Part 2 out of 3
advised Nathan not to apostatize too suddenly.
"Napoleon said it; you can't make young republics of old monarchies.
Therefore, my dear fellow, become the hero, the support, the creator
of the Left Centre in the new Chamber, and you'll succeed. Once
admitted into political ranks, once in the government, you can be what
you like,--of any opinion that triumphs."
Nathan was bent on creating a daily political journal and becoming the
absolute master of an enterprise which should absorb into it the
countless little papers then swarming from the press, and establish
ramifications with a review. He had seen so many fortunes made all
around him by the press that he would not listen to Blondet, who
warned him not to trust to such a venture, declaring that the plan was
unsound, so great was the present number of newspapers, all fighting
for subscribers. Raoul, relying on his so-called friends and his own
courage, was all for daring it; he sprang up eagerly and said, with a
"I shall succeed."
"But you haven't a sou."
"I will write a play."
"It will fail."
"Let it fail!" replied Nathan.
He rushed through the various rooms of Florine's apartment, followed
by Blondet, who thought him crazy, looking with a greedy eye upon the
wealth displayed there. Blondet understood that look.
"There's a hundred and more thousand francs in them," he remarked.
"Yes," said Raoul, sighing, as he looked at Florine's sumptuous
bedstead; "but I'd rather be a pedler all my life on the boulevard,
and live on fried potatoes, than sell one item of this apartment."
"Not one item," said Blondet; "sell all. Ambition is like death; it
takes all or nothing."
"No, a hundred times no! I would take anything from my new countess;
but rob Florine of her shell? no."
"Upset our money-box, break one's balance-pole, smash our refuge,
--yes, that would be serious," said Blondet with a tragic air.
"It seems to me from what I hear that you want to play politics
instead of comedies," said Florine, suddenly appearing.
"Yes, my dear, yes," said Raoul, affectionately taking her by the neck
and kissing her forehead. "Don't make faces at that; you won't lose
anything. A minister can do better than a journalist for the queen of
the boards. What parts and what holidays you shall have!"
"Where will you get the money?" she said.
"From my uncle," replied Raoul.
Florine knew Raoul's "uncle." The word meant usury, as in popular
parlance "aunt" means pawn.
"Don't worry yourself, my little darling," said Blondet to Florine,
tapping her shoulder. "I'll get him the assistance of Massol, a lawyer
who wants to be deputy; also Finot, who has never yet got beyond his
'petit-journal,' and Pantin, who wants to be master of petitions, and
who dabbles in reviews. Yes, I'll save him from himself; we'll convoke
here to supper Etienne Lousteau, who can do the feuilleton; Claude
Vignon for criticisms; Felicien Vernou as general care-taker; the
lawyer will work, and du Tillet may take charge of the Bourse, the
money article, and all industrial questions. We'll see where these
various talents and slaves united will land the enterprise."
"In a hospital or a ministry,--where all men ruined in body or mind
are apt to go," said Raoul, laughing.
"Where and when shall we invite them?"
"Here, five days hence."
"Tell me the sum you want," said Florine, simply.
"Well, the lawyer, du Tillet, and Raoul will each have to put up a
hundred thousand francs before they embark on the affair," replied
Blondet. "Then the paper can run eighteen months; about long enough
for a rise and fall in Paris."
Florine gave a little grimace of approval. The two friends jumped
into a cabriolet to go about collecting guests and pens, ideas and
Florine meantime sent for certain dealers in old furniture,
bric-a-brac, pictures, and jewels. These men entered her sanctuary and
took an inventory of every article, precisely as if Florine were dead.
She declared she would sell everything at public auction if they did
not offer her a proper price. She had had the luck to please, she said,
an English lord, and she wanted to get rid of all her property and
look poor, so that he might give her a fine house and furniture, fit
to rival the Rothschilds. But in spite of these persuasions and
subterfuges, all the dealers would offer her for a mass of belongings
worth a hundred and fifty thousand was seventy thousand. Florine
thereupon offered to deliver over everything in eight days for eighty
thousand,--"To take or leave," she said,--and the bargain was
concluded. After the men had departed she skipped for joy, like the
hills of King David, and performed all manner of follies, not having
thought herself so rich.
When Raoul came back she made him a little scene, pretending to be
hurt; she declared that he abandoned her; that she had reflected; men
did not pass from one party to another, from the stage to the Chamber,
without some reason; there was a woman at the bottom; she had a rival!
In short, she made him swear eternal fidelity. Five days later she
gave a splendid feast. The new journal was baptized in floods of wine
and wit, with oaths of loyalty, fidelity, and good-fellowship. The
name, forgotten now like those of the Liberal, Communal, Departmental,
Garde National, Federal, Impartial, was something in "al" that was
equally imposing and evanescent. At three in the morning Florine could
undress and go to bed as if alone, though no one had left the house;
these lights of the epoch were sleeping the sleep of brutes. And when,
early in the morning, the packers and vans arrived to remove Florine's
treasures she laughed to see the porters moving the bodies of the
celebrated men like pieces of furniture that lay in their way. "Sic
transit" all her fine things! all her presents and souvenirs went to
the shops of the various dealers, where no one on seeing them would
know how those flowers of luxury had been originally paid for. It was
agreed that a few little necessary articles should be left, for
Florine's personal convenience until evening,--her bed, a table, a few
chairs, and china enough to give her guests their breakfast.
Having gone to sleep beneath the draperies of wealth and luxury, these
distinguished men awoke to find themselves within bare walls, full of
nail-holes, degraded into abject poverty.
"Why, Florine!--The poor girl has been seized for debt!" cried Bixiou,
who was one of the guests. "Quick! a subscription for her!"
On this they all roused up. Every pocket was emptied and produced a
total of thirty-seven francs, which Raoul carried in jest to Florine's
bedside. She burst out laughing and lifted her pillow, beneath which
lay a mass of bank-notes to which she pointed.
Raoul called to Blondet.
"Ah! I see!" cried Blondet. "The little cheat has sold herself out
without a word to us. Well done, you little angel!"
Thereupon, the actress was borne in triumph into the dining-room where
most of the party still remained. The lawyer and du Tillet had
That evening Florine had an ovation at the theatre; the story of her
sacrifice had circulated among the audience.
"I'd rather be applauded for my talent," said her rival in the
"A natural desire in an actress who has never been applauded at all,"
During the evening Florine's maid installed her in Raoul's apartment
in the Passage Sandrie. Raoul himself was to encamp in the house where
the office of the new journal was established.
Such was the rival of the innocent Madame de Vandenesse. Raoul was the
connecting link between the actress and the countess,--a knot severed
by a duchess in the days of Louis XV. by the poisoning of Adrienne
Lecouvreur; a not inconceivable vengeance, considering the offence.
Florine, however, was not in the way of Raoul's dawning passion. She
foresaw the lack of money in the difficult enterprise he had
undertaken, and she asked for leave of absence from the theatre. Raoul
conducted the negotiation in a way to make himself more than ever
valuable to her. With the good sense of the peasant in La Fontaine's
fable, who makes sure of a dinner while the patricians talk, the
actress went into the provinces to cut faggots for her celebrated man
while he was employed in hunting power.
On the morrow of the ball given by Lady Dudley, Marie, without having
received the slightest declaration, believed that she was loved by
Raoul according to the programme of her dreams, and Raoul was aware
that the countess had chosen him for her lover. Though neither had
reached the incline of such emotions where preliminaries are abridged,
both were on the road to it. Raoul, wearied with the dissipations of
life, longed for an ideal world, while Marie, from whom the thought of
wrong-doing was far, indeed, never imagined the possibility of going
out of such a world. No love was ever more innocent or purer than
theirs; but none was ever more enthusiastic or more entrancing in
The countess was captivated by ideas worthy of the days of chivalry,
though completely modernized. The glowing conversation of the poet had
more echo in her mind than in her heart. She thought it fine to be his
providence. How sweet the thought of supporting by her white and
feeble hand this colossus,--whose feet of clay she did not choose to
see; of giving life where life was needed; of being secretly the
creator of a career; of helping a man of genius to struggle with fate
and master it. Ah! to embroider his scarf for the tournament! to
procure him weapons! to be his talisman against ill-fortune! his balm
for every wound! For a woman brought up like Marie, religious and
noble as she was, such a love was a form of charity. Hence the
boldness of it. Pure sentiments often compromise themselves with a
lofty disdain that resembles the boldness of courtesans.
As soon as by her specious distinctions Marie had convinced herself
that she did not in any way impair her conjugal faith, she rushed into
the happiness of loving Raoul. The least little things of her daily
life acquired a charm. Her boudoir, where she thought of him, became a
sanctuary. There was nothing there that did not rouse some sense of
pleasure; even her ink-stand was the coming accomplice in the
pleasures of correspondence; for she would now have letters to read
and answer. Dress, that splendid poesy of the feminine life, unknown
or exhausted by her, appeared to her eyes endowed with a magic
hitherto unperceived. It suddenly became clear to her what it is to
most women, the manifestation of an inward thought, a language, a
symbol. How many enjoyments in a toilet arranged to please _him_, to
do _him_ honor! She gave herself up ingenuously to all those gracefully
charming things in which so many Parisian women spend their lives, and
which give such significance to all that we see about them, and in
them, and on them. Few women go to milliners and dressmakers for their
own pleasure and interest. When old they never think of adornment. The
next time you meet in the street a young woman stopping for a moment
to look into a shop-window, examine her face carefully. "Will he think
I look better in that?" are the words written on that fair brow, in
the eyes sparkling with hope, in the smile that flickers on the lips.
Lady Dudley's ball took place on a Saturday night. On the following
Monday the countess went to the Opera, feeling certain of seeing
Raoul, who was, in fact, watching for her on one of the stairways
leading down to the stalls. With what delight did she observe the
unwonted care he had bestowed upon his clothes. This despiser of the
laws of elegance had brushed and perfumed his hair; his waistcoat
followed the fashion, his cravat was well tied, the bosom of his shirt
was irreproachably smooth. Raoul was standing with his arms crossed as
if posed for his portrait, magnificently indifferent to the rest of
the audience and full of repressed impatience. Though lowered, his
eyes were turned to the red velvet cushion on which lay Marie's arm.
Felix, seated in the opposite corner of the box, had his back to
So, in a moment, as it were, Marie had compelled this remarkable man
to abjure his cynicism in the line of clothes. All women, high or low,
are filled with delight on seeing a first proof of their power in one
of these sudden metamorphoses. Such changes are an admission of
"Those women were right; there is a great pleasure in being
understood," she said to herself, thinking of her treacherous friends.
