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Ferragus by Honore de Balzac

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Etext prepared by John Bickers, jbickers@templar.actrix.gen.nz
Dagny, dagnyj@hotmail.com
and Bonnie Sala



Translated By
Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Hector Berlioz.


Thirteen men were banded together in Paris under the Empire, all
imbued with one and the same sentiment, all gifted with sufficient
energy to be faithful to the same thought, with sufficient honor among
themselves never to betray one another even if their interests
clashed; and sufficiently wily and politic to conceal the sacred ties
that united them, sufficiently strong to maintain themselves above the
law, bold enough to undertake all things, and fortunate enough to
succeed, nearly always, in their undertakings; having run the greatest
dangers, but keeping silence if defeated; inaccessible to fear;
trembling neither before princes, nor executioners, not even before
innocence; accepting each other for such as they were, without social
prejudices,--criminals, no doubt, but certainly remarkable through
certain of the qualities that make great men, and recruiting their
number only among men of mark. That nothing might be lacking to the
sombre and mysterious poesy of their history, these Thirteen men have
remained to this day unknown; though all have realized the most
chimerical ideas that the fantastic power falsely attributed to the
Manfreds, the Fausts, and the Melmoths can suggest to the imagination.
To-day, they are broken up, or, at least, dispersed; they have
peaceably put their necks once more under the yoke of civil law, just
as Morgan, that Achilles among pirates, transformed himself from a
buccaneering scourge to a quiet colonist, and spent, without remorse,
around his domestic hearth the millions gathered in blood by the lurid
light of flames and slaughter.

Since the death of Napoleon, circumstances, about which the author
must keep silence, have still farther dissolved the original bond of
this secret society, always extraordinary, sometimes sinister, as
though it lived in the blackest pages of Mrs. Radcliffe. A somewhat
strange permission to relate in his own way a few of the adventures of
these men (while respecting certain susceptibilities) has only
recently been given to him by one of those anonymous heroes to whom
all society was once occultly subjected. In this permission the writer
fancied he detected a vague desire for personal celebrity.

This man, apparently still young, with fair hair and blue eyes, whose
sweet, clear voice seemed to denote a feminine soul, was pale of face
and mysterious in manner; he conversed affably, declared himself not
more than forty years of age, and apparently belonged to the very
highest social classes. The name which he assumed must have been
fictitious; his person was unknown in society. Who was he? That, no
one has ever known.

Perhaps, in confiding to the author the extraordinary matters which he
related to him, this mysterious person may have wished to see them in
a manner reproduced, and thus enjoy the emotions they were certain to
bring to the hearts of the masses,--a feeling analogous to that of
Macpherson when the name of his creation Ossian was transcribed into
all languages. That was certainly, for the Scotch lawyer, one of the
keenest, or at any rate the rarest, sensations a man could give
himself. Is it not the incognito of genius? To write the "Itinerary
from Paris to Jerusalem" is to take a share in the human glory of a
single epoch; but to endow his native land with another Homer, was not
that usurping the work of God?

The author knows too well the laws of narration to be ignorant of the
pledges this short preface is contracting for him; but he also knows
enough of the history of the THIRTEEN to be certain that his present
tale will never be thought below the interest inspired by this
programme. Dramas steeped in blood, comedies filled with terror,
romantic tales through which rolled heads mysteriously decapitated,
have been confided to him. If readers were not surfeited with horrors
served up to them of late in cold blood, he might reveal the calm
atrocities, the surpassing tragedies concealed under family life. But
he chooses in preference gentler events,--those where scenes of purity
succeed the tempests of passion; where woman is radiant with virtue
and beauty. To the honor of the THIRTEEN be it said that there are
such scenes in their history, which may have the honor of being some
day published as a foil of tales to listeners,--that race apart from
others, so curiously energetic, and so interesting in spite of its

An author ought to be above converting his tale, when the tale is
true, into a species of surprise-game, and of taking his readers, as
certain novellists do, through many volumes and from cellar to cellar,
to show them the dry bones of a dead body, and tell them, by way of
conclusion, that THAT is what has frightened them behind doors, hidden
in the arras, or in cellars where the dead man was buried and
forgotten. In spite of his aversion for prefaces, the author feels
bound to place the following statement at the head of this narrative.
Ferragus is a first episode which clings by invisible links to the
"History of the THIRTEEN," whose power, naturally acquired, can alone
explain certain acts and agencies which would otherwise seem
supernatural. Although it is permissible in tellers of tales to have a
sort of literary coquetry in becoming historians, they ought to
renounce the benefit that may accrue from an odd or fantastic title--
on which certain slight successes have been won in the present day.
Consequently, the author will now explain, succinctly, the reasons
that obliged him to select a title to his book which seems at first
sight unnatural.

FERRAGUS is, according to ancient custom, a name taken by the chief or
Grand Master of the Devorants. On the day of their election these
chiefs continue whichever of the dynasties of their Order they are
most in sympathy with, precisely as the Popes do, on their accession,
in connection with pontifical dynasties. Thus the Devorants have
"Trempe-la Soupe IX.," "Ferragus XXII.," "Tutanus XIII.," "Masche-Fer
IV.," just as the Church has Clement XIV., Gregory VII., Julius II.,
Alexander VI., etc.

Now, then, who are the Devorants? "Devorant" is the name of one of
those tribes of "Companions" that issued in ancient times from the
great mystical association formed among the workers of Christianity to
rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. Companionism (to coin a word) still
exists in France among the people. Its traditions, powerful over minds
that are not enlightened, and over men not educated enough to cast
aside an oath, might serve the ends of formidable enterprises if some
rough-hewn genius were to seize hold of these diverse associations.
All the instruments of this Companionism are well-nigh blind. From
town to town there has existed from time immemorial, for the use of
Companions, an "Obade,"--a sort of halting-place, kept by a "Mother,"
an old woman, half-gypsy, with nothing to lose, knowing everything
that happens in her neighborhood, and devoted, either from fear or
habit, to the tribe, whose straggling members she feeds and lodges.
This people, ever moving and changing, though controlled by immutable
customs, has its eyes everywhere, executes, without judging it, a
WILL,--for the oldest Companion still belongs to an era when men had
faith. Moreover, the whole body professes doctrines that are
sufficiently true and sufficiently mysterious to electrify into a sort
of tribal loyalty all adepts whenever they obtain even a slight
development. The attachment of the Companions to their laws is so
passionate that the diverse tribes will fight sanguinary battles with
each other in defence of some question of principle.

Happily for our present public safety, when a Devorant is ambitious,
he builds houses, lays by his money, and leaves the Order. There is
many a curious thing to tell about the "Compagnons du Devoir"
[Companions of the Duty], the rivals of the Devorants, and about the
different sects of working-men, their usages, their fraternity, and
the bond existing between them and the free-masons. But such details
would be out of place here. The author must, however, add that under
the old monarchy it was not an unknown thing to find a "Trempe-la-
Soupe" enslaved to the king sentenced for a hundred and one years to
the galleys, but ruling his tribe from there, religiously consulted by
it, and when he escaped from his galley, certain of help, succor, and
respect, wherever he might be. To see its grand master at the galleys
is, to the faithful tribe, only one of those misfortunes for which
providence is responsible, and which does not release the Devorants
from obeying a power created by them to be above them. It is but the
passing exile of their legitimate king, always a king for them. Thus
we see the romantic prestige attaching to the name of Ferragus and to
that of the Devorants completely dissipated.

