Part 1 out of 5
Etext prepared by Dagny, firstname.lastname@example.org
and John Bickers, email@example.com
EVE AND DAVID
by HONORE DE BALZAC
Eve and David is part three of a trilogy. Eve and David's story
begins in part one, Two Poets. Part one also introduces Eve's
brother, Lucien. Part two, A Distinguished Provincial at Paris,
centers on Lucien's life in Paris. For part 3 the action once more
returns to Eve and David in Angouleme. In many references parts 1
and 3 are combined under the title Lost Illusions.
EVE AND DAVID
Lucien had gone to Paris; and David Sechard, with the courage and
intelligence of the ox which painters give the Evangelist for
accompanying symbol, set himself to make the large fortune for which
he had wished that evening down by the Charente, when he sat with Eve
by the weir, and she gave him her hand and her heart. He wanted to
make the money quickly, and less for himself than for Eve's sake and
Lucien's. He would place his wife amid the elegant and comfortable
surroundings that were hers by right, and his strong arm should
sustain her brother's ambitions--this was the programme that he saw
before his eyes in letters of fire.
Journalism and politics, the immense development of the book trade, of
literature and of the sciences; the increase of public interest in
matters touching the various industries in the country; in fact, the
whole social tendency of the epoch following the establishment of the
Restoration produced an enormous increase in the demand for paper. The
supply required was almost ten times as large as the quantity in which
the celebrated Ouvrard speculated at the outset of the Revolution.
Then Ouvrard could buy up first the entire stock of paper and then the
manufacturers; but in the year 1821 there were so many paper-mills in
France, that no one could hope to repeat his success; and David had
neither audacity enough nor capital enough for such speculation.
Machinery for producing paper in any length was just coming into use
in England. It was one of the most urgent needs of the time,
therefore, that the paper trade should keep pace with the requirements
of the French system of civil government, a system by which the right
of discussion was to be extended to every man, and the whole fabric
based upon continual expression of individual opinion; a grave
misfortune, for the nation that deliberates is but little wont to act.
So, strange coincidence! while Lucien was drawn into the great
machinery of journalism, where he was like to leave his honor and his
intelligence torn to shreds, David Sechard, at the back of his
printing-house, foresaw all the practical consequences of the
increased activity of the periodical press. He saw the direction in
which the spirit of the age was tending, and sought to find means to
the required end. He saw also that there was a fortune awaiting the
discoverer of cheap paper, and the event has justified his
clearsightedness. Within the last fifteen years, the Patent Office has
received more than a hundred applications from persons claiming to
have discovered cheap substances to be employed in the manufacture of
paper. David felt more than ever convinced that this would be no
brilliant triumph, it is true, but a useful and immensely profitable
discovery; and after his brother-in-law went to Paris, he became more
and more absorbed in the problem which he had set himself to solve.
The expenses of his marriage and of Lucien's journey to Paris had
exhausted all his resources; he confronted the extreme of poverty at
the very outset of married life. He had kept one thousand francs for
the working expenses of the business, and owed a like sum, for which
he had given a bill to Postel the druggist. So here was a double
problem for this deep thinker; he must invent a method of making cheap
paper, and that quickly; he must make the discovery, in fact, in order
to apply the proceeds to the needs of the household and of the
business. What words can describe the brain that can forget the cruel
preoccupations caused by hidden want, by the daily needs of a family
and the daily drudgery of a printer's business, which requires such
minute, painstaking care; and soar, with the enthusiasm and
intoxication of the man of science, into the regions of the unknown in
quest of a secret which daily eludes the most subtle experiment? And
the inventor, alas! as will shortly be seen, has plenty of woes to
endure, besides the ingratitude of the many; idle folk that can do
nothing themselves tell them, "Such a one is a born inventor; he could
not do otherwise. He no more deserves credit for his invention than a
prince for being born to rule! He is simply exercising his natural
faculties, and his work is its own reward," and the people believe
Marriage brings profound mental and physical perturbations into a
girl's life; and if she marries under the ordinary conditions of lower
middle-class life, she must moreover begin to study totally new
interests and initiate herself in the intricacies of business. With
marriage, therefore, she enters upon a phase of her existence when she
is necessarily on the watch before she can act. Unfortunately, David's
love for his wife retarded this training; he dared not tell her the
real state of affairs on the day after their wedding, nor for some
time afterwards. His father's avarice condemned him to the most
grinding poverty, but he could not bring himself to spoil the
honeymoon by beginning his wife's commercial education and prosaic
apprenticeship to his laborious craft. So it came to pass that
housekeeping, no less than working expenses, ate up the thousand
francs, his whole fortune. For four months David gave no thought to
the future, and his wife remained in ignorance. The awakening was
terrible! Postel's bill fell due; there was no money to meet it, and
Eve knew enough of the debt and its cause to give up her bridal
trinkets and silver.
That evening Eve tried to induce David to talk of their affairs, for
she had noticed that he was giving less attention to the business and
more to the problem of which he had once spoken to her. Since the
first few weeks of married life, in fact, David spent most of his time
in the shed in the backyard, in the little room where he was wont to
mould his ink-rollers. Three months after his return to Angouleme, he
had replaced the old fashioned round ink-balls by rollers made of
strong glue and treacle, and an ink-table, on which the ink was evenly
distributed, an improvement so obvious that Cointet Brothers no sooner
saw it than they adopted the plan themselves.
By the partition wall of this kitchen, as it were, David had set up a
little furnace with a copper pan, ostensibly to save the cost of fuel
over the recasting of his rollers, though the moulds had not been used
twice, and hung there rusting upon the wall. Nor was this all; a solid
oak door had been put in by his orders, and the walls were lined with
sheet-iron; he even replaced the dirty window sash by panes of ribbed
glass, so that no one without could watch him at his work.
When Eve began to speak about the future, he looked uneasily at her,
and cut her short at the first word by saying, "I know all that you
must think, child, when you see that the workshop is left to itself,
and that I am dead, as it were, to all business interests; but see,"
he continued, bringing her to the window, and pointing to the
mysterious shed, "there lies our fortune. For some months yet we must
endure our lot, but let us bear it patiently; leave me to solve the
problem of which I told you, and all our troubles will be at an end."
David was so good, his devotion was so thoroughly to be taken upon his
word, that the poor wife, with a wife's anxiety as to daily expenses,
determined to spare her husband the household cares and to take the
burden upon herself. So she came down from the pretty blue-and-white
room, where she sewed and talked contentedly with her mother, took
possession of one of the two dens at the back of the printing-room,
and set herself to learn the business routine of typography. Was it
not heroism in a wife who expected ere long to be a mother?
During the past few months David's workmen had left him one by one;
there was not enough work for them to do. Cointet Brothers, on the
other hand, were overwhelmed with orders; they were employing all the
workmen of the department; the alluring prospect of high wages even
brought them a few from Bordeaux, more especially apprentices, who
thought themselves sufficiently expert to cancel their articles and go
elsewhere. When Eve came to look into the affairs of Sechard's
printing works, she discovered that he employed three persons in all.
First in order stood Cerizet, an apprentice of Didot's, whom David had
chosen to train. Most foremen have some one favorite among the great
numbers of workers under them, and David had brought Cerizet to
Angouleme, where he had been learning more of the business. Marion, as
much attached to the house as a watch-dog, was the second; and the
third was Kolb, an Alsacien, at one time a porter in the employ of the
Messrs. Didot. Kolb had been drawn for military service, chance
brought him to Angouleme, and David recognized the man's face at a
review just as his time was about to expire. Kolb came to see David,
and was smitten forthwith by the charms of the portly Marion; she
possessed all the qualities which a man of his class looks for in a
wife--the robust health that bronzes the cheeks, the strength of a man
(Marion could lift a form of type with ease), the scrupulous honesty
on which an Alsacien sets such store, the faithful service which
bespeaks a sterling character, and finally, the thrift which had saved
a little sum of a thousand francs, besides a stock of clothing and
linen, neat and clean, as country linen can be. Marion herself, a big,
stout woman of thirty-six, felt sufficiently flattered by the
admiration of a cuirassier, who stood five feet seven in his
stockings, a well-built warrior, strong as a bastion, and not
unnaturally suggested that he should become a printer. So, by the time
Kolb received his full discharge, Marion and David between them had
transformed him into a tolerably creditable "bear," though their pupil
could neither read nor write.
Job printing, as it is called, was not so abundant at this season but
that Cerizet could manage it without help. Cerizet, compositor,
clicker, and foreman, realized in his person the "phenomenal
triplicity" of Kant; he set up type, read proof, took orders, and made
out invoices; but the most part of the time he had nothing to do, and
used to read novels in his den at the back of the workshop while he
waited for an order for a bill-head or a trade circular. Marion,
trained by old Sechard, prepared and wetted down the paper, helped
Kolb with the printing, hung the sheets to dry, and cut them to size;
yet cooked the dinner, none the less, and did her marketing very early
of a morning.
Eve told Cerizet to draw out a balance-sheet for the last six months,
and found that the gross receipts amounted to eight hundred francs. On
the other hand, wages at the rate of three francs per day--two francs
to Cerizet, and one to Kolb--reached a total of six hundred francs;
and as the goods supplied for the work printed and delivered amounted
to some hundred odd francs, it was clear to Eve that David had been
carrying on business at a loss during the first half-year of their
married life. There was nothing to show for rent, nothing for Marion's
wages, nor for the interest on capital represented by the plant, the
license, and the ink; nothing, finally, by way of allowance for the
host of things included in the technical expression "wear and tear," a
word which owes its origin to the cloths and silks which are used to
moderate the force of the impression, and to save wear to the type; a
square of stuff (the blanket) being placed between the platen and the
sheet of paper in the press.
Eve made a rough calculation of the resources of the printing office
and of the output, and saw how little hope there was for a business
drained dry by the all-devouring activity of the brothers Cointet; for
by this time the Cointets were not only contract printers to the town
and the prefecture, and printers to the Diocese by special appointment
--they were paper-makers and proprietors of a newspaper to boot. That
newspaper, sold two years ago by the Sechards, father and son, for
twenty-two thousand francs, was now bringing in eighteen thousand
francs per annum. Eve began to understand the motives lurking beneath
the apparent generosity of the brothers Cointet; they were leaving the
Sechard establishment just sufficient work to gain a pittance, but not
enough to establish a rival house.
When Eve took the management of the business, she began by taking
stock. She set Kolb and Marion and Cerizet to work, and the workshop
was put to rights, cleaned out, and set in order. Then one evening
when David came in from a country excursion, followed by an old woman
with a huge bundle tied up in a cloth, Eve asked counsel of him as to
the best way of turning to profit the odds and ends left them by old
Sechard, promising that she herself would look after the business.
