Part 4 out of 5
sheer precipice beneath filled with water to the brim. Any man who
should have the courage to fill his pockets with pebbles would not
fail to find death, and never be seen thereafter.
At the time while he admired the lovely miniature of a landscape, the
poet had thought to himself, "'Tis a spot to make your mouth water
for a _noyade_."
He thought of it now as he went down into L'Houmeau; and when he took
his way towards Marsac, with the last sombre thoughts gnawing at his
heart, it was with the firm resolve to hide his death. There should be
no inquest held over him, he would not be laid in earth; no one should
see him in the hideous condition of the corpse that floats on the
surface of the water. Before long he reached one of the slopes, common
enough on all French highroads, and commonest of all between Angouleme
and Poitiers. He saw the coach from Bordeaux to Paris coming up at
full speed behind him, and knew that the passengers would probably
alight to walk up the hill. He did not care to be seen just then.
Turning off sharply into a beaten track, he began to pick the flowers
in a vineyard hard by.
When Lucien came back to the road with a great bunch of the yellow
stone-crop which grows everywhere upon the stony soil of the
vineyards, he came out upon a traveler dressed in black from head to
foot. The stranger wore powder, there were silver buckles on his shoes
of Orleans leather, and his brown face was scarred and seamed as if he
had fallen into the fire in infancy. The traveler, so obviously
clerical in his dress, was walking slowly and smoking a cigar. He
turned as Lucien jumped down from the vineyard into the road. The deep
melancholy on the handsome young face, the poet's symbolical flowers,
and his elegant dress seemed to strike the stranger. He looked at
Lucien with something of the expression of a hunter that has found his
quarry at last after long and fruitless search. He allowed Lucien to
come alongside in nautical phrase; then he slackened his pace, and
appeared to look along the road up the hill; Lucien, following the
direction of his eyes, saw a light traveling carriage with two horses,
and a post-boy standing beside it.
"You have allowed the coach to pass you, monsieur; you will lose your
place unless you care to take a seat in my caleche and overtake the
mail, for it is rather quicker traveling post than by the public
conveyance." The traveler spoke with extreme politeness and a very
marked Spanish accent.
Without waiting for an answer, he drew a cigar-case from his pocket,
opened it, and held it out to Lucien.
"I am not on a journey," said Lucien, "and I am too near the end of my
stage to indulge in the pleasure of smoking----"
"You are very severe with yourself," returned the Spaniard. "Though I
am a canon of the cathedral of Toledo, I occasionally smoke a
cigarette. God gave us tobacco to allay our passions and our pains.
You seem to be downcast, or at any rate, you carry the symbolical
flower of sorrow in your hand, like the rueful god Hymen. Come! all
your troubles will vanish away with the smoke," and again the
ecclesiastic held out his little straw case; there was something
fascinating in his manner, and kindliness towards Lucien lighted up
"Forgive me, father" Lucien answered stiffly; "there is no cigar that
can scatter my troubles." Tears came to his eyes at the words.
"It must surely be Divine Providence that prompted me to take a little
exercise to shake off a traveler's morning drowsiness," said the
churchman. "A divine prompting to fulfil my mission here on earth by
consoling you.--What great trouble can you have at your age?"
"Your consolations, father, can do nothing for me. You are a Spaniard,
I am a Frenchman; you believe in the commandments of the Church, I am
"_Santa Virgen del Pilar_! you are an atheist!" cried the other, laying
a hand on Lucien's arm with maternal solicitude. "Ah! here is one of
the curious things I promised myself to see in Paris. We, in Spain, do
not believe in atheists. There is no country but France where one can
have such opinions at nineteen years."
"Oh! I am an atheist in the fullest sense of the word. I have no
belief in God, in society, in happiness. Take a good look at me,
father; for in a few hours' time life will be over for me. My last sun
has risen," said Lucien; with a sort of rhetorical effect he waved his
hand towards the sky.
"How so; what have you done that you must die? Who has condemned you
"A tribunal from which there is no appeal--I myself."
"You, child!" cried the priest. "Have you killed a man? Is the
scaffold waiting for you? Let us reason together a little. If you are
resolved, as you say, to return to nothingness, everything on earth is
indifferent to you, is it not?"
Lucien bowed assent.
"Very well, then; can you not tell me about your troubles? Some little
affair of the heart has taken a bad turn, no doubt?"
Lucien shrugged his shoulders very significantly.
"Are you resolved to kill yourself to escape dishonor, or do you
despair of life? Very good. You can kill yourself at Poitiers quite as
easily as at Angouleme, and at Tours it will be no harder than at
Poitiers. The quicksands of the Loire never give up their prey----"
"No, father," said Lucien; "I have settled it all. Not three weeks ago
I chanced upon the most charming raft that can ferry a man sick and
tired of this life into the other world----"
"The other world? You are not an atheist."
"Oh! by another world I mean my next transformation, animal or plant."
"Have you some incurable disease?"
"Ah! now we come to the point. What is it?"
The priest looked at Lucien. "The diamond does not know its own
value," he said, and there was an inexpressible charm, and a touch of
something like irony in his smile.
"None but a priest could flatter a poor man about to die," exclaimed
"You are not going to die," the Spaniard returned authoritatively.
"I have heard many times of men that were robbed on the highroad, but
I have never yet heard of one that found a fortune there," said
"You will hear of one now," said the priest, glancing towards the
carriage to measure the time still left for their walk together.
"Listen to me," he continued, with his cigar between his teeth; "if
you are poor, that is no reason why you should die. I need a
secretary, for mine has just died at Barcelona. I am in the same
position as the famous Baron Goertz, minister of Charles XII. He was
traveling toward Sweden (just as I am going to Paris), and in some
little town or other he chanced upon the son of a goldsmith, a young
man of remarkable good looks, though they could scarcely equal yours.
. . . Baron Goertz discerned intelligence in the young man (just as I
see poetry on your brow); he took him into his traveling carriage, as
I shall take you very shortly; and of a boy condemned to spend his
days in burnishing spoons and forks and making trinkets in some little
town like Angouleme, he made a favorite, as you shall be mine.
"Arrived at Stockholm, he installed his secretary and overwhelmed him
with work. The young man spent his nights in writing, and, like all
great workers, he contracted a bad habit, a trick--he took to chewing
paper. The late M. de Malesherbes use to rap people over the knuckles;
and he did this once, by the by, to somebody or other whose suit
depended upon him. The handsome young secretary began by chewing blank
paper, found it insipid for a while, and acquired a taste for
manuscript as having more flavor. People did not smoke as yet in those
days. At last, from flavor to flavor, he began to chew parchment and
swallow it. Now, at that time a treaty was being negotiated between
Russia and Sweden. The States-General insisted that Charles XII.
should make peace (much as they tried in France to make Napoleon treat
for peace in 1814) and the basis of these negotiations was the treaty
between the two powers with regard to Finland. Goertz gave the
original into his secretary's keeping; but when the time came for
laying the draft before the States-General, a trifling difficulty
arose; the treaty was not to be found. The States-General believed
that the Minister, pandering to the King's wishes, had taken it into
his head to get rid of the document. Baron Goertz was, in fact,
accused of this, and the secretary owned that he had eaten the treaty.
He was tried and convicted and condemned to death.--But you have not
come to that yet, so take a cigar and smoke till we reach the
Lucien took a cigar and lit it, Spanish fashion, at the priest's
cigar. "He is right," he thought; "I can take my life at any time."
"It often happens that a young man's fortunes take a turn when despair
is darkest," the Spaniard continued. "That is what I wished to tell
you, but I preferred to prove it by a case in point. Here was the
handsome young secretary lying under sentence of death, and his case
the more desperate because, as he had been condemned by the
States-General, the King could not pardon him, but he connived at his
escape. The secretary stole away in a fishing-boat with a few crowns
in his pocket, and reached the court of Courland with a letter of
introduction from Goertz, explaining his secretary's adventures and
his craze for paper. The Duke of Courland was a spendthrift; he had a
steward and a pretty wife--three several causes of ruin. He placed the
charming young stranger with his steward.
"If you can imagine that the sometime secretary had been cured of his
depraved taste by a sentence of death, you do not know the grip that a
man's failings have upon him; let a man discover some satisfaction for
himself, and the headsman will not keep him from it.--How is it that
the vice has this power? Is it inherent strength in the vice, or
inherent weakness in human nature? Are there certain tastes that
should be regarded as verging on insanity? For myself, I cannot help
laughing at the moralists who try to expel such diseases by fine
phrases.--Well, it so fell out that the steward refused a demand for
money; and the Duke taking fright at this, called for an audit. Sheer
imbecility! Nothing easier than to make out a balance-sheet; the
difficulty never lies there. The steward gave his secretary all the
necessary documents for compiling a schedule of the civil list of
Courland. He had nearly finished it when, in the dead of night, the
unhappy paper-eater discovered that he was chewing up one of the
Duke's discharges for a considerable sum. He had eaten half the
signature! Horror seized upon him; he fled to the Duchess, flung
himself at her feet, told her of his craze, and implored the aid of
his sovereign lady, implored her in the middle of the night. The
handsome young face made such an impression on the Duchess that she
married him as soon as she was left a widow. And so in the mid-
eighteenth century, in a land where the king-at-arms is king, the
goldsmith's son became a prince, and something more. On the death of
Catherine I. he was regent; he ruled the Empress Anne, and tried to be
the Richelieu of Russia. Very well, young man; now know this--if you
are handsomer than Biron, I, simple canon that I am, am worth more
than a Baron Goertz. So get in; we will find a duchy of Courland for
you in Paris, or failing the duchy, we shall certainly find the
The Spanish priest laid a hand on Lucien's arm, and literally forced
him into the traveling carriage. The postilion shut the door.
"Now speak; I am listening," said the canon of Toledo, to Lucien's
bewilderment. "I am an old priest; you can tell me everything, there
is nothing to fear. So far we have only run through our patrimony or
squandered mamma's money. We have made a flitting from our creditors,
and we are honor personified down to the tips of our elegant little
boots. . . . Come, confess, boldly; it will be just as if you were
talking to yourself."
Lucien felt like that hero of an Eastern tale, the fisher who tried to
drown himself in mid-ocean, and sank down to find himself a king of
countries under the sea. The Spanish priest seemed so really
affectionate, that the poet hesitated no longer; between Angouleme and
Ruffec he told the story of his whole life, omitting none of his
misdeeds, and ended with the final catastrophe which he had brought
about. The tale only gained in poetic charm because this was the third
time he had told it in the past fortnight. Just as he made an end they
passed the house of the Rastignac family.