As for the THIRTEEN, they were all men of the stamp of Trelawney, Lord
Byron's friend, who was, they say, the original of his "Corsair." They
were all fatalists, men of nerve and poesy, weary of leading flat and
empty lives, driven toward Asiatic enjoyments by forces all the more
excessive because, long dormant, they awoke furious. One of them,
after re-reading "Venice Preserved," and admiring the sublime union of
Pierre and Jaffier, began to reflect on the virtues shown by men who
are outlawed by society, on the honesty of galley-slaves, the
faithfulness of thieves among each other, the privileges of exorbitant
power which such men know how to win by concentrating all ideas into a
single will. He saw that Man is greater than men. He concluded that
society ought to belong wholly to those distinguished beings who, to
natural intelligence, acquired wisdom, and fortune, add a fanaticism
hot enough to fuse into one casting these different forces. That done,
their occult power, vast in action and in intensity, against which the
social order would be helpless, would cast down all obstacles, blast
all other wills, and give to each the devilish power of all. This
world apart within the world, hostile to the world, admitting none of
the world's ideas, not recognizing any law, not submitting to any
conscience but that of necessity, obedient to a devotion only, acting
with every faculty for a single associate when one of their number
asked for the assistance of all,--this life of filibusters in lemon
kid gloves and cabriolets; this intimate union of superior beings,
cold and sarcastic, smiling and cursing in the midst of a false and
puerile society; this certainty of forcing all things to serve an end,
of plotting a vengeance that could not fail of living in thirteen
hearts; this happiness of nurturing a secret hatred in the face of
men, and of being always in arms against this; this ability to
withdraw to the sanctuary of self with one idea more than even the
most remarkable of men could have,--this religion of pleasure and
egotism cast so strong a spell over Thirteen men that they revived the
society of Jesuits to the profit of the devil.

It was horrible and stupendous; but the compact was made, and it
lasted precisely because it appeared to be so impossible.

There was, therefore, in Paris a brotherhood of THIRTEEN, who belonged
to each other absolutely, but ignored themselves as absolutely before
the world. At night they met, like conspirators, hiding no thought,
disposing each and all of a common fortune, like that of the Old Man
of the Mountain; having their feet in all salons, their hands in all
money-boxes, and making all things serve their purpose or their fancy
without scruple. No chief commanded them; no one member could arrogate
to himself that power. The most eager passion, the most exacting
circumstance, alone had the right to pass first. They were Thirteen
unknown kings,--but true kings, more than ordinary kings and judges
and executioners,--men who, having made themselves wings to roam
through society from depth to height, disdained to be anything in the
social sphere because they could be all. If the present writer ever
learns the reasons of their abdication of this power, he will take
occasion to tell them.[*]

[*] See Theophile Gautier's account of the society of the "Cheval
Rouge." Memoir of Balzac. Roberts Brothers, Boston.

Now, with this brief explanation, he may be allowed to begin the tale
of certain episodes in the history of the THIRTEEN, which have more
particularly attracted him by the Parisian flavor of their details and
the whimsicality of their contrasts.




Certain streets in Paris are as degraded as a man covered with infamy;
also, there are noble streets, streets simply respectable, young
streets on the morality of which the public has not yet formed an
opinion; also cut-throat streets, streets older than the age of the
oldest dowagers, estimable streets, streets always clean, streets
always dirty, working, laboring, and mercantile streets. In short, the
streets of Paris have every human quality, and impress us, by what we
must call their physiognomy, with certain ideas against which we are
defenceless. There are, for instance, streets of a bad neighborhood in
which you could not be induced to live, and streets where you would
willingly take up your abode. Some streets, like the rue Montmartre,
have a charming head, and end in a fish's tail. The rue de la Paix is
a wide street, a fine street, yet it wakens none of those gracefully
noble thoughts which come to an impressible mind in the middle of the
rue Royale, and it certainly lacks the majesty which reigns in the
Place Vendome.

If you walk the streets of the Ile Saint-Louis, do not seek the reason
of the nervous sadness that lays hold upon you save in the solitude of
the spot, the gloomy look of the houses, and the great deserted
mansions. This island, the ghost of /fermiers-generaux/, is the Venice
of Paris. The Place de la Bourse is voluble, busy, degraded; it is
never fine except by moonlight at two in the morning. By day it is
Paris epitomized; by night it is a dream of Greece. The rue
Traversiere-Saint-Honore--is not that a villainous street? Look at the
wretched little houses with two windows on a floor, where vice, crime,
and misery abound. The narrow streets exposed to the north, where the
sun never comes more than three or four times a year, are the
cut-throat streets which murder with impunity; the authorities of the
present day do not meddle with them; but in former times the
Parliament might perhaps have summoned the lieutenant of police and
reprimanded him for the state of things; and it would, at least, have
issued some decree against such streets, as it once did against the
wigs of the Chapter of Beauvais. And yet Monsieur Benoiston de
Chateauneuf has proved that the mortality of these streets is double
that of others! To sum up such theories by a single example: is not
the rue Fromentin both murderous and profligate!

These observations, incomprehensible out of Paris, will doubtless be
understood by musing men of thought and poesy and pleasure, who know,
while rambling about Paris, how to harvest the mass of floating
interests which may be gathered at all hours within her walls; to them
Paris is the most delightful and varied of monsters: here, a pretty
woman; farther on, a haggard pauper; here, new as the coinage of a new
reign; there, in this corner, elegant as a fashionable woman. A
monster, moreover, complete! Its garrets, as it were, a head full of
knowledge and genius; its first storeys stomachs repleted; its shops,
actual feet, where the busy ambulating crowds are moving. Ah! what an
ever-active life the monster leads! Hardly has the last vibration of
the last carriage coming from a ball ceased at its heart before its
arms are moving at the barriers and it shakes itself slowly into
motion. Doors open; turning on their hinges like the membrane of some
huge lobster, invisibly manipulated by thirty thousand men or women,
of whom each individual occupies a space of six square feet, but has a
kitchen, a workshop, a bed, children, a garden, little light to see
by, but must see all. Imperceptibly, the articulations begin to crack;
motion communicates itself; the street speaks. By mid-day, all is
alive; the chimneys smoke, the monster eats; then he roars, and his
thousand paws begin to ramp. Splendid spectacle! But, O Paris! he who
has not admired your gloomy passages, your gleams and flashes of
light, your deep and silent /cul-de-sacs/, who has not listened to
your murmurings between midnight and two in the morning, knows nothing
as yet of your true poesy, nor of your broad and fantastic contrasts.

There are a few amateurs who never go their way heedlessly; who savor
their Paris, so to speak; who know its physiognomy so well that they
see every wart, and pimple, and redness. To others, Paris is always
that monstrous marvel, that amazing assemblage of activities, of
schemes, of thoughts; the city of a hundred thousand tales, the head
of the universe. But to those few, Paris is sad or gay, ugly or
beautiful, living or dead; to them Paris is a creature; every man,
every fraction of a house is a lobe of the cellular tissue of that
great courtesan whose head and heart and fantastic customs they know
so well. These men are lovers of Paris; they lift their noses at such
or such a corner of a street, certain that they can see the face of a
clock; they tell a friend whose tobacco-pouch is empty, "Go down that
passage and turn to the left; there's a tobacconist next door to a
confectioner, where there's a pretty girl." Rambling about Paris is,
to these poets, a costly luxury. How can they help spending precious
minutes before the dramas, disasters, faces, and picturesque events
which meet us everywhere amid this heaving queen of cities, clothed in
posters,--who has, nevertheless, not a single clean corner, so
complying is she to the vices of the French nation! Who has not
chanced to leave his home early in the morning, intending to go to
some extremity of Paris, and found himself unable to get away from the
centre of it by the dinner-hour? Such a man will know how to excuse
this vagabondizing start upon our tale; which, however, we here sum up
in an observation both useful and novel, as far as any observation can
be novel in Paris, where there is nothing new,--not even the statue
erected yesterday, on which some young gamin has already scribbled his

Well, then! there are streets, or ends of streets, there are houses,
unknown for the most part to persons of social distinction, to which a
woman of that class cannot go without causing cruel and very wounding
things to be thought of her. Whether the woman be rich and has a
carriage, whether she is on foot, or is disguised, if she enters one
of these Parisian defiles at any hour of the day, she compromises her
reputation as a virtuous woman. If, by chance, she is there at nine in
the evening the conjectures that an observer permits himself to make
upon her may prove fearful in their consequences. But if the woman is
young and pretty, if she enters a house in one of those streets, if
the house has a long, dark, damp, and evil-smelling passage-way, at
the end of which flickers the pallid gleam of an oil lamp, and if
beneath that gleam appears the horrid face of a withered old woman
with fleshless fingers, ah, then! and we say it in the interests of
young and pretty women, that woman is lost. She is at the mercy of the
first man of her acquaintance who sees her in that Parisian slough.
There is more than one street in Paris where such a meeting may lead
to a frightful drama, a bloody drama of death and love, a drama of the
modern school.

