Part 7 out of 10
"There is no principle, only practice in that walk of life," said
The Baroness, recalling this conversation, would have liked to consult
Cousin Betty; but there was no time for that. Poor Adeline, incapable
of imagining a patch, of pinning a rosebud in the very middle of her
bosom, of devising the tricks of the toilet intended to resuscitate
the ardors of exhausted nature, was merely well dressed. A woman is
not a courtesan for the wishing!
"Woman is soup for man," as Moliere says by the mouth of the judicious
Gros-Rene. This comparison suggests a sort of culinary art in love.
Then the virtuous wife would be a Homeric meal, flesh laid on hot
cinders. The courtesan, on the contrary, is a dish by Careme, with its
condiments, spices, and elegant arrangement. The Baroness could not
--did not know how to serve up her fair bosom in a lordly dish of lace,
after the manner of Madame Marneffe. She knew nothing of the secrets
of certain attitudes. This high-souled woman might have turned round
and round a hundred times, and she would have betrayed nothing to the
keen glance of a profligate.
To be a good woman and a prude to all the world, and a courtesan to
her husband, is the gift of a woman of genius, and they are few. This
is the secret of long fidelity, inexplicable to the women who are not
blessed with the double and splendid faculty. Imagine Madame Marneffe
virtuous, and you have the Marchesa di Pescara. But such lofty and
illustrious women, beautiful as Diane de Poitiers, but virtuous, may
be easily counted.
So the scene with which this serious and terrible drama of Paris
manners opened was about to be repeated, with this singular difference
--that the calamities prophesied then by the captain of the municipal
Militia had reversed the parts. Madame Hulot was awaiting Crevel with
the same intentions as had brought him to her, smiling down at the
Paris crowd from his /milord/, three years ago. And, strangest thing
of all, the Baroness was true to herself and to her love, while
preparing to yield to the grossest infidelity, such as the storm of
passion even does not justify in the eyes of some judges.
"What can I do to become a Madame Marneffe?" she asked herself as she
heard the door-bell.
She restrained her tears, fever gave brilliancy to her face, and she
meant to be quite the courtesan, poor, noble soul.
"What the devil can that worthy Baronne Hulot want of me?" Crevel
wondered as he mounted the stairs. "She is going to discuss my quarrel
with Celestine and Victorin, no doubt; but I will not give way!"
As he went into the drawing-room, shown in by Louise, he said to
himself as he noted the bareness of the place (Crevel's word):
"Poor woman! She lives here like some fine picture stowed in a loft by
a man who knows nothing of painting."
Crevel, seeing Comte Popinot, the Minister of Commerce, buy pictures
and statues, wanted also to figure as a Maecenas of Paris, whose love
of Art consists in making good investments.
Adeline smiled graciously at Crevel, pointing to a chair facing her.
"Here I am, fair lady, at your command," said Crevel.
Monsieur the Mayor, a political personage, now wore black broadcloth.
His face, at the top of this solemn suit, shone like a full moon
rising above a mass of dark clouds. His shirt, buttoned with three
large pearls worth five hundred francs apiece, gave a great idea of
his thoracic capacity, and he was apt to say, "In me you see the
coming athlete of the tribune!" His enormous vulgar hands were encased
in yellow gloves even in the morning; his patent leather boots spoke
of the chocolate-colored coupe with one horse in which he drove.
In the course of three years ambition had altered Crevel's
pretensions. Like all great artists, he had come to his second manner.
In the great world, when he went to the Prince de Wissembourg's, to
the Prefecture, to Comte Popinot's, and the like, he held his hat in
his hand in an airy manner taught him by Valerie, and he inserted the
thumb of the other hand in the armhole of his waistcoat with a knowing
air, and a simpering face and expression. This new grace of attitude
was due to the satirical inventiveness of Valerie, who, under pretence
of rejuvenating her mayor, had given him an added touch of the
"I begged you to come, my dear kind Monsieur Crevel," said the
Baroness in a husky voice, "on a matter of the greatest importance--"
"I can guess what it is, madame," said Crevel, with a knowing air,
"but what you would ask is impossible.--Oh, I am not a brutal father,
a man--to use Napoleon's words--set hard and fast on sheer avarice.
Listen to me, fair lady. If my children were ruining themselves for
their own benefit, I would help them out of the scrape; but as for
backing your husband, madame? It is like trying to fill the vat of the
Danaides! Their house is mortgaged for three hundred thousand francs
for an incorrigible father! Why, they have nothing left, poor
wretches! And they have no fun for their money. All they have to live
upon is what Victorin may make in Court. He must wag his tongue more,
must monsieur your son! And he was to have been a Minister, that
learned youth! Our hope and pride. A pretty pilot, who runs aground
like a land-lubber; for if he had borrowed to enable him to get on, if
he had run into debt for feasting Deputies, winning votes, and
increasing his influence, I should be the first to say, 'Here is my
purse--dip your hand in, my friend!' But when it comes of paying for
papa's folly--folly I warned you of!--Ah! his father has deprived him
of every chance of power.--It is I who shall be Minister!"
"Alas, my dear Crevel, it has nothing to do with the children, poor
devoted souls!--If your heart is closed to Victorin and Celestine, I
shall love them so much that perhaps I may soften the bitterness of
their souls caused by your anger. You are punishing your children for
a good action!"
"Yes, for a good action badly done! That is half a crime," said
Crevel, much pleased with his epigram.
"Doing good, my dear Crevel, does not mean sparing money out of a
purse that is bursting with it; it means enduring privations to be
generous, suffering for liberality! It is being prepared for
ingratitude! Heaven does not see the charity that costs us nothing--"
"Saints, madame, may if they please go to the workhouse; they know
that it is for them the door of heaven. For my part, I am
worldly-minded; I fear God, but yet more I fear the hell of poverty.
To be destitute is the last depth of misfortune in society as now
constituted. I am a man of my time; I respect money."
"And you are right," said Adeline, "from the worldly point of view."
She was a thousand miles from her point, and she felt herself on a
gridiron, like Saint Laurence, as she thought of her uncle, for she
could see him blowing his brains out.
She looked down; then she raised her eyes to gaze at Crevel with
angelic sweetness--not with the inviting suggestiveness which was part
of Valerie's wit. Three years ago she could have bewitched Crevel by
that beautiful look.
"I have known the time," said she, "when you were more generous--you
used to talk of three hundred thousand francs like a grand
Crevel looked at Madame Hulot; he beheld her like a lily in the last
of its bloom, vague sensations rose within him, but he felt such
respect for this saintly creature that he spurned all suspicions and
buried them in the most profligate corner of his heart.
"I, madame, am still the same; but a retired merchant, if he is a
grand gentleman, plays, and must play, the part with method and
economy; he carries his ideas of order into everything. He opens an
account for his little amusements, and devotes certain profits to that
head of expenditure; but as to touching his capital! it would be
folly. My children will have their fortune intact, mine and my wife's;
but I do not suppose that they wish their father to be dull, a monk
and a mummy! My life is a very jolly one; I float gaily down the
stream. I fulfil all the duties imposed on me by law, by my
affections, and by family ties, just as I always used to be punctual
in paying my bills when they fell due. If only my children conduct
themselves in their domestic life as I do, I shall be satisfied; and
for the present, so long as my follies--for I have committed follies
--are no loss to any one but the gulls--excuse me, you do not perhaps
understand the slang word--they will have nothing to blame me for, and
will find a tidy little sum still left when I die. Your children
cannot say as much of their father, who is ruining his son and my
daughter by his pranks--"
The Baroness was getting further from her object as he went on.
"You are very unkind about my husband, my dear Crevel--and yet, if you
had found his wife obliging, you would have been his best friend----"
She shot a burning glance at Crevel; but, like Dubois, who gave the
Regent three kicks, she affected too much, and the rakish perfumer's
thoughts jumped at such profligate suggestions, that he said to
himself, "Does she want to turn the tables on Hulot?--Does she think
me more attractive as a Mayor than as a National Guardsman? Women are
And he assumed the position of his second manner, looking at the
Baroness with his /Regency/ leer.
"I could almost fancy," she went on, "that you want to visit on him
your resentment against the virtue that resisted you--in a woman whom
you loved well enough--to--to buy her," she added in a low voice.
"In a divine woman," Crevel replied, with a meaning smile at the
Baroness, who looked down while tears rose to her eyes. "For you have
swallowed not a few bitter pills!--in these three years--hey, my
"Do not talk of my troubles, dear Crevel; they are too much for the
endurance of a mere human being. Ah! if you still love me, you may
drag me out of the pit in which I lie. Yes, I am in hell torment! The
regicides who were racked and nipped and torn into quarters by four
horses were on roses compared with me, for their bodies only were
dismembered, and my heart is torn in quarters----"
Crevel's thumb moved from his armhole, he placed his hand on the
work-table, he abandoned his attitude, he smiled! The smile was so
vacuous that it misled the Baroness; she took it for an expression
"You see a woman, not indeed in despair, but with her honor at the
point of death, and prepared for everything, my dear friend, to hinder
Fearing that Hortense might come in, she bolted the door; then with
equal impetuosity she fell at Crevel's feet, took his hand and kissed
"Be my deliverer!" she cried.
She thought there was some generous fibre in this mercantile soul, and
full of sudden hope that she might get the two hundred thousand francs
without degrading herself:
"Buy a soul--you were once ready to buy virtue!" she went on, with a
frenzied gaze. "Trust to my honesty as a woman, to my honor, of which
you know the worth! Be my friend! Save a whole family from ruin,
shame, despair; keep it from falling into a bog where the quicksands
are mingled with blood! Oh! ask for no explanations," she exclaimed,
at a movement on Crevel's part, who was about to speak. "Above all, do
not say to me, 'I told you so!' like a friend who is glad at a
misfortune. Come now, yield to her whom you used to love, to the woman
whose humiliation at your feet is perhaps the crowning moment of her
glory; ask nothing of her, expect what you will from her gratitude!
--No, no. Give me nothing, but lend--lend to me whom you used to call
At this point her tears flowed so fast, Adeline was sobbing so
passionately, that Crevel's gloves were wet. The words, "I need two
hundred thousand francs," were scarcely articulate in the torrent of
weeping, as stones, however large, are invisible in Alpine cataracts
swollen by the melting of the snows.