"Young Rastignac left that place for Paris," said Lucien; "he is
certainly not my equal, but he has had better luck."
The Spaniard started at the name. "Oh!" he said.
"Yes. That shy little place belongs to his father. As I was telling
you just now, he was the lover of Mme. de Nucingen, the famous
banker's wife. I drifted into poetry; he was cleverer, he took the
The priest stopped the caleche; and was so far curious as to walk down
the little avenue that led to the house, showing more interest in the
place than Lucien expected from a Spanish ecclesiastic.
"Then, do you know the Rastignacs?" asked Lucien.
"I know every one in Paris," said the Spaniard, taking his place again
in the carriage. "And so for want of ten or twelve thousand francs,
you were about to take your life; you are a child, you know neither
men nor things. A man's future is worth the value that he chooses to
set upon it, and you value yours at twelve thousand francs! Well, I
will give more than that for you any time. As for your
brother-in-law's imprisonment, it is the merest trifle. If this dear
M. Sechard has made a discovery, he will be a rich man some day, and a
rich man has never been imprisoned for debt. You do not seem to me to
be strong in history. History is of two kinds--there is the official
history taught in schools, a lying compilation _ad usum delphini_; and
there is the secret history which deals with the real causes of events
--a scandalous chronicle. Let me tell you briefly a little story which
you have not heard. There was, once upon a time, a man, young and
ambitious, and a priest to boot. He wanted to enter upon a political
career, so he fawned on the Queen's favorite; the favorite took an
interest in him, gave him the rank of minister, and a seat at the
council board. One evening somebody wrote to the young aspirant,
thinking to do him a service (never do a service, by the by, unless
you are asked), and told him that his benefactor's life was in danger.
The King's wrath was kindled against his rival; to-morrow, if the
favorite went to the palace, he would certainly be stabbed; so said
the letter. Well, now, young man, what would you have done?"
"I should have gone at once to warn my benefactor," Lucien exclaimed
"You are indeed the child which your story reveals!" said the priest.
"Our man said to himself, 'If the King is resolved to go to such
lengths, it is all over with my benefactor; I must receive this letter
too late;' so he slept on till the favorite was stabbed----"
"He was a monster!" said Lucien, suspecting that the priest meant to
"So are all great men; this one was the Cardinal de Richelieu, and his
benefactor was the Marechal d'Ancre. You really do not know your
history of France, you see. Was I not right when I told you that
history as taught in schools is simply a collection of facts and
dates, more than doubtful in the first place, and with no bearing
whatever on the gist of the matter. You are told that such a person as
Jeanne Darc once existed; where is the use of that? Have you never
drawn your own conclusions from that fact? never seen that if France
had accepted the Angevin dynasty of the Plantagenets, the two peoples
thus reunited would be ruling the world to-day, and the islands that
now brew political storms for the continent would be French provinces?
. . . Why, have you so much as studied the means by which simple
merchants like the Medicis became Grand Dukes of Tuscany?"
"A poet in France is not bound to be 'as learned as a Benedictine,'"
"Well, they became Grand-Dukes as Richelieu became a minister. If you
had looked into history for the causes of events instead of getting
the headings by heart, you would have found precepts for your guidance
in this life. These real facts taken at random from among so many
supply you with the axiom--'Look upon men, and on women most of all,
as your instruments; but never let them see this.' If some one higher
in place can be useful to you, worship him as your god; and never
leave him until he has paid the price of your servility to the last
farthing. In your intercourse with men, in short, be grasping and mean
as a Jew; all that the Jew does for money, you must do for power. And
besides all this, when a man has fallen from power, care no more for
him than if he had ceased to exist. And do you ask why you must do
these things? You mean to rule the world, do you not? You must begin
by obeying and studying it. Scholars study books; politicians study
men, and their interests and the springs of action. Society and
mankind in masses are fatalists; they bow down and worship the
accomplished fact. Do you know why I am giving you this little history
lesson? It seems to me that your ambition is boundless----"
"I saw that myself," said the priest. "But at this moment you are
thinking, 'Here is this Spanish canon inventing anecdotes and
straining history to prove to me that I have too much virtue----'"
Lucien began to smile; his thoughts had been read so clearly.
"Very well, let us take facts that every schoolboy knows. One day
France is almost entirely overrun by the English; the King has only a
single province left. Two figures arise from among the people--a poor
herd girl, that very Jeanne Darc of whom we were speaking, and a
burgher named Jacques Coeur. The girl brings the power of virginity,
the strength of her arm; the burgher gives his gold, and the kingdom
is saved. The maid is taken prisoner, and the King, who could have
ransomed her, leaves her to be burned alive. The King allows his
courtier to accuse the great burgher of capital crime, and they rob
him and divide all his wealth among themselves. The spoils of an
innocent man, hunted down, brought to bay, and driven into exile by
the Law, went to enrich five noble houses; and the father of the
Archbishop of Bourges left the kingdom for ever without one sou of all
his possessions in France, and no resource but moneys remitted to
Arabs and Saracens in Egypt. It is open to you to say that these
examples are out of date, that three centuries of public education
have since elapsed, and that the outlines of those ages are more or
less dim figures. Well, young man, do you believe in the last demi-god
of France, in Napoleon? One of his generals was in disgrace all
through his career; Napoleon made him a marshal grudgingly, and never
sent him on service if he could help it. That marshal was Kellermann.
Do you know the reason of the grudge? . . . Kellermann saved France
and the First Consul at Marengo by a brilliant charge; the ranks
applauded under fire and in the thick of the carnage. That heroic
charge was not even mentioned in the bulletin. Napoleon's coolness
toward Kellermann, Fouche's fall, and Talleyrand's disgrace were all
attributable to the same cause; it is the ingratitude of a Charles
VII., or a Richelieu, or ----"
"But, father," said Lucien, "suppose that you should save my life and
make my fortune, you are making the ties of gratitude somewhat
"Little rogue," said the Abbe, smiling as he pinched Lucien's ear with
an almost royal familiarity. "If you are ungrateful to me, it will be
because you are a strong man, and I shall bend before you. But you are
not that just yet; as a simple 'prentice you have tried to be master
too soon, the common fault of Frenchmen of your generation. Napoleon's
example has spoiled them all. You send in your resignation because you
have not the pair of epaulettes that you fancied. But have you
attempted to bring the full force of your will and every action of
your life to bear upon your one idea?"
"You have been inconsistent, as the English say," smiled the canon.
"What I have been matters nothing now," said Lucien, "if I can be
nothing in the future."
"If at the back of all your good qualities there is power _semper
virens_," continued the priest, not averse to show that he had a little
Latin, "nothing in this world can resist you. I have taken enough of a
liking for you already----"
Lucien smiled incredulously.
"Yes," said the priest, in answer to the smile, "you interest me as
much as if you had been my son; and I am strong enough to afford to
talk to you as openly as you have just done to me. Do you know what it
is that I like about you?--This: you have made a sort of _tabula rasa_
within yourself, and are ready to hear a sermon on morality that you
will hear nowhere else; for mankind in the mass are even more
consummate hypocrites than any one individual can be when his
interests demand a piece of acting. Most of us spend a good part of
our lives in clearing our minds of the notions that sprang up
unchecked during our nonage. This is called 'getting our
Lucien, listening, thought within himself, "Here is some old intriguer
delighted with a chance of amusing himself on a journey. He is pleased
with the idea of bringing about a change of opinion in a poor wretch
on the brink of suicide; and when he is tired of his amusement, he
will drop me. Still he understands paradox, and seems to be quite a
match for Blondet or Lousteau."
But in spite of these sage reflections, the diplomate's poison had
sunk deeply into Lucien's soul; the ground was ready to receive it,
and the havoc wrought was the greater because such famous examples
were cited. Lucien fell under the charm of his companion's cynical
talk, and clung the more willingly to life because he felt that this
arm which drew him up from the depths was a strong one.
In this respect the ecclesiastic had evidently won the day; and,
indeed, from time to time a malicious smile bore his cynical anecdotes
"If your system of morality at all resembles your manner of regarding
history," said Lucien, "I should dearly like to know the motive of
your present act of charity, for such it seems to be."
"There, young man, I have come to the last head of my sermon; you will
permit me to reserve it, for in that case we shall not part company
to-day," said the canon, with the tact of the priest who sees that his
guile has succeeded.
"Very well, talk morality," said Lucien. To himself he said, "I will
draw him out."
"Morality begins with the law," said the priest. "If it were simply a
question of religion, laws would be superfluous; religious peoples
have few laws. The laws of statecraft are above civil law. Well, do
you care to know the inscription which a politician can read, written
at large over your nineteenth century? In 1793 the French invented the
idea of the sovereignty of the people--and the sovereignty of the
people came to an end under the absolute ruler in the Emperor. So much
for your history as a nation. Now for your private manners. Mme.
Tallien and Mme. Beauharnais both acted alike. Napoleon married the
one, and made her your Empress; the other he would never receive at
court, princess though she was. The sans-culotte of 1793 takes the
Iron Crown in 1804. The fanatical lovers of Equality or Death conspire
fourteen years afterwards with a Legitimist aristocracy to bring back
Louis XVIII. And that same aristocracy, lording it to-day in the
Faubourg Saint-Germain, has done worse--has been merchant, usurer,
pastry-cook, farmer, and shepherd. So in France systems political and
moral have started from one point and reached another diametrically
opposed; and men have expressed one kind of opinion and acted on
another. There has been no consistency in national policy, nor in the
conduct of individuals. You cannot be said to have any morality left.
Success is the supreme justification of all actions whatsoever. The
fact in itself is nothing; the impression that it makes upon others is
everything. Hence, please observe a second precept: Present a fair
exterior to the world, keep the seamy side of life to yourself, and
turn a resplendent countenance upon others. Discretion, the motto of
every ambitious man, is the watchword of our Order; take it for your
own. Great men are guilty of almost as many base deeds as poor
outcasts; but they are careful to do these things in shadow and to
parade their virtues in the light, or they would not be great men.