Unhappily, this scene, this modern drama itself, will be comprehended
by only a small number of persons; and it is a pity to tell the tale
to a public which cannot enter into its local merit. But who can
flatter himself that he will ever be understood? We all die unknown--
'tis the saying of women and of authors.

At half-past eight o'clock one evening, in the rue Pagevin, in the
days when that street had no wall which did not echo some infamous
word, and was, in the direction of the rue Soly, the narrowest and
most impassable street in Paris (not excepting the least frequented
corner of the most deserted street),--at the beginning of the month of
February about thirteen years ago, a young man, by one of those
chances which come but once in life, turned the corner of the rue
Pagevin to enter the rue des Vieux-Augustins, close to the rue Soly.
There, this young man, who lived himself in the rue de Bourbon, saw in
a woman near whom he had been unconsciously walking, a vague
resemblance to the prettiest woman in Paris; a chaste and delightful
person, with whom he was secretly and passionately in love,--a love
without hope; she was married. In a moment his heart leaped, an
intolerable heat surged from his centre and flowed through all his
veins; his back turned cold, the skin of his head crept. He loved, he
was young, he knew Paris; and his knowledge did not permit him to be
ignorant of all there was of possible infamy in an elegant, rich,
young, and beautiful woman walking there, alone, with a furtively
criminal step. /She/ in that mud! at that hour!

The love that this young man felt for that woman may seem romantic,
and all the more so because he was an officer in the Royal Guard. If
he had been in the infantry, the affair might have seemed more likely;
but, as an officer of rank in the cavalry, he belonged to that French
arm which demands rapidity in its conquests and derives as much vanity
from its amorous exploits as from its dashing uniform. But the passion
of this officer was a true love, and many young hearts will think it
noble. He loved this woman because she was virtuous; he loved her
virtue, her modest grace, her imposing saintliness, as the dearest
treasures of his hidden passion. This woman was indeed worthy to
inspire one of those platonic loves which are found, like flowers amid
bloody ruins, in the history of the middle-ages; worthy to be the
hidden principle of all the actions of a young man's life; a love as
high, as pure as the skies when blue; a love without hope and to which
men bind themselves because it can never deceive; a love that is
prodigal of unchecked enjoyment, especially at an age when the heart
is ardent, the imagination keen, and the eyes of a man see very

Strange, weird, inconceivable effects may be met with at night in
Paris. Only those who have amused themselves by watching those effects
have any idea how fantastic a woman may appear there at dusk. At times
the creature whom you are following, by accident or design, seems to
you light and slender; the stockings, if they are white, make you
fancy that the legs must be slim and elegant; the figure though
wrapped in a shawl, or concealed by a pelisse, defines itself
gracefully and seductively among the shadows; anon, the uncertain
gleam thrown from a shop-window or a street lamp bestows a fleeting
lustre, nearly always deceptive, on the unknown woman, and fires the
imagination, carrying it far beyond the truth. The senses then bestir
themselves; everything takes color and animation; the woman appears in
an altogether novel aspect; her person becomes beautiful. Behold! she
is not a woman, she is a demon, a siren, who is drawing you by
magnetic attraction to some respectable house, where the worthy
/bourgeoise/, frightened by your threatening step and the clack of
your boots, shuts the door in your face without looking at you.

A vacillating gleam, thrown from the shop-window of a shoemaker,
suddenly illuminated from the waist down the figure of the woman who
was before the young man. Ah! surely, /she/ alone had that swaying
figure; she alone knew the secret of that chaste gait which innocently
set into relief the many beauties of that attractive form. Yes, that
was the shawl, and that the velvet bonnet which she wore in the
mornings. On her gray silk stockings not a spot, on her shoes not a
splash. The shawl held tightly round the bust disclosed, vaguely, its
charming lines; and the young man, who had often seen those shoulders
at a ball, knew well the treasures that the shawl concealed. By the
way a Parisian woman wraps a shawl around her, and the way she lifts
her feet in the street, a man of intelligence in such studies can
divine the secret of her mysterious errand. There is something, I know
not what, of quivering buoyancy in the person, in the gait; the woman
seems to weigh less; she steps, or rather, she glides like a star, and
floats onward led by a thought which exhales from the folds and motion
of her dress. The young man hastened his step, passed the woman, and
then turned back to look at her. Pst! she had disappeared into a
passage-way, the grated door of which and its bell still rattled and
sounded. The young man walked back to the alley and saw the woman
reach the farther end, where she began to mount--not without receiving
the obsequious bow of an old portress--a winding staircase, the lower
steps of which were strongly lighted; she went up buoyantly, eagerly,
as though impatient.

"Impatient for what?" said the young man to himself, drawing back to
lean against a wooden railing on the other side of the street. He
gazed, unhappy man, at the different storeys of the house, with the
keen attention of a detective searching for a conspirator.

It was one of those houses of which there are thousands in Paris,
ignoble, vulgar, narrow, yellowish in tone, with four storeys and
three windows on each floor. The outer blinds of the first floor were
closed. Where was she going? The young man fancied he heard the tinkle
of a bell on the second floor. As if in answer to it, a light began to
move in a room with two windows strongly illuminated, which presently
lit up the third window, evidently that of a first room, either the
salon or the dining-room of the apartment. Instantly the outline of a
woman's bonnet showed vaguely on the window, and a door between the
two rooms must have closed, for the first was dark again, while the
two other windows resumed their ruddy glow. At this moment a voice
said, "Hi, there!" and the young man was conscious of a blow on his

"Why don't you pay attention?" said the rough voice of a workman,
carrying a plank on his shoulder. The man passed on. He was the voice
of Providence saying to the watcher: "What are you meddling with?
Think of your own duty; and leave these Parisians to their own

The young man crossed his arms; then, as no one beheld him, he
suffered tears of rage to flow down his cheeks unchecked. At last the
sight of the shadows moving behind the lighted windows gave him such
pain that he looked elsewhere and noticed a hackney-coach, standing
against a wall in the upper part of the rue des Vieux-Augustins, at a
place where there was neither the door of a house, nor the light of a

Was it she? Was it not she? Life or death to a lover! This lover
waited. He stood there during a century of twenty minutes. After that
the woman came down, and he then recognized her as the one whom he
secretly loved. Nevertheless, he wanted still to doubt. She went to
the hackney-coach, and got into it.

"The house will always be there and I can search it later," thought
the young man, following the carriage at a run, to solve his last
doubts; and soon he did so.

The carriage stopped in the rue de Richelieu before a shop for
artificial flowers, close to the rue de Menars. The lady got out,
entered the shop, sent out the money to pay the coachman, and
presently left the shop herself, on foot, after buying a bunch of
marabouts. Marabouts for her black hair! The officer beheld her,
through the window-panes, placing the feathers to her head to see the
effect, and he fancied he could hear the conversation between herself
and the shop-woman.