When the two lovers had gazed around the theatre with that glance that
takes in everything, they exchanged a look of intelligence. It was for
each as if some celestial dew had refreshed their hearts, burned-up
"I have been here for an hour in purgatory, but now the heavens are
opening," said Raoul's eyes.
"I knew you were waiting, but how could I help it?" replied those of
Thieves, spies, lovers, diplomats, and slaves of any kind alone know
the resources and comforts of a glance. They alone know what it
contains of meaning, sweetness, thought, anger, villainy, displayed by
the modification of that ray of light which conveys the soul. Between
the box of the Comtesse Felix de Vandenesse and the step on which
Raoul had perched there were barely thirty feet; and yet it was
impossible to wipe out that distance. To a fiery being, who had
hitherto known no space between his wishes and their gratification,
this imaginary but insuperable gulf inspired a mad desire to spring to
the countess with the bound of a tiger. In a species of rage he
determined to try the ground and bow openly to the countess. She
returned the bow with one of those slight inclinations of the head
with which women take from their adorers all desire to continue their
attempt. Comte Felix turned round to see who had bowed to his wife; he
saw Nathan, but did not bow, and seemed to inquire the meaning of such
audacity; then he turned back slowly and said a few words to his wife.
Evidently the door of that box was closed to Nathan, who cast a
terrible look of hatred upon Felix.
Madame d'Espard had seen the whole thing from her box, which was just
above where Raoul was standing. She raised her voice in crying bravo
to some singer, which caused Nathan to look up to her; he bowed and
received in return a gracious smile which seemed to say:--
"If they won't admit you there come here to me."
Raoul obeyed the silent summons and went to her box. He felt the need
of showing himself in a place which might teach that little Vandenesse
that fame was every whit as good as nobility, and that all doors
turned on their hinges to admit him. The marquise made him sit in
front of her. She wanted to question him.
"Madame Felix de Vandenesse is fascinating in that gown," she said,
complimenting the dress as if it were a book he had published the day
"Yes," said Raoul, indifferently, "marabouts are very becoming to her;
but she seems wedded to them; she wore them on Saturday," he added, in
a careless tone, as if to repudiate the intimacy Madame d'Espard was
fastening upon him.
"You know the proverb," she replied. "There is no good fete without a
In the matter of repartees literary celebrities are often not as quick
as women. Raoul pretended dulness, a last resort for clever men.
"That proverb is true in my case," he said, looking gallantly at the
"My dear friend, your speech comes too late; I can't accept it," she
said, laughing. "Don't be so prudish! Come, I know how it was; you
complimented Madame de Vandenesse at the ball on her marabouts and she
has put them on again for your sake. She likes you, and you adore her;
it may be a little rapid, but it is all very natural. If I were
mistaken you wouldn't be twisting your gloves like a man who is
furious at having to sit here with me instead of flying to the box of
his idol. She has obtained," continued Madame d'Espard, glancing at
his person impertinently, "certain sacrifices which you refused to
make to society. She ought to be delighted with her success,--in fact,
I have no doubt she is vain of it; I should be so in her place
--immensely. She was never a woman of any mind, but she may now pass
for one of genius. I am sure you will describe her in one of those
delightful novels you write. And pray don't forget Vandenesse; put him
in to please me. Really, his self-sufficiency is too much. I can't
stand that Jupiter Olympian air of his,--the only mythological
character exempt, they say, from ill-luck."
"Madame," cried Raoul, "you rate my soul very low if you think me
capable of trafficking with my feelings, my affections. Rather than
commit such literary baseness, I would do as they do in England,--put
a rope round a woman's neck and sell her in the market."
"But I know Marie; she would like you to do it."
"She is incapable of liking it," said Raoul, vehemently.
"Oh! then you do know her well?"
Nathan laughed; he, the maker of scenes, to be trapped into playing
"Comedy is no longer there," he said, nodding at the stage; "it is
here, in you."
He took his opera-glass and looked about the theatre to recover
"You are not angry with me, I hope?" said the marquise, giving him a
sidelong glance. "I should have had your secret somehow. Let us make
peace. Come and see me; I receive every Wednesday, and I am sure the
dear countess will never miss an evening if I let her know you will be
there. So I shall be the gainer. Sometimes she comes between four and
five o'clock, and I'll be kind and add you to the little set of
favorites I admit at that hour."
"Ah!" cried Raoul, "how the world judges; it calls you unkind."
"So I am when I need to be," she replied. "We must defend ourselves.
But your countess I adore; you will be contented with her; she is
charming. Your name will be the first engraved upon her heart with
that infantine joy that makes a lad cut the initials of his love on
the barks of trees."
Raoul was aware of the danger of such conversations, in which a
Parisian woman excels; he feared the marquise would extract some
admission from him which she would instantly turn into ridicule among
her friends. He therefore withdrew, prudently, as Lady Dudley entered.
"Well?" said the Englishwoman to the marquise, "how far have they
"They are madly in love; he has just told me so."
"I wish he were uglier," said Lady Dudley, with a viperish look at
Comte Felix. "In other respects he is just what I want him: the son of
a Jew broker who died a bankrupt soon after his marriage; but the
mother was a Catholic, and I am sorry to say she made a Christian of
This origin, which Nathan thought carefully concealed, Lady Dudley had
just discovered, and she enjoyed by anticipation the pleasure she
should have in launching some terrible epigram against Vandenesse.
"Heavens! I have just invited him to my house!" cried Madame d'Espard.
"Didn't I receive him at my ball?" replied Lady Dudley. "Some
pleasures, my dear love, are costly."
The news of the mutual attachment between Raoul and Madame de
Vandenesse circulated in the world after this, but not without
exciting denials and incredulity. The countess, however, was defended
by her friends, Lady Dudley, and Mesdames d'Espard and de Manerville,
with an unnecessary warmth that gave a certain color to the calumny.
On the following Wednesday evening Raoul went to Madame d'Espard's,
and was able to exchange a few sentences with Marie, more expressive
by their tones than their ideas. In the midst of the elegant assembly
both found pleasure in those enjoyable sensations given by the voice,
the gestures, the attitude of one beloved. The soul then fastens upon
absolute nothings. No longer do ideas or even language speak, but
things; and these so loudly, that often a man lets another pay the
small attentions--bring a cup of tea, or the sugar to sweeten it
--demanded by the woman he loves, fearful of betraying his emotion to
eyes that seem to see nothing and yet see all. Raoul, however, a man
indifferent to the eyes of the world, betrayed his passion in his
speech and was brilliantly witty. The company listened to the roar of
a discourse inspired by the restraint put upon him; restraint being
that which artists cannot endure. This Rolandic fury, this wit which
slashed down all things, using epigram as its weapon, intoxicated
Marie and amused the circle around them, as the sight of a bull goaded
with banderols amuses the company in a Spanish circus.
"You may kick as you please, but you can't make a solitude about you,"
The words brought Raoul to his senses, and he ceased to exhibit his
irritation to the company. Madame d'Espard came up to offer him a cup
of tea, and said loud enough for Madame de Vandenesse to hear:--
"You are certainly very amusing; come and see me sometimes at four
The word "amusing" offended Raoul, though it was used as the ground of
an invitation. Blondet took pity on him.
"My dear fellow," he said, taking him aside into a corner, "you are
behaving in society as if you were at Florine's. Here no one shows
annoyance, or spouts long articles; they say a few words now and then,
they look their calmest when most desirous of flinging others out of
the window; they sneer softly, they pretend not to think of the woman
they adore, and they are careful not to roll like a donkey on the
high-road. In society, my good Raoul, conventions rule love. Either
carry off Madame de Vandenesse, or show yourself a gentleman. As it
is, you are playing the lover in one of your own books."
Nathan listened with his head lowered; he was like a lion caught in a
"I'll never set foot in this house again," he cried. "That
papier-mache marquise sells her tea too dear. She thinks me amusing! I
understand now why Saint-Just wanted to guillotine this whole class of
"You'll be back here to-morrow."
Blondet was right. Passions are as mean as they are cruel. The next
day after long hesitation between "I'll go--I'll not go," Raoul left
his new partners in the midst of an important discussion and rushed to
Madame d'Espard's house in the faubourg Saint-Honore. Beholding
Rastignac's elegant cabriolet enter the court-yard while he was paying
his cab at the gate, Nathan's vanity was stung; he resolved to have a
cabriolet himself, and its accompanying tiger, too. The carriage of
the countess was in the court-yard, and the sight of it swelled
Raoul's heart with joy. Marie was advancing under the pressure of her
desires with the regularity of the hands of a clock obeying the
mainspring. He found her sitting at the corner of the fireplace in the
little salon. Instead of looking at Nathan when he was announced, she
looked at his reflection in a mirror.
"Monsieur le ministre," said Madame d'Espard, addressing Nathan, and
presenting him to de Marsay by a glance, "was maintaining, when you
came in, that the royalists and the republicans have a secret
understanding. You ought to know something about it; is it so?"
"If it were so," said Raoul, "where's the harm? We hate the same
thing; we agree as to our hatreds, we differ only in our love. That's
the whole of it."
"The alliance is odd enough," said de Marsay, giving a comprehensively
meaning glance at the Comtesse Felix and Nathan.
"It won't last," said Rastignac, thinking, perhaps, wholly of
"What do you think, my dear?" asked Madame d'Espard, addressing Marie.
"I know nothing of public affairs," replied the countess.
"But you soon will, madame," said de Marsay, "and then you will be
doubly our enemy."
So saying he left the room with Rastignac, and Madame d'Espard
accompanied them to the door of the first salon. The lovers had the
room to themselves for a few moments. Marie held out her ungloved hand
to Raoul, who took and kissed it as though he were eighteen years old.
The eyes of the countess expressed so noble a tenderness that the
tears which men of nervous temperament can always find at their
service came into Raoul's eyes.
"Where can I see you? where can I speak with you?" he said. "It is
death to be forced to disguise my voice, my look, my heart, my love--"
Moved by that tear Marie promised to drive daily in the Bois, unless
the weather were extremely bad. This promise gave Raoul more pleasure
than he had found in Florine for the last five years.
"I have so many things to say to you! I suffer from the silence to
which we are condemned--"
The countess looked at him eagerly without replying, and at that
moment Madame d'Espard returned to the room.