This is the inexperience of virtue. Vice asks for nothing, as we have
seen in Madame Marneffe; it gets everything offered to it. Women of
that stamp are never exacting till they have made themselves
indispensable, or when a man has to be worked as a quarry is worked
where the lime is rather scarce--going to ruin, as the quarry-men say.
On hearing these words, "Two hundred thousand francs," Crevel
understood all. He cheerfully raised the Baroness, saying insolently:
"Come, come, bear up, mother," which Adeline, in her distraction,
failed to hear. The scene was changing its character. Crevel was
becoming "master of the situation," to use his own words. The vastness
of the sum startled Crevel so greatly that his emotion at seeing this
handsome woman in tears at his feet was forgotten. Besides, however
angelical and saintly a woman may be, when she is crying bitterly her
beauty disappears. A Madame Marneffe, as has been seen, whimpers now
and then, a tear trickles down her cheek; but as to melting into tears
and making her eyes and nose red!--never would she commit such a
"Come, child, compose yourself.--Deuce take it!" Crevel went on,
taking Madame Hulot's hands in his own and patting them. "Why do you
apply to me for two hundred thousand francs? What do you want with
them? Whom are they for?"
"Do not," said she, "insist on any explanations. Give me the money!
--You will save three lives and the honor of our children."
"And do you suppose, my good mother, that in all Paris you will find a
man who at a word from a half-crazy woman will go off /hic et nunc/,
and bring out of some drawer, Heaven knows where, two hundred thousand
francs that have been lying simmering there till she is pleased to
scoop them up? Is that all you know of life and of business, my
beauty? Your folks are in a bad way; you may send them the last
sacraments; for no one in Paris but her Divine Highness Madame la
Banque, or the great Nucingen, or some miserable miser who is in love
with gold as we other folks are with a woman, could produce such a
miracle! The civil list, civil as it may be, would beg you to call
again tomorrow. Every one invests his money, and turns it over to the
best of his powers.
"You are quite mistaken, my angel, if you suppose that King
Louis-Philippe rules us; he himself knows better than that. He knows
as well as we do that supreme above the Charter reigns the holy,
venerated, substantial, delightful, obliging, beautiful, noble,
ever-youthful, and all-powerful five-franc piece! But money, my beauty,
insists on interest, and is always engaged in seeking it! 'God of the
Jews, thou art supreme!' says Racine. The perennial parable of the
golden calf, you see!--In the days of Moses there was stock-jobbing in
"We have reverted to Biblical traditions; the Golden Calf was the
first State ledger," he went on. "You, my Adeline, have not gone
beyond the Rue Plumet. The Egyptians had lent enormous sums to the
Hebrews, and what they ran after was not God's people, but their
He looked at the Baroness with an expression which said, "How clever I
"You know nothing of the devotion of every city man to his sacred
hoard!" he went on, after a pause. "Excuse me. Listen to me. Get this
well into your head.--You want two hundred thousand francs? No one can
produce the sum without selling some security. Now consider! To have
two hundred thousand francs in hard cash it would be needful to sell
about seven hundred thousand francs' worth of stock at three per cent.
Well; and then you would only get the money on the third day. That is
the quickest way. To persuade a man to part with a fortune--for two
hundred thousand francs is the whole fortune of many a man--he ought
at least to know where it is all going to, and for what purpose--"
"It is going, my dear kind Crevel, to save the lives of two men, one
of whom will die of grief and the other will kill himself! And to save
me too from going mad! Am I not a little mad already?"
"Not so mad!" said he, taking Madame Hulot round the knees; "old
Crevel has his price, since you thought of applying to him, my angel."
"They submit to have a man's arms round their knees, it would seem!"
thought the saintly woman, covering her face with her hands.
"Once you offered me a fortune!" said she, turning red.
"Ay, mother! but that was three years ago!" replied Crevel. "Well, you
are handsomer now than ever I saw you!" he went on, taking the
Baroness' arm and pressing it to his heart. "You have a good memory,
my dear, by Jove!--And now you see how wrong you were to be so
prudish, for those three hundred thousand francs that you refused so
magnanimously are in another woman's pocket. I loved you then, I love
you still; but just look back these three years.
"When I said to you, 'You shall be mine,' what object had I in view? I
meant to be revenged on that rascal Hulot. But your husband, my
beauty, found himself a mistress--a jewel of a woman, a pearl, a
cunning hussy then aged three-and-twenty, for she is six-and-twenty
now. It struck me as more amusing, more complete, more Louis XV., more
Marechal de Richelieu, more first-class altogether, to filch away that
charmer, who, in point of fact, never cared for Hulot, and who for
these three years has been madly in love with your humble servant."
As he spoke, Crevel, from whose hands the Baroness had released her
own, had resumed his favorite attitude; both thumbs were stuck into
his armholes, and he was patting his ribs with his fingers, like two
flapping wings, fancying that he was thus making himself very
attractive and charming. It was as much as to say, "And this is the
man you would have nothing to say to!"
"There you are my dear; I had my revenge, and your husband knows it. I
proved to him clearly that he was basketed--just where he was before,
as we say. Madame Marneffe is my mistress, and when her precious
Marneffe kicks the bucket, she will be my wife."
Madame Hulot stared at Crevel with a fixed and almost dazed look.
"Hector knew it?" she said.
"And went back to her," replied Crevel. "And I allowed it, because
Valerie wished to be the wife of a head-clerk; but she promised me
that she would manage things so that our Baron should be so
effectually bowled over that he can never interfere any more. And my
little duchess--for that woman is a born duchess, on my soul!--kept
her word. She restores you your Hector, madame, virtuous in
perpetuity, as she says--she is so witty! He has had a good lesson, I
can tell you! The Baron has had some hard knocks; he will help no more
actresses or fine ladies; he is radically cured; cleaned out like a
"If you had listened to Crevel in the first instance, instead of
scorning him and turning him out of the house, you might have had four
hundred thousand francs, for my revenge has cost me all of that.--But
I shall get my change back, I hope, when Marneffe dies--I have
invested in a wife, you see; that is the secret of my extravagance. I
have solved the problem of playing the lord on easy terms."
"Would you give your daughter such a mother-in-law? cried Madame
"You do not know Valerie, madame," replied Crevel gravely, striking
the attitude of his first manner. "She is a woman with good blood in
her veins, a lady, and a woman who enjoys the highest consideration.
Why, only yesterday the vicar of the parish was dining with her. She
is pious, and we have presented a splendid monstrance to the church.
"Oh! she is clever, she is witty, she is delightful, well informed
--she has everything in her favor. For my part, my dear Adeline, I owe
everything to that charming woman; she has opened my mind, polished my
speech, as you may have noticed; she corrects my impetuosity, and
gives me words and ideas. I never say anything now that I ought not. I
have greatly improved; you must have noticed it. And then she has
encouraged my ambition. I shall be a Deputy; and I shall make no
blunders, for I shall consult my Egeria. Every great politician, from
Numa to our present Prime Minister, has had his Sibyl of the fountain.
A score of deputies visit Valerie; she is acquiring considerable
influence; and now that she is about to be established in a charming
house, with a carriage, she will be one of the occult rulers of Paris.
"A fine locomotive! That is what such a woman is. Oh, I have blessed
you many a time for your stern virtue."
"It is enough to make one doubt the goodness of God!" cried Adeline,
whose indignation had dried her tears. "But, no! Divine justice must
be hanging over her head."
"You know nothing of the world, my beauty," said the great politician,
deeply offended. "The world, my Adeline, loves success! Say, now, has
it come to seek out your sublime virtue, priced at two hundred
The words made Madame Hulot shudder; the nervous trembling attacked
her once more. She saw that the ex-perfumer was taking a mean revenge
on her as he had on Hulot; she felt sick with disgust, and a spasm
rose to her throat, hindering speech.
"Money!" she said at last. "Always money!"
"You touched me deeply," said Crevel, reminded by these words of the
woman's humiliation, "when I beheld you there, weeping at my feet!
--You perhaps will not believe me, but if I had my pocket-book about
me, it would have been yours.--Come, do you really want such a sum?"
As she heard this question, big with two hundred thousand francs,
Adeline forgot the odious insults heaped on her by this cheap-jack
fine gentleman, before the tempting picture of success described by
Machiavelli-Crevel, who only wanted to find out her secrets and laugh
over them with Valerie.
"Oh! I will do anything, everything," cried the unhappy woman.
"Monsieur, I will sell myself--I will be a Valerie, if I must."
"You will find that difficult," replied Crevel. "Valerie is a
masterpiece in her way. My good mother, twenty-five years of virtue
are always repellent, like a badly treated disease. And your virtue
has grown very mouldy, my dear child. But you shall see how much I
love you. I will manage to get you your two hundred thousand francs."
Adeline, incapable of uttering a word, seized his hand and laid it on
her heart; a tear of joy trembled in her eyes.
"Oh! don't be in a hurry; there will be some hard pulling. I am a
jolly good fellow, a good soul with no prejudices, and I will put
things plainly to you. You want to do as Valerie does--very good. But
that is not all; you must have a gull, a stockholder, a Hulot.--Well,
I know a retired tradesman--in fact, a hosier. He is heavy, dull, has
not an idea, I am licking him into shape, but I don't know when he
will do me credit. My man is a deputy, stupid and conceited; the
tyranny of a turbaned wife, in the depths of the country, has
preserved him in a state of utter virginity as to the luxury and
pleasures of Paris life. But Beauvisage--his name is Beauvisage--is a
millionaire, and, like me, my dear, three years ago, he will give a
hundred thousand crowns to be the lover of a real lady.--Yes, you
see," he went on, misunderstanding a gesture on Adeline's part, "he is
jealous of me, you understand; jealous of my happiness with Madame
Marneffe, and he is a fellow quite capable of selling an estate to
"Enough, Monsieur Crevel!" said Madame Hulot, no longer controlling
her disgust, and showing all her shame in her face. "I am punished
beyond my deserts. My conscience, so sternly repressed by the iron
hand of necessity, tells me, at this final insult, that such
sacrifices are impossible.--My pride is gone; I do not say now, as I
did the first time, 'Go!' after receiving this mortal thrust. I have
lost the right to do so. I have flung myself before you like a
"Yes," she went on, in reply to a negative on Crevel's part, "I have
fouled my life, till now so pure, by a degrading thought; and I am
inexcusable!--I know it!--I deserve every insult you can offer me!