"Oh! madame, nothing is more suitable for brunettes: brunettes have
something a little too strongly marked in their lines, and marabouts
give them just that /flow/ which they lack. Madame la Duchesse de
Langeais says they give a woman something vague, Ossianic, and very

"Very good; send them to me at once."

Then the lady turned quickly toward the rue de Menars, and entered her
own house. When the door closed on her, the young lover, having lost
his hopes, and worse, far worse, his dearest beliefs, walked through
the streets like a drunken man, and presently found himself in his own
room without knowing how he came there. He flung himself into an arm-
chair, put his head in his hands and his feet on the andirons, drying
his boots until he burned them. It was an awful moment,--one of those
moments in human life when the character is moulded, and the future
conduct of the best of men depends on the good or evil fortune of his
first action. Providence or fatality?--choose which you will.

This young man belonged to a good family, whose nobility was not very
ancient; but there are so few really old families in these days, that
all men of rank are ancient without dispute. His grandfather had
bought the office of counsellor to the Parliament of Paris, where he
afterwards became president. His sons, each provided with a handsome
fortune, entered the army, and through their marriages became attached
to the court. The Revolution swept the family away; but one old
dowager, too obstinate to emigrate, was left; she was put in prison,
threatened with death, but was saved by the 9th Thermidor and
recovered her property. When the proper time came, about the year
1804, she recalled her grandson to France. Auguste de Maulincour, the
only scion of the Carbonnon de Maulincour, was brought up by the good
dowager with the triple care of a mother, a woman of rank, and an
obstinate dowager. When the Restoration came, the young man, then
eighteen years of age, entered the Maison-Rouge, followed the princes
to Ghent, was made an officer in the body-guard, left it to serve in
the line, but was recalled later to the Royal Guard, where, at twenty-
three years of age, he found himself major of a cavalry regiment,--a
splendid position, due to his grandmother, who had played her cards
well to obtain it, in spite of his youth. This double biography is a
compendium of the general and special history, barring variations, of
all the noble families who emigrated having debts and property,
dowagers and tact.

Madame la Baronne de Maulincour had a friend in the old Vidame de
Pamiers, formerly a commander of the Knights of Malta. This was one of
those undying friendships founded on sexagenary ties which nothing can
weaken, because at the bottom of such intimacies there are certain
secrets of the human heart, delightful to guess at when we have the
time, insipid to explain in twenty words, and which might make the
text of a work in four volumes as amusing as the Doyen de Killerine,--
a work about which young men talk and judge without having read it.

Auguste de Maulincour belonged therefore to the faubourg Saint-Germain
through his grandmother and the vidame, and it sufficed him to date
back two centuries to take the tone and opinions of those who assume
to go back to Clovis. This young man, pale, slender, and delicate in
appearance, a man of honor and true courage, who would fight a duel
for a yes or a no, had never yet fought upon a battle-field, though he
wore in his button-hole the cross of the Legion of honor. He was, as
you perceive, one of the blunders of the Restoration, perhaps the most
excusable of them. The youth of those days was the youth of no epoch.
It came between the memories of the Empire and those of the
Emigration, between the old traditions of the court and the
conscientious education of the /bourgeoisie/; between religion and
fancy-balls; between two political faiths, between Louis XVIII., who
saw only the present, and Charles X., who looked too far into the
future; it was moreover bound to accept the will of the king, though
the king was deceiving and tricking it. This unfortunate youth, blind
and yet clear-sighted, was counted as nothing by old men jealously
keeping the reins of the State in their feeble hands, while the
monarchy could have been saved by their retirement and the accession
of this Young France, which the old doctrinaires, the /emigres/ of the
Restoration, still speak of slightingly. Auguste de Maulincour was a
victim to the ideas which weighed in those days upon French youth, and
we must here explain why.

The Vidame de Pamiers was still, at sixty-seven years of age, a very
brilliant man, having seen much and lived much; a good talker, a man
of honor and a gallant man, but who held as to women the most
detestable opinions; he loved them, and he despised them. /Their/
honor! /their/ feelings! Ta-ra-ra, rubbish and shams! When he was with
them, he believed in them, the ci-devant "monstre"; he never
contradicted them, and he made them shine. But among his male friends,
when the topic of the sex came up, he laid down the principle that to
deceive women, and to carry on several intrigues at once, should be
the occupation of those young men who were so misguided as to wish to
meddle in the affairs of the State. It is sad to have to sketch so
hackneyed a portrait, for has it not figured everywhere and become,
literally, as threadbare as that of a grenadier of the Empire? But the
vidame had an influence on Monsieur de Maulincour's destiny which
obliges us to preserve his portrait; he lectured the young man after
his fashion, and did his best to convert him to the doctrines of the
great age of gallantry.

The dowager, a tender-hearted, pious woman, sitting between God and
her vidame, a model of grace and sweetness, but gifted with that
well-bred persistency which triumphs in the long run, had longed to
preserve for her grandson the beautiful illusions of life, and had
therefore brought him up in the highest principles; she instilled into
him her own delicacy of feeling and made him, to outward appearance, a
timid man, if not a fool. The sensibilities of the young fellow,
preserved pure, were not worn by contact without; he remained so
chaste, so scrupulous, that he was keenly offended by actions and
maxims to which the world attached no consequence. Ashamed of this
susceptibility, he forced himself to conceal it under a false
hardihood; but he suffered in secret, all the while scoffing with
others at the things he reverenced.

It came to pass that he was deceived; because, in accordance with a
not uncommon whim of destiny, he, a man of gentle melancholy, and
spiritual in love, encountered in the object of his first passion a
woman who held in horror all German sentimentalism. The young man, in
consequence, distrusted himself, became dreamy, absorbed in his
griefs, complaining of not being understood. Then, as we desire all
the more violently the things we find difficult to obtain, he
continued to adore women with that ingenuous tenderness and feline
delicacy the secret of which belongs to women themselves, who may,
perhaps, prefer to keep the monopoly of it. In point of fact, though
women of the world complain of the way men love them, they have little
liking themselves for those whose soul is half feminine. Their own
superiority consists in making men believe they are their inferiors in
love; therefore they will readily leave a lover if he is inexperienced
enough to rob them of those fears with which they seek to deck
themselves, those delightful tortures of feigned jealousy, those
troubles of hope betrayed, those futile expectations,--in short, the
whole procession of their feminine miseries. They hold Sir Charles
Grandison in horror. What can be more contrary to their nature than a
tranquil, perfect love? They want emotions; happiness without storms
is not happiness to them. Women with souls that are strong enough to
bring infinitude into love are angelic exceptions; they are among
women what noble geniuses are among men. Their great passions are rare
as masterpieces. Below the level of such love come compromises,
conventions, passing and contemptible irritations, as in all things
petty and perishable.

Amid the hidden disasters of his heart, and while he was still seeking
the woman who could comprehend him (a search which, let us remark in
passing, is one of the amorous follies of our epoch), Auguste met, in
the rank of society that was farthest from his own, in the secondary
sphere of money, where banking holds the first place, a perfect being,
one of those women who have I know not what about them that is saintly
and sacred,--women who inspire such reverence that love has need of
the help of a long familiarity to declare itself.