"Why didn't you answer de Marsay?" she said as she entered.
"We ought to respect the dead," replied Raoul. "Don't you see that he
is dying? Rastignac is his nurse,--hoping to be put in the will."
The countess pretended to have other visits to pay, and left the
For this quarter of an hour Raoul had sacrificed important interests
and most precious time. Marie was perfectly ignorant of the life of
such men, involved in complicated affairs and burdened with exacting
toil. Women of society are still under the influence of the traditions
of the eighteenth century, in which all positions were definite and
assured. Few women know the harassments in the life of most men who in
these days have a position to make and to maintain, a fame to reach, a
fortune to consolidate. Men of settled wealth and position can now be
counted; old men alone have time to love; young men are rowing, like
Nathan, the galleys of ambition. Women are not yet resigned to this
change of customs; they suppose the same leisure of which they have
too much in those who have none; they cannot imagine other
occupations, other ends in life than their own. When a lover has
vanquished the Lernean hydra in order to pay them a visit he has no
merit in their eyes; they are only grateful to him for the pleasure he
gives; they neither know nor care what it costs. Raoul became aware as
he returned from this visit how difficult it would be to hold the
reins of a love-affair in society, the ten-horsed chariot of
journalism, his dramas on the stage, and his generally involved
"The paper will be wretched to-night," he thought, as he walked away.
"No article of mine, and only the second number, too!"
Madame Felix de Vandenesse drove three times to the Bois de Boulogne
without finding Raoul; the third time she came back anxious and
uneasy. The fact was that Nathan did not choose to show himself in the
Bois until he could go there as a prince of the press. He employed a
whole week in searching for horses, a phantom and a suitable tiger,
and in convincing his partners of the necessity of saving time so
precious to them, and therefore of charging his equipage to the costs
of the journal. His associates, Massol and du Tillet agreed to this so
readily that he really believed them the best fellows in the world.
Without this help, however, life would have been simply impossible to
Raoul; as it was, it became so irksome that many men, even those of
the strongest constitutions, could not have borne it. A violent and
successful passion takes a great deal of space in an ordinary life;
but when it is connected with a woman in the social position of Madame
de Vandenesse it sucks the life out of a man as busy as Raoul. Here is
a list of the obligations his passion imposed upon him.
Every day, or nearly every day, he was obliged to be on horseback in
the Bois, between two and three o'clock, in the careful dress of a
gentleman of leisure. He had to learn at what house or theatre he
could meet Madame de Vandenesse in the evening. He was not able to
leave the party or the play until long after midnight, having obtained
nothing better than a few tender sentences, long awaited, said in a
doorway, or hastily as he put her into her carriage. It frequently
happened that Marie, who by this time had launched him into the great
world, procured for him invitations to dinner in certain houses where
she went herself. All this seemed the simplest life in the world to
her. Raoul moved by pride and led on by his passion never told her of
his labors. He obeyed the will of this innocent sovereign, followed in
her train, followed, also, the parliamentary debates, edited and wrote
for his newspaper, and put upon the stage two plays, the money for
which was absolutely indispensable to him. It sufficed for Madame de
Vandenesse to make a little face of displeasure when he tried to
excuse himself from attending a ball, a concert, or from driving in
the Bois, to compel him to sacrifice his most pressing interests to
her good pleasure. When he left society between one and two in the
morning he went straight to work until eight or nine. He was scarcely
asleep before he was obliged to be up and concocting the opinions of
his journal with the men of political influence on whom he depended,
--not to speak of the thousand and one other details of the paper.
Journalism is connected with everything in these days; with industrial
concerns, with public and private interests, with all new enterprises,
and all the schemes of literature, its self-loves, and its products.
When Nathan, harassed and fatigued, would rush from his editorial
office to the theatre, from the theatre to the Chamber, from the
Chamber to face certain creditors, he was forced to appear in the Bois
with a calm countenance, and gallop beside Marie's carriage in the
leisurely style of a man devoid of cares and with no other duties than
those of love. When in return for this toilsome and wholly ignored
devotion all he won were a few sweet words, the prettiest assurances
of eternal attachment, ardent pressures of the hand on the very few
occasions when they found themselves alone, he began to feel he was
rather duped by leaving his mistress in ignorance of the enormous
costs of these "little attentions," as our fathers called them. The
occasion for an explanation arrived in due time.
On a fine April morning the countess accepted Nathan's arm for a walk
through the sequestered path of the Bois de Boulogne. She intended to
make him one of those pretty little quarrels apropos of nothing, which
women are so fond of exciting. Instead of greeting him as usual, with
a smile upon her lips, her forehead illumined with pleasure, her eyes
bright with some gay or delicate thought, she assumed a grave and
"What is the matter?" said Nathan.
"Why do you pretend to such ignorance?" she replied. "You ought to
know that a woman is not a child."
"Have I displeased you?"
"Should I be here if you had?"
"But you don't smile to me; you don't seem happy to see me."
"Oh! do you accuse me of sulking?" she said, looking at him with that
submissive air which women assume when they want to seem victims.
Nathan walked on a few steps in a state of real apprehension which
"It must be," he said, after a moment's silence, "one of those
frivolous fears, those hazy suspicions which women dwell on more than
they do on the great things of life. You all have a way of tipping the
world sideways with a straw, a cobweb--"
"Sarcasm!" she said, "I might have expected it!"
"Marie, my angel, I only said those words to wring your secret out of
"My secret would be always a secret, even if I told it to you."
"But all the same, tell it to me."
"I am not loved," she said, giving him one of those sly oblique
glances with which women question so maliciously the men they are
trying to torment.
"Not loved!" cried Nathan.
"No; you are too occupied with other things. What am I to you in the
midst of them? forgotten on the least occasion! Yesterday I came to
the Bois and you were not here--"
"I had put on a new dress expressly to please you; you did not come;
where were you?"
"I did not know where. I went to Madame d'Espard's; you were not
"That evening at the Opera, I watched the balcony; every time a door
opened my heart was beating!"
"What an evening I had! You don't reflect on such tempests of the
"Life is shortened by such emotions."
"Well, what?" she said.
"You are right; life is shortened by them," said Nathan, "and in a few
months you will utterly have consumed mine. Your unreasonable
reproaches drag my secret from me-- Ha! you say you are not loved; you
are loved too well."
And thereupon he vividly depicted his position, told of his sleepless
nights, his duties at certain hours, the absolute necessity of
succeeding in his enterprise, the insatiable requirements of a
newspaper in which he was required to judge the events of the whole
world without blundering, under pain of losing his power, and so
losing all, the infinite amount of rapid study he was forced to give
to questions which passed as rapidly as clouds in this all-consuming
age, etc., etc.
Raoul made a great mistake. The Marquise d'Espard had said to him on
one occasion, "Nothing is more naive than a first love." As he
unfolded before Marie's eyes this life which seemed to her immense,
the countess was overcome with admiration. She had thought Nathan
grand, she now considered him sublime. She blamed herself for loving
him too much; begged him to come to her only when he could do so
without difficulty. Wait? indeed she could wait! In future, she should
know how to sacrifice her enjoyments. Wishing to be his stepping-stone
was she really an obstacle? She wept with despair.
"Women," she said, with tears in her eyes, "can only love; men act;
they have a thousand ways in which they are bound to act. But we can
only think, and pray, and worship."
A love that had sacrificed so much for her sake deserved a recompense.
She looked about her like a nightingale descending from a leafy covert
to drink at a spring, to see if she were alone in the solitude, if the
silence hid no witness; then she raised her head to Raoul, who bent
his own, and let him take one kiss, the first and the only one that
she ever gave in secret, feeling happier at that moment than she had
felt in five years. Raoul thought all his toils well-paid. They both
walked forward they scarcely knew where, but it was on the road to
Auteuil; presently, however, they were forced to return and find their
carriages, pacing together with the rhythmic step well-known to
lovers. Raoul had faith in that kiss given with the quiet facility of
a sacred sentiment. All the evil of it was in the mind of the world,
not in that of the woman who walked beside him. Marie herself, given
over to the grateful admiration which characterizes the love of woman,
walked with a firm, light step on the gravelled path, saying, like
Raoul, but few words; yet those few were felt and full of meaning. The
sky was cloudless, the tall trees had burgeoned, a few green shoots
were already brightening their myriad of brown twigs. The shrubs, the
birches, the willows, the poplars were showing their first diaphanous
and tender foliage. No soul resists these harmonies. Love explained
Nature as it had already explained society to Marie's heart.
"I wish you have never loved any one but me," she said.
"Your wish is realized," replied Raoul. "We have awakened in each
other the only true love."
He spoke the truth as he felt it. Posing before this innocent young
heart as a pure man, Raoul was caught himself by his own fine
sentiments. At first purely speculative and born of vanity, his love
had now become sincere. He began by lying, he had ended in speaking
truth. In all writers there is ever a sentiment, difficult to stifle,
which impels them to admire the highest good. The countess, on her
part, after her first rush of gratitude and surprise, was charmed to
have inspired such sacrifices, to have caused him to surmount such
difficulties. She was beloved by a man who was worthy of her! Raoul
was totally ignorant to what his imaginary grandeur bound him. Women
will not suffer their idol to step down from his pedestal. They do not
forgive the slightest pettiness in a god. Marie was far from knowing
the solution to the riddle given by Raoul to his friends at Very's.
The struggle of this writer, risen from the lower classes, had cost
him the ten first years of his youth; and now in the days of his
success he longed to be loved by one of the queens of the great world.
Vanity, without which, as Champfort says, love would be but a feeble
thing, sustained his passion and increased it day by day.
"Can you swear to me," said Marie, "that you belong and will never
belong to any other woman?"
"There is neither time in my life nor place in my heart for any other
woman," replied Raoul, not thinking that he told a lie, so little did
he value Florine.
"I believe you," she said.
When they reached the alley where their carriages were waiting, Marie
dropped Raoul's arm, and the young man assumed a respectful and
distant attitude as if he had just met her; he accompanied her, with
his hat off, to her carriage, then he followed her by the Avenue
Charles X., breathing in, with satisfaction, the very dust her caleche
In spite of Marie's high renunciations, Raoul continued to follow her
everywhere; he adored the air of mingled pleasure and displeasure with
which she scolded him for wasting his precious time. She took
direction of his labors, she gave him formal orders on the employment
of his time; she stayed at home to deprive him of every pretext for
dissipation. Every morning she read his paper, and became the herald
of his staff of editors, of Etienne Lousteau the feuilletonist, whom
she thought delightful, of Felicien Vernou, of Claude Vignon,--in
short, of the whole staff. She advised Raoul to do justice to de
Marsay when he died, and she read with deep emotion the noble eulogy
which Raoul published upon the dead minister while blaming his
Machiavelianism and his hatred for the masses. She was present, of
course, at the Gymnase on the occasion of the first representation of
the play upon the proceeds of which Nathan relied to support his
enterprise, and was completely duped by the purchased applause.