Your insignificant man leaves his virtues in the shade; he publicly
displays his pitiable side, and is despised accordingly. You, for
instance, have hidden your titles to greatness and made a display of
your worst failings. You openly took an actress for your mistress,
lived with her and upon her; you were by no means to blame for this;
everybody admitted that both of you were perfectly free to do as you
liked; but you ran full tilt against the ideas of the world, and the
world has not shown you the consideration that is shown to those who
obey the rules of the game. If you had left Coralie to this M.
Camusot, if you had hidden your relations with her, you might have
married Mme. de Bargeton; you would now be prefect of Angouleme and
Marquis de Rubempre.
"Change your tactics, bring your good looks, your charm, your wit,
your poetry to the front. If you indulge in small discreditable
courses, let it be within four walls, and you will never again be
guilty of a blot on the decorations of this great theatrical scene
called society. Napoleon called this 'washing dirty linen at home.'
The corollary follows naturally on this second precept--Form is
everything. Be careful to grasp the meaning of that word 'form.' There
are people who, for want of knowing better, will help themselves to
money under pressure of want, and take it by force. These people are
called criminals; and, perforce, they square accounts with Justice. A
poor man of genius discovers some secret, some invention as good as a
treasure; you lend him three thousand francs (for that, practically,
the Cointets have done; they hold your bills, and they are about to
rob your brother-in-law); you torment him until he reveals or partly
reveals his secret; you settle your accounts with your own conscience,
and your conscience does not drag you into the assize court.
"The enemies of social order, beholding this contrast, take occasion
to yap at justice, and wax wroth in the name of the people, because,
forsooth, burglars and fowl-stealers are sent to the hulks, while a
man who brings whole families to ruin by a fraudulent bankruptcy is
let off with a few months' imprisonment. But these hypocrites know
quite well that the judge who passes sentence on the thief is
maintaining the barrier set between the poor and the rich, and that if
that barrier were overturned, social chaos would ensue; while, in the
case of the bankrupt, the man who steals an inheritance cleverly, and
the banker who slaughters a business for his own benefit, money merely
changes hands, that is all.
"Society, my son, is bound to draw those distinctions which I have
pointed out for your benefit. The one great point is this--you must be
a match for society. Napoleon, Richelieu, and the Medicis were a match
for their generations. And as for you, you value yourself at twelve
thousand francs! You of this generation in France worship the golden
calf; what else is the religion of your Charter that will not
recognize a man politically unless he owns property? What is this but
the command, 'Strive to be rich?' Some day, when you shall have made a
fortune without breaking the law, you will be rich; you will be the
Marquis de Rubempre, and you can indulge in the luxury of honor. You
will be so extremely sensitive on the point of honor that no one will
dare to accuse you of past shortcomings if in the process of making
your way you should happen to smirch it now and again, which I myself
should never advise," he added, patting Lucien's hand.
"So what must you put in that comely head of yours? Simply this and
nothing more--propose to yourself a brilliant and conspicuous goal,
and go towards it secretly; let no one see your methods or your
progress. You have behaved like a child; be a man, be a hunter, lie in
wait for your quarry in the world of Paris, wait for your chance and
your game; you need not be particular nor mindful of your dignity, as
it is called; we are all of us slaves to something, to some failing of
our own or to necessity; but keep that law of laws--secrecy."
"Father, you frighten me," said Lucien; "this seems to me to be a
"And you are right," said the canon, "but it is no invention of mine.
All _parvenus_ reason in this way--the house of Austria and the house of
France alike. You have nothing, you say? The Medicis, Richelieu, and
Napoleon started from precisely your standpoint; but _they_, my child,
considered that their prospects were worth ingratitude, treachery, and
the most glaring inconsistencies. You must dare all things to gain all
things. Let us discuss it. Suppose that you sit down to a game of
_bouillotte_, do you begin to argue over the rules of the game? There
they are, you accept them."
"Come, now," thought Lucien, "he can play _bouillotte_."
"And what do you do?" continued the priest; "do you practise openness,
that fairest of virtues? Not merely do you hide your tactics, but you
do your best to make others believe that you are on the brink of ruin
as soon as you are sure of winning the game. In short, you dissemble,
do you not? You lie to win four or five louis d'or. What would you
think of a player so generous as to proclaim that he held a hand full
of trumps? Very well; the ambitious man who carries virtue's precepts
into the arena when his antagonists have left them behind is behaving
like a child. Old men of the world might say to him, as card-players
would say to the man who declines to take advantage of his trumps,
'Monsieur, you ought not to play at _bouillotte_.'
"Did you make the rules of the game of ambition? Why did I tell you to
be a match for society?--Because, in these days, society by degrees
has usurped so many rights over the individual, that the individual is
compelled to act in self-defence. There is no question of laws now,
their place has been taken by custom, which is to say grimacings, and
forms must always be observed."
Lucien started with surprise.
"Ah, my child!" said the priest, afraid that he had shocked Lucien's
innocence; "did you expect to find the Angel Gabriel in an Abbe loaded
with all the iniquities of the diplomacy and counter-diplomacy of two
kings? I am an agent between Ferdinand VII. and Louis XVIII.,
two--kings who owe their crowns to profound--er--combinations, let us
say. I believe in God, but I have a still greater belief in our Order,
and our Order has no belief save in temporal power. In order to
strengthen and consolidate the temporal power, our Order upholds the
Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church, which is to say, the doctrines
which dispose the world at large to obedience. We are the Templars of
modern times; we have a doctrine of our own. Like the Templars, we have
been dispersed, and for the same reasons; we are almost a match for the
world. If you will enlist as a soldier, I will be your captain. Obey
me as a wife obeys her husband, as a child obeys his mother, and I
will guarantee that you shall be Marquis de Rubempre in less than six
months; you shall marry into one of the proudest houses in the
Faubourg Saint-Germain, and some day you shall sit on a bench with
peers of France. What would you have been at this moment if I had not
amused you by my conversation?--An undiscovered corpse in a deep bed
of mud. Well and good, now for an effort of imagination----"
Lucien looked curiously at his protector.
"Here, in this caleche beside the Abbe Carlos Herrera, canon of
Toledo, secret envoy from His Majesty Ferdinand VII. to his Majesty
the King of France, bearer of a despatch thus worded it may be--'When
you have delivered me, hang all those whom I favor at this moment,
more especially the bearer of this despatch, for then he can tell no
tales'--well, beside this envoy sits a young man who has nothing in
common with that poet recently deceased. I have fished you out of the
water, I have brought you to life again, you belong to me as the
creature belongs to the creator, as the efrits of fairytales belong to
the genii, as the janissary to the Sultan, as the soul to the body. I
will sustain you in the way to power with a strong hand; and at the
same time I promise that your life shall be a continual course of
pleasure, honors, and enjoyment. You shall never want for money. You
shall shine, you shall go bravely in the eyes of the world; while I,
crouching in the mud, will lay a firm foundation for the brilliant
edifice of your fortunes. For I love power for its own sake. I shall
always rejoice in your enjoyment, forbidden to me. In short, my self
shall become your self! Well, if a day should come when this pact
between man and the tempter, this agreement between the child and the
diplomatist should no longer suit your ideas, you can still look about
for some quiet spot, like that pool of which you were speaking, and
drown yourself; you will only be as you are now, or a little more or a
little less wretched and dishonored."
"This is not like the Archbishop of Granada's homily," said Lucien as
they stopped to change horses.
"Call this concentrated education by what name you will, my son, for
you are my son, I adopt you henceforth, and shall make you my heir; it
is the Code of ambition. God's elect are few and far between. There is
no choice, you must bury yourself in the cloister (and there you very
often find the world again in miniature) or accept the Code."
"Perhaps it would be better not to be so wise," said Lucien, trying to
fathom this terrible priest.
"What!" rejoined the canon. "You begin to play before you know the
rules of the game, and now you throw it up just as your chances are
best, and you have a substantial godfather to back you! And you do not
even care to play a return match? You do not mean to say that you have
no mind to be even with those who drove you from Paris?"
Lucien quivered; the sounds that rang through every nerve seemed to
come from some bronze instrument, some Chinese gong.
"I am only a poor priest," returned his mentor, and a grim expression,
dreadful to behold, appeared for a moment on a face burned to a
copper-red by the sun of Spain, "I am only a poor priest; but if I had
been humiliated, vexed, tormented, betrayed, and sold as you have been
by the scoundrels of whom you have told me, I should do like an Arab
of the desert--I would devote myself body and soul to vengeance. I
might end by dangling from a gibbet, garroted, impaled, guillotined in
your French fashion, I should not care a rap; but they should not have
my head until I had crushed my enemies under my heel."
Lucien was silent; he had no wish to draw the priest out any further.
"Some are descended from Cain and some from Abel," the canon
concluded; "I myself am of mixed blood--Cain for my enemies, Abel for
my friends. Woe to him that shall awaken Cain! After all, you are a
Frenchman; I am a Spaniard, and, what is more, a canon."
"What a Tartar!" thought Lucien, scanning the protector thus sent to
him by Heaven.
There was no sign of the Jesuit, nor even of the ecclesiastic, about
the Abbe Carlos Herrera. His hands were large, he was thick-set and
broad-chested, evidently he possessed the strength of a Hercules; his
terrific expression was softened by benignity assumed at will; but a
complexion of impenetrable bronze inspired feelings of repulsion
rather than attachment for the man.
The strange diplomatist looked somewhat like a bishop, for he wore
powder on his long, thick hair, after the fashion of the Prince de
Talleyrand; a gold cross, hanging from a strip of blue ribbon with a
white border, indicated an ecclesiastical dignitary. The outlines
beneath the black silk stockings would not have disgraced an athlete.
The exquisite neatness of his clothes and person revealed an amount of
care which a simple priest, and, above all, a Spanish priest, does not
always take with his appearance. A three-cornered hat lay on the front
seat of the carriage, which bore the arms of Spain.
In spite of the sense of repulsion, the effect made by the man's
appearance was weakened by his manner, fierce and yet winning as it
was; he evidently laid himself out to please Lucien, and the winning
manner became almost coaxing. Yet Lucien noticed the smallest trifles
uneasily. He felt that the moment of decision had come; they had
reached the second stage beyond Ruffec, and the decision meant life or
The Spaniard's last words vibrated through many chords in his heart,
and, to the shame of both, it must be said that all that was worst in
Lucien responded to an appeal deliberately made to his evil impulses,
and the eyes that studied the poet's beautiful face had read him very
clearly. Lucien beheld Paris once more; in imagination he caught again
at the reins of power let fall from his unskilled hands, and he
avenged himself! The comparisons which he himself had drawn so lately
between the life of Paris and life in the provinces faded from his
mind with the more painful motives for suicide; he was about to return
to his natural sphere, and this time with a protector, a political
intriguer unscrupulous as Cromwell.
