”

“Give it up?” said he aloud. “I will wait till I have Monsieur le
Prefet’s orders.--But here we are at the hotel, if you wish to come up.”

“Where do you find the money?” said Carlos point-blank, with a sagacious

“Monsieur, I have a friend----”

“Get along,” said Carlos; “go and tell that story to an examining

This audacious stroke on Carlos’ part was the outcome of one of those
calculations, so simple that none but a man of his temper would have
thought it out.

At a very early hour he had sent Lucien to Madame de Serizy’s. Lucien
had begged the Count’s private secretary--as from the Count--to go and
obtain from the Prefet of Police full particulars concerning the agent
employed by the Baron de Nucingen. The secretary came back provided with
a note concerning Peyrade, a copy of the summary noted on the back of
his record:--

  “In the police force since 1778, having come to Paris from Avignon
  two years previously.

  “Without money or character; possessed of certain State secrets.

  “Lives in the Rue des Moineaux under the name of Canquoelle, the
  name of a little estate where his family resides in the department
  of Vaucluse; very respectable people.

  “Was lately inquired for by a grand-nephew named Theodore de la
  Peyrade. (See the report of an agent, No. 37 of the Documents.)”

“He must be the man to whom Contenson is playing the mulatto servant!”
 cried Carlos, when Lucien returned with other information besides this

Within three hours this man, with the energy of a Commander-in-Chief,
had found, by Paccard’s help, an innocent accomplice capable of
playing the part of a gendarme in disguise, and had got himself up as
a peace-officer. Three times in the coach he had thought of killing
Peyrade, but he had made it a rule never to commit a murder with his own
hand; he promised himself that he would get rid of Peyrade all in good
time by pointing him out as a millionaire to some released convicts
about the town.

Peyrade and his Mentor, as they went in, heard Contenson’s voice arguing
with Madame du Val-Noble’s maid. Peyrade signed to Carlos to remain
in the outer room, with a look meant to convey: “Thus you can assure
yourself of my sincerity.”

“Madame agrees to everything,” said Adele. “Madame is at this moment
calling on a friend, Madame de Champy, who has some rooms in the Rue
Taitbout on her hands for a year, full of furniture, which she will let
her have, no doubt. Madame can receive Mr. Johnson more suitably there,
for the furniture is still very decent, and monsieur might buy it for
madame by coming to an agreement with Madame de Champy.”

“Very good, my girl. If this is not a job of fleecing, it is a bit of
the wool,” said the mulatto to the astonished woman. “However, we will
go shares----”

“That is your darkey all over!” cried Mademoiselle Adele. “If your nabob
is a nabob, he can very well afford to give madame the furniture. The
lease ends in April 1830; your nabob may renew it if he likes.”

“I am quite willing,” said Peyrade, speaking French with a strong
English accent, as he came in and tapped the woman on the shoulder.

He cast a knowing look back at Carlos, who replied by an assenting nod,
understanding that the nabob was to keep up his part.

But the scene suddenly changed its aspect at the entrance of a person
over whom neither Carlos nor Peyrade had the least power. Corentin
suddenly came in. He had found the door open, and looked in as he went
by to see how his old friend played his part as nabob.

“The Prefet is still bullying me!” said Peyrade in a whisper to
Corentin. “He has found me out as a nabob.”

“We will spill the Prefet,” Corentin muttered in reply.

Then after a cool bow he stood darkly scrutinizing the magistrate.

“Stay here till I return,” said Carlos; “I will go to the Prefecture. If
you do not see me again, you may go your own way.”

Having said this in an undertone to Peyrade, so as not to humiliate him
in the presence of the waiting-maid, Carlos went away, not caring to
remain under the eye of the newcomer, in whom he detected one of those
fair-haired, blue-eyed men, coldly terrifying.

“That is the peace-officer sent after me by the Prefet,” said Peyrade.

“That?” said Corentin. “You have walked into a trap. That man has three
packs of cards in his shoes; you can see that by the place of his foot
in the shoe; besides, a peace-officer need wear no disguise.”

Corentin hurried downstairs to verify his suspicions: Carlos was getting
into the fly.

“Hallo! Monsieur l’Abbe!” cried Corentin.

Carlos looked around, saw Corentin, and got in quickly. Still, Corentin
had time to say:

“That was all I wanted to know.--Quai Malaquais,” he shouted to the
driver with diabolical mockery in his tone and expression.

“I am done!” said Jacques Collin to himself. “They have got me. I must
get ahead of them by sheer pace, and, above all, find out what they want
of us.”

Corentin had seen the Abbe Carlos Herrera five or six times, and the
man’s eyes were unforgettable. Corentin had suspected him at once from
the cut of his shoulders, then by his puffy face, and the trick of three
inches of added height gained by a heel inside the shoe.

“Ah! old fellow, they have drawn you,” said Corentin, finding no one in
the room but Peyrade and Contenson.

“Who?” cried Peyrade, with metallic hardness; “I will spend my last days
in putting him on a gridiron and turning him on it.”

“It is the Abbe Carlos Herrera, the Corentin of Spain, as I suppose.
This explains everything. The Spaniard is a demon of the first water,
who has tried to make a fortune for that little young man by coining
money out of a pretty baggage’s bolster.--It is your lookout if you
think you can measure your skill with a man who seems to me the very
devil to deal with.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Contenson, “he fingered the three hundred thousand
francs the day when Esther was arrested; he was in the cab. I remember
those eyes, that brow, and those marks of the smallpox.”

“Oh! what a fortune my Lydie might have had!” cried Peyrade.

“You may still play the nabob,” said Corentin. “To keep an eye on Esther
you must keep up her intimacy with Val-Noble. She was really Lucien’s

“They have got more than five hundred thousand francs out of Nucingen
already,” said Contenson.

“And they want as much again,” Corentin went on. “The Rubempre estate is
to cost a million.--Daddy,” added he, slapping Peyrade on the shoulder,
“you may get more than a hundred thousand francs to settle on Lydie.”

“Don’t tell me that, Corentin. If your scheme should fail, I cannot tell
what I might not do----”

“You will have it by to-morrow perhaps! The Abbe, my dear fellow, is
most astute; we shall have to kiss his spurs; he is a very superior
devil. But I have him sure enough. He is not a fool, and he will knock
under. Try to be a gaby as well as a nabob, and fear nothing.”

In the evening of this day, when the opposing forces had met face to
face on level ground, Lucien spent the evening at the Hotel Grandlieu.
The party was a large one. In the face of all the assembly, the Duchess
kept Lucien at her side for some time, and was most kind to him.

“You are going away for a little while?” said she.

“Yes, Madame la Duchesse. My sister, in her anxiety to promote my
marriage, has made great sacrifices, and I have been enabled to
repurchase the lands of the Rubempres, to reconstitute the whole estate.
But I have found in my Paris lawyer a very clever man, who has managed
to save me from the extortionate terms that the holders would have asked
if they had known the name of the purchaser.”

“Is there a chateau?” asked Clotilde, with too broad a smile.

“There is something which might be called a chateau; but the wiser plan
would be to use the building materials in the construction of a modern

Clotilde’s eyes blazed with happiness above her smile of satisfaction.

“You must play a rubber with my father this evening,” said she. “In a
fortnight I hope you will be asked to dinner.”

“Well, my dear sir,” said the Duc de Grandlieu, “I am told that you have
bought the estate of Rubempre. I congratulate you. It is an answer to
those who say you are in debt. We bigwigs, like France or England, are
allowed to have a public debt; but men of no fortune, beginners, you
see, may not assume that privilege----”

“Indeed, Monsieur le Duc, I still owe five hundred thousand francs on my

“Well, well, you must marry a wife who can bring you the money; but you
will have some difficulty in finding a match with such a fortune in our
Faubourg, where daughters do not get large dowries.”

“Their name is enough,” said Lucien.

“We are only three wisk players--Maufrigneuse, d’Espard, and I--will you
make a fourth?” said the Duke, pointing to the card-table.

Clotilde came to the table to watch her father’s game.

“She expects me to believe that she means it for me,” said the Duke,
patting his daughter’s hands, and looking round at Lucien, who remained
quite grave.

Lucien, Monsieur d’Espard’s partner, lost twenty louis.

“My dear mother,” said Clotilde to the Duchess, “he was so judicious as
to lose.”

At eleven o’clock, after a few affectionate words with Mademoiselle de
Grandlieu, Lucien went home and to bed, thinking of the complete triumph
he was to enjoy a month hence; for he had not a doubt of being accepted
as Clotilde’s lover, and married before Lent in 1830.

On the morrow, when Lucien was smoking his cigarettes after breakfast,
sitting with Carlos, who had become much depressed, M. de Saint-Esteve
was announced--what a touch of irony--who begged to see either the Abbe
Carlos Herrera or Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre.

“Was he told downstairs that I had left Paris?” cried the Abbe.

“Yes, sir,” replied the groom.

“Well, then, you must see the man,” said he to Lucien. “But do not say
a single compromising word, do not let a sign of surprise escape you. It
is the enemy.”

“You will overhear me,” said Lucien.

Carlos hid in the adjoining room, and through the crack of the door
he saw Corentin, whom he recognized only by his voice, such powers of
transformation did the great man possess. This time Corentin looked like
an old paymaster-general.

“I have not had the honor of being known to you, monsieur,” Corentin
began, “but----”

“Excuse my interrupting you, monsieur, but----”

“But the matter in point is your marriage to Mademoiselle Clotilde de
Grandlieu--which will never take place,” Corentin added eagerly.

Lucien sat down and made no reply.

“You are in the power of a man who is able and willing and ready to
prove to the Duc de Grandlieu that the lands of Rubempre are to be paid
for with the money that a fool has given to your mistress, Mademoiselle
Esther,” Corentin went on. “It will be quite easy to find the minutes of
the legal opinions in virtue of which Mademoiselle Esther was summoned;
there are ways too of making d’Estourny speak. The very clever
manoeuvres employed against the Baron de Nucingen will be brought to

“As yet all can be arranged. Pay down a hundred thousand francs, and you
will have peace.--All this is no concern of mine. I am only the agent of
those who levy this blackmail; nothing more.”

Corentin might have talked for an hour; Lucien smoked his cigarette with
an air of perfect indifference.

“Monsieur,” replied he, “I do not want to know who you are, for men
who undertake such jobs as these have no name--at any rate, in my
vocabulary. I have allowed you to talk at your leisure; I am at
home.--You seem to me not bereft of common sense; listen to my dilemma.”

There was a pause, during which Lucien met Corentin’s cat-like eye fixed
on him with a perfectly icy stare.

“Either you are building on facts that are absolutely false, and I need
pay no heed to them,” said Lucien; “or you are in the right; and in that
case, by giving you a hundred thousand francs, I put you in a position
to ask me for as many hundred thousand francs as your employer can find
Saint-Esteves to ask for.

“However, to put an end, once and for all, to your kind intervention, I
would have you know that I, Lucien de Rubempre, fear no one. I have
no part in the jobbery of which you speak. If the Grandlieus make
difficulties, there are other young ladies of very good family ready
to be married. After all, it is no loss to me if I remain single,
especially if, as you imagine, I deal in blank bills to such advantage.”

“If Monsieur l’Abbe Carlos Herrera----”

“Monsieur,” Lucien put in, “the Abbe Herrera is at this moment on the
way to Spain. He has nothing to do with my marriage, my interests are no
concern of his. That remarkable statesman was good enough to assist
me at one time with his advice, but he has reports to present to
his Majesty the King of Spain; if you have anything to say to him, I
recommend you to set out for Madrid.”

“Monsieur,” said Corentin plainly, “you will never be Mademoiselle
Clotilde de Grandlieu’s husband.”

“So much the worse for her!” replied Lucien, impatiently pushing
Corentin towards the door.

“You have fully considered the matter?” asked Corentin coldly.

“Monsieur, I do not recognize that you have any right either to meddle
in my affairs, or to make me waste a cigarette,” said Lucien, throwing
away his cigarette that had gone out.

“Good-day, monsieur,” said Corentin. “We shall not meet again.--But
there will certainly be a moment in your life when you would give half
your fortune to have called me back from these stairs.”

In answer to this threat, Carlos made as though he were cutting off a

“Now to business!” cried he, looking at Lucien, who was as white as
ashes after this dreadful interview.

If among the small number of my readers who take an interest in the
moral and philosophical side of this book there should be only one
capable of believing that the Baron de Nucingen was happy, that one
would prove how difficult it is to explain the heart of a courtesan by
any kind of physiological formula. Esther was resolved to make the poor
millionaire pay dearly for what he called his day of triumph. And at
the beginning of February 1830 the house-warming party had not yet been
given in the “little palace.”

“Well,” said Esther in confidence to her friends, who repeated it to the
Baron, “I shall open house at the Carnival, and I mean to make my man as
happy as a cock in plaster.”

The phrase became proverbial among women of her kidney.

The Baron gave vent to much lamentation; like married men, he made
himself very ridiculous, he began to complain to his intimate friends,
and his dissatisfaction was generally known.

Esther, meanwhile, took quite a serious view of her position as the
Pompadour of this prince of speculators. She had given two or three
small evening parties, solely to get Lucien into the house. Lousteau,
Rastignac, du Tillet, Bixiou, Nathan, the Comte de Brambourg--all the
cream of the dissipated crew--frequented her drawing-room. And, as
leading ladies in the piece she was playing, Esther accepted
Tullia, Florentine, Fanny Beaupre, and Florine--two dancers and two
actresses--besides Madame du Val-Noble. Nothing can be more dreary than
a courtesan’s home without the spice of rivalry, the display of dress,
and some variety of type.

In six weeks Esther had become the wittiest, the most amusing, the
loveliest, and the most elegant of those female pariahs who form the
class of kept women. Placed on the pedestal that became her, she enjoyed
all the delights of vanity which fascinate women in general, but still
as one who is raised above her caste by a secret thought. She cherished
in her heart an image of herself which she gloried in, while it made
her blush; the hour when she must abdicate was ever present to her
consciousness; thus she lived a double life, really scorning herself.
Her sarcastic remarks were tinged by the temper which was roused in
her by the intense contempt felt by the Angel of Love, hidden in the
courtesan, for the disgraceful and odious part played by the body in the
presence, as it were, of the soul. At once actor and spectator, victim
and judge, she was a living realization of the beautiful Arabian Tales,
in which a noble creature lies hidden under a degrading form, and of
which the type is the story of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of books--the
Bible. Having granted herself a lease of life till the day after her
infidelity, the victim might surely play awhile with the executioner.

Moreover, the enlightenment that had come to Esther as to the secretly
disgraceful means by which the Baron had made his colossal fortune
relieved her of every scruple. She could play the part of Ate, the
goddess of vengeance, as Carlos said. And so she was by turns enchanting
and odious to the banker, who lived only for her. When the Baron had
been worked up to such a pitch of suffering that he wanted only to be
quit of Esther, she brought him round by a scene of tender affection.

Herrera, making a great show of starting for Spain, had gone as far
as Tours. He had sent the chaise on as far as Bordeaux, with a servant
inside, engaged to play the part of master, and to wait for him
at Bordeaux. Then, returning by diligence, dressed as a commercial
traveler, he had secretly taken up his abode under Esther’s roof,
and thence, aided by Asie and Europe, carefully directed all his
machinations, keeping an eye on every one, and especially on Peyrade.

About a fortnight before the day chosen for her great entertainment,
which was to be given in the evening after the first opera ball, the
courtesan, whose witticisms were beginning to make her feared, happened
to be at the Italian opera, at the back of a box which the Baron--forced
to give a box--had secured in the lowest tier, in order to conceal his
mistress, and not to flaunt her in public within a few feet of Madame de
Nucingen. Esther had taken her seat, so as to “rake” that of Madame de
Serizy, whom Lucien almost invariably accompanied. The poor girl made
her whole happiness centre in watching Lucien on Tuesdays, Thursdays,
and Saturdays by Madame de Serizy’s side.

At about half-past nine in the evening Esther could see Lucien enter
the Countess’ box, with a care-laden brow, pale, and with almost drawn
features. These symptoms of mental anguish were legible only to Esther.
The knowledge of a man’s countenance is, to the woman who loves him,
like that of the sea to a sailor.

“Good God! what can be the matter? What has happened? Does he want to
speak with that angel of hell, who is to him a guardian angel, and who
lives in an attic between those of Europe and Asie?”

Tormented by such reflections, Esther scarcely listened to the music.
Still less, it may be believed, did she listen to the Baron, who held
one of his “Anchel’s” hands in both his, talking to her in his horrible
Polish-Jewish accent, a jargon which must be as unpleasant to read as it
is to hear spoken.

“Esther,” said he, releasing her hand, and pushing it away with a slight
touch of temper, “you do not listen to me.”

“I tell you what, Baron, you blunder in love as you gibber in French.”

“_Der teufel_!”

“I am not in my boudoir here, I am at the opera. If you were not a
barrel made by Huret or Fichet, metamorphosed into a man by some trick
of nature, you would not make so much noise in a box with a woman who is
fond of music. I don’t listen to you? I should think not! There you sit
rustling my dress like a cockchafer in a paper-bag, and making me laugh
with contempt. You say to me, ‘You are so pretty, I should like to
eat you!’ Old simpleton! Supposing I were to say to you, ‘You are
less intolerable this evening than you were yesterday--we will go
home?’--Well, from the way you puff and sigh--for I feel you if I don’t
listen to you--I perceive that you have eaten an enormous dinner, and
your digestion is at work. Let me instruct you--for I cost you enough to
give some advice for your money now and then--let me tell you, my dear
fellow, that a man whose digestion is so troublesome as yours is, is not
justified in telling his mistress that she is pretty at unseemly hours.
An old soldier died of that very folly ‘in the arms of Religion,’ as
Blondet has it.

“It is now ten o’clock. You finished dinner at du Tillet’s at nine
o’clock, with your pigeon the Comte de Brambourg; you have millions and
truffles to digest. Come to-morrow night at ten.”

“Vat you are cruel!” cried the Baron, recognizing the profound truth of
this medical argument.

“Cruel!” echoed Esther, still looking at Lucien. “Have you not consulted
Bianchon, Desplein, old Haudry?--Since you have had a glimpse of future
happiness, do you know what you seem like to me?”


“A fat old fellow wrapped in flannel, who walks every hour from his
armchair to the window to see if the thermometer has risen to the degree
marked ‘_Silkworms_,’ the temperature prescribed by his physician.”

“You are really an ungrateful slut!” cried the Baron, in despair at
hearing a tune, which, however, amorous old men not unfrequently hear at
the opera.

“Ungrateful!” retorted Esther. “What have you given me till now? A great
deal of annoyance. Come, papa! Can I be proud of you? You! you are proud
of me; I wear your livery and badge with an air. You paid my debts? So
you did. But you have grabbed so many millions--come, you need not sulk;
you admitted that to me--that you need not think twice of that. And
this is your chief title to fame. A baggage and a thief--a well-assorted

“You have built a splendid cage for a parrot that amuses you. Go and ask
a Brazilian cockatoo what gratitude it owes to the man who placed it in
a gilded cage.--Don’t look at me like that; you are just like a Buddist

“Well, you show your red-and-white cockatoo to all Paris. You say, ‘Does
anybody else in Paris own such a parrot? And how well it talks, how
cleverly it picks its words!’ If du Tillet comes in, it says at once,
‘How’do, little swindler!’--Why, you are as happy as a Dutchman who has
grown an unique tulip, as an old nabob pensioned off in Asia by England,
when a commercial traveler sells him the first Swiss snuff-box that
opens in three places.

“You want to win my heart? Well, now, I will tell you how to do it.”

“Speak, speak, dere is noting I shall not do for you. I lofe to be
fooled by you.”

“Be young, be handsome, be like Lucien de Rubempre over there by your
wife, and you shall have gratis what you can never buy with all your

“I shall go ‘vay, for really you are too bat dis evening!” said the
banker, with a lengthened face.

“Very well, good-night then,” said Esther. “Tell Georches to make your
pillows very high and place your fee low, for you look apoplectic this
evening.--You cannot say, my dear, that I take no interest in your

The Baron was standing up, and held the door-knob in his hand.

“Here, Nucingen,” said Esther, with an imperious gesture.

The Baron bent over her with dog-like devotion.

“Do you want to see me very sweet, and giving you sugar-and-water, and
petting you in my house, this very evening, old monster?”

“You shall break my heart!”

“Break your heart--you mean bore you,” she went on. “Well, bring me
Lucien that I may invite him to our Belshazzar’s feast, and you may
be sure he will not fail to come. If you succeed in that little
transaction, I will tell you that I love you, my fat Frederic, in such
plain terms that you cannot but believe me.”

“You are an enchantress,” said the Baron, kissing Esther’s glove. “I
should be villing to listen to abuse for ein hour if alvays der vas a
kiss at de ent of it.”

“But if I am not obeyed, I----” and she threatened the Baron with her
finger as we threaten children.

The Baron raised his head like a bird caught in a springe and imploring
the trapper’s pity.

“Dear Heaven! What ails Lucien?” said she to herself when she was alone,
making no attempt to check her falling tears; “I never saw him so sad.”

This is what had happened to Lucien that very evening.

At nine o’clock he had gone out, as he did every evening, in his
brougham to go to the Hotel de Grandlieu. Using his saddle-horse and
cab in the morning only, like all young men, he had hired a brougham
for winter evenings, and had chosen a first-class carriage and splendid
horses from one of the best job-masters. For the last month all had gone
well with him; he had dined with the Grandlieus three times; the Duke
was delightful to him; his shares in the Omnibus Company, sold for three
hundred thousand francs, had paid off a third more of the price of the
land; Clotilde de Grandlieu, who dressed beautifully now, reddened inch
thick when he went into the room, and loudly proclaimed her attachment
to him. Some personages of high estate discussed their marriage as a
probable event. The Duc de Chaulieu, formerly Ambassador to Spain, and
now for a short while Minister for Foreign Affairs, had promised the
Duchesse de Grandlieu that he would ask for the title of Marquis for

So that evening, after dining with Madame de Serizy, Lucien had driven
to the Faubourg Saint-Germain to pay his daily visit.

He arrives, the coachman calls for the gate to be opened, he drives into
the courtyard and stops at the steps. Lucien, on getting out, remarks
four other carriages in waiting. On seeing Monsieur de Rubempre, one of
the footmen placed to open and shut the hall-door comes forward and out
on to the steps, in front of the door, like a soldier on guard.

“His Grace is not at home,” says he.

“Madame la Duchesse is receiving company,” observes Lucien to the

“Madame la Duchesse is gone out,” replies the man solemnly.

“Mademoiselle Clotilde----”

“I do not think that Mademoiselle Clotilde will see you, monsieur, in
the absence of Madame la Duchesse.”

“But there are people here,” replies Lucien in dismay.

“I do not know, sir,” says the man, trying to seem stupid and to be

There is nothing more fatal than etiquette to those who regard it as the
most formidable arm of social law. Lucien easily interpreted the meaning
of this scene, so disastrous to him. The Duke and Duchess would not
admit him. He felt the spinal marrow freezing in the core of his
vertebral column, and a sickly cold sweat bedewed his brow. The
conversation had taken place in the presence of his own body-servant,
who held the door of the brougham, doubting whether to shut it. Lucien
signed to him that he was going away again; but as he stepped into
the carriage, he heard the noise of people coming downstairs, and the
servant called out first, “Madame la Duchesse de Chaulieu’s people,”
 then “Madame la Vicomtesse de Grandlieu’s carriage!”

Lucien merely said, “To the Italian opera”; but in spite of his haste,
the luckless dandy could not escape the Duc de Chaulieu and his son, the
Duc de Rhetore, to whom he was obliged to bow, for they did not speak
a word to him. A great catastrophe at Court, the fall of a formidable
favorite, has ere now been pronounced on the threshold of a royal study,
in one word from an usher with a face like a plaster cast.

“How am I to let my adviser know of this disaster--this instant----?”
 thought Lucien as he drove to the opera-house. “What is going on?”

He racked his brain with conjectures.

This was what had taken place. That morning, at eleven o’clock, the
Duc de Grandlieu, as he went into the little room where the family all
breakfasted together, said to Clotilde after kissing her, “Until further
orders, my child, think no more of the Sieur de Rubempre.”

Then he had taken the Duchesse by the hand, and led her into a window
recess to say a few words in an undertone, which made poor Clotilde turn
pale; for she watched her mother as she listened to the Duke, and saw
her expression of extreme surprise.

“Jean,” said the Duke to one of his servants, “take this note to
Monsieur le Duc de Chaulieu, and beg him to answer by you, Yes or No.--I
am asking him to dine here to-day,” he added to his wife.

Breakfast had been a most melancholy meal. The Duchess was meditative,
the Duke seemed to be vexed with himself, and Clotilde could with
difficulty restrain her tears.

“My child, your father is right; you must obey him,” the mother had said
to the daughter with much emotion. “I do not say as he does, ‘Think no
more of Lucien.’ No--for I understand your suffering”--Clotilde kissed
her mother’s hand--“but I do say, my darling, Wait, take no step, suffer
in silence since you love him, and put your trust in your parents’
care.--Great ladies, my child, are great just because they can do their
duty on every occasion, and do it nobly.”

“But what is it about?” asked Clotilde as white as a lily.

“Matters too serious to be discussed with you, my dearest,” the Duchess
replied. “For if they are untrue, your mind would be unnecessarily
sullied; and if they are true, you must never know them.”

At six o’clock the Duc de Chaulieu had come to join the Duc de
Grandlieu, who awaited him in his study.

“Tell me, Henri”--for the Dukes were on the most familiar terms, and
addressed each other by their Christian names. This is one of the shades
invented to mark a degree of intimacy, to repel the audacity of French
familiarity, and humiliate conceit--“tell me, Henri, I am in such a
desperate difficulty that I can only ask advice of an old friend who
understands business, and you have practice and experience. My daughter
Clotilde, as you know, is in love with that little Rubempre, whom I have
been almost compelled to accept as her promised husband. I have always
been averse to the marriage; however, Madame de Grandlieu could not bear
to thwart Clotilde’s passion. When the young fellow had repurchased
the family estate and paid three-quarters of the price, I could make no
further objections.

“But last evening I received an anonymous letter--you know how much
that is worth--in which I am informed that the young fellow’s fortune is
derived from some disreputable source, and that he is telling lies
when he says that his sister is giving him the necessary funds for his
purchase. For my daughter’s happiness, and for the sake of our family, I
am adjured to make inquiries, and the means of doing so are suggested to
me. Here, read it.”

“I am entirely of your opinion as to the value of anonymous letters,
my dear Ferdinand,” said the Duc de Chaulieu after reading the letter.
“Still, though we may contemn them, we must make use of them. We must
treat such letters as we would treat a spy. Keep the young man out of
the house, and let us make inquiries----

“I know how to do it. Your lawyer is Derville, a man in whom we have
perfect confidence; he knows the secrets of many families, and can
certainly be trusted with this. He is an honest man, a man of weight,
and a man of honor; he is cunning and wily; but his wiliness is only in
the way of business, and you need only employ him to obtain evidence you
can depend upon.

“We have in the Foreign Office an agent of the superior police who is
unique in his power of discovering State secrets; we often send him on
such missions. Inform Derville that he will have a lieutenant in the
case. Our spy is a gentleman who will appear wearing the ribbon of the
Legion of Honor, and looking like a diplomate. This rascal will do the
hunting; Derville will only look on. Your lawyer will then tell you if
the mountain brings forth a mouse, or if you must throw over this little
Rubempre. Within a week you will know what you are doing.”

“The young man is not yet so far a Marquis as to take offence at my
being ‘Not at home’ for a week,” said the Duc de Grandlieu.

“Above all, if you end by giving him your daughter,” replied the
Minister. “If the anonymous letter tells the truth, what of that? You
can send Clotilde to travel with my daughter-in-law Madeleine, who wants
to go to Italy.”

“You relieve me immensely. I don’t know whether I ought to thank you.”

“Wait till the end.”

“By the way,” exclaimed the Duc de Grandlieu, “what is your man’s name?
I must mention it to Derville. Send him to me to-morrow by five o’clock;
I will have Derville here and put them in communication.”

“His real name,” said M. de Chaulieu, “is, I think, Corentin--a name
you must never have heard, for my gentleman will come ticketed with
his official name. He calls himself Monsieur de Saint-Something--Saint
Yves--Saint-Valere?--Something of the kind.--You may trust him; Louis
XVIII. had perfect confidence in him.”

After this confabulation the steward had orders to shut the door on
Monsieur de Rubempre--which was done.

Lucien paced the waiting-room at the opera-house like a man who was
drunk. He fancied himself the talk of all Paris. He had in the Duc de
Rhetore one of those unrelenting enemies on whom a man must smile, as
he can never be revenged, since their attacks are in conformity with the
rules of society. The Duc de Rhetore knew the scene that had just taken
place on the outside steps of the Grandlieus’ house. Lucien, feeling
the necessity of at once reporting the catastrophe to his high privy
councillor, nevertheless was afraid of compromising himself by going
to Esther’s house, where he might find company. He actually forgot that
Esther was here, so confused were his thoughts, and in the midst of so
much perplexity he was obliged to make small talk with Rastignac,
who, knowing nothing of the news, congratulated him on his approaching

At this moment Nucingen appeared smiling, and said to Lucien:

“Vill you do me de pleasure to come to see Montame de Champy, vat vill
infite you herself to von house-varming party----”

“With pleasure, Baron,” replied Lucien, to whom the Baron appeared as a
rescuing angel.

“Leave us,” said Esther to Monsieur de Nucingen, when she saw him come
in with Lucien. “Go and see Madame du Val-Noble, whom I discover in a
box on the third tier with her nabob.--A great many nabobs grow in the
Indies,” she added, with a knowing glance at Lucien.

“And that one,” said Lucien, smiling, “is uncommonly like yours.”

“And them,” said Esther, answering Lucien with another look of
intelligence, while still speaking to the Baron, “bring her here with
her nabob; he is very anxious to make your acquaintance. They say he
is very rich. The poor woman has already poured out I know not how many
elegies; she complains that her nabob is no good; and if you relieve him
of his ballast, perhaps he will sail closer to the wind.”

“You tink ve are all tieves!” said the Baron as he went away.

“What ails you, my Lucien?” asked Esther in her friend’s ear, just
touching it with her lips as soon as the box door was shut.

“I am lost! I have just been turned from the door of the Hotel de
Grandlieu under pretence that no one was admitted. The Duke and Duchess
were at home, and five pairs of horses were champing in the courtyard.”

“What! will the marriage not take place?” exclaimed Esther, much
agitated, for she saw a glimpse of Paradise.

“I do not yet know what is being plotted against me----”

“My Lucien,” said she in a deliciously coaxing voice, “why be worried
about it? You can make a better match by and by--I will get you the
price of two estates----”

“Give us supper to-night that I may be able to speak in secret to
Carlos, and, above all, invite the sham Englishman and Val-Noble. That
nabob is my ruin; he is our enemy; we will get hold of him, and we----”

But Lucien broke off with a gesture of despair.

“Well, what is it?” asked the poor girl.

“Oh! Madame de Serizy sees me!” cried Lucien, “and to crown our woes,
the Duc de Rhetore, who witnessed my dismissal, is with her.”

In fact, at that very minute, the Duc de Rhetore was amusing himself
with Madame de Serizy’s discomfiture.

“Do you allow Lucien to be seen in Mademoiselle Esther’s box?” said
the young Duke, pointing to the box and to Lucien; “you, who take an
interest in him, should really tell him such things are not allowed.
He may sup at her house, he may even--But, in fact, I am no longer
surprised at the Grandlieus’ coolness towards the young man. I have just
seen their door shut in his face--on the front steps----”

“Women of that sort are very dangerous,” said Madame de Serizy, turning
her opera-glass on Esther’s box.

“Yes,” said the Duke, “as much by what they can do as by what they

“They will ruin him!” cried Madame de Serizy, “for I am told they cost
as much whether they are paid or no.”

“Not to him!” said the young Duke, affecting surprise. “They are far
from costing him anything; they give him money at need, and all run
after him.”

The Countess’ lips showed a little nervous twitching which could not be
included in any category of smiles.

“Well, then,” said Esther, “come to supper at midnight. Bring Blondet
and Rastignac; let us have two amusing persons at any rate; and we won’t
be more than nine.”

“You must find some excuse for sending the Baron to fetch Eugenie under
pretence of warning Asie, and tell her what has befallen me, so that
Carlos may know before he has the nabob under his claws.”

“That shall be done,” said Esther.

And thus Peyrade was probably about to find himself unwittingly under
the same roof with his adversary. The tiger was coming into the lion’s
den, and a lion surrounded by his guards.

When Lucien went back to Madame de Serizy’s box, instead of turning
to him, smiling and arranging her skirts for him to sit by her, she
affected to pay him not the slightest attention, but looked about the
house through her glass. Lucien could see, however, by the shaking of
her hand that the Countess was suffering from one of those terrible
emotions by which illicit joys are paid for. He went to the front of the
box all the same, and sat down by her at the opposite corner, leaving a
little vacant space between himself and the Countess. He leaned on the
ledge of the box with his elbow, resting his chin on his gloved hand;
then he half turned away, waiting for a word. By the middle of the act
the Countess had still neither spoken to him nor looked at him.

“I do not know,” said she at last, “why you are here; your place is in
Mademoiselle Esther’s box----”

“I will go there,” said Lucien, leaving the box without looking at the

“My dear,” said Madame du Val-Noble, going into Esther’s box with
Peyrade, whom the Baron de Nucingen did not recognize, “I am delighted
to introduce Mr. Samuel Johnson. He is a great admirer of M. de
Nucingen’s talents.”

“Indeed, monsieur,” said Esther, smiling at Peyrade.

“Oh yes, bocou,” said Peyrade.

“Why, Baron, here is a way of speaking French which is as much like
yours as the low Breton dialect is like that of Burgundy. It will be
most amusing to hear you discuss money matters.--Do you know, Monsieur
Nabob, what I shall require of you if you are to make acquaintance with
my Baron?” said Esther with a smile.

“Oh!--Thank you so much, you will introduce me to Sir Baronet?” said
Peyrade with an extravagant English accent.

“Yes,” said she, “you must give me the pleasure of your company at
supper. There is no pitch stronger than champagne for sticking men
together. It seals every kind of business, above all such as you put
your foot in.--Come this evening; you will find some jolly fellows.--As
for you, my little Frederic,” she added in the Baron’s ear, “you have
your carriage here--just drive to the Rue Saint-Georges and bring Europe
to me here; I have a few words to say to her about the supper. I have
caught Lucien; he will bring two men who will be fun.--We will draw the
Englishman,” she whispered to Madame du Val-Noble.

Peyrade and the Baron left the women together.

“Oh, my dear, if you ever succeed in drawing that great brute, you will
be clever indeed,” said Suzanne.

“If it proves impossible, you must lend him to me for a week,” replied
Esther, laughing.

“You would but keep him half a day,” replied Madame du Val-Noble. “The
bread I eat is too hard; it breaks my teeth. Never again, to my dying
day, will I try to make an Englishman happy. They are all cold and
selfish--pigs on their hind legs.”

“What, no consideration?” said Esther with a smile.

“On the contrary, my dear, the monster has never shown the least

“Under no circumstances whatever?” asked Esther.

“The wretch always addresses me as Madame, and preserves the most
perfect coolness imaginable at moments when every man is more or less
amenable. To him love-making!--on my word, it is nothing more nor less
than shaving himself. He wipes the razor, puts it back in its case, and
looks in the glass as if he were saying, ‘I have not cut myself!’

“Then he treats me with such respect as is enough to send a woman mad.
That odious Milord Potboiler amuses himself by making poor Theodore hide
in my dressing-room and stand there half the day. In short, he tries
to annoy me in every way. And as stingy!--As miserly as Gobseck and
Gigonnet rolled into one. He takes me out to dinner, but he does not pay
the cab that brings me home if I happen not to have ordered my carriage
to fetch me.”

“Well,” said Esther, “but what does he pay you for your services?”

“Oh, my dear, positively nothing. Five hundred francs a month and not a
penny more, and the hire of a carriage. But what is it? A machine such
as they hire out for a third-rate wedding to carry an epicier to the
Mairie, to Church, and to the Cadran bleu.--Oh, he nettles me with his

“If I try hysterics and feel ill, he is never vexed; he only says:
‘I wish my lady to have her own way, for there is nothing more
detestable--no gentleman--than to say to a nice woman, “You are a
cotton bale, a bundle of merchandise.”--Ha, hah! Are you a member of the
Temperance Society and anti-slavery?’ And my horror sits pale, and cold,
and hard while he gives me to understand that he has as much respect for
me as he might have for a Negro, and that it has nothing to do with his
feelings, but with his opinions as an abolitionist.”

“A man cannot be a worse wretch,” said Esther. “But I will smash up that
outlandish Chinee.”

“Smash him up?” replied Madame du Val-Noble. “Not if he does not love
me. You, yourself, would you like to ask him for two sous? He would
listen to you solemnly, and tell you, with British precision that would
make a slap in the face seem genial, that he pays dear enough for the
trifle that love can be to his poor life;” and, as before, Madame du
Val-Noble mimicked Peyrade’s bad French.

“To think that in our line of life we are thrown in the way of such
men!” exclaimed Esther.

“Oh, my dear, you have been uncommonly lucky. Take good care of your

“But your nabob must have got some idea in his head.”

“That is what Adele says.”

“Look here, my dear; that man, you may depend, has laid a bet that he
will make a woman hate him and pack him off in a certain time.”

“Or else he wants to do business with Nucingen, and took me up knowing
that you and I were friends; that is what Adele thinks,” answered Madame
du Val-Noble. “That is why I introduced him to you this evening. Oh, if
only I could be sure what he is at, what tricks I could play with you
and Nucingen!”

“And you don’t get angry?” asked Esther; “you don’t speak your mind now
and then?”

“Try it--you are sharp and smooth.--Well, in spite of your sweetness, he
would kill you with his icy smiles. ‘I am anti-slavery,’ he would say,
‘and you are free.’--If you said the funniest things, he would only
look at you and say, ‘Very good!’ and you would see that he regards you
merely as a part of the show.”

“And if you turned furious?”

“The same thing; it would still be a show. You might cut him open under
the left breast without hurting him in the least; his internals are of
tinned-iron, I am sure. I told him so. He replied, ‘I am quite satisfied
with that physical constitution.’

“And always polite. My dear, he wears gloves on his soul...

“I shall endure this martyrdom for a few days longer to satisfy my
curiosity. But for that, I should have made Philippe slap my lord’s
cheek--and he has not his match as a swordsman. There is nothing else
left for it----”

“I was just going to say so,” cried Esther. “But you must ascertain
first that Philippe is a boxer; for these old English fellows, my dear,
have a depth of malignity----”

“This one has no match on earth. No, if you could but see him asking my
commands, to know at what hour he may come--to take me by surprise, of
course--and pouring out respectful speeches like a so-called gentleman,
you would say, ‘Why, he adores her!’ and there is not a woman in the
world who would not say the same.”

“And they envy us, my dear!” exclaimed Esther.

“Ah, well!” sighed Madame du Val-Noble; “in the course of our lives we
learn more or less how little men value us. But, my dear, I have never
been so cruelly, so deeply, so utterly scorned by brutality as I am by
this great skinful of port wine.

“When he is tipsy he goes away--‘not to be unpleasant,’ as he tells
Adele, and not to be ‘under two powers at once,’ wine and woman. He
takes advantage of my carriage; he uses it more than I do.--Oh! if only
we could see him under the table to-night! But he can drink ten bottles
and only be fuddled; when his eyes are full, he still sees clearly.”

“Like people whose windows are dirty outside,” said Esther, “but who can
see from inside what is going on in the street.--I know that property in
man. Du Tillet has it in the highest degree.”

“Try to get du Tillet, and if he and Nucingen between them could only
catch him in some of their plots, I should at least be revenged. They
would bring him to beggary!

“Oh! my dear, to have fallen into the hands of a hypocritical Protestant
after that poor Falleix, who was so amusing, so good-natured, so full of
chaff! How we used to laugh! They say all stockbrokers are stupid. Well,
he, for one, never lacked wit but once----”

“When he left you without a sou? That is what made you acquainted with
the unpleasant side of pleasure.”

Europe, brought in by Monsieur de Nucingen, put her viperine head in at
the door, and after listening to a few words whispered in her ear by her
mistress, she vanished.

At half-past eleven that evening, five carriages were stationed in
the Rue Saint-Georges before the famous courtesan’s door. There was
Lucien’s, who had brought Rastignac, Bixiou, and Blondet; du Tillet’s,
the Baron de Nucingen’s, the Nabob’s, and Florine’s--she was invited by
du Tillet. The closed and doubly-shuttered windows were screened by
the splendid Chinese silk curtains. Supper was to be served at one;
wax-lights were blazing, the dining-room and little drawing-room
displayed all their magnificence. The party looked forward to such an
orgy as only three such women and such men as these could survive. They
began by playing cards, as they had to wait about two hours.

“Do you play, milord?” asked du Tillet to Peyrade.

“I have played with O’Connell, Pitt, Fox, Canning, Lord Brougham,

“Say at once no end of lords,” said Bixiou.

“Lord Fitzwilliam, Lord Ellenborough, Lord Hertford, Lord----”

Bixiou was looking at Peyrade’s shoes, and stooped down.

“What are you looking for?” asked Blondet.

“For the spring one must touch to stop this machine,” said Florine.

“Do you play for twenty francs a point?”

“I will play for as much as you like to lose.”

“He does it well!” said Esther to Lucien. “They all take him for an

Du Tillet, Nucingen, Peyrade, and Rastignac sat down to a whist-table;
Florine, Madame du Val-Noble, Esther, Blondet, and Bixiou sat round the
fire chatting. Lucien spent the time in looking through a book of fine

“Supper is ready,” Paccard presently announced, in magnificent livery.

Peyrade was placed at Florine’s left hand, and on the other side of him
Bixiou, whom Esther had enjoined to make the Englishman drink freely,
and challenge him to beat him. Bixiou had the power of drinking an
indefinite quantity.

Never in his life had Peyrade seen such splendor, or tasted of such
cookery, or seen such fine women.

“I am getting my money’s worth this evening for the thousand crowns la
Val-Noble has cost me till now,” thought he; “and besides, I have just
won a thousand francs.”

“This is an example for men to follow!” said Suzanne, who was sitting by
Lucien, with a wave of her hand at the splendors of the dining-room.

Esther had placed Lucien next herself, and was holding his foot between
her own under the table.

“Do you hear?” said Madame du Val-Noble, addressing Peyrade, who
affected blindness. “This is how you ought to furnish a house! When a
man brings millions home from India, and wants to do business with the
Nucingens, he should place himself on the same level.”

“I belong to a Temperance Society!”

“Then you will drink like a fish!” said Bixiou, “for the Indies are
uncommon hot, uncle!”

It was Bixiou’s jest during supper to treat Peyrade as an uncle of his,
returned from India.

“Montame du Fal-Noble tolt me you shall have some iteas,” said Nucingen,
scrutinizing Peyrade.

“Ah, this is what I wanted to hear,” said du Tillet to Rastignac; “the
two talking gibberish together.”

“You will see, they will understand each other at last,” said Bixiou,
guessing what du Tillet had said to Rastignac.

“Sir Baronet, I have imagined a speculation--oh! a very comfortable
job--bocou profitable and rich in profits----”

“Now you will see,” said Blondet to du Tillet, “he will not talk one
minute without dragging in the Parliament and the English Government.”

“It is in China, in the opium trade----”

“Ja, I know,” said Nucingen at once, as a man who is well acquainted
with commercial geography. “But de English Gover’ment hafe taken up de
opium trate as a means dat shall open up China, and she shall not allow
dat ve----”

“Nucingen has cut him out with the Government,” remarked du Tillet to

“Ah! you have been in the opium trade!” cried Madame du Val-Noble. “Now
I understand why you are so narcotic; some has stuck in your soul.”

“Dere! you see!” cried the Baron to the self-styled opium merchant,
and pointing to Madame du Val-Noble. “You are like me. Never shall a
millionaire be able to make a voman lofe him.”

“I have loved much and often, milady,” replied Peyrade.

“As a result of temperance,” said Bixiou, who had just seen Peyrade
finish his third bottle of claret, and now had a bottle of port wine

“Oh!” cried Peyrade, “it is very fine, the Portugal of England.”

Blondet, du Tillet, and Bixiou smiled at each other. Peyrade had the
power of travestying everything, even his wit. There are very few
Englishmen who will not maintain that gold and silver are better in
England than elsewhere. The fowls and eggs exported from Normandy to the
London market enable the English to maintain that the poultry and eggs
in London are superior (very fine) to those of Paris, which come from
the same district.

Esther and Lucien were dumfounded by this perfection of costume,
language, and audacity.

They all ate and drank so well and so heartily, while talking and
laughing, that it went on till four in the morning. Bixiou flattered
himself that he had achieved one of the victories so pleasantly related
by Brillat-Savarin. But at the moment when he was saying to himself,
as he offered his “uncle” some more wine, “I have vanquished England!”
 Peyrade replied in good French to this malicious scoffer, “Toujours, mon
garcon” (Go it, my boy), which no one heard but Bixiou.

“Hallo, good men all, he is as English as I am!--My uncle is a Gascon! I
could have no other!”

Bixiou and Peyrade were alone, so no one heard this announcement.
Peyrade rolled off his chair on to the floor. Paccard forthwith picked
him up and carried him to an attic, where he fell sound asleep.

At six o’clock next evening, the Nabob was roused by the application
of a wet cloth, with which his face was being washed, and awoke to find
himself on a camp-bed, face to face with Asie, wearing a mask and a
black domino.

“Well, Papa Peyrade, you and I have to settle accounts,” said she.

“Where am I?” asked he, looking about him.

“Listen to me,” said Asie, “and that will sober you.--Though you do not
love Madame du Val-Noble, you love your daughter, I suppose?”

“My daughter?” Peyrade echoed with a roar.

“Yes, Mademoiselle Lydie.”

“What then?”

“What then? She is no longer in the Rue des Moineaux; she has been
carried off.”

Peyrade breathed a sigh like that of a soldier dying of a mortal wound
on the battlefield.

“While you were pretending to be an Englishman, some one else was
pretending to be Peyrade. Your little Lydie thought she was with her
father, and she is now in a safe place.--Oh! you will never find her!
unless you undo the mischief you have done.”

“What mischief?”

“Yesterday Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre had the door shut in his face at
the Duc de Grandlieu’s. This is due to your intrigues, and to the man
you let loose on us. Do not speak, listen!” Asie went on, seeing Peyrade
open his mouth. “You will have your daughter again, pure and spotless,”
 she added, emphasizing her statement by the accent on every word, “only
on the day after that on which Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre walks out of
Saint-Thomas d’Aquin as the husband of Mademoiselle Clotilde. If, within
ten days Lucien de Rubempre is not admitted, as he has been, to the
Grandlieus’ house, you, to begin with, will die a violent death, and
nothing can save you from the fate that threatens you.--Then, when you
feel yourself dying, you will have time before breathing your last to
reflect, ‘My daughter is a prostitute for the rest of her life!’

“Though you have been such a fool as give us this hold for our clutches,
you still have sense enough to meditate on this ultimatum from our
government. Do not bark, say nothing to any one; go to Contenson’s, and
change your dress, and then go home. Katt will tell you that at a word
from you your little Lydie went downstairs, and has not been seen since.
If you make any fuss, if you take any steps, your daughter will begin
where I tell you she will end--she is promised to de Marsay.

“With old Canquoelle I need not mince matters, I should think, or wear
gloves, heh?----Go on downstairs, and take care not to meddle in our
concerns any more.”

Asie left Peyrade in a pitiable state; every word had been a blow with
a club. The spy had tears in his eyes, and tears hanging from his cheeks
at the end of a wet furrow.

“They are waiting dinner for Mr. Johnson,” said Europe, putting her head
in a moment after.

Peyrade made no reply; he went down, walked till he reached a cab-stand,
and hurried off to undress at Contenson’s, not saying a word to him; he
resumed the costume of Pere Canquoelle, and got home by eight o’clock.
He mounted the stairs with a beating heart. When the Flemish woman heard
her master, she asked him:

“Well, and where is mademoiselle?” with such simplicity, that the old
spy was obliged to lean against the wall. The blow was more than he
could bear. He went into his daughter’s rooms, and ended by fainting
with grief when he found them empty, and heard Katt’s story, which
was that of an abduction as skilfully planned as if he had arranged it

“Well, well,” thought he, “I must knock under. I will be revenged later;
now I must go to Corentin.--This is the first time we have met our foes.
Corentin will leave that handsome boy free to marry an Empress if he
wishes!--Yes, I understand that my little girl should have fallen in
love with him at first sight.--Oh! that Spanish priest is a knowing one.
Courage, friend Peyrade! disgorge your prey!”

The poor father never dreamed of the fearful blow that awaited him.

On reaching Corentin’s house, Bruno, the confidential servant, who knew
Peyrade, said:

“Monsieur is gone away.”

“For a long time?”

“For ten days.”


“I don’t know.

“Good God, I am losing my wits! I ask him where--as if we ever told
them----” thought he.

A few hours before the moment when Peyrade was to be roused in his
garret in the Rue Saint-Georges, Corentin, coming in from his country
place at Passy, had made his way to the Duc de Grandlieu’s, in the
costume of a retainer of a superior class. He wore the ribbon of the
Legion of Honor at his button-hole. He had made up a withered old face
with powdered hair, deep wrinkles, and a colorless skin. His eyes
were hidden by tortoise-shell spectacles. He looked like a retired
office-clerk. On giving his name as Monsieur de Saint-Denis, he was led
to the Duke’s private room, where he found Derville reading a letter,
which he himself had dictated to one of his agents, the “number” whose
business it was to write documents. The Duke took Corentin aside to tell
him all he already knew. Monsieur de Saint-Denis listened coldly and
respectfully, amusing himself by studying this grand gentleman, by
penetrating the tufa beneath the velvet cover, by scrutinizing this
being, now and always absorbed in whist and in regard for the House of

“If you will take my advice, monsieur,” said Corentin to Derville,
after being duly introduced to the lawyer, “we shall set out this very
afternoon for Angouleme by the Bordeaux coach, which goes quite as fast
as the mail; and we shall not need to stay there six hours to obtain
the information Monsieur le Duc requires. It will be enough--if I have
understood your Grace--to ascertain whether Monsieur de Rubempre’s
sister and brother-in-law are in a position to give him twelve hundred
thousand francs?” and he turned to the Duke.

“You have understood me perfectly,” said the Duke.

“We can be back again in four days,” Corentin went on, addressing
Derville, “and neither of us will have neglected his business long
enough for it to suffer.”

“That was the only difficulty I was about to mention to his Grace,” said
Derville. “It is now four o’clock. I am going home to say a word to
my head-clerk, and pack my traveling-bag, and after dinner, at eight
o’clock, I will be----But shall we get places?” he said to Monsieur de
Saint-Denis, interrupting himself.

“I will answer for that,” said Corentin. “Be in the yard of the Chief
Office of the Messageries at eight o’clock. If there are no places,
they shall make some, for that is the way to serve Monseigneur le Duc de

“Gentlemen,” said the Duke most graciously, “I postpone my thanks----”

Corentin and the lawyer, taking this as a dismissal, bowed, and

At the hour when Peyrade was questioning Corentin’s servant, Monsieur
de Saint-Denis and Derville, seated in the Bordeaux coach, were studying
each other in silence as they drove out of Paris.

Next morning, between Orleans and Tours, Derville, being bored, began
to converse, and Corentin condescended to amuse him, but keeping his
distance; he left him to believe that he was in the diplomatic service,
and was hoping to become Consul-General by the good offices of the Duc
de Grandlieu. Two days after leaving Paris, Corentin and Derville got
out at Mansle, to the great surprise of the lawyer, who thought he was
going to Angouleme.

“In this little town,” said Corentin, “we can get the most positive
information as regards Madame Sechard.”

“Do you know her then?” asked Derville, astonished to find Corentin so
well informed.

“I made the conductor talk, finding he was a native of Angouleme. He
tells me that Madame Sechard lives at Marsac, and Marsac is but a league
away from Mansle. I thought we should be at greater advantage here than
at Angouleme for verifying the facts.”

“And besides,” thought Derville, “as Monsieur le Duc said, I act merely
as the witness to the inquiries made by this confidential agent----”

The inn at Mansle, _la Belle Etoile_, had for its landlord one of those
fat and burly men whom we fear we may find no more on our return; but
who still, ten years after, are seen standing at their door with as much
superfluous flesh as ever, in the same linen cap, the same apron,
with the same knife, the same oiled hair, the same triple chin,--all
stereotyped by novel-writers from the immortal Cervantes to the immortal
Walter Scott. Are they not all boastful of their cookery? have they not
all “whatever you please to order”? and do not all end by giving you the
same hectic chicken, and vegetables cooked with rank butter? They
all boast of their fine wines, and all make you drink the wine of the

But Corentin, from his earliest youth, had known the art of getting out
of an innkeeper things more essential to himself than doubtful dishes
and apocryphal wines. So he gave himself out as a man easy to please,
and willing to leave himself in the hands of the best cook in Mansle, as
he told the fat man.

“There is no difficulty about being the best--I am the only one,” said
the host.

“Serve us in the side room,” said Corentin, winking at Derville. “And
do not be afraid of setting the chimney on fire; we want to thaw out the
frost in our fingers.”

“It was not warm in the coach,” said Derville.

“Is it far to Marsac?” asked Corentin of the innkeeper’s wife, who came
down from the upper regions on hearing that the diligence had dropped
two travelers to sleep there.

“Are you going to Marsac, monsieur?” replied the woman.

“I don’t know,” he said sharply. “Is it far from hence to Marsac?” he
repeated, after giving the woman time to notice his red ribbon.

“In a chaise, a matter of half an hour,” said the innkeeper’s wife.

“Do you think that Monsieur and Madame Sechard are likely to be there in

“To be sure; they live there all the year round.”

“It is now five o’clock. We shall still find them up at nine.”

“Oh yes, till ten. They have company every evening--the cure, Monsieur
Marron the doctor----”

“Good folks then?” said Derville.

“Oh, the best of good souls,” replied the woman, “straight-forward,
honest--and not ambitious neither. Monsieur Sechard, though he is very
well off--they say he might have made millions if he had not allowed
himself to be robbed of an invention in the paper-making of which the
brothers Cointet are getting the benefit----”

“Ah, to be sure, the Brothers Cointet!” said Corentin.

“Hold your tongue,” said the innkeeper. “What can it matter to these
gentlemen whether Monsieur Sechard has a right or no to a patent for his
inventions in paper-making?--If you mean to spend the night here--at the
_Belle Etoile_----” he went on, addressing the travelers, “here is the
book, and please to put your names down. We have an officer in this town
who has nothing to do, and spends all his time in nagging at us----”

“The devil!” said Corentin, while Derville entered their names and
his profession as attorney to the lower Court in the department of the
Seine, “I fancied the Sechards were very rich.”

“Some people say they are millionaires,” replied the innkeeper. “But
as to hindering tongues from wagging, you might as well try to stop the
river from flowing. Old Sechard left two hundred thousand francs’ worth
of landed property, it is said; and that is not amiss for a man who
began as a workman. Well, and he may have had as much again in savings,
for he made ten or twelve thousand francs out of his land at last. So,
supposing he were fool enough not to invest his money for ten years,
that would be all told. But even if he lent it at high interest, as
he is suspected of doing there would be three hundred thousand francs
perhaps, and that is all. Five hundred thousand francs is a long way
short of a million. I should be quite content with the difference, and
no more of the _Belle Etoile_ for me!”

“Really!” said Corentin. “Then Monsieur David Sechard and his wife have
not a fortune of two or three millions?”

“Why,” exclaimed the innkeeper’s wife, “that is what the Cointets are
supposed to have, who robbed him of his invention, and he does not get
more than twenty thousand francs out of them. Where do you suppose such
honest folks would find millions? They were very much pinched while the
father was alive. But for Kolb, their manager, and Madame Kolb, who is
as much attached to them as her husband, they could scarcely have lived.
Why, how much had they with La Verberie!--A thousand francs a year

Corentin drew Derville aside and said:

“In vino veritas! Truth lives under a cork. For my part, I regard an inn
as the real registry office of the countryside; the notary is not
better informed than the innkeeper as to all that goes on in a small
neighborhood.--You see! we are supposed to know all about the Cointets
and Kolb and the rest.

“Your innkeeper is the living record of every incident; he does the work
of the police without suspecting it. A government should maintain
two hundred spies at most, for in a country like France there are ten
millions of simple-minded informers.--However, we need not trust to this
report; though even in this little town something would be known about
the twelve hundred thousand francs sunk in paying for the Rubempre
estate. We will not stop here long----”

“I hope not!” Derville put in.

“And this is why,” added Corentin; “I have hit on the most natural way
of extracting the truth from the mouth of the Sechard couple. I rely
upon you to support, by your authority as a lawyer, the little trick I
shall employ to enable you to hear a clear and complete account of their
affairs.--After dinner we shall set out to call on Monsieur Sechard,”
 said Corentin to the innkeeper’s wife. “Have beds ready for us, we want
separate rooms. There can be no difficulty ‘under the stars.’”

“Oh, monsieur,” said the woman, “we invented the sign.”

“The pun is to be found in every department,” said Corentin; “it is no
monopoly of yours.”

“Dinner is served, gentlemen,” said the innkeeper.

“But where the devil can that young fellow have found the money? Is
the anonymous writer accurate? Can it be the earnings of some handsome
baggage?” said Derville, as they sat down to dinner.

“Ah, that will be the subject of another inquiry,” said Corentin.
“Lucien de Rubempre, as the Duc de Chaulieu tells me, lives with a
converted Jewess, who passes for a Dutch woman, and is called Esther van

“What a strange coincidence!” said the lawyer. “I am hunting for
the heiress of a Dutchman named Gobseck--it is the same name with a
transposition of consonants.”

“Well,” said Corentin, “you shall have information as to her parentage
on my return to Paris.”

An hour later, the two agents for the Grandlieu family set out for La
Verberie, where Monsieur and Madame Sechard were living.

Never had Lucien felt any emotion so deep as that which overcame him at
La Verberie when comparing his own fate with that of his brother-in-law.
The two Parisians were about to witness the same scene that had so much
struck Lucien a few days since. Everything spoke of peace and abundance.