God's will be done! If, indeed, He desires the death of two creatures
worthy to appear before Him, they must die! I shall mourn them, and
pray for them! If it is His will that my family should be humbled to
the dust, we must bow to His avenging sword, nay, and kiss it, since
we are Christians.--I know how to expiate this disgrace, which will be
the torment of all my remaining days.
"I who speak to you, monsieur, am not Madame Hulot, but a wretched,
humble sinner, a Christian whose heart henceforth will know but one
feeling, and that is repentance, all my time given up to prayer and
charity. With such a sin on my soul, I am the last of women, the first
only of penitents.--You have been the means of bringing me to a right
mind; I can hear the Voice of God speaking within me, and I can thank
She was shaking with the nervous trembling which from that hour never
left her. Her low, sweet tones were quite unlike the fevered accents
of the woman who was ready for dishonor to save her family. The blood
faded from her cheeks, her face was colorless, and her eyes were dry.
"And I played my part very badly, did I not?" she went on, looking at
Crevel with the sweetness that martyrs must have shown in their eyes
as they looked up at the Proconsul. "True love, the sacred love of a
devoted woman, gives other pleasures, no doubt, than those that are
bought in the open market!--But why so many words?" said she, suddenly
bethinking herself, and advancing a step further in the way to
perfection. "They sound like irony, but I am not ironical! Forgive me.
Besides, monsieur, I did not want to hurt any one but myself--"
The dignity of virtue and its holy flame had expelled the transient
impurity of the woman who, splendid in her own peculiar beauty, looked
taller in Crevel's eyes. Adeline had, at this moment, the majesty of
the figures of Religion clinging to the Cross, as painted by the old
Venetians; but she expressed, too, the immensity of her love and the
grandeur of the Catholic Church, to which she flew like a wounded
Crevel was dazzled, astounded.
"Madame, I am your slave, without conditions," said he, in an
inspiration of generosity. "We will look into this matter--and
--whatever you want--the impossible even--I will do. I will pledge my
securities at the Bank, and in two hours you shall have the money."
"Good God! a miracle!" said poor Adeline, falling on her knees.
She prayed to Heaven with such fervor as touched Crevel deeply; Madame
Hulot saw that he had tears in his eyes when, having ended her prayer,
she rose to her feet.
"Be a friend to me, monsieur," said she. "Your heart is better than
your words and conduct. God gave you your soul; your passions and the
world have given you your ideas. Oh, I will love you truly," she
exclaimed, with an angelic tenderness in strange contrast with her
attempts at coquettish trickery.
"But cease to tremble so," said Crevel.
"Am I trembling?" said the Baroness, unconscious of the infirmity that
had so suddenly come upon her.
"Yes; why, look," said Crevel, taking Adeline by the arm and showing
her that she was shaking with nervousness. "Come, madame," he added
respectfully, "compose yourself; I am going to the Bank at once."
"And come back quickly! Remember," she added, betraying all her
secrets, "that the first point is to prevent the suicide of our poor
Uncle Fischer involved by my husband--for I trust you now, and I am
telling you everything. Oh, if we should not be on time, I know my
brother-in-law, the Marshal, and he has such a delicate soul, that he
would die of it in a few days."
"I am off, then," said Crevel, kissing the Baroness' hand. "But what
has that unhappy Hulot done?"
"He has swindled the Government."
"Good Heavens! I fly, madame; I understand, I admire you!"
Crevel bent one knee, kissed Madame Hulot's skirt, and vanished,
saying, "You will see me soon."
Unluckily, on his way from the Rue Plumet to his own house, to fetch
the securities, Crevel went along the Rue Vanneau, and he could not
resist going in to see his little Duchess. His face still bore an
He went straight into Valerie's room, who was having her hair dressed.
She looked at Crevel in her glass, and, like every woman of that sort,
was annoyed, before she knew anything about it, to see that he was
moved by some strong feeling of which she was not the cause.
"What is the matter, my dear?" said she. "Is that a face to bring in
to your little Duchess? I will not be your Duchess any more, monsieur,
no more than I will be your 'little duck,' you old monster."
Crevel replied by a melancholy smile and a glance at the maid.
"Reine, child, that will do for to-day; I can finish my hair myself.
Give me my Chinese wrapper; my gentleman seems to me out of sorts."
Reine, whose face was pitted like a colander, and who seemed to have
been made on purpose to wait on Valerie, smiled meaningly in reply,
and brought the dressing-gown. Valerie took off her combing-wrapper;
she was in her shift, and she wriggled into the dressing-gown like a
snake into a clump of grass.
"Madame is not at home?"
"What a question!" said Valerie.--"Come, tell me, my big puss, have
/Rives Gauches/ gone down?"
"They have raised the price of the house?"
"You fancy that you are not the father of our little Crevel?"
"What nonsense!" replied he, sure of his paternity.
"On my honor, I give it up!" said Madame Marneffe. "If I am expected
to extract my friend's woes as you pull the cork out of a bottle of
Bordeaux, I let it alone.--Go away, you bore me."
"It is nothing," said Crevel. "I must find two hundred thousand francs
in two hours."
"Oh, you can easily get them.--I have not spent the fifty thousand
francs we got out of Hulot for that report, and I can ask Henri for
"Henri--it is always Henri!" exclaimed Crevel.
"And do you suppose, you great baby of a Machiavelli, that I will cast
off Henri? Would France disarm her fleet?--Henri! why, he is a dagger
in a sheath hanging on a nail. That boy serves as a weather-glass to
show me if you love me--and you don't love me this morning."
"I don't love you, Valerie?" cried Crevel. "I love you as much as a
"That is not nearly enough!" cried she, jumping on to Crevel's knee,
and throwing both arms round his neck as if it were a peg to hang on
by. "I want to be loved as much as ten millions, as much as all the
gold in the world, and more to that. Henri would never wait a minute
before telling me all he had on his mind. What is it, my great pet?
Have it out. Make a clean breast of it to your own little duck!"
And she swept her hair over Crevel's face, while she jestingly pulled
"Can a man with a nose like that," she went on, "have any secrets from
And at the /Vava/ she tweaked his nose to the right; at /lele/ it went
to the left; at /ririe/ she nipped it straight again.
"Well, I have just seen--" Crevel stopped and looked at Madame
"Valerie, my treasure, promise me on your honor--ours, you know?--not
to repeat a single word of what I tell you."
"Of course, Mayor, we know all about that. One hand up--so--and one
foot--so!" And she put herself in an attitude which, to use Rabelais'
phrase, stripped Crevel bare from his brain to his heels, so quaint
and delicious was the nudity revealed through the light film of lawn.
"I have just seen virtue in despair."
"Can despair possess virtue?" said she, nodding gravely and crossing
her arms like Napoleon.
"It is poor Madame Hulot. She wants two hundred thousand francs, or
else Marshal Hulot and old Johann Fischer will blow their brains out;
and as you, my little Duchess, are partly at the bottom of the
mischief, I am going to patch matters up. She is a saintly creature, I
know her well; she will repay you every penny."
At the name of Hulot, at the words two hundred thousand francs, a
gleam from Valerie's eyes flashed from between her long eyelids like
the flame of a cannon through the smoke.
"What did the old thing do to move you to compassion? Did she show you
"Do not make game of her, sweetheart; she is a very saintly, a very
noble and pious woman, worthy of all respect."
"Am I not worthy of respect then, heh?" answered Valerie, with a
threatening gaze at Crevel.
"I never said so," replied he, understanding that the praise of virtue
might not be gratifying to Madame Marneffe.
"I am pious too," Valerie went on, taking her seat in an armchair;
"but I do not make a trade of my religion. I go to church in secret."
She sat in silence, and paid no further heed to Crevel. He, extremely
ill at ease, came to stand in front of the chair into which Valerie
had thrown herself, and saw her lost in the reflections he had been so
foolish as to suggest.
"Valerie, my little Angel!"
Utter silence. A highly problematical tear was furtively dashed away.
"One word, my little duck?"
"What are you thinking of, my darling?"
"Oh, Monsieur Crevel, I was thinking of the day of my first communion!
How pretty I was! How pure, how saintly!--immaculate!--Oh! if any one
had come to my mother and said, 'Your daughter will be a hussy, and
unfaithful to her husband; one day a police-officer will find her in a
disreputable house; she will sell herself to a Crevel to cheat a Hulot
--two horrible old men--' Poof! horrible--she would have died before
the end of the sentence, she was so fond of me, poor dear!--"
"Nay, be calm."
"You cannot think how well a woman must love a man before she can
silence the remorse that gnaws at the heart of an adulterous wife. I
am quite sorry that Reine is not here; she would have told you that
she found me this morning praying with tears in my eyes. I, Monsieur
Crevel, for my part, do not make a mockery of religion. Have you ever
heard me say a word I ought not on such a subject?"
Crevel shook his head in negation.
"I will never allow it to be mentioned in my presence. I can make fun
of anything under the sun: Kings, politics, finance, everything that
is sacred in the eyes of the world--judges, matrimony, and love--old
men and maidens. But the Church and God!--There I draw the line.--I
know I am wicked; I am sacrificing my future life to you. And you have
no conception of the immensity of my love."
Crevel clasped his hands.
"No, unless you could see into my heart, and fathom the depth of my
conviction so as to know the extent of my sacrifice! I feel in me the
making of a Magdalen.--And see how respectfully I treat the priests;
think of the gifts I make to the Church! My mother brought me up in
the Catholic Faith, and I know what is meant by God! It is to sinners
like us that His voice is most awful."
Valerie wiped away two tears that trickled down her cheeks. Crevel was
in dismay. Madame Marneffe stood up in her excitement.
"Be calm, my darling--you alarm me!"
Madame Marneffe fell on her knees.
"Dear Heaven! I am not bad all through!" she cried, clasping her
hands. "Vouchsafe to rescue Thy wandering lamb, strike her, crush her,
snatch her from foul and adulterous hands, and how gladly she will
nestle on Thy shoulder! How willingly she will return to the fold!"
She got up and looked at Crevel; her colorless eyes frightened him.
"Yes, Crevel, and, do you know? I, too, am frightened sometimes. The
justice of God is exerted in this nether world as well as in the next.
What mercy can I expect at God's hands? His vengeance overtakes the
guilty in many ways; it assumes every aspect of disaster. That is what
my mother told me on her death-bed, speaking of her own old age.--But
if I should lose you," she added, hugging Crevel with a sort of savage
frenzy--"oh! I should die!"