Auguste then gave himself up wholly to the delights of the deepest and
most moving of passions, to a love that was purely adoring.
Innumerable repressed desires there were, shadows of passion so vague
yet so profound, so fugitive and yet so actual, that one scarcely
knows to what we may compare them. They are like perfumes, or clouds,
or rays of the sun, or shadows, or whatever there is in nature that
shines for a moment and disappears, that springs to life and dies,
leaving in the heart long echoes of emotion. When the soul is young
enough to nurture melancholy and far-off hope, to find in woman more
than a woman, is it not the greatest happiness that can befall a man
when he loves enough to feel more joy in touching a gloved hand, or a
lock of hair, in listening to a word, in casting a single look, than
in all the ardor of possession given by happy love? Thus it is that
rejected persons, those rebuffed by fate, the ugly and unfortunate,
lovers unrevealed, women and timid men, alone know the treasures
contained in the voice of the beloved. Taking their source and their
element from the soul itself, the vibrations of the air, charged with
passion, put our hearts so powerfully into communion, carrying thought
between them so lucidly, and being, above all, so incapable of
falsehood, that a single inflection of a voice is often a revelation.
What enchantments the intonations of a tender voice can bestow upon
the heart of a poet! What ideas they awaken! What freshness they shed
there! Love is in the voice before the glance avows it. Auguste, poet
after the manner of lovers (there are poets who feel, and poets who
express; the first are the happiest), Auguste had tasted all these
early joys, so vast, so fecund. SHE possessed the most winning organ
that the most artful woman of the world could have desired in order to
deceive at her ease; /she/ had that silvery voice which is soft to the
ear, and ringing only for the heart which it stirs and troubles,
caresses and subjugates.

And this woman went by night to the rue Soly through the rue Pagevin!
and her furtive apparition in an infamous house had just destroyed the
grandest of passions! The vidame's logic triumphed.

"If she is betraying her husband we will avenge ourselves," said

There was still faith in that "if." The philosophic doubt of Descartes
is a politeness with which we should always honor virtue. Ten o'clock
sounded. The Baron de Maulincour remembered that this woman was going
to a ball that evening at a house to which he had access. He dressed,
went there, and searched for her through all the salons. The mistress
of the house, Madame de Nucingen, seeing him thus occupied, said:--

"You are looking for Madame Jules; but she has not yet come."

"Good evening, dear," said a voice.

Auguste and Madame de Nucingen turned round. Madame Jules had arrived,
dressed in white, looking simple and noble, wearing in her hair the
marabouts the young baron had seen her choose in the flower-shop. That
voice of love now pierced his heart. Had he won the slightest right to
be jealous of her he would have petrified her then and there by saying
the words, "Rue Soly!" But if he, an alien to her life, had said those
words in her ear a thousand times, Madame Jules would have asked him
in astonishment what he meant. He looked at her stupidly.

For those sarcastic persons who scoff at all things it may be a great
amusement to detect the secret of a woman, to know that her chastity
is a lie, that her calm face hides some anxious thought, that under
that pure brow is a dreadful drama. But there are other souls to whom
the sight is saddening; and many of those who laugh in public, when
withdrawn into themselves and alone with their conscience, curse the
world while they despise the woman. Such was the case with Auguste de
Maulincour, as he stood there in presence of Madame Jules. Singular
situation! There was no other relation between them than that which
social life establishes between persons who exchange a few words seven
or eight times in the course of a winter, and yet he was calling her
to account on behalf of a happiness unknown to her; he was judging
her, without letting her know of his accusation.

Many young men find themselves thus in despair at having broken
forever with a woman adored in secret, condemned and despised in
secret. There are many hidden monologues told to the walls of some
solitary lodging; storms roused and calmed without ever leaving the
depths of hearts; amazing scenes of the moral world, for which a
painter is wanted. Madame Jules sat down, leaving her husband to make
a turn around the salon. After she was seated she seemed uneasy, and,
while talking with her neighbor, she kept a furtive eye on Monsieur
Jules Desmarets, her husband, a broker chiefly employed by the Baron
de Nucingen. The following is the history of their home life.

Monsieur Desmarets was, five years before his marriage, in a broker's
office, with no other means than the meagre salary of a clerk. But he
was a man to whom misfortune had early taught the truths of life, and
he followed the strait path with the tenacity of an insect making for
its nest; he was one of those dogged young men who feign death before
an obstacle and wear out everybody's patience with their own beetle-
like perseverance. Thus, young as he was, he had all the republican
virtue of poor peoples; he was sober, saving of his time, an enemy to
pleasure. He waited. Nature had given him the immense advantage of an
agreeable exterior. His calm, pure brow, the shape of his placid, but
expressive face, his simple manners,--all revealed in him a laborious
and resigned existence, that lofty personal dignity which is imposing
to others, and the secret nobility of heart which can meet all events.
His modesty inspired a sort of respect in those who knew him. Solitary
in the midst of Paris, he knew the social world only by glimpses
during the brief moments which he spent in his patron's salon on

There were passions in this young man, as in most of the men who live
in that way, of amazing profundity,--passions too vast to be drawn
into petty incidents. His want of means compelled him to lead an
ascetic life, and he conquered his fancies by hard work. After paling
all day over figures, he found his recreation in striving obstinately
to acquire that wide general knowledge so necessary in these days to
every man who wants to make his mark, whether in society, or in
commerce, at the bar, or in politics or literature. The only peril
these fine souls have to fear comes from their own uprightness. They
see some poor girl; they love her; they marry her, and wear out their
lives in a struggle between poverty and love. The noblest ambition is
quenched perforce by the household account-book. Jules Desmarets went
headlong into this peril.

He met one evening at his patron's house a girl of the rarest beauty.
Unfortunate men who are deprived of affection, and who consume the
finest hours of youth in work and study, alone know the rapid ravages
that passion makes in their lonely, misconceived hearts. They are so
certain of loving truly, all their forces are concentrated so quickly
on the object of their love, that they receive, while beside her, the
most delightful sensations, when, as often happens, they inspire none
at all. Nothing is more flattering to a woman's egotism than to divine
this passion, apparently immovable, and these emotions so deep that
they have needed a great length of time to reach the human surface.
These poor men, anchorites in the midst of Paris, have all the
enjoyments of anchorites; and may sometimes succumb to temptations.
But, more often deceived, betrayed, and misunderstood, they are rarely
able to gather the sweet fruits of a love which, to them, is like a
flower dropped from heaven.

One smile from his wife, a single inflection of her voice sufficed to
make Jules Desmarets conceive a passion which was boundless. Happily,
the concentrated fire of that secret passion revealed itself artlessly
to the woman who inspired it. These two beings then loved each other
religiously. To express all in a word, they clasped hands without
shame before the eyes of the world and went their way like two
children, brother and sister, passing serenely through a crowd where
all made way for them and admired them.

The young girl was in one of those unfortunate positions which human
selfishness entails upon children. She had no civil status; her name
of "Clemence" and her age were recorded only by a notary public. As
for her fortune, that was small indeed. Jules Desmarets was a happy
man on hearing these particulars. If Clemence had belonged to an
opulent family, he might have despaired of obtaining her; but she was
only the poor child of love, the fruit of some terrible adulterous
passion; and they were married. Then began for Jules Desmarets a
series of fortunate events. Every one envied his happiness; and
henceforth talked only of his luck, without recalling either his
virtues or his courage.

Some days after their marriage, the mother of Clemence, who passed in
society for her godmother, told Jules Desmarets to buy the office and
good-will of a broker, promising to provide him with the necessary
capital. In those days, such offices could still be bought at a modest
price. That evening, in the salon as it happened of his patron, a
wealthy capitalist proposed, on the recommendation of the mother, a
very advantageous transaction for Jules Desmarets, and the next day
the happy clerk was able to buy out his patron. In four years
Desmarets became one of the most prosperous men in his business; new
clients increased the number his predecessor had left to him; he
inspired confidence in all; and it was impossible for him not to feel,
by the way business came to him, that some hidden influence, due to
his mother-in-law, or to Providence, was secretly protecting him.