"You did not bid farewell to the Italian opera," said Lady Dudley, to
whose house she went after the performance.
"No, I went to the Gymnase. They gave a first representation."
"I can't endure vaudevilles. I am like Louis XIV. about Teniers," said
"For my part," said Madame d'Espard, "I think actors have greatly
improved. Vaudevilles in the present day are really charming comedies,
full of wit, requiring great talent; they amuse me very much."
"The actors are excellent, too," said Marie. "Those at the Gymnase
played very well to-night; the piece pleased them; the dialogue was
witty and keen."
"Like those of Beaumarchais," said Lady Dudley.
"Monsieur Nathan is not Moliere as yet, but--" said Madame d'Espard,
looking at the countess.
"He makes vaudevilles," said Madame Charles de Vandenesse.
"And unmakes ministries," added Madame de Manerville.
The countess was silent; she wanted to answer with a sharp repartee;
her heart was bounding with anger, but she could find nothing better
to say than,--
"He will make them, perhaps."
All the women looked at each other with mysterious significance. When
Marie de Vandenesse departed Moina de Saint-Heren exclaimed:--
"She adores him."
"And she makes no secret of it," said Madame d'Espard.
In the month of May Vandenesse took his wife, as usual, to their
country-seat, where she was consoled by the passionate letters she
received from Raoul, to whom she wrote every day.
Marie's absence might have saved Raoul from the gulf into which he was
falling, if Florine had been near him; but, unfortunately, he was
alone in the midst of friends who had become his enemies from the
moment that he showed his intention of ruling them. His staff of
writers hated him "pro tem.," ready to hold out a hand to him and
console him in case of a fall, ready to adore him in case of success.
So goes the world of literature. No one is really liked but an
inferior. Every man's hand is against him who is likely to rise. This
wide-spread envy doubles the chances of common minds who excite
neither envy nor suspicion, who make their way like moles, and, fools
though they be, find themselves gazetted in the "Moniteur," for three
or four places, while men of talent are still struggling at the door
to keep each other out.
The underhand enmity of these pretended friends, which Florine would
have scented with the innate faculty of a courtesan to get at truth
amid a thousand misleading circumstances, was by no means Raoul's
greatest danger. His partners, Massol the lawyer, and du Tillet the
banker, had intended from the first to harness his ardor to the
chariot of their own importance and get rid of him as soon as he was
out of condition to feed the paper, or else to deprive him of his
power, arbitrarily, whenever it suited their purpose to take it. To
them Nathan represented a certain amount of talent to use up, a
literary force of the motive power of ten pens to employ. Massol, one
of those lawyers who mistake the faculty of endless speech for
eloquence, who possess the art of boring by diffusiveness, the torment
of all meetings and assemblies where they belittle everything, and who
desire to become personages at any cost,--Massol no longer wanted the
place as Keeper of the Seals; he had seen some five or six different
men go through that office in four years, and the robes disgusted him.
In exchange, his mind was now set on obtaining a chair on the Board of
Education and a place in the Council of State; the whole adorned with
the cross of the Legion of honor. Du Tillet and Nucingen had
guaranteed the cross to him, and the office of Master of Petitions
provided he obeyed them blindly.
The better to deceive Raoul, these men allowed him to manage the paper
without control. Du Tillet used it only for his stock-gambling, about
which Nathan understood next to nothing; but he had given, through
Nucingen, an assurance to Rastignac that the paper would be tacitly
obliging to the government on the sole condition of supporting his
candidacy for Monsieur de Nucingen's place as soon as he was nominated
peer of France. Raoul was thus being undermined by the banker and the
lawyer, who saw him with much satisfaction lording it in the
newspaper, profiting by all advantages, and harvesting the fruits of
self-love, while Nathan, enchanted, believed them to be, as on the
occasion of his equestrian wants, the best fellows in the world. He
thought he managed them! Men of imagination, to whom hope is the basis
of existence, never allow themselves to know that the most perilous
moment in their affairs is that when all seems going well according to
This was a period of triumph by which Nathan profited. He appeared as
a personage in the world, political and financial. Du Tillet presented
him to the Nucingens. Madame de Nucingen received him cordially, less
for himself than for Madame de Vandenesse; but when she ventured a few
words about the countess he thought himself marvellously clever in
using Florine as a shield; he alluded to his relations with the
actress in a tone of generous self-conceit. How could he desert a
great devotion, for the coquetries of the faubourg Saint-Germain?
Nathan, manipulated by Nucingen and Rastignac, by du Tillet and
Blondet, gave his support ostentatiously to the "doctrinaires" of
their new and ephemeral cabinet. But in order to show himself pure of
all bribery he refused to take advantage of certain profitable
enterprises which were started by means of his paper,--he! who had no
reluctance in compromising friends or in behaving with little decency
to mechanics under certain circumstances. Such meannesses, the result
of vanity and of ambition, are found in many lives like his. The
mantle must be splendid before the eyes of the world, and we steal our
friend's or a poor man's cloth to patch it.
Nevertheless, two months after the departure of the countess, Raoul
had a certain Rabelaisian "quart d'heure" which caused him some
anxiety in the midst of these triumphs. Du Tillet had advanced a
hundred thousand francs, Florine's money had gone in the costs of the
first establishment of the paper, which were enormous. It was
necessary to provide for the future. The banker agreed to let the
editor have fifty thousand francs on notes for four months. Du Tillet
thus held Raoul by the halter of an IOU. By means of this relief the
funds of the paper were secured for six months. In the eyes of some
writers six months is an eternity. Besides, by dint of advertising and
by offering illusory advantages to subscribers two thousand had been
secured; an influx of travellers added to this semi-success, which was
enough, perhaps, to excuse the throwing of more bank-bills after the
rest. A little more display of talent, a timely political trial or
crisis, an apparent persecution, and Raoul felt certain of becoming
one of those modern "condottieri" whose ink is worth more than powder
and shot of the olden time.
This loan from du Tillet was already made when Florine returned with
fifty thousand francs. Instead of creating a savings fund with that
sum, Raoul, certain of success (simply because he felt it was
necessary), and already humiliated at having accepted the actress's
money, deceived Florine as to his actual position, and persuaded her
to employ the money in refurnishing her house. The actress, who did
not need persuasion, not only spent the sum in hand, but she burdened
herself with a debt of thirty thousand francs, with which she obtained
a charming little house all to herself in the rue Pigale, whither her
old society resorted. Raoul had reserved the production of his great
piece, in which was a part especially suited to Florine, until her
return. This comedy-vaudeville was to be Raoul's farewell to the
stage. The newspapers, with that good nature which costs nothing,
prepared the way for such an ovation to Florine that even the
Theatre-Francais talked of engaging her. The feuilletons proclaimed
her the heiress of Mars.
This triumph was sufficiently dazzling to prevent Florine from
carefully studying the ground on which Nathan was advancing; she
lived, for the time being, in a round of festivities and glory.
According to those about her, he was now a great political character;
he was justified in his enterprise; he would certainly be a deputy,
probably a minister in course of time, like so many others. As for
Nathan himself, he firmly believed that in the next session of the
Chamber he should find himself in government with two other
journalists, one of whom, already a minister, was anxious to associate
some of his own craft with himself, and so consolidate his power.
After a separation of six months, Nathan met Florine again with
pleasure, and returned easily to his old way of life. All his comforts
came from the actress, but he embroidered the heavy tissue of his life
with the flowers of ideal passion; his letters to Marie were
masterpieces of grace and style. Nathan made her the light of his
life; he undertook nothing without consulting his "guardian angel." In
despair at being on the popular side, he talked of going over to that
of the aristocracy; but, in spite of his habitual agility, even he saw
the absolute impossibility of such a jump; it was easier to become a
minister. Marie's precious replies were deposited in one of those
portfolios with patent locks made by Huret or Fichet, two mechanics
who were then waging war in advertisements and posters all over Paris,
as to which could make the safest and most impenetrable locks.
This portfolio was left about in Florine's new boudoir, where Nathan
did much of his work. No one is easier to deceive than a woman to whom
a man is in the habit of telling everything; she has no suspicions;
she thinks she sees and hears and knows all. Besides, since her
return, Nathan had led the most regular of lives under her very nose.
Never did she imagine that that portfolio, which she hardly glanced at
as it lay there unconcealed, contained the letters of a rival,
treasures of admiring love which the countess addressed, at Raoul's
request, to the office of his newspaper.
Nathan's situation was, therefore, to all appearance, extremely
brilliant. He had many friends. The two plays lately produced had
succeeded well, and their proceeds supplied his personal wants and
relieved him of all care for the future. His debt to du Tillet, "his
friend," did not make him in the least uneasy.
"Why distrust a friend?" he said to Blondet, who from time to time
would cast a doubt on his position, led to do so by his general habit
"But we don't need to distrust our enemies," remarked Florine.
Nathan defended du Tillet; he was the best, the most upright of men.
This existence, which was really that of a dancer on the tight rope
without his balance-pole, would have alarmed any one, even the most
indifferent, had it been seen as it really was. Du Tillet watched it
with the cool eye and the cynicism of a parvenu. Through the friendly
good humor of his intercourse with Raoul there flashed now and then a
malignant jeer. One day, after pressing his hand in Florine's boudoir
and watching him as he got into his carriage, du Tillet remarked to
Lousteau (envier par excellence):--
"That fellow is off to the Bois in fine style to-day, but he is just
as likely, six months hence, to be in a debtor's prison."
"He? never!" cried Lousteau. "He has Florine."