"I was alone, now there will be two of us," he told himself. And then
this priest had been more and more interested as he told of his sins
one after another. The man's charity had grown with the extent of his
misdoings; nothing had astonished this confessor. And yet, what could
be the motive of a mover in the intrigues of kings? Lucien at first
was fain to be content with the banal answer--the Spanish are a
generous race. The Spaniard is generous! even so the Italian is
jealous and a poisoner, the Frenchman fickle, the German frank, the
Jew ignoble, and the Englishman noble. Reverse these verdicts and you
shall arrive within a reasonable distance of the truth! The Jews have
monopolized the gold of the world; they compose _Robert the Devil_, act
_Phedre_, sing _William Tell_, give commissions for pictures and build
palaces, write _Reisebilder_ and wonderful verse; they are more powerful
than ever, their religion is accepted, they have lent money to the
Holy Father himself! As for Germany, a foreigner is often asked
whether he has a contract in writing, and this is in the smallest
matters, so tricky are they in their dealings. In France the spectacle
of national blunders has never lacked national applause for the past
fifty years; we continue to wear hats which no mortal can explain, and
every change of government is made on the express condition that
things shall remain exactly as they were before. England flaunts her
perfidy in the face of the world, and her abominable treachery is only
equaled by her greed. All the gold of two Indies passed through the
hands of Spain, and now she has nothing left. There is no country in
the world where poison is so little in request as in Italy, no country
where manners are easier or more gentle. As for the Spaniard, he has
traded largely on the reputation of the Moor.
As the Canon of Toledo returned to the caleche, he had spoken a word
to the post-boy. "Drive post-haste," he said, "and there will be three
francs for drink-money for you." Then, seeing that Lucien hesitated,
"Come! come!" he exclaimed, and Lucien took his place again, telling
himself that he meant to try the effect of the _argumentum ad hominem_.
"Father," he began, "after pouring out, with all the coolness in the
world, a series of maxims which the vulgar would consider profoundly
"And so they are," said the priest; "that is why Jesus Christ said
that it must needs be that offences come, my son; and that is why the
world displays such horror of offences."
"A man of your stamp will not be surprised by the question which I am
about to ask?"
"Indeed, my son, you do not know me," said Carlos Herrera. "Do you
suppose that I should engage a secretary unless I knew that I could
depend upon his principles sufficiently to be sure that he would not
rob me? I like you. You are as innocent in every way as a
twenty-year-old suicide. Your question?"
"Why do you take an interest in me? What price do you set on my
obedience? Why should you give me everything? What is your share?"
The Spaniard looked at Lucien, and a smile came over his face.
"Let us wait till we come to the next hill; we can walk up and talk
out in the open. The back seat of a traveling carriage is not the
place for confidences."
They traveled in silence for sometime; the rapidity of the movement
seemed to increase Lucien's moral intoxication.
"Here is a hill, father," he said at last awakening from a kind of
"Very well, we will walk." The Abbe called to the postilion to stop,
and the two sprang out upon the road.
"You child," said the Spaniard, taking Lucien by the arm, "have you
ever thought over Otway's _Venice Preserved_? Did you understand the
profound friendship between man and man which binds Pierre and Jaffier
each to each so closely that a woman is as nothing in comparison, and
all social conditions are changed?--Well, so much for the poet."
"So the canon knows something of the drama," thought Lucien. "Have you
read Voltaire?" he asked.
"I have done better," said the other; "I put his doctrine in
"You do not believe in God?"
"Come! it is I who am the atheist, is it?" the Abbe said, smiling.
"Let us come to practical matters, my child," he added, putting an arm
round Lucien's waist. "I am forty-six years old, I am the natural son
of a great lord; consequently, I have no family, and I have a heart.
But, learn this, carve it on that still so soft brain of yours--man
dreads to be alone. And of all kinds of isolation, inward isolation is
the most appalling. The early anchorite lived with God; he dwelt in
the spirit world, the most populous world of all. The miser lives in a
world of imagination and fruition; his whole life and all that he is,
even his sex, lies in his brain. A man's first thought, be he leper or
convict, hopelessly sick or degraded, is to find another with a like
fate to share it with him. He will exert the utmost that is in him,
every power, all his vital energy, to satisfy that craving; it is his
very life. But for that tyrannous longing, would Satan have found
companions? There is a whole poem yet to be written, a first part of
_Paradise Lost_; Milton's poem is only the apology for the revolt."
"It would be the Iliad of Corruption," said Lucien.
"Well, I am alone, I live alone. If I wear the priest's habit, I have
not a priest's heart. I like to devote myself to some one; that is my
weakness. That is my life, that is how I came to be a priest. I am not
afraid of ingratitude, and I am grateful. The Church is nothing to me;
it is an idea. I am devoted to the King of Spain, but you cannot give
affection to a King of Spain; he is my protector, he towers above me.
I want to love my creature, to mould him, fashion him to my use, and
love him as a father loves his child. I shall drive in your tilbury,
my boy, enjoy your success with women, and say to myself, 'This fine
young fellow, this Marquis de Rubempre, my creation whom I have
brought into this great world, is my very Self; his greatness is my
doing, he speaks or is silent with my voice, he consults me in
everything.' The Abbe de Vermont felt thus for Marie-Antoinette."
"He led her to the scaffold."
"He did not love the Queen," said the priest. "HE only loved the Abbe
"Must I leave desolation behind me?"
"I have money, you shall draw on me."
"I would do a great deal just now to rescue David Sechard," said
Lucien, in the tone of one who has given up all idea of suicide.
"Say but one word, my son, and by to-morrow morning he shall have
money enough to set him free."
"What! Would you give me twelve thousand francs?"
"Ah! child, do you not see that we are traveling on at the rate of
four leagues an hour? We shall dine at Poitiers before long, and
there, if you decide to sign the pact, to give me a single proof of
obedience, a great proof that I shall require, then the Bordeaux coach
shall carry fifteen thousand francs to your sister----"
"Where is the money?"
The Spaniard made no answer, and Lucien said within himself, "There I
had him; he was laughing at me."
In another moment they took their places. Neither of them said a word.
Silently the Abbe groped in the pocket of the coach, and drew out a
traveler's leather pouch with three divisions in it; thence he took a
hundred Portuguese moidores, bringing out his large hand filled with
gold three times.
"Father, I am yours," said Lucien, dazzled by the stream of gold.
"Child!" said the priest, and set a tender kiss on Lucien's forehead.
"There is twice as much still left in the bag, besides the money for
"And you are traveling alone!" cried Lucien.
"What is that?" asked the Spaniard. "I have more than a hundred
thousand crowns in drafts on Paris. A diplomatist without money is in
your position of this morning--a poet without a will of his own!"
As Lucien took his place in the caleche beside the so-called Spanish
diplomatist, Eve rose to give her child a draught of milk, found the
fatal letter in the cradle, and read it. A sudden cold chilled the
damps of morning slumber, dizziness came over her, she could not see.
She called aloud to Marion and Kolb.
"Has my brother gone out?" she asked, and Kolb answered at once with,
"Yes, Montame, pefore tay."
"Keep this that I am going to tell you a profound secret," said Eve.
"My brother has gone no doubt to make away with himself. Hurry, both
of you, make inquiries cautiously, and look along the river."
Eve was left alone in a dull stupor, dreadful to see. Her trouble was
at its height when Petit-Claud came in at seven o'clock to talk over
the steps to be taken in David's case. At such a time, any voice in
the world may speak, and we let them speak.
"Our poor, dear David is in prison, madame," so began Petit-Claud. "I
foresaw all along that it would end in this. I advised him at the time
to go into partnership with his competitors the Cointets; for while
your husband has simply the idea, they have the means of putting it
into practical shape. So as soon as I heard of his arrest yesterday
evening, what did I do but hurry away to find the Cointets and try to
obtain such concessions as might satisfy you. If you try to keep the
discovery to yourselves, you will continue to live a life of shifts
and chicanery. You must give in, or else when you are exhausted and at
the last gasp, you will end by making a bargain with some capitalist
or other, and perhaps to your own detriment, whereas to-day I hope to
see you make a good one with MM. Cointet. In this way you will save
yourselves the hardships and the misery of the inventor's duel with
the greed of the capitalist and the indifference of the public. Let us
see! If the MM. Cointet should pay your debts--if, over and above your
debts, they should pay you a further sum of money down, whether or no
the invention succeeds; while at the same time it is thoroughly
understood that if it succeeds a certain proportion of the profits of
working the patent shall be yours, would you not be doing very well?
--You yourself, madame, would then be the proprietor of the plant in
the printing-office. You would sell the business, no doubt; it is quite
worth twenty thousand francs. I will undertake to find you a buyer at
"Now if you draw up a deed of partnership with the MM. Cointet, and
receive fifteen thousand francs of capital; and if you invest it in
the funds at the present moment, it will bring you in an income of two
thousand francs. You can live on two thousand francs in the provinces.
Bear in mind, too, madame, that, given certain contingencies, there
will be yet further payments. I say 'contingencies,' because we must
lay our accounts with failure.
"Very well," continued Petit-Claud, "now these things I am sure that I
can obtain for you. First of all, David's release from prison;
secondly, fifteen thousand francs, a premium paid on his discovery,
whether the experiments fail or succeed; and lastly, a partnership
between David and the MM. Cointet, to be taken out after private
experiment made jointly. The deed of partnership for the working of
the patent should be drawn up on the following basis: The MM. Cointet
to bear all the expenses, the capital invested by David to be confined
to the expenses of procuring the patent, and his share of the profits
to be fixed at twenty-five per cent. You are a clear-headed and very
sensible woman, qualities which are not often found combined with
great beauty; think over these proposals, and you will see that they
are very favorable."
Poor Eve in her despair burst into tears. "Ah, sir! why did you not
come yesterday evening to tell me this? We should have been spared
disgrace and--and something far worse----"
"I was talking with the Cointets until midnight. They are behind
Metivier, as you must have suspected. But how has something worse than
our poor David's arrest happened since yesterday evening?"