At the end of the third year Clemence lost her godmother. By that time
Monsieur Jules (so called to distinguish him from an elder brother,
whom he had set up as a notary in Paris) possessed an income from
invested property of two hundred thousand francs. There was not in all
Paris another instance of the domestic happiness enjoyed by this
couple. For five years their exceptional love had been troubled by
only one event,--a calumny for which Monsieur Jules exacted vengeance.
One of his former comrades attributed to Madame Jules the fortune of
her husband, explaining that it came from a high protection dearly
paid for. The man who uttered the calumny was killed in the duel that
followed it.

The profound passion of this couple, which survived marriage, obtained
a great success in society, though some women were annoyed by it. The
charming household was respected; everybody feted it. Monsieur and
Madame Jules were sincerely liked, perhaps because there is nothing
more delightful to see than happy people; but they never stayed long
at any festivity. They slipped away early, as impatient to regain
their nest as wandering pigeons. This nest was a large and beautiful
mansion in the rue de Menars, where a true feeling for art tempered
the luxury which the financial world continues, traditionally, to
display. Here the happy pair received their society magnificently,
although the obligations of social life suited them but little.

Nevertheless, Jules submitted to the demands of the world, knowing
that, sooner or later, a family has need of it; but he and his wife
felt themselves, in its midst, like green-house plants in a tempest.
With a delicacy that was very natural, Jules had concealed from his
wife the calumny and the death of the calumniator. Madame Jules,
herself, was inclined, through her sensitive and artistic nature, to
desire luxury. In spite of the terrible lesson of the duel, some
imprudent women whispered to each other that Madame Jules must
sometimes be pressed for money. They often found her more elegantly
dressed in her own home than when she went into society. She loved to
adorn herself to please her husband, wishing to show him that to her
he was more than any social life. A true love, a pure love, above all,
a happy love! Jules, always a lover, and more in love as time went by,
was happy in all things beside his wife, even in her caprices; in
fact, he would have been uneasy if she had none, thinking it a symptom
of some illness.

Auguste de Maulincour had the personal misfortune of running against
this passion, and falling in love with the wife beyond recovery.
Nevertheless, though he carried in his heart so intense a love, he was
not ridiculous; he complied with all the demands of society, and of
military manners and customs. And yet his face wore constantly, even
though he might be drinking a glass of champagne, that dreamy look,
that air of silently despising life, that nebulous expression which
belongs, though for other reasons, to /blases/ men,--men dissatisfied
with hollow lives. To love without hope, to be disgusted with life,
constitute, in these days, a social position. The enterprise of
winning the heart of a sovereign might give, perhaps, more hope than a
love rashly conceived for a happy woman. Therefore Maulincour had
sufficient reason to be grave and gloomy. A queen has the vanity of
her power; the height of her elevation protects her. But a pious
/bourgeoise/ is like a hedgehog, or an oyster, in its rough wrappings.

At this moment the young officer was beside his unconscious mistress,
who certainly was unaware that she was doubly faithless. Madame Jules
was seated, in a naive attitude, like the least artful woman in
existence, soft and gentle, full of a majestic serenity. What an abyss
is human nature! Before beginning a conversation, the baron looked
alternately at the wife and at the husband. How many were the
reflections he made! He recomposed the "Night Thoughts" of Young in a
second. And yet the music was sounding through the salons, the light
was pouring from a thousand candles. It was a banker's ball,--one of
those insolent festivals by means of which the world of solid gold
endeavored to sneer at the gold-embossed salons where the faubourg
Saint-Germain met and laughed, not foreseeing the day when the bank
would invade the Luxembourg and take its seat upon the throne. The
conspirators were now dancing, indifferent to coming bankruptcies,
whether of Power or of the Bank. The gilded salons of the Baron de
Nucingen were gay with that peculiar animation that the world of
Paris, apparently joyous at any rate, gives to its fetes. There, men
of talent communicate their wit to fools, and fools communicate that
air of enjoyment that characterizes them. By means of this exchange
all is liveliness. But a ball in Paris always resembles fireworks to a
certain extent; wit, coquetry, and pleasure sparkle and go out like
rockets. The next day all present have forgotten their wit, their
coquetry, their pleasure.

"Ah!" thought Auguste, by way of conclusion, "women are what the
vidame says they are. Certainly all those dancing here are less
irreproachable actually than Madame Jules appears to be, and yet
Madame Jules went to the rue Soly!"

The rue Soly was like an illness to him; the very word shrivelled his

"Madame, do you ever dance?" he said to her.

"This is the third time you have asked me that question this winter,"
she answered, smiling.

"But perhaps you have never answered it."

"That is true."

"I knew very well that you were false, like other women."

Madame Jules continued to smile.

"Listen, monsieur," she said; "if I told you the real reason, you
would think it ridiculous. I do not think it false to abstain from
telling things that the world would laugh at."

"All secrets demand, in order to be told, a friendship of which I am
no doubt unworthy, madame. But you cannot have any but noble secrets;
do you think me capable of jesting on noble things?"

"Yes," she said, "you, like all the rest, laugh at our purest
sentiments; you calumniate them. Besides, I have no secrets. I have
the right to love my husband in the face of all the world, and I say
so,--I am proud of it; and if you laugh at me when I tell you that I
dance only with him, I shall have a bad opinion of your heart."

"Have you never danced since your marriage with any one but your

"Never. His arm is the only one on which I have leaned; I have never
felt the touch of another man."

"Has your physician never felt your pulse?"

"Now you are laughing at me."

"No, madame, I admire you, because I comprehend you. But you let a man
hear your voice, you let yourself be seen, you--in short, you permit
our eyes to admire you--"

"Ah!" she said, interrupting him, "that is one of my griefs. Yes, I
wish it were possible for a married woman to live secluded with her
husband, as a mistress lives with her lover, for then--"

"Then why were you, two hours ago, on foot, disguised, in the rue

"The rue Soly, where is that?"

And her pure voice gave no sign of any emotion; no feature of her face
quivered; she did not blush; she remained calm.

"What! you did not go up to the second floor of a house in the rue des
Vieux-Augustins at the corner of the rue Soly? You did not have a
hackney-coach waiting near by? You did not return in it to the flower-
shop in the rue Richelieu, where you bought the feathers that are now
in your hair?"

"I did not leave my house this evening."

As she uttered that lie she was smiling and imperturbable; she played
with her fan; but if any one had passed a hand down her back they
would, perhaps, have found it moist. At that instant Auguste
remembered the instructions of the vidame.

"Then it was some one who strangely resembled you," he said, with a
credulous air.

"Monsieur," she replied, "if you are capable of following a woman and
detecting her secrets, you will allow me to say that it is a wrong, a
very wrong thing, and I do you the honor to say that I disbelieve

The baron turned away, placed himself before the fireplace and seemed
thoughtful. He bent his head; but his eyes were covertly fixed on
Madame Jules, who, not remembering the reflections in the mirror, cast
two or three glances at him that were full of terror. Presently she
made a sign to her husband and rising took his arm to walk about the
salon. As she passed before Monsieur de Maulincour, who at that moment
was speaking to a friend, he said in a loud voice, as if in reply to a
remark: "That woman will certainly not sleep quietly this night."
Madame Jules stopped, gave him an imposing look which expressed
contempt, and continued her way, unaware that another look, if
surprised by her husband, might endanger not only her happiness but
the lives of two men. Auguste, frantic with anger, which he tried to
smother in the depths of his soul, presently left the house, swearing
to penetrate to the heart of the mystery. Before leaving, he sought
Madame Jules, to look at her again; but she had disappeared.