"How do you know that he'll keep her? As for you, who are worth a
dozen of him, I predict that you will be our editor-in-chief within
In October Nathan's notes to du Tillet fell due, and the banker
graciously renewed them, but for two months only, with the discount
added and a fresh loan. Sure of victory, Raoul was not afraid of
continuing to put his hand in the bag. Madame Felix de Vandenesse was
to return in a few days, a month earlier than usual, brought back, of
course, by her unconquerable desire to see Nathan, who felt that he
could not be short of money at a time when he renewed that assiduous
Correspondence, in which the pen is always bolder than speech, and
thought, wreathing itself with flowers, allows itself to be seen
without disguise, and brought the countess to the highest pitch of
enthusiasm. She believed she saw in Raoul one of the noblest spirits
of the epoch, a delicate but misjudged heart without a stain and
worthy of adoration; she saw him advancing with a brave hand to grasp
the sceptre of power. Soon that speech so beautiful in love would echo
from the tribune. Marie now lived only in this life of a world outside
her own. Her taste was lost for the tranquil joys of home, and she
gave herself up to the agitations of this whirlwind life communicated
by a clever and adoring pen. She kissed Raoul's letters, written in
the midst of the ceaseless battles of the press, with time taken from
necessary studies; she felt their value; she was certain of being
loved, and loved only, with no rival but the fame and ambition he
adored. She found enough in her country solitude to fill her soul and
employ her faculties,--happy, indeed, to have been so chosen by such a
man, who to her was an angel.
During the last days of autumn Marie and Raoul again met and renewed
their walks in the Bois, where alone they could see each other until
the salons reopened. But when the winter fairly began, Raoul appeared
in social life at his apogee. He was almost a personage. Rastignac,
now out of power with the ministry, which went to pieces on the death
of de Marsay, leaned upon Nathan, and gave him in return the warmest
praise. Madame de Vandenesse, feeling this change in public opinion,
was desirous of knowing if her husband's judgment had altered also.
She questioned him again; perhaps with the hope of obtaining one of
those brilliant revenges which please all women, even the noblest and
least worldly,--for may we not believe that even the angels retain
some portion of their self-love as they gather in serried ranks before
the Holy of Holies?
"Nothing was wanting to Raoul Nathan but to be the dupe he now is to a
parcel of intriguing sharpers," replied the count.
Felix, whose knowledge of the world and politics enabled him to judge
clearly, had seen Nathan's true position. He explained to his wife
that Fieschi's attempt had resulted in attaching to the interests
threatened by this attack on Louis-Philippe a large body of hitherto
lukewarm persons. The newspapers which were non-committal, and did not
show their colors, would lose subscribers; for journalism, like
politics, was about to be simplified by falling into regular lines. If
Nathan had put his whole fortune into that newspaper he would lose it.
This judgment, so apparently just and clear-cut, though brief and
given by a man who fathomed a matter in which he had no interest,
alarmed Madame de Vandenesse.
"Do you take an interest in him?" asked her husband.
"Only as a man whose mind interests me and whose conversation I like."
This reply was made so naturally that the count suspected nothing.
The next day at four o'clock, Marie and Raoul had a long conversation
together, in a low voice, in Madame d'Espard's salon. The countess
expressed fears which Raoul dissipated, only too happy to destroy by
epigrams the conjugal judgment. Nathan had a revenge to take. He
characterized the count as narrow-minded, behind the age, a man who
judged the revolution of July with the eyes of the Restoration, who
would never be willing to admit the triumph of the middle-classes--the
new force of all societies, whether temporary or lasting, but a real
force. Instead of turning his mind to the study of an opinion given
impartially and incidentally by a man well-versed in politics, Raoul
mounted his stilts and stalked about in the purple of his own glory.
Where is the woman who would not have believed his glowing talk sooner
than the cold logic of her husband? Madame de Vandenesse, completely
reassured, returned to her life of little enjoyments, clandestine
pressures of the hand, occasional quarrels,--in short, to her
nourishment of the year before, harmless in itself, but likely to drag
a woman over the border if the man she favors is resolute and
impatient of obstacles. Happily for her, Nathan was not dangerous.
Besides, he was too full of his immediate self-interests to think at
this time of profiting by his love.
But toward the end of December, when the second notes fell due, du
Tillet demanded payment. The rich banker, who said he was embarrassed,
advised Raoul to borrow the money for a short time from a usurer, from
Gigonnet, the providence of all young men who were pressed for money.
In January, he remarked, the renewal of subscriptions to the paper
would be coming in, there would be plenty of money in hand, and they
could then see what had best be done. Besides, couldn't Nathan write a
play? As a matter of pride Raoul determined to pay off the notes at
once. Du Tillet gave Raoul a letter to Gigonnet, who counted out the
money on a note of Nathan's at twenty days' sight. Instead of asking
himself the reason of such unusual facility, Raoul felt vexed at his
folly in not having asked for more. That is how men who are truly
remarkable for the power of thought are apt to behave in practical
business; they seem to reserve the power of their mind for their
writings, and are fearful of lessening it by putting it to use in the
daily affairs of life.
Raoul related his morning to Florine and Blondet. He gave them an
inimitable sketch of Gigonnet, his fireplace without fire, his shabby
wall-paper, his stairway, his asthmatic bell, his aged straw mattress,
his den without warmth, like his eye. He made them laugh about this
new uncle; they neither troubled themselves about du Tillet and his
pretended want of money, nor about an old usurer so ready to disburse.
What was there to worry about in that?
"He has only asked you fifteen per cent," said Blondet; "you ought to
be grateful to him. At twenty-five per cent you don't bow to those old
fellows. This is money-lending; usury doesn't begin till fifty per
cent; and then you despise the usurer."
"Despise him!" cried Florine; "if any of your friends lent you money
at that price they'd pose as your benefactors."
"She is right; and I am glad I don't owe anything now to du Tillet,"
Why this lack of penetration as to their personal affairs in men whose
business it is to penetrate all things? Perhaps the mind cannot be
complete at all points; perhaps artists of every kind live too much in
the present moment to study the future; perhaps they are too observant
of the ridiculous to notice snares, or they may believe that none
would dare to lay a snare for such as they. However this may be, the
future arrived in due time. Twenty days later Raoul's notes were
protested, but Florine obtained from the Court of commerce an
extension of twenty-five days in which to meet them. Thus pressed,
Raoul looked into his affairs and asked for the accounts, and it then
appeared that the receipts of the newspaper covered only two-thirds of
the expenses, while the subscriptions were rapidly dwindling. The
great man now grew anxious and gloomy, but to Florine only, in whom he
confided. She advised him to borrow money on unwritten plays, and
write than at once, giving a lien on his work. Nathan followed this
advice and obtained thereby twenty thousand francs, which reduced his
debt to forty thousand.
On the 10th of February the twenty-five days expired. Du Tillet, who
did not want Nathan as a rival before the electoral college, where he
meant to appear himself, instigated Gigonnet to sue Nathan without
compromise. A man locked up for debt could not present himself as a
candidate for election. Florine was herself in communication with the
sheriff on the subject of her personal debts, and no resource was left
to her but the "I" of Medea, for her new furniture and belongings were
now attached. The ambitious Raoul heard the cracking in all directions
of his prosperous edifice, built, alas! without foundations. His nerve
failed him; too weak already to sustain so vast an enterprise, he felt
himself incapable of attempting to build it up again; he was fated to
perish in its ashes. Love for the countess gave him still a few
thrills of life; his mask brightened for a moment, but behind it hope
was dead. He did not suspect the hand of du Tillet, and laid the blame
of his misfortune on the usurer. Rastignac, Blondet, Lousteau, Vernou,
Finot, and Massol took care not to enlighten him. Rastignac, who
wanted to return to power, made common cause with Nucingen and du
Tillet. The others felt a satisfaction in the catastrophe of an equal
who had attempted to make himself their master. None of them, however,
would have said a word to Florine; on the contrary, they praised Raoul
"Nathan," they said, "has the shoulders of an Atlas; he'll pull
himself through; all will come right."
"There were two new subscribers yesterday," said Blondet, gravely.
"Raoul will certainly be elected deputy. As soon as the budget is
voted the dissolution is sure to take place."
But Nathan, sued, could no longer obtain even usury; Florine, with all
her personal property attached, could count on nothing but inspiring a
passion in some fool who might not appear at the right moment.
Nathan's friends were all men without money and without credit. An
arrest for debt would destroy his hopes of a political career; and
besides all this, he had bound himself to do an immense amount of
dramatic work for which he had already received payment. He could see
no bottom to the gulf of misery that lay before him, into which he was
about to roll. In presence of such threatened evil his boldness
deserted him. Would the Comtesse de Vandenesse stand by him? Would she
fly with him? Women are never led into a gulf of that kind except by
an absolute love, and the love of Raoul and Marie had not bound them
together by the mysterious and inalienable ties of happiness. But
supposing that the countess did follow him to some foreign country;
she would come without fortune, despoiled of everything, and then,
alas! she would merely be one more embarrassment to him. A mind of a
second order, and a proud mind like that of Nathan, would be likely to
see, under these circumstances, and did see, in suicide the sword to
cut the Gordian knots. The idea of failure in the face of the world
and that society he had so lately entered and meant to rule, of
leaving the chariot of the countess and becoming once more a muddied
pedestrian, was more than he could bear. Madness began to dance and
whirl and shake her bells at the gates of the fantastic palace in
which the poet had been dreaming. In this extremity, Nathan waited for
some lucky accident, determined not to kill himself until the final
During the last days employed by the legal formalities required before
proceeding to arrest for debt, Raoul went about, in spite of himself,
with that coldly sullen and morose expression of face which may be
noticed in persons who are either fated to commit suicide or are
meditating it. The funereal ideas they are turning over in their minds
appear upon their foreheads in gray and cloudy tints, their smile has
something fatalistic in it, their motions are solemn. These unhappy
beings seem to want to suck the last juices of the life they mean to
leave; their eyes see things invisible, their ears are listening to a
death-knell, they pay no attention to the minor things about them.
These alarming symptoms Marie perceived one evening at Lady Dudley's.
Raoul was sitting apart on a sofa in the boudoir, while the rest of
the company were conversing in the salon. The countess went to the
door, but he did not raise his head; he heard neither Marie's
breathing nor the rustle of her silk dress; he was gazing at a flower
in the carpet, with fixed eyes, stupid with grief; he felt he had
rather die than abdicate. All the world can't have the rock of Saint
Helena for a pedestal. Moreover, suicide was then the fashion in
Paris. Is it not, in fact, the last resource of all atheistical
societies? Raoul, as he sat there, had decided that the moment had
come to die. Despair is in proportion to our hopes; that of Raoul had
no other issue than the grave.
"What is the matter?" cried Marie, flying to him.
"Nothing," he answered.