"Here is the awful news that I found when I awoke this morning," she
said, holding out Lucien's letter. "You have just given me proof of
your interest in us; you are David's friend and Lucien's; I need not
ask you to keep the secret----"
"You need not feel the least anxiety," said Petit-Claud, as he
returned the letter. "Lucien will not take his life. Your husband's
arrest was his doing; he was obliged to find some excuse for leaving
you, and this exit of his looks to me like a piece of stage business."
The Cointets had gained their ends. They had tormented the inventor
and his family, until, worn out by the torture, the victims longed for
a respite, and then seized their opportunity and made the offer. Not
every inventor has the tenacity of the bull-dog that will perish with
his teeth fast set in his capture; the Cointets had shrewdly estimated
David's character. The tall Cointet looked upon David's imprisonment
as the first scene of the first act of the drama. The second act
opened with the proposal which Petit-Claud had just made. As
arch-schemer, the attorney looked upon Lucien's frantic folly as a bit
of unhoped-for luck, a chance that would finally decide the issues of
Eve was completely prostrated by this event; Petit-Claud saw this, and
meant to profit by her despair to win her confidence, for he saw at
last how much she influenced her husband. So far from discouraging
Eve, he tried to reassure her, and very cleverly diverted her thoughts
to the prison. She should persuade David to take the Cointets into
"David told me, madame, that he only wished for a fortune for your
sake and your brother's; but it should be clear to you by now that to
try to make a rich man of Lucien would be madness. The youngster would
run through three fortunes."
Eve's attitude told plainly enough that she had no more illusions left
with regard to her brother. The lawyer waited a little so that her
silence should have the weight of consent.
"Things being so, it is now a question of you and your child," he
said. "It rests with you to decide whether an income of two thousand
francs will be enough for your welfare, to say nothing of old
Sechard's property. Your father-in-law's income has amounted to seven
or eight thousand francs for a long time past, to say nothing of
capital lying out at interest. So, after all, you have a good prospect
before you. Why torment yourself?"
Petit-Claud left Eve Sechard to reflect upon this prospect. The whole
scheme had been drawn up with no little skill by the tall Cointet the
"Give them the glimpse of a possibility of money in hand," the lynx
had said, when Petit-Claud brought the news of the arrest; "once let
them grow accustomed to that idea, and they are ours; we will drive a
bargain, and little by little we shall bring them down to our price
for the secret."
The argument of the second act of the commercial drama was in a manner
summed up in that speech.
Mme. Sechard, heartbroken and full of dread for her brother's fate,
dressed and came downstairs. An agony of terror seized her when she
thought that she must cross Angouleme alone on the way to the prison.
Petit-Claud gave little thought to his fair client's distress. When he
came back to offer his arm, it was from a tolerably Machiavellian
motive; but Eve gave him credit for delicate consideration, and he
allowed her to thank him for it. The little attention, at such a
moment, from so hard a man, modified Mme. Sechard's previous opinion
"I am taking you round by the longest way," he said, "and we shall
"For the first time in my life, monsieur, I feel that I have no right
to hold up my head before other people; I had a sharp lesson given to
me last night----"
"It will be the first and the last."
"Oh! I certainly shall not stay in the town now----"
"Let me know if your husband consents to the proposals that are all
but definitely offered by the Cointets," said Petit-Claud at the gate
of the prison; "I will come at once with an order for David's release
from Cachan, and in all likelihood he will not go back again to
This suggestion, made on the very threshold of the jail, was a piece
of cunning strategy--a _combinazione_, as the Italians call an
indefinable mixture of treachery and truth, a cunningly planned fraud
which does not break the letter of the law, or a piece of deft
trickery for which there is no legal remedy. St. Bartholomew's for
instance, was a political combination.
Imprisonment for debt, for reasons previously explained, is such a
rare occurrence in the provinces, that there is no house of detention,
and a debtor is perforce imprisoned with the accused, convicted, and
condemned--the three graduated subdivisions of the class generically
styled criminal. David was put for the time being in a cell on the
ground floor from which some prisoner had probably been recently
discharged at the end of his time. Once inscribed on the jailer's
register, with the amount allowed by the law for a prisoner's board
for one month, David confronted a big, stout man, more powerful than
the King himself in a prisoner's eyes; this was the jailer.
An instance of a thin jailer is unknown in the provinces. The place,
to begin with, is almost a sinecure, and a jailer is a kind of
innkeeper who pays no rent and lives very well, while his prisoners
fare very ill; for, like an innkeeper, he gives them rooms according
to their payments. He knew David by name, and what was more, knew
about David's father, and thought that he might venture to let the
printer have a good room on credit for one night; for David was
The prison of Angouleme was built in the Middle Ages, and has no more
changed than the old cathedral. It is built against the old _presidial_,
or ancient court of appeal, and people still call it the _maison de
justice_. It boasts the conventional prison gateway, the solid-looking,
nail-studded door, the low, worn archway which the better deserves the
qualification "cyclopean," because the jailer's peephole or _judas_
looks out like a single eye from the front of the building. As you
enter you find yourself in a corridor which runs across the entire
width of the building, with a row of doors of cells that give upon the
prison yard and are lighted by high windows covered with a square iron
grating. The jailer's house is separated from these cells by an
archway in the middle, through which you catch a glimpse of the iron
gate of the prison yard. The jailer installed David in a cell next to
the archway, thinking that he would like to have a man of David's
stamp as a near neighbor for the sake of company.
"This is the best room," he said. David was struck dumb with amazement
at the sight of it.
The stone walls were tolerably damp. The windows, set high in the
wall, were heavily barred; the stone-paved floor was cold as ice, and
from the corridor outside came the sound of the measured tramp of the
warder, monotonous as waves on the beach. "You are a prisoner! you are
watched and guarded!" said the footsteps at every moment of every
hour. All these small things together produce a prodigious effect upon
the minds of honest folk. David saw that the bed was execrable, but
the first night in a prison is full of violent agitation, and only on
the second night does the prisoner notice that his couch is hard. The
jailer was graciously disposed; he naturally suggested that his
prisoner should walk in the yard until nightfall.
David's hour of anguish only began when he was locked into his cell
for the night. Lights are not allowed in the cells. A prisoner
detained on arrest used to be subjected to rules devised for
malefactors, unless he brought a special exemption signed by the
public prosecutor. The jailer certainly might allow David to sit by
his fire, but the prisoner must go back to his cell at locking-up
time. Poor David learned the horrors of prison life by experience, the
rough coarseness of the treatment revolted him. Yet a revulsion,
familiar to those who live by thought, passed over him. He detached
himself from his loneliness, and found a way of escape in a poet's
At last the unhappy man's thoughts turned to his own affairs. The
stimulating influence of a prison upon conscience and self-scrutiny is
immense. David asked himself whether he had done his duty as the head
of a family. What despairing grief his wife must feel at this moment!
Why had he not done as Marion had said, and earned money enough to
pursue his investigations at leisure?
"How can I stay in Angouleme after such a disgrace? And when I come
out of prison, what will become of us? Where shall we go?"
Doubts as to his process began to occur to him, and he passed through
an agony which none save inventors can understand. Going from doubt to
doubt, David began to see his real position more clearly; and to
himself he said, as the Cointets had said to old Sechard, as
Petit-Claud had just said to Eve, "Suppose that all should go well,
what does it amount to in practice? The first thing to be done is to
take out a patent, and money is needed for that--and experiments must
be tried on a large scale in a paper-mill, which means that the
discovery must pass into other hands. Oh! Petit-Claud was right!"
A very vivid light sometimes dawns in the darkest prison.
"Pshaw!" said David; "I shall see Petit-Claud to-morrow no doubt," and
he turned and slept on the filthy mattress covered with coarse brown
So when Eve unconsciously played into the hands of the enemy that
morning, she found her husband more than ready to listen to proposals.
She put her arms about him and kissed him, and sat down on the edge of
the bed (for there was but one chair of the poorest and commonest kind
in the cell). Her eyes fell on the unsightly pail in a corner, and
over the walls covered with inscriptions left by David's predecessors,
and tears filled the eyes that were red with weeping. She had sobbed
long and very bitterly, but the sight of her husband in a felon's cell
drew fresh tears.
"And the desire of fame may lead one to this!" she cried. "Oh! my
angel, give up your career. Let us walk together along the beaten
track; we will not try to make haste to be rich, David. . . . I need
very little to be very happy, especially now, after all that we have
been through. . . . And if you only knew--the disgrace of arrest is
not the worst. . . . Look."
She held out Lucien's letter, and when David had read it, she tried to
comfort him by repeating Petit-Claud's bitter comment.
"If Lucien has taken his life, the thing is done by now," said David;
"if he has not made away with himself by this time, he will not kill
himself. As he himself says, 'his courage cannot last longer than a
"But the suspense!" cried Eve, forgiving almost everything at the
thought of death. Then she told her husband of the proposals which
Petit-Claud professed to have received from the Cointets. David
accepted them at once with manifest pleasure.
"We shall have enough to live upon in a village near L'Houmeau, where
the Cointets' paper-mill stands. I want nothing now but a quiet life,"
said David. "If Lucien has punished himself by death, we can wait so
long as father lives; and if Lucien is still living, poor fellow, he
will learn to adapt himself to our narrow ways. The Cointets certainly
will make money by my discovery; but, after all, what am I compared
with our country? One man in it, that is all; and if the whole country
is benefited, I shall be content. There! dear Eve, neither you nor I
were meant to be successful in business. We do not care enough about
making a profit; we have not the dogged objection to parting with our
money, even when it is legally owing, which is a kind of virtue of the
counting-house, for these two sorts of avarice are called prudence and
a faculty of business."
Eve felt overjoyed; she and her husband held the same views, and this
is one of the sweetest flowers of love; for two human beings who love
each other may not be of the same mind, nor take the same view of
their interests. She wrote to Petit-Claud telling him that they both
consented to the general scheme, and asked him to release David. Then
she begged the jailer to deliver the message.
Ten minutes later Petit-Claud entered the dismal place. "Go home,
madame," he said, addressing Eve, "we will follow you.--Well, my dear
friend" (turning to David), "so you allowed them to catch you! Why did
you come out? How came you to make such a mistake?"
"Eh! how could I do otherwise? Look at this letter that Lucien wrote."
David held out a sheet of paper. It was Cerizet's forged letter.