Acting upon her husband's advice, Mme. Sechard sorted all the remnants
of paper which she found, and printed old popular legends in double
columns upon a single sheet, such as peasants paste on their walls,
the histories of The Wandering Jew, Robert the Devil, La Belle
Maguelonne and sundry miracles. Eve sent Kolb out as a hawker.
Cerizet had not a moment to spare now; he was composing the naive
pages, with the rough cuts that adorned them, from morning to night;
Marion was able to manage the taking off; and all domestic cares fell
to Mme. Chardon, for Eve was busy coloring the prints. Thanks to
Kolb's activity and honesty, Eve sold three thousand broad sheets at a
penny apiece, and made three hundred francs in all at a cost of thirty
But when every peasant's hut and every little wine-shop for twenty
leagues round was papered with these legends, a fresh speculation must
be discovered; the Alsacien could not go beyond the limits of the
department. Eve, turning over everything in the whole printing house,
had found a collection of figures for printing a "Shepherd's
Calendar," a kind of almanac meant for those who cannot read,
letterpress being replaced by symbols, signs, and pictures in colored
inks, red, black and blue. Old Sechard, who could neither read nor
write himself, had made a good deal of money at one time by bringing
out an almanac in hieroglyph. It was in book form, a single sheet
folded to make one hundred and twenty-eight pages.
Thoroughly satisfied with the success of the broad sheets, a piece of
business only undertaken by country printing offices, Mme. Sechard
invested all the proceeds in the Shepherd's Calendar, and began it
upon a large scale. Millions of copies of this work are sold annually
in France. It is printed upon even coarser paper than the Almanac of
Liege, a ream (five hundred sheets) costing in the first instance
about four francs; while the printed sheets sell at the rate of a
halfpenny apiece--twenty-five francs per ream.
Mme. Sechard determined to use one hundred reams for the first
impression; fifty thousand copies would bring in two thousand francs.
A man so deeply absorbed in his work as David in his researches is
seldom observant; yet David, taking a look round his workshop, was
astonished to hear the groaning of a press and to see Cerizet always
on his feet, setting up type under Mme. Sechard's direction. There was
a pretty triumph for Eve on the day when David came in to see what she
was doing, and praised the idea, and thought the calendar an excellent
stroke of business. Furthermore, David promised to give advice in the
matter of colored inks, for an almanac meant to appeal to the eye; and
finally, he resolved to recast the ink-rollers himself in his
mysterious workshop, so as to help his wife as far as he could in her
important little enterprise.
But just as the work began with strenuous industry, there came letters
from Lucien in Paris, heart-sinking letters that told his mother and
sister and brother-in-law of his failure and distress; and when Eve,
Mme. Chardon, and David each secretly sent money to their poet, it
must be plain to the reader that the three hundred francs they sent
were like their very blood. The overwhelming news, the disheartening
sense that work as bravely as she might, she made so little, left Eve
looking forward with a certain dread to an event which fills the cup
of happiness to the full. The time was coming very near now, and to
herself she said, "If my dear David has not reached the end of his
researches before my confinement, what will become of us? And who will
look after our poor printing office and the business that is growing
The Shepherd's Calendar ought by rights to have been ready before the
1st of January, but Cerizet was working unaccountably slowly; all the
work of composing fell to him; and Mme. Sechard, knowing so little,
could not find fault, and was fain to content herself with watching
the young Parisian.
Cerizet came from the great Foundling Hospital in Paris. He had been
apprenticed to the MM. Didot, and between the ages of fourteen and
seventeen he was David Sechard's fanatical worshiper. David put him
under one of the cleverest workmen, and took him for his copy-holder,
his page. Cerizet's intelligence naturally interested David; he won
the lad's affection by procuring amusements now and again for him, and
comforts from which he was cut off by poverty. Nature had endowed
Cerizet with an insignificant, rather pretty little countenance, red
hair, and a pair of dull blue eyes; he had come to Angouleme and
brought the manners of the Parisian street-boy with him. He was
formidable by reason of a quick, sarcastic turn and a spiteful
disposition. Perhaps David looked less strictly after him in
Angouleme; or, perhaps, as the lad grew older, his mentor put more
trust in him, or in the sobering influences of a country town; but be
that as it may, Cerizet (all unknown to his sponsor) was going
completely to the bad, and the printer's apprentice was acting the
part of a Don Juan among little work girls. His morality, learned in
Paris drinking-saloons, laid down the law of self-interest as the sole
rule of guidance; he knew, moreover, that next year he would be "drawn
for a soldier," to use the popular expression, saw that he had no
prospects, and ran into debt, thinking that soon he should be in the
army, and none of his creditors would run after him. David still
possessed some ascendency over the young fellow, due not to his
position as master, nor yet to the interest that he had taken in his
pupil, but to the great intellectual power which the sometime street-
boy fully recognized.
Before long Cerizet began to fraternize with the Cointets' workpeople,
drawn to them by the mutual attraction of blouse and jacket, and the
class feeling, which is, perhaps, strongest of all in the lowest ranks
of society. In their company Cerizet forgot the little good doctrine
which David had managed to instil into him; but, nevertheless, when
the others joked the boy about the presses in his workshop ("old
sabots," as the "bears" contemptuously called them), and showed him
the magnificent machines, twelve in number, now at work in the
Cointets' great printing office, where the single wooden press was
only used for experiments, Cerizet would stand up for David and fling
out at the braggarts.
"My gaffer will go farther with his 'sabots' than yours with their
cast-iron contrivances that turn out mass books all day long," he
would boast. "He is trying to find out a secret that will lick all the
printing offices in France and Navarre."
"And meantime you take your orders from a washer-woman, you snip of a
foreman, on two francs a day."
"She is pretty though," retorted Cerizet; "it is better to have her to
look at than the phizes of your gaffers."
"And do you live by looking at his wife?"
From the region of the wineshop, or from the door of the printing
office, where these bickerings took place, a dim light began to break
in upon the brothers Cointet as to the real state of things in the
Sechard establishment. They came to hear of Eve's experiment, and held
it expedient to stop these flights at once, lest the business should
begin to prosper under the poor young wife's management.
"Let us give her a rap over the knuckles, and disgust her with the
business," said the brothers Cointet.
One of the pair, the practical printer, spoke to Cerizet, and asked
him to do the proof-reading for them by piecework, to relieve their
reader, who had more than he could manage. So it came to pass that
Cerizet earned more by a few hours' work of an evening for the
brothers Cointet than by a whole day's work for David Sechard. Other
transactions followed; the Cointets seeing no small aptitude in
Cerizet, he was told that it was a pity that he should be in a
position so little favorable to his interests.
"You might be foreman some day in a big printing office, making six
francs a day," said one of the Cointets one day, "and with your
intelligence you might come to have a share in the business."
"Where is the use of my being a good foreman?" returned Cerizet. "I am
an orphan, I shall be drawn for the army next year, and if I get a bad
number who is there to pay some one else to take my place?"
"If you make yourself useful," said the well-to-do printer, "why
should not somebody advance the money?"
"It won't be my gaffer in any case!" said Cerizet.
"Pooh! Perhaps by that time he will have found out the secret."
The words were spoken in a way that could not but rouse the worst
thoughts in the listener; and Cerizet gave the papermaker and printer
a very searching look.
"I do not know what he is busy about," he began prudently, as the
master said nothing, "but he is not the kind of man to look for
capitals in the lower case!"
"Look here, my friend," said the printer, taking up half-a-dozen
sheets of the diocesan prayer-book and holding them out to Cerizet,
"if you can correct these for us by to-morrow, you shall have eighteen
francs to-morrow for them. We are not shabby here; we put our
competitor's foreman in the way of making money. As a matter of fact,
we might let Mme. Sechard go too far to draw back with her Shepherd's
Calendar, and ruin her; very well, we give you permission to tell her
that we are bringing out a Shepherd's Calendar of our own, and to call
her attention too to the fact that she will not be the first in the
Cerizet's motive for working so slowly on the composition of the
almanac should be clear enough by this time.
When Eve heard that the Cointets meant to spoil her poor little
speculation, dread seized upon her; at first she tried to see a proof
of attachment in Cerizet's hypocritical warning of competition; but
before long she saw signs of an over-keen curiosity in her sole
compositor--the curiosity of youth, she tried to think.
"Cerizet," she said one morning, "you stand about on the threshold,
and wait for M. Sechard in the passage, to pry into his private
affairs; when he comes out into the yard to melt down the rollers, you
are there looking at him, instead of getting on with the almanac.
These things are not right, especially when you see that I, his wife,
respect his secrets, and take so much trouble on myself to leave him
free to give himself up to his work. If you had not wasted time, the
almanac would be finished by now, and Kolb would be selling it, and
the Cointets could have done us no harm."
"Eh! madame," answered Cerizet. "Here am I doing five francs' worth of
composing for two francs a day, and don't you think that that is
enough? Why, if I did not read proofs of an evening for the Cointets,
I might feed myself on husks."
"You are turning ungrateful early," said Eve, deeply hurt, not so much
by Cerizet's grumbling as by his coarse tone, threatening attitude,
and aggressive stare; "you will get on in life."
"Not with a woman to order me about though, for it is not often that
the month has thirty days in it then."
Feeling wounded in her womanly dignity, Eve gave Cerizet a withering
look and went upstairs again. At dinner-time she spoke to David.
"Are you sure, dear, of that little rogue Cerizet?"
"Cerizet!" said David. "Why, he was my youngster; I trained him, I
took him on as my copy-holder. I put him to composing; anything that
he is he owes to me, in fact! You might as well ask a father if he is
sure of his child."
Upon this, Eve told her husband that Cerizet was reading proofs for
"Poor fellow! he must live," said David, humbled by the consciousness
that he had not done his duty as a master.
"Yes, but there is a difference, dear, between Kolb and Cerizet--Kolb
tramps about twenty leagues every day, spends fifteen or twenty sous,
and brings us back seven and eight and sometimes nine francs of sales;
and when his expenses are paid, he never asks for more than his wages.
Kolb would sooner cut off his hand than work a lever for the Cointets;
Kolb would not peer among the things that you throw out into the yard
if people offered him a thousand crowns to do it; but Cerizet picks
them up and looks at them."
It is hard for noble natures to think evil, to believe in ingratitude;
only through rough experience do they learn the extent of human
corruption; and even when there is nothing left them to learn in this
kind, they rise to an indulgence which is the last degree of contempt.
"Pooh! pure Paris street-boy's curiosity," cried David.
"Very well, dear, do me the pleasure to step downstairs and look at
the work done by this boy of yours, and tell me then whether he ought
not to have finished our almanac this month."
David went into the workshop after dinner, and saw that the calendar
should have been set up in a week. Then, when he heard that the
Cointets were bringing out a similar almanac, he came to the rescue.