There is one way of saying that word "nothing" between lovers which
signifies its exact contrary. Marie shrugged her shoulders.
"You are a child," she said. "Some misfortune has happened to you."
"No, not to me," he replied. "But you will know all soon enough,
Marie," he added, affectionately.
"What were you thinking of when I came in?" she asked, in a tone of
"Do you want to know the truth?" She nodded. "I was thinking of you; I
was saying to myself that most men in my place would have wanted to be
loved without reserve. I am loved, am I not?"
"Yes," she answered.
"And yet," he said, taking her round the waist and kissing her
forehead at the risk of being seen, "I leave you pure and without
remorse. I could have dragged you into an abyss, but you remain in all
your glory on its brink without a stain. Yet one thought troubles
"What is it?" she asked.
"You will despise me." She smiled superbly. "Yes, you will never
believe that I have sacredly loved you; I shall be disgraced, I know
that. Women never imagine that from the depths of our mire we raise
our eyes to heaven and truly adore a Marie. They assail that sacred
love with miserable doubts; they cannot believe that men of intellect
and poesy can so detach their soul from earthly enjoyment as to lay it
pure upon some cherished altar. And yet, Marie, the worship of the
ideal is more fervent in men then in women; we find it in women, who
do not even look for it in us."
"Why are you making me that article?" she said, jestingly.
"I am leaving France; and you will hear to-morrow, how and why, from a
letter my valet will bring you. Adieu, Marie."
Raoul left the house after again straining the countess to his heart
with dreadful pressure, leaving her stupefied and distressed.
"What is the matter, my dear?" said Madame d'Espard, coming to look
for her. "What has Monsieur Nathan been saying to you? He has just
left us in a most melodramatic way. Perhaps you are too reasonable or
too unreasonable with him."
The countess got into a hackney-coach and was driven rapidly to the
newspaper office. At that hour the huge apartments which they occupied
in an old mansion in the rue Feydeau were deserted; not a soul was
there but the watchman, who was greatly surprised to see a young and
pretty woman hurrying through the rooms in evident distress. She asked
him to tell her where was Monsieur Nathan.
"At Mademoiselle Florine's, probably," replied the man, taking Marie
for a rival who intended to make a scene.
"Where does he work?"
"In his office, the key of which he carries in his pocket."
"I wish to go there."
The man took her to a dark little room looking out on a rear
court-yard. The office was at right angles. Opening the window of the
room she was in, the countess could look through into the window of the
office, and she saw Nathan sitting there in the editorial arm-chair.
"Break in the door, and be silent about all this; I'll pay you well,"
she said. "Don't you see that Monsieur Nathan is dying?"
The man got an iron bar from the press-room, with which he burst in
the door. Raoul had actually smothered himself, like any poor
work-girl, with a pan of charcoal. He had written a letter to Blondet,
which lay on the table, in which he asked him to ascribe his death to
apoplexy. The countess, however, had arrived in time; she had Raoul
carried to her coach, and then, not knowing where else to care for
him, she took him to a hotel, engaged a room, and sent for a doctor.
In a few hours Raoul was out of danger; but the countess did not leave
him until she had obtained a general confession of the causes of his
act. When he had poured into her heart the dreadful elegy of his woes,
she said, in order to make him willing to live:--
"I can arrange all that."
But, nevertheless, she returned home with a heart oppressed with the
same anxieties and ideas that had darkened Nathan's brow the night
"Well, what was the matter with your sister?" said Felix, when his
wife returned. "You look distressed."
"It is a dreadful history about which I am bound to secrecy," she
said, summoning all her nerve to appear calm before him.
In order to be alone and to think at her ease, she went to the Opera
in the evening, after which she resolved to go (as we have seen) and
discharge her heart into that of her sister, Madame du Tillet;
relating to her the horrible scene of the morning, and begging her
advice and assistance. Neither the one nor the other could then know
that du Tillet himself had lighted the charcoal of the vulgar brazier,
the sight of which had so justly terrified the countess.
"He has but me in all the world," said Marie to her sister, "and I
will not fail him."
That speech contains the secret motive of most women; they can be
heroic when they are certain of being all in all to a grand and
A LOVER SAVED AND LOST
Du Tillet had heard some talk even in financial circles of the more or
less possible adoration of his sister-in-law for Nathan; but he was
one of those who denied it, thinking it incompatible with Raoul's
known relations with Florine. The actress would certainly drive off
the countess, or vice versa. But when, on coming home that evening, he
found his sister-in-law with a perturbed face, in consultation with
his wife about money, it occurred to him that Raoul had, in all
probability, confided to her his situation. The countess must
therefore love him; she had doubtless come to obtain from her sister
the sum due to old Gigonnet. Madame du Tillet, unaware, of course, of
the reasons for her husband's apparently supernatural penetration, had
shown such stupefaction when he told her the sum wanted, that du
Tillet's suspicions became certainties. He was sure now that he held
the thread of all Nathan's possible manoeuvres.
No one knew that the unhappy man himself was in bed in a small hotel
in the rue du Mail, under the name of the office watchman, to whom
Marie had promised five hundred francs if he kept silence as to the
events of the preceding night and morning. Thus bribed, the man, whose
name was Francois Quillet, went back to the office and left word with
the portress that Monsieur Nathan had been taken ill in consequence of
overwork, and was resting. Du Tillet was therefore not surprised at
Raoul's absence. It was natural for the journalist to hide under any
such pretence to avoid arrest. When the sheriff's spies made inquiries
they learned that a lady had carried him away in a public coach early
in the morning; but it took three days to ferret out the number of the
coach, question the driver, and find the hotel where the debtor was
recovering his strength. Thus Marie's prompt action had really gained
for Nathan a truce of four days.
Both sisters passed a cruel night. Such a catastrophe casts the lurid
gleams of its charcoal over the whole of life, showing reefs, pools,
depths, where the eye has hitherto seen only summits and grandeurs.
Struck by the horrible picture of a young man lying back in his chair
to die, with the last proofs of his paper before him, containing in
type his last thoughts, poor Madame du Tillet could think of nothing
else than how to save him and restore a life so precious to her
sister. It is the nature of our mind to see effects before we analyze
their causes. Eugenie recurred to her first idea of consulting Madame
Delphine de Nucingen, with whom she was to dine, and she resolved to
make the attempt, not doubting of success. Generous, like all persons
who are not bound in the polished steel armor of modern society,
Madame du Tillet resolved to take the whole matter upon herself.
The countess, on the other hand, happy in the thought that she had
saved Raoul's life, spent the night in devising means to obtain the
forty thousand francs. In emergencies like these women are sublime;
they find contrivances which would astonish thieves, business men, and
usurers, if those three classes of industrials were capable of being
astonished. First, the countess sold her diamonds and decided on
wearing paste; then she resolved to ask the money from Vandenesse on
her sister's account; but these were dishonorable means, and her soul
was too noble not to recoil at them; she merely conceived them, and
cast them from her. Ask money of Vandenesse to give to Nathan! She
bounded in her bed with horror at such baseness. Wear false diamonds
to deceive her husband! Next she thought of borrowing the money from
the Rothschilds, who had so much, or from the archbishop of Paris,
whose mission it was to help persons in distress; darting thus from
thought to thought, seeking help in all. She deplored belonging to a
class opposed to the government. Formerly, she could easily have
borrowed the money on the steps of the throne. She thought of
appealing to her father, the Comte de Granville. But that great
magistrate had a horror of illegalities; his children knew how little
he sympathized with the trials of love; he was now a misanthrope and
held all affairs of the heart in horror. As for the Comtesse de
Granville, she was living a retired life on one of her estates in
Normandy, economizing and praying, ending her days between priests and
money-bags, cold as ever to her dying moment. Even supposing that
Marie had time to go to Bayeux and implore her, would her mother give
her such a sum unless she explained why she wanted it? Could she say
she had debts? Yes, perhaps her mother would be softened by the wants
of her favorite child. Well, then! in case all other means failed, she
_would_ go to Normandy. The dreadful sight of the morning, the effects
she had made to revive Nathan, the hours passed beside his pillow, his
broken confession, the agony of a great soul, a vast genius stopped in
its upward flight by a sordid vulgar obstacle,--all these things
rushed into her memory and stimulated her love. She went over and over
her emotions, and felt her love to be deeper in these days of misery
than in those of Nathan's fame and grandeur. She felt the nobility of
his last words said to her in Lady Dudley's boudoir. What sacredness
in that farewell! What grandeur in the immolation of a selfish
happiness which would have been her torture! The countess had longed
for emotions, and now she had them,--terrible, cruel, and yet most
precious. She lived a deeper life in pain than in pleasure. With what
delight she said to herself: "I have saved him once, and I will save
him again." She heard him cry out when he felt her lips upon his
forehead, "Many a poor wretch does not know what love is!"
"Are you ill?" said her husband, coming into her room to take her to
"I am dreadfully worried about a matter that is happening at my
sister's," she replied, without actually telling a lie.
"Your sister has fallen into bad hands," replied Felix. "It is a shame
for any family to have a du Tillet in it,--a man without honor of any
kind. If disaster happened to her she would get no pity from him."
"What woman wants pity?" said the countess, with a convulsive motion.
"A man's sternness is to us our only pardon."
"This is not the first time that I read your noble heart," said the
count. "A woman who thinks as you do needs no watching."
"Watching!" she said; "another shame that recoils on you."
Felix smiled, but Marie blushed. When women are secretly to blame they
often show ostensibly the utmost womanly pride. It is a dissimulation
of mind for which we ought to be obliged to them. The deception is
full of dignity, if not of grandeur. Marie wrote two lines to Nathan
under the name of Monsieur Quillet, to tell him that all went well,
and sent them by a street porter to the hotel du Mail. That night, at
the Opera, Felix thought it very natural that she should wish to leave
her box and go to that of her sister, and he waited till du Tillet had
left his wife to give Marie his arm and take her there. Who can tell
what emotions agitated her as she went through the corridors and
entered her sister's box with a face that was outwardly serene and
"Well?" she said, as soon as they were alone.
Eugenie's face was an answer; it was bright with a joy which some
persons might have attributed to the satisfaction of vanity.
"He can be saved, dear; but for three months only; during which time
we must plan some other means of doing it permanently. Madame de
Nucingen wants four notes of hand, each for ten thousand francs,
endorsed by any one, no matter who, so as not to compromise you. She
explained to me how they were made, but I couldn't understand her.