Madame Marneffe released Crevel, knelt down again at the armchair,
folded her hands--and in what a bewitching attitude!--and with
incredible fervor poured out the following prayer:--
"And thou, Saint Valerie, my patron saint, why dost thou so rarely
visit the pillow of her who was intrusted to thy care? Oh, come this
evening, as thou didst this morning, to inspire me with holy thoughts,
and I will quit the path of sin; like the Magdalen, I will give up
deluding joys and the false glitter of the world, even the man I love
"My precious duck!"
"No more of the 'precious duck,' monsieur!" said she, turning round
like a virtuous wife, her eyes full of tears, but dignified, cold, and
"Leave me," she went on, pushing him from her. "What is my duty? To
belong wholly to my husband.--He is a dying man, and what am I doing?
Deceiving him on the edge of the grave. He believes your child to be
his. I will tell him the truth, and begin by securing his pardon
before I ask for God's.--We must part. Good-bye, Monsieur Crevel," and
she stood up to offer him an icy cold hand. "Good-bye, my friend; we
shall meet no more till we meet in a better world.--You have to thank
me for some enjoyment, criminal indeed; now I want--oh yes, I shall
have your esteem."
Crevel was weeping bitter tears.
"You great pumpkin!" she exclaimed, with an infernal peal of laughter.
"That is how your pious women go about it to drag from you a plum of
two hundred thousand francs. And you, who talk of the Marechal de
Richelieu, the prototype of Lovelace, you could be taken in by such a
stale trick as that! I could get hundreds of thousands of francs out
of you any day, if I chose, you old ninny!--Keep your money! If you
have more than you know what to do with, it is mine. If you give two
sous to that 'respectable' woman, who is pious forsooth, because she
is fifty-six years of age, we shall never meet again, and you may take
her for your mistress! You could come back to me next day bruised all
over from her bony caresses and sodden with her tears, and sick of her
little barmaid's caps and her whimpering, which must turn her favors
"In point of fact," said Crevel, "two hundred thousand francs is a
round sum of money."
"They have fine appetites, have the goody sort! By the poker! they
sell their sermons dearer than we sell the rarest and realest thing on
earth--pleasure.--And they can spin a yarn! There, I know them. I have
seen plenty in my mother's house. They think everything is allowable
for the Church and for--Really, my dear love, you ought to be ashamed
of yourself--for you are not so open-handed! You have not given me two
hundred thousand francs all told!"
"Oh yes," said Crevel, "your little house will cost as much as that."
"Then you have four hundred thousand francs?" said she thoughtfully.
"Then, sir, you meant to lend that old horror the two hundred thousand
francs due for my hotel? What a crime, what high treason!"
"Only listen to me."
"If you were giving the money to some idiotic philanthropic scheme,
you would be regarded as a coming man," she went on, with increasing
eagerness, "and I should be the first to advise it; for you are too
simple to write a big political book that might make you famous; as
for style, you have not enough to butter a pamphlet; but you might do
as other men do who are in your predicament, and who get a halo of
glory about their name by putting it at the top of some social, or
moral, or general, or national enterprise. Benevolence is out of date,
quite vulgar. Providing for old offenders, and making them more
comfortable than the poor devils who are honest, is played out. What I
should like to see is some invention of your own with an endowment of
two hundred thousand francs--something difficult and really useful.
Then you would be talked about as a man of mark, a Montyon, and I
should be very proud of you!
"But as to throwing two hundred thousand francs into a holy-water
shell, or lending them to a bigot--cast off by her husband, and who
knows why? there is always some reason: does any one cast me off, I
ask you?--is a piece of idiocy which in our days could only come into
the head of a retired perfumer. It reeks of the counter. You would not
dare look at yourself in the glass two days after.
"Go and pay the money in where it will be safe--run, fly; I will not
admit you again without the receipt in your hand. Go, as fast and soon
as you can!"
She pushed Crevel out of the room by the shoulders, seeing avarice
blossoming in his face once more. When she heard the outer door shut,
"Then Lisbeth is revenged over and over again! What a pity that she is
at her old Marshal's now! We would have had a good laugh! So that old
woman wants to take the bread out of my mouth. I will startle her a
Marshal Hulot, being obliged to live in a style suited to the highest
military rank, had taken a handsome house in the Rue du Mont-Parnasse,
where there are three or four princely residences. Though he rented
the whole house, he inhabited only the ground floor. When Lisbeth went
to keep house for him, she at once wished to let the first floor,
which, as she said, would pay the whole rent, so that the Count would
live almost rent-free; but the old soldier would not hear of it.
For some months past the Marshal had had many sad thoughts. He had
guessed how miserably poor his sister-in-law was, and suspected her
griefs without understanding their cause. The old man, so cheerful in
his deafness, became taciturn; he could not help thinking that his
house would one day be a refuge for the Baroness and her daughter; and
it was for them that he kept the first floor. The smallness of his
fortune was so well known at headquarters, that the War Minister, the
Prince de Wissembourg, begged his old comrade to accept a sum of money
for his household expenses. This sum the Marshal spent in furnishing
the ground floor, which was in every way suitable; for, as he said, he
would not accept the Marshal's baton to walk the streets with.
The house had belonged to a senator under the Empire, and the ground
floor drawing-rooms had been very magnificently fitted with carved
wood, white-and-gold, still in very good preservation. The Marshal had
found some good old furniture in the same style; in the coach-house he
had a carriage with two batons in saltire on the panels; and when he
was expected to appear in full fig, at the Minister's, at the
Tuileries, for some ceremony or high festival, he hired horses for the
His servant for more than thirty years was an old soldier of sixty,
whose sister was the cook, so he had saved ten thousand francs, adding
it by degrees to a little hoard he intended for Hortense. Every day
the old man walked along the boulevard, from the Rue du Mont-Parnasse
to the Rue Plumet; and every pensioner as he passed stood at
attention, without fail, to salute him: then the Marshal rewarded the
veteran with a smile.
"Who is the man you always stand at attention to salute?" said a young
workman one day to an old captain and pensioner.
"I will tell you, boy," replied the officer.
The "boy" stood resigned, as a man does to listen to an old gossip.
"In 1809," said the captain, "we were covering the flank of the main
army, marching on Vienna under the Emperor's command. We came to a
bridge defended by three batteries of cannon, one above another, on a
sort of cliff; three redoubts like three shelves, and commanding the
bridge. We were under Marshal Massena. That man whom you see there was
Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, and I was one of them. Our columns
held one bank of the river, the batteries were on the other. Three
times they tried for the bridge, and three times they were driven
back. 'Go and find Hulot!' said the Marshal; 'nobody but he and his
men can bolt that morsel.' So we came. The General, who was just
retiring from the bridge, stopped Hulot under fire, to tell him how to
do it, and he was in the way. 'I don't want advice, but room to pass,'
said our General coolly, marching across at the head of his men. And
then, rattle, thirty guns raking us at once."
"By Heaven!" cried the workman, "that accounts for some of these
"And if you, like me, my boy, had heard those words so quietly spoken,
you would bow before that man down to the ground! It is not so famous
as Arcole, but perhaps it was finer. We followed Hulot at the double,
right up to those batteries. All honor to those we left there!" and
the old man lifted his hat. "The Austrians were amazed at the dash of
it.--The Emperor made the man you saw a Count; he honored us all by
honoring our leader; and the King of to-day was very right to make him
"Hurrah for the Marshal!" cried the workman.
"Oh, you may shout--shout away! The Marshal is as deaf as a post from
the roar of cannon."
This anecdote may give some idea of the respect with which the
/Invalides/ regarded Marshal Hulot, whose Republican proclivities
secured him the popular sympathy of the whole quarter of the town.
Sorrow taking hold on a spirit so calm and strict and noble, was a
heart-breaking spectacle. The Baroness could only tell lies, with a
woman's ingenuity, to conceal the whole dreadful truth from her
In the course of this miserable morning, the Marshal, who, like all
old men, slept but little, had extracted from Lisbeth full particulars
as to his brother's situation, promising to marry her as the reward of
her revelations. Any one can imagine with what glee the old maid
allowed the secrets to be dragged from her which she had been dying to
tell ever since she had come into the house; for by this means she
made her marriage more certain.
"Your brother is incorrigible!" Lisbeth shouted into the Marshal's
Her strong, clear tones enabled her to talk to him, but she wore out
her lungs, so anxious was she to prove to her future husband that to
her he would never be deaf.
"He has had three mistresses," said the old man, "and his wife was an
Adeline! Poor Adeline!"
"If you will take my advice," shrieked Lisbeth, "you will use your
influence with the Prince de Wissembourg to secure her some suitable
appointment. She will need it, for the Baron's pay is pledged for
"I will go to the War Office," said he, "and see the Prince, to find
out what he thinks of my brother, and ask for his interest to help my
sister. Think of some place that is fit for her."
"The charitable ladies of Paris, in concert with the Archbishop, have
formed various beneficent associations; they employ superintendents,
very decently paid, whose business it is to seek out cases of real
want. Such an occupation would exactly suit dear Adeline; it would be
work after her own heart."
"Send to order the horses," said the Marshal. "I will go and dress. I
will drive to Neuilly if necessary."
"How fond he is of her! She will always cross my path wherever I
turn!" said Lisbeth to herself.
Lisbeth was already supreme in the house, but not with the Marshal's
cognizance. She had struck terror into the three servants--for she had
allowed herself a housemaid, and she exerted her old-maidish energy in
taking stock of everything, examining everything, and arranging in
every respect for the comfort of her dear Marshal. Lisbeth, quite as
Republican as he could be, pleased him by her democratic opinions, and
she flattered him with amazing dexterity; for the last fortnight the
old man, whose house was better kept, and who was cared for as a child
by its mother, had begun to regard Lisbeth as a part of what he had
"My dear Marshal," she shouted, following him out on to the steps,
"pull up the windows, do not sit in a draught, to oblige me!"
The Marshal, who had never been so cosseted in his life, went off
smiling at Lisbeth, though his heart was aching.
At the same hour Baron Hulot was quitting the War Office to call on
his chief, Marshal the Prince de Wissembourg, who had sent for him.
Though there was nothing extraordinary in one of the Generals on the
Board being sent for, Hulot's conscience was so uneasy that he fancied
he saw a cold and sinister expression in Mitouflet's face.