Petit-Claud read it, looked at it, fingered the paper as he talked,
and still taking, presently, as if through absence of mind, folded it
up and put it in his pocket. Then he linked his arm in David's, and
they went out together, the order for release having come during the
It was like heaven to David to be at home again. He cried like a child
when he took little Lucien in his arms and looked round his room after
three weeks of imprisonment, and the disgrace, according to provincial
notions, of the last few hours. Kolb and Marion had come back. Marion
had heard in L'Houmeau that Lucien had been seen walking along on the
Paris road, somewhere beyond Marsac. Some country folk, coming in to
market, had noticed his fine clothes. Kolb, therefore, had set out on
horseback along the highroad, and heard at last at Mansle that Lucien
was traveling post in a caleche--M. Marron had recognized him as he
"What did I tell you?" said Petit-Claud. "That fellow is not a poet;
he is a romance in heaven knows how many chapters."
"Traveling post!" repeated Eve. "Where can he be going this time?"
"Now go to see the Cointets, they are expecting you," said
Petit-Claud, turning to David.
"Ah, monsieur!" cried the beautiful Eve, "pray do your best for our
interests; our whole future lies in your hands."
"If you prefer it, madame, the conference can be held here. I will
leave David with you. The Cointets will come this evening, and you
shall see if I can defend your interests."
"Ah! monsieur, I should be very glad," said Eve.
"Very well," said Petit-Claud; "this evening, at seven o'clock."
"Thank you," said Eve; and from her tone and glance Petit-Claud knew
that he had made great progress in his fair client's confidence.
"You have nothing to fear; you see I was right," he added. "Your
brother is a hundred miles away from suicide, and when all comes to
all, perhaps you will have a little fortune this evening. A _bona-fide_
purchaser for the business has turned up."
"If that is the case," said Eve, "why should we not wait awhile before
binding ourselves to the Cointets?"
Petit-Claud saw the danger. "You are forgetting, madame," he said,
"that you cannot sell your business until you have paid M. Metivier;
for a distress warrant has been issued."
As soon as Petit-Claud reached home he sent for Cerizet, and when the
printer's foreman appeared, drew him into the embrasure of the window.
"To-morrow evening," he said, "you will be the proprietor of the
Sechards' printing-office, and then there are those behind you who
have influence enough to transfer the license;" (then in a lowered
voice), "but you have no mind to end in the hulks, I suppose?"
"The hulks! What's that? What's that?"
"Your letter to David was a forgery. It is in my possession. What
would Henriette say in a court of law? I do not want to ruin you," he
added hastily, seeing how white Cerizet's face grew.
"You want something more of me?" cried Cerizet.
"Well, here it is," said Petit-Claud. "Follow me carefully. You will
be a master printer in Angouleme in two months' time . . . but you
will not have paid for your business--you will not pay for it in ten
years. You will work a long while yet for those that have lent you the
money, and you will be the cat's-paw of the Liberal party. . . . Now
_I_ shall draw up your agreement with Gannerac, and I can draw it up
in such a way that you will have the business in your own hands one of
these days. But--if the Liberals start a paper, if you bring it out,
and if I am deputy public prosecutor, then you will come to an
understanding with the Cointets and publish articles of such a nature
that they will have the paper suppressed. . . . The Cointets will pay
you handsomely for that service. . . . I know, of course, that you
will be a hero, a victim of persecution; you will be a personage among
the Liberals--a Sergeant Mercier, a Paul-Louis Courier, a Manual on a
small scale. I will take care that they leave you your license. In
fact, on the day when the newspaper is suppressed, I will burn this
letter before your eyes. . . . Your fortune will not cost you much."
A working man has the haziest notions as to the law with regard to
forgery; and Cerizet, who beheld himself already in the dock, breathed
"In three years' time," continued Petit-Claud, "I shall be public
prosecutor in Angouleme. You may have need of me some day; bear that
"It's agreed," said Cerizet, "but you don't know me. Burn that letter
now and trust to my gratitude."
Petit-Claud looked Cerizet in the face. It was a duel in which one
man's gaze is a scalpel with which he essays to probe the soul of
another, and the eyes of that other are a theatre, as it were, to
which all his virtue is summoned for display.
Petit-Claud did not utter a word. He lighted a taper and burned the
letter. "He has his way to make," he said to himself.
"Here is one that will go through fire and water for you," said
David awaited the interview with the Cointets with a vague feeling of
uneasiness; not, however, on account of the proposed partnership, nor
for his own interests--he felt nervous as to their opinion of his
work. He was in something the same position as a dramatic author
before his judges. The inventor's pride in the discovery so nearly
completed left no room for any other feelings.
At seven o'clock that evening, while Mme. du Chatelet, pleading a sick
headache, had gone to her room in her unhappiness over the rumors of
Lucien's departure; while M. de Comte, left to himself, was
entertaining his guests at dinner--the tall Cointet and his stout
brother, accompanied by Petit-Claud, opened negotiations with the
competitor who had delivered himself up, bound hand and foot.
A difficulty awaited them at the outset. How was it possible to draw
up a deed of partnership unless they knew David's secret? And if David
divulged his secret, he would be at the mercy of the Cointets.
Petit-Claud arranged that the deed of partnership should be the first
drawn up. Thereupon the tall Cointet asked to see some specimens of
David's work, and David brought out the last sheet that he had made,
guaranteeing the price of production.
"Well," said Petit-Claud, "there you have the basis of the agreement
ready made. You can go into partnership on the strength of those
samples, inserting a clause to protect yourselves in case the
conditions of the patent are not fulfilled in the manufacturing
"It is one thing to make samples of paper on a small scale in your own
room with a small mould, monsieur, and another to turn out a
quantity," said the tall Cointet, addressing David. "Quite another
thing, as you may judge from this single fact. We manufacture colored
papers. We buy parcels of coloring absolutely identical. Every cake of
indigo used for 'blueing' our post-demy is taken from a batch supplied
by the same maker. Well, we have never yet been able to obtain two
batches of precisely the same shade. There are variations in the
material which we cannot detect. The quantity and the quality of the
pulp modify every question at once. Suppose that you have in a caldron
a quantity of ingredients of some kind (I don't ask to know what they
are), you can do as you like with them, the treatment can be uniformly
applied, you can manipulate, knead, and pestle the mass at your
pleasure until you have a homogeneous substance. But who will
guarantee that it will be the same with a batch of five hundred reams,
and that your plan will succeed in bulk?"
David, Eve, and Petit-Claud looked at one another; their eyes said
"Take a somewhat similar case," continued the tall Cointet after a
pause. "You cut two or three trusses of meadow hay, and store it in a
loft before 'the heat is out of the grass,' as the peasants say; the
hay ferments, but no harm comes of it. You follow up your experiment
by storing a couple of thousand trusses in a wooden barn--and, of
course, the hay smoulders, and the barn blazes up like a lighted
match. You are an educated man," continued Cointet; "you can see the
application for yourself. So far, you have only cut your two trusses
of hay; we are afraid of setting fire to our paper-mill by bringing in
a couple of thousand trusses. In other words, we may spoil more than
one batch, make heavy losses, and find ourselves none the better for
laying out a good deal of money."
David was completely floored by this reasoning. Practical wisdom spoke
in matter-of-fact language to theory, whose word is always for the
"Devil fetch me, if I'll sign such a deed of partnership!" the stout
Cointet cried bluntly. "You may throw away your money if you like,
Boniface; as for me, I shall keep mine. Here is my offer--to pay M.
Sechard's debts _and_ six thousand francs, and another three thousand
francs in bills at twelve and fifteen months," he added. "That will be
quite enough risk to run.--We have a balance of twelve thousand francs
against Metivier. That will make fifteen thousand francs.--That is all
that I would pay for the secret if I were going to exploit it for
myself. So this is the great discovery that you were talking about,
Boniface! Many thanks! I thought you had more sense. No, you can't
call this business."
"The question for you," said Petit-Claud, undismayed by the explosion,
"resolves itself into this: 'Do you care to risk twenty thousand
francs to buy a secret that may make rich men of you?' Why, the risk
usually is in proportion to the profit, gentlemen. You stake twenty
thousand francs on your luck. A gambler puts down a louis at roulette
for a chance of winning thirty-six, but he knows that the louis is
lost. Do the same."
"I must have time to think it over," said the stout Cointet; "I am not
so clever as my brother. I am a plain, straight-forward sort of chap,
that only knows one thing--how to print prayer-books at twenty sous
and sell them for two francs. Where I see an invention that has only
been tried once, I see ruin. You succeed with the first batch, you
spoil the next, you go on, and you are drawn in; for once put an arm
into that machinery, the rest of you follows," and he related an
anecdote very much to the point--how a Bordeaux merchant had ruined
himself by following a scientific man's advice, and trying to bring
the Landes into cultivation; and followed up the tale with
half-a-dozen similar instances of agricultural and commercial failures
nearer home in the departments of the Charente and Dordogne. He waxed
warm over his recitals. He would not listen to another word.
Petit-Claud's demurs, so far from soothing the stout Cointet, appeared
to irritate him.
"I would rather give more for a certainty, if I made only a small
profit on it," he said, looking at his brother. "It is my opinion that
things have gone far enough for business," he concluded.
"Still you came here for something, didn't you?" asked Petit-Claud.
"What is your offer?"
"I offer to release M. Sechard, and, if his plan succeeds, to give him
thirty per cent of the profits," the stout Cointet answered briskly.
"But, monsieur," objected Eve, "how should we live while the
experiments were being made? My husband has endured the disgrace of
imprisonment already; he may as well go back to prison, it makes no
difference now, and we will pay our debts ourselves----"
Petit-Claud laid a finger on his lips in warning.
"You are unreasonable," said he, addressing the brothers. "You have
seen the paper; M. Sechard's father told you that he had shut his son
up, and that he had made capital paper in a single night from
materials that must have cost a mere nothing. You are here to make an
offer. Are you purchasers, yes or no?"
"Stay," said the tall Cointet, "whether my brother is willing or no, I
will risk this much myself. I will pay M. Sechard's debts, I will pay
six thousand francs over and above the debts, and M. Sechard shall
have thirty per cent of the profits. But mind this--if in the space of
one year he fails to carry out the undertakings which he himself will
make in the deed of partnership, he must return the six thousand
francs, and we shall keep the patent and extricate ourselves as best
"Are you sure of yourself?" asked Petit-Claud, taking David aside.
"Yes," said David. He was deceived by the tactics of the brothers, and
afraid lest the stout Cointet should break off the negotiations on
which his future depended.