At the hour when the two strangers were arriving, a party of four
persons were being entertained in the drawing-room of La Verberie:
the cure of Marsac, a young priest of five-and-twenty, who, at Madame
Sechard’s request, had become tutor to her little boy Lucien; the
country doctor, Monsieur Marron; the Maire of the commune; and an old
colonel, who grew roses on a plot of land opposite to La Verberie on the
other side of the road. Every evening during the winter these persons
came to play an artless game of boston for centime points, to borrow the
papers, or return those they had finished.

When Monsieur and Madame Sechard had bought La Verberie, a fine house
built of stone, and roofed with slate, the pleasure-grounds consisted of
a garden of two acres. In the course of time, by devoting her savings to
the purpose, handsome Madame Sechard had extended her garden as far as
a brook, by cutting down the vines on some ground she purchased, and
replacing them with grass plots and clumps of shrubbery. At the present
time the house, surrounded by a park of about twenty acres, and enclosed
by walls, was considered the most imposing place in the neighborhood.

Old Sechard’s former residence, with the outhouses attached, was now
used as the dwelling-house for the manager of about twenty acres of
vineyard left by him, of five farmsteads, bringing in about six thousand
francs a year, and ten acres of meadow land lying on the further side
of the stream, exactly opposite the little park; indeed, Madame Sechard
hoped to include them in it the next year. La Verberie was already
spoken of in the neighborhood as a chateau, and Eve Sechard was known
as the Lady of Marsac. Lucien, while flattering her vanity, had only
followed the example of the peasants and vine-dressers. Courtois, the
owner of the mill, very picturesquely situated a few hundred yards from
the meadows of La Verberie, was in treaty, it was said, with Madame
Sechard for the sale of his property; and this acquisition would give
the finishing touch to the estate and the rank of a “place” in the

Madame Sechard, who did a great deal of good, with as much judgment
as generosity, was equally esteemed and loved. Her beauty, now really
splendid, was at the height of its bloom. She was about six-and-twenty,
but had preserved all the freshness of youth from living in the
tranquillity and abundance of a country life. Still much in love with
her husband, she respected him as a clever man, who was modest enough to
renounce the display of fame; in short, to complete her portrait, it is
enough to say that in her whole existence she had never felt a throb of
her heart that was not inspired by her husband or her children.

The tax paid to grief by this happy household was, as may be supposed,
the deep anxiety caused by Lucien’s career, in which Eve Sechard
suspected mysteries, which she dreaded all the more because, during
his last visit, Lucien roughly cut short all his sister’s questions by
saying that an ambitious man owed no account of his proceedings to any
one but himself.

In six years Lucien had seen his sister but three times, and had not
written her more than six letters. His first visit to La Verberie had
been on the occasion of his mother’s death; and his last had been paid
with a view to asking the favor of the lie which was so necessary to his
advancement. This gave rise to a very serious scene between Monsieur
and Madame Sechard and their brother, and left their happy and respected
life troubled by the most terrible suspicions.

The interior of the house, as much altered as the surroundings, was
comfortable without luxury, as will be understood by a glance round
the room where the little party were now assembled. A pretty Aubusson
carpet, hangings of gray cotton twill bound with green silk brocade, the
woodwork painted to imitate Spa wood, carved mahogany furniture covered
with gray woolen stuff and green gimp, with flower-stands, gay with
flowers in spite of the time of year, presented a very pleasing and
homelike aspect. The window curtains, of green brocade, the chimney
ornaments, and the mirror frames were untainted by the bad taste that
spoils everything in the provinces; and the smallest details, all
elegant and appropriate, gave the mind and eye a sense of repose and of
poetry which a clever and loving woman can and ought to infuse into her

Madame Sechard, still in mourning for her father, sat by the fire
working at some large piece of tapestry with the help of Madame Kolb,
the housekeeper, to whom she intrusted all the minor cares of the

“A chaise has stopped at the door!” said Courtois, hearing the sound
of wheels outside; “and to judge by the clatter of metal, it belongs to
these parts----”

“Postel and his wife have come to see us, no doubt,” said the doctor.

“No,” said Courtois, “the chaise has come from Mansle.”

“Montame,” said Kolb, the burly Alsatian we have made acquaintance with
in a former volume (_Illusions perdues_), “here is a lawyer from Paris
who wants to speak with monsieur.”

“A lawyer!” cried Sechard; “the very word gives me the colic!”

“Thank you!” said the Maire of Marsac, named Cachan, who for twenty
years had been an attorney at Angouleme, and who had once been required
to prosecute Sechard.

“My poor David will never improve; he will always be absent-minded!”
 said Eve, smiling.

“A lawyer from Paris,” said Courtois. “Have you any business in Paris?”

“No,” said Eve.

“But you have a brother there,” observed Courtois.

“Take care lest he should have anything to say about old Sechard’s
estate,” said Cachan. “_He_ had his finger in some very queer concerns,
worthy man!”

Corentin and Derville, on entering the room, after bowing to the
company, and giving their names, begged to have a private interview with
Monsieur and Madame Sechard.

“By all means,” said Sechard. “But is it a matter of business?”

“Solely a matter regarding your father’s property,” said Corentin.

“Then I beg you will allow monsieur--the Maire, a lawyer formerly at
Angouleme--to be present also.”

“Are you Monsieur Derville?” said Cachan, addressing Corentin.

“No, monsieur, this is Monsieur Derville,” replied Corentin, introducing
the lawyer, who bowed.

“But,” said Sechard, “we are, so to speak, a family party; we have no
secrets from our neighbors; there is no need to retire to my study,
where there is no fire--our life is in the sight of all men----”

“But your father’s,” said Corentin, “was involved in certain mysteries
which perhaps you would rather not make public.”

“Is it anything we need blush for?” said Eve, in alarm.

“Oh, no! a sin of his youth,” said Corentin, coldly setting one of his
mouse-traps. “Monsieur, your father left an elder son----”

“Oh, the old rascal!” cried Courtois. “He was never very fond of
you, Monsieur Sechard, and he kept that secret from you, the deep old
dog!--Now I understand what he meant when he used to say to me, ‘You
shall see what you shall see when I am under the turf.’”

“Do not be dismayed, monsieur,” said Corentin to Sechard, while he
watched Eve out of the corner of his eye.

“A brother!” exclaimed the doctor. “Then your inheritance is divided
into two!”

Derville was affecting to examine the fine engravings, proofs before
letters, which hung on the drawing-room walls.

“Do not be dismayed, madame,” Corentin went on, seeing amazement written
on Madame Sechard’s handsome features, “it is only a natural son. The
rights of a natural son are not the same as those of a legitimate child.
This man is in the depths of poverty, and he has a right to a certain
sum calculated on the amount of the estate. The millions left by your

At the word millions there was a perfectly unanimous cry from all the
persons present. And now Derville ceased to study the prints.

“Old Sechard?--Millions?” said Courtois. “Who on earth told you that?
Some peasant----”

“Monsieur,” said Cachan, “you are not attached to the Treasury? You may
be told all the facts----”

“Be quite easy,” said Corentin, “I give you my word of honor I am not
employed by the Treasury.”

Cachan, who had just signed to everybody to say nothing, gave expression
to his satisfaction.

“Monsieur,” Corentin went on, “if the whole estate were but a million, a
natural child’s share would still be something considerable. But we
have not come to threaten a lawsuit; on the contrary, our purpose is to
propose that you should hand over one hundred thousand francs, and we
will depart----”

“One hundred thousand francs!” cried Cachan, interrupting him. “But,
monsieur, old Sechard left twenty acres of vineyard, five small farms,
ten acres of meadowland here, and not a sou besides----”

“Nothing on earth,” cried David Sechard, “would induce me to tell a lie,
and less to a question of money than on any other.--Monsieur,” he
said, turning to Corentin and Derville, “my father left us, besides the

Courtois and Cachan signaled in vain to Sechard; he went on:

“Three hundred thousand francs, which raises the whole estate to about
five hundred thousand francs.”

“Monsieur Cachan,” asked Eve Sechard, “what proportion does the law
allot to a natural child?”

“Madame,” said Corentin, “we are not Turks; we only require you to swear
before these gentlemen that you did not inherit more than five
hundred thousand francs from your father-in-law, and we can come to an

“First give me your word of honor that you really are a lawyer,” said
Cachan to Derville.

“Here is my passport,” replied Derville, handing him a paper folded in
four; “and monsieur is not, as you might suppose, an inspector from the
Treasury, so be easy,” he added. “We had an important reason for wanting
to know the truth as to the Sechard estate, and we now know it.”

Derville took Madame Sechard’s hand and led her very courteously to the
further end of the room.

“Madame,” said he, in a low voice, “if it were not that the honor
and future prospects of the house of Grandlieu are implicated in this
affair, I would never have lent myself to the stratagem devised by this
gentleman of the red ribbon. But you must forgive him; it was necessary
to detect the falsehood by means of which your brother has stolen a
march on the beliefs of that ancient family. Beware now of allowing it
to be supposed that you have given your brother twelve hundred thousand
francs to repurchase the Rubempre estates----”

“Twelve hundred thousand francs!” cried Madame Sechard, turning pale.
“Where did he get them, wretched boy?”

“Ah! that is the question,” replied Derville. “I fear that the source of
his wealth is far from pure.”

The tears rose to Eve’s eyes, as her neighbors could see.

“We have, perhaps, done you a great service by saving you from abetting
a falsehood of which the results may be positively dangerous,” the
lawyer went on.

Derville left Madame Sechard sitting pale and dejected with tears on her
cheeks, and bowed to the company.

“To Mansle!” said Corentin to the little boy who drove the chaise.

There was but one vacant place in the diligence from Bordeaux to Paris;
Derville begged Corentin to allow him to take it, urging a press of
business; but in his soul he was distrustful of his traveling companion,
whose diplomatic dexterity and coolness struck him as being the result
of practice. Corentin remained three days longer at Mansle, unable to
get away; he was obliged to secure a place in the Paris coach by writing
to Bordeaux, and did not get back till nine days after leaving home.

Peyrade, meanwhile, had called every morning, either at Passy or in
Paris, to inquire whether Corentin had returned. On the eighth day he
left at each house a note, written in their peculiar cipher, to explain
to his friend what death hung over him, and to tell him of Lydie’s
abduction and the horrible end to which his enemies had devoted them.
Peyrade, bereft of Corentin, but seconded by Contenson, still kept up
his disguise as a nabob. Even though his invisible foes had discovered
him, he very wisely reflected that he might glean some light on the
matter by remaining on the field of the contest.

Contenson had brought all his experience into play in his search for
Lydie, and hoped to discover in what house she was hidden; but as the
days went by, the impossibility, absolutely demonstrated, of tracing the
slightest clue, added, hour by hour, to Peyrade’s despair. The old
spy had a sort of guard about him of twelve or fifteen of the most
experienced detectives. They watched the neighborhood of the Rue des
Moineaux and the Rue Taitbout--where he lived, as a nabob, with Madame
du Val-Noble. During the last three days of the term granted by Asie to
reinstate Lucien on his old footing in the Hotel de Grandlieu, Contenson
never left the veteran of the old general police office. And the poetic
terror shed throughout the forests of America by the arts of inimical
and warring tribes, of which Cooper made such good use in his
novels, was here associated with the petty details of Paris life. The
foot-passengers, the shops, the hackney cabs, a figure standing at a
window,--everything had to the human ciphers to whom old Peyrade had
intrusted his safety the thrilling interest which attaches in Cooper’s
romances to a beaver-village, a rock, a bison-robe, a floating canoe, a
weed straggling over the water.

“If the Spaniard has gone away, you have nothing to fear,” said
Contenson to Peyrade, remarking on the perfect peace they lived in.

“But if he is not gone?” observed Peyrade.

“He took one of my men at the back of the chaise; but at Blois, my man
having to get down, could not catch the chaise up again.”

Five days after Derville’s return, Lucien one morning had a call from

“I am in despair, my dear boy,” said his visitor, “at finding myself
compelled to deliver a message which is intrusted to me because we are
known to be intimate. Your marriage is broken off beyond all hope of
reconciliation. Never set foot again in the Hotel de Grandlieu. To marry
Clotilde you must wait till her father dies, and he is too selfish to
die yet awhile. Old whist-players sit at table--the card-table--very

“Clotilde is setting out for Italy with Madeleine de
Lenoncourt-Chaulieu. The poor girl is so madly in love with you, my dear
fellow, that they have to keep an eye on her; she was bent on coming to
see you, and had plotted an escape. That may comfort you in misfortune!”

Lucien made no reply; he sat gazing at Rastignac.

“And is it a misfortune, after all?” his friend went on. “You will
easily find a girl as well born and better looking than Clotilde! Madame
de Serizy will find you a wife out of spite; she cannot endure the
Grandlieus, who never would have anything to say to her. She has a
niece, little Clemence du Rouvre----”

“My dear boy,” said Lucien at length, “since that supper I am not on
terms with Madame de Serizy--she saw me in Esther’s box and made a
scene--and I left her to herself.”

“A woman of forty does not long keep up a quarrel with so handsome a
man as you are,” said Rastignac. “I know something of these sunsets.--It
lasts ten minutes in the sky, and ten years in a woman’s heart.”

“I have waited a week to hear from her.”

“Go and call.”

“Yes, I must now.”

“Are you coming at any rate to the Val-Noble’s? Her nabob is returning
the supper given by Nucingen.”

“I am asked, and I shall go,” said Lucien gravely.

The day after this confirmation of his disaster, which Carlos heard of
at once from Asie, Lucien went to the Rue Taitbout with Rastignac and

At midnight nearly all the personages of this drama were assembled in
the dining-room that had formerly been Esther’s--a drama of which the
interest lay hidden under the very bed of these tumultuous lives, and
was known only to Esther, to Lucien, to Peyrade, to Contenson, the
mulatto, and to Paccard, who attended his mistress. Asie, without
its being known to Contenson and Peyrade, had been asked by Madame du
Val-Noble to come and help her cook.

As they sat down to table, Peyrade, who had given Madame du Val-Noble
five hundred francs that the thing might be well done, found under his
napkin a scrap of paper on which these words were written in pencil,
“The ten days are up at the moment when you sit down to supper.”

Peyrade handed the paper to Contenson, who was standing behind him,
saying in English:

“Did you put my name here?”

Contenson read by the light of the wax-candles this “Mene, Tekel,
Upharsin,” and slipped the scrap into his pocket; but he knew how
difficult it is to verify a handwriting in pencil, and, above all, a
sentence written in Roman capitals, that is to say, with mathematical
lines, since capital letters are wholly made up of straight lines and
curves, in which it is impossible to detect any trick of the hand, as in
what is called running-hand.

The supper was absolutely devoid of spirit. Peyrade was visibly
absent-minded. Of the men about town who give life to a supper, only
Rastignac and Lucien were present. Lucien was gloomy and absorbed in
thought; Rastignac, who had lost two thousand francs before supper,
ate and drank with the hope of recovering them later. The three women,
stricken by this chill, looked at each other. Dulness deprived the
dishes of all relish. Suppers, like plays and books, have their good and
bad luck.

At the end of the meal ices were served, of the kind called plombieres.
As everybody knows, this kind of dessert has delicate preserved fruits
laid on the top of the ice, which is served in a little glass, not
heaped above the rim. These ices had been ordered by Madame du Val-Noble
of Tortoni, whose shop is at the corner of the Rue Taitbout and the

The cook called Contenson out of the room to pay the bill.

Contenson, who thought this demand on the part of the shop-boy rather
strange, went downstairs and startled him by saying:

“Then you have not come from Tortoni’s?” and then went straight upstairs

Paccard had meanwhile handed the ices to the company in his absence. The
mulatto had hardly reached the door when one of the police constables
who had kept watch in the Rue des Moineaux called up the stairs:

“Number twenty-seven.”

“What’s up?” replied Contenson, flying down again.

“Tell Papa that his daughter has come home; but, good God! in what a
state. Tell him to come at once; she is dying.”

At the moment when Contenson re-entered the dining-room, old Peyrade,
who had drunk a great deal, was swallowing the cherry off his ice. They
were drinking to the health of Madame du Val-Noble; the nabob filled his
glass with Constantia and emptied it.

In spite of his distress at the news he had to give Peyrade, Contenson
was struck by the eager attention with which Paccard was looking at
the nabob. His eyes sparkled like two fixed flames. Although it seemed
important, still this could not delay the mulatto, who leaned over his
master, just as Peyrade set his glass down.

“Lydie is at home,” said Contenson, “in a very bad state.”

Peyrade rattled out the most French of all French oaths with such a
strong Southern accent that all the guests looked up in amazement.
Peyrade, discovering his blunder, acknowledged his disguise by saying to
Contenson in good French:

“Find me a coach--I’m off.”

Every one rose.

“Why, who are you?” said Lucien.

“Ja--who?” said the Baron.

“Bixiou told me you shammed Englishman better than he could, and I would
not believe him,” said Rastignac.

“Some bankrupt caught in disguise,” said du Tillet loudly. “I suspected
as much!”

“A strange place is Paris!” said Madame du Val-Noble. “After being
bankrupt in his own part of town, a merchant turns up as a nabob or a
dandy in the Champs-Elysees with impunity!--Oh! I am unlucky! bankrupts
are my bane.”

“Every flower has its peculiar blight!” said Esther quietly. “Mine is
like Cleopatra’s--an asp.”

“Who am I?” echoed Peyrade from the door. “You will know ere long; for
if I die, I will rise from my grave to clutch your feet every night!”

He looked at Esther and Lucien as he spoke, then he took advantage of
the general dismay to vanish with the utmost rapidity, meaning to run
home without waiting for the coach. In the street the spy was gripped
by the arm as he crossed the threshold of the outer gate. It was Asie,
wrapped in a black hood such as ladies then wore on leaving a ball.

“Send for the Sacraments, Papa Peyrade,” said she, in the voice that had
already prophesied ill.

A coach was waiting. Asie jumped in, and the carriage vanished as though
the wind had swept it away. There were five carriages waiting; Peyrade’s
men could find out nothing.

On reaching his house in the Rue des Vignes, one of the quietest and
prettiest nooks of the little town of Passy, Corentin, who was known
there as a retired merchant passionately devoted to gardening, found
his friend Peyrade’s note in cipher. Instead of resting, he got into the
hackney coach that had brought him thither, and was driven to the Rue
des Moineaux, where he found only Katt. From her he heard of Lydie’s
disappearance, and remained astounded at Peyrade’s and his own want of

“But they do not know me yet,” said he to himself. “This crew is capable
of anything; I must find out if they are killing Peyrade; for if so, I
must not be seen any more----”

The viler a man’s life is, the more he clings to it; it becomes at every
moment a protest and a revenge.

Corentin went back to the cab, and drove to his rooms to assume the
disguise of a feeble old man, in a scanty greenish overcoat and a tow
wig. Then he returned on foot, prompted by his friendship for Peyrade.
He intended to give instructions to his most devoted and cleverest

As he went along the Rue Saint-Honore to reach the Rue Saint-Roch from
the Place Vendome, he came up behind a girl in slippers, and dressed
as a woman dresses for the night. She had on a white bed-jacket and a
nightcap, and from time to time gave vent to a sob and an involuntary
groan. Corentin out-paced her, and turning round, recognized Lydie.

“I am a friend of your father’s, of Monsieur Canquoelle’s,” said he in
his natural voice.

“Ah! then here is some one I can trust!” said she.

“Do not seem to have recognized me,” Corentin went on, “for we are
pursued by relentless foes, and are obliged to disguise ourselves. But
tell me what has befallen you?”

“Oh, monsieur,” said the poor child, “the facts but not the story can be
told--I am ruined, lost, and I do not know how----”

“Where have you come from?”

“I don’t know, monsieur. I fled with such precipitancy, I have come
through so many streets, round so many turnings, fancying I was being
followed. And when I met any one that seemed decent, I asked my way to
get back to the Boulevards, so as to find the Rue de la Paix. And at
last, after walking----What o’clock is it, monsieur?”

“Half-past eleven,” said Corentin.

“I escaped at nightfall,” said Lydie. “I have been walking for five

“Well, come along; you can rest now; you will find your good Katt.”

“Oh, monsieur, there is no rest for me! I only want to rest in the
grave, and I will go and wait for death in a convent if I am worthy to
be admitted----”

“Poor little girl!--But you struggled?”

“Oh yes! Oh! if you could only imagine the abject creatures they placed
me with----!”

“They sent you to sleep, no doubt?”

“Ah! that is it” cried poor Lydie. “A little more strength and I
should be at home. I feel that I am dropping, and my brain is not quite
clear.--Just now I fancied I was in a garden----”

Corentin took Lydie in his arms, and she lost consciousness; he carried
her upstairs.

“Katt!” he called.

Katt came out with exclamations of joy.

“Don’t be in too great a hurry to be glad!” said Corentin gravely; “the
girl is very ill.”

When Lydie was laid on her bed and recognized her own room by the light
of two candles that Katt lighted, she became delirious. She sang scraps
of pretty airs, broken by vociferations of horrible sentences she had
heard. Her pretty face was mottled with purple patches. She mixed up
the reminiscences of her pure childhood with those of these ten days
of infamy. Katt sat weeping; Corentin paced the room, stopping now and
again to gaze at Lydie.

“She is paying her father’s debt,” said he. “Is there a Providence
above? Oh, I was wise not to have a family. On my word of honor, a child
is indeed a hostage given to misfortune, as some philosopher has said.”

“Oh!” cried the poor child, sitting up in bed and throwing back her fine
long hair, “instead of lying here, Katt, I ought to be stretched in the
sand at the bottom of the Seine!”

“Katt, instead of crying and looking at your child, which will never
cure her, you ought to go for a doctor; the medical officer in the first
instance, and then Monsieur Desplein and Monsieur Bianchon----We must
save this innocent creature.”

And Corentin wrote down the addresses of these two famous physicians.

At this moment, up the stairs came some one to whom they were familiar,
and the door was opened. Peyrade, in a violent sweat, his face purple,
his eyes almost blood-stained, and gasping like a dolphin, rushed from
the outer door to Lydie’s room, exclaiming:

“Where is my child?”

He saw a melancholy sign from Corentin, and his eyes followed his
friend’s hand. Lydie’s condition can only be compared to that of a
flower tenderly cherished by a gardener, now fallen from its stem, and
crushed by the iron-clamped shoes of some peasant. Ascribe this simile
to a father’s heart, and you will understand the blow that fell on
Peyrade; the tears started to his eyes.

“You are crying!--It is my father!” said the girl.

She could still recognize her father; she got out of bed and fell on her
knees at the old man’s side as he sank into a chair.

“Forgive me, papa,” said she in a tone that pierced Peyrade’s heart, and
at the same moment he was conscious of what felt like a tremendous blow
on his head.

“I am dying!--the villains!” were his last words.

Corentin tried to help his friend, and received his latest breath.

“Dead! Poisoned!” said he to himself. “Ah! here is the doctor!” he
exclaimed, hearing the sound of wheels.

Contenson, who came with his mulatto disguise removed, stood like a
bronze statue as he heard Lydie say:

“Then you do not forgive me, father?--But it was not my fault!”

She did not understand that her father was dead.

“Oh, how he stares at me!” cried the poor crazy girl.

“We must close his eyes,” said Contenson, lifting Peyrade on to the bed.

“We are doing a stupid thing,” said Corentin. “Let us carry him into his
own room. His daughter is half demented, and she will go quite mad when
she sees that he is dead; she will fancy that she has killed him.”

Lydie, seeing them carry away her father, looked quite stupefied.

“There lies my only friend!” said Corentin, seeming much moved when
Peyrade was laid out on the bed in his own room. “In all his life
he never had but one impulse of cupidity, and that was for his
daughter!--Let him be an example to you, Contenson. Every line of life
has its code of honor. Peyrade did wrong when he mixed himself up with
private concerns; we have no business to meddle with any but public

“But come what may, I swear,” said he with a voice, an emphasis, a look
that struck horror into Contenson, “to avenge my poor Peyrade! I will
discover the men who are guilty of his death and of his daughter’s ruin.
And as sure as I am myself, as I have yet a few days to live, which I
will risk to accomplish that vengeance, every man of them shall die at
four o’clock, in good health, by a clean shave on the Place de Greve.”

“And I will help you,” said Contenson with feeling.

Nothing, in fact, is more heart-stirring than the spectacle of passion
in a cold, self-contained, and methodical man, in whom, for twenty
years, no one has ever detected the smallest impulse of sentiment. It
is like a molten bar of iron which melts everything it touches. And
Contenson was moved to his depths.

“Poor old Canquoelle!” said he, looking at Corentin. “He has treated me
many a time.--And, I tell you, only your bad sort know how to do such
things--but often has he given me ten francs to go and gamble with...”

After this funeral oration, Peyrade’s two avengers went back to Lydie’s
room, hearing Katt and the medical officer from the Mairie on the

“Go and fetch the Chief of Police,” said Corentin. “The public
prosecutor will not find grounds for a prosecution in the case; still,
we will report it to the Prefecture; it may, perhaps, be of some use.

“Monsieur,” he went on to the medical officer, “in this room you will
see a dead man. I do not believe that he died from natural causes; you
will be good enough to make a post-mortem in the presence of the Chief
of the Police, who will come at my request. Try to discover some traces
of poison. You will, in a few minutes, have the opinion of Monsieur
Desplein and Monsieur Bianchon, for whom I have sent to examine the
daughter of my best friend; she is in a worse plight than he, though he
is dead.”

“I have no need of those gentlemen’s assistance in the exercise of my
duty,” said the medical officer.

“Well, well,” thought Corentin. “Let us have no clashing, monsieur,”
 he said. “In a few words I give you my opinion--Those who have just
murdered the father have also ruined the daughter.”

By daylight Lydie had yielded to fatigue; when the great surgeon and the
young physician arrived she was asleep.

The doctor, whose duty it was to sign the death certificate, had now
opened Peyrade’s body, and was seeking the cause of death.

“While waiting for your patient to awake,” said Corentin to the two
famous doctors, “would you join one of your professional brethren in an
examination which cannot fail to interest you, and your opinion will be
valuable in case of an inquiry.”

“Your relations died of apoplexy,” said the official. “There are all the
symptoms of violent congestion of the brain.”

“Examine him, gentlemen, and see if there is no poison capable of
producing similar symptoms.”

“The stomach is, in fact, full of food substances; but short of chemical
analysis, I find no evidence of poison.

“If the characters of cerebral congestion are well ascertained, we
have here, considering the patient’s age, a sufficient cause of death,”
 observed Desplein, looking at the enormous mass of material.

“Did he sup here?” asked Bianchon.

“No,” said Corentin; “he came here in great haste from the Boulevard,
and found his daughter ruined----”

“That was the poison if he loved his daughter,” said Bianchon.

“What known poison could produce a similar effect?” asked Corentin,
clinging to his idea.

“There is but one,” said Desplein, after a careful examination. “It is a
poison found in the Malayan Archipelago, and derived from trees, as yet
but little known, of the strychnos family; it is used to poison that
dangerous weapon, the Malay kris.--At least, so it is reported.”

The Police Commissioner presently arrived; Corentin told him his
suspicions, and begged him to draw up a report, telling him where and
with whom Peyrade had supped, and the causes of the state in which he
found Lydie.

Corentin then went to Lydie’s rooms; Desplein and Bianchon had been
examining the poor child. He met them at the door.

“Well, gentlemen?” asked Corentin.

“Place the girl under medical care; unless she recovers her wits when
her child is born--if indeed she should have a child--she will end her
days melancholy-mad. There is no hope of a cure but in the maternal
instinct, if it can be aroused.”

Corentin paid each of the physicians forty francs in gold, and then
turned to the Police Commissioner, who had pulled him by the sleeve.

“The medical officer insists on it that death was natural,” said this
functionary, “and I can hardly report the case, especially as the dead
man was old Canquoelle; he had his finger in too many pies, and we
should not be sure whom we might run foul of. Men like that die to order
very often----”

“And my name is Corentin,” said Corentin in the man’s ear.

The Commissioner started with surprise.

“So just make a note of all this,” Corentin went on; “it will be very
useful by and by; send it up only as confidential information. The crime
cannot be proved, and I know that any inquiry would be checked at the
very outset.--But I will catch the criminals some day yet. I will watch
them and take them red-handed.”

The police official bowed to Corentin and left.

“Monsieur,” said Katt. “Mademoiselle does nothing but dance and sing.
What can I do?”

“Has any change occurred then?”

“She has understood that her father is just dead.”

“Put her into a hackney coach, and simply take her to Charenton; I will
write a note to the Commissioner-General of Police to secure her being
suitably provided for.--The daughter in Charenton, the father in a
pauper’s grave!” said Corentin--“Contenson, go and fetch the parish
hearse. And now, Don Carlos Herrera, you and I will fight it out!”

“Carlos?” said Contenson, “he is in Spain.”

“He is in Paris,” said Corentin positively. “There is a touch of Spanish
genius of the Philip II. type in all this; but I have pitfalls for
everybody, even for kings.”

Five days after the nabob’s disappearance, Madame du Val-Noble was
sitting by Esther’s bedside weeping, for she felt herself on one of the
slopes down to poverty.

“If I only had at least a hundred louis a year! With that sum, my dear,
a woman can retire to some little town and find a husband----”

“I can get you as much as that,” said Esther.

“How?” cried Madame du Val-Noble.

“Oh, in a very simple way. Listen. You must plan to kill yourself; play
your part well. Send for Asie and offer her ten thousand francs for two
black beads of very thin glass containing a poison which kills you in a
second. Bring them to me, and I will give you fifty thousand francs for

“Why do you not ask her for them yourself?” said her friend.

“Asie would not sell them to me.”

“They are not for yourself?” asked Madame du Val-Noble.


“You! who live in the midst of pleasure and luxury, in a house of your
own? And on the eve of an entertainment which will be the talk of Paris
for ten years--which is to cost Nucingen twenty thousand francs! There
are to be strawberries in mid-February, they say, asparagus, grapes,
melons!--and a thousand crowns’ worth of flowers in the rooms.”

“What are you talking about? There are a thousand crowns’ worth of roses
on the stairs alone.”

“And your gown is said to have cost ten thousand francs?”

“Yes, it is of Brussels point, and Delphine, his wife, is furious. But I
had a fancy to be disguised as a bride.”

“Where are the ten thousand francs?” asked Madame du Val-Noble.

“It is all the ready money I have,” said Esther, smiling. “Open my table
drawer; it is under the curl-papers.”

“People who talk of dying never kill themselves,” said Madame du
Val-Noble. “If it were to commit----”

“A crime? For shame!” said Esther, finishing her friend’s thought, as
she hesitated. “Be quite easy, I have no intention of killing anybody.
I had a friend--a very happy woman; she is dead, I must follow her--that
is all.”

“How foolish!”

“How can I help it? I promised her I would.”

“I should let that bill go dishonored,” said her friend, smiling.

“Do as I tell you, and go at once. I hear a carriage coming. It is
Nucingen, a man who will go mad with joy! Yes, he loves me!--Why do we
not love those who love us, for indeed they do all they can to please

“Ah, that is the question!” said Madame du Val-Noble. “It is the old
story of the herring, which is the most puzzling fish that swims.”


“Well, no one could ever find out.”

“Get along, my dear!--I must ask for your fifty thousand francs.”

“Good-bye then.”

For three days past, Esther’s ways with the Baron de Nucingen had
completely changed. The monkey had become a cat, the cat had become a
woman. Esther poured out treasures of affection on the old man; she
was quite charming. Her way of addressing him, with a total absence of
mischief or bitterness, and all sorts of tender insinuation, had carried
conviction to the banker’s slow wit; she called him Fritz, and he
believed that she loved him.

“My poor Fritz, I have tried you sorely,” said she. “I have teased you
shamefully. Your patience has been sublime. You loved me, I see, and I
will reward you. I like you now, I do not know how it is, but I should
prefer you to a young man. It is the result of experience perhaps.--In
the long run we discover at last that pleasure is the coin of the soul;
and it is not more flattering to be loved for the sake of pleasure than
it is to be loved for the sake of money.

“Besides, young men are too selfish; they think more of themselves than
of us; while you, now, think only of me. I am all your life to you.
And I will take nothing more from you. I want to prove to you how
disinterested I am.”

“Vy, I hafe gifen you notink,” cried the Baron, enchanted. “I propose to
gife you to-morrow tirty tousant francs a year in a Government bond. Dat
is mein vedding gift.”

Esther kissed the Baron so sweetly that he turned pale without any

“Oh!” cried she, “do not suppose that I am sweet to you only for your
thirty thousand francs! It is because--now--I love you, my good, fat

“Ach, mein Gott! Vy hafe you kept me vaiting? I might hafe been so happy
all dese tree monts.”

“In three or in five per cents, my pet?” said Esther, passing her
fingers through Nucingen’s hair, and arranging it in a fashion of her

“In trees--I hat a quantity.”

So next morning the Baron brought the certificate of shares; he came
to breakfast with his dear little girl, and to take her orders for the
following evening, the famous Saturday, the great day!

“Here, my little vife, my only vife,” said the banker gleefully, his
face radiant with happiness. “Here is enough money to pay for your keep
for de rest of your days.”

Esther took the paper without the slightest excitement, folded it up,
and put it in her dressing-table drawer.

“So now you are quite happy, you monster of iniquity!” said she, giving
Nucingen a little slap on the cheek, “now that I have at last accepted a
present from you. I can no longer tell you home-truths, for I share the
fruit of what you call your labors. This is not a gift, my poor old boy,
it is restitution.--Come, do not put on your Bourse face. You know that
I love you.”

“My lofely Esther, mein anchel of lofe,” said the banker, “do not speak
to me like dat. I tell you, I should not care ven all de vorld took me
for a tief, if you should tink me ein honest man.--I lofe you every day
more and more.”

“That is my intention,” said Esther. “And I will never again say
anything to distress you, my pet elephant, for you are grown as artless
as a baby. Bless me, you old rascal, you have never known any innocence;
the allowance bestowed on you when you came into the world was bound to
come to the top some day; but it was buried so deep that it is only
now reappearing at the age of sixty-six. Fished up by love’s barbed
hook.--This phenomenon is seen in old men.

“And this is why I have learned to love you, you are young--so young! No
one but I would ever have known this, Frederic--I alone. For you were
a banker at fifteen; even at college you must have lent your
school-fellows one marble on condition of their returning two.”

Seeing him laugh, she sprang on to his knee.

“Well, you must do as you please! Bless me! plunder the men--go ahead,
and I will help. Men are not worth loving; Napoleon killed them off
like flies. Whether they pay taxes to you or to the Government, what
difference does it make to them? You don’t make love over the budget,
and on my honor!--go ahead, I have thought it over, and you are right.
Shear the sheep! you will find it in the gospel according to Beranger.

“Now, kiss your Esther.--I say, you will give that poor Val-Noble all
the furniture in the Rue Taitbout? And to-morrow I wish you would give
her fifty thousand francs--it would look handsome, my duck. You see,
you killed Falleix; people are beginning to cry out upon you, and this
liberality will look Babylonian--all the women will talk about it! Oh!
there will be no one in Paris so grand, so noble as you; and as the
world is constituted, Falleix will be forgotten. So, after all, it will
be money deposited at interest.”

“You are right, mein anchel; you know the vorld,” he replied. “You shall
be mein adfiser.”

“Well, you see,” said Esther, “how I study my man’s interest, his
position and honor.--Go at once and bring those fifty thousand francs.”

She wanted to get rid of Monsieur de Nucingen so as to get a stockbroker
to sell the bond that very afternoon.

“But vy dis minute?” asked he.

“Bless me, my sweetheart, you must give it to her in a little satin box
wrapped round a fan. You must say, ‘Here, madame, is a fan which I hope
may be to your taste.’--You are supposed to be a Turcaret, and you will
become a Beaujon.”

“Charming, charming!” cried the Baron. “I shall be so clever
henceforth.--Yes, I shall repeat your vorts.”

Just as Esther had sat down, tired with the effort of playing her part,
Europe came in.

“Madame,” said she, “here is a messenger sent from the Quai Malaquais by
Celestin, M. Lucien’s servant----”

“Bring him in--no, I will go into the ante-room.”

“He has a letter for you, madame, from Celestin.”

Esther rushed into the ante-room, looked at the messenger, and saw that
he looked like the genuine thing.

“Tell _him_ to come down,” said Esther, in a feeble voice and dropping
into a chair after reading the letter. “Lucien means to kill himself,”
 she added in a whisper to Europe. “No, take the letter up to him.”

Carlos Herrera, still in his disguise as a bagman, came downstairs at
once, and keenly scrutinized the messenger on seeing a stranger in the

“You said there was no one here,” said he in a whisper to Europe.

And with an excess of prudence, after looking at the messenger, he went
straight into the drawing-room. _Trompe-la-Mort_ did not know that
for some time past the famous constable of the detective force who had
arrested him at the Maison Vauquer had a rival, who, it was supposed,
would replace him. This rival was the messenger.

“They are right,” said the sham messenger to Contenson, who was waiting
for him in the street. “The man you describe is in the house; but he is
not a Spaniard, and I will burn my hand off if there is not a bird for
our net under that priest’s gown.”

“He is no more a priest than he is a Spaniard,” said Contenson.

“I am sure of that,” said the detective.

“Oh, if only we were right!” said Contenson.

Lucien had been away for two days, and advantage had been taken of
his absence to lay this snare, but he returned this evening, and the
courtesan’s anxieties were allayed. Next morning, at the hour when
Esther, having taken a bath, was getting into bed again, Madame du
Val-Noble arrived.

“I have the two pills!” said her friend.

“Let me see,” said Esther, raising herself with her pretty elbow buried
in a pillow trimmed with lace.

Madame du Val-Noble held out to her what looked like two black currants.

The Baron had given Esther a pair of greyhounds of famous pedigree,
which will be always known by the name of the great contemporary poet
who made them fashionable; and Esther, proud of owning them, had called
them by the names of their parents, Romeo and Juliet. No need here
to describe the whiteness and grace of these beasts, trained for the
drawing-room, with manners suggestive of English propriety. Esther
called Romeo; Romeo ran up on legs so supple and thin, so strong and
sinewy, that they seemed like steel springs, and looked up at his
mistress. Esther, to attract his attention, pretended to throw one of
the pills.

“He is doomed by his nature to die thus,” said she, as she threw the
pill, which Romeo crushed between his teeth.

The dog made no sound, he rolled over, and was stark dead. It was all
over while Esther spoke these words of epitaph.

“Good God!” shrieked Madame du Val-Noble.

“You have a cab waiting. Carry away the departed Romeo,” said Esther.
“His death would make a commotion here. I have given him to you, and you
have lost him--advertise for him. Make haste; you will have your fifty
thousand francs this evening.”

She spoke so calmly, so entirely with the cold indifference of a
courtesan, that Madame du Val-Noble exclaimed:

“You are the Queen of us all!”

“Come early, and look very well----”

At five o’clock Esther dressed herself as a bride. She put on her lace
dress over white satin, she had a white sash, white satin shoes, and a
scarf of English point lace over her beautiful shoulders. In her hair
she placed white camellia flowers, the simple ornament of an innocent
girl. On her bosom lay a pearl necklace worth thirty thousand francs, a
gift from Nucingen.

Though she was dressed by six, she refused to see anybody, even the
banker. Europe knew that Lucien was to be admitted to her room. Lucien
came at about seven, and Europe managed to get him up to her mistress
without anybody knowing of his arrival.

Lucien, as he looked at her, said to himself, “Why not go and live with
her at Rubempre, far from the world, and never see Paris again? I have
an earnest of five years of her life, and the dear creature is one of
those who never belie themselves! Where can I find such another perfect

“My dear, you whom I have made my God,” said Esther, kneeling down on a
cushion in front of Lucien, “give me your blessing.”

Lucien tried to raise her and kiss her, saying, “What is this jest,
my dear love?” And he would have put his arm round her, but she freed
herself with a gesture as much of respect as of horror.

“I am no longer worthy of you, Lucien,” said she, letting the tears rise
to her eyes. “I implore you, give me your blessing, and swear to me that
you will found two beds at the Hotel-Dieu--for, as to prayers in church,
God will never forgive me unless I pray myself.

“I have loved you too well, my dear. Tell me that I made you happy, and
that you will sometimes think of me.--Tell me that!”

Lucien saw that Esther was solemnly in earnest, and he sat thinking.

“You mean to kill yourself,” said he at last, in a tone of voice that
revealed deep reflection.

“No,” said she. “But to-day, my dear, the woman dies, the pure, chaste,
and loving woman who once was yours.--And I am very much afraid that I
shall die of grief.”

“Poor child,” said Lucien, “wait! I have worked hard these two days. I
have succeeded in seeing Clotilde----”

“Always Clotilde!” cried Esther, in a tone of concentrated rage.

“Yes,” said he, “we have written to each other.--On Tuesday morning
she is to set out for Italy, but I shall meet her on the road for an
interview at Fontainebleau.”

“Bless me! what is it that you men want for wives? Wooden laths?” cried
poor Esther. “If I had seven or eight millions, would you not marry
me--come now?”

“Child! I was going to say that if all is over for me, I will have no
wife but you.”

Esther bent her head to hide her sudden pallor and the tears she wiped

“You love me?” said she, looking at Lucien with the deepest melancholy.
“Well, that is my sufficient blessing.--Do not compromise yourself.
Go away by the side door, and come in to the drawing-room through the
ante-room. Kiss me on the forehead.”

She threw her arms round Lucien, clasped him to her heart with frenzy,
and said again:

“Go, only go--or I must live.”

When the doomed woman appeared in the drawing-room, there was a cry of
admiration. Esther’s eyes expressed infinitude in which the soul sank
as it looked into them. Her blue-black and beautiful hair set off the
camellias. In short, this exquisite creature achieved all the effects
she had intended. She had no rival. She looked like the supreme
expression of that unbridled luxury which surrounded her in every form.
Then she was brilliantly witty. She ruled the orgy with the cold, calm
power that Habeneck displays when conducting at the Conservatoire, at
those concerts where the first musicians in Europe rise to the sublime
in interpreting Mozart and Beethoven.

But she observed with terror that Nucingen ate little, drank nothing,
and was quite the master of the house.

By midnight everybody was crazy. The glasses were broken that they might
never be used again; two of the Chinese curtains were torn; Bixiou was
drunk, for the second time in his life. No one could keep his feet,
the women were asleep on the sofas, and the guests were incapable of
carrying out the practical joke they had planned of escorting Esther
and Nucingen to the bedroom, standing in two lines with candles in their
hands, and singing _Buona sera_ from the _Barber of Seville_.

Nucingen simply gave Esther his hand. Bixiou, who saw them, though
tipsy, was still able to say, like Rivarol, on the occasion of the
Duc de Richelieu’s last marriage, “The police must be warned; there is
mischief brewing here.”

The jester thought he was jesting; he was a prophet.

Monsieur de Nucingen did not go home till Monday at about noon. But at
one o’clock his broker informed him that Mademoiselle Esther van Bogseck
had sold the bond bearing thirty thousand francs interest on Friday
last, and had just received the money.

“But, Monsieur le Baron, Derville’s head-clerk called on me just as I
was settling this transfer; and after seeing Mademoiselle Esther’s real
names, he told me she had come into a fortune of seven millions.”


“Yes, she is the only heir to the old bill-discounter Gobseck.--Derville
will verify the facts. If your mistress’ mother was the handsome Dutch
woman, _la Belle Hollandaise_, as they called her, she comes in for----”

“I know dat she is,” cried the banker. “She tolt me all her life. I
shall write ein vort to Derville.”

The Baron at down at his desk, wrote a line to Derville, and sent it by
one of his servants. Then, after going to the Bourse, he went back to
Esther’s house at about three o’clock.

“Madame forbade our waking her on any pretence whatever. She is in

“Ach der Teufel!” said the Baron. “But, Europe, she shall not be
angry to be tolt that she is fery, fery rich. She shall inherit seven
millions. Old Gobseck is deat, and your mis’ess is his sole heir, for
her moter vas Gobseck’s own niece; and besides, he shall hafe left a
vill. I could never hafe tought that a millionaire like dat man should
hafe left Esther in misery!”

“Ah, ha! Then your reign is over, old pantaloon!” said Europe,
looking at the Baron with an effrontery worthy of one of Moliere’s
waiting-maids. “Shooh! you old Alsatian crow! She loves you as we love
the plague! Heavens above us! Millions!--Why, she may marry her lover;
won’t she be glad!”

And Prudence Servien left the Baron simply thunder-stricken, to be the
first to announce to her mistress this great stroke of luck. The old
man, intoxicated with superhuman enjoyment, and believing himself happy,
had just received a cold shower-bath on his passion at the moment when
it had risen to the intensest white heat.

“She vas deceiving me!” cried he, with tears in his eyes. “Yes, she
vas cheating me. Oh, Esther, my life! Vas a fool hafe I been! Can such
flowers ever bloom for de old men! I can buy all vat I vill except only
yout!--Ach Gott, ach Gott! Vat shall I do! Vat shall become of me!--She
is right, dat cruel Europe. Esther, if she is rich, shall not be for me.
Shall I go hank myself? Vat is life midout de divine flame of joy dat I
have known? Mein Gott, mein Gott!”

The old man snatched off the false hair he had combed in with his gray
hairs these three months past.

A piercing shriek from Europe made Nucingen quail to his very bowels.
The poor banker rose and walked upstairs on legs that were drunk with
the bowl of disenchantment he had just swallowed to the dregs, for
nothing is more intoxicating than the wine of disaster.

At the door of her room he could see Esther stiff on her bed, blue with

He went up to the bed and dropped on his knees.

“You are right! She tolt me so!--She is dead--of me----”

Paccard, Asie, every one hurried in. It was a spectacle, a shock, but
not despair. Every one had their doubts. The Baron was a banker again.
A suspicion crossed his mind, and he was so imprudent as to ask what had
become of the seven hundred and fifty thousand francs, the price of the
bond. Paccard, Asie, and Europe looked at each other so strangely that
Monsieur de Nucingen left the house at once, believing that robbery
and murder had been committed. Europe, detecting a packet of soft
consistency, betraying the contents to be banknotes, under her mistress’
pillow, proceeded at once to “lay her out,” as she said.

“Go and tell monsieur, Asie!--Oh, to die before she knew that she had
seven millions! Gobseck was poor madame’s uncle!” said she.

Europe’s stratagem was understood by Paccard. As soon as Asie’s back
was turned, Europe opened the packet, on which the hapless courtesan had
written: “To be delivered to Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre.”

Seven hundred and fifty thousand-franc notes shone in the eyes of
Prudence Servien, who exclaimed:

“Won’t we be happy and honest for the rest of our lives!”

Paccard made no objection. His instincts as a thief were stronger than
his attachment to _Trompe-la-Mort_.

“Durut is dead,” he said at length; “my shoulder is still a proof before
letters. Let us be off together; divide the money, so as not to have all
our eggs in one basket, and then get married.”

“But where can we hide?” said Prudence.

“In Paris,” replied Paccard.

Prudence and Paccard went off at once, with the promptitude of two
honest folks transformed into robbers.

“My child,” said Carlos to Asie, as soon as she had said three words,
“find some letter of Esther’s while I write a formal will, and then take
the copy and the letter to Girard; but he must be quick. The will must
be under Esther’s pillow before the lawyers affix the seals here.”

And he wrote out the following will:--

  “Never having loved any one on earth but Monsieur Lucien Chardon
  de Rubempre, and being resolved to end my life rather than relapse
  into vice and the life of infamy from which he rescued me, I give
  and bequeath to the said Lucien Chardon de Rubempre all I may
  possess at the time of my decease, on condition of his founding a
  mass in perpetuity in the parish church of Saint-Roch for the
  repose of her who gave him her all, to her last thought.

                                                 “ESTHER GOBSECK.”

“That is quite in her style,” thought _Trompe-la-Mort_.

By seven in the evening this document, written and sealed, was placed by
Asie under Esther’s bolster.

“Jacques,” said she, flying upstairs again, “just as I came out of the
room justice marched in----”

“The justice of the peace you mean?”

“No, my son. The justice of the peace was there, but he had gendarmes
with him. The public prosecutor and the examining judge are there too,
and the doors are guarded.”

“This death has made a stir very quickly,” remarked Jacques Collin.

“Ay, and Paccard and Europe have vanished; I am afraid they may have
scared away the seven hundred and fifty thousand francs,” said Asie.

“The low villains!” said Collin. “They have done for us by their
swindling game.”

Human justice, and Paris justice, that is to say, the most suspicious,
keenest, cleverest, and omniscient type of justice--too clever, indeed,
for it insists on interpreting the law at every turn--was at last on the
point of laying its hand on the agents of this horrible intrigue.

The Baron of Nucingen, on recognizing the evidence of poison, and
failing to find his seven hundred and fifty thousand francs, imagined
that one of two persons whom he greatly disliked--either Paccard or
Europe--was guilty of the crime. In his first impulse of rage he flew to
the prefecture of police. This was a stroke of a bell that called up all
Corentin’s men. The officials of the prefecture, the legal profession,
the chief of the police, the justice of the peace, the examining
judge,--all were astir. By nine in the evening three medical men were
called in to perform an autopsy on poor Esther, and inquiries were set
on foot.

_Trompe-la-Mort_, warned by Asie, exclaimed:

“No one knows that I am here; I may take an airing.” He pulled himself
up by the skylight of his garret, and with marvelous agility was
standing in an instant on the roof, whence he surveyed the surroundings
with the coolness of a tiler.

“Good!” said he, discerning a garden five houses off in the Rue de
Provence, “that will just do for me.”

“You are paid out, _Trompe-la-Mort_,” said Contenson, suddenly emerging
from behind a stack of chimneys. “You may explain to Monsieur Camusot
what mass you were performing on the roof, Monsieur l’Abbe, and, above
all, why you were escaping----”

“I have enemies in Spain,” said Carlos Herrera.

“We can go there by way of your attic,” said Contenson.

The sham Spaniard pretended to yield; but, having set his back and feet
across the opening of the skylight, he gripped Contenson and flung
him off with such violence that the spy fell in the gutter of the Rue

Contenson was dead on his field of honor; Jacques Collin quietly dropped
into the room again and went to bed.

“Give me something that will make me very sick without killing me,”
 said he to Asie; “for I must be at death’s door, to avoid answering
inquisitive persons. I have just got rid of a man in the most natural
way, who might have unmasked me.”

At seven o’clock on the previous evening Lucien had set out in his own
chaise to post to Fontainebleau with a passport he had procured in the
morning; he slept in the nearest inn on the Nemours side. At six in the
morning he went alone, and on foot, through the forest as far as Bouron.

“This,” said he to himself, as he sat down on one of the rocks that
command the fine landscape of Bouron, “is the fatal spot where
Napoleon dreamed of making a final tremendous effort on the eve of his

At daybreak he heard the approach of post-horses and saw a britska drive
past, in which sat the servants of the Duchesse de Lenoncourt-Chaulieu
and Clotilde de Grandlieu’s maid.

“Here they are!” thought Lucien. “Now, to play the farce well, and I
shall be saved!--the Duc de Grandlieu’s son-in-law in spite of him!”

It was an hour later when he heard the peculiar sound made by a superior
traveling carriage, as the berline came near in which two ladies were
sitting. They had given orders that the drag should be put on for the
hill down to Bouron, and the man-servant behind the carriage had it

At this instant Lucien came forward.

“Clotilde!” said he, tapping on the window.

“No,” said the young Duchess to her friend, “he shall not get into the
carriage, and we will not be alone with him, my dear. Speak to him for
the last time--to that I consent; but on the road, where we will walk
on, and where Baptiste can escort us.--The morning is fine, we are well
wrapped up, and have no fear of the cold. The carriage can follow.”

The two women got out.

“Baptiste,” said the Duchess, “the post-boy can follow slowly; we want
to walk a little way. You must keep near us.”

Madeleine de Mortsauf took Clotilde by the arm and allowed Lucien to
talk. They thus walked on as far as the village of Grez. It was now
eight o’clock, and there Clotilde dismissed Lucien.

“Well, my friend,” said she, closing this long interview with much
dignity, “I never shall marry any one but you. I would rather believe
in you than in other men, in my father and mother--no woman ever gave
greater proof of attachment surely?--Now, try to counteract the fatal
prejudices which militate against you.”

Just then the tramp of galloping horses was heard, and, to the great
amazement of the ladies, a force of gendarmes surrounded the little

“What do you want?” said Lucien, with the arrogance of a dandy.

“Are you Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre?” asked the public prosecutor of

“Yes, monsieur.”

“You will spend to-night in La Force,” said he. “I have a warrant for
the detention of your person.”

“Who are these ladies?” asked the sergeant.

“To be sure.--Excuse me, ladies--your passports? For Monsieur Lucien,
as I am instructed, had acquaintances among the fair sex, who for him

“Do you take the Duchesse de Lenoncourt-Chaulieu for a prostitute?” said
Madeleine, with a magnificent flash at the public prosecutor.

“You are handsome enough to excuse the error,” the magistrate very
cleverly retorted.

“Baptiste, produce the passports,” said the young Duchess with a smile.

“And with what crime is Monsieur de Rubempre charged?” asked Clotilde,
whom the Duchess wished to see safe in the carriage.

“Of being accessory to a robbery and murder,” replied the sergeant of

Baptiste lifted Mademoiselle de Grandlieu into the chaise in a dead

By midnight Lucien was entering La Force, a prison situated between the
Rue Payenne and the Rue des Ballets, where he was placed in solitary

The Abbe Carlos Herrera was also there, having been arrested that

                         THE END OF EVIL WAYS

At six o’clock next morning two vehicles with postilions, prison vans,
called in the vigorous language of the populace, _paniers a salade_,
came out of La Force to drive to the Conciergerie by the Palais de

Few loafers in Paris can have failed to meet this prison cell on wheels;
still, though most stories are written for Parisian readers, strangers
will no doubt be satisfied to have a description of this formidable
machine. Who knows? A police of Russia, Germany, or Austria, the legal
body of countries to whom the “Salad-basket” is an unknown machine, may
profit by it; and in several foreign countries there can be no doubt
that an imitation of this vehicle would be a boon to prisoners.

This ignominious conveyance, yellow-bodied, on high wheels, and lined
with sheet-iron, is divided into two compartments. In front is a
box-seat, with leather cushions and an apron. This is the free seat of
the van, and accommodates a sheriff’s officer and a gendarme. A strong
iron trellis, reaching to the top, separates this sort of cab-front from
the back division, in which there are two wooden seats placed sideways,
as in an omnibus, on which the prisoners sit. They get in by a step
behind and a door, with no window. The nickname of Salad-basket arose
from the fact that the vehicle was originally made entirely of lattice,
and the prisoners were shaken in it just as a salad is shaken to dry it.

For further security, in case of accident, a mounted gendarme follows
the machine, especially when it conveys criminals condemned to death to
the place of execution. Thus escape is impossible. The vehicle, lined
with sheet-iron, is impervious to any tool. The prisoners, carefully
searched when they are arrested or locked up, can have nothing but
watch-springs, perhaps, to file through bars, and useless on a smooth

So the _panier a salade_, improved by the genius of the Paris police,
became the model for the prison omnibus (known in London as “Black
Maria”) in which convicts are transported to the hulks, instead of the
horrible tumbril which formerly disgraced civilization, though Manon
Lescaut had made it famous.

The accused are, in the first instance, despatched in the prison van
from the various prisons in Paris to the Palais de Justice, to be
questioned by the examining judge. This, in prison slang, is called
“going up for examination.” Then the accused are again conveyed
from prison to the Court to be sentenced when their case is only a
misdemeanor; or if, in legal parlance, the case is one for the
Upper Court, they are transferred from the house of detention to the
Conciergerie, the “Newgate” of the Department of the Seine.

Finally, the prison van carries the criminal condemned to death from
Bicetre to the Barriere Saint-Jacques, where executions are carried out,
and have been ever since the Revolution of July. Thanks to philanthropic
interference, the poor wretches no longer have to face the horrors of
the drive from the Conciergerie to the Place de Greve in a cart exactly
like that used by wood merchants. This cart is no longer used but to
bring the body back from the scaffold.

Without this explanation the words of a famous convict to his
accomplice, “It is now the horse’s business!” as he got into the van,
would be unintelligible. It is impossible to be carried to execution
more comfortably than in Paris nowadays.

At this moment the two vans, setting out at such an early hour, were
employed on the unwonted service of conveying two accused prisoners
from the jail of La Force to the Conciergerie, and each man had a
“Salad-basket” to himself.

Nine-tenths of my readers, ay, and nine-tenths of the remaining tenth,
are certainly ignorant of the vast difference of meaning in the words
incriminated, suspected, accused, and committed for trial--jail, house
of detention, and penitentiary; and they may be surprised to learn here
that it involves all our criminal procedure, of which a clear and brief
outline will presently be sketched, as much for their information as for
the elucidation of this history. However, when it is said that the first
van contained Jacques Collin and the second Lucien, who in a few hours
had fallen from the summit of social splendor to the depths of a prison
cell, curiosity will for the moment be satisfied.

The conduct of the two accomplices was characteristic; Lucien de
Rubempre shrank back to avoid the gaze of the passers-by, who looked at
the grated window of the gloomy and fateful vehicle on its road along
the Rue Saint-Antoine and the Rue du Martroi to reach the quay and the
Arch of Saint-Jean, the way, at that time, across the Place de l’Hotel
de Ville. This archway now forms the entrance gate to the residence of
the Prefet de la Seine in the huge municipal palace. The daring convict,
on the contrary, stuck his face against the barred grating, between
the officer and the gendarme, who, sure of their van, were chatting

The great days of July 1830, and the tremendous storm that then burst,
have so completely wiped out the memory of all previous events, and
politics so entirely absorbed the French during the last six months
of that year, that no one remembers--or a few scarcely remember--the
various private, judicial, and financial catastrophes, strange as they
were, which, forming the annual flood of Parisian curiosity, were not
lacking during the first six months of the year. It is, therefore,
needful to mention how Paris was, for the moment, excited by the news of
the arrest of a Spanish priest, discovered in a courtesan’s house,
and that of the elegant Lucien de Rubempre, who had been engaged to
Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu, taken on the highroad to Italy,
close to the little village of Grez. Both were charged as being
concerned in a murder, of which the profits were stated at seven
millions of francs; and for some days the scandal of this trial
preponderated over the absorbing importance of the last elections held
under Charles X.