"Mitouflet, how is the Prince?" he asked, locking the door of his
private room and following the messenger who led the way.
"He must have a crow to pluck with you, Monsieur le Baron," replied
the man, "for his face is set at stormy."
Hulot turned pale, and said no more; he crossed the anteroom and
reception rooms, and, with a violently beating heart, found himself at
the door of the Prince's private study.
The chief, at this time seventy years old, with perfectly white hair,
and the tanned complexion of a soldier of that age, commanded
attention by a brow so vast that imagination saw in it a field of
battle. Under this dome, crowned with snow, sparkled a pair of eyes,
of the Napoleon blue, usually sad-looking and full of bitter thoughts
and regrets, their fire overshadowed by the penthouse of the strongly
projecting brow. This man, Bernadotte's rival, had hoped to find his
seat on a throne. But those eyes could flash formidable lightnings
when they expressed strong feelings.
Then, his voice, always somewhat hollow, rang with strident tones.
When he was angry, the Prince was a soldier once more; he spoke the
language of Lieutenant Cottin; he spared nothing--nobody. Hulot d'Ervy
found the old lion, his hair shaggy like a mane, standing by the
fireplace, his brows knit, his back against the mantel-shelf, and his
eyes apparently fixed on vacancy.
"Here! At your orders, Prince!" said Hulot, affecting a graceful ease
The Marshal looked hard at the Baron, without saying a word, during
the time it took him to come from the door to within a few steps of
where the chief stood. This leaden stare was like the eye of God;
Hulot could not meet it; he looked down in confusion.
"He knows everything!" said he to himself.
"Does your conscience tell you nothing?" asked the Marshal, in his
deep, hollow tones.
"It tells me, sir, that I have been wrong, no doubt, in ordering
/razzias/ in Algeria without referring the matter to you. At my age,
and with my tastes, after forty-five years of service, I have no
fortune.--You know the principles of the four hundred elect
representatives of France. Those gentlemen are envious of every
distinction; they have pared down even the Ministers' pay--that says
everything! Ask them for money for an old servant!--What can you
expect of men who pay a whole class so badly as they pay the
Government legal officials?--who give thirty sous a day to the
laborers on the works at Toulon, when it is a physical impossibility
to live there and keep a family on less than forty sous?--who never
think of the atrocity of giving salaries of six hundred francs, up to
a thousand or twelve hundred perhaps, to clerks living in Paris; and
who want to secure our places for themselves as soon as the pay rises
to forty thousand?--who, finally, refuse to restore to the Crown a
piece of Crown property confiscated from the Crown in 1830--property
acquired, too, by Louis XVI. out of his privy purse!--If you had no
private fortune, Prince, you would be left high and dry, like my
brother, with your pay and not another sou, and no thought of your
having saved the army, and me with it, in the boggy plains of Poland."
"You have robbed the State! You have made yourself liable to be
brought before the bench at Assizes," said the Marshal, "like that
clerk of the Treasury! And you take this, monsieur, with such levity."
"But there is a great difference, monseigneur!" cried the baron. "Have
I dipped my hands into a cash box intrusted to my care?"
"When a man of your rank commits such an infamous crime," said the
Marshal, "he is doubly guilty if he does it clumsily. You have
compromised the honor of our official administration, which hitherto
has been the purest in Europe!--And all for two hundred thousand
francs and a hussy!" said the Marshal, in a terrible voice. "You are a
Councillor of State--and a private soldier who sells anything
belonging to his regiment is punished with death! Here is a story told
to me one day by Colonel Pourin of the Second Lancers. At Saverne, one
of his men fell in love with a little Alsatian girl who had a fancy
for a shawl. The jade teased this poor devil of a lancer so
effectually, that though he could show twenty years' service, and was
about to be promoted to be quartermaster--the pride of the regiment
--to buy this shawl he sold some of his company's kit.--Do you know what
this lancer did, Baron d'Ervy? He swallowed some window-glass after
pounding it down, and died in eleven hours, of an illness, in
hospital.--Try, if you please, to die of apoplexy, that we may not see
Hulot looked with haggard eyes at the old warrior; and the Prince,
reading the look which betrayed the coward, felt a flush rise to his
cheeks; his eyes flamed.
"Will you, sir, abandon me?" Hulot stammered.
Marshal Hulot, hearing that only his brother was with the Minister,
ventured at this juncture to come in, and, like all deaf people, went
straight up to the Prince.
"Oh," cried the hero of Poland, "I know what you are here for, my old
friend! But we can do nothing."
"Do nothing!" echoed Marshal Hulot, who had heard only the last word.
"Nothing; you have come to intercede for your brother. But do you know
what your brother is?"
"My brother?" asked the deaf man.
"Yes, he is a damned infernal blackguard, and unworthy of you."
The Marshal in his rage shot from his eyes those fulminating fires
which, like Napoleon's, broke a man's will and judgment.
"You lie, Cottin!" said Marshal Hulot, turning white. "Throw down your
baton as I throw mine! I am ready."
The Prince went up to his old comrade, looked him in the face, and
shouted in his ear as he grasped his hand:
"Are you a man?"
"You will see that I am."
"Well, then, pull yourself together! You must face the worst
misfortune that can befall you."
The Prince turned round, took some papers from the table, and placed
them in the Marshal's hands, saying, "Read that."
The Comte de Forzheim read the following letter, which lay
"To his Excellency the President of the Council.
"/Private and Confidential/.
"MY DEAR PRINCE,--We have a very ugly business on our hands, as
you will see by the accompanying documents.
"The story, briefly told, is this: Baron Hulot d'Ervy sent out to
the province of Oran an uncle of his as a broker in grain and
forage, and gave him an accomplice in the person of a storekeeper.
This storekeeper, to curry favor, has made a confession, and
finally made his escape. The Public Prosecutor took the matter up
very thoroughly, seeing, as he supposed, that only two inferior
agents were implicated; but Johann Fischer, uncle to your Chief of
the Commissariat Department, finding that he was to be brought up
at the Assizes, stabbed himself in prison with a nail.
"That would have been the end of the matter if this worthy and
honest man, deceived, it would seem, by his agent and by his
nephew, had not thought proper to write to Baron Hulot. This
letter, seized as a document, so greatly surprised the Public
Prosecutor, that he came to see me. Now, the arrest and public
trial of a Councillor of State would be such a terrible thing--of
a man high in office too, who has a good record for loyal service
--for after the Beresina, it was he who saved us all by
reorganizing the administration--that I desired to have all the
papers sent to me.
"Is the matter to take its course? Now that the principal agent is
dead, will it not be better to smother up the affair and sentence
the storekeeper in default?
"The Public Prosecutor has consented to my forwarding the
documents for your perusal; the Baron Hulot d'Ervy, being resident
in Paris, the proceedings will lie with your Supreme Court. We
have hit on this rather shabby way of ridding ourselves of the
difficulty for the moment.
"Only, my dear Marshal, decide quickly. This miserable business is
too much talked about already, and it will do as much harm to us
as to you all if the name of the principal culprit--known at
present only to the Public Prosecutor, the examining judge, and
myself--should happen to leak out."
At this point the letter fell from Marshal Hulot's hands; he looked at
his brother; he saw that there was no need to examine the evidence.
But he looked for Johann Fischer's letter, and after reading it at a
glance, held it out to Hector:--
"FROM THE PRISON AT ORAN.
"DEAR NEPHEW,--When you read this letter, I shall have ceased to
"Be quite easy, no proof can be found to incriminate you. When I
am dead and your Jesuit of a Chardin fled, the trial must
collapse. The face of our Adeline, made so happy by you, makes
death easy to me. Now you need not send the two hundred thousand
"This letter will be delivered by a prisoner for a short term whom
I can trust, I believe.
"I beg your pardon," said Marshal Hulot to the Prince de Wissembourg
with pathetic pride.
"Come, come, say /tu/, not the formal /vous/," replied the Minister,
clasping his old friend's hand. "The poor lancer killed no one but
himself," he added, with a thunderous look at Hulot d'Ervy.
"How much have you had?" said the Comte de Forzheim to his brother.
"Two hundred thousand francs."
"My dear friend," said the Count, addressing the Minister, "you shall
have the two hundred thousand francs within forty-eight hours. It
shall never be said that a man bearing the name of Hulot has wronged
the public treasury of a single sou."
"What nonsense!" said the Prince. "I know where the money is, and I
can get it back.--Send in your resignation and ask for your pension!"
he went on, sending a double sheet of foolscap flying across to where
the Councillor of State had sat down by the table, for his legs gave
way under him. "To bring you to trial would disgrace us all. I have
already obtained from the superior Board their sanction to this line
of action. Since you can accept life with dishonor--in my opinion the
last degradation--you will get the pension you have earned. Only take
care to be forgotten."
The Minister rang.
"Is Marneffe, the head-clerk, out there?"
"Show him in!"
"You," said the Minister as Marneffe came in, "you and your wife have
wittingly and intentionally ruined the Baron d'Ervy whom you see."
"Monsieur le Ministre, I beg your pardon. We are very poor. I have
nothing to live on but my pay, and I have two children, and the one
that is coming will have been brought into the family by Monsieur le
"What a villain he looks!" said the Prince, pointing to Marneffe and
addressing Marshal Hulot.--"No more of Sganarelle speeches," he went
on; "you will disgorge two hundred thousand francs, or be packed off
"But, Monsieur le Ministre, you do not know my wife. She has spent it
all. Monsieur le Baron asked six persons to dinner every evening.
--Fifty thousand francs a year are spent in my house."
"Leave the room!" said the Minister, in the formidable tones that had
given the word to charge in battle. "You will have notice of your
transfer within two hours. Go!"
"I prefer to send in my resignation," said Marneffe insolently. "For
it is too much to be what I am already, and thrashed into the bargain.
That would not satisfy me at all."
And he left the room.
"What an impudent scoundrel!" said the Prince.
Marshal Hulot, who had stood up throughout this scene, as pale as a
corpse, studying his brother out of the corner of his eye, went up to
the Prince, and took his hand, repeating:
"In forty-eight hours the pecuniary mischief shall be repaired; but
honor!--Good-bye, Marshal. It is the last shot that kills. Yes, I
shall die of it!" he said in his ear.