He took command of the printing office, Kolb helped at home instead of
selling broadsheets. Kolb and Marion pulled off the impressions from
one form while David worked another press with Cerizet, and
superintended the printing in various inks. Every sheet must be
printed four separate times, for which reason none but small houses
will attempt to produce a Shepherd's calendar, and that only in the
country where labor is cheap, and the amount of capital employed in
the business is so small that the interest amounts to little.
Wherefore, a press which turns out beautiful work cannot compete in
the printing of such sheets, coarse though they may be.
So, for the first time since old Sechard retired, two presses were at
work in the old house. The calendar was, in its way, a masterpiece;
but Eve was obliged to sell it for less than a halfpenny, for the
Cointets were supplying hawkers at the rate of three centimes per
copy. Eve made no loss on the copies sold to hawkers; on Kolb's sales,
made directly, she gained; but her little speculation was spoiled.
Cerizet saw that his fair employer distrusted him; in his own
conscience he posed as the accuser, and said to himself, "You suspect
me, do you? I will have my revenge," for the Paris street-boy is made
on this wise. Cerizet accordingly took pay out of all proportion to
the work of proof-reading done for the Cointets, going to their office
every evening for the sheets, and returning them in the morning. He
came to be on familiar terms with them through the daily chat, and at
length saw a chance of escaping the military service, a bait held out
to him by the brothers. So far from requiring prompting from the
Cointets, he was the first to propose the espionage and exploitation
of David's researches.
Eve saw how little she could depend upon Cerizet, and to find another
Kolb was simply impossible; she made up her mind to dismiss her one
compositor, for the insight of a woman who loves told her that Cerizet
was a traitor; but as this meant a deathblow to the business, she took
a man's resolution. She wrote to M. Metivier, with whom David and the
Cointets and almost every papermaker in the department had business
relations, and asked him to put the following advertisement into a
"FOR SALE, as a going concern, a Printing Office, with License and
Plant; situated at Angouleme. Apply for particulars to M. Metivier,
The Cointets saw the advertisement. "That little woman has a head on
her shoulders," they said. "It is time that we took her business under
our own control, by giving her enough work to live upon; we might find
a real competitor in David's successor; it is in our interest to keep
an eye upon that workshop."
The Cointets went to speak to David Sechard, moved thereto by this
thought. Eve saw them, knew that her stratagem had succeeded at once,
and felt a thrill of the keenest joy. They stated their proposal. They
had more work than they could undertake, their presses could not keep
pace with the work, would M. Sechard print for them? They had sent to
Bordeaux for workmen, and could find enough to give full employment to
David's three presses.
"Gentlemen," said Eve, while Cerizet went across to David's workshop
to announce the two printers, "while my husband was with the MM. Didot
he came to know of excellent workers, honest and industrious men; he
will choose his successor, no doubt, from among the best of them. If
he sold his business outright for some twenty thousand francs, it
might bring us in a thousand francs per annum; that would be better
than losing a thousand yearly over such trade as you leave us. Why did
you envy us the poor little almanac speculation, especially as we have
always brought it out?"
"Oh, why did you not give us notice, madame? We would not have
interfered with you," one of the brothers answered blandly (he was
known as the "tall Cointet").
"Oh, come gentlemen! you only began your almanac after Cerizet told
you that I was bringing out mine."
She spoke briskly, looking full at "the tall Cointet" as she spoke. He
lowered his eyes; Cerizet's treachery was proven to her.
This brother managed the business and the paper-mill; he was by far
the cleverer man of business of the two. Jean showed no small ability
in the conduct of the printing establishment, but in intellectual
capacity he might be said to take colonel's rank, while Boniface was a
general. Jean left the command to Boniface. This latter was thin and
spare in person; his face, sallow as an altar candle, was mottled with
reddish patches; his lips were pinched; there was something in his
eyes that reminded you of a cat's eyes. Boniface Cointet never excited
himself; he would listen to the grossest insults with the serenity of
a bigot, and reply in a smooth voice. He went to mass, he went to
confession, he took the sacrament. Beneath his caressing manners,
beneath an almost spiritless look, lurked the tenacity and ambition of
the priest, and the greed of the man of business consumed with a
thirst for riches and honors. In the year 1820 "tall Cointet" wanted
all that the bourgeoisie finally obtained by the Revolution of 1830.
In his heart he hated the aristocrats, and in religion he was
indifferent; he was as much or as little of a bigot as Bonaparte was a
member of the Mountain; yet his vertebral column bent with a
flexibility wonderful to behold before the noblesse and the official
hierarchy; for the powers that be, he humbled himself, he was meek and
obsequious. One final characteristic will describe him for those who
are accustomed to dealings with all kinds of men, and can appreciate
its value--Cointet concealed the expression of his eyes by wearing
colored glasses, ostensibly to preserve his sight from the reflection
of the sunlight on the white buildings in the streets; for Angouleme,
being set upon a hill, is exposed to the full glare of the sun. Tall
Cointet was really scarcely above middle height; he looked much taller
than he actually was by reason of the thinness, which told of overwork
and a brain in continual ferment. His lank, sleek gray hair, cut in
somewhat ecclesiastical fashion; the black trousers, black stockings,
black waistcoat, and long puce-colored greatcoat (styled a levite in
the south), all completed his resemblance to a Jesuit.
Boniface was called "tall Cointet" to distinguish him from his
brother, "fat Cointet," and the nicknames expressed a difference in
character as well as a physical difference between a pair of equally
redoubtable personages. As for Jean Cointet, a jolly, stout fellow,
with a face from a Flemish interior, colored by the southern sun of
Angouleme, thick-set, short and paunchy as Sancho Panza; with a smile
on his lips and a pair of sturdy shoulders, he was a striking contrast
to his older brother. Nor was the difference only physical and
intellectual. Jean might almost be called Liberal in politics; he
belonged to the Left Centre, only went to mass on Sundays, and lived
on a remarkably good understanding with the Liberal men of business.
There were those in L'Houmeau who said that this divergence between
the brothers was more apparent than real. Tall Cointet turned his
brother's seeming good nature to advantage very skilfully. Jean was
his bludgeon. It was Jean who gave all the hard words; it was Jean who
conducted the executions which little beseemed the elder brother's
benevolence. Jean took the storms department; he would fly into a
rage, and propose terms that nobody would think of accepting, to pave
the way for his brother's less unreasonable propositions. And by such
policy the pair attained their ends, sooner or later.
Eve, with a woman's tact, had soon divined the characters of the two
brothers; she was on her guard with foes so formidable. David,
informed beforehand of everything by his wife, lent a profoundly
inattentive mind to his enemies' proposals.
"Come to an understanding with my wife," he said, as he left the
Cointets in the office and went back to his laboratory. "Mme. Sechard
knows more about the business than I do myself. I am interested in
something that will pay better than this poor place; I hope to find a
way to retrieve the losses that I have made through you----"
"And how?" asked the fat Cointet, chuckling.
Eve gave her husband a look that meant, "Be careful!"
"You will be my tributaries," said David, "and all other consumers of
"Then what are you investigating?" asked the hypocritical Boniface
Boniface's question slipped out smoothly and insinuatingly, and again
Eve's eyes implored her husband to give an answer that was no answer,
or to say nothing at all.
"I am trying to produce paper at fifty per cent less than the present
cost price," and he went. He did not see the glances exchanged between
the brothers. "That is an inventor, a man of his build cannot sit with
his hands before him.--Let us exploit him," said Boniface's eyes. "How
can we do it?" said Jean's.
Mme. Sechard spoke. "David treats me just in the same way," she said.
"If I show any curiosity, he feels suspicious of my name, no doubt,
and out comes that remark of his; it is only a formula, after all."
"If your husband can work out the formula, he will certainly make a
fortune more quickly than by printing; I am not surprised that he
leaves the business to itself," said Boniface, looking across the
empty workshop, where Kolb, seated upon a wetting-board, was rubbing
his bread with a clove of garlic; "but it would not suit our views to
see this place in the hands of an energetic, pushing, ambitious
competitor," he continued, "and perhaps it might be possible to arrive
at an understanding. Suppose, for instance, that you consented for a
consideration to allow us to put in one of our own men to work your
presses for our benefit, but nominally for you; the thing is sometimes
done in Paris. We would find the fellow work enough to enable him to
rent your place and pay you well, and yet make a profit for himself."
"It depends on the amount," said Eve Sechard. "What is your offer?"
she added, looking at Boniface to let him see that she understood his
scheme perfectly well.
"What is your own idea?" Jean Cointet put in briskly.
"Three thousand francs for six months," said she.
"Why, my dear young lady, you were proposing to sell the place
outright for twenty thousand francs," said Boniface with much suavity.
"The interest on twenty thousand francs is only twelve hundred francs
per annum at six per cent."
For a moment Eve was thrown into confusion; she saw the need for
discretion in matters of business.
"You wish to use our presses and our name as well," she said; "and, as
I have already shown you, I can still do a little business. And then
we pay rent to M. Sechard senior, who does not load us with presents."
After two hours of debate, Eve obtained two thousand francs for six
months, one thousand to be paid in advance. When everything was
concluded, the brothers informed her that they meant to put in Cerizet
as lessee of the premises. In spite of herself, Eve started with
"Isn't it better to have somebody who knows the workshop?" asked the
Eve made no reply; she took leave of the brothers, vowing inwardly to
look after Cerizet.
"Well, here are our enemies in the place!" laughed David, when Eve
brought out the papers for his signature at dinner-time.
"Pshaw!" said she, "I will answer for Kolb and Marion; they alone
would look after things. Besides, we shall be making an income of four
thousand francs from the workshop, which only costs us money as it is;
and looking forward, I see a year in which you may realize your
"You were born to be the wife of a scientific worker, as you said by
the weir," said David, grasping her hand tenderly.
But though the Sechard household had money sufficient that winter,
they were none the less subjected to Cerizet's espionage, and all
unconsciously became dependent upon Boniface Cointet.
"We have them now!" the manager of the paper-mill had exclaimed as he
left the house with his brother the printer. "They will begin to
regard the rent as regular income; they will count upon it and run
themselves into debt. In six months' time we will decline to renew the
agreement, and then we shall see what this man of genius has at the
bottom of his mind; we will offer to help him out of his difficulty by
taking him into partnership and exploiting his discovery."
Any shrewd man of business who should have seen tall Cointet's face as
he uttered those words, "taking him into partnership," would have
known that it behooves a man to be even more careful in the selection
of the partner whom he takes before the Tribunal of Commerce than in
the choice of the wife whom he weds at the Mayor's office. Was it not
enough already, and more than enough, that the ruthless hunters were
on the track of the quarry? How should David and his wife, with Kolb
and Marion to help them, escape the toils of a Boniface Cointet?