In the first place, the charge had been based on an application by the
Baron de Nucingen; then, Lucien’s apprehension, just as he was about to
be appointed private secretary to the Prime Minister, made a stir in
the very highest circles of society. In every drawing-room in Paris
more than one young man could recollect having envied Lucien when he
was honored by the notice of the beautiful Duchesse de Maufrigneuse; and
every woman knew that he was the favored attache of Madame de Serizy,
the wife of one of the Government bigwigs. And finally, his handsome
person gave him a singular notoriety in the various worlds that make
up Paris--the world of fashion, the financial world, the world of
courtesans, the young men’s world, the literary world. So for two days
past all Paris had been talking of these two arrests. The examining
judge in whose hands the case was put regarded it as a chance for
promotion; and, to proceed with the utmost rapidity, he had given
orders that both the accused should be transferred from La Force to
the Conciergerie as soon as Lucien de Rubempre could be brought from

As the Abbe Carlos had spent but twelve hours in La Force, and Lucien
only half a night, it is useless to describe that prison, which
has since been entirely remodeled; and as to the details of their
consignment, it would be only a repetition of the same story at the

But before setting forth the terrible drama of a criminal inquiry, it
is indispensable, as I have said, that an account should be given of the
ordinary proceedings in a case of this kind. To begin with, its various
phases will be better understood at home and abroad, and, besides, those
who are ignorant of the action of the criminal law, as conceived of by
the lawgivers under Napoleon, will appreciate it better. This is all the
more important as, at this moment, this great and noble institution is
in danger of destruction by the system known as penitentiary.

A crime is committed; if it is flagrant, the persons incriminated
(inculpes) are taken to the nearest lock-up and placed in the cell known
to the vulgar as the Violon--perhaps because they make a noise there,
shrieking or crying. From thence the suspected persons (inculpes)
are taken before the police commissioner or magistrate, who holds a
preliminary inquiry, and can dismiss the case if there is any mistake;
finally, they are conveyed to the Depot of the Prefecture, where the
police detains them pending the convenience of the public prosecutor and
the examining judge. They, being served with due notice, more or less
quickly, according to the gravity of the case, come and examine the
prisoners who are still provisionally detained. Having due regard to
the presumptive evidence, the examining judge then issues a warrant for
their imprisonment, and sends the suspected persons to be confined in
a jail. There are three such jails (Maisons d’Arret) in
Paris--Sainte-Pelagie, La Force, and les Madelonettes.

Observe the word inculpe, incriminated, or suspected of crime. The
French Code has created three essential degrees of criminality--inculpe,
first degree of suspicion; prevenu, under examination; accuse, fully
committed for trial. So long as the warrant for committal remains
unsigned, the supposed criminal is regarded as merely under suspicion,
inculpe of the crime or felony; when the warrant has been issued, he
becomes “the accused” (prevenu), and is regarded as such so long as the
inquiry is proceeding; when the inquiry is closed, and as soon as the
Court has decided that the accused is to be committed for trial, he
becomes “the prisoner at the bar” (accuse) as soon as the superior
court, at the instance of the public prosecutor, has pronounced that the
charge is so far proved as to be carried to the Assizes.

Thus, persons suspected of crime go through three different stages,
three siftings, before coming up for trial before the judges of the
upper Court--the High Justice of the realm.

At the first stage, innocent persons have abundant means of exculpating
themselves--the public, the town watch, the police. At the second state
they appear before a magistrate face to face with the witnesses, and
are judged by a tribunal in Paris, or by the Collective Court of the
departments. At the third stage they are brought before a bench of
twelve councillors, and in case of any error or informality the prisoner
committed for trial at the Assizes may appeal for protection to the
Supreme court. The jury do not know what a slap in the face they give
to popular authority, to administrative and judicial functionaries, when
they acquit a prisoner. And so, in my opinion, it is hardly possible
that an innocent man should ever find himself at the bar of an Assize
Court in Paris--I say nothing of other seats of justice.

The detenu is the convict. French criminal law recognizes imprisonment
of three degrees, corresponding in legal distinction to these three
degrees of suspicion, inquiry, and conviction. Mere imprisonment is a
light penalty for misdemeanor, but detention is imprisonment with hard
labor, a severe and sometimes degrading punishment. Hence, those persons
who nowadays are in favor of the penitentiary system would upset an
admirable scheme of criminal law in which the penalties are judiciously
graduated, and they will end by punishing the lightest peccadilloes as
severely as the greatest crimes.

The reader may compare in the _Scenes of Political Life_ (for instance,
in Une Tenebreuse affaire) the curious differences subsisting between
the criminal law of Brumaire in the year IV., and that of the Code
Napoleon which has taken its place.

In most trials, as in this one, the suspected persons are at once
examined (and from inculpes become prevenus); justice immediately issues
a warrant for their arrest and imprisonment. In point of fact, in most
of such cases the criminals have either fled, or have been instantly
apprehended. Indeed, as we have seen the police, which is but an
instrument, and the officers of justice had descended on Esther’s house
with the swiftness of a thunderbolt. Even if there had not been the
reasons for revenge suggested to the superior police by Corentin, there
was a robbery to be investigated of seven hundred and fifty thousand
francs from the Baron de Nucingen.

Just as the first prison van, conveying Jacques Collin, reached
the archway of Saint-Jean--a narrow, dark passage, some block ahead
compelled the postilion to stop under the vault. The prisoner’s eyes
shone like carbuncles through the grating, in spite of his aspect as of
a dying man, which, the day before, had led the governor of La Force to
believe that the doctor must be called in. These flaming eyes, free to
rove at this moment, for neither the officer nor the gendarme looked
round at their “customer,” spoke so plain a language that a clever
examining judge, M. Popinot, for instance, would have identified the man
convicted for sacrilege.

In fact, ever since the “salad-basket” had turned out of the gate of La
Force, Jacques Collin had studied everything on his way. Notwithstanding
the pace they had made, he took in the houses with an eager and
comprehensive glance from the ground floor to the attics. He saw and
noted every passer-by. God Himself is not more clear-seeing as to the
means and ends of His creatures than this man in observing the slightest
differences in the medley of things and people. Armed with hope, as
the last of the Horatii was armed with his sword, he expected help. To
anybody but this Machiavelli of the hulks, this hope would have
seemed so absolutely impossible to realize that he would have gone
on mechanically, as all guilty men do. Not one of them ever dreams of
resistance when he finds himself in the position to which justice and
the Paris police bring suspected persons, especially those who, like
Collin and Lucien, are in solitary confinement.

It is impossible to conceive of the sudden isolation in which a
suspected criminal is placed. The gendarmes who apprehend him, the
commissioner who questions him, those who take him to prison, the
warders who lead him to his cell--which is actually called a cachot, a
dungeon or hiding-place, those again who take him by the arms to put him
into a prison-van--every being that comes near him from the moment of
his arrest is either speechless, or takes note of all he says, to be
repeated to the police or to the judge. This total severance, so simply
effected between the prisoner and the world, gives rise to a complete
overthrow of his faculties and a terrible prostration of mind,
especially when the man has not been familiarized by his antecedents
with the processes of justice. The duel between the judge and the
criminal is all the more appalling because justice has on its side the
dumbness of blank walls and the incorruptible coldness of its agents.

But Jacques Collin, or Carlos Herrera--it will be necessary to speak of
him by one or the other of these names according to the circumstances of
the case--had long been familiar with the methods of the police, of
the jail, and of justice. This colossus of cunning and corruption had
employed all his powers of mind, and all the resources of mimicry, to
affect the surprise and anility of an innocent man, while giving the
lawyers the spectacle of his sufferings. As has been told, Asie, that
skilled Locusta, had given him a dose of poison so qualified as to
produce the effects of a dreadful illness.

Thus Monsieur Camusot, the police commissioner, and the public
prosecutor had been baffled in their proceedings and inquiries by the
effects apparently of an apoplectic attack.

“He has taken poison!” cried Monsieur Camusot, horrified by the
sufferings of the self-styled priest when he had been carried down from
the attic writhing in convulsions.

Four constables had with great difficulty brought the Abbe Carlos
downstairs to Esther’s room, where the lawyers and the gendarmes were

“That was the best thing he could do if he should be guilty,” replied
the public prosecutor.

“Do you believe that he is ill?” the police commissioner asked.

The police is always incredulous.

The three lawyers had spoken, as may be imagined, in a whisper;
but Jacques Collin had guessed from their faces the subject under
discussion, and had taken advantage of it to make the first brief
examination which is gone through on arrest absolutely impossible and
useless; he had stammered out sentences in which Spanish and French were
so mingled as to make nonsense.

At La Force this farce had been all the more successful in the first
instance because the head of the “safety” force--an abbreviation of
the title “Head of the brigade of the guardians of public
safety”--Bibi-Lupin, who had long since taken Jacques Collin into
custody at Madame Vauquer’s boarding-house, had been sent on special
business into the country, and his deputy was a man who hoped to succeed
him, but to whom the convict was unknown.

Bibi-Lupin, himself formerly a convict, and a comrade of Jacques
Collin’s on the hulks, was his personal enemy. This hostility had its
rise in quarrels in which Jacques Collin had always got the upper hand,
and in the supremacy over his fellow-prisoners which _Trompe-la-Mort_
had always assumed. And then, for ten years now, Jacques Collin had been
the ruling providence of released convicts in Paris, their head, their
adviser, and their banker, and consequently Bibi-Lupin’s antagonist.

Thus, though placed in solitary confinement, he trusted to the
intelligent and unreserved devotion of Asie, his right hand, and
perhaps, too, to Paccard, his left hand, who, as he flattered himself,
might return to his allegiance when once that thrifty subaltern had
safely bestowed the seven hundred and fifty thousand francs that he had
stolen. This was the reason why his attention had been so superhumanly
alert all along the road. And, strange to say! his hopes were about to
be amply fulfilled.

The two solid side-walls of the archway were covered, to a height of
six feet, with a permanent dado of mud formed of the splashes from the
gutter; for, in those days, the foot passenger had no protection from
the constant traffic of vehicles and from what was called the kicking of
the carts, but curbstones placed upright at intervals, and much ground
away by the naves of the wheels. More than once a heavy truck had
crushed a heedless foot-passenger under that arch-way. Such indeed Paris
remained in many districts and till long after. This circumstance may
give some idea of the narrowness of the Saint-Jean gate and the ease
with which it could be blocked. If a cab should be coming through from
the Place de Greve while a costermonger-woman was pushing her little
truck of apples in from the Rue du Martroi, a third vehicle of any kind
produced difficulties. The foot-passengers fled in alarm, seeking a
corner-stone to protect them from the old-fashioned axles, which had
attained such prominence that a law was passed at last to reduce their

When the prison van came in, this passage was blocked by a market woman
with a costermonger’s vegetable cart--one of a type which is all the
more strange because specimens still exist in Paris in spite of the
increasing number of green-grocers’ shops. She was so thoroughly a
street hawker that a Sergeant de Ville, if that particular class of
police had been then in existence, would have allowed her to ply her
trade without inspecting her permit, in spite of a sinister countenance
that reeked of crime. Her head, wrapped in a cheap and ragged checked
cotton kerchief, was horrid with rebellious locks of hair, like the
bristles of a wild boar. Her red and wrinkled neck was disgusting, and
her little shawl failed entirely to conceal a chest tanned brown by the
sun, dust, and mud. Her gown was patchwork; her shoes gaped as though
they were grinning at a face as full of holes as the gown. And what an
apron! a plaster would have been less filthy. This moving and fetid rag
must have stunk in the nostrils of dainty folks ten yards away. Those
hands had gleaned a hundred harvest fields. Either the woman had
returned from a German witches’ Sabbath, or she had come out of a
mendicity asylum. But what eyes! what audacious intelligence, what
repressed vitality when the magnetic flash of her look and of Jacques
Collin’s met to exchange a thought!

“Get out of the way, you old vermin-trap!” cried the postilion in harsh

“Mind you don’t crush me, you hangman’s apprentice!” she retorted. “Your
cartful is not worth as much as mine.”

And by trying to squeeze in between two corner-stones to make way, the
hawker managed to block the passage long enough to achieve her purpose.

“Oh! Asie!” said Jacques Collin to himself, at once recognizing his
accomplice. “Then all is well.”

The post-boy was still exchanging amenities with Asie, and vehicles were
collecting in the Rue du Martroi.

“Look out, there--Pecaire fermati. Souni la--Vedrem,” shrieked old Asie,
with the Red-Indian intonations peculiar to these female costermongers,
who disfigure their words in such a way that they are transformed into a
sort onomatopoeia incomprehensible to any but Parisians.

In the confusion in the alley, and among the outcries of all the waiting
drivers, no one paid any heed to this wild yell, which might have been
the woman’s usual cry. But this gibberish, intelligible to Jacques
Collin, sent to his ear in a mongrel language of their own--a mixture of
bad Italian and Provencal--this important news:

“Your poor boy is nabbed. I am here to keep an eye on you. We shall meet

In the midst of his joy at having thus triumphed over the police, for
he hoped to be able to keep up communications, Jacques Collin had a blow
which might have killed any other man.

“Lucien in custody!” said he to himself.

He almost fainted. This news was to him more terrible than the rejection
of his appeal could have been if he had been condemned to death.

Now that both the prison vans are rolling along the Quai, the interest
of this story requires that I should add a few words about the
Conciergerie, while they are making their way thither. The Conciergerie,
a historical name--a terrible name,--a still more terrible thing, is
inseparable from the Revolutions of France, and especially those of
Paris. It has known most of our great criminals. But if it is the most
interesting of the buildings of Paris, it is also the least known--least
known to persons of the upper classes; still, in spite of the interest
of this historical digression, it should be as short as the journey of
the prison vans.

What Parisian, what foreigner, or what provincial can have failed to
observe the gloomy and mysterious features of the Quai des Lunettes--a
structure of black walls flanked by three round towers with conical
roofs, two of them almost touching each other? This quay, beginning at
the Pont du Change, ends at the Pont Neuf. A square tower--the Clock
Tower, or Tour de l’Horloge, whence the signal was given for the
massacre of Saint-Bartholomew--a tower almost as tall as that of
Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie, shows where the Palais de Justice stands,
and forms the corner of the quay.

These four towers and these walls are shrouded in the black winding
sheet which, in Paris, falls on every facade to the north. About
half-way along the quay at a gloomy archway we see the beginning of the
private houses which were built in consequence of the construction of
the Pont Neuf in the reign of Henry IV. The Place Royale was a replica
of the Place Dauphine. The style of architecture is the same, of brick
with binding courses of hewn stone. This archway and the Rue de Harlay
are the limit line of the Palais de Justice on the west. Formerly the
Prefecture de Police, once the residence of the Presidents of Parlement,
was a dependency of the Palace. The Court of Exchequer and Court of
Subsidies completed the Supreme Court of Justice, the Sovereign’s Court.
It will be seen that before the Revolution the Palace enjoyed that
isolation which now again is aimed at.

This block, this island of residences and official buildings, in
their midst the Sainte-Chapelle--that priceless jewel of Saint-Louis’
chaplet--is the sanctuary of Paris, its holy place, its sacred ark.

For one thing, this island was at first the whole of the city, for the
plot now forming the Place Dauphine was a meadow attached to the Royal
demesne, where stood a stamping mill for coining money. Hence the name
of Rue de la Monnaie--the street leading to the Pont Neuf. Hence, too,
the name of one of the round towers--the middle one--called the Tour
d’Argent, which would seem to show that money was originally coined
there. The famous mill, to be seen marked in old maps of Paris, may very
likely be more recent than the time when money was coined in the Palace
itself, and was erected, no doubt, for the practice of improved methods
in the art of coining.

The first tower, hardly detached from the Tour d’Argent, is the Tour
de Montgomery; the third, and smallest, but the best preserved of the
three, for it still has its battlements, is the Tour Bonbec.

The Sainte-Chapelle and its four towers--counting the clock tower as
one--clearly define the precincts; or, as a surveyor would say, the
perimeter of the Palace, as it was from the time of the Merovingians
till the accession of the first race of Valois; but to us, as a result
of certain alterations, this Palace is more especially representative of
the period of Saint-Louis.

Charles V. was the first to give the Palace up to the Parlement, then a
new institution, and went to reside in the famous Hotel Saint-Pol,
under the protection of the Bastille. The Palais des Tournelles was
subsequently erected backing on to the Hotel Saint-Pol. Thus, under the
later Valois, the kings came back from the Bastille to the Louvre, which
had been their first stronghold.

The original residence of the French kings, the Palace of Saint-Louis,
which has preserved the designation of Le Palais, to indicate the Palace
of palaces, is entirely buried under the Palais de Justice; it forms the
cellars, for it was built, like the Cathedral, in the Seine, and with
such care that the highest floods in the river scarcely cover the lowest
steps. The Quai de l’Horloge covers, twenty feet below the surface, its
foundations of a thousand years old. Carriages run on the level of the
capitals of the solid columns under these towers, and formerly their
appearance must have harmonized with the elegance of the Palace, and
have had a picturesque effect over the water, since to this day those
towers vie in height with the loftiest buildings in Paris.

As we look down on this vast capital from the lantern of the Pantheon,
the Palace with the Sainte-Chapelle is still the most monumental of many
monumental buildings. The home of our kings, over which you tread as you
pace the immense hall known as the _Salle des Pas-Perdus_, was a miracle
of architecture; and it is so still to the intelligent eye of the poet
who happens to study it when inspecting the Conciergerie. Alas! for the
Conciergerie has invaded the home of kings. One’s heart bleeds to see
the way in which cells, cupboards, corridors, warders’ rooms, and halls
devoid of light or air, have been hewn out of that beautiful structure
in which Byzantine, Gothic, and Romanesque--the three phases of ancient
art--were harmonized in one building by the architecture of the twelfth

This palace is a monumental history of France in the earliest times,
just as Blois is that of a later period. As at Blois you may admire in a
single courtyard the chateau of the Counts of Blois, that of Louis XII.,
that of Francis I., that of Gaston; so at the Conciergerie you will
find within the same precincts the stamp of the early races, and, in the
Sainte-Chapelle, the architecture of Saint-Louis.

Municipal Council (to you I speak), if you bestow millions, get a poet
or two to assist your architects if you wish to save the cradle of
Paris, the cradle of kings, while endeavoring to endow Paris and the
Supreme Court with a palace worthy of France. It is a matter for study
for some years before beginning the work. Another new prison or two like
that of La Roquette, and the palace of Saint-Louis will be safe.

In these days many grievances afflict this vast mass of buildings,
buried under the Palais de Justice and the quay, like some antediluvian
creature in the soil of Montmartre; but the worst affliction is that it
is the Conciergerie. This epigram is intelligible. In the early days of
the monarchy, noble criminals--for the villeins (a word signifying the
peasantry in French and English alike) and the citizens came under the
jurisdiction of the municipality or of their liege lord--the lords
of the greater or the lesser fiefs, were brought before the king and
guarded in the Conciergerie. And as these noble criminals were few, the
Conciergerie was large enough for the king’s prisoners.

It is difficult now to be quite certain of the exact site of the
original Conciergerie. However, the kitchens built by Saint-Louis still
exist, forming what is now called the mousetrap; and it is probable that
the original Conciergerie was situated in the place where, till 1825,
the Conciergerie prisons of the Parlement were still in use, under the
archway to the right of the wide outside steps leading to the supreme
Court. From thence, until 1825, condemned criminals were taken to
execution. From that gate came forth all the great criminals, all the
victims of political feeling--the Marechale d’Ancre and the Queen of
France, Semblancay and Malesherbes, Damien and Danton, Desrues and
Castaing. Fouquier-Tinville’s private room, like that of the public
prosecutor now, was so placed that he could see the procession of carts
containing the persons whom the Revolutionary tribunal had sentenced to
death. Thus this man, who had become a sword, could give a last glance
at each batch.

After 1825, when Monsieur de Peyronnet was Minister, a great change
was made in the Palais. The old entrance to the Conciergerie, where
the ceremonies of registering the criminal and of the last toilet were
performed, was closed and removed to where it now is, between the Tour
de l’Horloge and the Tour de Montgomery, in an inner court entered
through an arched passage. To the left is the “mousetrap,” to the right
the prison gates. The “salad-baskets” can drive into this irregularly
shaped courtyard, can stand there and turn with ease, and in case of a
riot find some protection behind the strong grating of the gate under
the arch; whereas they formerly had no room to move in the narrow space
dividing the outside steps from the right wing of the palace.

In our day the Conciergerie, hardly large enough for the prisoners
committed for trial--room being needed for about three hundred, men
and women--no longer receives either suspected or remanded criminals
excepting in rare cases, as, for instance, in these of Jacques Collin
and Lucien. All who are imprisoned there are committed for trial before
the Bench. As an exception criminals of the higher ranks are allowed
to sojourn there, since, being already disgraced by a sentence in open
court, their punishment would be too severe if they served their term of
imprisonment at Melun or at Poissy. Ouvrard preferred to be imprisoned
at the Conciergerie rather than at Sainte-Pelagie. At this moment of
writing Lehon the notary and the Prince de Bergues are serving their
time there by an exercise of leniency which, though arbitrary, is

As a rule, suspected criminals, whether they are to be subjected to a
preliminary examination--to “go up,” in the slang of the Courts--or
to appear before the magistrate of the lower Court, are transferred in
prison vans direct to the “mousetraps.”

The “mousetraps,” opposite the gate, consist of a certain number of old
cells constructed in the old kitchens of Saint-Louis’ building, whither
prisoners not yet fully committed are brought to await the hour when the
Court sits, or the arrival of the examining judge. The “mousetraps”
 end on the north at the quay, on the east at the headquarters of the
Municipal Guard, on the west at the courtyard of the Conciergerie, and
on the south they adjoin a large vaulted hall, formerly, no doubt, the
banqueting-room, but at present disused.

Above the “mousetraps” is an inner guardroom with a window commanding
the court of the Conciergerie; this is used by the gendarmerie of the
department, and the stairs lead up to it. When the hour of trial strikes
the sheriffs call the roll of the prisoners, the gendarmes go down, one
for each prisoner, and each gendarme takes a criminal by the arm; and
thus, in couples, they mount the stairs, cross the guardroom, and are
led along the passages to a room contiguous to the hall where sits the
famous sixth chamber of the law (whose functions are those of an English
county court). The same road is trodden by the prisoners committed for
trial on their way to and from the Conciergerie and the Assize Court.

In the _Salle des Pas-Perdus_, between the door into the first court of
the inferior class and the steps leading to the sixth, the visitor must
observe the first time he goes there a doorway without a door or any
architectural adornment, a square hole of the meanest type. Through this
the judges and barristers find their way into the passages, into the
guardhouse, down into the prison cells, and to the entrance to the

The private chambers of all the examining judges are on different floors
in this part of the building. They are reached by squalid staircases,
a maze in which those to whom the place is unfamiliar inevitably lose
themselves. The windows of some look out on the quay, others on the yard
of the Conciergerie. In 1830 a few of these rooms commanded the Rue de
la Barillerie.

Thus, when a prison van turns to the left in this yard, it has brought
prisoners to be examined to the “mousetrap”; when it turns to the right,
it conveys prisoners committed for trial, to the Conciergerie. Now it
was to the right that the vehicle turned which conveyed Jacques Collin
to set him down at the prison gate. Nothing can be more sinister.
Prisoners and visitors see two barred gates of wrought iron, with a
space between them of about six feet. These are never both opened at
once, and through them everything is so cautiously scrutinized that
persons who have a visiting ticket pass the permit through the bars
before the key grinds in the lock. The examining judges, or even the
supreme judges, are not admitted without being identified. Imagine,
then, the chances of communications or escape!--The governor of the
Conciergerie would smile with an expression on his lips that would
freeze the mere suggestion in the most daring of romancers who defy

In all the annals of the Conciergerie no escape has been known but
that of Lavalette; but the certain fact of august connivance, now amply
proven, if it does not detract from the wife’s devotion, certainly
diminished the risk of failure.

The most ardent lover of the marvelous, judging on the spot of the
nature of the difficulties, must admit that at all times the obstacles
must have been, as they still are, insurmountable. No words can do
justice to the strength of the walls and vaulting; they must be seen.

Though the pavement of the yard is on a lower level than that of the
quay, in crossing this Barbican you go down several steps to enter an
immense vaulted hall, with solid walls graced with magnificent columns.
This hall abuts on the Tour de Montgomery--which is now part of the
governor’s residence--and on the Tour d’Argent, serving as a dormitory
for the warders, or porters, or turnkeys, as you may prefer to call
them. The number of the officials is less than might be supposed; there
are but twenty; their sleeping quarters, like their beds, are in no
respect different from those of the _pistoles_ or private cells. The
name _pistole_ originated, no doubt, in the fact that the prisoners
formerly paid a pistole (about ten francs) a week for this
accommodation, its bareness resembling that of the empty garrets in
which great men in poverty begin their career in Paris.

To the left, in the vast entrance hall, sits the Governor of the
Conciergerie, in a sort of office constructed of glass panes, where
he and his clerk keep the prison-registers. Here the prisoners for
examination, or committed for trial, have their names entered with a
full description, and are then searched. The question of their lodging
is also settled, this depending on the prisoner’s means.

Opposite the entrance to this hall there is a glass door. This opens
into a parlor where the prisoner’s relations and his counsel may speak
with him across a double grating of wood. The parlor window opens on
to the prison yard, the inner court where prisoners committed for trial
take air and exercise at certain fixed hours.

This large hall, only lighted by the doubtful daylight that comes in
through the gates--for the single window to the front court is screened
by the glass office built out in front of it--has an atmosphere and
a gloom that strike the eye in perfect harmony with the pictures that
force themselves on the imagination. Its aspect is all the more sinister
because, parallel with the Tours d’Argent and de Montgomery, you
discover those mysterious vaulted and overwhelming crypts which lead to
the cells occupied by the Queen and Madame Elizabeth, and to those known
as the secret cells. This maze of masonry, after being of old the scene
of royal festivities, is now the basement of the Palais de Justice.

Between 1825 and 1832 the operation of the last toilet was performed in
this enormous hall, between a large stove which heats it and the inner
gate. It is impossible even now to tread without a shudder on the paved
floor that has received the shock and the confidences of so many last

The apparently dying victim on this occasion could not get out of the
horrible vehicle without the assistance of two gendarmes, who took him
under the arms to support him, and led him half unconscious into the
office. Thus dragged along, the dying man raised his eyes to heaven in
such a way as to suggest a resemblance to the Saviour taken down
from the Cross. And certainly in no picture does Jesus present a more
cadaverous or tortured countenance than this of the sham Spaniard; he
looked ready to breathe his last sigh. As soon as he was seated in the
office, he repeated in a weak voice the speech he had made to everybody
since he was arrested:

“I appeal to His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador.”

“You can say that to the examining judge,” replied the Governor.

“Oh Lord!” said Jacques Collin, with a sigh. “But cannot I have a
breviary! Shall I never be allowed to see a doctor? I have not two hours
to live.”

As Carlos Herrera was to be placed in close confinement in the secret
cells, it was needless to ask him whether he claimed the benefits of the
pistole (as above described), that is to say, the right of having one
of the rooms where the prisoner enjoys such comfort as the law permits.
These rooms are on the other side of the prison-yard, of which mention
will presently be made. The sheriff and the clerk calmly carried out the
formalities of the consignment to prison.

“Monsieur,” said Jacques Collin to the Governor in broken French, “I am,
as you see, a dying man. Pray, if you can, tell that examining judge
as soon as possible that I crave as a favor what a criminal must most
dread, namely, to be brought before him as soon as he arrives; for my
sufferings are really unbearable, and as soon as I see him the mistake
will be cleared up----”

As an universal rule every criminal talks of a mistake. Go to the hulks
and question the convicts; they are almost all victims of a miscarriage
of justice. So this speech raises a faint smile in all who come into
contact with the suspected, accused, or condemned criminal.

“I will mention your request to the examining judge,” replied the

“And I shall bless you, monsieur!” replied the false Abbe, raising his
eyes to heaven.

As soon as his name was entered on the calendar, Carlos Herrera,
supported under each arm by a man of the municipal guard, and followed
by a turnkey instructed by the Governor as to the number of the cell in
which the prisoner was to be placed, was led through the subterranean
maze of the Conciergerie into a perfectly wholesome room, whatever
certain philanthropists may say to the contrary, but cut off from all
possible communication with the outer world.

As soon as he was removed, the warders, the Governor, and his clerk
looked at each other as though asking each other’s opinion, and
suspicion was legible on every face; but at the appearance of the second
man in custody the spectators relapsed into their usual doubting
frame of mind, concealed under the air of indifference. Only in very
extraordinary cases do the functionaries of the Conciergerie feel any
curiosity; the prisoners are no more to them than a barber’s customers
are to him. Hence all the formalities which appall the imagination are
carried out with less fuss than a money transaction at a banker’s, and
often with greater civility.

Lucien’s expression was that of a dejected criminal. He submitted to
everything, and obeyed like a machine. All the way from Fontainebleau
the poet had been facing his ruin, and telling himself that the hour of
expiation had tolled. Pale and exhausted, knowing nothing of what had
happened at Esther’s house during his absence, he only knew that he was
the intimate ally of an escaped convict, a situation which enabled him
to guess at disaster worse than death. When his mind could command
a thought, it was that of suicide. He must, at any cost, escape the
ignominy that loomed before him like the phantasm of a dreadful dream.

Jacques Collin, as the more dangerous of the two culprits, was placed
in a cell of solid masonry, deriving its light from one of the narrow
yards, of which there are several in the interior of the Palace, in the
wing where the public prosecutor’s chambers are. This little yard is
the airing-ground for the female prisoners. Lucien was taken to the
same part of the building, to a cell adjoining the rooms let to
misdemeanants; for, by orders from the examining judge, the Governor
treated him with some consideration.

Persons who have never had anything to do with the action of the law
usually have the darkest notions as to the meaning of solitary or secret
confinement. Ideas as to the treatment of criminals have not yet
become disentangled from the old pictures of torture chambers, of the
unhealthiness of a prison, the chill of stone walls sweating tears, the
coarseness of the jailers and of the food--inevitable accessories of
the drama; but it is not unnecessary to explain here that these
exaggerations exist only on the stage, and only make lawyers and judges
smile, as well as those who visit prisons out of curiosity, or who come
to study them.

For a long time, no doubt, they were terrible. In the days of the old
Parlement, of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., the accused were, no doubt,
flung pell-mell into a low room underneath the old gateway. The prisons
were among the crimes of 1789, and it is enough only to see the cells
where the Queen and Madame Elizabeth were incarcerated to conceive a
horror of old judicial proceedings.

In our day, though philanthropy has brought incalculable mischief on
society, it has produced some good for the individual. It is to Napoleon
that we owe our Criminal Code; and this, even more than the Civil
Code--which still urgently needs reform on some points--will remain one
of the greatest monuments of his short reign. This new view of criminal
law put an end to a perfect abyss of misery. Indeed, it may be said
that, apart from the terrible moral torture which men of the better
classes must suffer when they find themselves in the power of the law,
the action of that power is simple and mild to a degree that would
hardly be expected. Suspected or accused criminals are certainly not
lodged as if they were at home; but every necessary is supplied to them
in the prisons of Paris. Besides, the burden of feelings that weighs on
them deprives the details of daily life of their customary value. It
is never the body that suffers. The mind is in such a phase of violence
that every form of discomfort or of brutal treatment, if such there
were, would be easily endured in such a frame of mind. And it must be
admitted that an innocent man is quickly released, especially in Paris.

So Lucien, on entering his cell, saw an exact reproduction of the first
room he had occupied in Paris at the Hotel Cluny. A bed to compare with
those in the worst furnished apartments of the Quartier Latin, straw
chairs with the bottoms out, a table and a few utensils, compose
the furniture of such a room, in which two accused prisoners are not
unfrequently placed together when they are quiet in their ways, and
their misdeeds are not crimes of violence, but such as forgery or

This resemblance between his starting-point, in the days of his
innocency, and his goal, the lowest depths of degradation and sham,
was so direct an appeal to his last chord of poetic feeling, that the
unhappy fellow melted into tears. For four hours he wept, as rigid in
appearance as a figure of stone, but enduring the subversion of all his
hopes, the crushing of all his social vanity, and the utter overthrow
of his pride, smarting in each separate _I_ that exists in an ambitious
man--a lover, a success, a dandy, a Parisian, a poet, a libertine, and a
favorite. Everything in him was broken by this fall as of Icarus.

Carlos Herrera, on the other hand, as soon as he was locked into his
cell and found himself alone, began pacing it to and fro like the polar
bear in his cage. He carefully examined the door and assured himself
that, with the exception of the peephole, there was not a crack in it.
He sounded all the walls, he looked up the funnel down which a dim light
came, and he said to himself, “I am safe enough!”

He sat down in a corner where the eye of a prying warder at the grating
of the peephole could not see him. Then he took off his wig, and hastily
ungummed a piece of paper that did duty as lining. The side of the paper
next his head was so greasy that it looked like the very texture of the
wig. If it had occurred to Bibi-Lupin to snatch off the wig to establish
the identity of the Spaniard with Jacques Collin, he would never have
thought twice about the paper, it looked so exactly like part of the
wigmaker’s work. The other side was still fairly white, and clean enough
to have a few lines written on it. The delicate and tiresome task of
unsticking it had been begun in La Force; two hours would not have been
long enough; it had taken him half of the day before. The prisoner began
by tearing this precious scrap of paper so as to have a strip four or
five lines wide, which he divided into several bits; he then replaced
his store of paper in the same strange hiding-place, after damping the
gummed side so as to make it stick again. He felt in a lock of his hair
for one of those pencil leads as thin as a stout pin, then recently
invented by Susse, and which he had put in with some gum; he broke off
a scrap long enough to write with and small enough to hide in his ear.
Having made these preparations with the rapidity and certainty of hand
peculiar to old convicts, who are as light-fingered as monkeys, Jacques
Collin sat down on the edge of his bed to meditate on his instructions
to Asie, in perfect confidence that he should come across her, so
entirely did he rely on the woman’s genius.

“During the preliminary examination,” he reflected, “I pretended to be a
Spaniard and spoke broken French, appealed to my Ambassador, and alleged
diplomatic privilege, not understanding anything I was asked, the
whole performance varied by fainting, pauses, sighs--in short, all
the vagaries of a dying man. I must stick to that. My papers are all
regular. Asie and I can eat up Monsieur Camusot; he is no great shakes!

“Now I must think of Lucien; he must be made to pull himself together. I
must get at the boy at whatever cost, and show him some plan of conduct,
otherwise he will give himself up, give me up, lose all! He must be
taught his lesson before he is examined. And besides, I must find some
witnesses to swear to my being a priest!”

Such was the position, moral and physical, of these two prisoners, whose
fate at the moment depended on Monsieur Camusot, examining judge to
the Inferior Court of the Seine, and sovereign master, during the time
granted to him by the Code, of the smallest details of their existence,
since he alone could grant leave for them to be visited by the
chaplains, the doctor, or any one else in the world.

No human authority--neither the King, nor the Keeper of the Seals, nor
the Prime Minister, can encroach on the power of an examining judge;
nothing can stop him, no one can control him. He is a monarch,
subject only to his conscience and the Law. At the present time,
when philosophers, philanthropists, and politicians are constantly
endeavoring to reduce every social power, the rights conferred on the
examining judges have become the object of attacks that are all the more
serious because they are almost justified by those rights, which, it
must be owned, are enormous. And yet, as every man of sense will own,
that power ought to remain unimpaired; in certain cases, its exercise
can be mitigated by a strong infusion of caution; but society is already
threatened by the ineptitude and weakness of the jury--which is, in
fact, the really supreme bench, and which ought to be composed only of
choice and elected men--and it would be in danger of ruin if this pillar
were broken which now upholds our criminal procedure.

Arrest on suspicion is one of the terrible but necessary powers of which
the risk to society is counterbalanced by its immense importance. And
besides, distrust of the magistracy in general is a beginning of social
dissolution. Destroy that institution, and reconstruct it on another
basis; insist--as was the case before the Revolution--that judges should
show a large guarantee of fortune; but, at any cost, believe in it! Do
not make it an image of society to be insulted!

In these days a judge, paid as a functionary, and generally a poor man,
has in the place of his dignity of old a haughtiness of demeanor that
seems odious to the men raised to be his equals; for haughtiness is
dignity without a solid basis. That is the vicious element in the
present system. If France were divided into ten circuits, the magistracy
might be reinstated by conferring its dignities on men of fortune; but
with six-and-twenty circuits this is impossible.

The only real improvement to be insisted on in the exercise of the power
intrusted to the examining judge, is an alteration in the conditions of
preliminary imprisonment. The mere fact of suspicion ought to make no
difference in the habits of life of the suspected parties. Houses of
detention for them ought to be constructed in Paris, furnished and
arranged in such a way as greatly to modify the feeling of the public
with regard to suspected persons. The law is good, and is necessary; its
application is in fault, and public feeling judges the laws from the
way in which they are carried out. And public opinion in France
condemns persons under suspicion, while, by an inexplicable reaction, it
justifies those committed for trial. This, perhaps, is a result of the
essentially refractory nature of the French.

This illogical temper of the Parisian people was one of the factors
which contributed to the climax of this drama; nay, as may be seen, it
was one of the most important.

To enter into the secret of the terrible scenes which are acted out in
the examining judge’s chambers; to understand the respective positions
of the two belligerent powers, the Law and the examinee, the object
of whose contest is a certain secret kept by the prisoner from the
inquisition of the magistrate--well named in prison slang, “the curious
man”--it must always be remembered that persons imprisoned under
suspicion know nothing of what is being said by the seven or eight
publics that compose _the Public_, nothing of how much the police know,
or the authorities, or the little that newspapers can publish as to the
circumstances of the crime.

Thus, to give a man in custody such information as Jacques Collin had
just received from Asie as to Lucien’s arrest, is throwing a rope to
a drowning man. As will be seen, in consequence of this ignorance, a
stratagem which, without this warning, must certainly have been equally
fatal to the convict, was doomed to failure.

Monsieur Camusot, the son-in-law of one of the clerks of the cabinet,
too well known for any account of his position and connection to be
necessary here, was at this moment almost as much perplexed as Carlos
Herrera in view of the examination he was to conduct. He had formerly
been President of a Court of the Paris circuit; he had been raised from
that position and called to be a judge in Paris--one of the most coveted
posts in the magistracy--by the influence of the celebrated Duchesse
de Maufrigneuse, whose husband, attached to the Dauphin’s person, and
Colonel of a cavalry regiment of the Guards, was as much in favor with
the King as she was with MADAME. In return for a very small service
which he had done the Duchess--an important matter to her--on occasion
of a charge of forgery brought against the young Comte d’Esgrignon by a
banker of Alencon (see _La Cabinet des Antiques_; _Scenes de la vie
de Province_), he was promoted from being a provincial judge to be
president of his Court, and from being president to being an examining
judge in Paris.

For eighteen months now he had sat on the most important Bench in the
kingdom; and had once, at the desire of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse,
had an opportunity of forwarding the ends of a lady not less influential
than the Duchess, namely, the Marquise d’Espard, but he had failed. (See
the _Commission in Lunacy_.)

Lucien, as was told at the beginning of the Scene, to be revenged on
Madame d’Espard, who aimed at depriving her husband of his liberty of
action, was able to put the true facts before the Public Prosecutor and
the Comte de Serizy. These two important authorities being thus won over
to the Marquis d’Espard’s party, his wife had barely escaped the censure
of the Bench by her husband’s generous intervention.

On hearing, yesterday, of Lucien’s arrest, the Marquise d’Espard had
sent her brother-in-law, the Chevalier d’Espard, to see Madame Camusot.
Madame Camusot had set off forthwith to call on the notorious Marquise.
Just before dinner, on her return home, she had called her husband aside
in the bedroom.

“If you can commit that little fop Lucien de Rubempre for trial, and
secure his condemnation,” said she in his ear, “you will be Councillor
to the Supreme Court----”


“Madame d’Espard longs to see that poor young man guillotined. I
shivered as I heard what a pretty woman’s hatred can be!”

“Do not meddle in questions of the law,” said Camusot.

“I! meddle!” said she. “If a third person could have heard us, he could
not have guessed what we were talking about. The Marquise and I were as
exquisitely hypocritical to each other as you are to me at this moment.
She began by thanking me for your good offices in her suit, saying
that she was grateful in spite of its having failed. She spoke of the
terrible functions devolved on you by the law, ‘It is fearful to have to
send a man to the scaffold--but as to that man, it would be no more than
justice,’ and so forth. Then she lamented that such a handsome young
fellow, brought to Paris by her cousin, Madame du Chatelet, should have
turned out so badly. ‘That,’ said she, ‘is what bad women like Coralie
and Esther bring young men to when they are corrupt enough to share
their disgraceful profits!’ Next came some fine speeches about charity
and religion! Madame du Chatelet had said that Lucien deserved a
thousand deaths for having half killed his mother and his sister.

“Then she spoke of a vacancy in the Supreme Court--she knows the
Keeper of the Seals. ‘Your husband, madame, has a fine opportunity of
distinguishing himself,’ she said in conclusion--and that is all.”

“We distinguish ourselves every day when we do our duty,” said Camusot.

“You will go far if you are always the lawyer even to your wife,” cried
Madame Camusot. “Well, I used to think you a goose. Now I admire you.”

The lawyer’s lips wore one of those smiles which are as peculiar to them
as dancers’ smiles are to dancers.

“Madame, can I come in?” said the maid.

“What is it?” said her mistress.

“Madame, the head lady’s-maid came from the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse
while you were out, and she will be obliged if you would go at once to
the Hotel de Cadignan.”

“Keep dinner back,” said the lawyer’s wife, remembering that the driver
of the hackney coach that had brought her home was waiting to be paid.

She put her bonnet on again, got into the coach, and in twenty minutes
was at the Hotel de Cadignan. Madame Camusot was led up the private
stairs, and sat alone for ten minutes in a boudoir adjoining the
Duchess’ bedroom. The Duchess presently appeared, splendidly dressed,
for she was starting for Saint-Cloud in obedience to a Royal invitation.

“Between you and me, my dear, a few words are enough.”

“Yes, Madame la Duchesse.”

“Lucien de Rubempre is in custody, your husband is conducting the
inquiry; I will answer for the poor boy’s innocence; see that he is
released within twenty-four hours.--This is not all. Some one will ask
to-morrow to see Lucien in private in his cell; your husband may be
present if he chooses, so long as he is not discovered. The King looks
for high courage in his magistrates in the difficult position in which
he will presently find himself; I will bring your husband forward, and
recommend him as a man devoted to the King even at the risk of his
head. Our friend Camusot will be made first a councillor, and then the
President of Court somewhere or other.--Good-bye.--I am under orders,
you will excuse me, I know?

“You will not only oblige the public prosecutor, who cannot give an
opinion in this affair; you will save the life of a dying woman, Madame
de Serizy. So you will not lack support.

“In short, you see, I put my trust in you, I need not say--you know----”

She laid a finger to her lips and disappeared.

“And I had not a chance of telling her that Madame d’Espard wants to see
Lucien on the scaffold!” thought the judge’s wife as she returned to her
hackney cab.

She got home in such a state of anxiety that her husband, on seeing her,

“What is the matter, Amelie?”

“We stand between two fires.”

She told her husband of her interview with the Duchess, speaking in his
ear for fear the maid should be listening at the door.

“Now, which of them has the most power?” she said in conclusion. “The
Marquise was very near getting you into trouble in the silly business of
the commission on her husband, and we owe everything to the Duchess.

“One made vague promises, while the other tells you you shall first be
Councillor and then President.--Heaven forbid I should advise you; I
will never meddle in matters of business; still, I am bound to repeat
exactly what is said at Court and what goes on----”

“But, Amelie, you do not know what the Prefet of police sent me this
morning, and by whom? By one of the most important agents of the
superior police, the Bibi-Lupin of politics, who told me that the
Government had a secret interest in this trial.--Now let us dine and go
to the Varietes. We will talk all this over to-night in my private room,
for I shall need your intelligence; that of a judge may not perhaps be

Nine magistrates out of ten would deny the influence of the wife over
her husband in such cases; but though this may be a remarkable exception
in society, it may be insisted on as true, even if improbable. The
magistrate is like the priest, especially in Paris, where the best of
the profession are to be found; he rarely speaks of his business in
the Courts, excepting of settled cases. Not only do magistrates’
wives affect to know nothing; they have enough sense of propriety to
understand that it would damage their husbands if, when they are told
some secret, they allowed their knowledge to be suspected.

Nevertheless, on some great occasions, when promotion depends on the
decision taken, many a wife, like Amelie, has helped the lawyer in his
study of a case. And, after all, these exceptions, which, of course, are
easily denied, since they remain unknown, depend entirely on the way in
which the struggle between two natures has worked out in home-life. Now,
Madame Camusot controlled her husband completely.

When all in the house were asleep, the lawyer and his wife sat down to
the desk, where the magistrate had already laid out the documents in the

“Here are the notes, forwarded to me, at my request, by the Prefet of
police,” said Camusot.

                 “_The Abbe Carlos Herrera_.

  “This individual is undoubtedly the man named Jacques Collin,
  known as _Trompe-la-Mort_, who was last arrested in 1819, in the
  dwelling-house of a certain Madame Vauquer, who kept a common
  boarding-house in the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Genevieve, where he lived
  in concealment under the alias of Vautrin.”

A marginal note in the Prefet’s handwriting ran thus:

  “Orders have been sent by telegraph to Bibi-Lupin, chief of the
  Safety department, to return forthwith, to be confronted with the
  prisoner, as he is personally acquainted with Jacques Collin, whom
  he, in fact, arrested in 1819 with the connivance of a
  Mademoiselle Michonneau.

  “The boarders who then lived in the Maison Vauquer are still
  living, and may be called to establish his identity.

  “The self-styled Carlos Herrera is Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre’s
  intimate friend and adviser, and for three years past has
  furnished him with considerable sums, evidently obtained by
  dishonest means.

  “This partnership, if the identity of the Spaniard with Jacques
  Collin can be proved, must involve the condemnation of Lucien de

  “The sudden death of Peyrade, the police agent, is attributable to
  poison administered at the instigation of Jacques Collin,
  Rubempre, or their accomplices. The reason for this murder is the
  fact that justice had for a long time been on the traces of these
  clever criminals.”

And again, on the margin, the magistrate pointed to this note written by
the Prefet himself:

  “This is the fact to my personal knowledge; and I also know that
  the Sieur Lucien de Rubempre has disgracefully tricked the Comte
  de Serizy and the Public Prosecutor.”

“What do you say to this, Amelie?”

“It is frightful!” repled his wife. “Go on.”

“The transformation of the convict Jacques Collin into a Spanish priest
is the result of some crime more clever than that by which Coignard made
himself Comte de Sainte-Helene.”

                    “_Lucien de Rubempre_.

  “Lucien Chardon, son of an apothecary at Angouleme--his mother a
  Demoiselle de Rubempre--bears the name of Rubempre in virtue of a
  royal patent. This was granted by the request of Madame la
  Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Monsieur le Comte de Serizy.

  “This young man came to Paris in 182... without any means of
  subsistence, following Madame la Comtesse Sixte du Chatelet, then
  Madame de Bargeton, a cousin of Madame d’Espard’s.

  “He was ungrateful to Madame de Bargeton, and cohabited with a
  girl named Coralie, an actress at the Gymnase, now dead, who left
  Monsieur Camusot, a silk mercer in the Rue des Bourdonnais, to
  live with Rubempre.

  “Ere long, having sunk into poverty through the insufficiency of
  the money allowed him by this actress, he seriously compromised
  his brother-in-law, a highly respected printer of Angouleme, by
  giving forged bills, for which David Sechard was arrested, during
  a short visit paid to Angouleme by Lucien. In consequence of this
  affair Rubempre fled, but suddenly reappeared in Paris with the
  Abbe Carlos Herrera.

  “Though having no visible means of subsistence, the said Lucien de
  Rubempre spent on an average three hundred thousand francs during
  the three years of his second residence in Paris, and can only
  have obtained the money from the self-styled Abbe Carlos Herrera
  --but how did he come by it?

  “He has recently laid out above a million francs in repurchasing
  the Rubempre estates to fulfil the conditions on which he was to
  be allowed to marry Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu. This
  marriage has been broken off in consequence of inquiries made by
  the Grandlieu family, the said Lucien having told them that he had
  obtained the money from his brother-in-law and his sister; but the
  information obtained, more especially by Monsieur Derville,
  attorney-at-law, proves that not only were that worthy couple
  ignorant of his having made this purchase, but that they believed
  the said Lucien to be deeply in debt.

  “Moreover, the property inherited by the Sechards consists of
  houses; and the ready money, by their affidavit, amounted to about
  two hundred thousand francs.

  “Lucien was secretly cohabiting with Esther Gobseck; hence there
  can be no doubt that all the lavish gifts of the Baron de
  Nucingen, the girl’s protector, were handed over to the said

  “Lucien and his companion, the convict, have succeeded in keeping
  their footing in the face of the world longer than Coignard did,
  deriving their income from the prostitution of the said Esther,
  formerly on the register of the town.”

Though these notes are to a great extent a repetition of the story
already told, it was necessary to reproduce them to show the part
played by the police in Paris. As has already been seen from the note on
Peyrade, the police has summaries, almost invariably correct, concerning
every family or individual whose life is under suspicion, or whose
actions are of a doubtful character. It knows every circumstance of
their delinquencies. This universal register and account of consciences
is as accurately kept as the register of the Bank of France and its
accounts of fortunes. Just as the Bank notes the slightest delay in
payment, gauges every credit, takes stock of every capitalist, and
watches their proceedings, so does the police weigh and measure the
honesty of each citizen. With it, as in a Court of Law, innocence has
nothing to fear; it has no hold on anything but crime.

However high the rank of a family, it cannot evade this social

And its discretion is equal to the extent of its power. This vast
mass of written evidence compiled by the police--reports, notes, and
summaries--an ocean of information, sleeps undisturbed, as deep and
calm as the sea. Some accident occurs, some crime or misdemeanor becomes
aggressive,--then the law refers to the police, and immediately, if any
documents bear on the suspected criminal, the judge is informed. These
records, an analysis of his antecedents, are merely side-lights, and
unknown beyond the walls of the Palais de Justice. No legal use can be
made of them; Justice is informed by them, and takes advantage of them;
but that is all. These documents form, as it were, the inner lining
of the tissue of crimes, their first cause, which is hardly ever made
public. No jury would accept it; and the whole country would rise up
in wrath if excerpts from those documents came out in the trial at the
Assizes. In fact, it is the truth which is doomed to remain in the well,
as it is everywhere and at all times. There is not a magistrate who,
after twelve years’ experience in Paris, is not fully aware that the
Assize Court and the police authorities keep the secret of half these
squalid atrocities, or who does not admit that half the crimes that are
committed are never punished by the law.

If the public could know how reserved the _employes_ of the police
are--who do not forget--they would reverence these honest men as much as
they do Cheverus. The police is supposed to be astute, Machiavellian; it
is, in fact most benign. But it hears every passion in its paroxysms, it
listens to every kind of treachery, and keeps notes of all. The police
is terrible on one side only. What it does for justice it does no less
for political interests; but in these it is as ruthless and as one-sided
as the fires of the Inquisition.

“Put this aside,” said the lawyer, replacing the notes in their cover;
“this is a secret between the police and the law. The judge will
estimate its value, but Monsieur and Madame Camusot must know nothing of

“As if I needed telling that!” said his wife.

“Lucien is guilty,” he went on; “but of what?”

“A man who is the favorite of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, of the
Comtesse de Serizy, and loved by Clotilde de Grandlieu, is not guilty,”
 said Amelie. “The other _must_ be answerable for everything.”

“But Lucien is his accomplice,” cried Camusot.

“Take my advice,” said Amelie. “Restore this priest to the diplomatic
career he so greatly adorns, exculpate this little wretch, and find some
other criminal----”

“How you run on!” said the magistrate with a smile. “Women go to the
point, plunging through the law as birds fly through the air, and find
nothing to stop them.”

“But,” said Amelie, “whether he is a diplomate or a convict, the Abbe
Carlos will find some one to get him out of the scrape.”

“I am only a considering cap; you are the brain,” said Camusot.

“Well, the sitting is closed; give your Melie a kiss; it is one

And Madame Camusot went to bed, leaving her husband to arrange his
papers and his ideas in preparation for the task of examining the two
prisoners next morning.

And thus, while the prison vans were conveying Jacques Collin and Lucien
to the Conciergerie, the examining judge, having breakfasted, was
making his way across Paris on foot, after the unpretentious fashion of
Parisian magistrates, to go to his chambers, where all the documents in
the case were laid ready for him.

This was the way of it: Every examining judge has a head-clerk, a sort
of sworn legal secretary--a race that perpetuates itself without any
premiums or encouragement, producing a number of excellent souls in whom
secrecy is natural and incorruptible. From the origin of the Parlement
to the present day, no case has ever been known at the Palais de Justice
of any gossip or indiscretion on the part of a clerk bound to the
Courts of Inquiry. Gentil sold the release given by Louise de Savoie to
Semblancay; a War Office clerk sold the plan of the Russian campaign to
Czernitchef; and these traitors were more or less rich. The prospect of
a post in the Palais and professional conscientiousness are enough to
make a judge’s clerk a successful rival of the tomb--for the tomb has
betrayed many secrets since chemistry has made such progress.

This official is, in fact, the magistrate’s pen. It will be understood
by many readers that a man may gladly be the shaft of a machine,
while they wonder why he is content to remain a bolt; still a bolt is
content--perhaps the machinery terrifies him.

Camusot’s clerk, a young man of two-and-twenty, named Coquart, had come
in the morning to fetch all the documents and the judge’s notes, and
laid everything ready in his chambers, while the lawyer himself was
wandering along the quays, looking at the curiosities in the shops, and
wondering within himself:--

“How on earth am I to set to work with such a clever rascal as this
Jacques Collin, supposing it is he? The head of the Safety will know
him. I must look as if I knew what I was about, if only for the sake of
the police! I see so many insuperable difficulties, that the best plan
would be to enlighten the Marquise and the Duchess by showing them the
notes of the police, and I should avenge my father, from whom Lucien
stole Coralie.--If I can unveil these scoundrels, my skill will
be loudly proclaimed, and Lucien will soon be thrown over by his
friends.--Well, well, the examination will settle all that.”

He turned into a curiosity shop, tempted by a Boule clock.

“Not to be false to my conscience, and yet to oblige two great
ladies--that will be a triumph of skill,” thought he. “What, do you
collect coins too, monsieur?” said Camusot to the Public Prosecutor,
whom he found in the shop.

“It is a taste dear to all dispensers of justice,” said the Comte de
Granville, laughing. “They look at the reverse side of every medal.”

And after looking about the shop for some minutes, as if continuing his
search, he accompanied Camusot on his way down the quay without it ever
occurring to Camusot that anything but chance had brought them together.

“You are examining Monsieur de Rubempre this morning,” said the Public
Prosecutor. “Poor fellow--I liked him.”

“There are several charges against him,” said Camusot.

“Yes, I saw the police papers; but some of the information came from an
agent who is independent of the Prefet, the notorious Corentin, who had
caused the death of more innocent men than you will ever send guilty men
to the scaffold, and----But that rascal is out of your reach.--Without
trying to influence the conscience of such a magistrate as you are, I
may point out to you that if you could be perfectly sure that Lucien was
ignorant of the contents of that woman’s will, it would be self-evident
that he had no interest in her death, for she gave him enormous sums of

“We can prove his absence at the time when this Esther was poisoned,”
 said Camusot. “He was at Fontainebleau, on the watch for Mademoiselle de
Grandlieu and the Duchesse de Lenoncourt.”

“And he still cherished such hopes of marrying Mademoiselle de
Grandlieu,” said the Public Prosecutor--“I have it from the Duchesse
de Grandlieu herself--that it is inconceivable that such a clever young
fellow should compromise his chances by a perfectly aimless crime.”

“Yes,” said Camusot, “especially if Esther gave him all she got.”

“Derville and Nucingen both say that she died in ignorance of the
inheritance she had long since come into,” added Granville.

“But then what do you suppose is the meaning of it all?” asked Camusot.
“For there is something at the bottom of it.”

“A crime committed by some servant,” said the Public Prosecutor.

“Unfortunately,” remarked Camusot, “it would be quite like Jacques
Collin--for the Spanish priest is certainly none other than that
escaped convict--to have taken possession of the seven hundred and fifty
thousand francs derived from the sale of the certificate of shares given
to Esther by Nucingen.”

“Weigh everything with care, my dear Camusot. Be prudent. The Abbe
Carlos Herrera has diplomatic connections; still, an envoy who had
committed a crime would not be sheltered by his position. Is he or is he
not the Abbe Carlos Herrera? That is the important question.”

And Monsieur de Granville bowed, and turned away, as requiring no

“So he too wants to save Lucien!” thought Camusot, going on by the Quai
des Lunettes, while the Public Prosecutor entered the Palais through the
Cour de Harlay.

On reaching the courtyard of the Conciergerie, Camusot went to the
Governor’s room and led him into the middle of the pavement, where no
one could overhear them.

“My dear sir, do me the favor of going to La Force, and inquiring of
your colleague there whether he happens at this moment to have there any
convicts who were on the hulks at Toulon between 1810 and 1815; or have
you any imprisoned here? We will transfer those of La Force here for a
few days, and you will let me know whether this so-called Spanish priest
is known to them as Jacques Collin, otherwise _Trompe-la-Mort_.”

“Very good, Monsieur Camusot.--But Bibi-Lupin is come...”

“What, already?” said the judge.

“He was at Melun. He was told that _Trompe-la-Mort_ had to be
identified, and he smiled with joy. He awaits your orders.”

“Send him to me.”

The Governor was then able to lay before Monsieur Camusot Jacques
Collin’s request, and he described the man’s deplorable condition.

“I intended to examine him first,” replied the magistrate, “but not on
account of his health. I received a note this morning from the Governor
of La Force. Well, this rascal, who described himself to you as having
been dying for twenty-four hours past, slept so soundly that they went
into his cell there, with the doctor for whom the Governor had sent,
without his hearing them; the doctor did not even feel his pulse, he
left him to sleep--which proves that his conscience is as tough as his
health. I shall accept this feigned illness only so far as it may enable
me to study my man,” added Monsieur Camusot, smiling.