"What the devil brought you here this morning?" said the Prince, much
"I came to see what can be done for his wife," replied the Count,
pointing to his brother. "She is wanting bread--especially now!"
"He has his pension."
"It is pledged!"
"The Devil must possess such a man," said the Prince, with a shrug.
"What philtre do those baggages give you to rob you of your wits?" he
went on to Hulot d'Ervy. "How could you--you, who know the precise
details with which in French offices everything is written down at
full length, consuming reams of paper to certify to the receipt or
outlay of a few centimes--you, who have so often complained that a
hundred signatures are needed for a mere trifle, to discharge a
soldier, to buy a curry-comb--how could you hope to conceal a theft
for any length of time? To say nothing of the newspapers, and the
envious, and the people who would like to steal!--those women must rob
you of your common-sense! Do they cover your eyes with walnut-shells?
or are you yourself made of different stuff from us?--You ought to
have left the office as soon as you found that you were no longer a
man, but a temperament. If you have complicated your crime with such
gross folly, you will end--I will not say where----"
"Promise me, Cottin, that you will do what you can for her," said the
Marshal, who heard nothing, and was still thinking of his
"Depend on me!" said the Minister.
"Thank you, and good-bye then!--Come, monsieur," he said to his
The Prince looked with apparent calmness at the two brothers, so
different in their demeanor, conduct, and character--the brave man and
the coward, the ascetic and the profligate, the honest man and the
peculator--and he said to himself:
"That mean creature will not have courage to die! And my poor Hulot,
such an honest fellow! has death in his knapsack, I know!"
He sat down again in his big chair and went on reading the despatches
from Africa with a look characteristic at once of the coolness of a
leader and of the pity roused by the sight of a battle-field! For in
reality no one is so humane as a soldier, stern as he may seem in the
icy determination acquired by the habit of fighting, and so absolutely
essential in the battle-field.
Next morning some of the newspapers contained, under various headings,
the following paragraphs:--
"Monsieur le Baron Hulot d'Ervy has applied for his retiring
pension. The unsatisfactory state of the Algerian exchequer, which
has come out in consequence of the death and disappearance of two
employes, has had some share in this distinguished official's
decision. On hearing of the delinquencies of the agents whom he
had unfortunately trusted, Monsieur le Baron Hulot had a paralytic
stroke in the War Minister's private room.
"Monsieur Hulot d'Ervy, brother to the Marshal Comte de Forzheim,
has been forty-five years in the service. His determination has
been vainly opposed, and is greatly regretted by all who know
Monsieur Hulot, whose private virtues are as conspicuous as his
administrative capacity. No one can have forgotten the devoted
conduct of the Commissary General of the Imperial Guard at Warsaw,
or the marvelous promptitude with which he organized supplies for
the various sections of the army so suddenly required by Napoleon
"One more of the heroes of the Empire is retiring from the stage.
Monsieur le Baron Hulot has never ceased, since 1830, to be one of
the guiding lights of the State Council and of the War Office."
"ALGIERS.--The case known as the forage supply case, to which some
of our contemporaries have given absurd prominence, has been
closed by the death of the chief culprit. Johann Wisch has
committed suicide in his cell; his accomplice, who had absconded,
will be sentenced in default.
"Wisch, formerly an army contractor, was an honest man and highly
respected, who could not survive the idea of having been the dupe
of Chardin, the storekeeper who has disappeared."
And in the /Paris News/ the following paragraph appeared:
"Monsieur le Marechal the Minister of War, to prevent the
recurrence of such scandals for the future, has arranged for a
regular Commissariat office in Africa. A head-clerk in the War
Office, Monsieur Marneffe, is spoken of as likely to be appointed
to the post of director."
"The office vacated by Baron Hulot is the object of much ambition.
The appointment is promised, it is said, to Monsieur le Comte
Martial de la Roche-Hugon, Deputy, brother-in-law to Monsieur le
Comte de Rastignac. Monsieur Massol, Master of Appeals, will fill
his seat on the Council of State, and Monsieur Claude Vignon
becomes Master of Appeals."
Of all kinds of false gossip, the most dangerous for the Opposition
newspapers is the official bogus paragraph. However keen journalists
may be, they are sometimes the voluntary or involuntary dupes of the
cleverness of those who have risen from the ranks of the Press, like
Claude Vignon, to the higher realms of power. The newspaper can only
be circumvented by the journalist. It may be said, as a parody on a
line by Voltaire:
"The Paris news is never what the foolish folk believe."
Marshal Hulot drove home with his brother, who took the front seat,
respectfully leaving the whole of the back of the carriage to his
senior. The two men spoke not a word. Hector was helpless. The Marshal
was lost in thought, like a man who is collecting all his strength,
and bracing himself to bear a crushing weight. On arriving at his own
house, still without speaking, but by an imperious gesture, he
beckoned his brother into his study. The Count had received from the
Emperor Napoleon a splendid pair of pistols from the Versailles
factory; he took the box, with its inscription. "/Given by the Emperor
Napoleon to General Hulot/," out of his desk, and placing it on the
top, he showed it to his brother, saying, "There is your remedy."
Lisbeth, peeping through the chink of the door, flew down to the
carriage and ordered the coachman to go as fast as he could gallop to
the Rue Plumet. Within about twenty minutes she had brought back
Adeline, whom she had told of the Marshal's threat to his brother.
The Marshal, without looking at Hector, rang the bell for his
factotum, the old soldier who had served him for thirty years.
"Beau-Pied," said he, "fetch my notary, and Count Steinbock, and my
niece Hortense, and the stockbroker to the Treasury. It is now
half-past ten; they must all be here by twelve. Take hackney cabs
--and go faster than /that/!" he added, a republican allusion which
in past days had been often on his lips. And he put on the scowl that
had brought his soldiers to attention when he was beating the broom
on the heaths of Brittany in 1799. (See /Les Chouans/.)
"You shall be obeyed, Marechal," said Beau-Pied, with a military
Still paying no heed to his brother, the old man came back into his
study, took a key out of his desk, and opened a little malachite box
mounted in steel, the gift of the Emperor Alexander.
By Napoleon's orders he had gone to restore to the Russian Emperor the
private property seized at the battle of Dresden, in exchange for
which Napoleon hoped to get back Vandamme. The Czar rewarded General
Hulot very handsomely, giving him this casket, and saying that he
hoped one day to show the same courtesy to the Emperor of the French;
but he kept Vandamme. The Imperial arms of Russia were displayed in
gold on the lid of the box, which was inlaid with gold.
The Marshal counted the bank-notes it contained; he had a hundred and
fifty-two thousand francs. He saw this with satisfaction. At the same
moment Madame Hulot came into the room in a state to touch the heart
of the sternest judge. She flew into Hector's arms, looking
alternately with a crazy eye at the Marshal and at the case of
"What have you to say against your brother? What has my husband done
to you?" said she, in such a voice that the Marshal heard her.
"He has disgraced us all!" replied the Republican veteran, who spoke
with a vehemence that reopened one of his old wounds. "He has robbed
the Government! He has cast odium on my name, he makes me wish I were
dead--he has killed me!--I have only strength enough left to make
"I have been abased before the Conde of the Republic, the man I esteem
above all others, and to whom I unjustifiably gave the lie--the Prince
of Wissembourg!--Is that nothing? That is the score his country has
He wiped away a tear.
"Now, as to his family," he went on. "He is robbing you of the bread I
had saved for you, the fruit of thirty years' economy, of the
privations of an old soldier! Here is what was intended for you," and
he held up the bank-notes. "He has killed his Uncle Fischer, a noble
and worthy son of Alsace who could not--as he can--endure the thought
of a stain on his peasant's honor.
"To crown all, God, in His adorable clemency, had allowed him to
choose an angel among women; he has had the unspeakable happiness of
having an Adeline for his wife! And he has deceived her, he has soaked
her in sorrows, he has neglected her for prostitutes, for
street-hussies, for ballet-girls, actresses--Cadine, Josepha, Marneffe!
--And that is the brother I treated as a son and made my pride!
"Go, wretched man; if you can accept the life of degradation you have
made for yourself, leave my house! I have not the heart to curse a
brother I have loved so well--I am as foolish about him as you are,
Adeline--but never let me see him again. I forbid his attending my
funeral or following me to the grave. Let him show the decency of a
criminal if he can feel no remorse."
The Marshal, as pale as death, fell back on the settee, exhausted by
his solemn speech. And, for the first time in his life perhaps, tears
gathered in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks.
"My poor uncle!" cried Lisbeth, putting a handkerchief to her eyes.
"Brother!" said Adeline, kneeling down by the Marshal, "live for my
sake. Help me in the task of reconciling Hector to the world and
making him redeem the past."
"He!" cried the Marshal. "If he lives, he is not at the end of his
crimes. A man who has misprized an Adeline, who has smothered in his
own soul the feelings of a true Republican which I tried to instill
into him, the love of his country, of his family, and of the poor
--that man is a monster, a swine!--Take him away if you still care for
him, for a voice within me cries to me to load my pistols and blow his
brains out. By killing him I should save you all, and I should save
him too from himself."
The old man started to his feet with such a terrifying gesture that
poor Adeline exclaimed:
She seized her husband's arm, dragged him away, and out of the house;
but the Baron was so broken down, that she was obliged to call a coach
to take him to the Rue Plumet, where he went to bed. The man remained
there for several days in a sort of half-dissolution, refusing all
nourishment without a word. By floods of tears, Adeline persuaded him
to swallow a little broth; she nursed him, sitting by his bed, and
feeling only, of all the emotions that once had filled her heart, the
deepest pity for him.
At half-past twelve, Lisbeth showed into her dear Marshal's room--for
she would not leave him, so much was she alarmed at the evident change
in him--Count Steinbock and the notary.
"Monsieur le Comte," said the Marshal, "I would beg you to be so good
as to put your signature to a document authorizing my niece, your
wife, to sell a bond for certain funds of which she at present holds
only the reversion.--You, Mademoiselle Fischer, will agree to this
sale, thus losing your life interest in the securities."
"Yes, dear Count," said Lisbeth without hesitation.
"Good, my dear," said the old soldier. "I hope I may live to reward
you. But I did not doubt you; you are a true Republican, a daughter of
the people." He took the old maid's hand and kissed it.