A draft for five hundred francs came from Lucien, and this, with
Cerizet's second payment, enabled them to meet all the expenses of
Mme. Sechard's confinement. Eve and the mother and David had thought
that Lucien had forgotten them, and rejoiced over this token of
remembrance as they rejoiced over his success, for his first exploits
in journalism made even more noise in Angouleme than in Paris.
But David, thus lulled into a false security, was to receive a
staggering blow, a cruel letter from Lucien:--
Lucien to David.
"MY DEAR DAVID,--I have drawn three bills on you, and negotiated
them with Metivier; they fall due in one, two, and three months'
time. I took this hateful course, which I know will burden you
heavily, because the one alternative was suicide. I will explain
my necessity some time, and I will try besides to send the amounts
as the bills fall due.
"Burn this letter; say nothing to my mother and sister; for, I
confess it, I have counted upon you, upon the heroism known so
well to your despairing brother,
"LUCIEN DE RUBEMPRE."
By this time Eve had recovered from her confinement.
"Your brother, poor fellow, is in desperate straits," David told her.
"I have sent him three bills for a thousand francs at one, two, and
three months; just make a note of them," and he went out into the
fields to escape his wife's questionings.
But Eve had felt very uneasy already. It was six months since Lucien
had written to them. She talked over the news with her mother till her
forebodings grew so dark that she made up her mind to dissipate them.
She would take a bold step in her despair.
Young M. de Rastignac had come to spend a few days with his family. He
had spoken of Lucien in terms that set Paris gossip circulating in
Angouleme, till at last it reached the journalist's mother and sister.
Eve went to Mme. de Rastignac, asked the favor of an interview with
her son, spoke of all her fears, and asked him for the truth. In a
moment Eve heard of her brother's connection with the actress Coralie,
of his duel with Michel Chrestien, arising out of his own treacherous
behavior to Daniel d'Arthez; she received, in short, a version of
Lucien's history, colored by the personal feeling of a clever and
envious dandy. Rastignac expressed sincere admiration for the
abilities so terribly compromised, and a patriotic fear for the future
of a native genius; spite and jealousy masqueraded as pity and
friendliness. He spoke of Lucien's blunders. It seemed that Lucien had
forfeited the favor of a very great person, and that a patent
conferring the right to bear the name and arms of Rubempre had
actually been made out and subsequently torn up.
"If your brother, madame, had been well advised, he would have been on
the way to honors, and Mme. de Bargeton's husband by this time; but
what can you expect? He deserted her and insulted her. She is now Mme.
la Comtesse Sixte du Chatelet, to her own great regret, for she loved
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Mme. Sechard.
"Your brother is like a young eagle, blinded by the first rays of
glory and luxury. When an eagle falls, who can tell how far he may
sink before he drops to the bottom of some precipice? The fall of a
great man is always proportionately great."
Eve came away with a great dread in her heart; those last words
pierced her like an arrow. She had been wounded to the quick. She said
not a word to anybody, but again and again a tear rolled down her
cheeks, and fell upon the child at her breast. So hard is it to give
up illusions sanctioned by family feeling, illusions that have grown
with our growth, that Eve had doubted Eugene de Rastignac. She would
rather hear a true friend's account of her brother. Lucien had given
them d'Arthez's address in the days when he was full of enthusiasm for
the brotherhood; she wrote a pathetic letter to d'Arthez, and received
the following reply:--
D'Arthez to Mme. Sechard.
"MADAME,--You ask me to tell you the truth about the life that
your brother is leading in Paris; you are anxious for
enlightenment as to his prospects; and to encourage a frank answer
on my part, you repeat certain things that M. de Rastignac has
told you, asking me if they are true. With regard to the purely
personal matter, madame, M. de Rastignac's confidences must be
corrected in Lucien's favor. Your brother wrote a criticism of my
book, and brought it to me in remorse, telling me that he could
not bring himself to publish it, although obedience to the orders
of his party might endanger one who was very dear to him. Alas!
madame, a man of letters must needs comprehend all passions, since
it is his pride to express them; I understood that where a
mistress and a friend are involved, the friend is inevitably
sacrificed. I smoothed your brother's way; I corrected his
murderous article myself, and gave it my full approval.
"You ask whether Lucien has kept my friendship and esteem; to this
it is difficult to make an answer. Your brother is on a road that
leads him to ruin. At this moment I still feel sorry for him;
before long I shall have forgotten him, of set purpose, not so
much on account of what he has done already as for that which he
inevitably will do. Your Lucien is not a poet, he has the poetic
temper; he dreams, he does not think; he spends himself in
emotion, he does not create. He is, in fact--permit me to say it--
a womanish creature that loves to shine, the Frenchman's great
failing. Lucien will always sacrifice his best friend for the
pleasure of displaying his own wit. He would not hesitate to sign
a pact with the Devil to-morrow if so he might secure a few years
of luxurious and glorious life. Nay, has he not done worse
already? He has bartered his future for the short-lived delights
of living openly with an actress. So far, he has not seen the
dangers of his position; the girl's youth and beauty and devotion
(for she worships him) have closed his eyes to the truth; he
cannot see that no glory or success or fortune can induce the
world to accept the position. Very well, as it is now, so it will
be with each new temptation--your brother will not look beyond the
enjoyment of the moment. Do not be alarmed: Lucien will never go
so far as a crime, he has not the strength of character; but he
would take the fruits of a crime, he would share the benefit but
not the risk--a thing that seems abhorrent to the whole world,
even to scoundrels. Oh, he would despise himself, he would repent;
but bring him once more to the test, and he would fail again; for
he is weak of will, he cannot resist the allurements of pleasure,
nor forego the least of his ambitions. He is indolent, like all
who would fain be poets; he thinks it clever to juggle with the
difficulties of life instead of facing and overcoming them. He
will be brave at one time, cowardly at another, and deserves
neither credit for his courage, nor blame for his cowardice.
Lucien is like a harp with strings that are slackened or tightened
by the atmosphere. He might write a great book in a glad or angry
mood, and care nothing for the success that he had desired for so
"When he first came to Paris he fell under the influence of an
unprincipled young fellow, and was dazzled by his companion's
adroitness and experience in the difficulties of a literary life.
This juggler completely bewitched Lucien; he dragged him into a
life which a man cannot lead and respect himself, and, unluckily
for Lucien, love shed its magic over the path. The admiration that
is given too readily is a sign of want of judgment; a poet ought
not to be paid in the same coin as a dancer on the tight-rope. We
all felt hurt when intrigue and literary rascality were preferred
to the courage and honor of those who counseled Lucien rather to
face the battle than to filch success, to spring down into the
arena rather than become a trumpet in the orchestra.
"Society, madame, oddly enough, shows plentiful indulgence to
young men of Lucien's stamp; they are popular, the world is
fascinated by their external gifts and good looks. Nothing is
asked of them, all their sins are forgiven; they are treated like
perfect natures, others are blind to their defects, they are the
world's spoiled children. And, on the other hand, the world is
stern beyond measure to strong and complete natures. Perhaps in
this apparently flagrant injustice society acts sublimely, taking
a harlequin at his just worth, asking nothing of him but
amusement, promptly forgetting him; and asking divine great deeds
of those before whom she bends the knee. Everything is judged by
laws of its being; the diamond must be flawless; the ephemeral
creation of fashion may be flimsy, bizarre, inconsequent. So
Lucien may perhaps succeed to admiration in spite of his mistakes;
he has only to profit by some happy vein or to be among good
companions; but if an evil angel crosses his path, he will go to
the very depths of hell. 'Tis a brilliant assemblage of good
qualities embroidered upon too slight a tissue; time wears the
flowers away till nothing but the web is left; and if that is poor
stuff, you behold a rag at the last. So long as Lucien is young,
people will like him; but where will he be as a man of thirty?
That is the question which those who love him sincerely are bound
to ask themselves. If I alone had come to think in this way of
Lucien, I might perhaps have spared you the pain which my plain
speaking will give you; but to evade the questions put by your
anxiety, and to answer a cry of anguish like your letter with
commonplaces, seemed to me alike unworthy of you and of me, whom
you esteem too highly; and besides, those of my friends who knew
Lucien are unanimous in their judgment. So it appeared to me to be
a duty to put the truth before you, terrible though it may be.
Anything may be expected of Lucien, anything good or evil. That is
our opinion, and this letter is summed up in that sentence. If the
vicissitudes of his present way of life (a very wretched and
slippery one) should bring the poet back to you, use all your
influence to keep him among you; for until his character has
acquired stability, Paris will not be safe for him. He used to
speak of you, you and your husband, as his guardian angels; he has
forgotten you, no doubt; but he will remember you again when
tossed by tempest, with no refuge left to him but his home. Keep
your heart for him, madame; he will need it.
"Permit me, madame, to convey to you the expression of the sincere
respect of a man to whom your rare qualities are known, a man who
honors your mother's fears so much, that he desires to style
himself your devoted servant,
Two days after the letter came, Eve was obliged to find a wet-nurse;
her milk had dried up. She had made a god of her brother; now, in her
eyes, he was depraved through the exercise of his noblest faculties;
he was wallowing in the mire. She, noble creature that she was, was
incapable of swerving from honesty and scrupulous delicacy, from all
the pious traditions of the hearth, which still burns so clearly and
sheds its light abroad in quiet country homes. Then David had been
right in his forecasts! The leaden hues of grief overspread Eve's
white brow. She told her husband her secret in one of the pellucid
talks in which married lovers tell everything to each other. The tones
of David's voice brought comfort. Though the tears stood in his eyes
when he knew that grief had dried his wife's fair breast, and knew
Eve's despair that she could not fulfil a mother's duties, he held out
"Your brother's imagination has let him astray, you see, child. It is
so natural that a poet should wish for blue and purple robes, and
hurry as eagerly after festivals as he does. It is a bird that loves
glitter and luxury with such simple sincerity, that God forgives him
if man condemns him for it."
"But he is draining our lives!" exclaimed poor Eve.
"He is draining our lives just now, but only a few months ago he saved
us by sending us the first fruits of his earnings," said the good
David. He had the sense to see that his wife was in despair, was going
beyond the limit, and that love for Lucien would very soon come back.
"Fifty years ago, or thereabouts, Mercier said in his Tableau de Paris
that a man cannot live by literature, poetry, letters, or science, by
the creatures of his brain, in short; and Lucien, poet that he is,
would not believe the experience of five centuries. The harvests that
are watered with ink are only reaped ten or twelve years after the
sowing, if indeed there is any harvest after all. Lucien has taken the
green wheat for the sheaves. He will have learned something of life,
at any rate. He was the dupe of a woman at the outset; he was sure to
be duped afterwards by the world and false friends. He has bought his
experience dear, that is all. Our ancestors used to say, 'If the son
of the house brings back his two ears and his honor safe, all is
"Honor!" poor Eve broke in. "Oh, but Lucien has fallen in so many
ways! Writing against his conscience! Attacking his best friend!
