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Cousin Betty by Honore de Balzac

Part 10 out of 10

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The Baron and Baroness, having reached the age which looks for perfect
rest, gave up the handsome rooms on the first floor to the Count and
Countess Steinbock, and took those above. The Baron by his son's
exertions found an official position in the management of a railroad,
in 1845, with a salary of six thousand francs, which, added to the six
thousand of his pension and the money left to him by Madame Crevel,
secured him an income of twenty-four thousand francs. Hortense having
enjoyed her independent income during the three years of separation
from Wenceslas, Victorin now invested the two hundred thousand francs
he had in trust, in his sister's name and he allowed her twelve
thousand francs.

Wenceslas, as the husband of a rich woman, was not unfaithful, but he
was an idler; he could not make up his mind to begin any work, however
trifling. Once more he became the artist /in partibus/; he was popular
in society, and consulted by amateurs; in short, he became a critic,
like all the feeble folk who fall below their promise.

Thus each household, though living as one family, had its own fortune.
The Baroness, taught by bitter experience, left the management of
matters to her son, and the Baron was thus reduced to his salary, in
hope that the smallness of his income would prevent his relapsing into
mischief. And by some singular good fortune, on which neither the
mother nor the son had reckoned, Hulot seemed to have foresworn the
fair sex. His subdued behaviour, ascribed to the course of nature, so
completely reassured the family, that they enjoyed to the full his
recovered amiability and delightful qualities. He was unfailingly
attentive to his wife and children, escorted them to the play,
reappeared in society, and did the honors to his son's house with
exquisite grace. In short, this reclaimed prodigal was the joy of his
family.

He was a most agreeable old man, a ruin, but full of wit, having
retained no more of his vice than made it an added social grace.

Of course, everybody was quite satisfied and easy. The young people
and the Baroness lauded the model father to the skies, forgetting the
death of the two uncles. Life cannot go on without much forgetting!

Madame Victorin, who managed this enormous household with great skill,
due, no doubt, to Lisbeth's training, had found it necessary to have a
man-cook. This again necessitated a kitchen-maid. Kitchen-maids are in
these days ambitious creatures, eager to detect the /chef's/ secrets,
and to become cooks as soon as they have learnt to stir a sauce.
Consequently, the kitchen-maid is liable to frequent change.

At the beginning of 1845 Celestine engaged as kitchen-maid a sturdy
Normandy peasant come from Isigny--short-waisted, with strong red
arms, a common face, as dull as an "occasional piece" at the play, and
hardly to be persuaded out of wearing the classical linen cap peculiar
to the women of Lower Normandy. This girl, as buxom as a wet-nurse,
looked as if she would burst the blue cotton check in which she
clothed her person. Her florid face might have been hewn out of stone,
so hard were its tawny outlines.

Of course no attention was paid to the advent in the house of this
girl, whose name was Agathe--an ordinary, wide-awake specimen, such as
is daily imported from the provinces. Agathe had no attractions for
the cook, her tongue was too rough, for she had served in a suburban
inn, waiting on carters; and instead of making a conquest of her chief
and winning from him the secrets of the high art of the kitchen, she
was the object of his great contempt. The /chef's/ attentions were, in
fact, devoted to Louise, the Countess Steinbock's maid. The country
girl, thinking herself ill-used, complained bitterly that she was
always sent out of the way on some pretext when the /chef/ was
finishing a dish or putting the crowning touch to a sauce.

"I am out of luck," said she, "and I shall go to another place."

And yet she stayed though she had twice given notice to quit.

One night, Adeline, roused by some unusual noise, did not see Hector
in the bed he occupied near hers; for they slept side by side in two
beds, as beseemed an old couple. She lay awake an hour, but he did not
return. Seized with a panic, fancying some tragic end had overtaken
him--an apoplectic attack, perhaps--she went upstairs to the floor
occupied by the servants, and then was attracted to the room where
Agathe slept, partly by seeing a light below the door, and partly by
the murmur of voices. She stood still in dismay on recognizing the
voice of her husband, who, a victim to Agathe's charms, to vanquish
this strapping wench's not disinterested resistance, went to the
length of saying:

"My wife has not long to live, and if you like you may be a Baroness."

Adeline gave a cry, dropped her candlestick, and fled.

Three days later the Baroness, who had received the last sacraments,
was dying, surrounded by her weeping family.

Just before she died, she took her husband's hand and pressed it,
murmuring in his ear:

"My dear, I had nothing left to give up to you but my life. In a
minute or two you will be free, and can make another Baronne Hulot."

And, rare sight, tears oozed from her dead eyes.

This desperateness of vice had vanquished the patience of the angel,
who, on the brink of eternity, gave utterance to the only reproach she
had ever spoken in her life.

The Baron left Paris three days after his wife's funeral. Eleven
months after Victorin heard indirectly of his father's marriage to
Mademoiselle Agathe Piquetard, solemnized at Isigny, on the 1st
February 1846.

"Parents may hinder their children's marriage, but children cannot
interfere with the insane acts of their parents in their second
childhood," said Maitre Hulot to Maitre Popinot, the second son of the
Minister of Commerce, who was discussing this marriage.