What a drama cast into that young head so eminently romantic, like all
who have not known love in the wide extent which they give to it. He
adored Madame Jules under a new aspect; he loved her now with the fury
of jealousy and the frenzied anguish of hope. Unfaithful to her
husband, the woman became common. Auguste could now give himself up to
the joys of successful love, and his imagination opened to him a
career of pleasures. Yes, he had lost the angel, but he had found the
most delightful of demons. He went to bed, building castles in the
air, excusing Madame Jules by some romantic fiction in which he did
not believe. He resolved to devote himself wholly, from that day
forth, to a search for the causes, motives, and keynote of this
mystery. It was a tale to read, or better still, a drama to be played,
in which he had a part.



A fine thing is the task of a spy, when performed for one's own
benefit and in the interests of a passion. Is it not giving ourselves
the pleasure of a thief and a rascal while continuing honest men? But
there is another side to it; we must resign ourselves to boil with
anger, to roar with impatience, to freeze our feet in the mud, to be
numbed, and roasted, and torn by false hopes. We must go, on the faith
of a mere indication, to a vague object, miss our end, curse our luck,
improvise to ourselves elegies, dithyrambics, exclaim idiotically
before inoffensive pedestrians who observe us, knock over old apple-
women and their baskets, run hither and thither, stand on guard
beneath a window, make a thousand suppositions. But, after all, it is
a chase, a hunt; a hunt in Paris, a hunt with all its chances, minus
dogs and guns and the tally-ho! Nothing compares with it but the life
of gamblers. But it needs a heart big with love and vengeance to
ambush itself in Paris, like a tiger waiting to spring upon its prey,
and to enjoy the chances and contingencies of Paris, by adding one
special interest to the many that abound there. But for this we need a
many-sided soul--for must we not live in a thousand passions, a
thousand sentiments?

Auguste de Maulincour flung himself into this ardent existence
passionately, for he felt all its pleasures and all its misery. He
went disguised about Paris, watching at the corners of the rue Pagevin
and the rue des Vieux-Augustins. He hurried like a hunter from the rue
de Menars to the rue Soly, and back from the rue Soly to the rue de
Menars, without obtaining either the vengeance or the knowledge which
would punish or reward such cares, such efforts, such wiles. But he
had not yet reached that impatience which wrings our very entrails and
makes us sweat; he roamed in hope, believing that Madame Jules would
only refrain for a few days from revisiting the place where she knew
she had been detected. He devoted the first days therefore, to a
careful study of the secrets of the street. A novice at such work, he
dared not question either the porter or the shoemaker of the house to
which Madame Jules had gone; but he managed to obtain a post of
observation in a house directly opposite to the mysterious apartment.
He studied the ground, trying to reconcile the conflicting demands of
prudence, impatience, love, and secrecy.

Early in the month of March, while busy with plans by which he
expected to strike a decisive blow, he left his post about four in the
afternoon, after one of those patient watches from which he had
learned nothing. He was on his way to his own house whither a matter
relating to his military service called him, when he was overtaken in
the rue Coquilliere by one of those heavy showers which instantly
flood the gutters, while each drop of rain rings loudly in the puddles
of the roadway. A pedestrian under these circumstances is forced to
stop short and take refuge in a shop or cafe if he is rich enough to
pay for the forced hospitality, or, if in poorer circumstances, under
a /porte-cochere/, that haven of paupers or shabbily dressed persons.
Why have none of our painters ever attempted to reproduce the
physiognomies of a swarm of Parisians, grouped, under stress of
weather, in the damp /porte-cochere/ of a building? First, there's the
musing philosophical pedestrian, who observes with interest all he
sees,--whether it be the stripes made by the rain on the gray
background of the atmosphere (a species of chasing not unlike the
capricious threads of spun glass), or the whirl of white water which
the wind is driving like a luminous dust along the roofs, or the
fitful disgorgements of the gutter-pipes, sparkling and foaming; in
short, the thousand nothings to be admired and studied with delight by
loungers, in spite of the porter's broom which pretends to be sweeping
out the gateway. Then there's the talkative refugee, who complains and
converses with the porter while he rests on his broom like a grenadier
on his musket; or the pauper wayfarer, curled against the wall
indifferent to the condition of his rags, long used, alas, to contact
with the streets; or the learned pedestrian who studies, spells, and
reads the posters on the walls without finishing them; or the smiling
pedestrian who makes fun of others to whom some street fatality has
happened, who laughs at the muddy women, and makes grimaces at those
of either sex who are looking from the windows; and the silent being
who gazes from floor to floor; and the working-man, armed with a
satchel or a paper bundle, who is estimating the rain as a profit or
loss; and the good-natured fugitive, who arrives like a shot
exclaiming, "Ah! what weather, messieurs, what weather!" and bows to
every one; and, finally, the true /bourgeois/ of Paris, with his
unfailing umbrella, an expert in showers, who foresaw this particular
one, but would come out in spite of his wife; this one takes a seat in
the porter's chair. According to individual character, each member of
this fortuitous society contemplates the skies, and departs, skipping
to avoid the mud,--because he is in a hurry, or because he sees other
citizens walking along in spite of wind and slush, or because, the
archway being damp and mortally catarrhal, the bed's edge, as the
proverb says, is better than the sheets. Each one has his motive. No
one is left but the prudent pedestrian, the man who, before he sets
forth, makes sure of a scrap of blue sky through the rifting clouds.

Monsieur de Maulincour took refuge, as we have said, with a whole
family of fugitives, under the porch of an old house, the court-yard
of which looked like the flue of a chimney. The sides of its
plastered, nitrified, and mouldy walls were so covered with pipes and
conduits from all the many floors of its four elevations, that it
might have been said to resemble at that moment the /cascatelles/ of
Saint-Cloud. Water flowed everywhere; it boiled, it leaped, it
murmured; it was black, white, blue, and green; it shrieked, it
bubbled under the broom of the portress, a toothless old woman used to
storms, who seemed to bless them as she swept into the street a mass
of scraps an intelligent inventory of which would have revealed the
lives and habits of every dweller in the house,--bits of printed
cottons, tea-leaves, artificial flower-petals faded and worthless,
vegetable parings, papers, scraps of metal. At every sweep of her
broom the old woman bared the soul of the gutter, that black fissure
on which a porter's mind is ever bent. The poor lover examined this
scene, like a thousand others which our heaving Paris presents daily;
but he examined it mechanically, as a man absorbed in thought, when,
happening to look up, he found himself all but nose to nose with a man
who had just entered the gateway.

In appearance this man was a beggar, but not the Parisian beggar,--
that creation without a name in human language; no, this man formed
another type, while presenting on the outside all the ideas suggested
by the word "beggar." He was not marked by those original Parisian
characteristics which strike us so forcibly in the paupers whom
Charlet was fond of representing, with his rare luck in observation,--
coarse faces reeking of mud, hoarse voices, reddened and bulbous
noses, mouths devoid of teeth but menacing; humble yet terrible
beings, in whom a profound intelligence shining in their eyes seems
like a contradiction. Some of these bold vagabonds have blotched,
cracked, veiny skins; their foreheads are covered with wrinkles, their
hair scanty and dirty, like a wig thrown on a dust-heap. All are gay
in their degradation, and degraded in their joys; all are marked with
the stamp of debauchery, casting their silence as a reproach; their
very attitude revealing fearful thoughts. Placed between crime and
beggary they have no compunctions, and circle prudently around the
scaffold without mounting it, innocent in the midst of crime, and
vicious in their innocence. They often cause a laugh, but they always
cause reflection. One represents to you civilization stunted,
repressed; he comprehends everything, the honor of the galleys,
patriotism, virtue, the malice of a vulgar crime, or the fine
astuteness of elegant wickedness. Another is resigned, a perfect
mimer, but stupid. All have slight yearnings after order and work, but
they are pushed back into their mire by society, which makes no
inquiry as to what there may be of great men, poets, intrepid souls,
and splendid organizations among these vagrants, these gypsies of
Paris; a people eminently good and eminently evil--like all the masses
who suffer--accustomed to endure unspeakable woes, and whom a fatal
power holds ever down to the level of the mire. They all have a dream,
a hope, a happiness,--cards, lottery, or wine.