"Monsieur Hannequin," he went on, speaking to the notary, "draw up the
necessary document in the form of a power of attorney, and let me have
it within two hours, so that I may sell the stock on the Bourse
to-day. My niece, the Countess, holds the security; she will be here
to sign the power of attorney when you bring it, and so will
mademoiselle. Monsieur le Comte will be good enough to go with you and
sign it at your office."
The artist, at a nod from Lisbeth, bowed respectfully to the Marshal
and went away.
Next morning, at ten o'clock, the Comte de Forzheim sent in to
announce himself to the Prince, and was at once admitted.
"Well, my dear Hulot," said the Prince, holding out the newspapers to
his old friend, "we have saved appearances, you see.--Read."
Marshal Hulot laid the papers on his comrade's table, and held out to
him the two hundred thousand francs.
"Here is the money of which my brother robbed the State," said he.
"What madness!" cried the Minister. "It is impossible," he said into
the speaking-trumpet handed to him by the Marshal, "to manage this
restitution. We should be obliged to declare your brother's dishonest
dealings, and we have done everything to hide them."
"Do what you like with the money; but the family shall not owe one sou
of its fortune to a robbery on the funds of the State," said the
"I will take the King's commands in the matter. We will discuss it no
further," replied the Prince, perceiving that it would be impossible
to conquer the old man's sublime obstinacy on the point.
"Good-bye, Cottin," said the old soldier, taking the Prince's hand. "I
feel as if my soul were frozen--"
Then, after going a step towards the door, he turned round, looked at
the Prince, and seeing that he was deeply moved, he opened his arms to
clasp him in them; the two old soldiers embraced each other.
"I feel as if I were taking leave of the whole of the old army in
you," said the Count.
"Good-bye, my good old comrade!" said the Minister.
"Yes, it is good-bye; for I am going where all our brave men are for
whom we have mourned--"
Just then Claude Vignon was shown in. The two relics of the Napoleonic
phalanx bowed gravely to each other, effacing every trace of emotion.
"You have, I hope, been satisfied by the papers," said the Master of
Appeals-elect. "I contrived to let the Opposition papers believe that
they were letting out our secrets."
"Unfortunately, it is all in vain," replied the Minister, watching
Hulot as he left the room. "I have just gone through a leave-taking
that has been a great grief to me. For, indeed, Marshal Hulot has not
three days to live; I saw that plainly enough yesterday. That man, one
of those honest souls that are above proof, a soldier respected by the
bullets in spite of his valor, received his death-blow--there, in that
armchair--and dealt by my hand, in a letter!--Ring and order my
carriage. I must go to Neuilly," said he, putting the two hundred
thousand francs into his official portfolio.
Notwithstanding Lisbeth's nursing, Marshal Hulot three days later was
a dead man. Such men are the glory of the party they support. To
Republicans, the Marshal was the ideal of patriotism; and they all
attended his funeral, which was followed by an immense crowd. The
army, the State officials, the Court, and the populace all came to do
homage to this lofty virtue, this spotless honesty, this immaculate
glory. Such a last tribute of the people is not a thing to be had for
This funeral was distinguished by one of those tributes of delicate
feeling, of good taste, and sincere respect which from time to time
remind us of the virtues and dignity of the old French nobility.
Following the Marshal's bier came the old Marquis de Montauran, the
brother of him who, in the great rising of the Chouans in 1799, had
been the foe, the luckless foe, of Hulot. That Marquis, killed by the
balls of the "Blues," had confided the interests of his young brother
to the Republican soldier. (See /Les Chouans/.) Hulot had so
faithfully acted on the noble Royalist's verbal will, that he
succeeded in saving the young man's estates, though he himself was at
the time an emigre. And so the homage of the old French nobility was
not wanting to the leader who, nine years since, had conquered MADAME.
This death, happening just four days before the banns were cried for
the last time, came upon Lisbeth like the thunderbolt that burns the
garnered harvest with the barn. The peasant of Lorraine, as often
happens, had succeeded too well. The Marshal had died of the blows
dealt to the family by herself and Madame Marneffe.
The old maid's vindictiveness, which success seemed to have somewhat
mollified, was aggravated by this disappointment of her hopes. Lisbeth
went, crying with rage, to Madame Marneffe; for she was homeless, the
Marshal having agreed that his lease was at any time to terminate with
his life. Crevel, to console Valerie's friend, took charge of her
savings, added to them considerably, and invested the capital in five
per cents, giving her the life interest, and putting the securities
into Celestine's name. Thanks to this stroke of business, Lisbeth had
an income of about two thousand francs.
When the Marshal's property was examined and valued, a note was found,
addressed to his sister-in-law, to his niece Hortense, and to his
nephew Victorin, desiring that they would pay among them an annuity of
twelve hundred francs to Mademoiselle Lisbeth Fischer, who was to have
been his wife.
Adeline, seeing her husband between life and death, succeeded for some
days in hiding from him the fact of his brother's death; but Lisbeth
came, in mourning, and the terrible truth was told him eleven days
after the funeral.
The crushing blow revived the sick man's energies. He got up, found
his family collected in the drawing-room, all in black, and suddenly
silent as he came in. In a fortnight, Hulot, as lean as a spectre,
looked to his family the mere shadow of himself.
"I must decide on something," said he in a husky voice, as he seated
himself in an easy-chair, and looked round at the party, of whom
Crevel and Steinbock were absent.
"We cannot stay here, the rent is too high," Hortense was saying just
as her father came in.
"As to a home," said Victorin, breaking the painful silence, "I can
offer my mother----"
As he heard these words, which excluded him, the Baron raised his
head, which was sunk on his breast as though he were studying the
pattern of the carpet, though he did not even see it, and he gave the
young lawyer an appealing look. The rights of a father are so
indefeasibly sacred, even when he is a villain and devoid of honor,
that Victorin paused.
"To your mother," the Baron repeated. "You are right, my son."
"The rooms over ours in our wing," said Celestine, finishing her
"I am in your way, my dears?" said the Baron, with the mildness of a
man who has judged himself. "But do not be uneasy as to the future;
you will have no further cause for complaint of your father; you will
not see him till the time when you need no longer blush for him."
He went up to Hortense and kissed her brow. He opened his arms to his
son, who rushed into his embrace, guessing his father's purpose. The
Baron signed to Lisbeth, who came to him, and he kissed her forehead.
Then he went to his room, whither Adeline followed him in an agony of
"My brother was quite right, Adeline," he said, holding her hand. "I
am unworthy of my home life. I dared not bless my children, who have
behaved so nobly, but in my heart; tell them that I could only venture
to kiss them; for the blessing of a bad man, a father who has been an
assassin and the scourge of his family instead of its protector and
its glory, might bring evil on them; but assure them that I shall
bless them every day.--As to you, God alone, for He is Almighty, can
ever reward you according to your merits!--I can only ask your
forgiveness!" and he knelt at her feet, taking her hands and wetting
them with his tears.
"Hector, Hector! Your sins have been great, but Divine Mercy is
infinite, and you may repair all by staying with me.--Rise up in
Christian charity, my dear--I am your wife, and not your judge. I am
your possession; do what you will with me; take me wherever you go, I
feel strong enough comfort you, to make life endurable to you, by the
strength of my love, my care, and respect.--Our children are settled
in life; they need me no more. Let me try to be an amusement to you,
an occupation. Let me share the pain of your banishment and of your
poverty, and help to mitigate it. I could always be of some use, if it
were only to save the expense of a servant."
"Can you forgive, my dearly-beloved Adeline?"
"Yes, only get up, my dear!"
"Well, with that forgiveness I can live," said he, rising to his feet.
"I came back into this room that my children should not see their
father's humiliation. Oh! the sight constantly before their eyes of a
father so guilty as I am is a terrible thing; it must undermine
parental influence and break every family tie. So I cannot remain
among you, and I must go to spare you the odious spectacle of a father
bereft of dignity. Do not oppose my departure Adeline. It would only
be to load with your own hand the pistol to blow my brains out. Above
all, do not seek me in my hiding-place; you would deprive me of the
only strong motive remaining in me, that of remorse."
Hector's decisiveness silenced his dejected wife. Adeline, lofty in
the midst of all this ruin, had derived her courage from her perfect
union with her husband; for she had dreamed of having him for her own,
of the beautiful task of comforting him, of leading him back to family
life, and reconciling him to himself.
"But, Hector, would you leave me to die of despair, anxiety, and
alarms!" said she, seeing herself bereft of the mainspring of her
"I will come back to you, dear angel--sent from Heaven expressly for
me, I believe. I will come back, if not rich, at least with enough to
live in ease.--Listen, my sweet Adeline, I cannot stay here for many
reasons. In the first place, my pension of six thousand francs is
pledged for four years, so I have nothing. That is not all. I shall be
committed to prison within a few days in consequence of the bills held
by Vauvinet. So I must keep out of the way until my son, to whom I
will give full instructions, shall have bought in the bills. My
disappearance will facilitate that. As soon as my pension is my own,
and Vauvinet is paid off, I will return to you.--You would be sure to
let out the secret of my hiding-place. Be calm; do not cry, Adeline
--it is only for a month--"
"Where will you go? What will you do? What will become of you? Who
will take care of you now that you are no longer young? Let me go with
you--we will go abroad--" said she.
"Well, well, we will see," he replied.
The Baron rang and ordered Mariette to collect all his things and pack
them quickly and secretly. Then, after embracing his wife with a
warmth of affection to which she was unaccustomed, he begged her to
leave him alone for a few minutes while he wrote his instructions for
Victorin, promising that he would not leave the house till dark, or
As soon as the Baroness was in the drawing-room, the cunning old man
stole out through the dressing-closet to the anteroom, and went away,
giving Mariette a slip of paper, on which was written, "Address my
trunks to go by railway to Corbeil--to Monsieur Hector, cloak-room,
The Baron jumped into a hackney coach, and was rushing across Paris by
the time Mariette came to give the Baroness this note, and say that
her master had gone out. Adeline flew back into her room, trembling
more violently than ever; her children followed on hearing her give a
piercing cry. They found her in a dead faint; and they put her to bed,
for she was seized by a nervous fever which held her for a month
between life and death.
"Where is he?" was the only thing she would say.
Victorin sought for him in vain.
And this is why. The Baron had driven to the Place du Palais Royal.