Living upon an actress! Showing himself in public with her. Bringing
us to lie on straw----"
"Oh, that is nothing----!" cried David, and suddenly stopped short.
The secret of Lucien's forgery had nearly escaped him, and, unluckily,
his start left a vague, uneasy impression on Eve.
"What do you mean by nothing?" she answered. "And where shall we find
the money to meet bills for three thousand francs?"
"We shall be obliged to renew the lease with Cerizet, to begin with,"
said David. "The Cointets have been allowing him fifteen per cent on
the work done for them, and in that way alone he has made six hundred
francs, besides contriving to make five hundred francs by job
"If the Cointets know that, perhaps they will not renew the lease.
They will be afraid of him, for Cerizet is a dangerous man."
"Eh! what is that to me!" cried David, "we shall be rich in a very
little while. When Lucien is rich, dear angel, he will have nothing
but good qualities."
"Oh! David, my dear, my dear; what is this that you have said
unthinkingly? Then Lucien fallen into the clutches of poverty would
not have the force of character to resist evil? And you think just as
M. d'Arthez thinks! No one is great unless he has strength of
character, and Lucien is weak. An angel must not be tempted--what is
"What but a nature that is noble only in its own region, its own
sphere, its heaven? I will spare him the struggle; Lucien is not meant
for it. Look here! I am so near the end now that I can talk to you
about the means."
He drew several sheets of white paper from his pocket, brandished them
in triumph, and laid them on his wife's lap.
"A ream of this paper, royal size, would cost five francs at the
most," he added, while Eve handled the specimens with almost childish
"Why, how did you make these sample bits?" she asked.
"With an old kitchen sieve of Marion's."
"And are you not satisfied yet?" asked Eve.
"The problem does not lie in the manufacturing process; it is a
question of the first cost of the pulp. Alas, child, I am only a late
comer in a difficult path. As long ago as 1794, Mme. Masson tried to
use printed paper a second time; she succeeded, but what a price it
cost! The Marquis of Salisbury tried to use straw as a material in
1800, and the same idea occurred to Seguin in France in 1801. Those
sheets in your hand are made from the common rush, the arundo
phragmites, but I shall try nettles and thistles; for if the material
is to continue to be cheap, one must look for something that will grow
in marshes and waste lands where nothing else can be grown. The whole
secret lies in the preparation of the stems. At present my method is
not quite simple enough. Still, in spite of this difficulty, I feel
sure that I can give the French paper trade the privilege of our
literature; papermaking will be for France what coal and iron and
coarse potter's clay are for England--a monopoly. I mean to be the
Jacquart of the trade."
Eve rose to her feet. David's simple-mindedness had roused her to
enthusiasm, to admiration; she held out her arms to him and held him
tightly to her, while she laid her head upon his shoulder.
"You give me my reward as if I had succeeded already," he said.
For all answer, Eve held up her sweet face, wet with tears, to his,
and for a moment she could not speak.
"The kiss was not for the man of genius," she said, "but for my
comforter. Here is a rising glory for the glory that has set; and, in
the midst of my grief for the brother that has fallen so low, my
husband's greatness is revealed to me.--Yes, you will be great, great
like the Graindorges, the Rouvets, and Van Robais, and the Persian who
discovered madder, like all the men you have told me about; great men
whom nobody remembers, because their good deeds were obscure
"What are they doing just now?"
It was Boniface Cointet who spoke. He was walking up and down outside
in the Place du Murier with Cerizet watching the silhouettes of the
husband and wife on the blinds. He always came at midnight for a chat
with Cerizet, for the latter played the spy upon his former master's
"He is showing her the paper he made this morning, no doubt," said
"What is it made of?" asked the paper manufacturer.
"Impossible to guess," answered Cerizet; "I made a hole in the roof
and scrambled up and watched the gaffer; he was boiling pulp in a
copper pan all last night. There was a heap of stuff in a corner, but
I could make nothing of it; it looked like a heap of tow, as near as I
could make out."
"Go no farther," said Boniface Cointet in unctuous tones; "it would
not be right. Mme. Sechard will offer to renew your lease; tell her
that you are thinking of setting up for yourself. Offer her half the
value of the plant and license, and, if she takes the bid, come to me.
In any case, spin the matter out. . . . Have they no money?"
"Not a sou," said Cerizet.
"Not a sou," repeated tall Cointet.--"I have them now," said he to
Metivier, paper manufacturers' wholesale agent, and Cointet Brothers,
printers and paper manufacturers, were also bankers in all but name.
This surreptitious banking system defies all the ingenuity of the
Inland Revenue Department. Every banker is required to take out a
license which, in Paris, costs five hundred francs; but no hitherto
devised method of controlling commerce can detect the delinquents, or
compel them to pay their due to the Government. And though Metivier
and the Cointets were "outside brokers," in the language of the Stock
Exchange, none the less among them they could set some hundreds of
thousands of francs moving every three months in the markets of Paris,
Bordeaux, and Angouleme. Now it so fell out that that very evening
Cointet Brothers had received Lucien's forged bills in the course of
business. Upon this debt, tall Cointet forthwith erected a formidable
engine, pointed, as will presently be seen, against the poor, patient
By seven o'clock next morning, Boniface Cointet was taking a walk by
the mill stream that turned the wheels in his big factory; the sound
of the water covered his talk, for he was talking with a companion, a
young man of nine-and-twenty, who had been appointed attorney to the
Court of First Instance in Angouleme some six weeks ago. The young
man's name was Pierre Petit-Claud.
"You are a schoolfellow of David Sechard's, are you not?" asked tall
Cointet by way of greeting to the young attorney. Petit-Claud had lost
no time in answering the wealthy manufacturer's summons.
"Yes, sir," said Petit-Claud, keeping step with tall Cointet.
"Have you renewed the acquaintance?"
"We have met once or twice at most since he came back. It could hardly
have been otherwise. In Paris I was buried away in the office or at
the courts on week-days, and on Sundays and holidays I was hard at
work studying, for I had only myself to look to." (Tall Cointet nodded
approvingly.) "When we met again, David and I, he asked me what I had
done with myself. I told him that after I had finished my time at
Poitiers, I had risen to be Maitre Olivet's head-clerk, and that some
time or other I hoped to make a bid for his berth. I know a good deal
more of Lucien Chardon (de Rubempre he calls himself now), he was Mme.
de Bargeton's lover, our great poet, David Sechard's brother-in-law,
"Then you can go and tell David of your appointment, and offer him
your services," said tall Cointet.
"One can't do that," said the young attorney.
"He has never had a lawsuit, and he has no attorney, so one can do
that," said Cointet, scanning the other narrowly from behind his
A certain quantity of gall mingled with the blood in Pierre Petit-
Claud's veins; his father was a tailor in L'Houmeau, and his
schoolfellows had looked down upon him. His complexion was of the
muddy and unwholesome kind which tells a tale of bad health, late
hours and penury, and almost always of a bad disposition. The best
description of him may be given in two familiar expressions--he was
sharp and snappish. His cracked voice suited his sour face, meagre
look, and magpie eyes of no particular color. A magpie eye, according
to Napoleon, is a sure sign of dishonesty. "Look at So-and-so," he
said to Las Cases at Saint Helena, alluding to a confidential servant
whom he had been obliged to dismiss for malversation. "I do not know
how I could have been deceived in him for so long; he has a magpie
eye." Tall Cointet, surveying the weedy little lawyer, noted his face
pitted with smallpox, the thin hair, and the forehead, bald already,
receding towards a bald cranium; saw, too, the confession of weakness
in his attitude with the hand on the hip. "Here is my man," said he to
As a matter of fact, this Petit-Claud, who had drunk scorn like water,
was eaten up with a strong desire to succeed in life; he had no money,
but nevertheless he had the audacity to buy his employer's connection
for thirty thousand francs, reckoning upon a rich marriage to clear
off the debt, and looking to his employer, after the usual custom, to
find him a wife, for an attorney always has an interest in marrying
his successor, because he is the sooner paid off. But if Petit-Claud
counted upon his employer, he counted yet more upon himself. He had
more than average ability, and that of a kind not often found in the
provinces, and rancor was the mainspring of his power. A mighty hatred
makes a mighty effort.
There is a great difference between a country attorney and an attorney
in Paris; tall Cointet was too clever not to know this, and to turn
the meaner passions that move a pettifogging lawyer to good account.
An eminent attorney in Paris, and there are many who may be so
qualified, is bound to possess to some extent the diplomate's
qualities; he had so much business to transact, business in which
large interests are involved; questions of such wide interest are
submitted to him that he does not look upon procedure as machinery for
bringing money into his pocket, but as a weapon of attack and defence.
A country attorney, on the other hand, cultivates the science of
costs, broutille, as it is called in Paris, a host of small items that
swell lawyers' bills and require stamped paper. These weighty matters
of the law completely fill the country attorney's mind; he has a bill
of costs always before his eyes, whereas his brother of Paris thinks
of nothing but his fees. The fee is a honorarium paid by a client over
and above the bill of costs, for the more or less skilful conduct of
his case. One-half of the bill of costs goes to the Treasury, whereas
the entire fee belongs to the attorney. Let us admit frankly that the
fees received are seldom as large as the fees demanded and deserved by
a clever lawyer. Wherefore, in Paris, attorneys, doctors, and
barristers, like courtesans with a chance-come lover, take very
considerable precautions against the gratitude of clients. The client
before and after the lawsuit would furnish a subject worthy of
Meissonier; there would be brisk bidding among attorneys for the
possession of two such admirable bits of genre.
There is yet another difference between the Parisian and the country
attorney. An attorney in Paris very seldom appears in court, though he
is sometimes called upon to act as arbitrator (refere). Barristers, at
the present day, swarm in the provinces; but in 1822 the country
attorney very often united the functions of solicitor and counsel. As
a result of this double life, the attorney acquired the peculiar
intellectual defects of the barrister, and retained the heavy
responsibilities of the attorney. He grew talkative and fluent, and
lost his lucidity of judgment, the first necessity for the conduct of
affairs. If a man of more than ordinary ability tries to do the work
of two men, he is apt to find that the two men are mediocrities. The
Paris attorney never spends himself in forensic eloquence; and as he
seldom attempts to argue for and against, he has some hope of
preserving his mental rectitude. It is true that he brings the balista
of the law to work, and looks for the weapons in the armory of
judicial contradictions, but he keeps his own convictions as to the
case, while he does his best to gain the day. In a word, a man loses
his head not so much by thinking as by uttering thoughts. The spoken
word convinces the utterer; but a man can act against his own bad
judgment without warping it, and contrive to win in a bad cause
without maintaining that it is a good one, like the barrister. Perhaps
for this very reason an old attorney is the more likely of the two to
make a good judge.