ADDENDUM

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

Beauvisage, Phileas
The Member for Arcis

Berthier (Parisian notary)
Cousin Pons

Bianchon, Horace
Father Goriot
The Atheist's Mass
Cesar Birotteau
The Commission in Lunacy
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Government Clerks
Pierrette
A Study of Woman
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Honorine
The Seamy Side of History
The Magic Skin
A Second Home
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Muse of the Department
The Imaginary Mistress
The Middle Classes
The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche

Bixiou, Jean-Jacques
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
Modeste Mignon
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Firm of Nucingen
The Muse of the Department
The Member for Arcis
Beatrix
A Man of Business
Gaudissart II.
The Unconscious Humorists
Cousin Pons

Braulard
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Cousin Pons

Bridau, Joseph
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Start in Life
Modeste Mignon
Another Study of Woman
Pierre Grassou
Letters of Two Brides
The Member for Arcis

Brisetout, Heloise
Cousin Pons
The Middle Classes

Cadine, Jenny
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists
The Member for Arcis

Chanor
Cousin Pons

Chocardelle, Mademoiselle
Beatrix
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Member for Arcis

Colleville, Flavie Minoret, Madame
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Collin, Jacqueline
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Crevel, Celestin
Cesar Birotteau
Cousin Pons

Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d')
Jealousies of a Country Town
Letters of Two Brides
A Man of Business
The Secrets of a Princess

Falcon, Jean
The Chouans
The Muse of the Department

Graff, Wolfgang
Cousin Pons

Grassou, Pierre
Pierre Grassou
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Grindot
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Start in Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Beatrix
The Middle Classes

Hannequin, Leopold
Albert Savarus
Beatrix
Cousin Pons

Herouville, Duc d'
The Hated Son
Jealousies of a Country Town
Modeste Mignon

Hulot (Marshal)
The Chouans
The Muse of the Department

Hulot, Victorin
The Member for Arcis

La Bastie la Briere, Madame Ernest de
Modeste Mignon
The Member for Arcis

La Baudraye, Madame Polydore Milaud de
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia

La Chanterie, Baronne Henri le Chantre de
The Seamy Side of History

Laginski, Comte Adam Mitgislas
Another Study of Woman
The Imaginary Mistress

La Palferine, Comte de
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
Beatrix
The Imaginary Mistress

La Roche-Hugon, Martial de
Domestic Peace
The Peasantry
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
The Middle Classes

Lebas, Joseph
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

Lebas, Madame Joseph (Virginie)
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

Lebas
The Muse of the Department

Lefebvre, Robert
The Gondreville Mystery

Lenoncourt-Givry, Duc de
Letters of Two Brides
The Member for Arcis

Lora, Leon de
The Unconscious Humorists
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
Pierre Grassou
Honorine
Beatrix

Lousteau, Etienne
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve
Beatrix
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Middle Classes
The Unconscious Humorists

Massol
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Magic Skin
A Daughter of Eve
The Unconscious Humorists

Montauran, Marquis de (younger brother of Alphonse de)
The Chouans
The Seamy Side of History

Montcornet, Marechal, Comte de
Domestic Peace
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Peasantry
A Man of Business

Navarreins, Duc de
A Bachelor's Establishment
Colonel Chabert
The Muse of the Department
The Thirteen
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Peasantry
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Country Parson
The Magic Skin
The Gondreville Mystery
The Secrets of a Princess

Nourrisson, Madame
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
The Firm of Nucingen
Father Goriot
Pierrette
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
A Man of Business
The Muse of the Department
The Unconscious Humorists

Paz, Thaddee
The Imaginary Mistress

Popinot, Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
Gaudissart the Great
Cousin Pons

Popinot, Madame Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
A Prince of Bohemia
Cousin Pons

Popinot, Vicomte
Cousin Pons

Rastignac, Eugene de
Father Goriot
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Ball at Sceaux
The Commission in Lunacy
A Study of Woman
Another Study of Woman
The Magic Skin
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Gondreville Mystery
The Firm of Nucingen
The Member for Arcis
The Unconscious Humorists

Rivet, Achille
Cousin Pons

Rochefide, Marquis Arthur de
Beatrix

Ronceret, Madame Fabien du
Beatrix
The Muse of the Department
The Unconscious Humorists

Samanon
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Government Clerks
A Man of Business

Sinet, Seraphine
The Unconscious Humorists

Steinbock, Count Wenceslas
The Imaginary Mistress

Stidmann
Modeste Mignon
Beatrix
The Member for Arcis
Cousin Pons
The Unconscious Humorists

Tillet, Ferdinand du
Cesar Birotteau
The Firm of Nucingen
The Middle Classes
A Bachelor's Establishment
Pierrette
Melmoth Reconciled
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
The Unconscious Humorists

Trailles, Comte Maxime de
Cesar Birotteau
Father Goriot
Gobseck
Ursule Mirouet
A Man of Business
The Member for Arcis
The Secrets of a Princess
The Member for Arcis
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists

Turquet, Marguerite
The Imaginary Mistress
The Muse of the Department
A Man of Business

Vauvinet
The Unconscious Humorists

Vernisset, Victor de
The Seamy Side of History
Beatrix

Vernou, Felicien
A Bachelor's Establishment
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve

Vignon, Claude
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Daughter of Eve
Honorine
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists

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