“We live to learn every day with these various grades of prisoners,”
 said the Governor of the prison.

The Prefecture of police adjoins the Conciergerie, and the magistrates,
like the Governor, knowing all the subterranean passages, can get to and
fro with the greatest rapidity. This explains the miraculous ease with
which information can be conveyed, during the sitting of the Courts, to
the officials and the presidents of the Assize Courts. And by the
time Monsieur Camusot had reached the top of the stairs leading to
his chambers, Bibi-Lupin was there too, having come by the _Salle des

“What zeal!” said Camusot, with a smile.

“Ah, well, you see if it is _he_,” replied the man, “you will see great
fun in the prison-yard if by chance there are any old stagers here.”


“_Trompe-la-Mort_ sneaked their chips, and I know that they have vowed
to be the death of him.”

_They_ were the convicts whose money, intrusted to _Trompe-la-Mort_, had
all been made away with by him for Lucien, as has been told.

“Could you lay your hand on the witnesses of his former arrest?”

“Give me two summonses of witnesses and I will find you some to-day.”

“Coquart,” said the lawyer, as he took off his gloves, and placed
his hat and stick in a corner, “fill up two summonses by monsieur’s

He looked at himself in the glass over the chimney shelf, where stood,
in the place of a clock, a basin and jug. On one side was a bottle of
water and a glass, on the other a lamp. He rang the bell; his usher came
in a few minutes after.

“Is anybody here for me yet?” he asked the man, whose business it was to
receive the witnesses, to verify their summons, and to set them in the
order of their arrival.

“Yes, sir.”

“Take their names, and bring me the list.”

The examining judges, to save time, are often obliged to carry on
several inquiries at once. Hence the long waiting inflicted on the
witnesses, who have seats in the ushers’ hall, where the judges’ bells
are constantly ringing.

“And then,” Camusot went on, “bring up the Abbe Carlos Herrera.”

“Ah, ha! I was told that he was a priest in Spanish. Pooh! It is a
new edition of Collet, Monsieur Camusot,” said the head of the Safety

“There is nothing new!” replied Camusot.

And he signed the two formidable documents which alarm everybody, even
the most innocent witnesses, whom the law thus requires to appear, under
severe penalties in case of failure.

By this time Jacques Collin had, about half an hour since, finished his
deep meditations, and was armed for the fray. Nothing is more perfectly
characteristic of this type of the mob in rebellion against the law than
the few words he had written on the greasy scraps of paper.

The sense of the first--for it was written in the language, the very
slang of slang, agreed upon by Asie and himself, a cipher of words--was
as follows:--

  “Go to the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse or Madame de Serizy: one of
  them must see Lucien before he is examined, and give him the
  enclosed paper to read. Then find Europe and Paccard; those two
  thieves must be at my orders, and ready to play any part I may
  set them.

  “Go to Rastignac; tell him, from the man he met at the opera-ball,
  to come and swear that the Abbe Carlos Herrera has no resemblance
  to Jacques Collin who was apprehended at Vauquer’s. Do the same
  with Dr. Bianchon, and get Lucien’s two women to work to the same

On the enclosed fragment were these words in good French:

  “Lucien, confess nothing about me. I am the Abbe Carlos Herrera.
  Not only will this be your exculpation; but, if you do not lose
  your head, you will have seven millions and your honor cleared.”

These two bits of paper, gummed on the side of the writing so as to look
like one piece, were then rolled tightly, with a dexterity peculiar to
men who have dreamed of getting free from the hulks. The whole thing
assumed the shape and consistency of a ball of dirty rubbish, about as
big as the sealing-wax heads which thrifty women stick on the head of a
large needle when the eye is broken.

“If I am examined first, we are saved; if it is the boy, all is lost,”
 said he to himself while he waited.

His plight was so sore that the strong man’s face was wet with white
sweat. Indeed, this wonderful man saw as clearly in his sphere of crime
as Moliere did in his sphere of dramatic poetry, or Cuvier in that of
extinct organisms. Genius of whatever kind is intuition. Below this
highest manifestation other remarkable achievements may be due to
talent. This is what divides men of the first rank from those of the

Crime has its men of genius. Jacques Collin, driven to bay, had hit
on the same notion as Madame Camusot’s ambition and Madame de Serizy’s
passion, suddenly revived by the shock of the dreadful disaster which
was overwhelming Lucien. This was the supreme effort of human intellect
directed against the steel armor of Justice.

On hearing the rasping of the heavy locks and bolts of his door, Jacques
Collin resumed his mask of a dying man; he was helped in this by the
intoxicating joy that he felt at the sound of the warder’s shoes in the
passage. He had no idea how Asie would get near him; but he relied
on meeting her on the way, especially after her promise given in the
Saint-Jean gateway.

After that fortunate achievement she had gone on to the Place de Greve.

Till 1830 the name of La Greve (the Strand) had a meaning that is now
lost. Every part of the river-shore from the Pont d’Arcole to the Pont
Louis-Philippe was then as nature had made it, excepting the paved way
which was at the top of the bank. When the river was in flood a boat
could pass close under the houses and at the end of the streets running
down to the river. On the quay the footpath was for the most part raised
with a few steps; and when the river was up to the houses, vehicles had
to pass along the horrible Rue de la Mortellerie, which has now been
completely removed to make room for enlarging the Hotel de Ville.

So the sham costermonger could easily and quickly run her truck down to
the bottom of the quay, and hide it there till the real owner--who was,
in fact, drinking the price of her wares, sold bodily to Asie, in one
of the abominable taverns in the Rue de la Mortellerie--should return
to claim it. At that time the Quai Pelletier was being extended, the
entrance to the works was guarded by a crippled soldier, and the barrow
would be quite safe in his keeping.

Asie then jumped into a hackney cab on the Place de l’Hotel de Ville,
and said to the driver, “To the Temple, and look sharp, I’ll tip you

A woman dressed like Asie could disappear, without any questions
being asked, in the huge market-place, where all the rags in Paris are
gathered together, where a thousand costermongers wander round, and two
hundred old-clothes sellers are chaffering.

The two prisoners had hardly been locked up when she was dressing
herself in a low, damp entresol over one of those foul shops where
remnants are sold, pieces stolen by tailors and dressmakers--an
establishment kept by an old maid known as La Romette, from her
Christian name Jeromette. La Romette was to the “purchasers of
wardrobes” what these women are to the better class of so-called ladies
in difficulties--Madame la Ressource, that is to say, money-lenders at a
hundred per cent.

“Now, child,” said Asie, “I have got to be figged out. I must be a
Baroness of the Faubourg Saint-Germain at the very least. And sharp’s
the word, for my feet are in hot oil. You know what gowns suit me.
Hand up the rouge-pot, find me some first-class bits of lace, and the
swaggerest jewelry you can pick out.--Send the girl to call a coach, and
have it brought to the back door.”

“Yes, madame,” the woman replied very humbly, and with the eagerness of
a maid waiting on her mistress.

If there had been any one to witness the scene, he would have understood
that the woman known as Asie was at home here.

“I have had some diamonds offered me,” said la Romette as she dressed
Asie’s head.


“I should think so.”

“Well, then, however cheap they may be, we must do without ‘em. We must
fight shy of the beak for a long time to come.”

It will now be understood how Asie contrived to be in the _Salle des
Pas-Perdus_ of the Palais de Justice with a summons in her hand, asking
her way along the passages and stairs leading to the examining judge’s
chambers, and inquiring for Monsieur Camusot, about a quarter of an hour
before that gentleman’s arrival.

Asie was not recognizable. After washing off her “make-up” as an old
woman, like an actress, she applied rouge and pearl powder, and covered
her head with a well-made fair wig. Dressed exactly as a lady of the
Faubourg Saint-Germain might be if in search of a dog she had lost, she
looked about forty, for she shrouded her features under a splendid black
lace veil. A pair of stays, severely laced, disguised her cook’s figure.
With very good gloves and a rather large bustle, she exhaled the perfume
of powder a la Marechale. Playing with a bag mounted in gold, she
divided her attention between the walls of the building, where she found
herself evidently for the first time, and the string by which she led
a dainty little spaniel. Such a dowager could not fail to attract the
notice of the black-robed natives of the _Salle des Pas-Perdus_.

Besides the briefless lawyers who sweep this hall with their gowns,
and speak of the leading advocates by their Christian names, as fine
gentlemen address each other, to produce the impression that they are
of the aristocracy of the law, patient youths are often to be seen,
hangers-on of the attorneys, waiting, waiting, in hope of a case put
down for the end of the day, which they may be so lucky as to be called
to plead if the advocates retained for the earlier cases should not come
out in time.

A very curious study would be that of the differences between these
various black gowns, pacing the immense hall in threes, or sometimes
in fours, their persistent talk filling the place with a loud, echoing
hum--a hall well named indeed, for this slow walk exhausts the lawyers
as much as the waste of words. But such a study has its place in the
volumes destined to reveal the life of Paris pleaders.

Asie had counted on the presence of these youths; she laughed in her
sleeve at some of the pleasantries she overheard, and finally succeeded
in attracting the attention of Massol, a young lawyer whose time was
more taken up by the _Police Gazette_ than by clients, and who came up
with a laugh to place himself at the service of a woman so elegantly
scented and so handsomely dressed.

Asie put on a little, thin voice to explain to this obliging gentleman
that she appeared in answer to a summons from a judge named Camusot.

“Oh! in the Rubempre case?”

So the affair had its name already.

“Oh, it is not my affair. It is my maid’s, a girl named Europe, who was
with me twenty-four hours, and who fled when she saw my servant bring in
a piece of stamped paper.”

Then, like any old woman who spends her life gossiping in the
chimney-corner, prompted by Massol, she poured out the story of her woes
with her first husband, one of the three Directors of the land revenue.
She consulted the young lawyer as to whether she would do well to enter
on a lawsuit with her son-in-law, the Comte de Gross-Narp, who made her
daughter very miserable, and whether the law allowed her to dispose of
her fortune.

In spite of all his efforts, Massol could not be sure whether the
summons were addressed to the mistress or the maid. At the first moment
he had only glanced at this legal document of the most familiar aspect;
for, to save time, it is printed, and the magistrates’ clerks have only
to fill in the blanks left for the names and addresses of the witnesses,
the hour for which they are called, and so forth.

Asie made him tell her all about the Palais, which she knew more
intimately than the lawyer did. Finally, she inquired at what hour
Monsieur Camusot would arrive.

“Well, the examining judges generally are here by about ten o’clock.”

“It is now a quarter to ten,” said she, looking at a pretty little
watch, a perfect gem of goldsmith’s work, which made Massol say to

“Where the devil will Fortune make herself at home next!”

At this moment Asie had come to the dark hall looking out on the yard of
the Conciergerie, where the ushers wait. On seeing the gate through the
window, she exclaimed:

“What are those high walls?”

“That is the Conciergerie.”

“Oh! so that is the Conciergerie where our poor queen----Oh! I should so
like to see her cell!”

“Impossible, Madame la Baronne,” replied the young lawyer, on whose
arm the dowager was now leaning. “A permit is indispensable, and very
difficult to procure.”

“I have been told,” she went on, “that Louis XVIII. himself composed the
inscription that is to be seen in Marie-Antoinette’s cell.”

“Yes, Madame la Baronne.”

“How much I should like to know Latin that I might study the words of
that inscription!” said she. “Do you think that Monsieur Camusot could
give me a permit?”

“That is not in his power; but he could take you there.”

“But his business----” objected she.

“Oh!” said Massol, “prisoners under suspicion can wait.”

“To be sure,” said she artlessly, “they are under suspicion.--But I know
Monsieur de Granville, your public prosecutor----”

This hint had a magical effect on the ushers and the young lawyer.

“Ah, you know Monsieur de Granville?” said Massol, who was inclined to
ask the client thus sent to him by chance her name and address.

“I often see him at my friend Monsieur de Serizy’s house. Madame de
Serizy is a connection of mine through the Ronquerolles.”

“Well, if Madame wishes to go down to the Conciergerie,” said an usher,

“Yes,” said Massol.

So the Baroness and the lawyer were allowed to pass, and they presently
found themselves in the little guard-room at the top of the stairs
leading to the “mousetrap,” a spot well known to Asie, forming, as has
been said, a post of observation between those cells and the Court of
the Sixth Chamber, through which everybody is obliged to pass.

“Will you ask if Monsieur Camusot is come yet?” said she, seeing some
gendarmes playing cards.

“Yes, madame, he has just come up from the ‘mousetrap.’”

“The mousetrap!” said she. “What is that?--Oh! how stupid of me not to
have gone straight to the Comte de Granville.--But I have not time
now. Pray take me to speak to Monsieur Camusot before he is otherwise

“Oh, you have plenty of time for seeing Monsieur Camusot,” said Massol.
“If you send him in your card, he will spare you the discomfort of
waiting in the ante-room with the witnesses.--We can be civil here to
ladies like you.--You have a card about you?”

At this instant Asie and her lawyer were exactly in front of the window
of the guardroom whence the gendarmes could observe the gate of the
Conciergerie. The gendarmes, brought up to respect the defenders of the
widow and the orphan, were aware too of the prerogative of the gown,
and for a few minutes allowed the Baroness to remain there escorted by
a pleader. Asie listened to the terrible tales which a young lawyer is
ready to tell about that prison-gate. She would not believe that those
who were condemned to death were prepared for the scaffold behind those
bars; but the sergeant-at-arms assured her it was so.

“How much I should like to see it done!” cried she.

And there she remained, prattling to the lawyer and the sergeant, till
she saw Jacques Collin come out supported by two gendarmes, and preceded
by Monsieur Camusot’s clerk.

“Ah, there is a chaplain no doubt going to prepare a poor wretch----”

“Not at all, Madame la Baronne,” said the gendarme. “He is a prisoner
coming to be examined.”

“What is he accused of?”

“He is concerned in this poisoning case.”

“Oh! I should like to see him.”

“You cannot stay here,” said the sergeant, “for he is under close
arrest, and he must pass through here. You see, madame, that door leads
to the stairs----”

“Oh! thank you!” cried the Baroness, making for the door, to rush down
the stairs, where she at once shrieked out, “Oh! where am I?”

This cry reached the ear of Jacques Collin, who was thus prepared to
see her. The sergeant flew after Madame la Baronne, seized her by the
middle, and lifted her back like a feather into the midst of a group
of five gendarmes, who started up as one man; for in that guardroom
everything is regarded as suspicious. The proceeding was arbitrary, but
the arbitrariness was necessary. The young lawyer himself had cried
out twice, “Madame! madame!” in his horror, so much did he fear finding
himself in the wrong.

The Abbe Carlos Herrera, half fainting, sank on a chair in the

“Poor man!” said the Baroness. “Can he be a criminal?”

The words, though spoken low to the young advocate, could be heard
by all, for the silence of death reigned in that terrible guardroom.
Certain privileged persons are sometimes allowed to see famous criminals
on their way through this room or through the passages, so that the
clerk and the gendarmes who had charge of the Abbe Carlos made no
remark. Also, in consequence of the devoted zeal of the sergeant who
had snatched up the Baroness to hinder any communication between the
prisoner and the visitors, there was a considerable space between them.

“Let us go on,” said Jacques Collin, making an effort to rise.

At the same moment the little ball rolled out of his sleeve, and the
spot where it fell was noted by the Baroness, who could look about her
freely from under her veil. The little pellet, being damp and sticky,
did not roll; for such trivial details, apparently unimportant, had all
been duly considered by Jacques Collin to insure success.

When the prisoner had been led up the higher part of the steps, Asie
very unaffectedly dropped her bag and picked it up again; but in
stooping she seized the pellet which had escaped notice, its color being
exactly like that of the dust and mud on the floor.

“Oh dear!” cried she, “it goes to my heart.--He is dying----”

“Or seems to be,” replied the sergeant.

“Monsieur,” said Asie to the lawyer, “take me at once to Monsieur
Camusot; I have come about this case; and he might be very glad to see
me before examining that poor priest.”

The lawyer and the Baroness left the guardroom, with its greasy,
fuliginous walls; but as soon as they reached the top of the stairs,
Asie exclaimed:

“Oh, and my dog! My poor little dog!” and she rushed off like a mad
creature down the _Salle des Pas-Perdus_, asking every one where her dog
was. She got to the corridor beyond (la Galerie Marchande, or Merchant’s
Hall, as it is called), and flew to the staircase, saying, “There he

These stairs lead to the Cour de Harlay, through which Asie, having
played out the farce, passed out and took a hackney cab on the Quai des
Orfevres, where there is a stand; thus she vanished with the summons
requiring “Europe” to appear, her real name being unknown to the police
and the lawyers.

“Rue Neuve-Saint-Marc,” cried she to the driver.

Asie could depend on the absolute secrecy of an old-clothes purchaser,
known as Madame Nourrisson, who also called herself Madame de
Saint-Esteve; and who would lend Asie not merely her personality, but
her shop at need, for it was there that Nucingen had bargained for the
surrender of Esther. Asie was quite at home there, for she had a bedroom
in Madame Nourrisson’s establishment.

She paid the driver, and went up to her room, nodding to Madame
Nourrisson in a way to make her understand that she had not time to say
two words to her.

As soon as she was safe from observation, Asie unwrapped the papers
with the care of a savant unrolling a palimpsest. After reading the
instructions, she thought it wise to copy the lines intended for Lucien
on a sheet of letter-paper; then she went down to Madame Nourrisson, to
whom she talked while a little shop-girl went to fetch a cab from the
Boulevard des Italiens. She thus extracted the addresses of the Duchesse
de Maufrigneuse and of Madame de Serizy, which were known to Madame
Nourrisson by her dealings with their maids.

All this running about and elaborate business took up more than two
hours. Madame la Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, who lived at the top of the
Faubourg Saint-Honore, kept Madame de Saint-Esteve waiting an hour,
although the lady’s-maid, after knocking at the boudoir door, had handed
in to her mistress a card with Madame de Saint-Esteve’s name, on which
Asie had written, “Called about pressing business concerning Lucien.”

Her first glance at the Duchess’ face showed her how till-timed her
visit must be; she apologized for disturbing Madame la Duchesse when she
was resting, on the plea of the danger in which Lucien stood.

“Who are you?” asked the Duchess, without any pretence at politeness,
as she looked at Asie from head to foot; for Asie, though she might be
taken for a Baroness by Maitre Massol in the _Salle des Pas-Perdus_,
when she stood on the carpet in the boudoir of the Hotel de Cadignan,
looked like a splash of mud on a white satin gown.

“I am a dealer in cast-off clothes, Madame la Duchesse; for in such
matters every lady applies to women whose business rests on a basis of
perfect secrecy. I have never betrayed anybody, though God knows how
many great ladies have intrusted their diamonds to me by the month while
wearing false jewels made to imitate them exactly.”

“You have some other name?” said the Duchess, smiling at a reminiscence
recalled to her by this reply.

“Yes, Madame la Duchesse, I am Madame de Saint-Esteve on great
occasions, but in the trade I am Madame Nourrisson.”

“Well, well,” said the Duchess in an altered tone.

“I am able to be of great service,” Asie went on, “for we hear the
husbands’ secrets as well as the wives’. I have done many little jobs
for Monsieur de Marsay, whom Madame la Duchesse----”

“That will do, that will do!” cried the Duchess. “What about Lucien?”

“If you wish to save him, madame, you must have courage enough to lose
no time in dressing. But, indeed, Madame la Duchesse, you could not look
more charming than you do at this moment. You are sweet enough to charm
anybody, take an old woman’s word for it! In short, madame, do not wait
for your carriage, but get into my hackney coach. Come to Madame de
Serizy’s if you hope to avert worse misfortunes than the death of that

“Go on, I will follow you,” said the Duchess after a moment’s
hesitation. “Between us we may give Leontine some courage...”

Notwithstanding the really demoniacal activity of this Dorine of
the hulks, the clock was striking two when she and the Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse went into the Comtesse de Serizy’s house in the Rue de la
Chaussee-d’Antin. Once there, thanks to the Duchess, not an instant was
lost. The two women were at once shown up to the Countess, whom they
found reclining on a couch in a miniature chalet, surrounded by a garden
fragrant with the rarest flowers.

“That is well,” said Asie, looking about her. “No one can overhear us.”

“Oh! my dear, I am half dead! Tell me, Diane, what have you done?” cried
the Duchess, starting up like a fawn, and, seizing the Duchess by the
shoulders, she melted into tears.

“Come, come, Leontine; there are occasions when women like us must not
cry, but act,” said the Duchess, forcing the Countess to sit down on the
sofa by her side.

Asie studied the Countess’ face with the scrutiny peculiar to those old
hands, which pierces to the soul of a woman as certainly as a surgeon’s
instrument probes a wound!--the sorrow that engraves ineradicable lines
on the heart and on the features. She was dressed without the least
touch of vanity. She was now forty-five, and her printed muslin wrapper,
tumbled and untidy, showed her bosom without any art or even stays! Her
eyes were set in dark circles, and her mottled cheeks showed the traces
of bitter tears. She wore no sash round her waist; the embroidery on her
petticoat and shift was all crumpled. Her hair, knotted up under a lace
cap, had not been combed for four-and-twenty hours, and showed as a
thin, short plait and ragged little curls. Leontine had forgotten to put
on her false hair.

“You are in love for the first time in your life?” said Asie

Leontine then saw the woman and started with horror.

“Who is that, my dear Diane?” she asked of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse.

“Whom should I bring with me but a woman who is devoted to Lucien and
willing to help us?”

Asie had hit the truth. Madame de Serizy, who was regarded as one of the
most fickle of fashionable women, had had an attachment of ten years’
standing for the Marquis d’Aiglemont. Since the Marquis’ departure for
the colonies, she had gone wild about Lucien, and had won him from
the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, knowing nothing--like the Paris world
generally--of Lucien’s passion for Esther. In the world of fashion a
recognized attachment does more to ruin a woman’s reputation than ten
unconfessed liaisons; how much more then two such attachments? However,
as no one thought of Madame de Serizy as a responsible person,
the historian cannot undertake to speak for her virtue thus doubly

She was fair, of medium height, and well preserved, as a fair woman can
be who is well preserved at all; that is to say, she did not look more
than thirty, being slender, but not lean, with a white skin and flaxen
hair; she had hands, feet, and a shape of aristocratic elegance, and
was as witty as all the Ronquerolles, spiteful, therefore, to women, and
good-natured to men. Her large fortune, her husband’s fine position, and
that of her brother, the Marquis de Ronquerolles, had protected her
from the mortifications with which any other woman would have been
overwhelmed. She had this great merit--that she was honest in her
depravity, and confessed her worship of the manners and customs of the

Now, at forty-two this woman--who had hitherto regarded men as no more
than pleasing playthings, to whom, indeed, she had, strange to say,
granted much, regarding love as merely a matter of sacrifice to gain the
upper hand,--this woman, on first seeing Lucien, had been seized with
such a passion as the Baron de Nucingen’s for Esther. She had loved, as
Asie had just told her, for the first time in her life.

This postponement of youth is more common with Parisian women than might
be supposed, and causes the ruin of some virtuous souls just as they are
reaching the haven of forty. The Duchesse de Maufrigneuse was the only
person in the secret of the vehement and absorbing passion, of which
the joys, from the girlish suspicion of first love to the preposterous
follies of fulfilment, had made Leontine half crazy and insatiable.

True love, as we know, is merciless. The discovery of Esther’s existence
had been followed by one of those outbursts of rage which in a woman
rise even to the pitch of murder; then came the phase of meanness, to
which a sincere affection humbles itself so gladly. Indeed, for the last
month the Countess would have given ten years of her life to have Lucien
again for one week. At last she had even resigned herself to accept
Esther as her rival, just when the news of her lover’s arrest had come
like the last trump on this paroxysm of devotion.

The Countess had nearly died of it. Her husband had himself nursed her
in bed, fearing the betrayal of delirium, and for twenty-four hours she
had been living with a knife in her heart. She said to her husband in
her fever:

“Save Lucien, and I will live henceforth for you alone.”

“Indeed, as Madame la Duchesse tells you, it is of no use to make your
eyes like boiled gooseberries,” cried the dreadful Asie, shaking the
Countess by the arm. “If you want to save him, there is not a minute to
lose. He is innocent--I swear it by my mother’s bones!”

“Yes, yes, of course he is!” cried the Countess, looking quite kindly at
the dreadful old woman.

“But,” Asie went on, “if Monsieur Camusot questions him the wrong way,
he can make a guilty man of him with two sentences; so, if it is in your
power to get the Conciergerie opened to you, and to say a few words
to him, go at once, and give him this paper.--He will be released
to-morrow; I will answer for it. Now, get him out of the scrape, for you
got him into it.”


“Yes, you!--You fine ladies never have a son even when you own millions.
When I allowed myself the luxury of keeping boys, they always had their
pockets full of gold! Their amusements amused me. It is delightful to
be mother and mistress in one. Now, you--you let the men you love die of
hunger without asking any questions. Esther, now, made no speeches; she
gave, at the cost of perdition, soul and body, the million your Lucien
was required to show, and that is what has brought him to this pass----”

“Poor girl! Did she do that! I love her!” said Leontine.

“Yes--now!” said Asie, with freezing irony.

“She was a real beauty; but now, my angel, you are better looking
than she is.--And Lucien’s marriage is so effectually broken off, that
nothing can mend it,” said the Duchess in a whisper to Leontine.

The effect of this revelation and forecast was so great on the Countess
that she was well again. She passed her hand over her brow; she was
young once more.

“Now, my lady, hot foot, and make haste!” said Asie, seeing the change,
and guessing what had caused it.

“But,” said Madame de Maufrigneuse, “if the first thing is to prevent
Lucien’s being examined by Monsieur Camusot, we can do that by writing
two words to the judge and sending your man with it to the Palais,

“Then come into my room,” said Madame de Serizy.

This is what was taking place at the Palais while Lucien’s protectresses
were obeying the orders issued by Jacques Collin. The gendarmes placed
the moribund prisoner on a chair facing the window in Monsieur Camusot’s
room; he was sitting in his place in front of his table. Coquart, pen in
hand, had a little table to himself a few yards off.

The aspect of a magistrate’s chambers is not a matter of indifference;
and if this room had not been chosen intentionally, it must be owned
that chance had favored justice. An examining judge, like a painter,
requires the clear equable light of a north window, for the criminal’s
face is a picture which he must constantly study. Hence most magistrates
place their table, as this of Camusot’s was arranged, so as to sit with
their back to the window and leave the face of the examinee in broad
daylight. Not one of them all but, by the end of six months, has
assumed an absent-minded and indifferent expression, if he does not wear
spectacles, and maintains it throughout the examination.

It was a sudden change of expression in the prisoner’s face, detected
by these means, and caused by a sudden point-blank question, that led
to the discovery of the crime committed by Castaing at the very
moment when, after a long consultation with the public prosecutor, the
magistrate was about to let the criminal loose on society for lack of
evidence. This detail will show the least intelligent person how living,
interesting, curious, and dramatically terrible is the conflict of an
examination--a conflict without witnesses, but always recorded. God
knows what remains on the paper of the scenes at white heat in which a
look, a tone, a quiver of the features, the faintest touch of color lent
by some emotion, has been fraught with danger, as though the adversaries
were savages watching each other to plant a fatal stroke. A report is no
more than the ashes of the fire.

“What is your real name?” Camusot asked Jacques Collin.

“Don Carlos Herrera, canon of the Royal Chapter of Toledo, and secret
envoy of His Majesty Ferdinand VII.”

It must here be observed that Jacques Collin spoke French like a Spanish
trollop, blundering over it in such a way as to make his answers almost
unintelligible, and to require them to be repeated. But Monsieur de
Nucingen’s German barbarisms have already weighted this Scene too much
to allow of the introduction of other sentences no less difficult to
read, and hindering the rapid progress of the tale.

“Then you have papers to prove your right to the dignities of which you
speak?” asked Camusot.

“Yes, monsieur--my passport, a letter from his Catholic Majesty
authorizing my mission.--In short, if you will but send at once to the
Spanish Embassy two lines, which I will write in your presence, I shall
be identified. Then, if you wish for further evidence, I will write to
His Eminence the High Almoner of France, and he will immediately send
his private secretary.”

“And do you still pretend that you are dying?” asked the magistrate. “If
you have really gone through all the sufferings you have complained
of since your arrest, you ought to be dead by this time,” said Camusot

“You are simply trying the courage of an innocent man and the strength
of his constitution,” said the prisoner mildly.

“Coquart, ring. Send for the prison doctor and an infirmary
attendant.--We shall be obliged to remove your coat and proceed to
verify the marks on your shoulder,” Camusot went on.

“I am in your hands, monsieur.”

The prisoner then inquired whether the magistrate would be kind enough
to explain to him what he meant by “the marks,” and why they should be
sought on his shoulder. The judge was prepared for this question.

“You are suspected of being Jacques Collin, an escaped convict,
whose daring shrinks at nothing, not even at sacrilege!” said Camusot
promptly, his eyes fixed on those of the prisoner.

Jacques Collin gave no sign, and did not color; he remained quite calm,
and assumed an air of guileless curiosity as he gazed at Camusot.

“I, monsieur? A convict? May the Order I belong to and God above forgive
you for such an error. Tell me what I can do to prevent your continuing
to offer such an insult to the rights of free men, to the Church, and to
the King my master.”

The judge made no reply to this, but explained to the Abbe that if
he had been branded, a penalty at that time inflicted by law on all
convicts sent to the hulks, the letters could be made to show by giving
him a slap on the shoulder.

“Oh, monsieur,” said Jacques Collin, “it would indeed be unfortunate if
my devotion to the Royal cause should prove fatal to me.”

“Explain yourself,” said the judge, “that is what you are here for.”

“Well, monsieur, I must have a great many scars on my back, for I was
shot in the back as a traitor to my country while I was faithful to my
King, by constitutionalists who left me for dead.”

“You were shot, and you are alive!” said Camusot.

“I had made friends with some of the soldiers, to whom certain pious
persons had sent money, so they placed me so far off that only spent
balls reached me, and the men aimed at my back. This is a fact that His
Excellency the Ambassador can bear witness to----”

“This devil of a man has an answer for everything! However, so much the
better,” thought Camusot, who assumed so much severity only to satisfy
the demands of justice and of the police. “How is it that a man of your
character,” he went on, addressing the convict, “should have been found
in the house of the Baron de Nucingen’s mistress--and such a mistress, a
girl who had been a common prostitute!”

“This is why I was found in a courtesan’s house, monsieur,” replied
Jacques Collin. “But before telling you the reasons for my being there,
I ought to mention that at the moment when I was just going upstairs
I was seized with the first attack of my illness, and I had no time to
speak to the girl. I knew of Mademoiselle Esther’s intention of killing
herself; and as young Lucien de Rubempre’s interests were involved, and
I have a particular affection for him for sacredly secret reasons, I
was going to try to persuade the poor creature to give up the idea,
suggested to her by despair. I meant to tell her that Lucien must
certainly fail in his last attempt to win Mademoiselle Clotilde de
Grandlieu; and I hoped that by telling her she had inherited seven
millions of francs, I might give her courage to live.

“I am convinced, Monsieur le Juge, that I am a martyr to the secrets
confided to me. By the suddenness of my illness I believe that I had
been poisoned that very morning, but my strong constitution has saved
me. I know that a certain agent of the political police is dogging me,
and trying to entangle me in some discreditable business.

“If, at my request, you had sent for a doctor on my arrival here, you
would have had ample proof of what I am telling you as to the state of
my health. Believe me, monsieur, some persons far above our heads have
some strong interest in getting me mistaken for some villain, so as to
have a right to get rid of me. It is not all profit to serve a king;
they have their meannesses. The Church alone is faultless.”

It is impossible to do justice to the play of Jacques Collin’s
countenance as he carefully spun out his speech, sentence by sentence,
for ten minutes; and it was all so plausible, especially the mention of
Corentin, that the lawyer was shaken.

“Will you confide to me the reasons of your affection for Monsieur
Lucien de Rubempre?”

“Can you not guess them? I am sixty years of age, monsieur--I implore
you do not write it.--It is because--must I say it?”

“It will be to your own advantage, and more particularly to Monsieur
Lucien de Rubempre’s, if you tell everything,” replied the judge.

“Because he is--Oh, God! he is my son,” he gasped out with an effort.

And he fainted away.

“Do not write that down, Coquart,” said Camusot in an undertone.

Coquart rose to fetch a little phial of “Four thieves’ Vinegar.”

“If he is Jacques Collin, he is a splendid actor!” thought Camusot.

Coquart held the phial under the convict’s nose, while the judge
examined him with the keen eye of a lynx--and a magistrate.

“Take his wig off,” said Camusot, after waiting till the man recovered

Jacques Collin heard, and quaked with terror, for he knew how vile an
expression his face would assume.

“If you have not strength enough to take your wig off yourself----Yes,
Coquart, remove it,” said Camusot to his clerk.

Jacques Collin bent his head to the clerk with admirable resignation;
but then his head, bereft of that adornment, was hideous to behold in
its natural aspect.

The sight of it left Camusot in the greatest uncertainty. While waiting
for the doctor and the man from the infirmary, he set to work to
classify and examine the various papers and the objects seized
in Lucien’s rooms. After carrying out their functions in the Rue
Saint-Georges at Mademoiselle Esther’s house, the police had searched
the rooms at the Quai Malaquais.

“You have your hand on some letters from the Comtesse de Serizy,” said
Carlos Herrera. “But I cannot imagine why you should have almost all
Lucien’s papers,” he added, with a smile of overwhelming irony at the

Camusot, as he saw the smile, understood the bearing of the word

“Lucien de Rubempre is in custody under suspicion of being your
accomplice,” said he, watching to see the effect of this news on his

“You have brought about a great misfortune, for he is as innocent as
I am,” replied the sham Spaniard, without betraying the smallest

“We shall see. We have not as yet established your identity,” Camusot
observed, surprised at the prisoner’s indifference. “If you are really
Don Carlos Herrera, the position of Lucien Chardon will at once be
completely altered.”

“To be sure, she became Madame Chardon--Mademoiselle de Rubempre!”
 murmured Carlos. “Ah! that was one of the greatest sins of my life.”

He raised his eyes to heaven, and by the movement of his lips seemed to
be uttering a fervent prayer.

“But if you are Jacques Collin, and if he was, and knew that he was, the
companion of an escaped convict, a sacrilegious wretch, all the crimes
of which he is suspected by the law are more than probably true.”

Carlos Herrera sat like bronze as he heard this speech, very cleverly
delivered by the judge, and his only reply to the words “_knew that he
was_” and “_escaped convict_” was to lift his hands to heaven with a
gesture of noble and dignified sorrow.

“Monsieur l’Abbe,” Camusot went on, with the greatest politeness, “if
you are Don Carlos Herrera, you will forgive us for what we are obliged
to do in the interests of justice and truth.”

Jacques Collin detected a snare in the lawyer’s very voice as he spoke
the words “Monsieur l’Abbe.” The man’s face never changed; Camusot had
looked for a gleam of joy, which might have been the first indication of
his being a convict, betraying the exquisite satisfaction of a
criminal deceiving his judge; but this hero of the hulks was strong in
Machiavellian dissimulation.

“I am accustomed to diplomacy, and I belong to an Order of very austere
discipline,” replied Jacques Collin, with apostolic mildness. “I
understand everything, and am inured to suffering. I should be free by
this time if you had discovered in my room the hiding-place where I keep
my papers--for I see you have none but unimportant documents.”

This was a finishing stroke to Camusot: Jacques Collin by his air of
ease and simplicity had counteracted all the suspicions to which his
appearance, unwigged, had given rise.

“Where are these papers?”

“I will tell you exactly if you will get a secretary from the Spanish
Embassy to accompany your messenger. He will take them and be answerable
to you for the documents, for it is to me a matter of confidential
duty--diplomatic secrets which would compromise his late Majesty Louis
XVIII--Indeed, monsieur, it would be better----However, you are a
magistrate--and, after all, the Ambassador, to whom I refer the whole
question, must decide.”

At this juncture the usher announced the arrival of the doctor and the
infirmary attendant, who came in.

“Good-morning, Monsieur Lebrun,” said Camusot to the doctor. “I have
sent for you to examine the state of health of this prisoner under
suspicion. He says he had been poisoned and at the point of death since
the day before yesterday; see if there is any risk in undressing him to
look for the brand.”

Doctor Lebrun took Jacques Collin’s hand, felt his pulse, asked to look
at his tongue, and scrutinized him steadily. This inspection lasted
about ten minutes.

“The prisoner has been suffering severely,” said the medical officer,
“but at this moment he is amazingly strong----”

“That spurious energy, monsieur, is due to nervous excitement caused by
my strange position,” said Jacques Collin, with the dignity of a bishop.

“That is possible,” said Monsieur Lebrun.

At a sign from Camusot the prisoner was stripped of everything but his
trousers, even of his shirt, and the spectators might admire the hairy
torso of a Cyclops. It was that of the Farnese Hercules at Naples in its
colossal exaggeration.

“For what does nature intend a man of this build?” said Lebrun to the

The usher brought in the ebony staff, which from time immemorial has
been the insignia of his office, and is called his rod; he struck it
several times over the place where the executioner had branded the fatal
letters. Seventeen spots appeared, irregularly distributed, but the most
careful scrutiny could not recognize the shape of any letters. The usher
indeed pointed out that the top bar of the letter T was shown by two
spots, with an interval between of the length of that bar between the
two points at each end of it, and there was another spot where the
bottom of the T should be.

“Still that is quite uncertain,” said Camusot, seeing doubt in the
expression of the prison doctor’s countenance.

Carlos begged them to make the same experiment on the other shoulder and
the middle of his back. About fifteen more such scars appeared, which,
at the Spaniard’s request, the doctor made a note of; and he pronounced
that the man’s back had been so extensively seamed by wounds that the
brand would not show even if it had been made by the executioner.

An office-clerk now came in from the Prefecture, and handed a note to
Monsieur Camusot, requesting an answer. After reading it the lawyer went
to speak to Coquart, but in such a low voice that no one could catch a
word. Only, by a glance from Camusot, Jacques Collin could guess that
some information concerning him had been sent by the Prefet of Police.

“That friend of Peyrade’s is still at my heels,” thought Jacques Collin.
“If only I knew him, I would get rid of him as I did of Contenson. If
only I could see Asie once more!”

After signing a paper written by Coquart, the judge put it into an
envelope and handed it to the clerk of the Delegate’s office.

This is an indispensable auxiliary to justice. It is under the direction
of a police commissioner, and consists of peace-officers who, with the
assistance of the police commissioners of each district, carry into
effect orders for searching the houses or apprehending the persons of
those who are suspected of complicity in crimes and felonies. These
functionaries in authority save the examining magistrates a great deal
of very precious time.

At a sign from the judge the prisoner was dressed by Monsieur Lebrun and
the attendant, who then withdrew with the usher. Camusot sat down at his
table and played with his pen.

“You have an aunt,” he suddenly said to Jacques Collin.

“An aunt?” echoed Don Carlos Herrera with amazement. “Why, monsieur,
I have no relations. I am the unacknowledged son of the late Duke of

But to himself he said, “They are burning”--an allusion to the game of
hot cockles, which is indeed a childlike symbol of the dreadful struggle
between justice and the criminal.

“Pooh!” said Camusot. “You still have an aunt living, Mademoiselle
Jacqueline Collin, whom you placed in Esther’s service under the
eccentric name of Asie.”

Jacques Collin shrugged his shoulders with an indifference that was
in perfect harmony with the cool curiosity he gave throughout to the
judge’s words, while Camusot studied him with cunning attention.

“Take care,” said Camusot; “listen to me.”

“I am listening, sir.”

“You aunt is a wardrobe dealer at the Temple; her business is managed by
a demoiselle Paccard, the sister of a convict--herself a very good girl,
known as la Romette. Justice is on the traces of your aunt, and in a few
hours we shall have decisive evidence. The woman is wholly devoted to

“Pray go on, Monsieur le Juge,” said Collin coolly, in answer to a
pause; “I am listening to you.”

“Your aunt, who is about five years older than you are, was formerly
Marat’s mistress--of odious memory. From that blood-stained source she
derived the little fortune she possesses.

“From information I have received she must be a very clever receiver of
stolen goods, for no proofs have yet been found to commit her on. After
Marat’s death she seems, from the notes I have here, to have lived with
a chemist who was condemned to death in the year XII. for issuing false
coin. She was called as witness in the case. It was from this intimacy
that she derived her knowledge of poisons.

“In 1812 and in 1816 she spent two years in prison for placing girls
under age upon the streets.

“You were already convicted of forgery; you had left the banking house
where your aunt had been able to place you as clerk, thanks to the
education you had had, and the favor enjoyed by your aunt with certain
persons for whose debaucheries she supplied victims.

“All this, prisoner, is not much like the dignity of the Dukes d’Ossuna.

“Do you persist in your denial?”

Jacques Collin sat listening to Monsieur Camusot, and thinking of his
happy childhood at the College of the Oratorians, where he had been
brought up, a meditation which lent him a truly amazed look. And in
spite of his skill as a practised examiner, Camusot could bring no sort
of expression to those placid features.

“If you have accurately recorded the account of myself I gave you at
first,” said Jacques Collin, “you can read it through again. I cannot
alter the facts. I never went to the woman’s house; how should I know
who her cook was? The persons of whom you speak are utterly unknown to

“Notwithstanding your denial, we shall proceed to confront you with
persons who may succeed in diminishing your assurance”

“A man who has been three times shot is used to anything,” replied
Jacques Collin meekly.

Camusot proceeded to examine the seized papers while awaiting the return
of the famous Bibi-Lupin, whose expedition was amazing; for at half-past
eleven, the inquiry having begun at ten o’clock, the usher came in to
inform the judge in an undertone of Bibi-Lupin’s arrival.

“Show him in,” replied M. Camusot.

Bibi-Lupin, who had been expected to exclaim, “It is he,” as he came
in, stood puzzled. He did not recognize his man in a face pitted with
smallpox. This hesitancy startled the magistrate.

“It is his build, his height,” said the agent. “Oh! yes, it is you,
Jacques Collin!” he went on, as he examined his eyes, forehead, and
ears. “There are some things which no disguise can alter.... Certainly
it is he, Monsieur Camusot. Jacques has the scar of a cut on his left
arm. Take off his coat, and you will see...”

Jacques Collin was again obliged to take off his coat; Bibi-Lupin turned
up his sleeve and showed the scar he had spoken of.

“It is the scar of a bullet,” replied Don Carlos Herrera. “Here are
several more.”

“Ah! It is certainly his voice,” cried Bibi-Lupin.

“Your certainty,” said Camusot, “is merely an opinion; it is not proof.”

“I know that,” said Bibi-Lupin with deference. “But I will bring
witnesses. One of the boarders from the Maison Vauquer is here already,”
 said he, with an eye on Collin.

But the prisoner’s set, calm face did not move a muscle.

“Show the person in,” said Camusot roughly, his dissatisfaction
betraying itself in spite of his seeming indifference.

This irritation was not lost on Jacques Collin, who had not counted
on the judge’s sympathy, and sat lost in apathy, produced by his deep
meditations in the effort to guess what the cause could be.

The usher now showed in Madame Poiret. At this unexpected appearance the
prisoner had a slight shiver, but his trepidation was not remarked by
Camusot, who seemed to have made up his mind.

“What is your name?” asked he, proceeding to carry out the formalities
introductory to all depositions and examinations.

Madame Poiret, a little old woman as white and wrinkled as a sweetbread,
dressed in a dark-blue silk gown, gave her name as Christine Michelle
Michonneau, wife of one Poiret, and her age as fifty-one years, said
that she was born in Paris, lived in the Rue des Poules at the corner
of the Rue des Postes, and that her business was that of lodging-house

“In 1818 and 1819,” said the judge, “you lived, madame, in a
boarding-house kept by a Madame Vauquer?”

“Yes, monsieur; it was there that I met Monsieur Poiret, a retired
official, who became my husband, and whom I have nursed in his bed this
twelvemonth past. Poor man! he is very bad; and I cannot be long away
from him.”

“There was a certain Vautrin in the house at the time?” asked Camusot.

“Oh, monsieur, that is quite a long story; he was a horrible man, from
the galleys----”

“You helped to get him arrested?”

“That is not true sir.”

“You are in the presence of the Law; be careful,” said Monsieur Camusot

Madame Poiret was silent.

“Try to remember,” Camusot went on. “Do you recollect the man? Would you
know him again?”

“I think so.”

“Is this the man?”

Madame Poiret put on her “eye-preservers,” and looked at the Abbe Carlos

“It is his build, his height; and yet--no--if--Monsieur le Juge,” she
said, “if I could see his chest I should recognize him at once.”

The magistrate and his clerk could not help laughing, notwithstanding
the gravity of their office; Jacques Collin joined in their hilarity,
but discreetly. The prisoner had not put on his coat after Bibi-Lupin
had removed it, and at a sign from the judge he obligingly opened his

“Yes, that is his fur trimming, sure enough!--But it has worn gray,
Monsieur Vautrin,” cried Madame Poiret.

“What have you to say to that?” asked the judge of the prisoner.

“That she is mad,” replied Jacques Collin.

“Bless me! If I had a doubt--for his face is altered--that voice would
be enough. He is the man who threatened me. Ah! and those are his eyes!”

“The police agent and this woman,” said Camusot, speaking to Jacques
Collin, “cannot possibly have conspired to say the same thing, for
neither of them had seen you till now. How do you account for that?”

“Justice has blundered more conspicuously even than it does now in
accepting the evidence of a woman who recognizes a man by the hair on
his chest and the suspicions of a police agent,” replied Jacques Collin.
“I am said to resemble a great criminal in voice, eyes, and build;
that seems a little vague. As to the memory which would prove certain
relations between Madame and my Sosie--which she does not blush to
own--you yourself laughed at. Allow me, monsieur, in the interests of
truth, which I am far more anxious to establish for my own sake than you
can be for the sake of justice, to ask this lady--Madame Foiret----”


“Poret--excuse me, I am a Spaniard--whether she remembers the other
persons who lived in this--what did you call the house?”

“A boarding-house,” said Madame Poiret.

“I do not know what that is.”

“A house where you can dine and breakfast by subscription.”

“You are right,” said Camusot, with a favorable nod to Jacques Collin,
whose apparent good faith in suggesting means to arrive at some
conclusion struck him greatly. “Try to remember the boarders who were in
the house when Jacques Collin was apprehended.”

“There were Monsieur de Rastignac, Doctor Bianchon, Pere Goriot,
Mademoiselle Taillefer----”

“That will do,” said Camusot, steadily watching Jacques Collin, whose
expression did not change. “Well, about this Pere Goriot?”

“He is dead,” said Madame Poiret.

“Monsieur,” said Jacques Collin, “I have several times met Monsieur de
Rastignac, a friend, I believe, of Madame de Nucingen’s; and if it is
the same, he certainly never supposed me to be the convict with whom
these persons try to identify me.”

“Monsieur de Rastignac and Doctor Bianchon,” said the magistrate, “both
hold such a social position that their evidence, if it is in your favor,
will be enough to procure your release.--Coquart, fill up a summons for
each of them.”

The formalities attending Madame Poiret’s examination were over in a few
minutes; Coquart read aloud to her the notes he had made of the little
scene, and she signed the paper; but the prisoner refused to sign,
alleging his ignorance of the forms of French law.

“That is enough for to-day,” said Monsieur Camusot. “You must be wanting
food. I will have you taken back to the Conciergerie.”

“Alas! I am suffering too much to be able to eat,” said Jacques Collin.

Camusot was anxious to time Jacques Collin’s return to coincide with the
prisoners’ hour of exercise in the prison yard; but he needed a reply
from the Governor of the Conciergerie to the order he had given him in
the morning, and he rang for the usher. The usher appeared, and told
him that the porter’s wife, from the house on the Quai Malaquais, had an
important document to communicate with reference to Monsieur Lucien de
Rubempre. This was so serious a matter that it put Camusot’s intentions
out of his head.

“Show her in,” said he.

“Beg your pardon; pray excuse me, gentlemen all,” said the woman,
courtesying to the judge and the Abbe Carlos by turns. “We were so
worried by the Law--my husband and me--the twice when it has marched
into our house, that we had forgotten a letter that was lying, for
Monsieur Lucien, in our chest of drawers, which we paid ten sous for
it, though it was posted in Paris, for it is very heavy, sir. Would you
please to pay me back the postage? For God knows when we shall see our
lodgers again!”

“Was this letter handed to you by the postman?” asked Camusot, after
carefully examining the envelope.

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Coquart, write full notes of this deposition.--Go on, my good woman;
tell us your name and your business.” Camusot made the woman take the
oath, and then he dictated the document.

While these formalities were being carried out, he was scrutinizing the
postmark, which showed the hours of posting and delivery, as well at the
date of the day. And this letter, left for Lucien the day after Esther’s
death, had beyond a doubt been written and posted on the day of the
catastrophe. Monsieur Camusot’s amazement may therefore be imagined when
he read this letter written and signed by her whom the law believed to
have been the victim of a crime:--

                    “_Esther to Lucien_.

                                         “MONDAY, May 13th, 1830.

        “My last day; ten in the morning.

  “MY LUCIEN,--I have not an hour to live. At eleven o’clock I shall
  be dead, and I shall die without a pang. I have paid fifty
  thousand francs for a neat little black currant, containing a
  poison that will kill me with the swiftness of lightning. And so,
  my darling, you may tell yourself, ‘My little Esther had no
  suffering.’--and yet I shall suffer in writing these pages.

  “The monster who has paid so dear for me, knowing that the day
  when I should know myself to be his would have no morrow--Nucingen
  has just left me, as drunk as a bear with his skin full of wind.
  For the first and last time in my life I have had the opportunity
  of comparing my old trade as a street hussy with the life of true
  love, of placing the tenderness which unfolds in the infinite
  above the horrors of a duty which longs to destroy itself and
  leave no room even for a kiss. Only such loathing could make death

  “I have taken a bath; I should have liked to send for the father
  confessor of the convent where I was baptized, to have confessed
  and washed my soul. But I have had enough of prostitution; it
  would be profaning a sacrament; and besides, I feel myself
  cleansed in the waters of sincere repentance. God must do what He
  will with me.

  “But enough of all this maudlin; for you I want to be your Esther
  to the last moment, not to bore you with my death, or the future,
  or God, who is good, and who would not be good if He were to
  torture me in the next world when I have endured so much misery in

  “I have before me your beautiful portrait, painted by Madame de
  Mirbel. That sheet of ivory used to comfort me in your absence, I
  look at it with rapture as I write you my last thoughts, and tell
  you of the last throbbing of my heart. I shall enclose the
  miniature in this letter, for I cannot bear that it should be
  stolen or sold. The mere thought that what has been my great joy
  may lie behind a shop window, mixed up with the ladies and
  officers of the Empire, or a parcel of Chinese absurdities, is a
  small death to me. Destroy that picture, my sweetheart, wipe it
  out, never give it to any one--unless, indeed, the gift might win
  back the heart of that walking, well-dressed maypole, that
  Clotilde de Grandlieu, who will make you black and blue in her
  sleep, her bones are so sharp.--Yes, to that I consent, and then I
  shall still be of some use to you, as when I was alive. Oh! to
  give you pleasure, or only to make you laugh, I would have stood
  over a brazier with an apple in my mouth to cook it for you.--So
  my death even will be of service to you.--I should have marred
  your home.

  “Oh! that Clotilde! I cannot understand her.--She might have been
  your wife, have borne your name, have never left you day or night,
  have belonged to you--and she could make difficulties! Only the
  Faubourg Saint-Germain can do that! and yet she has not ten pounds
  of flesh on her bones!

  “Poor Lucien! Dear ambitious failure! I am thinking of your future
  life. Well, well! you will more than once regret your poor
  faithful dog, the good girl who would fly to serve you, who would
  have been dragged into a police court to secure your happiness,
  whose only occupation was to think of your pleasures and invent
  new ones, who was so full of love for you--in her hair, her feet,
  her ears--your ballerina, in short, whose every look was a
  benediction; who for six years has thought of nothing but you, who
  was so entirely your chattel that I have never been anything but
  an effluence of your soul, as light is that of the sun. However,
  for lack of money and of honor, I can never be your wife. I have
  at any rate provided for your future by giving you all I have.

  “Come as soon as you get this letter and take what you find under
  my pillow, for I do not trust the people about me. Understand that
  I mean to look beautiful when I am dead. I shall go to bed, and
  lay myself flat in an attitude--why not? Then I shall break the
  little pill against the roof of my mouth, and shall not be
  disfigured by any convulsion or by a ridiculous position.

  “Madame de Serizy has quarreled with you, I know, because of me;
  but when she hears that I am dead, you see, dear pet, she will
  forgive. Make it up with her, and she will find you a suitable
  wife if the Grandlieus persist in their refusal.

  “My dear, I do not want you to grieve too much when you hear of my
  death. To begin with, I must tell you that the hour of eleven on
  Monday morning, the thirteenth of May, is only the end of a long
  illness, which began on the day when, on the Terrace of
  Saint-Germain, you threw me back on my former line of life. The soul
  may be sick, as the body is. But the soul cannot submit stupidly to
  suffering like the body; the body does not uphold the soul as the
  soul upholds the body, and the soul sees a means of cure in the
  reflection which leads to the needlewoman’s resource--the bushel
  of charcoal. You gave me a whole life the day before yesterday,
  when you said that if Clotilde still refused you, you would marry
  me. It would have been a great misfortune for us both; I should
  have been still more dead, so to speak--for there are more and
  less bitter deaths. The world would never have recognized us.

  “For two months past I have been thinking of many things, I can
  tell you. A poor girl is in the mire, as I was before I went into
  the convent; men think her handsome, they make her serve their
  pleasure without thinking any consideration necessary; they pack
  her off on foot after fetching her in a carriage; if they do not
  spit in her face, it is only because her beauty preserves her from
  such indignity; but, morally speaking they do worse. Well, and if
  this despised creature were to inherit five or six millions of
  francs, she would be courted by princes, bowed to with respect as
  she went past in her carriage, and might choose among the oldest
  names in France and Navarre. That world which would have cried
  Raca to us, on seeing two handsome creatures united and happy,
  always did honor to Madame de Stael, in spite of her ‘romances in
  real life,’ because she had two hundred thousand francs a year.
  The world, which grovels before money or glory, will not bow down
  before happiness or virtue--for I could have done good. Oh! how
  many tears I would have dried--as many as I have shed--I believe!
  Yes, I would have lived only for you and for charity.

  “These are the thoughts that make death beautiful. So do not
  lament, my dear. Say often to yourself, ‘There were two good
  creatures, two beautiful creatures, who both died for me
  ungrudgingly, and who adored me.’ Keep a memory in your heart of
  Coralie and Esther, and go your way and prosper. Do you recollect
  the day when you pointed out to me a shriveled old woman, in a
  melon-green bonnet and a puce wrapper, all over black
  grease-spots, the mistress of a poet before the Revolution, hardly
  thawed by the sun though she was sitting against the wall of the
  Tuileries and fussing over a pug--the vilest of pugs? She had had
  footmen and carriages, you know, and a fine house! And I said to
  you then, ‘How much better to be dead at thirty!’--Well, you
  thought I was melancholy, and you played all sorts of pranks to
  amuse me, and between two kisses I said, ‘Every day some pretty
  woman leaves the play before it is over!’--And I do not want to
  see the last piece; that is all.

  “You must think me a great chatterbox; but this is my last
  effusion. I write as if I were talking to you, and I like to talk
  cheerfully. I have always had a horror of a dressmaker pitying
  herself. You know I knew how to die decently once before, on my
  return from that fatal opera-ball where the men said I had been a

  “No, no, my dear love, never give this portrait to any one! If you
  could know with what a gush of love I have sat losing myself in
  your eyes, looking at them with rapture during a pause I allowed
  myself, you would feel as you gathered up the affection with which
  I have tried to overlay the ivory, that the soul of your little
  pet is indeed there.

  “A dead woman craving alms! That is a funny idea.--Come, I must
  learn to lie quiet in my grave.

  “You have no idea how heroic my death would seem to some fools if
  they could know Nucingen last night offered me two millions of
  francs if I would love him as I love you. He will be handsomely
  robbed when he hears that I have kept my word and died of him. I
  tried all I could still to breathe the air you breathe. I said to
  the fat scoundrel, ‘Do you want me to love you as you wish? To
  promise even that I will never see Lucien again?’--‘What must I
  do?’ he asked.--‘Give me the two millions for him.’--You should
  have seen his face! I could have laughed, if it had not been so
  tragical for me.

  “‘Spare yourself the trouble of refusing,’ said I; ‘I see you
  care more for your two millions than for me. A woman is always
  glad to know at what she is valued!’ and I turned my back on him.

  “In a few hours the old rascal will know that I was not in jest.

  “Who will part your hair as nicely as I do? Pooh!--I will think no
  more of anything in life; I have but five minutes, I give them to
  God. Do not be jealous of Him, dear heart; I shall speak to Him of
  you, beseeching Him for your happiness as the price of my death,
  and my punishment in the next world. I am vexed enough at having
  to go to hell. I should have liked to see the angels, to know if
  they are like you.

  “Good-bye, my darling, good-bye! I give you all the blessing of my
  woes. Even in the grave I am your Esther.

  “It is striking eleven. I have said my last prayers. I am going to
  bed to die. Once more, farewell! I wish that the warmth of my hand
  could leave my soul there where I press a last kiss--and once more
  I must call you my dearest love, though you are the cause of the
  death of your Esther.”

A vague feeling of jealousy tightened on the magistrate’s heart as
he read this letter, the only letter from a suicide he had ever found
written with such lightness, though it was a feverish lightness, and the
last effort of a blind affection.

“What is there in the man that he should be loved so well?” thought he,
saying what every man says who has not the gift of attracting women.

“If you can prove not merely that you are not Jacques Collin and an
escaped convict, but that you are in fact Don Carlos Herrera, canon
of Toledo, and secret envoy of this Majesty Ferdinand VII.,” said he,
addressing the prisoner “you will be released; for the impartiality
demanded by my office requires me to tell you that I have this moment
received a letter, written by Mademoiselle Esther Gobseck, in which she
declares her intention of killing herself, and expresses suspicions as
to her servants, which would seem to point to them as the thieves who
have made off with the seven hundred and fifty thousand francs.”