A country attorney, as we have seen, has plenty of excuses for his
mediocrity; he takes up the cause of petty passions, he undertakes
pettifogging business, he lives by charging expenses, he strains the
Code of procedure and pleads in court. In a word, his weak points are
legion; and if by chance you come across a remarkable man practising
as a country attorney, he is indeed above the average level.
"I thought, sir, that you sent for me on your own affairs," said
Petit-Claud, and a glance that put an edge on his words fell upon tall
Cointet's impenetrable blue spectacles.
"Let us have no beating about the bush," returned Boniface Cointet.
"Listen to me."
After that beginning, big with mysterious import, Cointet set himself
down upon a bench, and beckoned Petit-Claud to do likewise.
"When M. du Hautoy came to Angouleme in 1804, on his way to his
consulship at Valence, he made the acquaintance of Mme. de Senonches,
then Mlle. Zephirine, and had a daughter by her," added Cointet for
the attorney's ear----"Yes," he continued, as Petit-Claud gave a
start; "yes, and Mlle. Zephirine's marriage with M. de Senoches soon
followed the birth of the child. The girl was brought up in my
mother's house; she is the Mlle. Francoise de la Haye in whom Mme. de
Senoches takes an interest; she is her godmother in the usual style.
Now, my mother farmed land belonging to old Mme. de Cardanet, Mlle.
Zephirine's grandmother; and as she knew the secret of the sole
heiress of the Cardanets and the Senonches of the older branch, they
made me trustee for the little sum which M. Francois du Hautoy meant
for the girl's fortune. I made my own fortune with those ten thousand
francs, which amount to thirty thousand at the present day. Mme. de
Senonches is sure to give the wedding clothes, and some plate and
furniture to her goddaughter. Now, I can put you in the way of
marrying the girl, my lad," said Cointet, slapping Petit-Claud on the
knee; "and when you marry Francoise de la Haye, you will have a large
number of the aristocracy of Angouleme as your clients. This
understanding between us (under the rose) will open up magnificent
prospects for you. Your position will be as much as any one could
want; in fact, they don't ask better, I know."
"What is to be done?" Petit-Claud asked eagerly. "You have an
attorney, Maitre Cachan----"
"And, moreover, I shall not leave Cachan at once for you; I shall only
be your client later on," said Cointet significantly. "What is to be
done, do you ask, my friend? Eh! why, David Sechard's business. The
poor devil has three thousand francs' worth of bills to meet; he will
not meet them; you will stave off legal proceedings in such a way as
to increase the expenses enormously. Don't trouble yourself; go on,
pile on items. Doublon, my process-server, will act under Cachan's
directions, and he will lay on like a blacksmith. A word to the wise
is sufficient. Now, young man?----"
An eloquent pause followed, and the two men looked at each other.
"We have never seen each other," Cointet resumed; "I have not said a
syllable to you; you know nothing about M. du Hautoy, nor Mme. de
Senonches, nor Mlle. de la Haye; only, when the time comes, two months
hence, you will propose for the young lady. If we should want to see
each other, you will come here after dark. Let us have nothing in
"Then you mean to ruin Sechard?" asked Petit-Claud.
"Not exactly; but he must be in jail for some time----"
"And what is the object?"
"Do you think that I am noodle enough to tell you that? If you have
wit enough to find out, you will have sense enough to hold your
"Old Sechard has plenty of money," said Petit-Claud. He was beginning
already to enter into Boniface Cointet's notions, and foresaw a
possible cause of failure.
"So long as the father lives, he will not give his son a farthing; and
the old printer has no mind as yet to send in an order for his funeral
"Agreed!" said Petit-Claud, promptly making up his mind. "I don't ask
you for guarantees; I am an attorney. If any one plays me a trick,
there will be an account to settle between us."
"The rogue will go far," thought Cointet; he bade Petit-Claud good-
The day after this conference was the 30th of April, and the Cointets
presented the first of the three bills forged by Lucien. Unluckily,
the bill was brought to poor Mme. Sechard; and she, seeing at once
that the signature was not in her husband's handwriting, sent for
David and asked him point-blank:
"You did not put your name to that bill, did you?"
"No," said he; "your brother was so pressed for time that he signed
Eve returned the bill to the bank messenger sent by the Cointets.
"We cannot meet it," she said; then, feeling that her strength was
failing, she went up to her room. David followed her.
"Go quickly to the Cointets, dear," Eve said faintly; "they will have
some consideration for you; beg them to wait; and call their attention
besides to the fact that when Cerizet's lease is renewed, they will
owe you a thousand francs."
David went forthwith to his enemies. Now, any foreman may become a
master printer, but there are not always the makings of a good man of
business in a skilled typographer; David knew very little of business;
when, therefore, with a heavily-beating heart and a sensation of
throttling, David had put his excuses badly enough and formulated his
request, the answer--"This is nothing to do with us; the bill has been
passed on to us by Metivier; Metivier will pay us. Apply to M.
Metivier"--cut him short at once.
"Oh!" cried Eve when she heard the result, "as soon as the bill is
returned to M. Metivier, we may be easy."
At two o'clock the next day, Victor-Ange-Hermenegilde Doublon,
bailiff, made protest for non-payment at two o'clock, a time when the
Place du Murier is full of people; so that though Doublon was careful
to stand and chat at the back door with Marion and Kolb, the news of
the protest was known all over the business world of Angouleme that
evening. Tall Cointet had enjoined it upon Master Doublon to show the
Sechards the greatest consideration; but when all was said and done,
could the bailiff's hypocritical regard for appearances save Eve and
David from the disgrace of a suspension of payment? Let each judge for
himself. A tolerably long digression of this kind will seem all too
short; and ninety out of every hundred readers shall seize with
avidity upon details that possess all the piquancy of novelty, thus
establishing yet once again the trust of the well-known axiom, that
there is nothing so little known as that which everybody is supposed
to know--the Law of the Land, to wit.
And of a truth, for the immense majority of Frenchmen, a minute
description of some part of the machinery of banking will be as
interesting as any chapter of foreign travel. When a tradesman living
in one town gives a bill to another tradesman elsewhere (as David was
supposed to have done for Lucien's benefit), the transaction ceases to
be a simple promissory note, given in the way of business by one
tradesman to another in the same place, and becomes in some sort a
letter of exchange. When, therefore, Metivier accepted Lucien's three
bills, he was obliged to send them for collection to his
correspondents in Angouleme--to Cointet Brothers, that is to say.
Hence, likewise, a certain initial loss for Lucien in exchange on
Angouleme, taking the practical shape of an abatement of so much per
cent over and above the discount. In this way Sechard's bills had
passed into circulation in the bank. You would not believe how greatly
the quality of banker, united with the august title of creditor,
changes the debtor's position. For instance, when a bill has been
passed through the bank (please note that expression), and transferred
from the money market in Paris to the financial world of Angouleme, if
that bill is protested, then the bankers in Angouleme must draw up a
detailed account of the expenses of protest and return; 'tis a duty
which they owe to themselves. Joking apart, no account of the most
romantic adventure could be more mildly improbable than this of the
journey made by a bill. Behold a certain article in the Code of
commerce authorizing the most ingenious pleasantries after
Mascarille's manner, and the interpretation thereof shall make
apparent manifold atrocities lurking beneath the formidable word
Master Doublon registered the protest and went himself with it to MM.
Cointet Brothers. The firm had a standing account with their bailiff;
he gave them six months' credit; and the lynxes of Angouleme
practically took a twelvemonth, though tall Cointet would say month by
month to the lynxes' jackal, "Do you want any money, Doublon?" Nor was
this all. Doublon gave the influential house a rebate upon every
transaction; it was the merest trifle, one franc fifty centimes on a
protest, for instance.
Tall Cointet quietly sat himself down at his desk and took out a small
sheet of paper with a thirty-five centime stamp upon it, chatting as
he did so with Doublon as to the standing of some of the local
"Well, are you satisfied with young Gannerac?"
"He is not doing badly. Lord, a carrier drives a trade----"
"Drives a trade, yes; but, as a matter of fact, his expenses are a
heavy pull on him; his wife spends a good deal, so they tell me----"
"Of HIS money?" asked Doublon, with a knowing look.
The lynx meanwhile had finished ruling his sheet of paper, and now
proceeded to trace the ominous words at the head of the following
account in bold characters:--
ACCOUNT OF EXPENSES OF PROTEST AND RETURN.
To one bill for ONE THOUSAND FRANCS, bearing date of February the
tenth, eighteen hundred and twenty-two, drawn by SECHARD JUNIOR of
Angouleme, to order of LUCIEN CHARDON, otherwise DE RUBEMPRE,
endorsed to order of METIVIER, and finally to our order, matured
the thirtieth of April last, protested by DOUBLON, process-server,
on the first of May, eighteen hundred and twenty-two.
Principal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1000 --
Expenses of Protest. . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 35
Bank charges, one-half per cent. . . . . . . 5 --
Brokerage, one-quarter per cent. . . . . . . 2 50
Stamp on re-draft and present account. . . . 1 35
Interest and postage . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 --
Exchange at the rate of one and a quarter
per cent on 1024 fr. 20 c.. . . . . . . . 13 25
Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
One thousand and thirty-seven francs forty-five centimes, for
which we repay ourselves by our draft at sight upon M. Metivier,
Rue Serpente, Paris, payable to order of M. Gannerac of L'Houmeau.
ANGOULEME, May 2, 1822 COINTET BROTHERS.
At the foot of this little memorandum, drafted with the ease that
comes of long practice (for the writer chatted with Doublon as he
wrote), there appeared the subjoined form of declaration:--
"We, the undersigned, Postel of L'Houmeau, pharmaceutical chemist,
and Gannerac, forwarding agent, merchant of this town, hereby
certify that the present rate of exchange on Paris is one and a
quarter per cent.
"ANGOULEME, May 2, 1822."
"Here, Doublon, be so good as to step round and ask Postel and
Gannerac to put their names to this declaration, and bring it back
with you to-morrow morning."
And Doublon, quite accustomed as he was to these instruments of
torture, forthwith went, as if it were the simplest thing in the
world. Evidently the protest might have been sent in an envelope, as
in Paris, and even so all Angouleme was sure to hear of the poor
Sechards' unlucky predicament. How they all blamed his want of
business energy! His excessive fondness for his wife had been the ruin
of him, according to some; others maintained that it was his affection
for his brother-in-law; and what shocking conclusions did they not
draw from these premises! A man ought never to embrace the interests
of his kith and kin. Old Sechard's hard-hearted conduct met with
approval, and people admired him for his treatment of his son!
And now, all you who for any reason whatsoever should forget to "honor
your engagements," look well into the methods of the banking business,
by which one thousand francs may be made to pay interest at the rate
of twenty-eight francs in ten minutes, without breaking the law of the
The thousand francs, the one incontestable item in the account, comes
The second item is shared between the bailiff and the Inland Revenue
Department. The six francs due to the State for providing a piece of
stamped paper, and putting the debtor's mortification on record, will
probably ensure a long life to this abuse; and as you already know,
one franc fifty centimes from this item found its way into the
banker's pockets in the shape of Doublon's rebate.