"Very well, I will draft the deed," said Petit-Claud, addressing the
rest of the party. "Each of you shall have a copy to-night, and you
will have all to-morrow morning in which to think it over. To-morrow
afternoon at four o'clock, when the court rises, you will sign the
agreement. You, gentlemen, will withdraw Metivier's suit, and I, for
my part, will write to stop proceedings in the Court-Royal; we will
give notice on either side that the affair has been settled out of
David Sechard's undertakings were thus worded in the deed:--
"M. David Sechard, printer of Angouleme, affirming that he has
discovered a method of sizing paper-pulp in the vat, and also a
method of affecting a reduction of fifty per cent in the price of
all kinds of manufactured papers, by introducing certain vegetable
substances into the pulp, either by intermixture of such
substances with the rags already in use, or by employing them
solely without the addition of rags: a partnership for working the
patent to be presently applied for is entered upon by M. David
Sechard and the firm of Cointet Brothers, subject to the following
conditional clauses and stipulations."
One of the clauses so drafted that David Sechard forfeited all his
rights if he failed to fulfil his engagements within the year; the
tall Cointet was particularly careful to insert that clause, and David
Sechard allowed it to pass.
When Petit-Claud appeared with a copy of the agreement next morning at
half-past seven o'clock, he brought news for David and his wife.
Cerizet offered twenty-two thousand francs for the business. The whole
affair could be signed and settled in the course of the evening. "But
if the Cointets knew about it," he added, "they would be quite capable
of refusing to sign the deed of partnership, of harassing you, and
selling you up."
"Are you sure of payment?" asked Eve. She had thought it hopeless to
try to sell the business; and now, to her astonishment, a bargain
which would have been their salvation three months ago was concluded
in this summary fashion.
"The money has been deposited with me," he answered succinctly.
"Why, here is magic at work!" said David, and he asked Petit-Claud for
an explanation of this piece of luck.
"No," said Petit-Claud, "it is very simple. The merchants in L'Houmeau
want a newspaper."
"But I am bound not to publish a paper," said David.
"Yes, you are bound, but is your successor?--However it is," he
continued, "do not trouble yourself at all; sell the business, pocket
the proceeds, and leave Cerizet to find his way through the conditions
of the sale--he can take care of himself."
"Yes," said Eve.
"And if it turns out that you may not print a newspaper in Angouleme,"
said Petit-Claud, "those who are finding the capital for Cerizet will
bring out the paper in L'Houmeau."
The prospect of twenty-two thousand francs, of want now at end,
dazzled Eve. The partnership and its hopes took a second place. And,
therefore, M. and Mme. Sechard gave way on a final point of dispute.
The tall Cointet insisted that the patent should be taken out in the
name of any one of the partners. What difference could it make? The
stout Cointet said the last word.
"He is finding the money for the patent; he is bearing the expenses of
the journey--another two thousand francs over and above the rest of
the expenses. He must take it out in his own name, or we will not stir
in the matter."
The lynx gained a victory at all points. The deed of partnership was
signed that afternoon at half-past four.
The tall Cointet politely gave Mme. Sechard a dozen thread-pattern
forks and spoons and a beautiful Ternaux shawl, by way of pin-money,
said he, and to efface any unpleasant impression made in the heat of
discussion. The copies of the draft had scarcely been made out, Cachan
had barely had time to send the documents to Petit-Claud, together
with the three unlucky forged bills, when the Sechards heard a
deafening rumble in the street, a dray from the Messageries stopped
before the door, and Kolb's voice made the staircase ring again.
"Montame! montame! vifteen tausend vrancs, vrom Boidiers" (Poitiers).
"Goot money! vrom Monziere Lucien!"
"Fifteen thousand francs!" cried Eve, throwing up her arms.
"Yes, madame," said the carman in the doorway, "fifteen thousand
francs, brought by the Bordeaux coach, and they didn't want any more
neither! I have two men downstairs bringing up the bags. M. Lucien
Chardon de Rubempre is the sender. I have brought up a little leather
bag for you, containing five hundred francs in gold, and a letter it's
Eve thought that she must be dreaming as she read:--
"MY DEAR SISTER,--Here are fifteen thousand francs. Instead of
taking my life, I have sold it. I am no longer my own; I am only
the secretary of a Spanish diplomatist; I am his creature. A new
and dreadful life is beginning for me. Perhaps I should have done
better to drown myself.
"Good-bye. David will be released, and with the four thousand
francs he can buy a little paper-mill, no doubt, and make his
fortune. Forget me, all of you. This is the wish of your unhappy
"It is decreed that my poor boy should be unlucky in everything, and
even when he does well, as he said himself," said Mme. Chardon, as she
watched the men piling up the bags.
"We have had a narrow escape!" exclaimed the tall Cointet, when he was
once more in the Place du Murier. "An hour later the glitter of the
silver would have thrown a new light on the deed of partnership. Our
man would have fought shy of it. We have his promise now, and in three
months' time we shall know what to do."
That very evening, at seven o'clock, Cerizet bought the business, and
the money was paid over, the purchaser undertaking to pay rent for the
last quarter. The next day Eve sent forty thousand francs to the
Receiver-General, and bought two thousand five hundred francs of
_rentes_ in her husband's name. Then she wrote to her father-in-law and
asked him to find a small farm, worth about ten thousand francs, for
her near Marsac. She meant to invest her own fortune in this way.
The tall Cointet's plot was formidably simple. From the very first he
considered that the plan of sizing the pulp in the vat was
impracticable. The real secret of fortune lay in the composition of
the pulp, in the cheap vegetable fibre as a substitute for rags. He
made up his mind, therefore, to lay immense stress on the secondary
problem of sizing the pulp, and to pass over the discovery of cheap
raw material, and for the following reasons:
The Angouleme paper-mills manufacture paper for stationers. Notepaper,
foolscap, crown, and post-demy are all necessarily sized; and these
papers have been the pride of the Angouleme mills for a long while
past, stationery being the specialty of the Charente. This fact gave
color to the Cointet's urgency upon the point of sizing in the
pulping-trough; but, as a matter of fact, they cared nothing for this
part of David's researches. The demand for writing-paper is
exceedingly small compared with the almost unlimited demand for
unsized paper for printers. As Boniface Cointet traveled to Paris to
take out the patent in his own name, he was projecting plans that were
like to work a revolution in his paper-mill. Arrived in Paris, he took
up his quarters with Metivier, and gave his instructions to his agent.
Metivier was to call upon the proprietors of newspapers, and offer to
deliver paper at prices below those quoted by all other houses; he
could guarantee in each case that the paper should be a better color,
and in every way superior to the best kinds hitherto in use.
Newspapers are always supplied by contract; there would be time before
the present contracts expired to complete all the subterranean
operations with buyers, and to obtain a monopoly of the trade. Cointet
calculated that he could rid himself of Sechard while Metivier was
taking orders from the principal Paris newspapers, which even then
consumed two hundred reams daily. Cointet naturally offered Metivier a
large commission on the contracts, for he wished to secure a clever
representative on the spot, and to waste no time in traveling to and
fro. And in this manner the fortunes of the firm of Metivier, one of
the largest houses in the paper trade, were founded. The tall Cointet
went back to Angouleme to be present at Petit-Claud's wedding, with a
mind at rest as to the future.
Petit-Claud had sold his professional connection, and was only waiting
for M. Milaud's promotion to take the public prosecutor's place, which
had been promised to him by the Comtesse du Chatelet. The public
prosecutor's second deputy was appointed first deputy to the Court of
Limoges, the Keeper of the Seals sent a man of his own to Angouleme,
and the post of first deputy was kept vacant for a couple of months.
The interval was Petit-Claud's honeymoon.
While Boniface Cointet was in Paris, David made a first experimental
batch of unsized paper far superior to that in common use for
newspapers. He followed it up with a second batch of magnificent
vellum paper for fine printing, and this the Cointets used for a new
edition of their diocesan prayer-book. The material had been privately
prepared by David himself; he would have no helpers but Kolb and
When Boniface came back the whole affair wore a different aspect; he
looked at the samples, and was fairly satisfied.
"My good friend," he said, "the whole trade of Angouleme is in crown
paper. We must make the best possible crown paper at half the present
price; that is the first and foremost question for us."
Then David tried to size the pulp for the desired paper, and the
result was a harsh surface with grains of size distributed all over
it. On the day when the experiment was concluded and David held the
sheets in his hand, he went away to find a spot where he could be
alone and swallow his bitter disappointment. But Boniface Cointet went
in search of him and comforted him. Boniface was delightfully amiable.
"Do not lose heart," he said; "go on! I am a good fellow, I understand
you; I will stand by you to the end."
"Really," David said to his wife at dinner, "we are with good people;
I should not have expected that the tall Cointet would be so
generous." And he repeated his conversation with his wily partner.
Three months were spent in experiments. David slept at the mill; he
noted the effects of various preparations upon the pulp. At one time
he attributed his non-success to an admixture of rag-pulp with his own
ingredients, and made a batch entirely composed of the new material;
at another, he endeavored to size pulp made exclusively from rags;
persevering in his experiments under the eyes of the tall Cointet,
whom he had ceased to mistrust, until he had tried every possible
combination of pulp and size. David lived in the paper-mill for the
first six months of 1823--if it can be called living, to leave food
untasted, and go in neglect of person and dress. He wrestled so
desperately with the difficulties, that anybody but the Cointets would
have seen the sublimity of the struggle, for the brave fellow was not
thinking of his own interests. The moment had come when he cared for
nothing but the victory. With marvelous sagacity he watched the
unaccountable freaks of the semi-artificial substances called into
existence by man for ends of his own; substances in which nature had
been tamed, as it were, and her tacit resistance overcome; and from
these observations drew great conclusions; finding, as he did, that
such creations can only be obtained by following the laws of the more
remote affinities of things, of "a second nature," as he called it, in
Towards the end of August he succeeded to some extent in sizing the
paper pulp in the vat; the result being a kind of paper identical with
a make in use for printers' proofs at the present day--a kind of paper
that cannot be depended upon, for the sizing itself is not always
certain. This was a great result, considering the condition of the
paper trade in 1823, and David hoped to solve the final difficulties
of the problem, but--it had cost ten thousand francs.
Singular rumors were current at this time in Angouleme and L'Houmeau.