As he spoke Monsieur Camusot was comparing the writing of the letter
with that of the will; and it seemed to him self-evident that the same
person had written both.

“Monsieur, you were in too great a hurry to believe in a murder; do not
be too hasty in believing in a theft.”

“Heh!” said Camusot, scrutinizing the prisoner with a piercing eye.

“Do not suppose that I am compromising myself by telling you that the
sum may possibly be recovered,” said Jacques Collin, making the judge
understand that he saw his suspicions. “That poor girl was much loved
by those about her; and if I were free, I would undertake to search
for this money, which no doubt belongs to the being I love best in the
world--to Lucien!--Will you allow me to read that letter; it will not
take long? It is evidence of my dear boy’s innocence--you cannot
fear that I shall destroy it--nor that I shall talk about it; I am in
solitary confinement.”

“In confinement! You will be so no longer,” cried the magistrate. “It
is I who must beg you to get well as soon as possible. Refer to your
ambassador if you choose----”

And he handed the letter to Jacques Collin. Camusot was glad to be out
of a difficulty, to be able to satisfy the public prosecutor, Mesdames
de Maufrigneuse and de Serizy. Nevertheless, he studied his prisoner’s
face with cold curiosity while Collin read Esther’s letter; in spite
of the apparent genuineness of the feelings it expressed, he said to

“But it is a face worthy of the hulks, all the same!”

“That is the way to love!” said Jacques Collin, returning the letter.
And he showed Camusot a face bathed in tears.

“If only you knew him,” he went on, “so youthful, so innocent a soul, so
splendidly handsome, a child, a poet!--The impulse to sacrifice oneself
to him is irresistible, to satisfy his lightest wish. That dear boy is
so fascinating when he chooses----”

“And so,” said the magistrate, making a final effort to discover the
truth, “you cannot possibly be Jacques Collin----”

“No, monsieur,” replied the convict.

And Jacques Collin was more entirely Don Carlos Herrera than ever. In
his anxiety to complete his work he went up to the judge, led him to the
window, and gave himself the airs of a prince of the Church, assuming a
confidential tone:

“I am so fond of that boy, monsieur, that if it were needful, to spare
that idol of my heart a mere discomfort even, that I should be the
criminal you take me for, I would surrender,” said he in an undertone.
“I would follow the example of the poor girl who has killed herself for
his benefit. And I beg you, monsieur, to grant me a favor--namely, to
set Lucien at liberty forthwith.”

“My duty forbids it,” said Camusot very good-naturedly; “but if a sinner
may make a compromise with heaven, justice too has its softer side, and
if you can give me sufficient reasons--speak; your words will not be
taken down.”

“Well, then,” Jacques Collin went on, taken in by Camusot’s apparent
goodwill, “I know what that poor boy is suffering at this moment; he is
capable of trying to kill himself when he finds himself a prisoner----”

“Oh! as to that!” said Camusot with a shrug.

“You do not know whom you will oblige by obliging me,” added Jacques
Collin, trying to harp on another string. “You will be doing a service
to others more powerful than any Comtesse de Serizy or Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse, who will never forgive you for having had their letters in
your chambers----” and he pointed to two packets of perfumed papers. “My
Order has a good memory.”

“Monsieur,” said Camusot, “that is enough. You must find better reasons
to give me. I am as much interested in the prisoner as in public

“Believe me, then, I know Lucien; he has a soul of a woman, of a poet,
and a southerner, without persistency or will,” said Jacques Collin, who
fancied that he saw that he had won the judge over. “You are convinced
of the young man’s innocence, do not torture him, do not question him.
Give him that letter, tell him that he is Esther’s heir, and restore him
to freedom. If you act otherwise, you will bring despair on yourself;
whereas, if you simply release him, I will explain to you--keep me still
in solitary confinement--to-morrow or this evening, everything that
may strike you as mysterious in the case, and the reasons for the
persecution of which I am the object. But it will be at the risk of my
life, a price has been set on my head these six years past.... Lucien
free, rich, and married to Clotilde de Grandlieu, and my task on earth
will be done; I shall no longer try to save my skin.--My persecutor was
a spy under your late King.”

“What, Corentin?”

“Ah! Is his name Corentin? Thank you, monsieur. Well, will you promise
to do as I ask you?”

“A magistrate can make no promises.--Coquart, tell the usher and the
gendarmes to take the prisoner back to the Conciergerie.--I will give
orders that you are to have a private room,” he added pleasantly, with a
slight nod to the convict.

Struck by Jacques Collin’s request, and remembering how he had insisted
that he wished to be examined first as a privilege to his state of
health, Camusot’s suspicions were aroused once more. Allowing his vague
doubts to make themselves heard, he noticed that the self-styled dying
man was walking off with the strength of a Hercules, having abandoned
all the tricks he had aped so well on appearing before the magistrate.


Jacques Collin turned round.

“Notwithstanding your refusal to sign the document, my clerk will read
you the minutes of your examination.”

The prisoner was evidently in excellent health; the readiness with
which he came back, and sat down by the clerk, was a fresh light to the
magistrate’s mind.

“You have got well very suddenly!” said Camusot.

“Caught!” thought Jacques Collin; and he replied:

“Joy, monsieur, is the only panacea.--That letter, the proof of
innocence of which I had no doubt--these are the grand remedy.”

The judge kept a meditative eye on the prisoner when the usher and the
gendarmes again took him in charge. Then, with a start like a waking
man, he tossed Esther’s letter across to the table where his clerk sat,

“Coquart, copy that letter.”

If it is natural to man to be suspicious as to some favor required of
him when it is antagonistic to his interests or his duty, and sometimes
even when it is a matter of indifference, this feeling is law to an
examining magistrate. The more this prisoner--whose identity was not yet
ascertained--pointed to clouds on the horizon in the event of Lucien’s
being examined, the more necessary did the interrogatory seem to
Camusot. Even if this formality had not been required by the Code and by
common practice, it was indispensable as bearing on the identification
of the Abbe Carlos. There is in every walk of life the business
conscience. In default of curiosity Camusot would have examined Lucien
as he had examined Jacques Collin, with all the cunning which the most
honest magistrate allows himself to use in such cases. The services he
might render and his own promotion were secondary in Camusot’s mind to
his anxiety to know or guess the truth, even if he should never tell it.

He stood drumming on the window-pane while following the river-like
current of his conjectures, for in these moods thought is like a stream
flowing through many countries. Magistrates, in love with truth, are
like jealous women; they give way to a thousand hypotheses, and probe
them with the dagger-point of suspicion, as the sacrificing priest of
old eviscerated his victims; thus they arrive, not perhaps at truth,
but at probability, and at last see the truth beyond. A woman
cross-questions the man she loves as the judge cross-questions a
criminal. In such a frame of mind, a glance, a word, a tone of voice,
the slightest hesitation is enough to certify the hidden fact--treason
or crime.

“The style in which he depicted his devotion to his son--if he is his
son--is enough to make me think that he was in the girl’s house to keep
an eye on the plunder; and never suspecting that the dead woman’s pillow
covered a will, he no doubt annexed, for his son, the seven hundred and
fifty thousand francs as a precaution. That is why he can promise to
recover the money.

“M. de Rubempre owes it to himself and to justice to account for his
father’s position in the world----

“And he offers me the protection of his Order--His Order!--if I do not
examine Lucien----”

As has been seen, a magistrate conducts an examination exactly as he
thinks proper. He is at liberty to display his acumen or be absolutely
blunt. An examination may be everything or nothing. Therein lies the

Camusot rang. The usher had returned. He was sent to fetch Monsieur
Lucien de Rubempre with an injunction to prohibit his speaking to
anybody on his way up. It was by this time two in the afternoon.

“There is some secret,” said the judge to himself, “and that secret must
be very important. My amphibious friend--since he is neither priest,
nor secular, nor convict, nor Spaniard, though he wants to hinder his
protege from letting out something dreadful--argues thus: ‘The poet is
weak and effeminate; he is not like me, a Hercules in diplomacy, and you
will easily wring our secret from him.’--Well, we will get everything
out of this innocent.”

And he sat tapping the edge of his table with the ivory paper-knife,
while Coquart copied Esther’s letter.

How whimsical is the action of our faculties! Camusot conceived of every
crime as possible, and overlooked the only one that the prisoner had
now committed--the forgery of the will for Lucien’s advantage. Let those
whose envy vents itself on magistrates think for a moment of their life
spent in perpetual suspicion, of the torments these men must inflict
on their minds, for civil cases are not less tortuous than criminal
examinations, and it will occur to them perhaps that the priest and the
lawyer wear an equally heavy coat of mail, equally furnished with spikes
in the lining. However, every profession has its hair shirt and its
Chinese puzzles.

It was about two o’clock when Monsieur Camusot saw Lucien de Rubempre
come in, pale, worn, his eyes red and swollen, in short, in a state of
dejection which enabled the magistrate to compare nature with art,
the really dying man with the stage performance. His walk from the
Conciergerie to the judge’s chambers, between two gendarmes, and
preceded by the usher, had put the crowning touch to Lucien’s despair.
It is the poet’s nature to prefer execution to condemnation.

As he saw this being, so completely bereft of the moral courage which
is the essence of a judge, and which the last prisoner had so strongly
manifested, Monsieur Camusot disdained the easy victory; and this scorn
enabled him to strike a decisive blow, since it left him, on the ground,
that horrible clearness of mind which the marksman feels when he is
firing at a puppet.

“Collect yourself, Monsieur de Rubempre; you are in the presence of a
magistrate who is eager to repair the mischief done involuntarily by
the law when a man is taken into custody on suspicion that has no
foundation. I believe you to be innocent, and you will soon be at
liberty.--Here is the evidence of your innocence; it is a letter kept
for you during your absence by your porter’s wife; she has just brought
it here. In the commotion caused by the visitation of justice and the
news of your arrest at Fontainebleau, the woman forgot the letter which
was written by Mademoiselle Esther Gobseck.--Read it!”

Lucien took the letter, read it, and melted into tears. He sobbed, and
could not say a single word. At the end of a quarter of an hour, during
which Lucien with great difficulty recovered his self-command, the clerk
laid before him the copy of the letter and begged him to sign a footnote
certifying that the copy was faithful to the original, and might be
used in its stead “on all occasions in the course of this preliminary
inquiry,” giving him the option of comparing the two; but Lucien, of
course, took Coquart’s word for its accuracy.

“Monsieur,” said the lawyer, with friendly good nature, “it is
nevertheless impossible that I should release you without carrying out
the legal formalities, and asking you some questions.--It is almost as a
witness that I require you to answer. To such a man as you I think it is
almost unnecessary to point out that the oath to tell the whole truth is
not in this case a mere appeal to your conscience, but a necessity for
your own sake, your position having been for a time somewhat ambiguous.
The truth can do you no harm, be it what it may; falsehood will send you
to trial, and compel me to send you back to the Conciergerie; whereas
if you answer fully to my questions, you will sleep to-night in your own
house, and be rehabilitated by this paragraph in the papers: ‘Monsieur
de Rubempre, who was arrested yesterday at Fontainebleau, was set at
liberty after a very brief examination.’”

This speech made a deep impression on Lucien; and the judge, seeing the
temper of his prisoner, added:

“I may repeat to you that you were suspected of being accessory to
the murder by poison of this Demoiselle Esther. Her suicide is clearly
proved, and there is an end of that; but a sum of seven hundred and
fifty thousand francs has been stolen, which she had disposed of
by will, and you are the legatee. This is a felony. The crime was
perpetrated before the discovery of the will.

“Now there is reason to suppose that a person who loves you as much as
you loved Mademoiselle Esther committed the theft for your benefit.--Do
not interrupt me,” Camusot went on, seeing that Lucien was about to
speak, and commanding silence by a gesture; “I am asking you nothing
so far. I am anxious to make you understand how deeply your honor is
concerned in this question. Give up the false and contemptible notion of
the honor binding two accomplices, and tell the whole truth.”

The reader must already have observed the extreme disproportion of the
weapons in this conflict between the prisoner under suspicion and the
examining judge. Absolute denial when skilfully used has in its favor
its positive simplicity, and sufficiently defends the criminal; but
it is, in a way, a coat of mail which becomes crushing as soon as the
stiletto of cross-examination finds a joint to it. As soon as mere
denial is ineffectual in face of certain proven facts, the examinee is
entirely at the judge’s mercy.

Now, supposing that a sort of half-criminal, like Lucien, might, if he
were saved from the first shipwreck of his honesty, amend his ways, and
become a useful member of society, he will be lost in the pitfalls of
his examination.

The judge has the driest possible record drawn up of the proceedings, a
faithful analysis of the questions and answers; but no trace remains of
his insidiously paternal addresses or his captious remonstrances, such
as this speech. The judges of the superior courts see the results,
but see nothing of the means. Hence, as some experienced persons have
thought, it would be a good plan that, as in England, a jury should hear
the examination. For a short while France enjoyed the benefit of this
system. Under the Code of Brumaire of the year IV., this body was known
as the examining jury, as distinguished from the trying jury. As to the
final trial, if we should restore the examining jury, it would have to
be the function of the superior courts without the aid of a jury.

“And now,” said Camusot, after a pause, “what is your name?--Attention,
Monsieur Coquart!” said he to the clerk.

“Lucien Chardon de Rubempre.”

“And you were born----?”

“At Angouleme.” And Lucien named the day, month, and year.

“You inherited no fortune?”

“None whatever.”

“And yet, during your first residence in Paris, you spent a great deal,
as compared with your small income?”

“Yes, monsieur; but at that time I had a most devoted friend in
Mademoiselle Coralie, and I was so unhappy as to lose her. It was my
grief at her death that made me return to my country home.”

“That is right, monsieur,” said Camusot; “I commend your frankness; it
will be thoroughly appreciated.”

Lucien, it will be seen, was prepared to make a clean breast of it.

“On your return to Paris you lived even more expensively than before,”
 Camusot went on. “You lived like a man who might have about sixty
thousand francs a year.”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Who supplied you with the money?”

“My protector, the Abbe Carlos Herrera.”

“Where did you meet him?”

“We met when traveling, just as I was about to be quit of life by
committing suicide.”

“You never heard him spoken of by your family--by your mother?”


“Can you remember the year and the month when you first became connected
with Mademoiselle Esther?”

“Towards the end of 1823, at a small theatre on the Boulevard.”

“At first she was an expense to you?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Lately, in the hope of marrying Mademoiselle de Grandlieu, you
purchased the ruins of the Chateau de Rubempre, you added land to the
value of a million francs, and you told the family of Grandlieu that
your sister and your brother-in-law had just come into a considerable
fortune, and that their liberality had supplied you with the money.--Did
you tell the Grandlieus this, monsieur?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“You do not know the reason why the marriage was broken off?”

“Not in the least, monsieur.”

“Well, the Grandlieus sent one of the most respectable attorneys
in Paris to see your brother-in-law and inquire into the facts.
At Angouleme this lawyer, from the statements of your sister and
brother-in-law, learned that they not only had hardly lent you any
money, but also that their inheritance consisted of land, of some extent
no doubt, but that the whole amount of invested capital was not more
than about two hundred thousand francs.--Now you cannot wonder that such
people as the Grandlieus should reject a fortune of which the source is
more than doubtful. This, monsieur, is what a lie has led to----”

Lucien was petrified by this revelation, and the little presence of mind
he had preserved deserted him.

“Remember,” said Camusot, “that the police and the law know all they
want to know.--And now,” he went on, recollecting Jacques Collin’s
assumed paternity, “do you know who this pretended Carlos Herrera is?”

“Yes, monsieur; but I knew it too late.”

“Too late! How? Explain yourself.”

“He is not a priest, not a Spaniard, he is----”

“An escaped convict?” said the judge eagerly.

“Yes,” replied Lucien, “when he told me the fatal secret, I was
already under obligations to him; I had fancied I was befriended by a
respectable priest.”

“Jacques Collin----” said Monsieur Camusot, beginning a sentence.

“Yes,” said Lucien, “his name is Jacques Collin.”

“Very good. Jacques Collin has just now been identified by another
person, and though he denies it, he does so, I believe, in your
interest. But I asked whether you knew who the man is in order to prove
another of Jacques Collin’s impostures.”

Lucien felt as though he had hot iron in his inside as he heard this
alarming statement.

“Do you not know,” Camusot went on, “that in order to give color to
the extraordinary affection he has for you, he declares that he is your

“He! My father?--Oh, monsieur, did he tell you that?”

“Have you any suspicion of where the money came from that he used to
give you? For, if I am to believe the evidence of the letter you have
in your hand, that poor girl, Mademoiselle Esther, must have done you
lately the same services as Coralie formerly rendered you. Still, for
some years, as you have just admitted, you lived very handsomely without
receiving anything from her.”

“It is I who should ask you, monsieur, whence convicts get their money!
Jacques Collin my father!--Oh, my poor mother!” and Lucien burst into

“Coquart, read out to the prisoner that part of Carlos Herrera’s
examination in which he said that Lucien de Rubempre was his son.”

The poet listened in silence, and with a look that was terrible to

“I am done for!” he cried.

“A man is not done for who is faithful to the path of honor and truth,”
 said the judge.

“But you will commit Jacques Collin for trial?” said Lucien.

“Undoubtedly,” said Camusot, who aimed at making Lucien talk. “Speak

But in spite of all his persuasion and remonstrances, Lucien would say
no more. Reflection had come too late, as it does to all men who are the
slaves of impulse. There lies the difference between the poet and
the man of action; one gives way to feeling to reproduce it in living
images, his judgement comes in after; the other feels and judges both at

Lucien remained pale and gloomy; he saw himself at the bottom of the
precipice, down which the examining judge had rolled him by the apparent
candor which had entrapped his poet’s soul. He had betrayed, not his
benefactor, but an accomplice who had defended their position with the
courage of a lion, and a skill that showed no flaw. Where Jacques Collin
had saved everything by his daring, Lucien, the man of brains, had
lost all by his lack of intelligence and reflection. This infamous lie
against which he revolted had screened a yet more infamous truth.

Utterly confounded by the judge’s skill, overpowered by his cruel
dexterity, by the swiftness of the blows he had dealt him while
making use of the errors of a life laid bare as probes to search his
conscience, Lucien sat like an animal which the butcher’s pole-axe had
failed to kill. Free and innocent when he came before the judge, in a
moment his own avowal had made him feel criminal.

To crown all, as a final grave irony, Camusot, cold and calm,
pointed out to Lucien that his self-betrayal was the result of a
misapprehension. Camusot was thinking of Jacques Collin’s announcing
himself as Lucien’s father; while Lucien, wholly absorbed by his fear of
seeing his confederacy with an escaped convict made public, had imitated
the famous inadvertency of the murderers of Ibycus.

One of Royer-Collard’s most famous achievements was proclaiming the
constant triumph of natural feeling over engrafted sentiments, and
defending the cause of anterior oaths by asserting that the law of
hospitality, for instance, ought to be regarded as binding to the point
of negativing the obligation of a judicial oath. He promulgated this
theory, in the face of the world, from the French tribune; he boldly
upheld conspirators, showing that it was human to be true to friendship
rather than to the tyrannical laws brought out of the social arsenal
to be adjusted to circumstances. And, indeed, natural rights have laws
which have never been codified, but which are more effectual and better
known than those laid down by society. Lucien had misapprehended, to
his cost, the law of cohesion, which required him to be silent and leave
Jacques Collin to protect himself; nay, more, he had accused him. In his
own interests the man ought always to be, to him, Carlos Herrera.

Monsieur Camusot was rejoicing in his triumph; he had secured two
criminals. He had crushed with the hand of justice one of the favorites
of fashion, and he had found the undiscoverable Jacques Collin. He would
be regarded as one of the cleverest of examining judges. So he left his
prisoner in peace; but he was studying this speechless consternation,
and he saw drops of sweat collect on the miserable face, swell and fall,
mingled with two streams of tears.

“Why should you weep, Monsieur de Rubempre? You are, as I have told you,
Mademoiselle Esther’s legatee, she having no heirs nor near relations,
and her property amounts to nearly eight millions of francs if the lost
seven hundred and fifty thousand francs are recovered.”

This was the last blow to the poor wretch. “If you do not lose your head
for ten minutes,” Jacques Collin had said in his note, and Lucien by
keeping cool would have gained all his desire. He might have paid his
debt to Jacques Collin and have cut him adrift, have been rich, and
have married Mademoiselle de Grandlieu. Nothing could more eloquently
demonstrate the power with which the examining judge is armed, as a
consequence of the isolation or separation of persons under suspicion,
or the value of such a communication as Asie had conveyed to Jacques

“Ah, monsieur!” replied Lucien, with the satirical bitterness of a man
who makes a pedestal of his utter overthrow, “how appropriate is the
phrase in legal slang ‘to UNDERGO examination.’ For my part, if I had to
choose between the physical torture of past ages and the moral torture
of our day, I would not hesitate to prefer the sufferings inflicted
of old by the executioner.--What more do you want of me?” he added

“In this place, monsieur,” said the magistrate, answering the poet’s
pride with mocking arrogance, “I alone have a right to ask questions.”

“I had the right to refuse to answer them,” muttered the hapless Lucien,
whose wits had come back to him with perfect lucidity.

“Coquart, read the minutes to the prisoner.”

“I am the prisoner once more,” said Lucien to himself.

While the clerk was reading, Lucien came to a determination which
compelled him to smooth down Monsieur Camusot. When Coquart’s drone
ceased, the poet started like a man who has slept through a noise to
which his ears are accustomed, and who is roused by its cessation.

“You have to sign the report of your examination,” said the judge.

“And am I at liberty?” asked Lucien, ironical in his turn.

“Not yet,” said Camusot; “but to-morrow, after being confronted with
Jacques Collin, you will no doubt be free. Justice must now ascertain
whether or no you are accessory to the crimes this man may have
committed since his escape so long ago as 1820. However, you are no
longer in the secret cells. I will write to the Governor to give you a
better room.”

“Shall I find writing materials?”

“You can have anything supplied to you that you ask for; I will give
orders to that effect by the usher who will take you back.”

Lucien mechanically signed the minutes and initialed the notes in
obedience to Coquart’s indications with the meekness of a resigned
victim. A single fact will show what a state he was in better than the
minutest description. The announcement that he would be confronted with
Jacques Collin had at once dried the drops of sweat from his brow, and
his dry eyes glittered with a terrible light. In short, he became, in an
instant as brief as a lightning flash, what Jacques Collin was--a man of

In men whose nature is like Lucien’s, a nature which Jacques Collin
had so thoroughly fathomed, these sudden transitions from a state of
absolute demoralization to one that is, so to speak, metallic,--so
extreme is the tension of every vital force,--are the most startling
phenomena of mental vitality. The will surges up like the lost waters
of a spring; it diffuses itself throughout the machinery that lies ready
for the action of the unknown matter that constitutes it; and then
the corpse is a man again, and the man rushes on full of energy for a
supreme struggle.

Lucien laid Esther’s letter next his heart, with the miniature she had
returned to him. Then he haughtily bowed to Monsieur Camusot, and went
off with a firm step down the corridors, between two gendarmes.

“That is a deep scoundrel!” said the judge to his clerk, to avenge
himself for the crushing scorn the poet had displayed. “He thought he
might save himself by betraying his accomplice.”

“Of the two,” said Coquart timidly, “the convict is the most

“You are free for the rest of the day, Coquart,” said the lawyer. “We
have done enough. Send away any case that is waiting, to be called
to-morrow.--Ah! and you must go at once to the public prosecutor’s
chambers and ask if he is still there; if so, ask him if he can give me
a few minutes. Yes; he will not be gone,” he added, looking at a common
clock in a wooden case painted green with gilt lines. “It is but a
quarter-past three.”

These examinations, which are so quickly read, being written down at
full length, questions and answers alike, take up an enormous amount of
time. This is one of the reasons of the slowness of these preliminaries
to a trial and of these imprisonments “on suspicion.” To the poor this
is ruin, to the rich it is disgrace; to them only immediate release can
in any degree repair, so far as possible, the disaster of an arrest.

This is why the two scenes here related had taken up the whole of the
time spent by Asie in deciphering her master’s orders, in getting a
Duchess out of her boudoir, and putting some energy into Madame de

At this moment Camusot, who was anxious to get the full benefit of his
cleverness, took the two documents, read them through, and promised
himself that he would show them to the public prosecutor and take his
opinion on them. During this meditation, his usher came back to tell
him that Madame la Comtesse de Serizy’s man-servant insisted on speaking
with him. At a nod from Camusot, a servant out of livery came in, looked
first at the usher, and then at the magistrate, and said, “I have the
honor of speaking to Monsieur Camusot?”

“Yes,” replied the lawyer and his clerk.

Camusot took a note which the servant offered him, and read as

  “For the sake of many interests which will be obvious to you, my
  dear Camusot, do not examine Monsieur de Rubempre. We have brought
  ample proofs of his innocence that he may be released forthwith.

                                           “D. DE MAUFRIGNEUSE.
                                           “L. DE SERIZY.

    “_P. S._--Burn this note.”

Camusot understood at once that he had blundered preposterously
in laying snares for Lucien, and he began by obeying the two fine
ladies--he lighted a taper, and burned the letter written by the
Duchess. The man bowed respectfully.

“Then Madame de Serizy is coming here?” asked Camusot.

“The carriage is being brought round.”

At this moment Coquart came in to tell Monsieur Camusot that the public
prosecutor expected him.

Oppressed by the blunder he had committed, in view of his ambitions,
though to the better ends of justice, the lawyer, in whom seven years’
experience had perfected the sharpness that comes to a man who in his
practice has had to measure his wits against the grisettes of Paris,
was anxious to have some shield against the resentment of two women of
fashion. The taper in which he had burned the note was still alight,
and he used it to seal up the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse’s notes to
Lucien--about thirty in all--and Madame de Serizy’s somewhat voluminous

Then he waited on the public prosecutor.

The Palais de Justice is a perplexing maze of buildings piled one above
another, some fine and dignified, others very mean, the whole disfigured
by its lack of unity. The _Salle des Pas-Perdus_ is the largest known
hall, but its nakedness is hideous, and distresses the eye. This vast
Cathedral of the Law crushes the Supreme Court. The Galerie Marchande
ends in two drain-like passages. From this corridor there is a double
staircase, a little larger than that of the Criminal Courts, and under
it a large double door. The stairs lead down to one of the Assize
Courts, and the doors open into another. In some years the number
of crimes committed in the circuit of the Seine is great enough to
necessitate the sitting of two Benches.

Close by are the public prosecutor’s offices, the attorney’s room and
library, the chambers of the attorney-general, and those of the public
prosecutor’s deputies. All these purlieus, to use a generic term,
communicate by narrow spiral stairs and the dark passages, which are a
disgrace to the architecture not of Paris only, but of all France.
The interior arrangement of the sovereign court of justice outdoes our
prisons in all that is most hideous. The writer describing our manners
and customs would shrink from the necessity of depicting the squalid
corridor of about a metre in width, in which the witnesses wait in the
Superior Criminal Court. As to the stove which warms the court itself,
it would disgrace a cafe on the Boulevard Mont-Parnasse.

The public prosecutor’s private room forms part of an octagon wing
flanking the Galerie Marchande, built out recently in regard to the age
of the structure, over the prison yard, outside the women’s quarters.
All this part of the Palais is overshadowed by the lofty and noble
edifice of the Sainte-Chapelle. And all is solemn and silent.

Monsieur de Granville, a worthy successor of the great magistrates of
the ancient Parlement, would not leave Paris without coming to some
conclusion in the matter of Lucien. He expected to hear from Camusot,
and the judge’s message had plunged him into the involuntary suspense
which waiting produces on even the strongest minds. He had been sitting
in the window-bay of his private room; he rose, and walked up and down,
for having lingered in the morning to intercept Camusot, he had found
him dull of apprehension; he was vaguely uneasy and worried.

And this was why.

The dignity of his high functions forbade his attempting to fetter the
perfect independence of the inferior judge, and yet this trial
nearly touched the honor and good name of his best friend and warmest
supporter, the Comte de Serizy, Minister of State, member of the Privy
Council, Vice-President of the State Council, and prospective Chancellor
of the Realm, in the event of the death of the noble old man who held
that august office. It was Monsieur de Serizy’s misfortune to adore
his wife “through fire and water,” and he always shielded her with his
protection. Now the public prosecutor fully understood the terrible fuss
that would be made in the world and at court if a crime should be proved
against a man whose name had been so often and so malignantly linked
with that of the Countess.

“Ah!” he sighed, folding his arms, “formerly the supreme authority could
take refuge in an appeal. Nowadays our mania for equality”--he dared
not say _for Legality_, as a poetic orator in the Chamber courageously
admitted a short while since--“is the death of us.”

This noble magistrate knew all the fascination and the miseries of an
illicit attachment. Esther and Lucien, as we have seen, had taken the
rooms where the Comte de Granville had lived secretly on connubial terms
with Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille, and whence she had fled one day,
lured away by a villain. (See _A Double Marriage_.)

At the very moment when the public prosecutor was saying to himself,
“Camusot is sure to have done something silly,” the examining magistrate
knocked twice at the door of his room.

“Well, my dear Camusot, how is that case going on that I spoke of this

“Badly, Monsieur le Comte; read and judge for yourself.”

He held out the minutes of the two examinations to Monsieur de
Granville, who took up his eyeglass and went to the window to read them.
He had soon run through them.

“You have done your duty,” said the Count in an agitated voice. “It is
all over. The law must take its course. You have shown so much skill,
that you need never fear being deprived of your appointment as examining

If Monsieur de Granville had said to Camusot, “You will remain an
examining judge to your dying day,” he could not have been more explicit
than in making this polite speech. Camusot was cold in the very marrow.

“Madame la Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, to whom I owe much, had desired

“Oh yes, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse is Madame de Serizy’s friend,”
 said Granville, interrupting him. “To be sure.--You have allowed nothing
to influence you, I perceive. And you did well, sir; you will be a great

At this instant the Comte Octave de Bauvan opened the door without
knocking, and said to the Comte de Granville:

“I have brought you a fair lady, my dear fellow, who did not know
which way to turn; she was on the point of losing herself in our

And Comte Octave led in by the hand the Comtesse de Serizy, who had been
wandering about the place for the last quarter of an hour.

“What, you here, madame!” exclaimed the public prosecutor, pushing
forward his own armchair, “and at this moment! This, madame, is Monsieur
Camusot,” he added, introducing the judge.--“Bauvan,” said he to the
distinguished ministerial orator of the Restoration, “wait for me in the
president’s chambers; he is still there, and I will join you.”

Comte Octave de Bauvan understood that not merely was he in the way, but
that Monsieur de Granville wanted an excuse for leaving his room.

Madame de Serizy had not made the mistake of coming to the Palais
de Justice in her handsome carriage with a blue hammer-cloth and
coats-of-arms, her coachman in gold lace, and two footmen in breeches
and silk stockings. Just as they were starting Asie impressed on the two
great ladies the need for taking the hackney coach in which she and the
Duchess had arrived, and she had likewise insisted on Lucien’s mistress
adopting the costume which is to women what a gray cloak was of yore to
men. The Countess wore a plain brown dress, an old black shawl, and a
velvet bonnet from which the flowers had been removed, and the whole
covered up under a thick lace veil.

“You received our note?” said she to Camusot, whose dismay she mistook
for respectful admiration.

“Alas! but too late, Madame la Comtesse,” replied the lawyer, whose
tact and wit failed him excepting in his chambers and in presence of a

“Too late! How?”

She looked at Monsieur de Granville, and saw consternation written in
his face. “It cannot be, it must not be too late!” she added, in the
tone of a despot.

Women, pretty women, in the position of Madame de Serizy, are the
spoiled children of French civilization. If the women of other countries
knew what a woman of fashion is in Paris, a woman of wealth and rank,
they would all want to come and enjoy that splendid royalty. The women
who recognize no bonds but those of propriety, no law but the petty
charter which has been more than once alluded to in this _Comedie
Humaine_ as the ladies’ Code, laugh at the statutes framed by men. They
say everything, they do not shrink from any blunder or hesitate at any
folly, for they all accept the fact that they are irresponsible
beings, answerable for nothing on earth but their good repute and their
children. They say the most preposterous things with a laugh, and are
ready on every occasion to repeat the speech made in the early days of
her married life by pretty Madame de Bauvan to her husband, whom she
came to fetch away from the Palais: “Make haste and pass sentence, and
come away.”

“Madame,” said the public prosecutor, “Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre is
not guilty either of robbery or of poisoning; but Monsieur Camusot has
led him to confess a still greater crime.”

“What is that?” she asked.

“He acknowledged,” said Monsieur Camusot in her ear, “that he is the
friend and pupil of an escaped convict. The Abbe Carlos Herrera, the
Spaniard with whom he has been living for the last seven years, is the
notorious Jacques Collin.”

Madame de Serizy felt as if it were a blow from an iron rod at each word
spoken by the judge, but this name was the finishing stroke.

“And the upshot of all this?” she said, in a voice that was no more than
a breath.

“Is,” Monsieur de Granville went on, finishing the Countess’ sentence in
an undertone, “that the convict will be committed for trial, and that if
Lucien is not committed with him as having profited as an accessory
to the man’s crimes, he must appear as a witness very seriously

“Oh! never, never!” she cried aloud, with amazing firmness. “For my
part, I should not hesitate between death and the disaster of seeing
a man whom the world has known to be my dearest friend declared by the
bench to be the accomplice of a convict.--The King has a great regard
for my husband----”

“Madame,” said the public prosecutor, also aloud, and with a smile, “the
King has not the smallest power over the humblest examining judge in his
kingdom, nor over the proceedings in any court of justice. That is the
grand feature of our new code of laws. I myself have just congratulated
M. Camusot on his skill----”

“On his clumsiness,” said the Countess sharply, though Lucien’s intimacy
with a scoundrel really disturbed her far less than his attachment to

“If you will read the minutes of the examination of the two prisoners by
Monsieur Camusot, you will see that everything is in his hands----”

After this speech, the only thing the public prosecutor could venture to
say, and a flash of feminine--or, if you will, lawyer-like--cunning, he
went to the door; then, turning round on the threshold, he added:

“Excuse me, madame; I have two words to say to Bauvan.” Which,
translated by the worldly wise, conveyed to the Countess: “I do not want
to witness the scene between you and Camusot.”

“What is this examination business?” said Leontine very blandly to
Camusot, who stood downcast in the presence of the wife of one of the
most important personages in the realm.

“Madame,” said Camusot, “a clerk writes down all the magistrate’s
questions and the prisoner’s replies. This document is signed by the
clerk, by the judge, and by the prisoner. This evidence is the raw
material of the subsequent proceedings; on it the accused are committed
for trial, and remanded to appear before the Criminal Court.”

“Well, then,” said she, “if the evidence were suppressed----?”

“Oh, madame, that is a crime which no magistrate could possibly
commit--a crime against society.”

“It is a far worse crime against me to have ever allowed it to be
recorded; still, at this moment it is the only evidence against Lucien.
Come, read me the minutes of his examination that I may see if there is
still a way of salvation for us all, monsieur. I do not speak for myself
alone--I should quite calmly kill myself--but Monsieur de Serizy’s
happiness is also at stake.”

“Pray, madame, do not suppose that I have forgotten the respect due
you,” said Camusot. “If Monsieur Popinot, for instance, had undertaken
this case, you would have had worse luck than you have found with me;
for he would not have come to consult Monsieur de Granville; no one
would have heard anything about it. I tell you, madame, everything has
been seized in Monsieur Lucien’s lodging, even your letters----”

“What! my letters!”

“Here they are, madame, in a sealed packet.”

The Countess in her agitation rang as if she had been at home, and the
office-boy came in.

“A light,” said she.

The boy lighted a taper and placed it on the chimney-piece, while the
Countess looked through the letters, counted them, crushed them in her
hand, and flung them on the hearth. In a few minutes she set the whole
mass in a blaze, twisting up the last note to serve as a torch.

Camusot stood, looking rather foolish as he watched the papers burn,
holding the legal documents in his hand. The Countess, who seemed
absorbed in the work of destroying the proofs of her passion, studied
him out of the corner of her eye. She took her time, she calculated
her distance; with the spring of a cat she seized the two documents and
threw them on the flames. But Camusot saved them; the Countess rushed
on him and snatched back the burning papers. A struggle ensued, Camusot
calling out: “Madame, but madame! This is contempt--madame!”

A man hurried into the room, and the Countess could not repress a scream
as she beheld the Comte de Serizy, followed by Monsieur de Granville and
the Comte de Bauvan. Leontine, however, determined to save Lucien at
any cost, would not let go of the terrible stamped documents, which she
clutched with the tenacity of a vise, though the flame had already burnt
her delicate skin like a moxa.

At last Camusot, whose fingers also were smarting from the fire, seemed
to be ashamed of the position; he let the papers go; there was nothing
left of them but the portions so tightly held by the antagonists that
the flame could not touch them. The whole scene had taken less time than
is needed to read this account of it.

“What discussion can have arisen between you and Madame de Serizy?” the
husband asked of Camusot.

Before the lawyer could reply, the Countess held the fragments in the
candle and threw them on the remains of her letters, which were not
entirely consumed.

“I shall be compelled,” said Camusot, “to lay a complaint against Madame
la Comtesse----”

“Heh! What has she done?” asked the public prosecutor, looking
alternately at the lady and the magistrate.

“I have burned the record of the examinations,” said the lady of fashion
with a laugh, so pleased at her high-handed conduct that she did not yet
feel the pain of the burns, “If that is a crime--well, monsieur must get
his odious scrawl written out again.”

“Very true,” said Camusot, trying to recover his dignity.

“Well, well, ‘All’s well that ends well,’” said Monsieur de Granville.
“But, my dear Countess, you must not often take such liberties with the
Law; it might fail to discern who and what you are.”

“Monsieur Camusot valiantly resisted a woman whom none can resist; the
Honor of the Robe is safe!” said the Comte de Bauvan, laughing.

“Indeed! Monsieur Camusot was resisting?” said the public prosecutor,
laughing too. “He is a brave man indeed; I should not dare resist the

And thus for the moment this serious affair was no more than a pretty
woman’s jest, at which Camusot himself must laugh.

But Monsieur de Granville saw one man who was not amused. Not a little
alarmed by the Comte de Serizy’s attitude and expression, his friend led
him aside.

“My dear fellow,” said he in a whisper, “your distress persuades me for
the first and only time in my life to compromise with my duty.”

The public prosecutor rang, and the office-boy appeared.

“Desire Monsieur de Chargeboeuf to come here.”

Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, a sucking barrister, was his private secretary.

“My good friend,” said the Comte de Granville to Camusot, whom he took
to the window, “go back to your chambers, get your clerk to reconstruct
the report of the Abbe Carlos Herrera’s depositions; as he had not
signed the first copy, there will be no difficulty about that. To-morrow
you must confront your Spanish diplomate with Rastignac and Bianchon,
who will not recognize him as Jacques Collin. Then, being sure of his
release, the man will sign the document.

“As to Lucien de Rubempre, set him free this evening; he is not likely
to talk about an examination of which the evidence is destroyed,
especially after such a lecture as I shall give him.

“Now you will see how little justice suffers by these proceedings. If
the Spaniard really is the convict, we have fifty ways of recapturing
him and committing him for trial--for we will have his conduct in Spain
thoroughly investigated. Corentin, the police agent, will take care
of him for us, and we ourselves will keep an eye on him. So treat him
decently; do not send him down to the cells again.

“Can we be the death of the Comte and Comtesse de Serizy, as well as of
Lucien, for the theft of seven hundred and fifty thousand francs as yet
unproven, and to Lucien’s personal loss? Will it not be better for him
to lose the money than to lose his character? Above all, if he is to
drag with him in his fall a Minister of State, and his wife, and the
Duchesse du Maufrigneuse.

“This young man is a speckled orange; do not leave it to rot.

“All this will take you about half an hour; go and get it done; we will
wait for you. It is half-past three; you will find some judges about.
Let me know if you can get a rule of insufficient evidence--or Lucien
must wait till to-morrow morning.”

Camusot bowed to the company and went; but Madame de Serizy, who was
suffering a good deal from her burns, did not return his bow.

Monsieur de Serizy, who had suddenly rushed away while the public
prosecutor and the magistrate were talking together, presently returned,
having fetched a small jar of virgin wax. With this he dressed his
wife’s fingers, saying in an undertone:

“Leontine, why did you come here without letting me know?”

“My dear,” replied she in a whisper, “forgive me. I seem mad, but indeed
your interests were as much involved as mine.”

“Love this young fellow if fatality requires it, but do not display your
passion to all the world,” said the luckless husband.

“Well, my dear Countess,” said Monsieur de Granville, who had been
engaged in conversation with Comte Octave, “I hope you may take Monsieur
de Rubempre home to dine with you this evening.”

This half promise produced a reaction; Madame de Serizy melted into

“I thought I had no tears left,” said she with a smile. “But could you
not bring Monsieur de Rubempre to wait here?”

“I will try if I can find the ushers to fetch him, so that he may not be
seen under the escort of the gendarmes,” said Monsieur de Granville.

“You are as good as God!” cried she, with a gush of feeling that made
her voice sound like heavenly music.

“These are the women,” said Comte Octave, “who are fascinating,

And he became melancholy as he thought of his own wife. (See

As he left the room, Monsieur de Granville was stopped by young
Chargeboeuf, to whom he spoke to give him instructions as to what he was
to say to Massol, one of the editors of the _Gazette des Tribunaux_.

While beauties, ministers, and magistrates were conspiring to save
Lucien, this was what he was doing at the Conciergerie. As he passed
the gate the poet told the keeper that Monsieur Camusot had granted
him leave to write, and he begged to have pens, ink, and paper. At
a whispered word to the Governor from Camusot’s usher a warder was
instructed to take them to him at once. During the short time that it
took for the warder to fetch these things and carry them up to Lucien,
the hapless young man, to whom the idea of facing Jacques Collin had
become intolerable, sank into one of those fatal moods in which the idea
of suicide--to which he had yielded before now, but without succeeding
in carrying it out--rises to the pitch of mania. According to certain
mad-doctors, suicide is in some temperaments the closing phase of mental
aberration; and since his arrest Lucien had been possessed by that
single idea. Esther’s letter, read and reread many times, increased the
vehemence of his desire to die by reminding him of the catastrophe of
Romeo dying to be with Juliet.

This is what he wrote:--

            “_This is my Last Will and Testament_.

                       “AT THE CONCIERGERIE, May 15th, 1830.

  “I, the undersigned, give and bequeath to the children of my
  sister, Madame Eve Chardon, wife of David Sechard, formerly a
  printer at Angouleme, and of Monsieur David Sechard, all the
  property, real and personal, of which I may be possessed at the
  time of my decease, due deduction being made for the payments and
  legacies, which I desire my executor to provide for.

  “And I earnestly beg Monsieur de Serizy to undertake the charge of
  being the executor of this my will.

  “First, to Monsieur l’Abbe Carlos Herrera I direct the payment of
  the sum of three hundred thousand francs. Secondly, to Monsieur le
  Baron de Nucingen the sum of fourteen hundred thousand francs,
  less seven hundred and fifty thousand if the sum stolen from
  Mademoiselle Esther should be recovered.

  “As universal legatee to Mademoiselle Esther Gobseck, I give and
  bequeath the sum of seven hundred and sixty thousand francs to the
  Board of Asylums of Paris for the foundation of a refuge
  especially dedicated to the use of public prostitutes who may wish
  to forsake their life of vice and ruin.

  “I also bequeath to the Asylums of Paris the sum of money
  necessary for the purchase of a certificate for dividends to the
  amount of thirty thousand francs per annum in five per cents, the
  annual income to be devoted every six months to the release of
  prisoners for debts not exceeding two thousand francs. The Board
  of Asylums to select the most respectable of such persons
  imprisoned for debt.

  “I beg Monsieur de Serizy to devote the sum of forty thousand
  francs to erecting a monument to Mademoiselle Esther in the
  Eastern cemetery, and I desire to be buried by her side. The tomb
  is to be like an antique tomb--square, our two effigies lying
  thereon, in white marble, the heads on pillows, the hands folded
  and raised to heaven. There is to be no inscription whatever.

  “I beg Monsieur de Serizy to give to Monsieur de Rastignac a gold
  toilet-set that is in my room as a remembrance.

  “And as a remembrance, I beg my executor to accept my library of
  books as a gift from me.

                               “LUCIEN CHARDON DE RUBEMPRE.”

This Will was enclosed in a letter addressed to Monsieur le Comte de
Granville, Public Prosecutor in the Supreme Court at Paris, as follows:


  “I place my Will in your hands. When you open this letter I shall
  be no more. In my desire to be free, I made such cowardly replies
  to Monsieur Camusot’s insidious questions, that, in spite of my
  innocence, I may find myself entangled in a disgraceful trial.
  Even if I were acquitted, a blameless life would henceforth be
  impossible to me in view of the opinions of the world.

  “I beg you to transmit the enclosed letter to the Abbe Carlos
  Herrera without opening it, and deliver to Monsieur Camusot the
  formal retraction I also enclose.

  “I suppose no one will dare to break the seal of a packet
  addressed to you. In this belief I bid you adieu, offering you my
  best respects for the last time, and begging you to believe that
  in writing to you I am giving you a token of my gratitude for all
  the kindness you have shown to your deceased humble servant,

                                                   “LUCIEN DE R.”

  “_To the Abbe Carlos Herrera_.

  “MY DEAR ABBE,--I have had only benefits from you, and I have
  betrayed you. This involuntary ingratitude is killing me, and when
  you read these lines I shall have ceased to exist. You are not
  here now to save me.

  “You had given me full liberty, if I should find it advantageous,
  to destroy you by flinging you on the ground like a cigar-end; but
  I have ruined you by a blunder. To escape from a difficulty,
  deluded by a clever question from the examining judge, your son by
  adoption and grace went over to the side of those who aim at
  killing you at any cost, and insist on proving an identity, which
  I know to be impossible, between you and a French villain. All is

  “Between a man of your calibre and me--me of whom you tried to
  make a greater man than I am capable of being--no foolish
  sentiment can come at the moment of final parting. You hoped to
  make me powerful and famous, and you have thrown me into the gulf
  of suicide, that is all. I have long heard the broad pinions of
  that vertigo beating over my head.

  “As you have sometimes said, there is the posterity of Cain and
  the posterity of Abel. In the great human drama Cain is in
  opposition. You are descended from Adam through that line, in
  which the devil still fans the fire of which the first spark was
  flung on Eve. Among the demons of that pedigree, from time to time
  we see one of stupendous power, summing up every form of human
  energy, and resembling the fevered beasts of the desert, whose
  vitality demands the vast spaces they find there. Such men are as
  dangerous as lions would be in the heart of Normandy; they must
  have their prey, and they devour common men and crop the money of
  fools. Their sport is so dangerous that at last they kill the
  humble dog whom they have taken for a companion and made an idol

  “When it is God’s will, these mysterious beings may be a Moses, an
  Attila, Charlemagne, Mahomet, or Napoleon; but when He leaves a
  generation of these stupendous tools to rust at the bottom of the
  ocean, they are no more than a Pugatschef, a Fouche, a Louvel, or
  the Abbe Carlos Herrera. Gifted with immense power over tenderer
  souls, they entrap them and mangle them. It is grand, it is fine
  --in its way. It is the poisonous plant with gorgeous coloring that
  fascinates children in the woods. It is the poetry of evil. Men
  like you ought to dwell in caves and never come out of them. You
  have made me live that vast life, and I have had all my share of
  existence; so I may very well take my head out of the Gordian knot
  of your policy and slip it into the running knot of my cravat.

  “To repair the mischief I have done, I am forwarding to the public
  prosecutor a retraction of my deposition. You will know how to
  take advantage of this document.

  “In virtue of a will formally drawn up, restitution will be made,
  Monsieur l’Abbe, of the moneys belonging to your Order which you
  so imprudently devoted to my use, as a result of your paternal
  affection for me.

  “And so, farewell. Farewell, colossal image of Evil and
  Corruption; farewell--to you who, if started on the right road,
  might have been greater than Ximenes, greater than Richelieu! You
  have kept your promises. I find myself once more just as I was on
  the banks of the Charente, after enjoying, by your help, the
  enchantments of a dream. But, unfortunately, it is not now in the
  waters of my native place that I shall drown the errors of a boy;
  but in the Seine, and my hole is a cell in the Conciergerie.

  “Do not regret me: my contempt for you is as great as my



  “I, the undersigned, hereby declare that I retract, without
  reservation, all that I deposed at my examination to-day before
  Monsieur Camusot.

  “The Abbe Carlos Herrera always called himself my spiritual
  father, and I was misled by the word father used in another sense
  by the judge, no doubt under a misapprehension.

  “I am aware that, for political ends, and to quash certain secrets
  concerning the Cabinets of Spain and of the Tuileries, some
  obscure diplomatic agents tried to show that the Abbe Carlos
  Herrera was a forger named Jacques Collin; but the Abbe Carlos
  Herrera never told me anything about the matter excepting that he
  was doing his best to obtain evidence of the death or of the
  continued existence of Jacques Collin.

                                            “LUCIEN DE RUBEMPRE.

  “AT THE CONCIERGERIE, May 15th, 1830.”

The fever for suicide had given Lucien immense clearness of mind, and
the swiftness of hand familiar to authors in the fever of composition.
The impetus was so strong within him that these four documents were all
written within half an hour; he folded them in a wrapper, fastened
with wafers, on which he impressed with the strength of delirium the
coat-of-arms engraved on a seal-ring he wore, and he then laid the
packet very conspicuously in the middle of the floor.

Certainly it would have been impossible to conduct himself with greater
dignity, in the false position to which all this infamy had led him; he
was rescuing his memory from opprobrium, and repairing the injury done
to his accomplice, so far as the wit of a man of the world could nullify
the result of the poet’s trustfulness.

If Lucien had been taken back to one of the lower cells, he would have
been wrecked on the impossibility of carrying out his intentions, for
those boxes of masonry have no furniture but a sort of camp-bed and a
pail for necessary uses. There is not a nail, not a chair, not even a
stool. The camp-bed is so firmly fixed that it is impossible to move it
without an amount of labor that the warder would not fail to detect,
for the iron-barred peephole is always open. Indeed, if a prisoner under
suspicion gives reason for uneasiness, he is watched by a gendarme or a

In the private rooms for which prisoners pay, and in that whither Lucien
had been conveyed by the judge’s courtesy to a young man belonging to
the upper ranks of society, the movable bed, table, and chair might
serve to carry out his purpose of suicide, though they hardly made it
easy. Lucien wore a long blue silk necktie, and on his way back from
examination he was already meditating on the means by which Pichegru,
more or less voluntarily, ended his days. Still, to hang himself, a man
must find a purchase, and have a sufficient space between it and the
ground for his feet to find no support. Now the window of his room,
looking out on the prison-yard, had no handle to the fastening; and the
bars, being fixed outside, were divided from his reach by the thickness
of the wall, and could not be used for a support.

This, then, was the plan hit upon by Lucien to put himself out of the
world. The boarding of the lower part of the opening, which prevented
his seeing out into the yard, also hindered the warders outside from
seeing what was done in the room; but while the lower portion of the
window was replaced by two thick planks, the upper part of both halves
still was filled with small panes, held in place by the cross pieces
in which they were set. By standing on his table Lucien could reach the
glazed part of the window, and take or break out two panes, so as to
have a firm point of attachment in the angle of the lower bar. Round
this he would tie his cravat, turn round once to tighten it round his
neck after securing it firmly, and kick the table from under his feet.

He drew the table up under the window without making any noise, took off
his coat and waistcoat, and got on the table unhesitatingly to break a
pane above and one below the iron cross-bar. Standing on the table, he
could look out across the yard on a magical view, which he then beheld
for the first time. The Governor of the prison, in deference to Monsieur
Camusot’s request that he should deal as leniently as possible with
Lucien, had led him, as we have seen, through the dark passages of the
Conciergerie, entered from the dark vault opposite the Tour d’Argent,
thus avoiding the exhibition of a young man of fashion to the crowd of
prisoners airing themselves in the yard. It will be for the reader to
judge whether the aspect of the promenade was not such as to appeal
deeply to a poet’s soul.

The yard of the Conciergerie ends at the quai between the Tour d’Argent
and the Tour Bonbec; thus the distance between them exactly shows from
the outside the width of the plot of ground. The corridor called the
Galerie de Saint-Louis, which extends from the Galerie Marchande to
the Courts of Appeals and the Tour Bonbec--in which, it is said,
Saint-Louis’ room still exists--may enable the curious to estimate the
depths of the yard, as it is of the same length. Thus the dark cells
and the private rooms are under the Galerie Marchande. And Queen Marie
Antoinette, whose dungeon was under the present cells, was conducted to
the presence of the Revolutionary Tribunal, which held its sittings in
the place where the Court of Appeals now performs its solemn functions,
up a horrible flight of steps, now never used, in the very thickness of
the wall on which the Galerie Marchande is built.

One side of the prison-yard--that on which the Hall of Saint-Louis forms
the first floor--displays a long row of Gothic columns, between which
the architects of I know not what period have built up two floors of
cells to accommodate as many prisoners as possible, by choking the
capitals, the arches, and the vaults of this magnificent cloister with
plaster, barred loopholes, and partitions. Under the room known as the
Cabinet de Saint-Louis, in the Tour Bonbec, there is a spiral stair
leading to these dens. This degradation of one of the immemorial
buildings of France is hideous to behold.

From the height at which Lucien was standing he saw this cloister,
and the details of the building that joins the two towers, in sharp
perspective; before him were the pointed caps of the towers. He stood
amazed; his suicide was postponed to his admiration. The phenomena
of hallucination are in these days so fully recognized by the medical
faculty that this mirage of the senses, this strange illusion of the
mind is beyond dispute. A man under the stress of a feeling which by its
intensity has become a monomania, often finds himself in the frame of
mind to which opium, hasheesh, or the protoxyde of azote might have
brought him. Spectres appear, phantoms and dreams take shape, things
of the past live again as they once were. What was but an image of the
brain becomes a moving or a living object. Science is now beginning to
believe that under the action of a paroxysm of passion the blood rushes
to the brain, and that such congestion has the terrible effects of
a dream in a waking state, so averse are we to regard thought as a
physical and generative force. (See _Louis Lambert_.)

Lucien saw the building in all its pristine beauty; the columns were
new, slender and bright; Saint-Louis’ Palace rose before him as it had
once appeared; he admired its Babylonian proportions and Oriental
fancy. He took this exquisite vision as a poetic farewell from civilized
creation. While making his arrangements to die, he wondered how this
marvel of architecture could exist in Paris so utterly unknown. He was
two Luciens--one Lucien the poet, wandering through the Middle Ages
under the vaults and the turrets of Saint-Louis, the other Lucien ready
for suicide.

Just as Monsieur de Granville had ended giving his instructions to
the young secretary, the Governor of the Conciergerie came in, and
the expression of his face was such as to give the public prosecutor a
presentiment of disaster.

“Have you met Monsieur Camusot?” he asked.

“No, monsieur,” said the Governor; “his clerk Coquart instructed me
to give the Abbe Carlos a private room and to liberate Monsieur de
Rubempre--but it is too late.”

“Good God! what has happened?”

“Here, monsieur, is a letter for you which will explain the catastrophe.
The warder on duty in the prison-yard heard a noise of breaking glass
in the upper room, and Monsieur Lucien’s next neighbor shrieking wildly,
for he heard the young man’s dying struggles. The warder came to me pale
from the sight that met his eyes. He found the prisoner hanged from the
window bar by his necktie.”

Though the Governor spoke in a low voice, a fearful scream from
Madame de Serizy showed that under stress of feeling our faculties are
incalculably keen. The Countess heard, or guessed. Before Monsieur de
Granville could turn round, or Monsieur de Bauvan or her husband could
stop her, she fled like a flash out of the door, and reached the Galerie
Marchande, where she ran on to the stairs leading out to the Rue de la

A pleader was taking off his gown at the door of one of the shops which
from time immemorial have choked up this arcade, where shoes are sold,
and gowns and caps kept for hire.

The Countess asked the way to the Conciergerie.

“Go down the steps and turn to the left. The entrance is from the Quai
de l’Horloge, the first archway.”

“That woman is crazy,” said the shop-woman; “some one ought to follow

But no one could have kept up with Leontine; she flew.

A physician may explain how it is that these ladies of fashion, whose
strength never finds employment, reveal such powers in the critical
moments of life.

The Countess rushed so swiftly through the archway to the wicket-gate
that the gendarme on sentry did not see her pass. She flew at the barred
gate like a feather driven by the wind, and shook the iron bars with
such fury that she broke the one she grasped. The bent ends were thrust
into her breast, making the blood flow, and she dropped on the ground,
shrieking, “Open it, open it!” in a tone that struck terror into the

The gatekeepers hurried out.

“Open the gate--the public prosecutor sent me--to save the dead

While the Countess was going round by the Rue de la Barillerie and the
Quai de l’Horloge, Monsieur de Granville and Monsieur de Serizy
went down to the Conciergerie through the inner passages, suspecting
Leontine’s purpose; but notwithstanding their haste, they only arrived
in time to see her fall fainting at the outer gate, where she was picked
up by two gendarmes who had come down from the guardroom.

On seeing the Governor of the prison, the gate was opened, and the
Countess was carried into the office, but she stood up and fell on her
knees, clasping her hands.

“Only to see him--to see him! Oh! I will do no wrong! But if you do
not want to see me die on the spot, let me look at Lucien dead or
living.--Ah, my dear, are you here? Choose between my death and----”

She sank in a heap.

“You are kind,” she said; “I will always love you----”

“Carry her away,” said Monsieur de Bauvan.

“No, we will go to Lucien’s cell,” said Monsieur de Granville, reading a
purpose in Monsieur de Serizy’s wild looks.

And he lifted up the Countess, and took her under one arm, while
Monsieur de Bauvan supported her on the other side.

“Monsieur,” said the Comte de Serizy to the Governor, “silence as of the
grave about all this.”

“Be easy,” replied the Governor; “you have done the wisest thing.--If
this lady----”

“She is my wife.”

“Oh! I beg your pardon. Well, she will certainly faint away when she
sees the poor man, and while she is unconscious she can be taken home in
a carriage.