"Bank charges one-half per cent," runs the third item, which appears
upon the ingenious plea that if a banker has not received payment, he
has for all practical purposes discounted a bill. And although the
contrary may be the case, if you fail to receive a thousand francs, it
seems to be very much the same thing as if you had paid them away.
Everybody who has discounted a bill knows that he has to pay more than
the six per cent fixed by law; for a small percentage appears under
the humble title of "charges," representing a premium on the financial
genius and skill with which the capitalist puts his money out to
interest. The more money he makes out of you, the more he asks.
Wherefore it would be undoubtedly cheaper to discount a bill with a
fool, if fools there be in the profession of bill-discounting.
The law requires the banker to obtain a stock-broker's certificate for
the rate of exchange. When a place is so unlucky as to boast no stock
exchange, two merchants act instead. This is the significance of the
item "brokerage"; it is a fixed charge of a quarter per cent on the
amount of the protested bill. The custom is to consider the amount as
paid to the merchants who act for the stock-broker, and the banker
quietly puts the money into his cash-box. So much for the third item
in this delightful account.
The fourth includes the cost of the piece of stamped paper on which
the account itself appears, as well as the cost of the stamp for
re-draft, as it is ingeniously named, viz., the banker's draft upon
his colleague in Paris.
The fifth is a charge for postage and the legal interest due upon the
amount for the time that it may happen to be absent from the banker's
The final item, the exchange, is the object for which the bank exists,
which is to say, for the transmission of sums of money from one place
Now, sift this account thoroughly, and what do you find? The method of
calculation closely resembles Polichinelle's arithmetic in Lablache's
Neapolitan song, "fifteen and five make twenty-two." The signatures of
Messieurs Postel and Gannerac were obviously given to oblige in the
way of business; the Cointets would act at need for Gannerac as
Gannerac acted for the Cointets. It was a practical application of the
well-known proverb, "Reach me the rhubarb and I will pass you the
senna." Cointet Brothers, moreover, kept a standing account with
Metivier; there was no need of a re-draft, and no re-draft was made. A
returned bill between the two firms simply meant a debit or credit
entry and another line in a ledger.
This highly-colored account, therefore, is reduced to the one thousand
francs, with an additional thirteen francs for expenses of protest,
and half per cent for a month's delay, one thousand and eighteen
francs it may be in all.
Suppose that in a large banking-house a bill for a thousand francs is
daily protested on an average, then the banker receives twenty-eight
francs a day by the grace of God and the constitution of the banking
system, that all powerful invention due to the Jewish intellect of the
Middle Ages, which after six centuries still controls monarchs and
peoples. In other words, a thousand francs would bring such a house
twenty-eight francs per day, or ten thousand two hundred and twenty
francs per annum. Triple the average of protests, and consequently of
expenses, and you shall derive an income of thirty thousand francs per
annum, interest upon purely fictitious capital. For which reason,
nothing is more lovingly cultivated than these little "accounts of
If David Sechard had come to pay his bill on the 3rd of May, that is,
the day after it was protested, MM. Cointet Brothers would have met
him at once with, "We have returned your bill to M. Metivier,"
although, as a matter of fact, the document would have been lying upon
the desk. A banker has a right to make out the account of expenses on
the evening of the day when the bill is protested, and he uses the
right to "sweat the silver crowns," in the country banker's phrase.
The Kellers, with correspondents all over the world, make twenty
thousand francs per annum by charges for postage alone; accounts of
expenses of protest pay for Mme. la Baronne de Nucingen's dresses,
opera box, and carriage. The charge for postage is a more shocking
swindle, because a house will settle ten matters of business in as
many lines of a single letter. And of the tithe wrung from misfortune,
the Government, strange to say! takes its share, and the national
revenue is swelled by a tax on commercial failure. And the Bank? from
the august height of a counting-house she flings an observation, full
of commonsense, at the debtor, "How is it?" asks she, "that you cannot
meet your bill?" and, unluckily, there is no reply to the question.
Wherefore, the "account of expenses" is an account bristling with
dreadful fictions, fit to cause any debtor, who henceforth shall
reflect upon this instructive page, a salutary shudder.
On the 4th of May, Metivier received the account from Cointet
Brothers, with instructions to proceed against M. Lucien Chardon,
otherwise de Rubempre, with the utmost rigor of the law.
Eve also wrote to M. Metivier, and a few days later received an answer
which reassured her completely:--
To M. Sechard, Junior, Printer, Angouleme.
"I have duly received your esteemed favor of the 5th instant. From
your explanation of the bill due on April 30th, I understand that
you have obliged your brother-in-law, M. de Rubempre, who is
spending so much that it will be doing you a service to summons
him. His present position is such that he is likely to delay
payment for long. If your brother-in-law should refuse payment, I
shall rely upon the credit of your old-established house.--I sign
myself now, as ever, your obedient servant,
"Well," said Eve, commenting upon the letter to David, "Lucien will
know when they summons him that we could not pay."
What a change wrought in Eve those few words meant! The love that grew
deeper as she came to know her husband's character better and better,
was taking the place of love for her brother in her heart. But to how
many illusions had she not bade farewell?
And now let us trace out the whole history of the bill and the account
of expenses in the business world of Paris. The law enacts that the
third holder, the technical expression for the third party into whose
hands the bill passes, is at liberty to proceed for the whole amount
against any one of the various endorsers who appears to him to be most
likely to make prompt payment. M. Metivier, using this discretion,
served a summons upon Lucien. Behold the successive stages of the
proceedings, all of them perfectly futile. Metivier, with the Cointets
behind him, knew that Lucien was not in a position to pay, but
insolvency in fact is not insolvency in law until it has been formally
Formal proof of Lucien's inability to pay was obtained in the
On the 5th of May, Metivier's process-server gave Lucien notice of the
protest and an account of the expense thereof, and summoned him to
appear before the Tribunal of Commerce, or County Court, of Paris, to
hear a vast number of things: this, among others, that he was liable
to imprisonment as a merchant. By the time that Lucien, hard pressed
and hunted down on all sides, read this jargon, he received notice of
judgment against him by default. Coralie, his mistress, ignorant of
the whole matter, imagined that Lucien had obliged his brother-in-law,
and handed him all the documents together--too late. An actress sees
so much of bailiffs, duns, and writs, upon the stage, that she looks
on all stamped paper as a farce.
Tears filled Lucien's eyes; he was unhappy on Sechard's account, he
was ashamed of the forgery, he wished to pay, he desired to gain time.
Naturally he took counsel of his friends. But by the time Lousteau,
Blondet, Bixiou, and Nathan had told the poet to snap his fingers at a
court only established for tradesmen, Lucien was already in the
clutches of the law. He beheld upon his door the little yellow placard
which leaves its reflection on the porter's countenance, and exercises
a most astringent influence upon credit; striking terror into the
heart of the smallest tradesman, and freezing the blood in the veins
of a poet susceptible enough to care about the bits of wood, silken
rags, dyed woolen stuffs, and multifarious gimcracks entitled
When the broker's men came for Coralie's furniture, the author of the
Marguerites fled to a friend of Bixiou's, one Desroches, a barrister,
who burst out laughing at the sight of Lucien in such a state about
nothing at all.
"That is nothing, my dear fellow. Do you want to gain time?"
"Yes, as much possible."
"Very well, apply for stay of execution. Go and look up Masson, he is
a solicitor in the Commercial Court, and a friend of mine. Take your
documents to him. He will make a second application for you, and give
notice of objection to the jurisdiction of the court. There is not the
least difficulty; you are a journalist, your name is well known
enough. If they summons you before a civil court, come to me about it,
that will be my affair; I engage to send anybody who offers to annoy
the fair Coralie about his business."
On the 28th of May, Lucien's case came on in the civil court, and
judgment was given before Desroches expected it. Lucien's creditor was
pushing on the proceedings against him. A second execution was put in,
and again Coralie's pilasters were gilded with placards. Desroches
felt rather foolish; a colleague had "caught him napping," to use his
own expression. He demurred, not without reason, that the furniture
belonged to Mlle. Coralie, with whom Lucien was living, and demanded
an order for inquiry. Thereupon the judge referred the matter to the
registrar for inquiry, the furniture was proved to belong to the
actress, and judgment was entered accordingly. Metivier appealed, and
judgment was confirmed on appeal on the 30th of June.
On the 7th of August, Maitre Cachan received by the coach a bulky
package endorsed, "Metivier versus Sechard and Lucien Chardon."
The first document was a neat little bill, of which a copy (accuracy
guaranteed) is here given for the reader's benefit:--
To Bill due the last day of April, drawn by
SECHARD, JUNIOR, to order of LUCIEN DE
RUBEMPRE, together with expenses of fr. c.
protest and return. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
May 5th--Serving notice of protest and
summons to appear before the
Tribunal of Commerce in
Paris, May 7th . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 75
" 7th--Judgment by default and
warrant of arrest. . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 --
" 10th--Notification of judgment . . . . . . . . . 8 50
" 12th--Warrant of execution . . . . . . . . . . . 5 50
" 14th--Inventory and appraisement
previous to execution. . . . . . . . . . . 16 --
" 18th--Expenses of affixing placards. . . . . . . 15 25
" 19th--Registration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 --
" 24th--Verification of inventory, and
application for stay of execution
on the part of the said
Lucien de Rubempre, objecting
to the jurisdiction of the Court. . . . . . 12 --
" 27th--Order of the Court upon application
duly repeated, and transfer of
of case to the Civil Court. . . . . . . . . 35 --
Carried forward. . . . . . . . . . . . 1177 45
Brought forward 1177 45
May 28th--Notice of summary proceedings in
the Civil Court at the instance
of Metivier, represented by
counsel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 50
June 2nd--Judgment, after hearing both
parties, condemning Lucien for
expenses of protest and return;
the plaintiff to bear costs
of proceedings in the
Commercial Court. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 --
" 6th--Notification of judgment. . . . . . . . . . 10 --
" 15th--Warrant of execution. . . . . . . . . . . . 5 50
" 19th--Inventory and appraisement preparatory
to execution; interpleader summons by
the Demoiselle Coralie, claiming goods
and chattels taken in execution; demand
for immediate special inquiry before
further proceedings be taken . . . . . . . 20 --
" " --Judge's order referring matter to
registrar for immediate special inquiry. . 40 --
" " --Judgment in favor of the said
Mademoiselle Coralie . . . . . . . . . . . 250 --
" 20th--Appeal by Metivier . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 --
" 30th--Confirmation of judgment . . . . . . . . . 250 --
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1926 45
Bill matured May 31st, with expenses of fr. c.
protest and return. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
Serving notice of protest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 75
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1046 20
Bill matured June 30th, with expenses of
protest and return. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
Serving notice of protest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 75
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1046 20
This document was accompanied by a letter from Metivier, instructing
Maitre Cachan, notary of Angouleme, to prosecute David Sechard with
the utmost rigor of the law. Wherefore Maitre Victor-Ange-Hermenegilde
Doublon summoned David Sechard before the Tribunal of Commerce in
Angouleme for the sum-total of four thousand and eighteen francs
eighty-five centimes, the amount of the three bills and expenses
already incurred. On the morning of the very day when Doublon served
the writ upon Eve, requiring her to pay a sum so enormous in her eyes,
there came a letter like a thunderbolt from Metivier:--
To Monsieur Sechard, Junior, Printer, Angouleme.