There this man, who had recovered all his wits to work out a scheme
which he had premeditated during the days he had spent crushed with
pain and grief, crossed the Palais Royal on foot, and took a handsome
carriage from a livery-stable in the Rue Joquelet. In obedience to his
orders, the coachman went to the Rue de la Ville l'Eveque, and into
the courtyard of Josepha's mansion, the gates opening at once at the
call of the driver of such a splendid vehicle. Josepha came out,
prompted by curiosity, for her man-servant had told her that a
helpless old gentleman, unable to get out of his carriage, begged her
to come to him for a moment.
"Josepha!--it is I----"
The singer recognized her Hulot only by his voice.
"What? you, poor old man?--On my honor, you look like a twenty-franc
piece that the Jews have sweated and the money-changers refuse."
"Alas, yes," replied Hulot; "I am snatched from the jaws of death! But
you are as lovely as ever. Will you be kind?"
"That depends," said she; "everything is relative."
"Listen," said Hulot; "can you put me up for a few days in a servant's
room under the roof? I have nothing--not a farthing, not a hope; no
food, no pension, no wife, no children, no roof over my head; without
honor, without courage, without a friend; and worse than all that,
liable to imprisonment for not meeting a bill."
"Poor old fellow! you are without most things.--Are you also /sans
"You laugh at me! I am done for," cried the Baron. "And I counted on
you as Gourville did on Ninon."
"And it was a 'real lady,' I am told who brought you to this," said
Josepha. "Those precious sluts know how to pluck a goose even better
than we do!--Why, you are like a corpse that the crows have done with
--I can see daylight through!"
"Time is short, Josepha!"
"Come in, old boy, I am alone, as it happens, and my people don't know
you. Send away your trap. Is it paid for?"
"Yes," said the Baron, getting out with the help of Josepha's arm.
"You may call yourself my father if you like," said the singer, moved
She made Hulot sit down in the splendid drawing-room where he had last
"And is it the fact, old man," she went on, "that you have killed your
brother and your uncle, ruined your family, mortgaged your children's
house over and over again, and robbed the Government till in Africa,
all for your princess?"
Hulot sadly bent his head.
"Well, I admire that!" cried Josepha, starting up in her enthusiasm.
"It is a general flare-up! It is Sardanapalus! Splendid, thoroughly
complete! I may be a hussy, but I have a soul! I tell you, I like a
spendthrift, like you, crazy over a woman, a thousand times better
than those torpid, heartless bankers, who are supposed to be so good,
and who ruin no end of families with their rails--gold for them, and
iron for their gulls! You have only ruined those who belong to you,
you have sold no one but yourself; and then you have excuses, physical
She struck a tragic attitude, and spouted:
"'Tis Venus whose grasp never parts from her prey.
And there you are!" and she pirouetted on her toe.
Vice, Hulot found, could forgive him; vice smiled on him from the
midst of unbridled luxury. Here, as before a jury, the magnitude of a
crime was an extenuating circumstance. "And is your lady pretty at any
rate?" asked Josepha, trying as a preliminary act of charity, to
divert Hulot's thoughts, for his depression grieved her.
"On my word, almost as pretty as you are," said the Baron artfully.
"And monstrously droll? So I have been told. What does she do, I say?
Is she better fun than I am?"
"I don't want to talk about her," said Hulot.
"And I hear she has come round my Crevel, and little Steinbock, and a
"And that she has got a house as good as this, that Crevel has given
her. The baggage! She is my provost-marshal, and finishes off those I
have spoiled. I tell you why I am so curious to know what she is like,
old boy; I just caught sight of her in the Bois, in an open carriage
--but a long way off. She is a most accomplished harpy, Carabine says.
She is trying to eat up Crevel, but he only lets her nibble. Crevel is
a knowing hand, good-natured but hard-headed, who will always say Yes,
and then go his own way. He is vain and passionate; but his cash is
cold. You can never get anything out of such fellows beyond a thousand
to three thousand francs a month; they jib at any serious outlay, as a
donkey does at a running stream.
"Not like you, old boy. You are a man of passions; you would sell your
country for a woman. And, look here, I am ready to do anything for
you! You are my father; you started me in life; it is a sacred duty.
What do you want? Do you want a hundred thousand francs? I will wear
myself to a rag to gain them. As to giving you bed and board--that is
nothing. A place will be laid for you here every day; you can have a
good room on the second floor, and a hundred crowns a month for
The Baron, deeply touched by such a welcome, had a last qualm of
"No, my dear child, no; I did not come here for you to keep me," said
"At your age it is something to be proud of," said she.
"This is what I wish, my child. Your Duc d'Herouville has immense
estates in Normandy, and I want to be his steward, under the name of
Thoul. I have the capacity, and I am honest. A man may borrow of the
Government, and yet not steal from a cash-box----"
"H'm, h'm," said Josepha. "Once drunk, drinks again."
"In short, I only want to live out of sight for three years--"
"Well, it is soon done," said Josepha. "This evening, after dinner, I
have only to speak. The Duke would marry me if I wished it, but I have
his fortune, and I want something better--his esteem. He is a Duke of
the first water. He is high-minded, as noble and great as Louis XIV.
and Napoleon rolled into one, though he is a dwarf. Besides, I have
done for him what la Schontz did for Rochefide; by taking my advice he
has made two millions.
"Now, listen to me, old popgun. I know you; you are always after the
women, and you would be dancing attendance on the Normandy girls, who
are splendid creatures, and getting your ribs cracked by their lovers
and fathers, and the Duke would have to get you out of the scrape.
Why, can't I see by the way you look at me that the /young/ man is not
dead in you--as Fenelon put it.--No, this stewardship is not the thing
for you. A man cannot be off with his Paris and with us, old boy, for
the saying! You would die of weariness at Herouville."
"What is to become of me?" said the Baron, "for I will only stay here
till I see my way."
"Well, shall I find a pigeon-hole for you? Listen, you old pirate.
Women are what you want. They are consolation in all circumstances.
Attend now.--At the end of the Alley, Rue Saint-Maur-du-Temple, there
is a poor family I know of where there is a jewel of a little girl,
prettier than I was at sixteen.--Ah! there is a twinkle in your eye
already!--The child works sixteen hours a day at embroidering costly
pieces for the silk merchants, and earns sixteen sous a day--one sou
an hour!--and feeds like the Irish, on potatoes fried in rats'
dripping, with bread five times a week--and drinks canal water out of
the town pipes, because the Seine water costs too much; and she cannot
set up on her own account for lack of six or seven thousand francs.
Your wife and children bore you to death, don't they?--Besides, one
cannot submit to be nobody where one has been a little Almighty. A
father who has neither money nor honor can only be stuffed and kept in
a glass case."
The Baron could not help smiling at these abominable jests.
"Well, now, Bijou is to come to-morrow morning to bring me an
embroidered wrapper, a gem! It has taken six months to make; no one
else will have any stuff like it! Bijou is very fond of me; I give her
tidbits and my old gowns. And I send orders for bread and meat and
wood to the family, who would break the shin-bones of the first comer
if I bid them.--I try to do a little good. Ah! I know what I endured
from hunger myself!--Bijou has confided to me all her little sorrows.
There is the making of a super at the Ambigu-Comique in that child.
Her dream is to wear fine dresses like mine; above all, to ride in a
carriage. I shall say to her, 'Look here, little one, would you like
to have a friend of--' How old are you?" she asked, interrupting
"I have given up counting."
"'Would you like an old gentleman of seventy-two?' I shall say. 'Very
clean and neat, and who does not take snuff, who is as sound as a
bell, and as good as a young man? He will marry you (in the Thirteenth
Arrondissement) and be very kind to you; he will place seven thousand
francs in your account, and furnish you a room all in mahogany, and if
you are good, he will sometimes take you to the play. He will give you
a hundred francs a month for pocket-money, and fifty francs for
housekeeping.'--I know Bijou; she is myself at fourteen. I jumped for
joy when that horrible Crevel made me his atrocious offers. Well, and
you, old man, will be disposed of for three years. She is a good
child, well behaved; for three or four years she will have her
illusions--not for longer."
Hulot did not hesitate; he had made up his mind to refuse; but to seem
grateful to the kind-hearted singer, who was benevolent after her
lights, he affected to hesitate between vice and virtue.
"Why, you are as cold as a paving-stone in winter!" she exclaimed in
amazement. "Come, now. You will make a whole family happy--a
grandfather who runs all the errands, a mother who is being worn out
with work, and two sisters--one of them very plain--who make
thirty-two sous a day while putting their eyes out. It will make up for
the misery you have caused at home, and you will expiate your sin while
you are having as much fun as a minx at Mabille."
Hulot, to put an end to this temptation, moved his fingers as if he
were counting out money.
"Oh! be quite easy as to ways and means," replied Josepha. "My Duke
will lend you ten thousand francs; seven thousand to start an
embroidery shop in Bijou's name, and three thousand for furnishing;
and every three months you will find a cheque here for six hundred and
fifty francs. When you get your pension paid you, you can repay the
seventeen thousand francs. Meanwhile you will be as happy as a cow in
clover, and hidden in a hole where the police will never find you. You
must wear a loose serge coat, and you will look like a comfortable
householder. Call yourself Thoul, if that is your fancy. I will tell
Bijou that you are an uncle of mine come from Germany, having failed
in business, and you will be cosseted like a divinity.--There now,
Daddy!--And who knows! you may have no regrets. In case you should be
bored, keep one Sunday rig-out, and you can come and ask me for a
dinner and spend the evening here."
"I!--and I meant to settle down and behave myself!--Look here, borrow
twenty thousand francs for me, and I will set out to make my fortune
in America, like my friend d'Aiglemont when Nucingen cleaned him out."
"You!" cried Josepha. "Nay, leave morals to work-a-day folks, to raw
recruits, to the /worrrthy/ citizens who have nothing to boast of but
their virtue. You! You were born to be something better than a
nincompoop; you are as a man what I am as a woman--a spendthrift of
"We will sleep on it and discuss it all to-morrow morning."
"You will dine with the Duke. My d'Herouville will receive you as
civilly as if you were the saviour of the State; and to-morrow you can
decide. Come, be jolly, old boy! Life is a garment; when it is dirty,
we must brush it; when it is ragged, it must be patched; but we keep
it on as long as we can."
This philosophy of life, and her high spirits, postponed Hulot's
At noon next day, after a capital breakfast, Hulot saw the arrival of
one of those living masterpieces which Paris alone of all the cities