“That is what I thought,” replied the Count. “Pray send one of your men
to tell my servants in the Cour de Harlay to come round to the gate.
Mine is the only carriage there.”

“We can save him yet,” said the Countess, walking on with a degree
of strength and spirit that surprised her friends. “There are ways of
restoring life----”

And she dragged the gentlemen along, crying to the warder:

“Come on, come faster--one second may cost three lives!”

When the cell door was opened, and the Countess saw Lucien hanging as
though his clothes had been hung on a peg, she made a spring towards him
as if to embrace him and cling to him; but she fell on her face on the
floor with smothered shrieks and a sort of rattle in her throat.

Five minutes later she was being taken home stretched on the seat in the
Count’s carriage, her husband kneeling by her side. Monsieur de Bauvan
went off to fetch a doctor to give her the care she needed.

The Governor of the Conciergerie meanwhile was examining the outer gate,
and saying to his clerk:

“No expense was spared; the bars are of wrought iron, they were properly
tested, and cost a large sum; and yet there was a flaw in that bar.”

Monsieur de Granville on returning to his room had other instructions to
give to his private secretary. Massol, happily had not yet arrived.

Soon after Monsieur de Granville had left, anxious to go to see Monsieur
de Serizy, Massol came and found his ally Chargeboeuf in the public
prosecutor’s Court.

“My dear fellow,” said the young secretary, “if you will do me a great
favor, you will put what I dictate to you in your _Gazette_ to-morrow
under the heading of Law Reports; you can compose the heading. Write

And he dictated as follows:--

  “It has been ascertained that the Demoiselle Esther Gobseck killed
  herself of her own free will.

  “Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre satisfactorily proved an alibi, and
  his innocence leaves his arrest to be regretted, all the more
  because just as the examining judge had given the order for his
  release the young gentleman died suddenly.”

“I need not point out to you,” said the young lawyer to Massol, “how
necessary it is to preserve absolute silence as to the little service
requested of you.”

“Since it is you who do me the honor of so much confidence,” replied
Massol, “allow me to make one observation. This paragraph will give rise
to odious comments on the course of justice----”

“Justice is strong enough to bear them,” said the young attache to the
Courts, with the pride of a coming magistrate trained by Monsieur de

“Allow me, my dear sir; with two sentences this difficulty may be

And the journalist-lawyer wrote as follows:--

  “The forms of the law have nothing to do with this sad event. The
  post-mortem examination, which was at once made, proved that
  sudden death was due to the rupture of an aneurism in its last
  stage. If Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre had been upset by his
  arrest, death must have ensued sooner. But we are in a position to
  state that, far from being distressed at being taken into custody,
  the young man, whom all must lament, only laughed at it, and told
  those who escorted him from Fontainebleau to Paris that as soon as
  he was brought before a magistrate his innocence would be

“That saves it, I think?” said Massol.

“You are perfectly right.”

“The public prosecutor will thank you for it to-morrow,” said Massol

Now to the great majority, as to the more choice reader, it will perhaps
seem that this Study is not completed by the death of Esther and of
Lucien; Jacques Collin and Asie, Europe and Paccard, in spite of their
villainous lives, may have been interesting enough to make their fate a
matter of curiosity.

The last act of the drama will also complete the picture of life
which this Study is intended to present, and give the issue of various
interests which Lucien’s career had strangely tangled by bringing some
ignoble personages from the hulks into contact with those of the highest

Thus, as may be seen, the greatest events of life find their expression
in the more or less veracious gossip of the Paris papers. And this is
the case with many things of greater importance than are here recorded.

                        VAUTRIN’S LAST AVATAR

“What is it, Madeleine?” asked Madame Camusot, seeing her maid come
into the room with the particular air that servants assume in critical

“Madame,” said Madeleine, “monsieur has just come in from Court; but he
looks so upset, and is in such a state, that I think perhaps it would be
well for you to go to his room.”

“Did he say anything?” asked Madame Camusot.

“No, madame; but we never have seen monsieur look like that; he looks
as if he were going to be ill, his face is yellow--he seems all to

Madame Camusot waited for no more; she rushed out of her room and flew
to her husband’s study. She found the lawyer sitting in an armchair,
pale and dazed, his legs stretched out, his head against the back of it,
his hands hanging limp, exactly as if he were sinking into idiotcy.

“What is the matter, my dear?” said the young woman in alarm.

“Oh! my poor Amelie, the most dreadful thing has happened--I am still
trembling. Imagine, the public prosecutor--no, Madame de Serizy--that
is--I do not know where to begin.”

“Begin at the end,” said Madame Camusot.

“Well, just as Monsieur Popinot, in the council room of the first Court,
had put the last signature to the ruling of ‘insufficient cause’ for the
apprehension of Lucien de Rubempre on the ground of my report, setting
him at liberty--in fact, the whole thing was done, the clerk was going
off with the minute book, and I was quit of the whole business--the
President of the Court came in and took up the papers. ‘You are
releasing a dead man,’ said he, with chilly irony; ‘the young man is
gone, as Monsieur de Bonald says, to appear before his natural Judge. He
died of apoplexy----’

“I breathed again, thinking it was sudden illness.

“‘As I understand you, Monsieur le President,’ said Monsieur Popinot,
‘it is a case of apoplexy like Pichegru’s.’

“‘Gentlemen,’ said the President then, very gravely, ‘you must please
to understand that for the outside world Lucien de Rubempre died of an

“We all looked at each other. ‘Very great people are concerned in this
deplorable business,’ said the President. ‘God grant for your sake,
Monsieur Camusot, though you did no less than your duty, that Madame de
Serizy may not go mad from the shock she has had. She was carried away
almost dead. I have just met our public prosecutor in a painful state of
despair.’--‘You have made a mess of it, my dear Camusot,’ he added in
my ear.--I assure you, my dear, as I came away I could hardly stand. My
legs shook so that I dared not venture into the street. I went back to
my room to rest. Then Coquart, who was putting away the papers of
this wretched case, told me that a very handsome woman had taken the
Conciergerie by storm, wanting to save Lucien, whom she was quite crazy
about, and that she fainted away on seeing him hanging by his necktie to
the window-bar of his room. The idea that the way in which I questioned
that unhappy young fellow--who, between ourselves, was guilty in many
ways--can have led to his committing suicide has haunted me ever since I
left the Palais, and I feel constantly on the point of fainting----”

“What next? Are you going to think yourself a murderer because a
suspected criminal hangs himself in prison just as you were about to
release him?” cried Madame Camusot. “Why, an examining judge in such a
case is like a general whose horse is killed under him!--That is all.”

“Such a comparison, my dear, is at best but a jest, and jesting is out
of place now. In this case the dead man clutches the living. All our
hopes are buried in Lucien’s coffin.”

“Indeed?” said Madame Camusot, with deep irony.

“Yes, my career is closed. I shall be no more than an examining judge
all my life. Before this fatal termination Monsieur de Granville was
annoyed at the turn the preliminaries had taken; his speech to our
President makes me quite certain that so long as Monsieur de Granville
is public prosecutor I shall get no promotion.”

Promotion! The terrible thought, which in these days makes a judge a
mere functionary.

Formerly a magistrate was made at once what he was to remain. The three
or four presidents’ caps satisfied the ambitions of lawyers in each
Parlement. An appointment as councillor was enough for a de Brosses or
a Mole, at Dijon as much as in Paris. This office, in itself a fortune,
required a fortune brought to it to keep it up.

In Paris, outside the Parlement, men of the long robe could hope only
for three supreme appointments: those of Controller-General, Keeper of
the Seals, or Chancellor. Below the Parlement, in the lower grades,
the president of a lower Court thought himself quite of sufficient
importance to be content to fill his chair to the end of his days.

Compare the position of a councillor in the High Court of Justice
in Paris, in 1829, who has nothing but his salary, with that of a
councillor to the Parlement in 1729. How great is the difference! In
these days, when money is the universal social guarantee, magistrates
are not required to have--as they used to have--fine private fortunes:
hence we see deputies and peers of France heaping office on office, at
once magistrates and legislators, borrowing dignity from other positions
than those which ought to give them all their importance.

In short, a magistrate tries to distinguish himself for promotion as men
do in the army, or in a Government office.

This prevailing thought, even if it does not affect his independence, is
so well known and so natural, and its effects are so evident, that the
law inevitably loses some of its majesty in the eyes of the public. And,
in fact, the salaries paid by the State makes priests and magistrates
mere _employes_. Steps to be gained foster ambition, ambition engenders
subservience to power, and modern equality places the judge and the
person to be judged in the same category at the bar of society. And so
the two pillars of social order, Religion and Justice, are lowered in
this nineteenth century, which asserts itself as progressive in all

“And why should you never be promoted?” said Amelie Camusot.

She looked half-jestingly at her husband, feeling the necessity of
reviving the energies of the man who embodied her ambitions, and on whom
she could play as on an instrument.

“Why despair?” she went on, with a shrug that sufficiently expressed
her indifference as to the prisoner’s end. “This suicide will delight
Lucien’s two enemies, Madame d’Espard and her cousin, the Comtesse du
Chatelet. Madame d’Espard is on the best terms with the Keeper of the
Seals; through her you can get an audience of His Excellency and tell
him all the secrets of this business. Then, if the head of the law is on
your side, what have you to fear from the president of your Court or the
public prosecutor?”

“But, Monsieur and Madame de Serizy?” cried the poor man. “Madame de
Serizy is gone mad, I tell you, and her madness is my doing, they say.”

“Well, if she is out of her mind, O judge devoid of judgment,” said
Madame Camusot, laughing, “she can do you no harm.--Come, tell me all
the incidents of the day.”

“Bless me!” said Camusot, “just as I had cross-questioned the unhappy
youth, and he had deposed that the self-styled Spanish priest is really
Jacques Collin, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Madame de Serizy
sent me a note by a servant begging me not to examine him. It was all

“But you must have lost your head!” said Amelie. “What was to prevent
you, being so sure as you are of your clerk’s fidelity, from calling
Lucien back, reassuring him cleverly, and revising the examination?”

“Why, you are as bad as Madame de Serizy; you laugh justice to scorn,”
 said Camusot, who was incapable of flouting his profession. “Madame de
Serizy seized the minutes and threw them into the fire.”

“That is the right sort of woman! Bravo!” cried Madame Camusot.

“Madame de Serizy declared she would sooner see the Palais blown up
than leave a young man who had enjoyed the favors of the Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse and her own to stand at the bar of a Criminal court by the
side of a convict!”

“But, Camusot,” said Amelie, unable to suppress a superior smile, “your
position is splendid----”

“Ah! yes, splendid!”

“You did your duty.”

“But all wrong; and in spite of the jesuitical advice of Monsieur de
Granville, who met me on the Quai Malaquais.”

“This morning!”

“This morning.”

“At what hour?”

“At nine o’clock.”

“Oh, Camusot!” cried Amelie, clasping and wringing her hands, “and I am
always imploring you to be constantly on the alert.--Good heavens! it
is not a man, but a barrow-load of stones that I have to drag on!--Why,
Camusot, your public prosecutor was waiting for you.--He must have given
you some warning.”

“Yes, indeed----”

“And you failed to understand him! If you are so deaf, you will indeed
be an examining judge all your life without any knowledge whatever of
the question.--At any rate, have sense enough to listen to me,” she went
on, silencing her husband, who was about to speak. “You think the matter
is done for?” she asked.

Camusot looked at his wife as a country bumpkin looks at a conjurer.

“If the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Madame de Serizy are compromised,
you will find them both ready to patronize you,” said Amelie. “Madame de
Serizy will get you admission to the Keeper of the Seals, and you will
tell him the secret history of the affair; then he will amuse the King
with the story, for sovereigns always wish to see the wrong side of the
tapestry and to know the real meaning of the events the public stare
at open-mouthed. Henceforth there will be no cause to fear either the
public prosecutor or Monsieur de Serizy.”

“What a treasure such a wife is!” cried the lawyer, plucking up courage.
“After all, I have unearthed Jacques Collin; I shall send him to his
account at the Assize Court and unmask his crimes. Such a trial is a
triumph in the career of an examining judge!”

“Camusot,” Amelie began, pleased to see her husband rally from the
moral and physical prostration into which he had been thrown by Lucien’s
suicide, “the President told you that you had blundered to the wrong
side. Now you are blundering as much to the other--you are losing your
way again, my dear.”

The magistrate stood up, looking at his wife with a stupid stare.

“The King and the Keeper of the Seals will be glad, no doubt, to know
the truth of this business, and at the same time much annoyed at seeing
the lawyers on the Liberal side dragging important persons to the bar of
opinion and of the Assize Court by their special pleading--such people
as the Maufrigneuses, the Serizys, and the Grandlieus, in short, all who
are directly or indirectly mixed up with this case.”

“They are all in it; I have them all!” cried Camusot.

And Camusot walked up and down the room like Sganarelle on the stage
when he is trying to get out of a scrape.

“Listen, Amelie,” said he, standing in front of his wife. “An incident
recurs to my mind, a trifle in itself, but, in my position, of vital

“Realize, my dear, that this Jacques Collin is a giant of cunning, of
dissimulation, of deceit.--He is--what shall I say?--the Cromwell of
the hulks!--I never met such a scoundrel; he almost took me in.--But in
examining a criminal, a little end of thread leads you to find a ball,
is a clue to the investigation of the darkest consciences and obscurest
facts.--When Jacques Collin saw me turning over the letters seized in
Lucien de Rubempre’s lodgings, the villain glanced at them with the
evident intention of seeing whether some particular packet were
among them, and he allowed himself to give a visible expression of
satisfaction. This look, as of a thief valuing his booty, this movement,
as of a man in danger saying to himself, ‘My weapons are safe,’ betrayed
a world of things.

“Only you women, besides us and our examinees, can in a single
flash epitomize a whole scene, revealing trickery as complicated as
safety-locks. Volumes of suspicion may thus be communicated in a second.
It is terrifying--life or death lies in a wink.

“Said I to myself, ‘The rascal has more letters in his hands than
these!’--Then the other details of the case filled my mind; I overlooked
the incident, for I thought I should have my men face to face, and clear
up this point afterwards. But it may be considered as quite certain that
Jacques Collin, after the fashion of such wretches, has hidden in some
safe place the most compromising of the young fellow’s letters, adored
as he was by----”

“And yet you are afraid, Camusot? Why, you will be President of the
Supreme Court much sooner than I expected!” cried Madame Camusot, her
face beaming. “Now, then, you must proceed so as to give satisfaction
to everybody, for the matter is looking so serious that it might quite
possibly be snatched from us.--Did they not take the proceedings out of
Popinot’s hands to place them in yours when Madame d’Espard tried to get
a Commission in Lunacy to incapacitate her husband?” she added, in reply
to her husband’s gesture of astonishment. “Well, then, might not the
public prosecutor, who takes such keen interest in the honor of Monsieur
and Madame de Serizy, carry the case to the Upper Court and get a
councillor in his interest to open a fresh inquiry?”

“Bless me, my dear, where did you study criminal law?” cried Camusot.
“You know everything; you can give me points.”

“Why, do you believe that, by to-morrow morning, Monsieur de Granville
will not have taken fright at the possible line of defence that might
be adopted by some liberal advocate whom Jacques Collin would manage to
secure; for lawyers will be ready to pay him to place the case in their
hands!--And those ladies know their danger quite as well as you do--not
to say better; they will put themselves under the protection of the
public prosecutor, who already sees their families unpleasantly close
to the prisoner’s bench, as a consequence of the coalition between
this convict and Lucien de Rubempre, betrothed to Mademoiselle de
Grandlieu--Lucien, Esther’s lover, Madame de Maufrigneuse’s former
lover, Madame de Serizy’s darling. So you must conduct the affair in
such a way as to conciliate the favor of your public prosecutor, the
gratitude of Monsieur de Serizy, and that of the Marquise d’Espard
and the Comtesse du Chatelet, to reinforce Madame de Maufrigneuse’s
influence by that of the Grandlieus, and to gain the complimentary
approval of your President.

“I will undertake to deal with the ladies--d’Espard, de Maufrigneuse,
and de Grandlieu.

“You must go to-morrow morning to see the public prosecutor. Monsieur de
Granville is a man who does not live with his wife; for ten years he
had for his mistress a Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille, who bore him
illegitimate children--didn’t she? Well, such a magistrate is no saint;
he is a man like any other; he can be won over; he must give a hold
somewhere; you must discover the weak spot and flatter him; ask his
advice, point out the dangers of attending the case; in short, try to
get him into the same boat, and you will be----”

“I ought to kiss your footprints!” exclaimed Camusot, interrupting his
wife, putting his arm round her, and pressing her to his heart. “Amelie,
you have saved me!”

“I brought you in tow from Alencon to Mantes, and from Mantes to the
Metropolitan Court,” replied Amelie. “Well, well, be quite easy!--I
intend to be called Madame la Presidente within five years’ time. But,
my dear, pray always think over everything a long time before you come
to any determination. A judge’s business is not that of a fireman; your
papers are never in a blaze, you have plenty of time to think; so in
your place blunders are inexcusable.”

“The whole strength of my position lies in identifying the sham Spanish
priest with Jacques Collin,” the judge said, after a long pause. “When
once that identity is established, even if the Bench should take the
credit of the whole affair, that will still be an ascertained fact which
no magistrate, judge, or councillor can get rid of. I shall do like the
boys who tie a tin kettle to a cat’s tail; the inquiry, whoever carries
it on, will make Jacques Collin’s tin kettle clank.”

“Bravo!” said Amelie.

“And the public prosecutor would rather come to an understanding with
me than with any one else, since I am the only man who can remove the
Damocles’ sword that hangs over the heart of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.

“Only you have no idea how hard it will be to achieve that magnificent
result. Just now, when I was with Monsieur de Granville in his
private office, we agreed, he and I, to take Jacques Collin at his
own valuation--a canon of the Chapter of Toledo, Carlos Herrera. We
consented to recognize his position as a diplomatic envoy, and allow him
to be claimed by the Spanish Embassy. It was in consequence of this plan
that I made out the papers by which Lucien de Rubempre was released, and
revised the minutes of the examinations, washing the prisoners as white
as snow.

“To-morrow, Rastignac, Bianchon, and some others are to be confronted
with the self-styled Canon of Toledo; they will not recognize him as
Jacques Collin who was arrested in their presence ten years ago in a
cheap boarding-house, where they knew him under the name of Vautrin.”

There was a short silence, while Madame Camusot sat thinking.

“Are you sure your man is Jacques Collin?” she asked.

“Positive,” said the lawyer, “and so is the public prosecutor.”

“Well, then, try to make some exposure at the Palais de Justice without
showing your claws too much under your furred cat’s paws. If your man
is still in the secret cells, go straight to the Governor of the
Conciergerie and contrive to have the convict publicly identified.
Instead of behaving like a child, act like the ministers of police under
despotic governments, who invent conspiracies against the monarch to
have the credit of discovering them and making themselves indispensable.
Put three families in danger to have the glory of rescuing them.”

“That luckily reminds me!” cried Camusot. “My brain is so bewildered
that I had quite forgotten an important point. The instructions to
place Jacques Collin in a private room were taken by Coquart to Monsieur
Gault, the Governor of the prison. Now, Bibi-Lupin, Jacques Collin’s
great enemy, has taken steps to have three criminals, who know the man,
transferred from La Force to the Conciergerie; if he appears in the
prison-yard to-morrow, a terrific scene is expected----”


“Jacques Collin, my dear, was treasurer of the money owned by the
prisoners in the hulks, amounting to considerable sums; now, he is
supposed to have spent it all to maintain the deceased Lucien in
luxury, and he will be called to account. There will be such a battle,
Bibi-Lupin tells me, as will require the intervention of the warders,
and the secret will be out. Jacques Collin’s life is in danger.

“Now, if I get to the Palais early enough I may record the evidence of

“Oh, if only his creditors should take him off your hands! You would
be thought such a clever fellow!--Do not go to Monsieur de Granville’s
room; wait for him in his Court with that formidable great gun. It is a
loaded cannon turned on the three most important families of the Court
and Peerage. Be bold: propose to Monsieur de Granville that he should
relieve you of Jacques Collin by transferring him to La Force, where the
convicts know how to deal with those who betray them.

“I will go to the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, who will take me to the
Grandlieus. Possibly I may see Monsieur de Serizy. Trust me to sound the
alarm everywhere. Above all, send me a word we will agree upon to let me
know if the Spanish priest is officially recognized as Jacques Collin.
Get your business at the Palais over by two o’clock, and I will have
arranged for you to have an interview with the Keeper of the Seals;
perhaps I may find him with the Marquise d’Espard.”

Camusot stood squarely with a look of admiration that made his knowing
wife smile.

“Now, come to dinner and be cheerful,” said she in conclusion. “Why,
you see! We have been only two years in Paris, and here you are on the
highroad to be made Councillor before the end of the year. From that
to the Presidency of a court, my dear, there is no gulf but what some
political service may bridge.”

This conjugal sitting shows how greatly the deeds and the lightest words
of Jacques Collin, the lowest personage in this drama, involved the
honor of the families among whom he had planted his now dead protege.

At the Conciergerie Lucien’s death and Madame de Serizy’s incursion had
produced such a block in the wheels of the machinery that the Governor
had forgotten to remove the sham priest from his dungeon-cell.

Though more than one instance is on record of the death of a prisoner
during his preliminary examination, it was a sufficiently rare event
to disturb the warders, the clerk, and the Governor, and hinder their
working with their usual serenity. At the same time, to them the
important fact was not the handsome young fellow so suddenly become a
corpse, but the breakage of the wrought-iron bar of the outer prison
gate by the frail hands of a fine lady. And indeed, as soon as the
public prosecutor and Comte Octave de Bauvan had gone off with Monsieur
de Serizy and his unconscious wife, the Governor, clerk, and turnkeys
gathered round the gate, after letting out Monsieur Lebrun, the prison
doctor, who had been called in to certify to Lucien’s death, in concert
with the “death doctor” of the district in which the unfortunate youth
had been lodging.

In Paris, the “death doctor” is the medical officer whose duty it is in
each district to register deaths and certify to their causes.

With the rapid insight for which he was known, Monsieur de Granville had
judged it necessary, for the honor of the families concerned, to
have the certificate of Lucien’s death deposited at the Mairie of the
district in which the Quai Malaquais lies, as the deceased had resided
there, and to have the body carried from his lodgings to the Church of
Saint-Germain des Pres, where the service was to be held. Monsieur de
Chargeboeuf, Monsieur de Granville’s private secretary, had orders to
this effect. The body was to be transferred from the prison during the
night. The secretary was desired to go at once and settle matters at the
Mairie with the parish authorities and with the official undertakers.
Thus, to the world in general, Lucien would have died at liberty in his
own lodgings, the funeral would start from thence, and his friends would
be invited there for the ceremony.

So, when Camusot, his mind at ease, was sitting down to dinner with his
ambitious better-half, the Governor of the Conciergerie and Monsieur
Lebrun, the prison doctor, were standing outside the gate bewailing the
fragility of iron bars and the strength of ladies in love.

“No one knows,” said the doctor to Monsieur Gault, “what an amount
of nervous force there is in a man wound up to the highest pitch of
passion. Dynamics and mathematics have no formulas or symbols to express
that power. Why, only yesterday, I witnessed an experiment which gave me
a shudder, and which accounts for the terrible strength put forth just
now by that little woman.”

“Tell me about it,” said Monsieur Gault, “for I am so foolish as to take
an interest in magnetism; I do not believe in it, but it mystifies me.”

“A physician who magnetizes--for there are men among us who believe in
magnetism,” Lebrun went on, “offered to experiment on me in proof of a
phenomenon that he described and I doubted. Curious to see with my own
eyes one of the strange states of nervous tension by which the existence
of magnetism is demonstrated, I consented.

“These are the facts.--I should very much like to know what our College
of Medicine would say if each of its members in turn were subjected to
this influence, which leaves no loophole for incredulity.

“My old friend--this doctor,” said Doctor Lebrun parenthetically, “is
an old man persecuted for his opinions since Mesmer’s time by all the
faculty; he is seventy or seventy-two years of age, and his name is
Bouvard. At the present day he is the patriarchal representative of the
theory of animal magnetism. This good man regards me as a son; I owe my
training to him.--Well, this worthy old Bouvard it was who proposed to
prove to me that nerve-force put in motion by the magnetizer was, not
indeed infinite, for man is under immutable laws, but a power acting
like other powers of nature whose elemental essence escapes our

“‘For instance,’ said he, ‘if you place your hand in that of a
somnambulist who, when awake, can press it only up to a certain average
of tightness, you will see that in the somnambulistic state--as it is
stupidly termed--his fingers can clutch like a vise screwed up by a
blacksmith.’--Well, monsieur, I placed my hand in that of a woman, not
asleep, for Bouvard rejects the word, but isolated, and when the old man
bid her squeeze my wrist as long and as tightly as she could, I begged
him to stop when the blood was almost bursting from my finger tips.
Look, you can see the marks of her clutch, which I shall not lose for
these three months.”

“The deuce!” exclaimed Monsieur Gault, as he saw a band of bruised
flesh, looking like the scar of a burn.

“My dear Gault,” the doctor went on, “if my wrist had been gripped in
an iron manacle screwed tight by a locksmith, I should not have felt
the bracelet of metal so hard as that woman’s fingers; her hand was
of unyielding steel, and I am convinced that she could have crushed my
bones and broken my hand from the wrist. The pressure, beginning almost
insensibly, increased without relaxing, fresh force being constantly
added to the former grip; a tourniquet could not have been more
effectual than that hand used as an instrument of torture.--To me,
therefore, it seems proven that under the influence of passion, which is
the will concentrated on one point and raised to an incalculable power
of animal force, as the different varieties of electric force are also,
man may direct his whole vitality, whether for attack or resistance,
to one of his organs.--Now, this little lady, under the stress of her
despair, had concentrated her vital force in her hands.”

“She must have a good deal too, to break a wrought-iron bar,” said the
chief warder, with a shake of the head.

“There was a flaw in it,” Monsieur Gault observed.

“For my part,” said the doctor, “I dare assign no limits to nervous
force. And indeed it is by this that mothers, to save their children,
can magnetize lions, climb, in a fire, along a parapet where a cat would
not venture, and endure the torments that sometimes attend childbirth.
In this lies the secret of the attempts made by convicts and prisoners
to regain their liberty. The extent of our vital energies is as yet
unknown; they are part of the energy of nature itself, and we draw them
from unknown reservoirs.”

“Monsieur,” said the warder in an undertone to the Governor, coming
close to him as he was escorting Doctor Lebrun as far as the outer gates
of the Conciergerie, “Number 2 in the secret cells says he is ill, and
needs the doctor; he declares he is dying,” added the turnkey.

“Indeed,” said the Governor.

“His breath rattles in his throat,” replied the man.

“It is five o’clock,” said the doctor; “I have had no dinner. But, after
all, I am at hand. Come, let us see.”

“Number 2, as it happens, is the Spanish priest suspected of being
Jacques Collin,” said Monsieur Gault to the doctor, “and one of
the persons suspected of the crime in which that poor young man was

“I saw him this morning,” replied the doctor. “Monsieur Camusot sent for
me to give evidence as to the state of the rascal’s health, and I
may assure you that he is perfectly well, and could make a fortune by
playing the part of Hercules in a troupe of athletes.”

“Perhaps he wants to kill himself too,” said Monsieur Gault. “Let us
both go down to the cells together, for I ought to go there if only
to transfer him to an upper room. Monsieur Camusot has given orders to
mitigate this anonymous gentleman’s confinement.”

Jacques Collin, known as _Trompe-la-Mort_ in the world of the hulks,
who must henceforth be called only by his real name, had gone through
terrible distress of mind since, after hearing Camusot’s order, he had
been taken back to the underground cell--an anguish such as he had never
before known in the course of a life diversified by many crimes, by
three escapes, and two sentences at the Assizes. And is there not
something monstrously fine in the dog-like attachment shown to the man
he had made his friend by this wretch in whom were concentrated all the
life, the powers, the spirit, and the passions of the hulks, who was, so
to speak, their highest expression?

Wicked, infamous, and in so many ways horrible, this absolute worship of
his idol makes him so truly interesting that this Study, long as it
is already, would seem incomplete and cut short if the close of this
criminal career did not come as a sequel to Lucien de Rubempre’s end.
The little spaniel being dead, we want to know whether his terrible
playfellow the lion will live on.

In real life, in society, every event is so inevitably linked to other
events, that one cannot occur without the rest. The water of the great
river forms a sort of fluid floor; not a wave, however rebellious,
however high it may toss itself, but its powerful crest must sink to the
level of the mass of waters, stronger by the momentum of its course than
the revolt of the surges it bears with it.

And just as you watch the current flow, seeing in it a confused sheet
of images, so perhaps you would like to measure the pressure exerted
by social energy on the vortex called Vautrin; to see how far away the
rebellious eddy will be carried ere it is lost, and what the end will
be of this really diabolical man, human still by the power of loving--so
hardly can that heavenly grace perish, even in the most cankered heart.

This wretched convict, embodying the poem that has smiled on many a
poet’s fancy--on Moore, on Lord Byron, on Mathurin, on Canalis--the
demon who has drawn an angel down to hell to refresh him with dews
stolen from heaven,--this Jacques Collin will be seen, by the reader who
has understood that iron soul, to have sacrificed his own life for
seven years past. His vast powers, absorbed in Lucien, acted solely for
Lucien; he lived for his progress, his loves, his ambitions. To him,
Lucien was his own soul made visible.

It was _Trompe-la-Mort_ who dined with the Grandlieus, stole into
ladies’ boudoirs, and loved Esther by proxy. In fact, in Lucien he saw
Jacques Collin, young, handsome, noble, and rising to the dignity of an

_Trompe-la-Mort_ had realized the German superstition of a doppelganger
by means of a spiritual paternity, a phenomenon which will be quite
intelligible to those women who have ever truly loved, who have felt
their soul merge in that of the man they adore, who have lived his life,
whether noble or infamous, happy or unhappy, obscure or brilliant;
who, in defiance of distance, have felt a pain in their leg if he were
wounded in his; who if he fought a duel would have been aware of it;
and who, to put the matter in a nutshell, did not need to be told he was
unfaithful to know it.

As he went back to his cell Jacques Collin said to himself, “The boy is
being examined.”

And he shivered--he who thought no more of killing a man than a laborer
does of drinking.

“Has he been able to see his mistresses?” he wondered. “Has my aunt
succeeded in catching those damned females? Have the Duchesses and
Countesses bestirred themselves and prevented his being examined? Has
Lucien had my instructions? And if ill-luck will have it that he is
cross-questioned, how will he carry it off? Poor boy, and I have brought
him to this! It is that rascal Paccard and that sneak Europe who have
caused all this rumpus by collaring the seven hundred and fifty thousand
francs for the certificate Nucingen gave Esther. That precious pair
tripped us up at the last step; but I will make them pay dear for their

“One day more and Lucien would have been a rich man; he might have
married his Clotilde de Grandlieu.--Then the boy would have been all
my own!--And to think that our fate depends on a look, on a blush of
Lucien’s under Camusot’s eye, who sees everything, and has all a judge’s
wits about him! For when he showed me the letters we tipped each other
a wink in which we took each other’s measure, and he guessed that I can
make Lucien’s lady-loves fork out.”

This soliloquy lasted for three hours. His torments were so great that
they were too much for that frame of iron and vitriol; Jacques Collin,
whose brain felt on fire with insanity, suffered such fearful thirst
that he unconsciously drank up all the water contained in one of the
pails with which the cell was supplied, forming, with the bed, all its

“If he loses his head, what will become of him?--for the poor child
has not Theodore’s tenacity,” said he to himself, as he lay down on the
camp-bed--like a bed in a guard-room.

A word must here be said about this Theodore, remembered by Jacques
Collin at such a critical moment. Theodore Calvi, a young Corsican,
imprisoned for life at the age of eighteen for eleven murders, thanks to
the influential interference paid for with vast sums, had been made the
fellow convict of Jacques Collin, to whom he was chained, in 1819 and
1820. Jacques Collin’s last escape, one of his finest inventions--for he
had got out disguised as a gendarme leading Theodore Calvi as he was, a
convict called before the commissary of police--had been effected in the
seaport of Rochefort, where the convicts die by dozens, and where, it
was hoped, these two dangerous rascals would have ended their days.
Though they escaped together, the difficulties of their flight had
forced them to separate. Theodore was caught and restored to the hulks.

Indeed, a life with Lucien, a youth innocent of all crime, who had only
minor sins on his conscience, dawned on him as bright and glorious as a
summer sun; while with Theodore, Jacques Collin could look forward to no
end but the scaffold after a career of indispensable crimes.

The thought of disaster as a result of Lucien’s weakness--for his
experience of an underground cell would certainly have turned
his brain--took vast proportions in Jacques Collin’s mind; and,
contemplating the probabilities of such a misfortune, the unhappy
man felt his eyes fill with tears, a phenomenon that had been utterly
unknown to him since his earliest childhood.

“I must be in a furious fever,” said he to himself; “and perhaps if
I send for the doctor and offer him a handsome sum, he will put me in
communication with Lucien.”

At this moment the turnkey brought in his dinner.

“It is quite useless my boy; I cannot eat. Tell the governor of this
prison to send the doctor to see me. I am very bad, and I believe my
last hour has come.”

Hearing the guttural rattle that accompanied these words, the warder
bowed and went. Jacques Collin clung wildly to this hope; but when he
saw the doctor and the governor come in together, he perceived that
the attempt was abortive, and coolly awaited the upshot of the visit,
holding out his wrist for the doctor to feel his pulse.

“The Abbe is feverish,” said the doctor to Monsieur Gault, “but it is
the type of fever we always find in inculpated prisoners--and to me,”
 he added, in the governor’s ear, “it is always a sign of some degree of

Just then the governor, to whom the public prosecutor had intrusted
Lucien’s letter to be given to Jacques Collin, left the doctor and the
prisoner together under the guard of the warder, and went to fetch the

“Monsieur,” said Jacques Collin, seeing the warder outside the door,
and not understanding why the governor had left them, “I should think
nothing of thirty thousand francs if I might send five lines to Lucien
de Rubempre.”

“I will not rob you of your money,” said Doctor Lebrun; “no one in this
world can ever communicate with him again----”

“No one?” said the prisoner in amazement. “Why?”

“He has hanged himself----”

No tigress robbed of her whelps ever startled an Indian jungle with a
yell so fearful as that of Jacques Collin, who rose to his feet as a
tiger rears to spring, and fired a glance at the doctor as scorching
as the flash of a falling thunderbolt. Then he fell back on the bed,

“Oh, my son!”

“Poor man!” said the doctor, moved by this terrific convulsion of

In fact, the first explosion gave way to such utter collapse, that the
words, “Oh, my son,” were but a murmur.

“Is this one going to die in our hands too?” said the turnkey.

“No; it is impossible!” Jacques Collin went on, raising himself and
looking at the two witnesses of the scene with a dead, cold eye. “You
are mistaken; it is not Lucien; you did not see. A man cannot hang
himself in one of these cells. Look--how could I hang myself here? All
Paris shall answer to me for that boy’s life! God owes it to me.”

The warder and the doctor were amazed in their turn--they, whom nothing
had astonished for many a long day.

On seeing the governor, Jacques Collin, crushed by the very violence of
this outburst of grief, seemed somewhat calmer.

“Here is a letter which the public prosecutor placed in my hands for
you, with permission to give it to you sealed,” said Monsieur Gault.

“From Lucien?” said Jacques Collin.

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Is not that young man----”

“He is dead,” said the governor. “Even if the doctor had been on
the spot, he would, unfortunately, have been too late. The young man
died--there--in one of the rooms----”

“May I see him with my own eyes?” asked Jacques Collin timidly. “Will
you allow a father to weep over the body of his son?”

“You can, if you like, take his room, for I have orders to remove
you from these cells; you are no longer in such close confinement,

The prisoner’s eyes, from which all light and warmth had fled, turned
slowly from the governor to the doctor; Jacques Collin was examining
them, fearing some trap, and he was afraid to go out of the cell.

“If you wish to see the body,” said Lebrun, “you have no time to lose;
it is to be carried away to-night.”

“If you have children, gentlemen,” said Jacques Collin, “you will
understand my state of mind; I hardly know what I am doing. This blow
is worse to me than death; but you cannot know what I am saying. Even if
you are fathers, it is only after a fashion--I am a mother too--I--I am
going mad--I feel it!”

By going through certain passages which open only to the governor, it
is possible to get very quickly from the cells to the private rooms. The
two sets of rooms are divided by an underground corridor formed of two
massive walls supporting the vault over which Galerie Marchande, as it
is called, is built. So Jacques Collin, escorted by the warder, who took
his arm, preceded by the governor, and followed by the doctor, in a few
minutes reached the cell where Lucien was lying stretched on the bed.

On seeing the body, he threw himself upon it, seizing it in a desperate
embrace with a passion and impulse that made these spectators shudder.

“There,” said the doctor to Monsieur Gault, “that is an instance of what
I was telling you. You see that man clutching the body, and you do not
know what a corpse is; it is stone----”

“Leave me alone!” said Jacques Collin in a smothered voice; “I have not
long to look at him. They will take him away to----”

He paused at the word “bury him.”

“You will allow me to have some relic of my dear boy! Will you be so
kind as to cut off a lock of his hair for me, monsieur,” he said to the
doctor, “for I cannot----”

“He was certainly his son,” said Lebrun.

“Do you think so?” replied the governor in a meaning tone, which made
the doctor thoughtful for a few minutes.

The governor gave orders that the prisoner should be left in this cell,
and that some locks of hair should be cut for the self-styled father
before the body should be removed.

At half-past five in the month of May it is easy to read a letter in the
Conciergerie in spite of the iron bars and the close wire trellis that
guard the windows. So Jacques Collin read the dreadful letter while he
still held Lucien’s hand.

The man is not known who can hold a lump of ice for ten minutes tightly
clutched in the hollow of his hand. The cold penetrates to the very
life-springs with mortal rapidity. But the effect of that cruel chill,
acting like a poison, is as nothing to that which strikes to the soul
from the cold, rigid hand of the dead thus held. Thus Death speaks
to Life; it tells many dark secrets which kill many feelings; for in
matters of feeling is not change death?

As we read through once more, with Jacques Collin, Lucien’s last letter,
it will strike us as being what it was to this man--a cup of poison:--

                 “_To the Abbe Carlos Herrera_.

  “MY DEAR ABBE,--I have had only benefits from you, and I have
  betrayed you. This involuntary ingratitude is killing me, and when
  you read these lines I shall have ceased to exist. You are not
  here now to save me.

  “You had given me full liberty, if I should find it advantageous,
  to destroy you by flinging you on the ground like a cigar-end; but
  I have ruined you by a blunder. To escape from a difficulty,
  deluded by a clever question from the examining judge, your son by
  adoption and grace went over to the side of those who aim at
  killing you at any cost, and insist on proving an identity, which
  I know to be impossible, between you and a French villain. All is

  “Between a man of your calibre and me--me of whom you tried to
  make a greater man than I am capable of being--no foolish
  sentiment can come at the moment of final parting. You hoped to
  make me powerful and famous, and you have thrown me into the gulf
  of suicide, that is all. I have long heard the broad pinions of
  that vertigo beating over my head.

  “As you have sometimes said, there is the posterity of Cain and
  the posterity of Abel. In the great human drama Cain is in
  opposition. You are descended from Adam through that line, in
  which the devil still fans the fire of which the first spark was
  flung on Eve. Among the demons of that pedigree, from time to time
  we see one of stupendous power, summing up every form of human
  energy, and resembling the fevered beasts of the desert, whose
  vitality demands the vast spaces they find there. Such men are as
  dangerous as lions would be in the heart of Normandy; they must
  have their prey, and they devour common men and crop the money of
  fools. Their sport is so dangerous that at last they kill the
  humble dog whom they have taken for a companion and made an idol

  “When it is God’s will, these mysterious beings may be a Moses, an
  Attila, Charlemagne, Mahomet, or Napoleon; but when He leaves a
  generation of these stupendous tools to rust at the bottom of the
  ocean, they are no more than a Pugatschef, a Fouche, a Louvel, or
  the Abbe Carlos Herrera. Gifted with immense power over tenderer
  souls, they entrap them and mangle them. It is grand, it is fine
  --in its way. It is the poisonous plant with gorgeous coloring that
  fascinates children in the woods. It is the poetry of evil. Men
  like you ought to dwell in caves and never come out of them. You
  have made me live that vast life, and I have had all my share of
  existence; so I may very well take my head out of the Gordian knot
  of your policy and slip it into the running knot of my cravat.

  “To repair the mischief I have done, I am forwarding to the public
  prosecutor a retraction of my deposition. You will know how to
  take advantage of this document.

  “In virtue of a will formally drawn up, restitution will be made,
  Monsieur l’Abbe, of the moneys belonging to your Order which you
  so imprudently devoted to my use, as a result of your paternal
  affection for me.

  “And so, farewell. Farewell, colossal image of Evil and
  Corruption; farewell--to you who, if started on the right road,
  might have been greater than Ximenes, greater than Richelieu! You
  have kept your promises. I find myself once more just as I was on
  the banks of the Charente, after enjoying, by your help, the
  enchantments of a dream. But, unfortunately, it is not now in the
  waters of my native place that I shall drown the errors of a boy;
  but in the Seine, and my hole is a cell in the Conciergerie.

  “Do not regret me: my contempt for you is as great as my


A little before one in the morning, when the men came to fetch away the
body, they found Jacques Collin kneeling by the bed, the letter on the
floor, dropped, no doubt, as a suicide drops the pistol that has shot
him; but the unhappy man still held Lucien’s hand between his own, and
was praying to God.

On seeing this man, the porters paused for a moment, for he looked like
one of those stone images, kneeling to all eternity on a mediaeval tomb,
the work of some stone-carver’s genius. The sham priest, with eyes
as bright as a tiger’s, but stiffened into supernatural rigidity, so
impressed the men that they gently bid him rise.

“Why?” he asked mildly. The audacious _Trompe-la-Mort_ was as meek as a

The governor pointed him out to Monsieur de Chargeboeuf; and he,
respecting such grief, and believing that Jacques Collin was indeed
the priest he called himself, explained the orders given by Monsieur de
Granville with regard to the funeral service and arrangements, showing
that it was absolutely necessary that the body should be transferred
to Lucien’s lodgings, Quai Malaquais, where the priests were waiting to
watch by it for the rest of the night.

“It is worthy of that gentleman’s well-known magnanimity,” said Jacques
Collin sadly. “Tell him, monsieur, that he may rely on my gratitude.
Yes, I am in a position to do him great service. Do not forget these
words; they are of the utmost importance to him.

“Oh, monsieur! strange changes come over a man’s spirit when for seven
hours he has wept over such a son as he----And I shall see him no more!”

After gazing once more at Lucien with an expression of a mother bereft
of her child’s remains, Jacques Collin sank in a heap. As he saw
Lucien’s body carried away, he uttered a groan that made the men hurry
off. The public prosecutor’s private secretary and the governor of the
prison had already made their escape from the scene.

What had become of that iron spirit; of the decision which was a match
in swiftness for the eye; of the nature in which thought and action
flashed forth together like one flame; of the sinews hardened by three
spells of labor on the hulks, and by three escapes, the muscles which
had acquired the metallic temper of a savage’s limbs? Iron will yield to
a certain amount of hammering or persistent pressure; its impenetrable
molecules, purified and made homogeneous by man, may become
disintegrated, and without being in a state of fusion the metal had lost
its power of resistance. Blacksmiths, locksmiths, tool-makers sometimes
express this state by saying the iron is retting, appropriating a word
applied exclusively to hemp, which is reduced to pulp and fibre by
maceration. Well, the human soul, or, if you will, the threefold powers
of body, heart, and intellect, under certain repeated shocks, get into
such a condition as fibrous iron. They too are disintegrated. Science
and law and the public seek a thousand causes for the terrible
catastrophes on railways caused by the rupture of an iron rail, that of
Bellevue being a famous instance; but no one has asked the evidence
of real experts in such matters, the blacksmiths, who all say the same
thing, “The iron was stringy!” The danger cannot be foreseen. Metal
that has gone soft, and metal that has preserved its tenacity, both look
exactly alike.

Priests and examining judges often find great criminals in this state.
The awful experiences of the Assize Court and the “last toilet” commonly
produce this dissolution of the nervous system, even in the strongest
natures. Then confessions are blurted by the most firmly set lips; then
the toughest hearts break; and, strange to say, always at the moment
when these confessions are useless, when this weakness as of death
snatches from the man the mask of innocence which made Justice
uneasy--for it always is uneasy when the criminal dies without
confessing his crime.

Napoleon went through this collapse of every human power on the field of

At eight in the morning, when the warder of the better cells entered the
room where Jacques Collin was confined, he found him pale and calm, like
a man who has collected all his strength by sheer determination.

“It is the hour for airing in the prison-yard,” said the turnkey;
“you have not been out for three days; if you choose to take air and
exercise, you may.”

Jacques Collin, lost in his absorbing thoughts, and taking no interest
in himself, regarding himself as a garment with no body in it, a perfect
rag, never suspected the trap laid for him by Bibi-Lupin, nor the
importance attaching to his walk in the prison-yard.

The unhappy man went out mechanically, along the corridor, by the cells
built into the magnificent cloisters of the Palace of the Kings, over
which is the corridor Saint-Louis, as it is called, leading to the
various purlieus of the Court of Appeals. This passage joins that of the
better cells; and it is worth noting that the cell in which Louvel was
imprisoned, one of the most famous of the regicides, is the room at
the right angle formed by the junction of the two corridors. Under the
pretty room in the Tour Bonbec there is a spiral staircase leading from
the dark passage, and serving the prisoners who are lodged in these
cells to go up and down on their way from or to the yard.

Every prisoner, whether committed for trial or already sentenced, and
the prisoners under suspicion who have been reprieved from the closest
cells--in short, every one in confinement in the Conciergerie takes
exercise in this narrow paved courtyard for some hours every day,
especially the early hours of summer mornings. This recreation ground,
the ante-room to the scaffold or the hulks on one side, on the other
still clings to the world through the gendarme, the examining judge,
and the Assize Court. It strikes a greater chill perhaps than even the
scaffold. The scaffold may be a pedestal to soar to heaven from; but the
prison-yard is every infamy on earth concentrated and unavoidable.

Whether at La Force or at Poissy, at Melun or at Sainte-Pelagie, a
prison-yard is a prison-yard. The same details are exactly repeated,
all but the color of the walls, their height, and the space enclosed. So
this Study of Manners would be false to its name if it did not include
an exact description of this Pandemonium of Paris.

Under the mighty vaulting which supports the lower courts and the Court
of Appeals there is, close to the fourth arch, a stone slab, used by
Saint-Louis, it is said, for the distribution of alms, and doing duty
in our day as a counter for the sale of eatables to the prisoners. So as
soon as the prison-yard is open to the prisoners, they gather round this
stone table, which displays such dainties as jail-birds desire--brandy,
rum, and the like.

The first two archways on that side of the yard, facing the fine
Byzantine corridor--the only vestige now of Saint-Louis’ elegant
palace--form a parlor, where the prisoners and their counsel may meet,
to which the prisoners have access through a formidable gateway--a
double passage, railed off by enormous bars, within the width of the
third archway. This double way is like the temporary passages arranged
at the door of a theatre to keep a line on occasions when a great
success brings a crowd. This parlor, at the very end of the vast
entrance-hall of the Conciergerie, and lighted by loop-holes on the
yard side, has lately been opened out towards the back, and the opening
filled with glass, so that the interviews of the lawyers with their
clients are under supervision. This innovation was made necessary by the
too great fascinations brought to bear by pretty women on their counsel.
Where will morality stop short? Such precautions are like the ready-made
sets of questions for self-examination, where pure imaginations are
defiled by meditating on unknown and monstrous depravity. In this
parlor, too, parents and friends may be allowed by the authorities to
meet the prisoners, whether on remand or awaiting their sentence.

The reader may now understand what the prison-yard is to the two hundred
prisoners in the Conciergerie: their garden--a garden without trees,
beds, or flowers--in short, a prison-yard. The parlor, and the stone of
Saint-Louis, where such food and liquor as are allowed are dispensed,
are the only possible means of communication with the outer world.

The hour spent in the yard is the only time when the prisoner is in
the open air or the society of his kind; in other prisons those who
are sentenced for a term are brought together in workshops; but in
the Conciergerie no occupation is allowed, excepting in the privileged
cells. There the absorbing idea in every mind is the drama of the Assize
Court, since the culprit comes only to be examined or to be sentenced.

This yard is indeed terrible to behold; it cannot be imagined, it must
be seen.

In the first place, the assemblage, in a space forty metres long by
thirty wide, of a hundred condemned or suspected criminals, does not
constitute the cream of society. These creatures, belonging for the most
part to the lowest ranks, are poorly clad; their countenances are base
or horrible, for a criminal from the upper sphere of society is happily,
a rare exception. Peculation, forgery, or fraudulent bankruptcy, the
only crimes that can bring decent folks so low, enjoy the privilege of
the better cells, and then the prisoner scarcely ever quits it.

This promenade, bounded by fine but formidable blackened walls, by a
cloister divided up into cells, by fortifications on the side towards
the quay, by the barred cells of the better class on the north, watched
by vigilant warders, and filled with a herd of criminals, all meanly
suspicious of each other, is depressing enough in itself; and it becomes
terrifying when you find yourself the centre of all those eyes full of
hatred, curiosity, and despair, face to face with that degraded crew.
Not a gleam of gladness! all is gloom--the place and the men. All is
speechless--the walls and men’s consciences. To these hapless creatures
danger lies everywhere; excepting in the case of an alliance as ominous
as the prison where it was formed, they dare not trust each other.

The police, all-pervading, poisons the atmosphere and taints everything,
even the hand-grasp of two criminals who have been intimate. A convict
who meets his most familiar comrade does not know that he may not have
repented and have made a confession to save his life. This absence
of confidence, this dread of the nark, marks the liberty, already so
illusory, of the prison-yard. The “nark” (in French, le Mouton or le
coqueur) is a spy who affects to be sentenced for some serious offence,
and whose skill consists in pretending to be a chum. The “chum,” in
thieves’ slang, is a skilled thief, a professional who has cut himself
adrift from society, and means to remain a thief all his days, and
continues faithful through thick and thin to the laws of the swell-mob.

Crime and madness have a certain resemblance. To see the prisoners of
the Conciergerie in the yard, or the madmen in the garden of an asylum,
is much the same thing. Prisoners and lunatics walk to and fro, avoiding
each other, looking up with more or less strange or vicious glances,
according to the mood of the moment, but never cheerful, never grave;
they know each other, or they dread each other. The anticipation of
their sentence, remorse, and apprehension give all these men exercising,
the anxious, furtive look of the insane. Only the most consummate
criminals have the audacity that apes the quietude of respectability,
the sincerity of a clear conscience.

As men of the better class are few, and shame keeps the few whose crimes
have brought them within doors, the frequenters of the prison-yard
are for the most part dressed as workmen. Blouses, long and short,
and velveteen jackets preponderate. These coarse or dirty
garments, harmonizing with the coarse and sinister faces and brutal
manner--somewhat subdued, indeed, by the gloomy reflections that weigh
on men in prison--everything, to the silence that reigns, contributes to
strike terror or disgust into the rare visitor who, by high influence,
has obtained the privilege, seldom granted, of going over the

Just as the sight of an anatomical museum, where foul diseases are
represented by wax models, makes the youth who may be taken there
more chaste and apt for nobler and purer love, so the sight of the
Conciergerie and of the prison-yard, filled with men marked for the
hulks or the scaffold or some disgraceful punishment, inspires many, who
might not fear that Divine Justice whose voice speaks so loudly to the
conscience, with a fear of human justice; and they come out honest men
for a long time after.

As the men who were exercising in the prison-yard, when _Trompe-la-Mort_
appeared there, were to be the actors in a scene of crowning importance
in the life of Jacques Collin, it will be well to depict a few of the
principal personages of this sinister crowd.

Here, as everywhere when men are thrown together, here, as at school
even, force, physical and moral, wins the day. Here, then, as on the
hulks, crime stamps the man’s rank. Those whose head is doomed are
the aristocracy. The prison-yard, as may be supposed, is a school of
criminal law, which is far better learned there than at the Hall on the
Place du Pantheon.

A never-failing pleasantry is to rehearse the drama of the Assize Court;
to elect a president, a jury, a public prosecutor, a counsel, and to
go through the whole trial. This hideous farce is played before almost
every great trial. At this time a famous case was proceeding in the
Criminal Court, that of the dreadful murder committed on the persons
of Monsieur and Madame Crottat, the notary’s father and mother, retired
farmers who, as this horrible business showed, kept eight hundred
thousand francs in gold in their house.

One of the men concerned in this double murder was the notorious
Dannepont, known as la Pouraille, a released convict, who for five years
had eluded the most active search on the part of the police, under the
protection of seven or eight different names. This villain’s disguises
were so perfect, that he had served two years of imprisonment under the
name of Delsouq, who was one of his own disciples, and a famous
thief, though he never, in any of his achievements, went beyond the
jurisdiction of the lower Courts. La Pouraille had committed no less
than three murders since his dismissal from the hulks. The certainty
that he would be executed, not less than the large fortune he was
supposed to have, made this man an object of terror and admiration to
his fellow-prisoners; for not a farthing of the stolen money had ever
been recovered. Even after the events of July 1830, some persons may
remember the terror caused in Paris by this daring crime, worthy
to compare in importance with the robbery of medals from the Public
Library; for the unhappy tendency of our age is to make a murder the
more interesting in proportion to the greater sum of money secured by

La Pouraille, a small, lean, dry man, with a face like a ferret,
forty-five years old, and one of the celebrities of the prisons he had
successively lived in since the age of nineteen, knew Jacques Collin
well, how and why will be seen.

Two other convicts, brought with la Pouraille from La Force within
these twenty-four hours, had at once acknowledged and made the whole
prison-yard acknowledge the supremacy of this past-master sealed to the
scaffold. One of these convicts, a ticket-of-leave man, named Selerier,
alias l’Avuergnat, Pere Ralleau, and le Rouleur, who in the sphere
known to the hulks as the swell-mob was called Fil-de-Soie (or silken
thread)--a nickname he owed to the skill with which he slipped through
the various perils of the business--was an old ally of Jacques Collin’s.

_Trompe-la-Mort_ so keenly suspected Fil-de-Soie of playing a double
part, of being at once in the secrets of the swell-mob and a spy laid by
the police, that he had supposed him to be the prime mover of his arrest
in the Maison Vauquer in 1819 (_Le Pere Goriot_). Selerier, whom we must
call Fil-de-Soie, as we shall also call Dannepont la Pouraille, already
guilty of evading surveillance, was concerned in certain well-known
robberies without bloodshed, which would certainly take him back to the
hulks for at least twenty years.

The other convict, named Riganson, and his kept woman, known as
la Biffe, were a most formidable couple, members of the swell-mob.
Riganson, on very distant terms with the police from his earliest years,
was nicknamed le Biffon. Biffon was the male of la Biffe--for nothing is
sacred to the swell-mob. These fiends respect nothing, neither the law
nor religions, not even natural history, whose solemn nomenclature, it
is seen, is parodied by them.

Here a digression is necessary; for Jacques Collin’s appearance in the
prison-yard in the midst of his foes, as had been so cleverly contrived
by Bibi-Lupin and the examining judge, and the strange scenes to ensue,
would be incomprehensible and impossible without some explanation as to
the world of thieves and of the hulks, its laws, its manners, and above
all, its language, its hideous figures of speech being indispensable in
this portion of my tale.

So, first of all, a few words must be said as to the vocabulary of
sharpers, pickpockets, thieves, and murderers, known as Argot, or
thieves’ cant, which has of late been introduced into literature with so
much success that more than one word of that strange lingo is familiar
on the rosy lips of ladies, has been heard in gilded boudoirs, and
become the delight of princes, who have often proclaimed themselves
“done brown” (floue)! And it must be owned, to the surprise no doubt of
many persons, that no language is more vigorous or more vivid than that
of this underground world which, from the beginnings of countries with
capitals, has dwelt in cellars and slums, in the third limbo of society
everywhere (le troisieme dessous, as the expressive and vivid slang of
the theatres has it). For is not the world a stage? Le troisieme dessous
is the lowest cellar under the stage at the Opera where the machinery
is kept and men stay who work it, whence the footlights are raised, the
ghosts, the blue-devils shot up from hell, and so forth.

Every word of this language is a bold metaphor, ingenious or horrible.
A man’s breeches are his kicks or trucks (montante, a word that need not
be explained). In this language you do not sleep, you snooze, or doze
(pioncer--and note how vigorously expressive the word is of the sleep of
the hunted, weary, distrustful animal called a thief, which as soon as
it is in safety drops--rolls--into the gulf of deep slumber so necessary
under the mighty wings of suspicion always hovering over it; a fearful
sleep, like that of a wild beast that can sleep, nay, and snore, and yet
its ears are alert with caution).

In this idiom everything is savage. The syllables which begin or end
the words are harsh and curiously startling. A woman is a trip or a moll
(une largue). And it is poetical too: straw is la plume de Beauce, a
farmyard feather bed. The word midnight is paraphrased by twelve leads
striking--it makes one shiver! Rincer une cambriole is to “screw the
shop,” to rifle a room. What a feeble expression is to go to bed in
comparison with “to doss” (piausser, make a new skin). What picturesque
imagery! Work your dominoes (jouer des dominos) is to eat; how can men
eat with the police at their heels?

And this language is always growing; it keeps pace with civilization,
and is enriched with some new expression by every fresh invention. The
potato, discovered and introduced by Louis XVI. and Parmentier, was at
once dubbed in French slang as the pig’s orange (Orange a Cochons)[the
Irish have called them bog oranges]. Banknotes are invented; the “mob”
 at once call them Flimsies (fafiots garotes, from “Garot,” the name of
the cashier whose signature they bear). Flimsy! (fafiot.) Cannot you
hear the rustle of the thin paper? The thousand franc-note is male
flimsy (in French), the five hundred franc-note is the female; and
convicts will, you may be sure, find some whimsical name for the hundred
and two hundred franc-notes.