"SIR,--Your brother-in-law, M. Chardon, is so shamelessly
dishonest, that he declares his furniture to be the property of an
actress with whom he is living. You ought to have informed me
candidly of these circumstances, and not have allowed me to go to
useless expense over law proceedings. I have received no answer
to my letter of the 10th of May last. You must not, therefore,
take it amiss if I ask for immediate repayment of the three bills
and the expenses to which I have been put.--Yours, etc.,
Eve had heard nothing during these months, and supposed, in her
ignorance of commercial law, that her brother had made reparation for
his sins by meeting the forged bills.
"Be quick, and go at once to Petit-Claud, dear," she said; "tell him
about it, and ask his advice."
David hurried to his schoolfellow's office.
"When you came to tell me of your appointment and offered me your
services, I did not think that I should need them so soon," he said.
Petit-Claud studied the fine face of this man who sat opposite him in
the office chair, and scarcely listened to the details of the case,
for he knew more of them already than the speaker. As soon as he saw
Sechard's anxiety, he said to himself, "The trick has succeeded."
This kind of comedy is often played in an attorney's office. "Why are
the Cointets persecuting him?" Petit-Claud wondered within himself,
for the attorney can use his wit to read his clients' thoughts as
clearly as the ideas of their opponents, and it is his business to see
both sides of the judicial web.
"You want to gain time," he said at last, when Sechard had come to an
end. "How long do you want? Something like three or four months?"
"Oh! four months! that would be my salvation," exclaimed David. Petit-
Claud appeared to him as an angel.
"Very well. No one shall lay hands on any of your furniture, and no
one shall arrest you for four months----But it will cost you a great
deal," said Petit-Claud.
"Eh! what does that matter to me?" cried Sechard.
"You are expecting some money to come in; but are you sure of it?"
asked Petit-Claud, astonished at the way in which his client walked
into the toils.
"In three months' time I shall have plenty of money," said the
inventor, with an inventor's hopeful confidence.
"Your father is still above ground," suggested Petit-Claud; "he is in
no hurry to leave his vines."
"Do you think that I am counting on my father's death?" returned
David. "I am on the track of a trade secret, the secret of making a
sheet of paper as strong as Dutch paper, without a thread of cotton in
it, and at a cost of fifty per cent less than cotton pulp."
"There is a fortune in that!" exclaimed Petit-Claud. He knew now what
the tall Cointet meant.
"A large fortune, my friend, for in ten years' time the demand for
paper will be ten times larger than it is to-day. Journalism will be
the craze of our day."
"Nobody knows your secret?"
"Nobody except my wife."
"You have not told any one what you mean to do--the Cointets, for
"I did say something about it, but in general terms, I think."
A sudden spark of generosity flashed through Petit-Claud's rancorous
soul; he tried to reconcile Sechard's interests with the Cointet's
projects and his own.
"Listen, David, we are old schoolfellows, you and I; I will fight your
case; but understand this clearly--the defence, in the teeth of the
law, will cost you five or six thousand francs! Do not compromise your
prospects. I think you will be compelled to share the profits of your
invention with some one of our paper manufacturers. Let us see now.
You will think twice before you buy or build a paper mill; and there
is the cost of the patent besides. All this means time, and money too.
The servers of writs will be down upon you too soon, perhaps, although
we are going to give them the slip----"
"I have my secret," said David, with the simplicity of the man of
"Well and good, your secret will be your plank of safety," said Petit-
Claud; his first loyal intention of avoiding a lawsuit by a compromise
was frustrated. "I do not wish to know it; but mind this that I tell
you. Work in the bowels of the earth if you can, so that no one may
watch you and gain a hint from your ways of working, or your plank
will be stolen from under your feet. An inventor and a simpleton often
live in the same skin. Your mind runs so much on your secrets that you
cannot think of everything. People will begin to have their suspicions
at last, and the place is full of paper manufacturers. So many
manufacturers, so many enemies for you! You are like a beaver with the
hunters about you; do not give them your skin----"
"Thank you, dear fellow, I have told myself all this," exclaimed
Sechard, "but I am obliged to you for showing so much concern for me
and for your forethought. It does not really matter to me myself. An
income of twelve hundred francs would be enough for me, and my father
ought by rights to leave me three times as much some day. Love and
thought make up my life--a divine life. I am working for Lucien's sake
and for my wife's."
"Come, give me this power of attorney, and think of nothing but your
discovery. If there should be any danger of arrest, I will let you
know in time, for we must think of all possibilities. And let me tell
you again to allow no one of whom you are not so sure as you are of
yourself to come into your place."
"Cerizet did not care to continue the lease of the plant and premises,
hence our little money difficulties. We have no one at home now but
Marion and Kolb, an Alsacien as trusty as a dog, and my wife and her
"One word," said Petit-Claud, "don't trust that dog----"
"You do not know him," exclaimed David; "he is like a second self."
"May I try him?"
"Yes," said Sechard.
"There, good-bye, but send Mme. Sechard to me; I must have a power of
attorney from your wife. And bear in mind, my friend, that there is a
fire burning in your affairs," said Petit-Claud, by way of warning of
all the troubles gathering in the law courts to burst upon David's
"Here am I with one foot in Burgundy and the other in Champagne," he
added to himself as he closed the office door on David.
Harassed by money difficulties, beset with fears for his wife's
health, stung to the quick by Lucien's disgrace, David had worked on
at his problem. He had been trying to find a single process to replace
the various operations of pounding and maceration to which all flax or
cotton or rags, any vegetable fibre, in fact, must be subjected; and
as he went to Petit-Claud's office, he abstractedly chewed a bit of
nettle stalk that had been steeping in water. On his way home,
tolerably satisfied with his interview, he felt a little pellet
sticking between his teeth. He laid it on his hand, flattened it out,
and saw that the pulp was far superior to any previous result. The
want of cohesion is the great drawback of all vegetable fibre; straw,
for instance, yields a very brittle paper, which may almost be called
metallic and resonant. These chances only befall bold inquirers into
"Now," said he to himself, "I must contrive to do by machinery and
some chemical agency the thing that I myself have done unconsciously."
When his wife saw him, his face was radiant with belief in victory.
There were traces of tears in Eve's face.
"Oh! my darling, do not trouble yourself; Petit-Claud will guarantee
that we shall not be molested for several months to come. There will
be a good deal of expense over it; but, as Petit-Claud said when he
came to the door with me, 'A Frenchman has a right to keep his
creditors waiting, provided he repays them capital, interest, and
costs.'--Very well, then, we shall do that----"
"And live meanwhile?" asked poor Eve, who thought of everything.
"Ah! that is true," said David, carrying his hand to his ear after the
unaccountable fashion of most perplexed mortals.
"Mother will look after little Lucien, and I can go back to work
again," said she.
"Eve! oh, my Eve!" cried David, holding his wife closely to him.--"At
Saintes, not very far from here, in the sixteenth century, there lived
one of the very greatest of Frenchmen, for he was not merely the
inventor of glaze, he was the glorious precursor of Buffon and Cuvier
besides; he was the first geologist, good, simple soul that he was.
Bernard Palissy endured the martyrdom appointed for all seekers into
secrets but his wife and children and all his neighbors were against
him. His wife used to sell his tools; nobody understood him, he
wandered about the countryside, he was hunted down, they jeered at
him. But I--am loved----"
"Dearly loved!" said Eve, with the quiet serenity of the love that is
sure of itself.
"And so may well endure all that poor Bernard Palissy suffered--
Bernard Palissy, the discoverer of Ecouen ware, the Huguenot excepted
by Charles IX. on the day of Saint-Bartholomew. He lived to be rich
and honored in his old age, and lectured on the 'Science of Earths,'
as he called it, in the face of Europe."
"So long as my fingers can hold an iron, you shall want for nothing,"
cried the poor wife, in tones that told of the deepest devotion. "When
I was Mme. Prieur's forewoman I had a friend among the girls, Basine
Clerget, a cousin of Postel's, a very good child; well, Basine told me
the other day when she brought back the linen, that she was taking
Mme. Prieur's business; I will work for her."
"Ah! you shall not work there for long," said David; "I have found
Eve, watching his face, saw the sublime belief in success which
sustains the inventor, the belief that gives him courage to go forth
into the virgin forests of the country of Discovery; and, for the
first time in her life, she answered that confident look with a half-
sad smile. David bent his head mournfully.
"Oh! my dear! I am not laughing! I did not doubt! It was not a sneer!"
cried Eve, on her knees before her husband. "But I see plainly now
that you were right to tell me nothing about your experiments and your
hopes. Ah! yes, dear, an inventor should endure the long painful
travail of a great idea alone, he should not utter a word of it even
to his wife. . . . A woman is a woman still. This Eve of yours could
not help smiling when she heard you say, 'I have found out,' for the
seventeenth time this month."
David burst out laughing so heartily at his own expense that Eve
caught his hand in hers and kissed it reverently. It was a delicious
moment for them both, one of those roses of love and tenderness that
grow beside the desert paths of the bitterest poverty, nay, at times
in yet darker depths.
As the storm of misfortune grew, Eve's courage redoubled; the
greatness of her husband's nature, his inventor's simplicity, the
tears that now and again she saw in the eyes of this dreamer of dreams
with the tender heart,--all these things aroused in her an unsuspected
energy of resistance. Once again she tried the plan that had succeeded
so well already. She wrote to M. Metivier, reminding him that the
printing office was for sale, offered to pay him out of the proceeds,
and begged him not to ruin David with needless costs. Metivier
received the heroic letter, and shammed dead. His head-clerk replied
that in the absence of M. Metivier he could not take it upon himself
to stay proceedings, for his employer had made it a rule to let the
law take its course. Eve wrote again, offering this time to renew the
bills and pay all the costs hitherto incurred. To this the clerk
consented, provided that Sechard senior guaranteed payment. So Eve
walked over to Marsac, taking Kolb and her mother with her. She braved
the old vinedresser, and so charming was she, that the old man's face