Monsieur Nathan, however, can make them for us. I thought of Schmucke,
our old master. I am sure he could be very useful in this emergency;
he will endorse the notes. You must add to the four notes a letter in
which you guarantee their payment to Madame de Nucingen, and she will
give you the money to-morrow. Do the whole thing yourself; don't trust
it to any one. I feel sure that Schmucke will make no objection. To
divert all suspicion I told Madame de Nucingen you wanted to oblige
our old music-master who was in distress, and I asked her to keep the
"You have the sense of angels! I only hope Madame de Nucingen won't
tell of it until after she gives me the money," said the countess.
"Schmucke lives in the rue de Nevers on the quai Conti; don't forget
the address, and go yourself."
"Thanks!" said the countess, pressing her sister's hand. "Ah! I'd give
ten years of life--"
"Out of your old age--"
"If I could put an end to these anxieties," said the countess, smiling
at the interruption.
The persons who were at that moment levelling their opera-glasses at
the two sisters might well have supposed them engaged in some
light-hearted talk; but any observer who had come to the Opera more
for the pleasure of watching faces than for mere idle amusement might
have guessed them in trouble, from the anxious look which followed the
momentary smiles on their charming faces. Raoul, who did not fear the
bailiffs at night, appeared, pale and ashy, with anxious eye and
gloomy brow, on the step of the staircase where he regularly took his
stand. He looked for the Countess in her box and, finding it empty,
buried his face in his hands, leaning his elbows on the balustrade.
"Can she be here!" he thought.
"Look up, unhappy hero," whispered Mme. du Tillet.
As for Marie, at all risks she fixed on him that steady magnetic gaze,
in which the will flashes from the eye, as rays of light from the sun.
Such a look, mesmerizers say, penetrates to the person on whom it is
directed, and certainly Raoul seemed as though struck by a magic wand.
Raising his head, his eyes met those of the sisters. With that
charming feminine readiness which is never at fault, Mme. de
Vandenesse seized a cross, sparkling on her neck, and directed his
attention to it by a swift smile, full of meaning. The brilliance of
the gem radiated even upon Raoul's forehead, and he replied with a
look of joy; he had understood.
"Is it nothing then, Eugenie," said the Countess, "thus to restore
life to the dead?"
"You have a chance yet with the Royal Humane Society," replied
Eugenie, with a smile."
"How wretched and depressed he looked when he came, and how happy he
will go away!"
At this moment du Tillet, coming up to Raoul with every mark of
friendliness, pressed his hand, and said:
"Well, old fellow, how are you?"
"As well as a man is likely to be who has just got the best possible
news of the election. I shall be successful," replied Raoul, radiant.
"Delighted," said du Tillet. "We shall want money for the paper."
"The money will be found," said Raoul.
"The devil is with these women!" exclaimed du Tillet, still
unconvinced by the words of Raoul, whom he had nicknamed Charnathan.
"What are you talking about?" said Raoul.
"My sister-in-law is there with my wife, and they are hatching
something together. You seem in high favor with the Countess; she is
bowing to you right across the house."
"Look," said Mme. du Tillet to her sister, "they told us wrong. See
how my husband fawns on M. Nathan, and it is he who they declared was
trying to get him put in prison!"
"And men call us slanderers!" cried the Countess. "I will give him a
She rose, took the arm of Vandenesse, who was waiting in the passage,
and returned jubilant to her box; by and by she left the Opera and
ordered her carriage for the next morning before eight o'clock.
The next morning, by half-past eight, Marie had driven to the quai
Conti, stopping at the hotel du Mail on her way. The carriage could
not enter the narrow rue de Nevers; but as Schmucke lived in a house
at the corner of the quai she was not obliged to walk up its muddy
pavement, but could jump from the step of her carriage to the broken
step of the dismal old house, mended like porter's crockery, with iron
rivets, and bulging out over the street in a way that was quite
alarming to pedestrians. The old chapel-master lived on the fourth
floor, and enjoyed a fine view of the Seine from the pont Neuf to the
heights of Chaillot.
The good soul was so surprised when the countess's footman announced
the visit of his former scholar that in his stupefaction he let her
enter without going down to receive her. Never did the countess
suspect or imagine such an existence as that which suddenly revealed
itself to her eyes, though she had long known Schmucke's contempt for
dress, and the little interest he held in the affairs of this world.
But who could have believed in such complete indifference, in the
utter laisser-aller of such a life? Schmucke was a musical Diogenes,
and he felt no shame whatever in his untidiness; in fact, he was so
accustomed to it that he would probably have denied its existence. The
incessant smoking of a stout German pipe had spread upon the ceiling
and over a wretched wall-paper, scratched and defaced by the cat, a
yellowish tinge. The cat, a magnificently long-furred, fluffy animal,
the envy of all portresses, presided there like the mistress of the
house, grave and sedate, and without anxieties. On the top of an
excellent Viennese piano he sat majestically, and cast upon the
countess, as she entered, that coldly gracious look which a woman,
surprised by the beauty of another woman, might have given. He did not
move, and merely waved the two silver threads of his right whisker as
he turned his golden eyes on Schmucke.
The piano, decrepit on its legs, though made of good wood painted
black and gilded, was dirty, defaced, and scratched; and its keys,
worn like the teeth of old horses, were yellowed with the fuliginous
colors of the pipe. On the desk, a little heap of ashes showed that
the night before Schmucke had bestrode the old instrument to some
musical Walhalla. The floor, covered with dried mud, torn papers,
tobacco-dust, fragments indescribable, was like that of a boy's
school-room, unswept for a week, on which a mound of things
accumulate, half rags, half filth.
A more practised eye than that of the countess would have seen certain
other revelations of Schmucke's mode of life,--chestnut-peels,
apple-parings, egg-shells dyed red in broken dishes smeared with
sauer-kraut. This German detritus formed a carpet of dusty filth which
crackled under foot, joining company near the hearth with a mass of
cinders and ashes descending majestically from the fireplace, where
lay a block of coal, before which two slender twigs made a show of
burning. On the chimney-piece was a mirror in a painted frame, adorned
with figures dancing a saraband; on one side hung the glorious pipe,
on the other was a Chinese jar in which the musician kept his tobacco.
Two arm-chairs bought at auction, a thin and rickety cot, a worm-eaten
bureau without a top, a maimed table on which lay the remains of a
frugal breakfast, made up a set of household belongings as plain as
those of an Indian wigwam. A shaving-glass, suspended to the fastening
of a curtainless window, and surmounted by a rag striped by many
wipings of a razor, indicated the only sacrifices paid by Schmucke to
the Graces and society. The cat, being the feebler and protected
partner, had rather the best of the establishment; he enjoyed the
comforts of an old sofa-cushion, near which could be seen a white
china cup and plate. But what no pen can describe was the state into
which Schmucke, the cat, and the pipe, that existing trinity, had
reduced these articles. The pipe had burned the table. The cat and
Schmucke's head had greased the green Utrecht velvet of the two
arm-chairs and reduced it to a slimy texture. If it had not been for
the cat's magnificent tail, which played a useful part in the household,
the uncovered places on the bureau and the piano would never have been
dusted. In one corner of the room were a pile of shoes which need an
epic to describe them. The top of the bureau and that of the piano
were encumbered by music-books with ragged backs and whitened corners,
through which the pasteboard showed its many layers. Along the walls
the names and addresses of pupils written on scraps of paper were
stuck on by wafers,--the number of wafers without paper indicating the
number of pupils no longer taught. On the wall-papers were many
calculations written with chalk. The bureau was decorated with
beer-mugs used the night before, their newness appearing very brilliant
in the midst of this rubbish of dirt and age. Hygiene was represented
by a jug of water with a towel laid upon it, and a bit of common soap.
Two ancient hats hung to their respective nails, near which also hung
the self-same blue box-coat with three capes, in which the countess
had always seen Schmucke when he came to give his lessons. On the
window-sill were three pots of flowers, German flowers, no doubt, and
near them a stout holly-wood stick.
Though Marie's sight and smell were disagreeably affected, Schmucke's
smile and glance disguised these abject miseries by rays of celestial
light which actually illuminated their smoky tones and vivified the
chaos. The soul of this dear man, which saw and revealed so many
things divine, shone like the sun. His laugh, so frank, so guileless
at seeing one of his Saint-Cecilias, shed sparkles of youth and gaiety
and innocence about him. The treasures he poured from the inner to the
outer were like a mantle with which he covered his squalid life. The
most supercilious parvenu would have felt it ignoble to care for the
frame in which this glorious old apostle of the musical religion lived
and moved and had his being.
"Hey! by what good luck do I see you here, dear Madame la comtesse?"
he said. "Must I sing the canticle of Simeon at my age?" (This idea so
tickled him that he laughed immoderately.) "Truly I'm 'en bonne
fortune.'" (And again he laughed like a merry child.) "But, ah!" he
said, changing to melancholy, "you come for the music, and not for a
poor old man like me. Yes, I know that; but come for what you will, I
am yours, you know, body and soul and all I have!"
This was said in his unspeakable German accent, a rendition of which
we spare the reader.
He took the countess's hand, kissed it and left a tear there, for the
worthy soul was always on the morrow of her benefit. Then he seized a
bit of chalk, jumped on a chair in front of the piano, and wrote upon
the wall in big letters, with the rapidity of a young man, "February
17th, 1835." This pretty, artless action, done in such a passion of
gratitude, touched the countess to tears.
"My sister will come too," she said.
"The other, too! When? when? God grant it be before I die!"
"She will come to thank you for a great service I am now here to ask
"Quick! quick! tell me what it is," cried Schmucke. "What must I do?
go to the devil?"
"Nothing more than write the words 'Accepted for ten thousand francs,'
and sign your name on each of these papers," she said, taking from her
muff four notes prepared for her by Nathan.
"Hey! that's soon done," replied the German, with the docility of a
lamb; "only I'm sure I don't know where my pens and ink are-- Get away
from there, Meinherr Mirr!" he cried to the cat, which looked
composedly at him. "That's my cat," he said, showing him to the
countess. "That's the poor animal that lives with poor Schmucke.
Hasn't he fine fur?"
"Yes," said the countess.
"Will you have him?" he cried.
"How can you think of such a thing?" she answered. "Why, he's your
The cat, who hid the inkstand behind him, divined that Schmucke wanted
it, and jumped to the bed.
"He's as mischievous as a monkey," said Schmucke. "I call him Mirr in
honor of our great Hoffman of Berlin, whom I knew well."