In 1790 Guillotin invented, with humane intent, the expeditious machine
which solved all the difficulties involved in the problem of capital
punishment. Convicts and prisoners from the hulks forthwith investigated
this contrivance, standing as it did on the monarchical borderland of
the old system and the frontier of modern legislation; they instantly
gave it the name of _l’Abbaye de Monte-a-Regret_. They looked at the
angle formed by the steel blade, and described its action as repeating
(faucher); and when it is remembered that the hulks are called the
meadow (le pre), philologists must admire the inventiveness of these
horrible vocables, as Charles Nodier would have said.

The high antiquity of this kind of slang is also noteworthy. A tenth
of the words are of old Romanesque origin, another tenth are the old
Gaulish French of Rabelais. Effondrer, to thrash a man, to give him what
for; otolondrer, to annoy or to “spur” him; cambrioler, doing anything
in a room; aubert, money; Gironde, a beauty (the name of a river of
Languedoc); fouillousse, a pocket--a “cly”--are all French of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The word affe, meaning life, is of
the highest antiquity. From affe anything that disturbs life is called
affres (a rowing or scolding), hence affreux, anything that troubles

About a hundred words are derived from the language of Panurge, a
name symbolizing the people, for it is derived from two Greek words
signifying All-working.

Science is changing the face of the world by constructing railroads. In
Argot the train is le roulant Vif, the Rattler.

The name given to the head while still on the shoulders--la
Sorbonne--shows the antiquity of this dialect which is mentioned by
very early romance-writers, as Cervantes, the Italian story-tellers, and
Aretino. In all ages the moll, the prostitute, the heroine of so many
old-world romances, has been the protectress, companion, and comfort of
the sharper, the thief, the pickpocket, the area-sneak, and the burglar.

Prostitution and robbery are the male and female forms of protest made
by the natural state against the social state. Even philosophers,
the innovators of to-day, the humanitarians with the communists and
Fourierists in their train, come at last, without knowing it, to the
same conclusion--prostitution and theft. The thief does not argue out
questions of property, of inheritance, and social responsibility,
in sophistical books; he absolutely ignores them. To him theft is
appropriating his own. He does not discuss marriage; he does not
complain of it; he does not insist, in printed Utopian dreams, on the
mutual consent and bond of souls which can never become general; he
pairs with a vehemence of which the bonds are constantly riveted by the
hammer of necessity. Modern innovators write unctuous theories, long
drawn, and nebulous or philanthropical romances; but the thief acts. He
is as clear as a fact, as logical as a blow; and then his style!

Another thing worth noting: the world of prostitutes, thieves, and
murders of the galleys and the prisons forms a population of about
sixty to eighty thousand souls, men and women. Such a world is not to be
disdained in a picture of modern manners and a literary reproduction of
the social body. The law, the gendarmerie, and the police constitute
a body almost equal in number; is not that strange? This antagonism of
persons perpetually seeking and avoiding each other, and fighting a vast
and highly dramatic duel, are what are sketched in this Study. It has
been the same thing with thieving and public harlotry as with the stage,
the police, the priesthood, and the gendarmerie. In these six walks of
life the individual contracts an indelible character. He can no longer
be himself. The stigmata of ordination are as immutable as those of the
soldier are. And it is the same in other callings which are strongly
in opposition, strong contrasts with civilization. These violent,
eccentric, singular signs--sui generis--are what make the harlot, the
robber, the murderer, the ticket-of-leave man, so easily recognizable
by their foes, the spy and the police, to whom they are as game to the
sportsman: they have a gait, a manner, a complexion, a look, a color, a
smell--in short, infallible marks about them. Hence the highly-developed
art of disguise which the heroes of the hulks acquire.

One word yet as to the constitution of this world apart, which the
abolition of branding, the mitigation of penalties, and the silly
leniency of furies are making a threatening evil. In about twenty
years Paris will be beleaguered by an army of forty thousand reprieved
criminals; the department of the Seine and its fifteen hundred thousand
inhabitants being the only place in France where these poor wretches can
be hidden. To them Paris is what the virgin forest is to beasts of prey.

The swell-mob, or more exactly, the upper class of thieves, which is
the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the aristocracy of the tribe, had, in
1816, after the peace which made life hard for so many men, formed an
association called les grands fanandels--the Great Pals--consisting
of the most noted master-thieves and certain bold spirits at that time
bereft of any means of living. This word pal means brother, friend, and
comrade all in one. And these “Great Pals,” the cream of the thieving
fraternity, for more than twenty years were the Court of Appeal, the
Institute of Learning, and the Chamber of Peers of this community. These
men all had their private means, with funds in common, and a code of
their own. They knew each other, and were pledged to help and succor
each other in difficulties. And they were all superior to the tricks or
snares of the police, had a charter of their own, passwords and signs of

From 1815 to 1819 these dukes and peers of the prison world had formed
the famous association of the Ten-thousand (see _le Pere Goriot_), so
styled by reason of an agreement in virtue of which no job was to be
undertaken by which less than ten thousand francs could be got.

At that very time, in 1829-30, some memoirs were brought out in which
the collective force of this association and the names of the leaders
were published by a famous member of the police-force. It was terrifying
to find there an army of skilled rogues, male and female; so numerous,
so clever, so constantly lucky, that such thieves as Pastourel,
Collonge, or Chimaux, men of fifty and sixty, were described as outlaws
from society from their earliest years! What a confession of the
ineptitude of justice that rogues so old should be at large!

Jacques Collin had been the cashier, not only of the “Ten-thousand,” but
also of the “Great Pals,” the heroes of the hulks. Competent authorities
admit that the hulks have always owned large sums. This curious fact is
quite conceivable. Stolen goods are never recovered but in very singular
cases. The condemned criminal, who can take nothing with him, is obliged
to trust somebody’s honesty and capacity, and to deposit his money; as
in the world of honest folks, money is placed in a bank.

Long ago Bibi-Lupin, now for ten years a chief of the department of
Public Safety, had been a member of the aristocracy of “Pals.” His
treason had resulted from offended pride; he had been constantly
set aside in favor of _Trompe-la-Mort’s_ superior intelligence and
prodigious strength. Hence his persistent vindictiveness against Jacques
Collin. Hence, also, certain compromises between Bibi-Lupin and his old
companions, which the magistrates were beginning to take seriously.

So in his desire for vengeance, to which the examining judge had given
play under the necessity of identifying Jacques Collin, the chief of the
“Safety” had very skilfully chosen his allies by setting la Pouraille,
Fil-de-Soie, and le Biffon on the sham Spaniard--for la Pouraille and
Fil-de-Soie both belonged to the “Ten-thousand,” and le Biffon was a
“Great Pal.”

La Biffe, le Biffon’s formidable trip, who to this day evades all the
pursuit of the police by her skill in disguising herself as a lady, was
at liberty. This woman, who successfully apes a marquise, a countess,
a baroness, keeps a carriage and men-servants. This Jacques Collin in
petticoats is the only woman who can compare with Asie, Jacques Collin’s
right hand. And, in fact, every hero of the hulks is backed up by a
devoted woman. Prison records and the secret papers of the law courts
will tell you this; no honest woman’s love, not even that of the bigot
for her spiritual director, has ever been greater than the attachment of
a mistress who shares the dangers of a great criminal.

With these men a passion is almost always the first cause of
their daring enterprises and murders. The excessive love
which--constitutionally, as the doctors say--makes woman irresistible
to them, calls every moral and physical force of these powerful natures
into action. Hence the idleness which consumes their days, for excesses
of passion necessitate sleep and restorative food. Hence their loathing
of all work, driving these creatures to have recourse to rapid ways
of getting money. And yet, the need of a living, and of high living,
violent as it is, is but a trifle in comparison with the extravagance
to which these generous Medors are prompted by the mistress to whom they
want to give jewels and dress, and who--always greedy--love rich food.
The baggage wants a shawl, the lover steals it, and the woman sees in
this a proof of love.

This is how robbery begins; and robbery, if we examine the human soul
through a lens, will be seen to be an almost natural instinct in man.

Robbery leads to murder, and murder leads the lover step by step to the

Ill-regulated physical desire is therefore, in these men, if we may
believe the medical faculty, at the root of seven-tenths of the crimes
committed. And, indeed, the proof is always found, evident, palpable
at the post-mortem examination of the criminal after his execution. And
these monstrous lovers, the scarecrows of society, are adored by their
mistresses. It is this female devotion, squatting faithfully at the
prison gate, always eagerly balking the cunning of the examiner, and
incorruptibly keeping the darkest secrets which make so many trials
impenetrable mysteries.

In this, again, lies the strength as well as the weakness of the
accused. In the vocabulary of a prostitute, to be honest means to break
none of the laws of this attachment, to give all her money to the man
who is nabbed, to look after his comforts, to be faithful to him in
every way, to undertake anything for his sake. The bitterest insult one
of these women can fling in the teeth of another wretched creature is
to accuse her of infidelity to a lover in quod (in prison). In that case
such a woman is considered to have no heart.

La Pouraille was passionately in love with a woman, as will be seen.

Fil-de-Soie, an egotistical philosopher, who thieved to provide for the
future, was a good deal like Paccard, Jacques Collin’s satellite, who
had fled with Prudence Servien and the seven hundred and fifty thousand
francs between them. He had no attachment, he condemned women, and loved
no one but Fil-de-Soie.

As to le Biffon, he derived his nickname from his connection with
la Biffe. (La Biffe is scavenging, rag-picking.) And these three
distinguished members of _la haute pegre_, the aristocracy of roguery,
had a reckoning to demand of Jacques Collin, accounts that were somewhat
hard to bring to book.

No one but the cashier could know how many of his clients were still
alive, and what each man’s share would be. The mortality to which
the depositors were peculiarly liable had formed a basis for
_Trompe-la-Mort’s_ calculations when he resolved to embezzle the funds
for Lucien’s benefit. By keeping himself out of the way of the police
and of his pals for nine years, Jacques Collin was almost certain to
have fallen heir, by the terms of the agreement among the associates,
to two-thirds of the depositors. Besides, could he not plead that he had
repaid the pals who had been scragged? In fact, no one had any hold
over these _Great Pals_. His comrades trusted him by compulsion, for the
hunted life led by convicts necessitates the most delicate confidence
between the gentry of this crew of savages. So Jacques Collin, a
defaulter for a hundred thousand crowns, might now possibly be quit for
a hundred thousand francs. At this moment, as we see, la Pouraille,
one of Jacques Collin’s creditors, had but ninety days to live. And la
Pouraille, the possessor of a sum vastly greater, no doubt, than that
placed in his pal’s keeping, would probably prove easy to deal with.

One of the infallible signs by which prison governors and their agents,
the police and warders, recognize old stagers (chevaux de retour), that
is to say, men who have already eaten beans (les gourganes, a kind of
haricots provided for prison fare), is their familiarity with prison
ways; those who have been _in_ before, of course, know the manners and
customs; they are at home, and nothing surprises them.

And Jacques Collin, thoroughly on his guard, had, until now, played his
part to admiration as an innocent man and stranger, both at La Force and
at the Conciergerie. But now, broken by grief, and by two deaths--for
he had died twice over during that dreadful night--he was Jacques Collin
once more. The warder was astounded to find that the Spanish priest
needed no telling as to the way to the prison-yard. The perfect actor
forgot his part; he went down the corkscrew stairs in the Tour Bonbec as
one who knew the Conciergerie.

“Bibi-Lupin is right,” said the turnkey to himself; “he is an old
stager; he is Jacques Collin.”

At the moment when _Trompe-la-Mort_ appeared in the sort of frame to his
figure made by the door into the tower, the prisoners, having made their
purchases at the stone table called after Saint-Louis, were scattered
about the yard, always too small for their number. So the newcomer was
seen by all of them at once, and all the more promptly, because
nothing can compare for keenness with the eye of a prisoner, who in a
prison-yard feels like a spider watching in its web. And this comparison
is mathematically exact; for the range of vision being limited on all
sides by high dark walls, the prisoners can always see, even without
looking at them, the doors through which the warders come and go, the
windows of the parlor, and the stairs of the Tour Bonbec--the only exits
from the yard. In this utter isolation every trivial incident is an
event, everything is interesting; the tedium--a tedium like that of a
tiger in a cage--increases their alertness tenfold.

It is necessary to note that Jacques Collin, dressed like a priest who
is not strict as to costume, wore black knee breeches, black stockings,
shoes with silver buckles, a black waistcoat, and a long coat of
dark-brown cloth of a certain cut that betrays the priest whatever he
may do, especially when these details are completed by a characteristic
style of haircutting. Jacques Collin’s wig was eminently ecclesiastical,
and wonderfully natural.

“Hallo!” said la Pouraille to le Biffon, “that’s a bad sign! A rook!
(sanglier, a priest). How did he come here?”

“He is one of their ‘narks’” (trucs, spies) “of a new make,”
 replied Fil-de-Soie, “some runner with the bracelets” (marchand de
lacets--equivalent to a Bow Street runner) “looking out for his man.”

The gendarme boasts of many names in French slang; when he is after a
thief, he is “the man with the bracelets” (marchand de lacets); when he
has him in charge, he is a bird of ill-omen (hirondelle de la Greve);
when he escorts him to the scaffold, he is “groom to the guillotine”
 (hussard de la guillotine).

To complete our study of the prison-yard, two more of the prisoners
must be hastily sketched in. Selerier, alias l’Auvergnat, alias le Pere
Ralleau, called le Rouleur, alias Fil-de-Soie--he had thirty names, and
as many passports--will henceforth be spoken of by this name only, as he
was called by no other among the swell-mob. This profound philosopher,
who saw a spy in the sham priest, was a brawny fellow of about five
feet eight, whose muscles were all marked by strange bosses. He had
an enormous head in which a pair of half-closed eyes sparkled like
fire--the eyes of a bird of prey, with gray, dull, skinny eyelids. At
first glance his face resembled that of a wolf, his jaws were so broad,
powerful, and prominent; but the cruelty and even ferocity suggested by
this likeness were counterbalanced by the cunning and eagerness of his
face, though it was scarred by the smallpox. The margin of each scar
being sharply cut, gave a sort of wit to his expression; it was seamed
with ironies. The life of a criminal--a life of danger and thirst, of
nights spent bivouacking on the quays and river banks, on bridges
and streets, and the orgies of strong drink by which successes are
celebrated--had laid, as it were, a varnish over these features.
Fil-de-Soie, if seen in his undisguised person, would have been marked
by any constable or gendarme as his prey; but he was a match for Jacques
Collin in the arts of make-up and dress. Just now Fil-de-Soie, in
undress, like a great actor who is well got up only on the stage, wore a
sort of shooting jacket bereft of buttons, and whose ripped button-holes
showed the white lining, squalid green slippers, nankin trousers now
a dingy gray, and on his head a cap without a peak, under which an old
bandana was tied, streaky with rents, and washed out.

Le Biffon was a complete contrast to Fil-de-Soie. This famous robber,
short, burly, and fat, but active, with a livid complexion, and deep-set
black eyes, dressed like a cook, standing squarely on very bandy
legs, was alarming to behold, for in his countenance all the features
predominated that are most typical of the carnivorous beast.

Fil-de-Soie and le Biffon were always wheedling la Pouraille, who had
lost all hope. The murderer knew that he would be tried, sentenced,
and executed within four months. Indeed, Fil-de-Soie and le Biffon,
la Pouraille’s chums, never called him anything but _le Chanoine de
l’Abbaye de Monte-a-Regret_ (a grim paraphrase for a man condemned to
the guillotine). It is easy to understand why Fil-de-Soie and le Biffon
should fawn on la Pouraille. The man had somewhere hidden two hundred
and fifty thousand francs in gold, his share of the spoil found in
the house of the Crottats, the “victims,” in newspaper phrase. What a
splendid fortune to leave to two pals, though the two old stagers would
be sent back to the galleys within a few days! Le Biffon and Fil-de-Soie
would be sentenced for a term of fifteen years for robbery with
violence, without prejudice to the ten years’ penal servitude on a
former sentence, which they had taken the liberty of cutting short. So,
though one had twenty-two and the other twenty-six years of imprisonment
to look forward to, they both hoped to escape, and come back to find la
Pouraille’s mine of gold.

But the “Ten-thousand man” kept his secret; he did not see the use of
telling it before he was sentenced. He belonged to the “upper ten” of
the hulks, and had never betrayed his accomplices. His temper was well
known; Monsieur Popinot, who had examined him, had not been able to get
anything out of him.

This terrible trio were at the further end of the prison-yard, that is
to say, near the better class of cells. Fil-de-Soie was giving a lecture
to a young man who was IN for his first offence, and who, being certain
of ten years’ penal servitude, was gaining information as to the various
convict establishments.

“Well, my boy,” Fil-de-Soie was saying sententiously as Jacques Collin
appeared on the scene, “the difference between Brest, Toulon, and
Rochefort is----”

“Well, old cock?” said the lad, with the curiosity of a novice.

This prisoner, a man of good family, accused of forgery, had come down
from the cell next to that where Lucien had been.

“My son,” Fil-de-Soie went on, “at Brest you are sure to get some beans
at the third turn if you dip your spoon in the bowl; at Toulon you never
get any till the fifth; and at Rochefort you get none at all, unless you
are an old hand.”

Having spoken, the philosopher joined le Biffon and la Pouraille, and
all three, greatly puzzled by the priest, walked down the yard, while
Jacques Collin, lost in grief, came up it. _Trompe-la-Mort_, absorbed in
terrible meditations, the meditations of a fallen emperor, did not
think of himself as the centre of observation, the object of general
attention, and he walked slowly, gazing at the fatal window where Lucien
had hanged himself. None of the prisoners knew of this catastrophe,
since, for reasons to be presently explained, the young forger had not
mentioned the subject. The three pals agreed to cross the priest’s path.

“He is no priest,” said Fil-de-Soie; “he is an old stager. Look how he
drags his right foot.”

It is needful to explain here--for not every reader has had a fancy to
visit the galleys--that each convict is chained to another, an old one
and a young one always as a couple; the weight of this chain riveted
to a ring above the ankle is so great as to induce a limp, which the
convict never loses. Being obliged to exert one leg much more than the
other to drag this fetter (manicle is the slang name for such irons),
the prisoner inevitably gets into the habit of making the effort.
Afterwards, though he no longer wears the chain, it acts upon him still;
as a man still feels an amputated leg, the convict is always conscious
of the anklet, and can never get over that trick of walking. In police
slang, he “drags his right.” And this sign, as well known to convicts
among themselves as it is to the police, even if it does not help to
identify a comrade, at any rate confirms recognition.

In _Trompe-la Mort_, who had escaped eight years since, this trick had
to a great extent worn off; but just now, lost in reflections, he walked
at such a slow and solemn pace that, slight as the limp was, it was
strikingly evident to so practiced an eye as la Pouraille’s. And it is
quite intelligible that convicts, always thrown together, as they must
be, and never having any one else to study, will so thoroughly have
watched each other’s faces and appearance, that certain tricks will have
impressed them which may escape their systematic foes--spies, gendarmes,
and police-inspectors.

Thus it was a peculiar twitch of the maxillary muscles of the left
cheek, recognized by a convict who was sent to a review of the Legion
of the Seine, which led to the arrest of the lieutenant-colonel of that
corps, the famous Coignard; for, in spite of Bibi-Lupin’s confidence,
the police could not dare believe that the Comte Pontis de Sainte-Helene
and Coignard were one and the same man.

“He is our boss” (dab or master) said Fil-de-Soie, seeing in Jacques
Collin’s eyes the vague glance a man sunk in despair casts on all his

“By Jingo! Yes, it is _Trompe-la-Mort_,” said le Biffon, rubbing his
hands. “Yes, it is his cut, his build; but what has he done to himself?
He looks quite different.”

“I know what he is up to!” cried Fil-de-Soie; “he has some plan in his
head. He wants to see the boy” (sa tante) “who is to be executed before

The persons known in prison as tantes or aunts may be best described in
the ingenious words of the governor of one of the great prisons to the
late Lord Durham, who, during his stay in Paris, visited every prison.
So curious was he to see every detail of French justice, that he even
persuaded Sanson, at that time the executioner, to erect the scaffold
and decapitate a living calf, that he might thoroughly understand the
working of the machine made famous by the Revolution. The governor
having shown him everything--the yards, the workshops, and the
underground cells--pointed to a part of the building, and said, “I need
not take your Lordship there; it is the quartier des tantes.”--“Oh,”
 said Lord Durham, “what are they!”--“The third sex, my Lord.”

“And they are going to scrag Theodore!” said la Pouraille, “such a
pretty boy! And such a light hand! such cheek! What a loss to society!”

“Yes, Theodore Calvi is yamming his last meal,” said le Biffon. “His
trips will pipe their eyes, for the little beggar was a great pet.”

“So you’re here, old chap?” said la Pouraille to Jacques Collin. And,
arm-in-arm with his two acolytes, he barred the way to the new arrival.
“Why, Boss, have you got yourself japanned?” he went on.

“I hear you have nobbled our pile” (stolen our money), le Biffon added,
in a threatening tone.

“You have just got to stump up the tin!” said Fil-de-Soie.

The three questions were fired at him like three pistol-shots.

“Do not make game of an unhappy priest sent here by mistake,” Jacques
Collin replied mechanically, recognizing his three comrades.

“That is the sound of his pipe, if it is not quite the cut of his mug,”
 said la Pouraille, laying his hand on Jacques Collin’s shoulder.

This action, and the sight of his three chums, startled the “Boss” out
of his dejection, and brought him back to a consciousness of reality;
for during that dreadful night he had lost himself in the infinite
spiritual world of feeling, seeking some new road.

“Do not blow the gaff on your Boss!” said Jacques Collin in a hollow
threatening tone, not unlike the low growl of a lion. “The reelers are
here; let them make fools of themselves. I am faking to help a pal who
is awfully down on his luck.”

He spoke with the unction of a priest trying to convert the wretched,
and a look which flashed round the yard, took in the warders under the
archways, and pointed them out with a wink to his three companions.

“Are there not narks about? Keep your peepers open and a sharp lookout.
Don’t know me, Nanty parnarly, and soap me down for a priest, or I will
do for you all, you and your molls and your blunt.”

“What, do you funk our blabbing?” said Fil-de-Soie. “Have you come to
help your boy to guy?”

“Madeleine is getting ready to be turned off in the Square” (the Place
de Greve), said la Pouraille.

“Theodore!” said Jacques Collin, repressing a start and a cry.

“They will have his nut off,” la Pouraille went on; “he was booked for
the scaffold two months ago.”

Jacques Collin felt sick, his knees almost failed him; but his three
comrades held him up, and he had the presence of mind to clasp his
hands with an expression of contrition. La Pouraille and le Biffon
respectfully supported the sacrilegious _Trompe-la-Mort_, while
Fil-de-Soie ran to a warder on guard at the gate leading to the parlor.

“That venerable priest wants to sit down; send out a chair for him,”
 said he.

And so Bibi-Lupin’s plot had failed.

_Trompe-la-Mort_, like a Napoleon recognized by his soldiers, had won
the submission and respect of the three felons. Two words had done it.
Your molls and your blunt--your women and your money--epitomizing
every true affection of man. This threat was to the three convicts an
indication of supreme power. The Boss still had their fortune in his
hands. Still omnipotent outside the prison, their Boss had not betrayed
them, as the false pals said.

Their chief’s immense reputation for skill and inventiveness stimulated
their curiosity; for, in prison, curiosity is the only goad of these
blighted spirits. And Jacques Collin’s daring disguise, kept up even
under the bolts and locks of the Conciergerie, dazzled the three felons.

“I have been in close confinement for four days and did not know that
Theodore was so near the Abbaye,” said Jacques Collin. “I came in to
save a poor little chap who scragged himself here yesterday at four
o’clock, and now here is another misfortune. I have not an ace in my

“Poor old boy!” said Fil-de-Soie.

“Old Scratch has cut me!” cried Jacques Collin, tearing himself free
from his supporters, and drawing himself up with a fierce look. “There
comes a time when the world is too many for us! The beaks gobble us up
at last.”

The governor of the Conciergerie, informed of the Spanish priest’s weak
state, came himself to the prison-yard to observe him; he made him sit
down on a chair in the sun, studying him with the keen acumen which
increases day by day in the practise of such functions, though hidden
under an appearance of indifference.

“Oh! Heaven!” cried Jacques Collin. “To be mixed up with such creatures,
the dregs of society--felons and murders!--But God will not desert His
servant! My dear sir, my stay here shall be marked by deeds of charity
which shall live in men’s memories. I will convert these unhappy
creatures, they shall learn they have souls, that life eternal awaits
them, and that though they have lost all on earth, they still may win
heaven--Heaven which they may purchase by true and genuine repentance.”

Twenty or thirty prisoners had gathered in a group behind the three
terrible convicts, whose ferocious looks had kept a space of three
feet between them and their inquisitive companions, and they heard this
address, spoken with evangelical unction.

“Ay, Monsieur Gault,” said the formidable la Pouraille, “we will listen
to what this one may say----”

“I have been told,” Jacques Collin went on, “that there is in this
prison a man condemned to death.”

“The rejection of his appeal is at this moment being read to him,” said
Monsieur Gault.

“I do not know what that means,” said Jacques Collin, artlessly looking
about him.

“Golly, what a flat!” said the young fellow, who, a few minutes since,
had asked Fil-de-Soie about the beans on the hulks.

“Why, it means that he is to be scragged to-day or to-morrow.”

“Scragged?” asked Jacques Collin, whose air of innocence and ignorance
filled his three pals with admiration.

“In their slang,” said the governor, “that means that he will suffer the
penalty of death. If the clerk is reading the appeal, the executioner
will no doubt have orders for the execution. The unhappy man has
persistently refused the offices of the chaplain.”

“Ah! Monsieur le Directeaur, this is a soul to save!” cried Jacques
Collin, and the sacrilegious wretch clasped his hands with the
expression of a despairing lover, which to the watchful governor seemed
nothing less than divine fervor. “Ah, monsieur,” _Trompe-la-Mort_ went
on, “let me prove to you what I am, and how much I can do, by allowing
me to incite that hardened heart to repentance. God has given me a power
of speech which produces great changes. I crush men’s hearts; I open
them.--What are you afraid of? Send me with an escort of gendarmes, of
turnkeys--whom you will.”

“I will inquire whether the prison chaplain will allow you to take his
place,” said Monsieur Gault.

And the governor withdrew, struck by the expression, perfectly
indifferent, though inquisitive, with which the convicts and the
prisoners on remand stared at this priest, whose unctuous tones lent a
charm to his half-French, half-Spanish lingo.

“How did you come in here, Monsieur l’Abbe?” asked the youth who had
questioned Fil-de-Soie.

“Oh, by a mistake!” replied Jacques Collin, eyeing the young gentleman
from head to foot. “I was found in the house of a courtesan who had
died, and was immediately robbed. It was proved that she had killed
herself, and the thieves--probably the servants--have not yet been

“And it was for that theft that your young man hanged himself?”

“The poor boy, no doubt, could not endure the thought of being blighted
by his unjust imprisonment,” said _Trompe-la-Mort_, raising his eyes to

“Ay,” said the young man; “they were coming to set him free just when he
had killed himself. What bad luck!”

“Only innocent souls can be thus worked on by their imagination,” said
Jacques Collin. “For, observe, he was the loser by the theft.”

“How much money was it?” asked Fil-de-Soie, the deep and cunning.

“Seven hundred and fifty thousand francs,” said Jacques Collin blandly.

The three convicts looked at each other and withdrew from the group that
had gathered round the sham priest.

“He screwed the moll’s place himself!” said Fil-de-Soie in a whisper to
le Biffon, “and they want to put us in a blue funk for our cartwheels”
 (thunes de balles, five-franc pieces).

“He will always be the boss of the swells,” replied la Pouraille. “Our
pieces are safe enough.”

La Pouraille, wishing to find some man he could trust, had an interest
in considering Jacques Collin an honest man. And in prison, of all
places, a man believes what he hopes.

“I lay you anything, he will come round the big Boss and save his chum!”
 said Fil-de-Soie.

“If he does that,” said le Biffon, “though I don’t believe he is really
God, he must certainly have smoked a pipe with old Scratch, as they

“Didn’t you hear him say, ‘Old Scratch has cut me’?” said Fil-de-Soie.

“Oh!” cried la Pouraille, “if only he would save my nut, what a time
I would have with my whack of the shiners and the yellow boys I have

“Do what he bids you!” said Fil-de Soie.

“You don’t say so?” retorted la Pouraille, looking at his pal.

“What a flat you are! You will be booked for the Abbaye!” said le
Biffon. “You have no other door to budge, if you want to keep on your
pins, to yam, wet your whistle, and fake to the end; you must take his

“That’s all right,” said la Pouraille. “There is not one of us that will
blow the gaff, or if he does, I will take him where I am going----”

“And he’ll do it too,” cried Fil-de-Soie.

The least sympathetic reader, who has no pity for this strange race, may
conceive of the state of mind of Jacques Collin, finding himself between
the dead body of the idol whom he had been bewailing during five hours
that night, and the imminent end of his former comrade--the dead body
of Theodore, the young Corsican. Only to see the boy would demand
extraordinary cleverness; to save him would need a miracle; but he was
thinking of it.

For the better comprehension of what Jacques Collin proposed to attempt,
it must be remarked that murderers and thieves, all the men who people
the galleys, are not so formidable as is generally supposed. With a
few rare exceptions these creatures are all cowards, in consequence no
doubt, of the constant alarms which weigh on their spirit. The faculties
being perpetually on the stretch in thieving, and the success of a
stroke of business depending on the exertion of every vital force, with
a readiness of wit to match their dexterity of hand, and an alertness
which exhausts the nervous system; these violent exertions of will
once over, they become stupid, just as a singer or a dancer drops quite
exhausted after a fatiguing pas seul, or one of those tremendous duets
which modern composers inflict on the public.

Malefactors are, in fact, so entirely bereft of common sense, or so much
oppressed by fear, that they become absolutely childish. Credulous to
the last degree, they are caught by the bird-lime of the simplest snare.
When they have done a successful _job_, they are in such a state of
prostration that they immediately rush into the debaucheries they crave
for; they get drunk on wine and spirits, and throw themselves madly into
the arms of their women to recover composure by dint of exhausting their
strength, and to forget their crime by forgetting their reason.

Then they are at the mercy of the police. When once they are in custody
they lose their head, and long for hope so blindly that they believe
anything; indeed, there is nothing too absurd for them to accept it. An
instance will suffice to show how far the simplicity of a criminal
who has been _nabbed_ will carry him. Bibi-Lupin, not long before, had
extracted a confession from a murderer of nineteen by making him believe
that no one under age was ever executed. When this lad was transferred
to the Conciergerie to be sentenced after the rejection of his appeal,
this terrible man came to see him.

“Are you sure you are not yet twenty?” said he.

“Yes, I am only nineteen and a half.”

“Well, then,” replied Bibi-Lupin, “you may be quite sure of one
thing--you will never see twenty.”


“Because you will be scragged within three days,” replied the police

The murderer, who had believed, even after sentence was passed, that a
minor would never be executed, collapsed like an omelette soufflee.

Such men, cruel only from the necessity for suppressive evidence,
for they murder only to get rid of witnesses (and this is one of
the arguments adduced by those who desire the abrogation of capital
punishment),--these giants of dexterity and skill, whose sleight of
hand, whose rapid sight, whose every sense is as alert as that of a
savage, are heroes of evil only on the stage of their exploits. Not only
do their difficulties begin as soon as the crime is committed, for they
are as much bewildered by the need for concealing the stolen goods as
they were depressed by necessity--but they are as weak as a woman in
childbed. The vehemence of their schemes is terrific; in success they
become like children. In a word, their nature is that of the wild
beast--easy to kill when it is full fed. In prison these strange beings
are men in dissimulation and in secretiveness, which never yields till
the last moment, when they are crushed and broken by the tedium of

It may hence be understood how it was that the three convicts, instead
of betraying their chief, were eager to serve him; and as they suspected
he was now the owner of the stolen seven hundred and fifty thousand
francs, they admired him for his calm resignation, under bolt and bar of
the Conciergerie, believing him capable of protecting them all.

When Monsieur Gault left the sham priest, he returned through the parlor
to his office, and went in search of Bibi-Lupin, who for twenty minutes,
since Jacques Collin had gone downstairs, had been on the watch with his
eye at a peephole in a window looking out on the prison-yard.

“Not one of them recognized him,” said Monsieur Gault, “and Napolitas,
who is on duty, did not hear a word. The poor priest all through the
night, in his deep distress, did not say a word which could imply that
his gown covers Jacques Collin.”

“That shows that he is used to prison life,” said the police agent.

Napolitas, Bibi-Lupin’s secretary, being unknown to the criminals
then in the Conciergerie, was playing the part of the young gentlemen
imprisoned for forgery.

“Well, but he wishes to be allowed to hear the confession of the young
fellow who is sentenced to death,” said the governor.

“To be sure! That is our last chance,” cried Bibi-Lupin. “I had
forgotten that. Theodore Calvi, the young Corsican, was the man chained
to Jacques Collin; they say that on the hulks Jacques Collin made him
famous pads----”

The convicts on the galleys contrive a kind of pad to slip between their
skin and the fetters to deaden the pressure of the iron ring on their
ankles and instep; these pads, made of tow and rags, are known as

“Who is warder over the man?” asked Bibi-Lupin.

“Coeur la Virole.”

“Very well, I will go and make up as a gendarme, and be on the watch; I
shall hear what they say. I will be even with them.”

“But if it should be Jacques Collin are you not afraid of his
recognizing you and throttling you?” said the governor to Bibi-Lupin.

“As a gendarme I shall have my sword,” replied the other; “and, besides,
if he is Jacques Collin, he will never do anything that will risk his
neck; and if he is a priest, I shall be safe.”

“Then you have no time to lose,” said Monsieur Gault; “it is half-past
eight. Father Sauteloup has just read the reply to his appeal, and
Monsieur Sanson is waiting in the order room.”

“Yes, it is to-day’s job, the ‘widow’s huzzars’” (les hussards de la
veuve, another horrible name for the functionaries of the guillotine)
“are ordered out,” replied Bibi-Lupin. “Still, I cannot wonder that the
prosecutor-general should hesitate; the boy has always declared that he
is innocent, and there is, in my opinion, no conclusive evidence against

“He is a thorough Corsican,” said Monsieur Gault; “he has not said a
word, and has held firm all through.”

The last words of the governor of the prison summed up the dismal tale
of a man condemned to die. A man cut off from among the living by
law belongs to the Bench. The Bench is paramount; it is answerable to
nobody, it obeys its own conscience. The prison belongs to the Bench,
which controls it absolutely. Poetry has taken possession of this social
theme, “the man condemned to death”--a subject truly apt to strike the
imagination! And poetry has been sublime on it. Prose has no resource
but fact; still, the fact is appalling enough to hold its own against
verse. The existence of a condemned man who has not confessed his crime,
or betrayed his accomplices, is one of fearful torment. This is no case
of iron boots, of water poured into the stomach, or of limbs racked by
hideous machinery; it is hidden and, so to speak, negative torture.
The condemned wretch is given over to himself with a companion whom he
cannot but trust.

The amiability of modern philanthropy fancies it has understood
the dreadful torment of isolation, but this is a mistake. Since the
abolition of torture, the Bench, in a natural anxiety to reassure the
too sensitive consciences of the jury, had guessed what a terrible
auxiliary isolation would prove to justice in seconding remorse.

Solitude is void; and nature has as great a horror of a moral void as
she has of a physical vacuum. Solitude is habitable only to a man of
genius who can people it with ideas, the children of the spiritual
world; or to one who contemplates the works of the Creator, to whom it
is bright with the light of heaven, alive with the breath and voice of
God. Excepting for these two beings--so near to Paradise--solitude is
to the mind what torture is to the body. Between solitude and the
torture-chamber there is all the difference that there is between a
nervous malady and a surgical disease. It is suffering multiplied by
infinitude. The body borders on the infinite through its nerves, as the
spirit does through thought. And, in fact, in the annals of the Paris
law courts the criminals who do not confess can be easily counted.

This terrible situation, which in some cases assumes appalling
importance--in politics, for instance, when a dynasty or a state is
involved--will find a place in the HUMAN COMEDY. But here a description
of the stone box in which after the Restoration, the law shut up a man
condemned to death in Paris, may serve to give an idea of the terrors of
a felon’s last day on earth.

Before the Revolution of July there was in the Conciergerie, and indeed
there still is, a condemned cell. This room, backing on the governor’s
office, is divided from it by a thick wall in strong masonry, and the
other side of it is formed by a wall seven or eight feet thick, which
supports one end of the immense _Salle des Pas-Perdus_. It is entered
through the first door in the long dark passage in which the eye
loses itself when looking from the middle of the vaulted gateway. This
ill-omened room is lighted by a funnel, barred by a formidable grating,
and hardly perceptible on going into the Conciergerie yard, for it has
been pierced in the narrow space between the office window close to the
railing of the gateway, and the place where the office clerk sits--a den
like a cupboard contrived by the architect at the end of the entrance

This position accounts for the fact that the room thus enclosed
between four immensely thick walls should have been devoted, when the
Conciergerie was reconstituted, to this terrible and funereal service.
Escape is impossible. The passage, leading to the cells for solitary
confinement and to the women’s quarters, faces the stove where gendarmes
and warders are always collected together. The air-hole, the only outlet
to the open air, is nine feet above the floor, and looks out on the
first court, which is guarded by sentries at the outer gate. No human
power can make any impression on the walls. Besides, a man sentenced to
death is at once secured in a straitwaistcoat, a garment which precludes
all use of the hands; he is chained by one foot to his camp bed, and he
has a fellow prisoner to watch and attend on him. The room is paved with
thick flags, and the light is so dim that it is hard to see anything.

It is impossible not to feel chilled to the marrow on going in,
even now, though for sixteen years the cell has never been used,
in consequence of the changes effected in Paris in the treatment of
criminals under sentence. Imagine the guilty man there with his remorse
for company, in silence and darkness, two elements of horror, and you
will wonder how he ever failed to go mad. What a nature must that
be whose temper can resist such treatment, with the added misery of
enforced idleness and inaction.

And yet Theodore Calvi, a Corsican, now twenty-seven years of age,
muffled, as it were, in a shroud of absolute reserve, had for two months
held out against the effects of this dungeon and the insidious chatter
of the prisoner placed to entrap him.

These were the strange circumstances under which the Corsican had been
condemned to death. Though the case is a very curious one, our account
of it must be brief. It is impossible to introduce a long digression
at the climax of a narrative already so much prolonged, since its only
interest is in so far as it concerns Jacques Collin, the vertebral
column, so to speak, which, by its sinister persistency, connects _Le
Pere Goriot_ with _Illusions perdues_, and _Illusions perdues_ with this
Study. And, indeed, the reader’s imagination will be able to work out
the obscure case which at this moment was causing great uneasiness to
the jury of the sessions, before whom Theodore Calvi had been tried.
For a whole week, since the criminal’s appeal had been rejected by the
Supreme Court, Monsieur de Granville had been worrying himself over
the case, and postponing from day to day the order for carrying out the
sentence, so anxious was he to reassure the jury by announcing that on
the threshold of death the accused had confessed the crime.

A poor widow of Nanterre, whose dwelling stood apart from the township,
which is situated in the midst of the infertile plain lying between
Mount-Valerian, Saint-Germain, the hills of Sartrouville, and
Argenteuil, had been murdered and robbed a few days after coming into
her share of an unexpected inheritance. This windfall amounted to three
thousand francs, a dozen silver spoons and forks, a gold watch and
chain and some linen. Instead of depositing the three thousand francs
in Paris, as she was advised by the notary of the wine-merchant who had
left it her, the old woman insisted on keeping it by her. In the
first place, she had never seen so much money of her own, and then
she distrusted everybody in every kind of affairs, as most common and
country folk do. After long discussion with a wine-merchant of Nanterre,
a relation of her own and of the wine-merchant who had left her the
money, the widow decided on buying an annuity, on selling her house at
Nanterre, and living in the town of Saint-Germain.

The house she was living in, with a good-sized garden enclosed by a
slight wooden fence, was the poor sort of dwelling usually built by
small landowners in the neighborhood of Paris. It had been hastily
constructed, with no architectural design, of cement and rubble, the
materials commonly used near Paris, where, as at Nanterre, they are
extremely abundant, the ground being everywhere broken by quarries open
to the sky. This is the ordinary hut of the civilized savage. The house
consisted of a ground floor and one floor above, with garrets in the

The quarryman, her deceased husband, and the builder of this dwelling,
had put strong iron bars to all the windows; the front door was
remarkably thick. The man knew that he was alone there in the
open country--and what a country! His customers were the principal
master-masons in Paris, so the more important materials for his house,
which stood within five hundred yards of his quarry, had been brought
out in his own carts returning empty. He could choose such as suited him
where houses were pulled down, and got them very cheap. Thus the window
frames, the iron-work, the doors, shutters, and wooden fittings were all
derived from sanctioned pilfering, presents from his customers, and good
ones, carefully chosen. Of two window-frames, he could take the better.

The house, entered from a large stable-yard, was screened from the road
by a wall; the gate was of strong iron-railing. Watch-dogs were kept in
the stables, and a little dog indoors at night. There was a garden of
more than two acres behind.

His widow, without children, lived here with only a woman servant. The
sale of the quarry had paid off the owner’s debts; he had been dead
about two years. This isolated house was the widow’s sole possession,
and she kept fowls and cows, selling the eggs and milk at Nanterre.
Having no stableboy or carter or quarryman--her husband had made them do
every kind of work--she no longer kept up the garden; she only
gathered the few greens and roots that the stony ground allowed to grow

The price of the house, with the money she had inherited, would amount
to seven or eight thousand francs, and she could fancy herself living
very happily at Saint-Germain on seven or eight hundred francs a year,
which she thought she could buy with her eight thousand francs. She had
had many discussions over this with the notary at Saint-Germain, for she
refused to hand her money over for an annuity to the wine-merchant at
Nanterre, who was anxious to have it.

Under these circumstances, then, after a certain day the widow Pigeau
and her servant were seen no more. The front gate, the house door, the
shutters, all were closed. At the end of three days, the police, being
informed, made inquisition. Monsieur Popinot, the examining judge,
and the public prosecutor arrived from Paris, and this was what they

Neither the outer gate nor the front door showed any marks of violence.
The key was in the lock of the door, inside. Not a single bar had been
wretched; the locks, shutters, and bolts were all untampered with. The
walls showed no traces that could betray the passage of the criminals.
The chimney-posts, of red clay, afforded no opportunity for ingress or
escape, and the roofing was sound and unbroken, showing no damage by

On entering the first-floor rooms, the magistrates, the gendarmes, and
Bibi-Lupin found the widow Pigeau strangled in her bed and the woman
strangled in hers, each by means of the bandana she wore as a nightcap.
The three thousand francs were gone, with the silver-plate and the
trinkets. The two bodies were decomposing, as were those of the little
dog and of a large yard-dog.

The wooden palings of the garden were examined; none were broken. The
garden paths showed no trace of footsteps. The magistrate thought it
probable that the robber had walked on the grass to leave no foot-prints
if he had come that way; but how could he have got into the house?
The back door to the garden had an outer guard of three iron bars,
uninjured; and there, too, the key was in the lock inside, as in the
front door.

All these impossibilities having been duly noted by Monsieur Popinot,
by Bibi-Lupin, who stayed there a day to examine every detail, by the
public prosecutor himself, and by the sergeant of the gendarmerie at
Nanterre, this murder became an agitating mystery, in which the Law and
the Police were nonplussed.

This drama, published in the _Gazette des Tribunaux_, took place in the
winter of 1828-29. God alone knows what excitement this puzzling crime
occasioned in Paris! But Paris has a new drama to watch every morning,
and forgets everything. The police, on the contrary, forgets nothing.

Three months after this fruitless inquiry, a girl of the town, whose
extravagance had invited the attention of Bibi-Lupin’s agents, who
watched her as being the ally of several thieves, tried to persuade a
woman she knew to pledge twelve silver spoons and forks and a gold watch
and chain. The friend refused. This came to Bibi-Lupin’s ears, and he
remembered the plate and the watch and chain stolen at Nanterre. The
commissioners of the Mont-de-Piete, and all the receivers of stolen
goods, were warned, while Manon la Blonde was subjected to unremitting

It was very soon discovered that Manon la Blonde was madly in love with
a young man who was never to be seen, and was supposed to be deaf to all
the fair Manon’s proofs of devotion. Mystery on mystery. However, this
youth, under the diligent attentions of police spies, was soon seen
and identified as an escaped convict, the famous hero of the Corsican
vendetta, the handsome Theodore Calvi, known as Madeleine.

A man was turned on to entrap Calvi, one of those double-dealing buyers
of stolen goods who serve the thieves and the police both at once; he
promised to purchase the silver and the watch and chain. At the moment
when the dealer of the Cour Saint-Guillaume was counting out the cash
to Theodore, dressed as a woman, at half-past six in the evening, the
police came in and seized Theodore and the property.

The inquiry was at once begun. On such thin evidence it was impossible
to pass a sentence of death. Calvi never swerved, he never contradicted
himself. He said that a country woman had sold him these objects at
Argenteuil; that after buying them, the excitement over the murder
committed at Nanterre had shown him the danger of keeping this plate and
watch and chain in his possession, since, in fact, they were proved
by the inventory made after the death of the wine merchant, the widow
Pigeau’s uncle, to be those that were stolen from her. Compelled at last
by poverty to sell them, he said he wished to dispose of them by the
intervention of a person to whom no suspicion could attach.

And nothing else could be extracted from the convict, who, by his
taciturnity and firmness, contrived to insinuate that the wine-merchant
at Nanterre had committed the crime, and that the woman of whom he,
Theodore, had bought them was the wine-merchant’s wife. The unhappy
man and his wife were both taken into custody; but, after a week’s
imprisonment, it was amply proved that neither the husband nor the wife
had been out of their house at the time. Also, Calvi failed to recognize
in the wife the woman who, as he declared, had sold him the things.

As it was shown that Calvi’s mistress, implicated in the case, had spent
about a thousand francs since the date of the crime and the day when
Calvi tried to pledge the plate and trinkets, the evidence seemed strong
enough to commit Calvi and the girl for trial. This murder being the
eighteenth which Theodore had committed, he was condemned to death for
he seemed certainly to be guilty of this skilfully contrived crime.
Though he did not recognize the wine-merchant’s wife, both she and
her husband recognized him. The inquiry had proved, by the evidence of
several witnesses, that Theodore had been living at Nanterre for about
a month; he had worked at a mason’s, his face whitened with plaster, and
his clothes very shabby. At Nanterre the lad was supposed to be about
eighteen years old, for the whole month he must have been nursing that
brat (nourri ce poupon, i.e. hatching the crime).

The lawyers thought he must have had accomplices. The chimney-pots were
measured and compared with the size of Manon la Blonde’s body to see if
she could have got in that way; but a child of six could not have passed
up or down those red-clay pipes, which, in modern buildings, take
the place of the vast chimneys of old-fashioned houses. But for this
singular and annoying difficulty, Theodore would have been executed
within a week. The prison chaplain, it has been seen, could make nothing
of him.

All this business, and the name of Calvi, must have escaped the notice
of Jacques Collin, who, at the time, was absorbed in his single-handed
struggle with Contenson, Corentin, and Peyrade. It had indeed been a
point with _Trompe-la-Mort_ to forget as far as possible his chums
and all that had to do with the law courts; he dreaded a meeting which
should bring him face to face with a pal who might demand an account of
his boss which Collin could not possibly render.

The governor of the prison went forthwith to the public prosecutor’s
court, where he found the Attorney-General in conversation with Monsieur
de Granville, who had spent the whole night at the Hotel de Serizy, was,
in consequence of this important case, obliged to give a few hours
to his duties, though overwhelmed with fatigue and grief; for the
physicians could not yet promise that the Countess would recover her

After speaking a few words to the governor, Monsieur de Granville took
the warrant from the attorney and placed it in Gault’s hands.

“Let the matter proceed,” said he, “unless some extraordinary
circumstances should arise. Of this you must judge. I trust to your
judgment. The scaffold need not be erected till half-past ten, so you
still have an hour. On such an occasion hours are centuries, and
many things may happen in a century. Do not allow him to think he is
reprieved; prepare the man for execution if necessary; and if nothing
comes of that, give Sanson the warrant at half-past nine. Let him wait!”

As the governor of the prison left the public prosecutor’s room, under
the archway of the passage into the hall he met Monsieur Camusot, who
was going there. He exchanged a few hurried words with the examining
judge; and after telling him what had been done at the Conciergerie
with regard to Jacques Collin, he went on to witness the meeting of
_Trompe-la-Mort_ and Madeleine; and he did not allow the so-called
priest to see the condemned criminal till Bibi-Lupin, admirably
disguised as a gendarme, had taken the place of the prisoner left in
charge of the young Corsican.

No words can describe the amazement of the three convicts when a warder
came to fetch Jacques Collin and led him to the condemned cell! With one
consent they rushed up to the chair on which Jacques Collin was sitting.

“To-day, isn’t it, monsieur?” asked Fil-de-Soie of the warder.

“Yes, Jack Ketch is waiting,” said the man with perfect indifference.

Charlot is the name by which the executioner is known to the populace
and the prison world in Paris. The nickname dates from the Revolution of

The words produced a great sensation. The prisoners looked at each

“It is all over with him,” the warder went on; “the warrant has been
delivered to Monsieur Gault, and the sentence has just been read to

“And so the fair Madeleine has received the last sacraments?” said la
Pouraille, and he swallowed a deep mouthful of air.

“Poor little Theodore!” cried le Biffon; “he is a pretty chap too. What
a pity to drop your nut” (eternuer dans le son) “so young.”

The warder went towards the gate, thinking that Jacques Collin was at
his heels. But the Spaniard walked very slowly, and when he was getting
near to Julien he tottered and signed to la Pouraille to give him his

“He is a murderer,” said Napolitas to the priest, pointing to la
Pouraille, and offering his own arm.

“No, to me he is an unhappy wretch!” replied Jacques Collin, with the
presence of mind and the unction of the Archbishop of Cambrai. And he
drew away from Napolitas, of whom he had been very suspicious from the
first. Then he said to his pals in an undertone:

“He is on the bottom step of the Abbaye de Monte-a-Regret, but I am the
Prior! I will show you how well I know how to come round the beaks. I
mean to snatch this boy’s nut from their jaws.”

“For the sake of his breeches!” said Fil-de-Soie with a smile.

“I mean to win his soul to heaven!” replied Jacques Collin fervently,
seeing some other prisoners about him. And he joined the warder at the

“He got in to save Madeleine,” said Fil-de-Soie. “We guessed rightly.
What a boss he is!”

“But how can he? Jack Ketch’s men are waiting. He will not even see the
kid,” objected le Biffon.

“The devil is on his side!” cried la Pouraille. “He claim our blunt!
Never! He is too fond of his old chums! We are too useful to him! They
wanted to make us blow the gaff, but we are not such flats! If he saves
his Madeleine, I will tell him all my secrets.”

The effect of this speech was to increase the devotion of the three
convicts to their boss; for at this moment he was all their hope.

Jacques Collin, in spite of Madeleine’s peril, did not forget to play
his part. Though he knew the Conciergerie as well as he knew the hulks
in the three ports, he blundered so naturally that the warder had to
tell him, “This way, that way,” till they reached the office. There,
at a glance, Jacques Collin recognized a tall, stout man leaning on the
stove, with a long, red face not without distinction: it was Sanson.

“Monsieur is the chaplain?” said he, going towards him with simple

The mistake was so shocking that it froze the bystanders.

“No, monsieur,” said Sanson; “I have other functions.”

Sanson, the father of the last executioner of that name--for he has
recently been dismissed--was the son of the man who beheaded Louis XVI.
After four centuries of hereditary office, this descendant of so many
executioners had tried to repudiate the traditional burden. The Sansons
were for two hundred years executioners at Rouen before being promoted
to the first rank in the kingdom, and had carried out the decrees of
justice from father to son since the thirteenth century. Few families
can boast of an office or of nobility handed down in a direct line
during six centuries.

This young man had been captain in a cavalry regiment, and was looking
forward to a brilliant military career, when his father insisted on his
help in decapitating the king. Then he made his son his deputy when,
in 1793, two guillotines were in constant work--one at the Barriere du
Trone, and the other in the Place de Greve. This terrible functionary,
now a man of about sixty, was remarkable for his dignified air, his
gentle and deliberate manners, and his entire contempt for Bibi-Lupin
and his acolytes who fed the machine. The only detail which betrayed
the blood of the mediaeval executioner was the formidable breadth
and thickness of his hands. Well informed too, caring greatly for his
position as a citizen and an elector, and an enthusiastic florist, this
tall, brawny man with his low voice, his calm reserve, his few words,
and a high bald forehead, was like an English nobleman rather than an
executioner. And a Spanish priest would certainly have fallen into the
mistake which Jacques Collin had intentionally made.

“He is no convict!” said the head warder to the governor.

“I begin to think so too,” replied Monsieur Gault, with a nod to that

Jacques Collin was led to the cellar-like room where Theodore Calvi,
in a straitwaistcoat, was sitting on the edge of the wretched camp bed.
_Trompe-la-Mort_, under a transient gleam of light from the passage,
at once recognized Bibi-Lupin in the gendarme who stood leaning on his

“Io sono Gaba-Morto. Parla nostro Italiano,” said Jacques Collin very
rapidly. “Vengo ti salvar.”

“I am _Trompe-la-Mort_. Talk our Italian. I have come to save you.”

All the two chums wanted to say had, of course, to be incomprehensible
to the pretended gendarme; and as Bibi-Lupin was left in charge of
the prisoner, he could not leave his post. The man’s fury was quite

Theodore Calvi, a young man with a pale olive complexion, light hair,
and hollow, dull, blue eyes, well built, hiding prodigious strength
under the lymphatic appearance that is not uncommon in Southerners,
would have had a charming face but for the strongly-arched eyebrows and
low forehead that gave him a sinister expression, scarlet lips of savage
cruelty, and a twitching of the muscles peculiar to Corsicans, denoting
that excessive irritability which makes them so prompt to kill in any
sudden squabble.

Theodore, startled at the sound of that voice, raised his head, and at
first thought himself the victim of a delusion; but as the experience
of two months had accustomed him to the darkness of this stone box,
he looked at the sham priest, and sighed deeply. He did not recognize
Jacques Collin, whose face, scarred by the application of sulphuric
acid, was not that of his old boss.

“It is really your Jacques; I am your confessor, and have come to get
you off. Do not be such a ninny as to know me; and speak as if you were
making a confession.” He spoke with the utmost rapidity. “This young
fellow is very much depressed; he is afraid to die, he will confess
everything,” said Jacques Collin, addressing the gendarme.

Bibi-Lupin dared not say a word for fear of being recognized.

“Say something to show me that you are he; you have nothing but his
voice,” said Theodore.

“You see, poor boy, he assures me that he is innocent,” said Jacques
Collin to Bibi-Lupin, who dared not speak for fear of being recognized.

“Sempre mi,” said Jacques, returning close to Theodore, and speaking the
word in his ear.

“Sempre ti,” replied Theodore, giving the countersign. “Yes, you are the

“Did you do the trick?”


“Tell me the whole story, that I may see what can be done to save you;
make haste, Jack Ketch is waiting.”

The Corsican at once knelt down and pretended to be about to confess.

Bibi-Lupin did not know what to do, for the conversation was so rapid
that it hardly took as much time as it does to read it. Theodore hastily
told all the details of the crime, of which Jacques Collin knew nothing.

“The jury gave their verdict without proof,” he said finally.

“Child! you want to argue when they are waiting to cut off your

“But I might have been sent to spout the wedge.--And that is the way
they judge you!--and in Paris too!”

“But how did you do the job?” asked _Trompe-la-Mort_.

“Ah! there you are.--Since I saw you I made acquaintance with a girl, a
Corsican, I met when I came to Paris.”

“Men who are such fools as to love a woman,” cried Jacques Collin,
“always come to grief that way. They are tigers on the loose, tigers who
blab and look at themselves in the glass.--You were a gaby.”


“Well, what good did she do you--that curse of a moll?”

“That duck of a girl--no taller than a bundle of firewood, as slippery
as an eel, and as nimble as a monkey--got in at the top of the oven,
and opened the front door. The dogs were well crammed with balls, and
as dead as herrings. I settled the two women. Then when I got the swag,
Ginetta locked the door and got out again by the oven.”

“Such a clever dodge deserves life,” said Jacques Collin, admiring the
execution of the crime as a sculptor admires the modeling of a figure.

“And I was fool enough to waste all that cleverness for a thousand

“No, for a woman,” replied Jacques Collin. “I tell you, they deprive
us of all our wits,” and Jacques Collin eyed Theodore with a flashing
glance of contempt.

“But you were not there!” said the Corsican; “I was all alone----”

“And do you love the slut?” asked Jacques Collin, feeling that the
reproach was a just one.

“Oh! I want to live, but it is for you now rather than for her.”

“Be quite easy, I am not called _Trompe-la-Mort_ for nothing. I
undertake the case.”

“What! life?” cried the lad, lifting his swaddled hands towards the damp
vault of the cell.

“My little Madeleine, prepare to be lagged for life (penal servitude),”
 replied Jacques Collin. “You can expect no less; they won’t crown you
with roses like a fatted ox. When they first set us down for Rochefort,
it was because they wanted to be rid of us! But if I can get you
ticketed for Toulon, you can get out and come back to Pantin (Paris),
where I will find you a tidy way of living.”

A sigh such as had rarely been heard under that inexorable roof struck
the stones, which sent back the sound that has no fellow in music, to
the ear of the astounded Bibi-Lupin.

“It is the effect of the absolution I promised him in return for his
revelations,” said Jacques Collin to the gendarme. “These Corsicans,
monsieur, are full of faith! But he is as innocent as the Immaculate
Babe, and I mean to try to save him.”

“God bless you, Monsieur l’Abbe!” said Theodore in French.

_Trompe-la-Mort_, more Carlos Herrera, more the canon than ever,
left the condemned cell, rushed back to the hall, and appeared before
Monsieur Gault in affected horror.

“Indeed, sir, the young man is innocent; he has told me who the guilty
person is! He was ready to die for a false point of honor--he is a
Corsican! Go and beg the public prosecutor to grant me five minutes’
interview. Monsieur de Granville cannot refuse to listen at once to
a Spanish priest who is suffering so cruelly from the blunders of the
French police.”