It was said that David Sechard was ruining the firm of Cointet
Brothers. Experiments had eaten up twenty thousand francs; and the
result, said gossip, was wretchedly bad paper. Other manufacturers
took fright at this, hugged themselves on their old-fashioned methods,
and, being jealous of the Cointets, spread rumors of the approaching
fall of that ambitious house. As for the tall Cointet, he set up the
new machinery for making lengths of paper in a ribbon, and allowed
people to believe that he was buying plant for David's experiments.
Then the cunning Cointet used David's formula for pulp, while urging
his partner to give his whole attention to the sizing process; and
thousands of reams of the new paper were despatched to Metivier in
When September arrived, the tall Cointet took David aside, and,
learning that the latter meditated a crowning experiment, dissuaded
him from further attempts.
"Go to Marsac, my dear David, see your wife, and take a rest after
your labors; we don't want to ruin ourselves," said Cointet in the
friendliest way. "This great triumph of yours, after all, is only a
starting-point. We shall wait now for awhile before trying any new
experiments. To be fair! see what has come of them. We are not merely
paper-makers, we are printers besides and bankers, and people say that
you are ruining us."
David Sechard's gesture of protest on behalf of his good faith was
sublime in its simplicity.
"Not that fifty thousand francs thrown into the Charente would ruin
us," said Cointet, in reply to mute protest, "but we do not wish to be
obliged to pay cash for everything in consequence of slanders that
shake our credit; _that_ would bring us to a standstill. We have reached
the term fixed by our agreement, and we are bound on either side to
think over our position."
"He is right," thought David. He had forgotten the routine work of the
business, thoroughly absorbed as he had been in experiments on a large
David went to Marsac. For the past six months he had gone over on
Saturday evening, returning again to L'Houmeau on Tuesday morning.
Eve, after much counsel from her father-in-law, had bought a house
called the Verberie, with three acres of land and a croft planted with
vines, which lay like a wedge in the old man's vineyard. Here, with
her mother and Marion, she lived a very frugal life, for five thousand
francs of the purchase money still remained unpaid. It was a charming
little domain, the prettiest bit of property in Marsac. The house,
with a garden before it and a yard at the back, was built of white
tufa ornamented with carvings, cut without great expense in that
easily wrought stone, and roofed with slate. The pretty furniture from
the house in Angouleme looked prettier still at Marsac, for there was
not the slightest attempt at comfort or luxury in the country in those
days. A row of orange-trees, pomegranates, and rare plants stood
before the house on the side of the garden, set there by the last
owner, an old general who died under M. Marron's hands.
David was enjoying his holiday sitting under an orange-tree with his
wife, and father, and little Lucien, when the bailiff from Mansle
appeared. Cointet Brothers gave their partner formal notice to appoint
an arbitrator to settle disputes, in accordance with a clause in the
agreement. The Cointets demanded that the six thousand francs should
be refunded, and the patent surrendered in consideration of the
enormous outlay made to no purpose.
"People say that you are ruining them," said old Sechard. "Well, well,
of all that you have done, that is the one thing that I am glad to
At nine o'clock the next morning Eve and David stood in Petit-Claud's
waiting-room. The little lawyer was the guardian of the widow and
orphan by virtue of his office, and it seemed to them that they could
take no other advice. Petit-Claud was delighted to see his clients,
and insisted that M. and Mme. Sechard should do him the pleasure of
breakfasting with him.
"Do the Cointets want six thousand francs of you?" he asked, smiling.
"How much is still owing of the purchase-money of the Verberie?"
"Five thousand francs, monsieur," said Eve, "but I have two
"Keep your money," Petit-Claud broke in. "Let us see: five
thousand--why, you want quite another ten thousand francs to settle
yourselves comfortably down yonder. Very good, in two hours' time the
Cointets shall bring you fifteen thousand francs----"
Eve started with surprise.
"If you will renounce all claims to the profits under the deed of
partnership, and come to an amicable settlement," said Petit-Claud.
"Does that suit you?"
"Will it really be lawfully ours?" asked Eve.
"Very much so," said the lawyer, smiling. "The Cointets have worked
you trouble enough; I should like to make an end of their pretensions.
Listen to me; I am a magistrate now, and it is my duty to tell you the
truth. Very good. The Cointets are playing you false at this moment,
but you are in their hands. If you accept battle, you might possibly
gain the lawsuit which they will bring. Do you wish to be where you
are now after ten years of litigation? Experts' fees and expenses of
arbitration will be multiplied, the most contradictory opinions will
be given, and you must take your chance. And," he added, smiling
again, "there is no attorney here that can defend you, so far as I
see. My successor has not much ability. There, a bad compromise is
better than a successful lawsuit."
"Any arrangement that will give us a quiet life will do for me," said
Petit-Claud called to his servant.
"Paul! go and ask M. Segaud, my successor, to come here.--He shall go
to see the Cointets while we breakfast" said Petit-Claud, addressing
his former clients, "and in a few hours' time you will be on your way
home to Marsac, ruined, but with minds at rest. Ten thousand francs
will bring you in another five hundred francs of income, and you will
live comfortably on your bit of property."
Two hours later, as Petit-Claud had prophesied, Maitre Segaud came
back with an agreement duly drawn up and signed by the Cointets, and
fifteen notes each for a thousand francs.
"We are much indebted to you," said Sechard, turning to Petit-Claud.
"Why, I have just this moment ruined you," said Petit-Claud, looking
at his astonished former clients. "I tell you again, I have ruined
you, as you will see as time goes on; but I know you, you would rather
be ruined than wait for a fortune which perhaps might come too late."
"We are not mercenary, monsieur," said Madame Eve. "We thank you for
giving us the means of happiness; we shall always feel grateful to
"Great heavens! don't call down blessings on _me_!" cried Petit-Claud.
"It fills me with remorse; but to-day, I think, I have made full
reparation. If I am a magistrate, it is entirely owing to you; and if
anybody is to feel grateful, it is I. Good-bye."
As time went on, Kolb changed his opinion of Sechard senior; and as
for the old man, he took a liking to Kolb when he found that, like
himself, the Alsacien could neither write nor read a word, and that it
was easy to make him tipsy. The old "bear" imparted his ideas on vine
culture and the sale of a vintage to the ex-cuirassier, and trained
him with a view to leaving a man with a head on his shoulders to look
after his children when he should be gone; for he grew childish at the
last, and great were his fears as to the fate of his property. He had
chosen Courtois the miller as his confidant. "You will see how things
will go with my children when I am under ground. Lord! it makes me
shudder to think of it."
Old Sechard died in the month of March, 1929, leaving about two
hundred thousand francs in land. His acres added to the Verberie made
a fine property, which Kolb had managed to admiration for some two
David and his wife found nearly a hundred thousand crowns in gold in
the house. The department of the Charente had valued old Sechard's
money at a million; rumor, as usual, exaggerating the amount of a
hoard. Eve and David had barely thirty thousand francs of income when
they added their little fortune to the inheritance; they waited
awhile, and so it fell out that they invested their capital in
Government securities at the time of the Revolution of July.
Then, and not until then, could the department of the Charente and
David Sechard form some idea of the wealth of the tall Cointet. Rich
to the extent of several millions of francs, the elder Cointet became
a deputy, and is at this day a peer of France. It is said that he will
be Minister of Commerce in the next Government; for in 1842 he married
Mlle. Popinot, daughter of M. Anselme Popinot, one of the most
influential statesmen of the dynasty, deputy and mayor of an
arrondissement in Paris.
David Sechard's discovery has been assimilated by the French
manufacturing world, as food is assimilated by a living body. Thanks
to the introduction of materials other than rags, France can produce
paper more cheaply than any other European country. Dutch paper, as
David foresaw, no longer exists. Sooner or later it will be necessary,
no doubt, to establish a Royal Paper Manufactory; like the Gobelins,
the Sevres porcelain works, the Savonnerie, and the Imprimerie royale,
which so far have escaped the destruction threatened by _bourgeois_
David Sechard, beloved by his wife, father of two boys and a girl, has
the good taste to make no allusion to his past efforts. Eve had the
sense to dissuade him from following his terrible vocation; for the
inventor like Moses on Mount Horeb, is consumed by the burning bush.
He cultivates literature by way of recreation, and leads a comfortable
life of leisure, befitting the landowner who lives on his own estate.
He has bidden farewell for ever to glory, and bravely taken his place
in the class of dreamers and collectors; for he dabbles in entomology,
and is at present investigating the transformations of insects which
science only knows in the final stage.
Everybody has heard of Petit-Claud's success as attorney-general; he
is the rival of the great Vinet of Provins, and it is his ambition to
be President of the Court-Royal of Poitiers.
Cerizet has been in trouble so frequently for political offences that
he has been a good deal talked about; and as one of the boldest
_enfants perdus_ of the Liberal party he was nicknamed the "Brave
Cerizet." When Petit-Claud's successor compelled him to sell his
business in Angouleme, he found a fresh career on the provincial
stage, where his talents as an actor were like to be turned to
brilliant account. The chief stage heroine, however, obliged him to go
to Paris to find a cure for love among the resources of science, and
there he tried to curry favor with the Liberal party.
As for Lucien, the story of his return to Paris belongs to the _Scenes
of Parisian_ life.
Note: Eve and David is the part three of a trilogy. Part one is
entitled Two Poets and part two is A Distinguished Provincial at
Paris. In other addendum references parts one and three are usually
combined under the title Lost Illusions.
The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.
A Man of Business
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes
Chardon, Madame (nee Rubempre)
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Chatelet, Sixte, Baron du
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Chatelet, Marie-Louise-Anais de Negrepelisse, Baronne du
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Government Clerks
The Firm of Nucingen
The Member for Arcis
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Member for Arcis
Hautoy, Francis du
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Marsay, Henri de
The Unconscious Humorists
Another Study of Woman
The Lily of the Valley
Jealousies of a Country Town
A Marriage Settlement
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Letters of Two Brides
The Ball at Sceaux
The Secrets of a Princess
The Gondreville Mystery
A Daughter of Eve
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes
The Muse of the Department
Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
The Firm of Nucingen
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
A Man of Business
The Muse of the Department
The Unconscious Humorists
Nucingen, Baronne Delphine de
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Commission in Lunacy
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Firm of Nucingen
Another Study of Woman
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
Pimentel, Marquis and Marquise de
Rastignac, Baron and Baronne de (Eugene's parents)