The good man signed the papers with the innocence of a child who does
what his mother orders without question, so sure is he that all is
right. He was thinking much more of presenting the cat to the countess
than of the papers by which his liberty might be, according to the
laws relating to foreigners, forever sacrificed.
"You assure me that these little papers with the stamps on them--"
"Don't be in the least uneasy," said the countess.
"I am not uneasy," he said, hastily. "I only meant to ask if these
little papers will give pleasure to Madame du Tillet."
"Oh, yes," she said, "you are doing her a service, as if you were her
"I am happy, indeed, to be of any good to her-- Come and listen to my
music!" and leaving the papers on the table, he jumped to his piano.
The hands of this angel ran along the yellowing keys, his glance was
rising to heaven, regardless of the roof; already the air of some
blessed climate permeated the room and the soul of the old musician;
but the countess did not allow the artless interpreter of things
celestial to make the strings and the worn wood speak, like
Raffaelle's Saint Cecilia, to the listening angels. She quickly
slipped the notes into her muff and recalled her radiant master from
the ethereal spheres to which he soared, by laying her hand upon his
"My good Schmucke--" she said.
"Going already?" he cried. "Ah! why did you come?"
He did not murmur, but he sat up like a faithful dog who listens to
"My good Schmucke," she repeated, "this is a matter of life and death;
minutes can save tears, perhaps blood."
"Always the same!" he said. "Go, angel! dry the tears of others. Your
poor Schmucke thinks more of your visit than of your gifts."
"But we must see each other often," she said. "You must come and dine
and play to me every Sunday, or we shall quarrel. Remember, I shall
expect you next Sunday."
"Really and truly?"
"Yes, I entreat you; and my sister will want you, too, for another
"Then my happiness will be complete," he said; "for I only see you now
in the Champs Elysees as you pass in your carriage, and that is very
This thought dried the tears in his eyes as he gave his arm to his
beautiful pupil, who felt the old man's heart beat violently.
"You think of us?" she said.
"Always as I eat my food," he answered,--"as my benefactresses; but
chiefly as the first young girls worthy of love whom I ever knew."
So respectful, faithful, and religious a solemnity was in this speech
that the countess dared say no more. That smoky chamber, full of dirt
and rubbish, was the temple of the two divinities.
"There we are loved--and truly loved," she thought.
The emotion with which old Schmucke saw the countess get into her
carriage and leave him she fully shared, and she sent him from the
tips of her fingers one of those pretty kisses which women give each
other from afar. Receiving it, the old man stood planted on his feet
for a long time after the carriage had disappeared.
A few moments later the countess entered the court-yard of the hotel
de Nucingen. Madame de Nucingen was not yet up; but anxious not to
keep a woman of the countess's position waiting, she hastily threw on
a shawl and wrapper.
"My visit concerns a charitable action, madame," said the countess,
"or I would not disturb you at so early an hour."
"But I am only too happy to be disturbed," said the banker's wife,
taking the notes and the countess's guarantee. She rang for her maid.
"Therese," she said, "tell the cashier to bring me up himself,
immediately, forty thousand francs."
Then she locked into a table drawer the guarantee given by Madame de
Vandenesse, after sealing it up.
"You have a delightful room," said the countess.
"Yes, but Monsieur de Nucingen is going to take it from me. He is
building a new house."
"You will doubtless give this one to your daughter, who, I am told, is
to marry Monsieur de Rastignac."
The cashier appeared at this moment with the money. Madame de Nucingen
took the bank-bills and gave him the notes of hand.
"That balances," she said.
"Except the discount," replied the cashier. "Ha, Schmucke; that's the
musician of Anspach," he added, examining the signatures in a
suspicious manner that made the countess tremble.
"Who is doing this business?" said Madame de Nucingen, with a haughty
glance at the cashier. "This is my affair."
The cashier looked alternately at the two ladies, but he could
discover nothing on their impenetrable faces.
"Go, leave us-- Have the kindness to wait a few moments that the
people in the bank may not connect you with this negotiation," said
Madame de Nucingen to the countess.
"I must ask you to add to all your other kindness that of keeping this
matter secret," said Madame de Vandenesse.
"Most assuredly, since it is for charity," replied the baroness,
smiling. "I will send your carriage round to the garden gate, so that
no one will see you leave the house."
"You have the thoughtful grace of a person who has suffered," said the
"I do not know if I have grace," said the baroness; "but I have
suffered much. I hope that your anxieties cost less than mine."
When a man has laid a plot like that du Tillet was scheming against
Nathan, he confides it to no man. Nucingen knew something of it, but
his wife knew nothing. The baroness, however, aware that Raoul was
embarrassed, was not the dupe of the two sisters; she guessed into
whose hands that money was to go, and she was delighted to oblige the
countess; moreover, she felt a deep compassion for all such
embarrassments. Rastignac, so placed that he was able to fathom the
manoeuvres of the two bankers, came to breakfast that morning with
Madame de Nucingen.
Delphine and Rastignac had no secrets from each other; and the
baroness related to him her scene with the countess. Eugene, who had
never supposed that Delphine could be mixed up in the affair, which
was only accessory to his eyes,--one means among many others,--opened
her eyes to the truth. She had probably, he told her, destroyed du
Tillet's chances of selection, and rendered useless the intrigues and
deceptions of the past year. In short, he put her in the secret of the
whole affair, advising her to keep absolute silence as to the mistake
she had just committed.
"Provided the cashier does not tell Nucingen," she said.
A few moments after mid-day, while du Tillet was breakfasting,
Monsieur Gigonnet was announced.
"Let him come in," said the banker, though his wife was at table.
"Well, my old Shylock, is our man locked up?"
"Why not? Didn't I give you the address, rue du Mail, hotel--"
"He has paid up," said Gigonnet, drawing from his wallet a pile of
bank-bills. Du Tillet looked furious. "You should never frown at
money," said his impassible associate; "it brings ill-luck."
"Where did you get that money, madame?" said du Tillet, suddenly
turning upon his wife with a look which made her color to the roots of
"I don't know what your question means," she said.
"I will fathom this mystery," he cried, springing furiously up. "You
have upset my most cherished plans."
"You are upsetting your breakfast," said Gigonnet, arresting the
table-clock, which was dragged by the skirt of du Tillet's
Madame du Tillet rose to leave the room, for her husband's words
alarmed her. She rang the bell, and a footman entered.
"The carriage," she said. "And call Virginie; I wish to dress."
"Where are you going?" exclaimed du Tillet.
"Well-bred husbands do not question their wives," she answered. "I
believe that you lay claim to be a gentleman."
"I don't recognize you ever since you have seen more of your
"You ordered me to be impertinent, and I am practising on you," she
"Your servant, madame," said Gigonnet, taking leave, not anxious to
witness this family scene.
Du Tillet looked fixedly at his wife, who returned the look without
lowering her eyes.
"What does all this mean?" he said.
"It means that I am no longer a little girl whom you can frighten,"
she replied. "I am, and shall be, all my life, a good and loyal wife
to you; you may be my master if you choose, my tyrant, never!"
Du Tillet left the room. After this effort Marie-Eugenie broke down.
"If it were not for my sister's danger," she said to herself, "I
should never have dared to brave him thus; but, as the proverb says,
'There's some good in every evil.'"
THE HUSBAND'S TRIUMPH
During the preceding night Madame du Tillet had gone over in her mind
her sister's revelations. Sure, now, of Nathan's safety, she was no
longer influenced by the thought of an imminent danger in that
direction. But she remembered the vehement energy with which the
countess had declared that she would fly with Nathan if that would
save him. She saw that the man might determine her sister in some
paroxysm of gratitude and love to take a step which was nothing short
of madness. There were recent examples in the highest society of just
such flights which paid for doubtful pleasures by lasting remorse and
the disrepute of a false position. Du Tillet's speech brought her
fears to a point; she dreaded lest all should be discovered; she knew
her sister's signature was in Nucingen's hands, and she resolved to
entreat Marie to save herself by confessing all to Felix.
She drove to her sister's house, but Marie was not at home. Felix was
there. A voice within her cried aloud to Eugenie to save her sister;
the morrow might be too late. She took a vast responsibility upon
herself, but she resolved to tell all to the count. Surely he would be
indulgent when he knew that his honor was still safe. The countess was
deluded rather than sinful. Eugenie feared to be treacherous and base
in revealing secrets that society (agreeing on this point) holds to be
inviolable; but--she saw her sister's future, she trembled lest she
should some day be deserted, ruined by Nathan, poor, suffering,
disgraced, wretched, and she hesitated no longer; she sent in her name
and asked to see the count.
Felix, astonished at the visit, had a long conversation with his
sister-in-law, in which he seemed so calm, so completely master of
himself, that she feared he might have taken some terrible resolution.
"Do not be uneasy," he said, seeing her anxiety. "I will act in a
manner which shall make your sister bless you. However much you may
dislike to keep the fact that you have spoken to me from her
knowledge, I must entreat you to do so. I need a few days to search
into mysteries which you don't perceive; and, above all, I must act
cautiously. Perhaps I can learn all in a day. I, alone, my dear
sister, am the guilty person. All lovers play their game, and it is
not every woman who is able, unassisted, to see life as it is."
Madame du Tillet returned home comforted. Felix de Vandenesse drew
forty thousand francs from the Bank of France, and went direct to
Madame de Nucingen He found her at home, thanked her for the
confidence she had placed in his wife, and returned the money,
explaining that the countess had obtained this mysterious loan for her
charities, which were so profuse that he was trying to put a limit to
"Give me no explanations, monsieur, since Madame de Vandenesse has
told you all," said the Baronne de Nucingen.
"She knows the truth," thought Vandenesse.
Madame de Nucingen returned to him Marie's letter of guarantee, and
sent to the bank for the four notes. Vandenesse, during the short time
that these arrangements kept him waiting, watched the baroness with
the eye of a statesman, and he thought the moment propitious for
"We live in an age, madame, when nothing is sure," he said. "Even
thrones rise and fall in France with fearful rapidity. Fifteen years
have wreaked their will on a great empire, a monarchy, and a
revolution. No one can now dare to count upon the future. You know my
attachment to the cause of legitimacy. Suppose some catastrophe; would
you not be glad to have a friend in the conquering party?"
"Undoubtedly," she said, smiling.
"Very good; then, will you have in me, secretly, an obliged friend who
could be of use to Monsieur de Nucingen in such a case, by supporting
his claim to the peerage he is seeking?"