“I will go,” said Monsieur Gault, to the extreme astonishment of all the
witnesses of this extraordinary scene.

“And meanwhile,” said Jacques, “send me back to the prison-yard where
I may finish the conversion of a criminal whose heart I have touched
already--they have hearts, these people!”

This speech produced a sensation in all who heard it. The gendarmes, the
registry clerk, Sanson, the warders, the executioner’s assistant--all
awaiting orders to go and get the scaffold ready--to rig up the machine,
in prison slang--all these people, usually so indifferent, were agitated
by very natural curiosity.

Just then the rattle of a carriage with high-stepping horses was heard;
it stopped very suggestively at the gate of the Conciergerie on the
quay. The door was opened, and the step let down in such haste, that
every one supposed that some great personage had arrived. Presently a
lady waving a sheet of blue paper came forward to the outer gate of the
prison, followed by a footman and a chasseur. Dressed very handsomely,
and all in black, with a veil over her bonnet, she was wiping her eyes
with a floridly embroidered handkerchief.

Jacques Collin at once recognized Asie, or, to give the woman her true
name, Jacqueline Collin, his aunt. This horrible old woman--worthy of
her nephew--whose thoughts were all centered in the prisoner, and who
was defending him with intelligence and mother-wit that were a match for
the powers of the law, had a permit made out the evening before in the
name of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse’s waiting-maid by the request of
Monsieur de Serizy, allowing her to see Lucien de Rubempre, and the Abbe
Carlos Herrera so soon as he should be brought out of the secret cells.
On this the Colonel, who was the Governor-in-Chief of all the prisons
had written a few words, and the mere color of the paper revealed
powerful influences; for these permits, like theatre-tickets, differ in
shape and appearance.

So the turnkey hastened to open the gate, especially when he saw the
chasseur with his plumes and an uniform of green and gold as dazzling as
a Russian General’s, proclaiming a lady of aristocratic rank and almost
royal birth.

“Oh, my dear Abbe!” exclaimed this fine lady, shedding a torrent of
tears at the sight of the priest, “how could any one ever think of
putting such a saintly man in here, even by mistake?”

The Governor took the permit and read, “Introduced by His Excellency the
Comte de Serizy.”

“Ah! Madame de San-Esteban, Madame la Marquise,” cried Carlos Herrera,
“what admirable devotion!”

“But, madame, such interviews are against the rules,” said the good
old Governor. And he intercepted the advance of this bale of black
watered-silk and lace.

“But at such a distance!” said Jacques Collin, “and in your
presence----” and he looked round at the group.

His aunt, whose dress might well dazzle the clerk, the Governor,
the warders, and the gendarmes, stank of musk. She had on, besides
a thousand crowns of lace, a black India cashmere shawl, worth six
thousand francs. And her chasseur was marching up and down outside with
the insolence of a lackey who knows that he is essential to an exacting
princess. He spoke never a word to the footman, who stood by the gate on
the quay, which is always open by day.

“What do you wish? What can I do?” said Madame de San-Esteban in the
lingo agreed upon by this aunt and nephew.

This dialect consisted in adding terminations in ar or in or, or in al
or in i to every word, whether French or slang, so as to disguise it by
lengthening it. It was a diplomatic cipher adapted to speech.

“Put all the letters in some safe place; take out those that are most
likely to compromise the ladies; come back, dressed very poorly, to the
_Salle des Pas-Perdus_, and wait for my orders.”

Asie, otherwise Jacqueline, knelt as if to receive his blessing, and the
sham priest blessed his aunt with evengelical unction.

“Addio, Marchesa,” said he aloud. “And,” he added in their private
language, “find Europe and Paccard with the seven hundred and fifty
thousand francs they bagged. We must have them.”

“Paccard is out there,” said the pious Marquise, pointing to the
chasseur, her eyes full of tears.

This intuitive comprehension brought not merely a smile to the man’s
lips, but a gesture of surprise; no one could astonish him but his
aunt. The sham Marquise turned to the bystanders with the air of a woman
accustomed to give herself airs.

“He is in despair at being unable to attend his son’s funeral,” said
she in broken French, “for this monstrous miscarriage of justice
has betrayed the saintly man’s secret.--I am going to the funeral
mass.--Here, monsieur,” she added to the Governor, handing him a purse
of gold, “this is to give your poor prisoners some comforts.”

“What slap-up style!” her nephew whispered in approval.

Jacques Collin then followed the warder, who led him back to the yard.

Bibi-Lupin, quite desperate, had at last caught the eye of a real
gendarme, to whom, since Jacques Collin had gone, he had been addressing
significant “Ahems,” and who took his place on guard in the condemned
cell. But _Trompe-la-Mort’s_ sworn foe was released too late to see
the great lady, who drove off in her dashing turn-out, and whose voice,
though disguised, fell on his ear with a vicious twang.

“Three hundred shiners for the boarders,” said the head warder, showing
Bibi-Lupin the purse, which Monsieur Gault had handed over to his clerk.

“Let’s see, Monsieur Jacomety,” said Bibi-Lupin.

The police agent took the purse, poured out the money into his hand, and
examined it curiously.

“Yes, it is gold, sure enough!” said he, “and a coat-of-arms on the
purse! The scoundrel! How clever he is! What an all-round villain! He
does us all brown----and all the time! He ought to be shot down like a

“Why, what’s the matter?” asked the clerk, taking back the money.

“The matter! Why, the hussy stole it!” cried Bibi-Lupin, stamping with
rage on the flags of the gateway.

The words produced a great sensation among the spectators, who were
standing at a little distance from Monsieur Sanson. He, too, was still
standing, his back against the large stove in the middle of the vaulted
hall, awaiting the order to crop the felon’s hair and erect the scaffold
on the Place de Greve.

On re-entering the yard, Jacques Collin went towards his chums at a pace
suited to a frequenter of the galleys.

“What have you on your mind?” said he to la Pouraille.

“My game is up,” said the man, whom Jacques Collin led into a corner.
“What I want now is a pal I can trust.”

“What for?”

La Pouraille, after telling the tale of all his crimes, but in thieves’
slang, gave an account of the murder and robbery of the two Crottats.

“You have my respect,” said Jacques Collin. “The job was well done; but
you seem to me to have blundered afterwards.”

“In what way?”

“Well, having done the trick, you ought to have had a Russian
passport, have made up as a Russian prince, bought a fine coach with a
coat-of-arms on it, have boldly deposited your money in a bank, have got
a letter of credit on Hamburg, and then have set out posting to Hamburg
with a valet, a ladies’ maid, and your mistress disguised as a Russian
princess. At Hamburg you should have sailed for Mexico. A chap of
spirit, with two hundred and eighty thousand francs in gold, ought to be
able to do what he pleases and go where he pleases, flathead!”

“Oh yes, you have such notions because you are the boss. Your nut is
always square on your shoulders--but I----”

“In short, a word of good advice in your position is like broth to a
dead man,” said Jacques Collin, with a serpentlike gaze at his old pal.

“True enough!” said la Pouraille, looking dubious. “But give me the
broth, all the same. If it does not suit my stomach, I can warm my feet
in it----”

“Here you are nabbed by the Justice, with five robberies and three
murders, the latest of them those of two rich and respectable folks....
Now, juries do not like to see respectable folks killed. You will be put
through the machine, and there is not a chance for you.”

“I have heard all that,” said la Pouraille lamentably.

“My aunt Jacqueline, with whom I have just exchanged a few words in the
office, and who is, as you know, a mother to the pals, told me that the
authorities mean to be quit of you; they are so much afraid of you.”

“But I am rich now,” said La Pouraille, with a simplicity which showed
how convinced a thief is of his natural right to steal. “What are they
afraid of?”

“We have no time for philosophizing,” said Jacques Collin. “To come back
to you----”

“What do you want with me?” said la Pouraille, interrupting his boss.

“You shall see. A dead dog is still worth something.”

“To other people,” said la Pouraille.

“I take you into my game!” said Jacques Collin.

“Well, that is something,” said the murderer. “What next?”

“I do not ask you where your money is, but what you mean to do with it?”

La Pouraille looked into the convict’s impenetrable eye, and Jacques
coldly went on: “Have you a trip you are sweet upon, or a child, or a
pal to be helped? I shall be outside within an hour, and I can do much
for any one you want to be good-natured to.”

La Pouraille still hesitated; he was delaying with indecision. Jacques
Collin produced a clinching argument.

“Your whack of our money would be thirty thousand francs. Do you leave
it to the pals? Do you bequeath it to anybody? Your share is safe; I can
give it this evening to any one you leave it to.”

The murderer gave a little start of satisfaction.

“I have him!” said Jacques Collin to himself. “But we have no time to
play. Consider,” he went on in la Pouraille’s ear, “we have not ten
minutes to spare, old chap; the public prosecutor is to send for me,
and I am to have a talk with him. I have him safe, and can ring the old
boss’ neck. I am certain I shall save Madeleine.”

“If you save Madeleine, my good boss, you can just as easily----”

“Don’t waste your spittle,” said Jacques Collin shortly. “Make your

“Well, then--I want to leave the money to la Gonore,” replied la
Pouraille piteously.

“What! Are you living with Moses’ widow--the Jew who led the swindling
gang in the South?” asked Jacques Collin.

For _Trompe-la-Mort_, like a great general, knew the person of every one
of his army.

“That’s the woman,” said la Pouraille, much flattered.

“A pretty woman,” said Jacques Collin, who knew exactly how to manage
his dreadful tools. “The moll is a beauty; she is well informed, and
stands by her mates, and a first-rate hand. Yes, la Gonore has made a
new man of you! What a flat you must be to risk your nut when you have
a trip like her at home! You noodle; you should have set up some
respectable little shop and lived quietly.--And what does she do?”

“She is settled in the Rue Sainte-Barbe, managing a house----”

“And she is to be your legatee? Ah, my dear boy, this is what such sluts
bring us to when we are such fools as to love them.”

“Yes, but don’t you give her anything till I am done for.”

“It is a sacred trust,” said Jacques Collin very seriously.

“And nothing to the pals?”

“Nothing! They blowed the gaff for me,” answered la Pouraille

“Who did? Shall I serve ‘em out?” asked Jacques Collin eagerly, trying
to rouse the last sentiment that survives in these souls till the last
hour. “Who knows, old pal, but I might at the same time do them a bad
turn and serve you with the public prosecutor?”

The murderer looked at his boss with amazed satisfaction.

“At this moment,” the boss replied to this expressive look, “I am
playing the game only for Theodore. When this farce is played out, old
boy, I might do wonders for a chum--for you are a chum of mine.”

“If I see that you really can put off the engagement for that poor
little Theodore, I will do anything you choose--there!”

“But the trick is done. I am sure to save his head. If you want to get
out of the scrape, you see, la Pouraille, you must be ready to do a good
turn--we can do nothing single-handed----”

“That’s true,” said the felon.

His confidence was so strong, and his faith in the boss so fanatical,
that he no longer hesitated. La Pouraille revealed the names of his
accomplices, a secret hitherto well kept. This was all Jacques needed to

“That is the whole story. Ruffard was the third in the job with me and

“Arrache-Laine?” cried Jacques Collin, giving Ruffard his nickname among
the gang.

“That’s the man.--And the blackguards peached because I knew where they
had hidden their whack, and they did not know where mine was.”

“You are making it all easy, my cherub!” said Jacques Collin.


“Well,” replied the master, “you see how wise it is to trust me
entirely. Your revenge is now part of the hand I am playing.--I do
not ask you to tell me where the dibs are, you can tell me at the last
moment; but tell me all about Ruffard and Godet.”

“You are, and you always will be, our boss; I have no secrets from you,”
 replied la Pouraille. “My money is in the cellar at la Gonore’s.”

“And you are not afraid of her telling?”

“Why, get along! She knows nothing about my little game!” replied la
Pouraille. “I make her drunk, though she is of the sort that would never
blab even with her head under the knife.--But such a lot of gold----!”

“Yes, that turns the milk of the purest conscience,” replied Jacques

“So I could do the job with no peepers to spy me. All the chickens
were gone to roost. The shiners are three feet underground behind some
wine-bottles. And I spread some stones and mortar over them.”

“Good,” said Jacques Collin. “And the others?”

“Ruffard’s pieces are with la Gonore in the poor woman’s bedroom, and
he has her tight by that, for she might be nabbed as accessory after the
fact, and end her days in Saint-Lazare.”

“The villain! The reelers teach a thief what’s what,” said Jacques.

“Godet left his pieces at his sister’s, a washerwoman; honest girl, she
may be caught for five years in La Force without dreaming of it. The pal
raised the tiles of the floor, put them back again, and guyed.”

“Now do you know what I want you to do?” said Jacques Collin, with a
magnetizing gaze at la Pouraille.


“I want you to take Madeleine’s job on your shoulders.”

La Pouraille started queerly; but he at once recovered himself and stood
at attention under the boss’ eye.

“So you shy at that? You dare to spoil my game? Come, now! Four murders
or three. Does it not come to the same thing?”


“By the God of good-fellowship, there is no blood in your veins! And I
was thinking of saving you!”


“Idiot, if we promise to give the money back to the family, you will
only be lagged for life. I would not give a piece for your nut if we
keep the blunt, but at this moment you are worth seven hundred thousand
francs, you flat.”

“Good for you, boss!” cried la Pouraille in great glee.

“And then,” said Jacques Collin, “besides casting all the murders on
Ruffard--Bibi-Lupin will be finely cold. I have him this time.”

La Pouraille was speechless at this suggestion; his eyes grew round, and
he stood like an image.

He had been three months in custody, and was committed for trial, and
his chums at La Force, to whom he had never mentioned his accomplices,
had given him such small comfort, that he was entirely hopeless after
his examination, and this simple expedient had been quite overlooked by
these prison-ridden minds. This semblance of a hope almost stupefied his

“Have Ruffard and Godet had their spree yet? Have they forked out any of
the yellow boys?” asked Jacques Collin.

“They dare not,” replied la Pouraille. “The wretches are waiting till
I am turned off. That is what my moll sent me word by la Biffe when she
came to see le Biffon.”

“Very well; we will have their whack of money in twenty-four hours,”
 said Jacques Collin. “Then the blackguards cannot pay up, as you will;
you will come out as white as snow, and they will be red with all that
blood! By my kind offices you will seem a good sort of fellow led away
by them. I shall have money enough of yours to prove alibis on the other
counts, and when you are back on the hulks--for you are bound to go
there--you must see about escaping. It is a dog’s life, still it is

La Pouraille’s eyes glittered with suppressed delirium.

“With seven hundred thousand francs you can get a good many drinks,”
 said Jacques Collin, making his pal quite drunk with hope.

“Ay, ay, boss!”

“I can bamboozle the Minister of Justice.--Ah, ha! Ruffard will shell
out to do for a reeler. Bibi-Lupin is fairly gulled!”

“Very good, it is a bargain,” said la Pouraille with savage glee. “You
order, and I obey.”

And he hugged Jacques Collin in his arms, while tears of joy stood in
his eyes, so hopeful did he feel of saving his head.

“That is not all,” said Jacques Collin; “the public prosecutor does not
swallow everything, you know, especially when a new count is entered
against you. The next thing is to bring a moll into the case by blowing
the gaff.”

“But how, and what for?”

“Do as I bid you; you will see.” And _Trompe-la-Mort_ briefly told the
secret of the Nanterre murders, showing him how necessary it was to find
a woman who would pretend to be Ginetta. Then he and la Pouraille, now
in good spirits, went across to le Biffon.

“I know how sweet you are on la Biffe,” said Jacques Collin to this man.

The expression in le Biffon’s eyes was a horrible poem.

“What will she do while you are on the hulks?”

A tear sparkled in le Biffon’s fierce eyes.

“Well, suppose I were to get her lodgings in the Lorcefe des Largues”
 (the women’s La Force, i. e. les Madelonnettes or Saint-Lazare) “for a
stretch, allowing that time for you to be sentenced and sent there, to
arrive and to escape?”

“Even you cannot work such a miracle. She took no part in the job,”
 replied la Biffe’s partner.

“Oh, my good Biffon,” said la Pouraille, “our boss is more powerful than
God Almighty.”

“What is your password for her?” asked Jacques Collin, with the
assurance of a master to whom nothing can be refused.

“Sorgue a Pantin (night in Paris). If you say that she knows you have
come from me, and if you want her to do as you bid her, show her a
five-franc piece and say Tondif.”

“She will be involved in the sentence on la Pouraille, and let off
with a year in quod for snitching,” said Jacques Collin, looking at la

La Pouraille understood his boss’ scheme, and by a single look promised
to persuade le Biffon to promote it by inducing la Biffe to take upon
herself this complicity in the crime la Pouraille was prepared to

“Farewell, my children. You will presently hear that I have saved my
boy from Jack Ketch,” said _Trompe-la-Mort_. “Yes, Jack Ketch and his
hairdresser were waiting in the office to get Madeleine ready.--There,”
 he added, “they have come to fetch me to go to the public prosecutor.”

And, in fact, a warder came out of the gate and beckoned to this
extraordinary man, who, in face of the young Corsican’s danger, had
recovered his own against his own society.

It is worthy of note that at the moment when Lucien’s body was taken
away from him, Jacques Collin had, with a crowning effort, made up
his mind to attempt a last incarnation, not as a human being, but as
a _thing_. He had at last taken the fateful step that Napoleon took
on board the boat which conveyed him to the Bellerophon. And a strange
concurrence of events aided this genius of evil and corruption in his

But though the unlooked-for conclusion of this life of crime may perhaps
be deprived of some of the marvelous effect which, in our day, can
be given to a narrative only by incredible improbabilities, it is
necessary, before we accompany Jacques Collin to the public prosecutor’s
room, that we should follow Madame Camusot in her visits during the time
we have spent in the Conciergerie.

One of the obligations which the historian of manners must unfailingly
observe is that of never marring the truth for the sake of dramatic
arrangement, especially when the truth is so kind as to be in itself
romantic. Social nature, particularly in Paris, allows of such freaks
of chance, such complications of whimsical entanglements, that it
constantly outdoes the most inventive imagination. The audacity
of facts, by sheer improbability or indecorum, rises to heights of
“situation” forbidden to art, unless they are softened, cleansed, and
purified by the writer.

Madame Camusot did her utmost to dress herself for the morning almost in
good taste--a difficult task for the wife of a judge who for six years
has lived in a provincial town. Her object was to give no hold for
criticism to the Marquise d’Espard or the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, in
a call so early as between eight and nine in the morning. Amelie Cecile
Camusot, nee Thirion, it must be said, only half succeeded; and in a
matter of dress is this not a twofold blunder?

Few people can imagine how useful the women of Paris are to ambitious
men of every class; they are equally necessary in the world of fashion
and the world of thieves, where, as we have seen, they fill a most
important part. For instance, suppose that a man, not to find himself
left in the lurch, must absolutely get speech within a given time
with the high functionary who was of such immense importance under the
Restoration, and who is to this day called the Keeper of the Seals--a
man, let us say, in the most favorable position, a judge, that is to
say, a man familiar with the way of things. He is compelled to seek out
the presiding judge of a circuit, or some private or official secretary,
and prove to him his need of an immediate interview. But is a Keeper of
the Seals ever visible “that very minute”? In the middle of the day, if
he is not at the Chamber, he is at the Privy Council, or signing papers,
or hearing a case. In the early morning he is out, no one knows
where. In the evening he has public and private engagements. If every
magistrate could claim a moment’s interview under any pretext that might
occur to him, the Supreme Judge would be besieged.

The purpose of a private and immediate interview is therefore submitted
to the judgment of one of those mediatory potentates who are but an
obstacle to be removed, a door that can be unlocked, so long as it is
not held by a rival. A woman at once goes to another woman; she can get
straight into her bedroom if she can arouse the curiosity of mistress
or maid, especially if the mistress is under the stress of a strong
interest or pressing necessity.

Call this female potentate Madame la Marquise d’Espard, with whom a
Minister has to come to terms; this woman writes a little scented note,
which her man-servant carries to the Minister’s man-servant. The note
greets the Minister on his waking, and he reads it at once. Though
the Minister has business to attend to, the man is enchanted to have a
reason for calling on one of the Queens of Paris, one of the Powers of
the Faubourg Saint-Germain, one of the favorites of the Dauphiness, of
MADAME, or of the King. Casimir Perier, the only real statesman of the
Revolution of July, would leave anything to call on a retired Gentleman
of the bed-chamber to King Charles X.

This theory accounts for the magical effect of the words:

“Madame,--Madame Camusot, on very important business, which she says you
know of,” spoken in Madame d’Espard’s ear by her maid, who thought she
was awake.

And the Marquise desired that Amelie should be shown in at once.

The magistrate’s wife was attentively heard when she began with these

“Madame la Marquise, we have ruined ourselves by trying to avenge

“How is that, my dear?” replied the Marquise, looking at Madame Camusot
in the dim light that fell through the half-open door. “You are vastly
sweet this morning in that little bonnet. Where do you get that shape?”

“You are very kind, madame.--Well, you know that Camusot’s way of
examining Lucien de Rubempre drove the young man to despair, and he
hanged himself in prison.”

“Oh, what will become of Madame de Serizy?” cried the Marquise,
affecting ignorance, that she might hear the whole story once more.

“Alas! they say she is quite mad,” said Amelie. “If you could persuade
the Lord Keeper to send for my husband this minute, by special
messenger, to meet him at the Palais, the Minister would hear some
strange mysteries, and report them, no doubt, to the King.... Then
Camusot’s enemies would be reduced to silence.”

“But who are Camusot’s enemies?” asked Madame d’Espard.

“The public prosecutor, and now Monsieur de Serizy.”

“Very good, my dear,” replied Madame d’Espard, who owed to Monsieur
de Granville and the Comte de Serizy her defeat in the disgraceful
proceedings by which she had tried to have her husband treated as
a lunatic, “I will protect you; I never forget either my foes or my

She rang; the maid drew open the curtains, and daylight flooded the
room; she asked for her desk, and the maid brought it in. The Marquise
hastily scrawled a few lines.

“Tell Godard to go on horseback, and carry this note to the Chancellor’s
office.--There is no reply,” said she to the maid.

The woman went out of the room quickly, but, in spite of the order,
remained at the door for some minutes.

“There are great mysteries going forward then?” asked Madame d’Espard.
“Tell me all about it, dear child. Has Clotilde de Grandlieu put a
finger in the pie?”

“You will know everything from the Lord Keeper, for my husband has told
me nothing. He only told me he was in danger. It would be better for us
that Madame de Serizy should die than that she should remain mad.”

“Poor woman!” said the Marquise. “But was she not mad already?”

Women of the world, by a hundred ways of pronouncing the same phrase,
illustrate to attentive hearers the infinite variety of musical modes.
The soul goes out into the voice as it does into the eyes; it vibrates
in light and in air--the elements acted on by the eyes and the voice. By
the tone she gave to the two words, “Poor woman!” the Marquise betrayed
the joy of satisfied hatred, the pleasure of triumph. Oh! what woes did
she not wish to befall Lucien’s protectress. Revenge, which nothing can
assuage, which can survive the person hated, fills us with dark terrors.
And Madame Camusot, though harsh herself, vindictive, and quarrelsome,
was overwhelmed. She could find nothing to say, and was silent.

“Diane told me that Leontine went to the prison,” Madame d’Espard went
on. “The dear Duchess is in despair at such a scandal, for she is
so foolish as to be very fond of Madame de Serizy; however, it is
comprehensible: they both adored that little fool Lucien at about the
same time, and nothing so effectually binds or severs two women as
worshiping at the same altar. And our dear friend spent two hours
yesterday in Leontine’s room. The poor Countess, it seems, says dreadful
things! I heard that it was disgusting! A woman of rank ought not to
give way to such attacks.--Bah! A purely physical passion.--The Duchess
came to see me as pale as death; she really was very brave. There are
monstrous things connected with this business.”

“My husband will tell the Keeper of the Seals all he knows for his
own justification, for they wanted to save Lucien, and he, Madame la
Marquise, did his duty. An examining judge always has to question people
in private at the time fixed by law! He had to ask the poor little
wretch something, if only for form’s sake, and the young fellow did not
understand, and confessed things----”

“He was an impertinent fool!” said Madame d’Espard in a hard tone.

The judge’s wife kept silence on hearing this sentence.

“Though we failed in the matter of the Commission in Lunacy, it was not
Camusot’s fault, I shall never forget that,” said the Marquise after
a pause. “It was Lucien, Monsieur de Serizy, Monsieur de Bauvan, and
Monsieur de Granville who overthrew us. With time God will be on my
side; all those people will come to grief.--Be quite easy, I will send
the Chevalier d’Espard to the Keeper of the Seals that he may desire
your husbands’s presence immediately, if that is of any use.”

“Oh! madame----”

“Listen,” said the Marquise. “I promise you the ribbon of the Legion
of Honor at once--to-morrow. It will be a conspicuous testimonial of
satisfaction with your conduct in this affair. Yes, it implies further
blame on Lucien; it will prove him guilty. Men do not commonly hang
themselves for the pleasure of it.--Now, good-bye, my pretty dear----”

Ten minutes later Madame Camusot was in the bedroom of the beautiful
Diane de Maufrigneuse, who had not gone to bed till one, and at nine
o’clock had not yet slept.

However insensible duchesses may be, even these women, whose hearts
are of stone, cannot see a friend a victim to madness without being
painfully impressed by it.

And besides, the connection between Diane and Lucien, though at an end
now eighteen months since, had left such memories with the Duchess that
the poor boy’s disastrous end had been to her also a fearful blow. All
night Diane had seen visions of the beautiful youth, so charming,
so poetical, who had been so delightful a lover--painted as Leontine
depicted him, with the vividness of wild delirium. She had letters from
Lucien that she had kept, intoxicating letters worthy to compare with
Mirabeau’s to Sophie, but more literary, more elaborate, for Lucien’s
letters had been dictated by the most powerful of passions--Vanity.
Having the most bewitching of duchesses for his mistress, and seeing her
commit any folly for him--secret follies, of course--had turned Lucien’s
head with happiness. The lover’s pride had inspired the poet. And the
Duchess had treasured these touching letters, as some old men keep
indecent prints, for the sake of their extravagant praise of all that
was least duchess-like in her nature.

“And he died in a squalid prison!” cried she to herself, putting the
letters away in a panic when she heard her maid knocking gently at her

“Madame Camusot,” said the woman, “on business of the greatest
importance to you, Madame la Duchesse.”

Diane sprang to her feet in terror.

“Oh!” cried she, looking at Amelie, who had assumed a duly condoling
air, “I guess it all--my letters! It is about my letters. Oh, my
letters, my letters!”

She sank on to a couch. She remembered now how, in the extravagance of
her passion, she had answered Lucien in the same vein, had lauded the
man’s poetry as he has sung the charms of the woman, and in what a

“Alas, yes, madame, I have come to save what is dearer to you than
life--your honor. Compose yourself and get dressed, we must go to the
Duchesse de Grandlieu; happily for you, you are not the only person

“But at the Palais, yesterday, Leontine burned, I am told, all the
letters found at poor Lucien’s.”

“But, madame, behind Lucien there was Jacques Collin!” cried the
magistrate’s wife. “You always forget that horrible companionship which
beyond question led to that charming and lamented young man’s end. That
Machiavelli of the galleys never loses his head! Monsieur Camusot is
convinced that the wretch has in some safe hiding-place all the most
compromising letters written by you ladies to his----”

“His friend,” the Duchess hastily put in. “You are right, my child.
We must hold council at the Grandlieus’. We are all concerned in this
matter, and Serizy happily will lend us his aid.”

Extreme peril--as we have observed in the scenes in the
Conciergerie--has a hold over the soul not less terrible than that of
powerful reagents over the body. It is a mental Voltaic battery. The
day, perhaps, is not far off when the process shall be discovered
by which feeling is chemically converted into a fluid not unlike the
electric fluid.

The phenomena were the same in the convict and the Duchess. This
crushed, half-dying woman, who had not slept, who was so particular over
her dressing, had recovered the strength of a lioness at bay, and the
presence of mind of a general under fire. Diane chose her gown and got
through her dressing with the alacrity of a grisette who is her own
waiting-woman. It was so astounding, that the lady’s-maid stood for a
moment stock-still, so greatly was she surprised to see her mistress
in her shift, not ill pleased perhaps to let the judge’s wife discern
through the thin cloud of lawn a form as white and as perfect as that
of Canova’s Venus. It was like a gem in a fold of tissue paper. Diane
suddenly remembered where a pair of stays had been put that fastened
in front, sparing a woman in a hurry the ill-spent time and fatigue of
being laced. She had arranged the lace trimming of her shift and the
fulness of the bosom by the time the maid had fetched her petticoat, and
crowned the work by putting on her gown. While Amelie, at a sign from
the maid, hooked the bodice behind, the woman brought out a pair of
thread stockings, velvet boots, a shawl, and a bonnet. Amelie and the
maid each drew on a stocking.

“You are the loveliest creature I ever saw!” said Amelie, insidiously
kissing Diane’s elegant and polished knee with an eager impulse.

“Madame has not her match!” cried the maid.

“There, there, Josette, hold your tongue,” replied the Duchess.--“Have
you a carriage?” she went on, to Madame Camusot. “Then come along, my
dear, we can talk on the road.”

And the Duchess ran down the great stairs of the Hotel de Cadignan,
putting on her gloves as she went--a thing she had never been known to

“To the Hotel de Grandlieu, and drive fast,” said she to one of her men,
signing to him to get up behind.

The footman hesitated--it was a hackney coach.

“Ah! Madame la Duchesse, you never told me that the young man had
letters of yours. Otherwise Camusot would have proceeded differently...”

“Leontine’s state so occupied my thoughts that I forgot myself entirely.
The poor woman was almost crazy the day before yesterday; imagine the
effect on her of this tragical termination. If you could only know,
child, what a morning we went through yesterday! It is enough to make
one forswear love!--Yesterday Leontine and I were dragged across Paris
by a horrible old woman, an old-clothes buyer, a domineering creature,
to that stinking and blood-stained sty they call the Palace of Justice,
and I said to her as I took her there: ‘Is not this enough to make us
fall on our knees and cry out like Madame de Nucingen, when she went
through one of those awful Mediterranean storms on her way to Naples,
“Dear God, save me this time, and never again----!”’

“These two days will certainly have shortened my life.--What fools we
are ever to write!--But love prompts us; we receive pages that fire the
heart through the eyes, and everything is in a blaze! Prudence deserts
us--we reply----”

“But why reply when you can act?” said Madame Camusot.

“It is grand to lose oneself utterly!” cried the Duchess with pride. “It
is the luxury of the soul.”

“Beautiful women are excusable,” said Madame Camusot modestly. “They
have more opportunities of falling than we have.”

The Duchess smiled.

“We are always too generous,” said Diane de Maufrigneuse. “I shall do
just like that odious Madame d’Espard.”

“And what does she do?” asked the judge’s wife, very curious.

“She has written a thousand love-notes----”

“So many!” exclaimed Amelie, interrupting the Duchess.

“Well, my dear, and not a word that could compromise her is to be found
in any one of them.”

“You would be incapable of maintaining such coldness, such caution,”
 said Madame Camusot. “You are a woman; you are one of those angels who
cannot stand out against the devil----”

“I have made a vow to write no more letters. I never in my life wrote
to anybody but that unhappy Lucien.--I will keep his letters to my dying
day! My dear child, they are fire, and sometimes we want----”

“But if they were found!” said Amelie, with a little shocked expression.

“Oh! I should say they were part of a romance I was writing; for I have
copied them all, my dear, and burned the originals.”

“Oh, madame, as a reward allow me to read them.”

“Perhaps, child,” said the Duchess. “And then you will see that he did
not write such letters as those to Leontine.”

This speech was woman all the world over, of every age and every land.

Madame Camusot, like the frog in la Fontaine’s fable, was ready to burst
her skin with the joy of going to the Grandlieus’ in the society of the
beautiful Diane de Maufrigneuse. This morning she would forge one of the
links that are so needful to ambition. She could already hear herself
addressed as Madame la Presidente. She felt the ineffable gladness of
triumphing over stupendous obstacles, of which the greatest was her
husband’s ineptitude, as yet unrevealed, but to her well known. To win
success for a second-rate man! that is to a woman--as to a king--the
delight which tempts great actors when they act a bad play a hundred
times over. It is the very drunkenness of egoism. It is in a way the
Saturnalia of power.

Power can prove itself to itself only by the strange misapplication
which leads it to crown some absurd person with the laurels of success
while insulting genius--the only strong-hold which power cannot touch.
The knighting of Caligula’s horse, an imperial farce, has been, and
always will be, a favorite performance.

In a few minutes Diane and Amelie had exchanged the elegant disorder
of the fair Diane’s bedroom for the severe but dignified and splendid
austerity of the Duchesse de Grandlieu’s rooms.

She, a Portuguese, and very pious, always rose at eight to attend
mass at the little church of Sainte-Valere, a chapelry to Saint-Thomas
d’Aquin, standing at that time on the esplanade of the Invalides. This
chapel, now destroyed, was rebuilt in the Rue de Bourgogne, pending the
building of a Gothic church to be dedicated to Sainte-Clotilde.

On hearing the first words spoken in her ear by Diane de Maufrigneuse,
this saintly lady went to find Monsieur de Grandlieu, and brought him
back at once. The Duke threw a flashing look at Madame Camusot, one of
those rapid glances with which a man of the world can guess at a whole
existence, or often read a soul. Amelie’s dress greatly helped the Duke
to decipher the story of a middle-class life, from Alencon to Mantes,
and from Mantes to Paris.

Oh! if only the lawyer’s wife could have understood this gift in dukes,
she could never have endured that politely ironical look; she saw the
politeness only. Ignorance shares the privileges of fine breeding.

“This is Madame Camusot, a daughter of Thirion’s--one of the Cabinet
ushers,” said the Duchess to her husband.

The Duke bowed with extreme politeness to the wife of a legal official,
and his face became a little less grave.

The Duke had rung for his valet, who now came in.

“Go to the Rue Saint-Honore: take a coach. Ring at a side door, No. 10.
Tell the man who opens the door that I beg his master will come here,
and if the gentleman is at home, bring him back with you.--Mention my
name, that will remove all difficulties.

“And do not be gone more than a quarter of an hour in all.”

Another footman, the Duchess’ servant, came in as soon as the other was

“Go from me to the Duc de Chaulieu, and send up this card.”

The Duke gave him a card folded down in a particular way. When the two
friends wanted to meet at once, on any urgent or confidential business
which would not allow of note-writing, they used this means of

Thus we see that similar customs prevail in every rank of society,
and differ only in manner, civility, and small details. The world of
fashion, too, has its argot, its slang; but that slang is called style.

“Are you quite sure, madame, of the existence of the letters you say
were written by Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu to this young man?”
 said the Duc de Grandlieu.

And he cast a look at Madame Camusot as a sailor casts a sounding line.

“I have not seen them, but there is reason to fear it,” replied Madame
Camusot, quaking.

“My daughter can have written nothing we would not own to!” said the

“Poor Duchess!” thought Diane, with a glance at the Duke that terrified

“What do you think, my dear little Diane?” said the Duke in a whisper,
as he led her away into a recess.

“Clotilde is so crazy about Lucien, my dear friend, that she had made
an assignation with him before leaving. If it had not been for little
Lenoncourt, she would perhaps have gone off with him into the forest
of Fontainebleau. I know that Lucien used to write letters to her which
were enough to turn the brain of a saint.--We are three daughters of Eve
in the coils of the serpent of letter-writing.”

The Duke and Diane came back to the Duchess and Madame Camusot, who were
talking in undertones. Amelie, following the advice of the Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse, affected piety to win the proud lady’s favor.

“We are at the mercy of a dreadful escaped convict!” said the Duke, with
a peculiar shrug. “This is what comes of opening one’s house to people
one is not absolutely sure of. Before admitting an acquaintance, one
ought to know all about his fortune, his relations, all his previous

This speech is the moral of my story--from the aristocratic point of

“That is past and over,” said the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse. “Now we must
think of saving that poor Madame de Serizy, Clotilde, and me----”

“We can but wait for Henri; I have sent to him. But everything really
depends on the man Gentil is gone to fetch. God grant that man may be
in Paris!--Madame,” he added to Madame Camusot, “thank you so much for
having thought of us----”

This was Madame Camusot’s dismissal. The daughter of the court usher
had wit enough to understand the Duke; she rose. But the Duchess de
Maufrigneuse, with the enchanting grace which had won her so much
friendship and discretion, took Amelie by the hand as if to show her, in
a way, to the Duke and Duchess.

“On my own account,” said she, “to say nothing of her having been up
before daybreak to save us all, I may ask for more than a remembrance
for my little Madame Camusot. In the first place, she has already done
me such a service as I cannot forget; and then she is wholly devoted to
our side, she and her husband. I have promised that her Camusot shall
have advancement, and I beg you above everything to help him on, for my

“You need no such recommendation,” said the Duke to Madame Camusot. “The
Grandlieus always remember a service done them. The King’s adherents
will ere long have a chance of distinguishing themselves; they will be
called upon to prove their devotion; your husband will be placed in the

Madame Camusot withdrew, proud, happy, puffed up to suffocation. She
reached home triumphant; she admired herself, she made light of the
public prosecutor’s hostility. She said to herself:

“Supposing we were to send Monsieur de Granville flying----”

It was high time for Madame Camusot to vanish. The Duc de Chaulieu, one
of the King’s prime favorites, met the bourgeoise on the outer steps.

“Henri,” said the Duc de Grandlieu when he heard his friend announced,
“make haste, I beg of you, to get to the Chateau, try to see the
King--the business of this;” and he led the Duke into the window-recess,
where he had been talking to the airy and charming Diane.

Now and then the Duc de Chaulieu glanced in the direction of the flighty
Duchess, who, while talking to the pious Duchess and submitting to be
lectured, answered the Duc de Chaulieu’s expressive looks.

“My dear child,” said the Duc de Grandlieu to her at last, the _aside_
being ended, “do be good! Come, now,” and he took Diane’s hands,
“observe the proprieties of life, do not compromise yourself any more,
write no letters. Letters, my dear, have caused as much private woe as
public mischief. What might be excusable in a girl like Clotilde, in
love for the first time, had no excuse in----”

“An old soldier who has been under fire,” said Diane with a pout.

This grimace and the Duchess’ jest brought a smile to the face of the
two much-troubled Dukes, and of the pious Duchess herself.

“But for four years I have never written a billet-doux.--Are we saved?”
 asked Diane, who hid her curiosity under this childishness.

“Not yet,” said the Duc de Chaulieu. “You have no notion how difficult
it is to do an arbitrary thing. In a constitutional king it is what
infidelity is in a wife: it is adultery.”

“The fascinating sin,” said the Duc de Grandlieu.

“Forbidden fruit!” said Diane, smiling. “Oh! how I wish I were the
Government, for I have none of that fruit left--I have eaten it all.”

“Oh! my dear, my dear!” said the elder Duchess, “you really go too far.”

The two Dukes, hearing a coach stop at the door with the clatter of
horses checked in full gallop, bowed to the ladies and left them, going
into the Duc de Grandlieu’s study, whither came the gentleman from the
Rue Honore-Chevalier--no less a man than the chief of the King’s private
police, the obscure but puissant Corentin.

“Go on,” said the Duc de Grandlieu; “go first, Monsieur de Saint-Denis.”

Corentin, surprised that the Duke should have remembered him, went
forward after bowing low to the two noblemen.

“Always about the same individual, or about his concerns, my dear sir,”
 said the Duc de Grandlieu.

“But he is dead,” said Corentin.

“He has left a partner,” said the Duc de Chaulieu, “a very tough

“The convict Jacques Collin,” replied Corentin.

“Will you speak, Ferdinand?” said the Duke de Chaulieu to his friend.

“That wretch is an object of fear,” said the Duc de Grandlieu, “for
he has possessed himself, so as to be able to levy blackmail, of the
letters written by Madame de Serizy and Madame de Maufrigneuse to Lucien
Chardon, that man’s tool. It would seem that it was a matter of system
in the young man to extract passionate letters in return for his own,
for I am told that Mademoiselle de Grandlieu had written some--at least,
so we fear--and we cannot find out from her--she is gone abroad.”

“That little young man,” replied Corentin, “was incapable of so much
foresight. That was a precaution due to the Abbe Carlos Herrera.”

Corentin rested his elbow on the arm of the chair on which he was
sitting, and his head on his hand, meditating.

“Money!--The man has more than we have,” said he. “Esther Gobseck served
him as a bait to extract nearly two million francs from that well of
gold called Nucingen.--Gentlemen, get me full legal powers, and I will
rid you of the fellow.”

“And--the letters?” asked the Duc de Grandlieu.

“Listen to me, gentlemen,” said Corentin, standing up, his weasel-face
betraying his excitement.

He thrust his hands into the pockets of his black doeskin trousers,
shaped over the shoes. This great actor in the historical drama of the
day had only stopped to put on a waistcoat and frock-coat, and had not
changed his morning trousers, so well he knew how grateful men can be
for immediate action in certain cases. He walked up and down the room
quite at his ease, haranguing loudly, as if he had been alone.

“He is a convict. He could be sent off to Bicetre without trial, and put
in solitary confinement, without a soul to speak to, and left there to
die.--But he may have given instructions to his adherents, foreseeing
this possibility.”

“But he was put into the secret cells,” said the Duc de Grandlieu, “the
moment he was taken into custody at that woman’s house.”

“Is there such a thing as a secret cell for such a fellow as he is?”
 said Corentin. “He is a match for--for me!”

“What is to be done?” said the Dukes to each other by a glance.

“We can send the scoundrel back to the hulks at once--to Rochefort; he
will be dead in six months! Oh! without committing any crime,” he added,
in reply to a gesture on the part of the Duc de Grandlieu. “What do you
expect? A convict cannot hold out more than six months of a hot summer
if he is made to work really hard among the marshes of the Charente. But
this is of no use if our man has taken precautions with regard to the
letters. If the villain has been suspicious of his foes, and that is
probable, we must find out what steps he has taken. Then, if the present
holder of the letters is poor, he is open to bribery. So, no, we must
make Jacques Collin speak. What a duel! He will beat me. The better plan
would be to purchase those letters by exchange for another document--a
letter of reprieve--and to place the man in my gang. Jacques Collin is
the only man alive who is clever enough to come after me, poor Contenson
and dear old Peyrade both being dead! Jacques Collin killed those two
unrivaled spies on purpose, as it were, to make a place for himself. So,
you see, gentlemen, you must give me a free hand. Jacques Collin is in
the Conciergerie. I will go to see Monsieur de Granville in his Court.
Send some one you can trust to meet me there, for I must have a letter
to show to Monsieur de Granville, who knows nothing of me. I will hand
the letter to the President of the Council, a very impressive sponsor.
You have half an hour before you, for I need half an hour to dress,
that is to say, to make myself presentable to the eyes of the public

“Monsieur,” said the Duc de Chaulieu, “I know your wonderful skill. I
only ask you to say Yes or No. Will you be bound to succeed?”

“Yes, if I have full powers, and your word that I shall never be
questioned about the matter.--My plan is laid.”

This sinister reply made the two fine gentlemen shiver. “Go on, then,
monsieur,” said the Duc de Chaulieu. “You can set down the charges of
the case among those you are in the habit of undertaking.”

Corentin bowed and went away.

Henri de Lenoncourt, for whom Ferdinand de Grandlieu had a carriage
brought out, went off forthwith to the King, whom he was privileged to
see at all times in right of his office.

Thus all the various interests that had got entangled from the highest
to the lowest ranks of society were to meet presently in Monsieur
de Granville’s room at the Palais, all brought together by necessity
embodied in three men--Justice in Monsieur de Granville, and the family
in Corentin, face to face with Jacques Collin, the terrible foe who
represented social crime in its fiercest energy.

What a duel is that between justice and arbitrary wills on one side and
the hulks and cunning on the other! The hulks--symbolical of that daring
which throws off calculation and reflection, which avails itself of any
means, which has none of the hyprocrisy of high-handed justice, but is
the hideous outcome of the starving stomach--the swift and bloodthirsty
pretext of hunger. Is it not attack as against self-protection, theft as
against property? The terrible quarrel between the social state and the
natural man, fought out on the narrowest possible ground! In short, it
is a terrible and vivid image of those compromises, hostile to social
interests, which the representatives of authority, when they lack power,
submit to with the fiercest rebels.

When Monsieur Camusot was announced, the public prosecutor signed that
he should be admitted. Monsieur de Granville had foreseen this visit,
and wished to come to an understanding with the examining judge as to
how to wind up this business of Lucien’s death. The end could no
longer be that on which he had decided the day before in agreement with
Camusot, before the suicide of the hapless poet.

“Sit down, Monsieur Camusot,” said Monsieur de Granville, dropping into
his armchair. The public prosecutor, alone with the inferior judge,
made no secret of his depressed state. Camusot looked at Monsieur de
Granville and observed his almost livid pallor, and such utter fatigue,
such complete prostration, as betrayed greater suffering perhaps than
that of the condemned man to whom the clerk had announced the rejection
of his appeal. And yet that announcement, in the forms of justice, is a
much as to say, “Prepare to die; your last hour has come.”

“I will return later, Monsieur le Comte,” said Camusot. “Though business
is pressing----”

“No, stay,” replied the public prosecutor with dignity. “A magistrate,
monsieur, must accept his anxieties and know how to hide them. I was in
fault if you saw any traces of agitation in me----”

Camusot bowed apologetically.

“God grant you may never know these crucial perplexities of our life.
A man might sink under less! I have just spent the night with one of
my most intimate friends.--I have but two friends, the Comte Octave de
Bauvan and the Comte de Serizy.--We sat together, Monsieur de Serizy,
the Count, and I, from six in the evening till six this morning, taking
it in turns to go from the drawing-room to Madame de Serizy’s bedside,
fearing each time that we might find her dead or irremediably insane.
Desplein, Bianchon, and Sinard never left the room, and she has two
nurses. The Count worships his wife. Imagine the night I have spent,
between a woman crazy with love and a man crazy with despair. And a
statesman’s despair is not like that of an idiot. Serizy, as calm as
if he were sitting in his place in council, clutched his chair to force
himself to show us an unmoved countenance, while sweat stood over the
brows bent by so much hard thought.--Worn out by want of sleep, I dozed
from five till half-past seven, and I had to be here by half-past eight
to warrant an execution. Take my word for it, Monsieur Camusot, when a
judge has been toiling all night in such gulfs of sorrow, feeling the
heavy hand of God on all human concerns, and heaviest on noble souls,
it is hard to sit down here, in front of a desk, and say in cold blood,
‘Cut off a head at four o’clock! Destroy one of God’s creatures full
of life, health, and strength!’--And yet this is my duty! Sunk in grief
myself, I must order the scaffold----

“The condemned wretch cannot know that his judge suffers anguish equal
to his own. At this moment he and I, linked by a sheet of paper--I,
society avenging itself; he, the crime to be avenged--embody the same
duty seen from two sides; we are two lives joined for the moment by the
sword of the law.

“Who pities the judge’s deep sorrow? Who can soothe it? Our glory is
to bury it in the depth of our heart. The priest with his life given to
God, the soldier with a thousand deaths for his country’s sake, seem
to me far happier than the magistrate with his doubts and fears and
appalling responsibility.

“You know who the condemned man is?” Monsieur de Granville went on.
“A young man of seven-and-twenty--as handsome as he who killed himself
yesterday, and as fair; condemned against all our anticipations, for the
only proof against him was his concealment of the stolen goods. Though
sentenced, the lad will confess nothing! For seventy days he has held
out against every test, constantly declaring that he is innocent. For
two months I have felt two heads on my shoulders! I would give a year of
my life if he would confess, for juries need encouragement; and imagine
what a blow it would be to justice if some day it should be discovered
that the crime for which he is punished was committed by another.

“In Paris everything is so terribly important; the most trivial
incidents in the law courts have political consequences.

“The jury, an institution regarded by the legislators of the Revolution
as a source of strength, is, in fact, an instrument of social ruin, for
it fails in action; it does not sufficiently protect society. The jury
trifles with its functions. The class of jurymen is divided into
two parties, one averse to capital punishment; the result is a total
upheaval of true equality in administration of the law. Parricide, a
most horrible crime, is in some departments treated with leniency, while
in others a common murder, so to speak, is punished with death. [There
are in penal servitude twenty-three parricides who have been allowed the
benefit of _extenuating circumstances_.] And what would happen if here
in Paris, in our home district, an innocent man should be executed!”

“He is an escaped convict,” said Monsieur Camusot, diffidently.

“The Opposition and the Press would make him a paschal lamb!” cried
Monsieur de Granville; “and the Opposition would enjoy white-washing
him, for he is a fanatical Corsican, full of his native notions, and his
murders were a _Vendetta_. In that island you may kill your enemy, and
think yourself, and be thought, a very good man.

“A thorough-paced magistrate, I tell you, is an unhappy man. They ought
to live apart from all society, like the pontiffs of old. The world
should never see them but at fixed hours, leaving their cells, grave,
and old, and venerable, passing sentence like the high priests of
antiquity, who combined in their person the functions of judicial and
sacerdotal authority. We should be accessible only in our high seat.--As
it is, we are to be seen every day, amused or unhappy, like other men.
We are to be found in drawing-rooms and at home, as ordinary citizens,
moved by our passions; and we seem, perhaps, more grotesque than

This bitter cry, broken by pauses and interjections, and emphasized by
gestures which gave it an eloquence impossible to reduce to writing,
made Camusot’s blood run chill.

“And I, monsieur,” said he, “began yesterday my apprenticeship to the
sufferings of our calling.--I could have died of that young fellow’s
death. He misunderstood my wish to be lenient, and the poor wretch
committed himself.”

“Ah, you ought never to have examined him!” cried Monsieur de Granville;
“it is so easy to oblige by doing nothing.”

“And the law, monsieur?” replied Camusot. “He had been in custody two

“The mischief is done,” said the public prosecutor. “I have done my
best to remedy what is indeed irremediable. My carriage and servants are
following the poor weak poet to the grave. Serizy has sent his too; nay,
more, he accepts the duty imposed on him by the unfortunate boy, and
will act as his executor. By promising this to his wife he won from her
a gleam of returning sanity. And Count Octave is attending the funeral
in person.”

“Well, then, Monsieur le Comte,” said Camusot, “let us complete
our work. We have a very dangerous man on our hands. He is Jacques
Collin--and you know it as well as I do. The ruffian will be

“Then we are lost!” cried Monsieur de Granville.

“He is at this moment shut up with your condemned murderer, who, on the
hulks, was to him what Lucien has been in Paris--a favorite protege.
Bibi-Lupin, disguised as a gendarme, is watching the interview.”

“What business has the superior police to interfere?” said the public
prosecutor. “He has no business to act without my orders!”

“All the Conciergerie must know that we have caught Jacques
Collin.--Well, I have come on purpose to tell you that this daring
felon has in his possession the most compromising letters of Lucien’s
correspondence with Madame de Serizy, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, and
Mademoiselle Clotilde de Grandlieu.”

“Are you sure of that?” asked Monsieur de Granville, his face full of
pained surprise.

“You shall hear, Monsieur le Comte, what reason I have to fear such a
misfortune. When I untied the papers found in the young man’s rooms,
Jacques Collin gave a keen look at the parcel, and smiled with
satisfaction in a way that no examining judge could misunderstand.
So deep a villain as Jacques Collin takes good care not to let such a
weapon slip through his fingers. What is to be said if these documents
should be placed in the hands of counsel chosen by that rascal from
among the foes of the government and the aristocracy!--My wife, to whom
the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse has shown so much kindness, is gone to warn
her, and by this time they must be with the Grandlieus holding council.”

“But we cannot possibly try the man!” cried the public prosecutor,
rising and striding up and down the room. “He must have put the papers
in some safe place----”

“I know where,” said Camusot.

These words finally effaced every prejudice the public prosecutor had
felt against him.

“Well, then----” said Monsieur de Granville, sitting down again.

“On my way here this morning I reflected deeply on this miserable
business. Jacques Collin has an aunt--an aunt by nature, not putative--a
woman concerning whom the superior police have communicated a report to
the Prefecture. He is this woman’s pupil and idol; she is his father’s
sister, her name is Jacqueline Collin. This wretched woman carries on a
trade as a wardrobe purchaser, and by the connection this business has
secured her she gets hold of many family secrets. If Jacques Collin
has intrusted those papers, which would be his salvation, to any one’s
keeping, it is to that of this creature. Have her arrested.”

The public prosecutor gave Camusot a keen look, as much as to say, “This
man is not such a fool as I thought him; he is still young, and does not
yet know how to handle the reins of justice.”

“But,” Camusot went on, “in order to succeed, we must give up all
the plans we laid yesterday, and I came to take your advice--your

The public prosecutor took up his paper-knife and tapped it against
the edge of the table with one of the tricky movements familiar to
thoughtful men when they give themselves up to meditation.

“Three noble families involved!” he exclaimed. “We must not make the
smallest blunder!--You are right: as a first step let us act on Fouche’s
principle, ‘Arrest!’--and Jacques Collin must at once be sent back to
the secret cells.”

“That is to proclaim him a convict and to ruin Lucien’s memory!”

“What a desperate business!” said Monsieur de Granville. “There is
danger on every side.”

At this instant the governor of the Conciergerie came in, not without
knocking; and the private room of a public prosecutor is so well
guarded, that only those concerned about the courts may even knock at
the door.

“Monsieur le Comte,” said Monsieur Gault, “the prisoner calling himself
Carlos Herrera wishes to speak with you.”

“Has he had communication with anybody?” asked Monsieur de Granville.

“With all the prisoners, for he has been out in the yard since about
half-past seven. And he has seen the condemned man, who would seem to
have talked to him.”

A speech of Camusot’s, which recurred to his mind like a flash of light,
showed Monsieur de Granville all the advantage that might be taken of
a confession of intimacy between Jacques Collin and Theodore Calvi to
obtain the letters. The public prosecutor, glad to have an excuse for
postponing the execution, beckoned Monsieur Gault to his side.

“I intend,” said he, “to put off the execution till to-morrow; but let
no one in the prison suspect it. Absolute silence! Let the executioner
seem to be superintending the preparations.

“Send the Spanish priest here under a strong guard; the Spanish Embassy
claims his person! Gendarmes can bring up the self-styled Carlos by your
back stairs so that he may see no one. Instruct the men each to hold him
by one arm, and never let him go till they reach this door.

“Are you sure, Monsieur Gault, that this dangerous foreigner has spoken
to no one but the prisoners!”

“Ah! just as he came out of the condemned cell a lady came to see

The two magistrates exchanged looks, and such looks!

“What lady was that!” asked Camusot.

“One of his penitents--a Marquise,” replied Gault.

“Worse and worse!” said Monsieur de Granville, looking at Camusot.

“She gave all the gendarmes and warders a sick headache,” said Monsieur
Gault, much puzzled.

“Nothing can be a matter of indifference in your business,” said the
public prosecutor. “The Conciergerie has not such tremendous walls for
nothing. How did this lady get in?”

“With a regular permit, monsieur,” replied the governor. “The lady,
beautifully dressed, in a fine carriage with a footman and a chasseur,
came to see her confessor before going to the funeral of the poor young
man whose body you had had removed.”

“Bring me the order for admission,” said Monsieur de Granville.

“It was given on the recommendation of the Comte de Serizy.”

“What was the woman like?” asked the public prosecutor.

“She seemed to be a lady.”

“Did you see her face?”

“She wore a black veil.”

“What did they say to each other?”

“Well--a pious person, with a prayer-book in her hand--what could she
say? She asked the Abbe’s blessing and went on her knees.”

“Did they talk together a long time?”

“Not five minutes; but we none of us understood what they said; they
spoke Spanish no doubt.”

“Tell us everything, monsieur,” the public prosecutor insisted. “I
repeat, the very smallest detail is to us of the first importance. Let
this be a caution to you.”

“She was crying, monsieur.”

“Really weeping?”

“That we could not see, she hid her face in her handkerchief. She left
three hundred francs in gold for the prisoners.”

“That was not she!” said Camusot.

“Bibi-Lupin at once said, ‘She is a thief!’” said Monsieur Gault.

“He knows the tribe,” said Monsieur de Granville.--“Get out your
warrant,” he added, turning to Camusot, “and have seals placed on
everything in her house--at once! But how can she have got hold of
Monsieur de Serizy’s recommendation?--Bring me the order--and go,
Monsieur Gault; send me that Abbe immediately. So long as we have him
safe, the danger cannot be greater. And in the course of two hours’ talk
you get a long way into a man’s mind.”

“Especially such a public prosecutor as you are,” said Camusot

“There will be two of us,” replied Monsieur de Granville politely.

And he became discursive once more.

“There ought to be created for every prison parlor, a post of
superintendent, to be given with a good salary to the cleverest and most
energetic police officers,” said he, after a long pause. “Bibi-Lupin
ought to end his days in such a place. Then we should have an eye and
ear on the watch in a department that needs closer supervision than it
gets.--Monsieur Gault could tell us nothing positive.”

“He has so much to do,” said Camusot. “Still, between these secret cells
and us there lies a gap which ought not to exist. On the way from the
Conciergerie to the judges’ rooms there are passages, courtyards, and
stairs. The attention of the agents cannot be unflagging, whereas the
prisoner is always alive to his own affairs.

“I was told that a lady had already placed herself in the way of Jacques
Collin when he was brought up from the cells to be examined. That
woman got into the guardroom at the top of the narrow stairs from the
mousetrap; the ushers told me, and I blamed the gendarmes.”

“Oh! the Palais needs entire reconstruction,” said Monsieur de
Granville. “But it is an outlay of twenty to thirty million francs!
Just try asking the Chambers for thirty millions for the more decent
accommodation of Justice.”

The sound of many footsteps and a clatter of arms fell on their ear. It
would be Jacques Collin.

The public prosecutor assumed a mask of gravity that hid the man.
Camusot imitated his chief.

The office-boy opened the door, and Jacques Collin came in, quite calm
and unmoved.

“You wished to speak to me,” said Monsieur de Granville. “I am ready to

“Monsieur le Comte, I am Jacques Collin. I surrender!”

Camusot started; the public prosecutor was immovable.

“As you may suppose, I have my reasons for doing this,” said Jacques
Collin, with an ironical glance at the two magistrates. “I must