There was nothing of all this in the personage who now leaned
carelessly against the wall in front of Monsieur de Maulincour, like
some fantastic idea drawn by an artist on the back of a canvas the
front of which is turned to the wall. This tall, spare man, whose
leaden visage expressed some deep but chilling thought, dried up all
pity in the hearts of those who looked at him by the scowling look and
the sarcastic attitude which announced an intention of treating every
man as an equal. His face was of a dirty white, and his wrinkled
skull, denuded of hair, bore a vague resemblance to a block of
granite. A few gray locks on either side of his head fell straight to
the collar of his greasy coat, which was buttoned to the chin. He
resembled both Voltaire and Don Quixote; he was, apparently, scoffing
but melancholy, full of disdain and philosophy, but half-crazy. He
seemed to have no shirt. His beard was long. A rusty black cravat,
much worn and ragged, exposed a protuberant neck deeply furrowed, with
veins as thick as cords. A large brown circle like a bruise was
strongly marked beneath his eyes, He seemed to be at least sixty years
old. His hands were white and clean. His boots were trodden down at
the heels, and full of holes. A pair of blue trousers, mended in
various places, were covered with a species of fluff which made them
offensive to the eye. Whether it was that his damp clothes exhaled a
fetid odor, or that he had in his normal condition the "poor smell"
which belongs to Parisian tenements, just as offices, sacristies, and
hospitals have their own peculiar and rancid fetidness, of which no
words can give the least idea, or whether some other reason affected
them, those in the vicinity of this man immediately moved away and
left him alone. He cast upon them and also upon the officer a calm,
expressionless look, the celebrated look of Monsieur de Talleyrand, a
dull, wan glance, without warmth, a species of impenetrable veil,
beneath which a strong soul hides profound emotions and close
estimation of men and things and events. Not a fold of his face
quivered. His mouth and forehead were impassible; but his eyes moved
and lowered themselves with a noble, almost tragic slowness. There
was, in fact, a whole drama in the motion of those withered eyelids.

The aspect of this stoical figure gave rise in Monsieur de Maulincour
to one of those vagabond reveries which begin with a common question
and end by comprising a world of thought. The storm was past. Monsieur
de Maulincour presently saw no more of the man than the tail of his
coat as it brushed the gate-post, but as he turned to leave his own
place he noticed at his feet a letter which must have fallen from the
unknown beggar when he took, as the baron had seen him take, a
handkerchief from his pocket. The young man picked it up, and read,
involuntarily, the address: "To Monsieur Ferragusse, Rue des Grands-
Augustains, corner of rue Soly."

The letter bore no postmark, and the address prevented Monsieur de
Maulincour from following the beggar and returning it; for there are
few passions that will not fail in rectitude in the long run. The
baron had a presentiment of the opportunity afforded by this windfall.
He determined to keep the letter, which would give him the right to
enter the mysterious house to return it to the strange man, not
doubting that he lived there. Suspicions, vague as the first faint
gleams of daylight, made him fancy relations between this man and
Madame Jules. A jealous lover supposes everything; and it is by
supposing everything and selecting the most probable of their
conjectures that judges, spies, lovers, and observers get at the truth
they are looking for.

"Is the letter for him? Is it from Madame Jules?"

His restless imagination tossed a thousand such questions to him; but
when he read the first words of the letter he smiled. Here it is,
textually, in all the simplicity of its artless phrases and its
miserable orthography,--a letter to which it would be impossible to
add anything, or to take anything away, unless it were the letter
itself. But we have yielded to the necessity of punctuating it. In the
original there were neither commas nor stops of any kind, not even
notes of exclamation,--a fact which tends to undervalue the system of
notes and dashes by which modern authors have endeavored to depict the
great disasters of all the passions:--

Henry,--Among the manny sacrifisis I imposed upon myself for your
sake was that of not giving you anny news of me; but an
iresistible voise now compells me to let you know the wrong you
have done me. I know beforehand that your soul hardened in vise
will not pitty me. Your heart is deaf to feeling. Is it deaf to
the cries of nature? But what matter? I must tell you to what a
dredful point you are gilty, and the horror of the position to
which you have brought me. Henry, you knew what I sufered from my
first wrong-doing, and yet you plunged me into the same misery,
and then abbandoned me to my dispair and sufering. Yes, I will say
it, the belif I had that you loved me and esteemed me gave me
corage to bare my fate. But now, what have I left? Have you not
made me loose all that was dear to me, all that held me to life;
parents, frends, onor, reputation,--all, I have sacrifised all to
you, and nothing is left me but shame, oprobrum, and--I say this
without blushing--poverty. Nothing was wanting to my misfortunes
but the sertainty of your contempt and hatred; and now I have them
I find the corage that my project requires. My decision is made;
the onor of my famly commands it. I must put an end to my
suferins. Make no remarks upon my conduct, Henry; it is orful, I
know, but my condition obliges me. Without help, without suport,
without one frend to comfort me, can I live? No. Fate has desided
for me. So in two days, Henry, two days, Ida will have seased to
be worthy of your regard. Oh, Henry! oh, my frend! for I can never
change to you, promise me to forgive me for what I am going to do.
Do not forget that you have driven me to it; it is your work, and
you must judge it. May heven not punish you for all your crimes. I
ask your pardon on my knees, for I feel nothing is wanting to my
misery but the sorow of knowing you unhappy. In spite of the
poverty I am in I shall refuse all help from you. If you had loved
me I would have taken all from your friendship; but a benfit given
by pitty /my soul refussis/. I would be baser to take it than he
who offered it. I have one favor to ask of you. I don't know how
long I must stay at Madame Meynardie's; be genrous enough not to
come there. Your last two vissits did me a harm I cannot get ofer.
I cannot enter into particlers about that conduct of yours. You
hate me,--you said so; that word is writen on my heart, and
freeses it with fear. Alas! it is now, when I need all my corage,
all my strength, that my faculties abandon me. Henry, my frend,
before I put a barrier forever between us, give me a last pruf of
your esteem. Write me, answer me, say you respect me still, though
you have seased to love me. My eyes are worthy still to look into
yours, but I do not ask an interfew; I fear my weakness and my
love. But for pitty's sake write me a line at once; it will give
me the corage I need to meet my trubbles. Farewell, orther of all
my woes, but the only frend my heart has chosen and will never


This life of a young girl, with its love betrayed, its fatal joys, its
pangs, its miseries, and its horrible resignation, summed up in a few
words, this humble poem, essentially Parisian, written on dirty paper,
influenced for a passing moment Monsieur de Maulincour. He asked
himself whether this Ida might not be some poor relation of Madame
Jules, and that strange rendezvous, which he had witnessed by chance,
the mere necessity of a charitable effort. But could that old pauper
have seduced this Ida? There was something impossible in the very
idea. Wandering in this labyrinth of reflections, which crossed,
recrossed, and obliterated one another, the baron reached the rue
Pagevin, and saw a hackney-coach standing at the end of the rue des
Vieux-Augustins where it enters the rue Montmartre. All waiting
hackney-coaches now had an interest for him.

"Can she be there?" he thought to himself, and his heart beat fast
with a hot and feverish throbbing.

He pushed the little door with the bell, but he lowered his head as he
did so, obeying a sense of shame, for a voice said to him secretly:--

"Why are you putting your foot into this mystery?"

He went up a few steps, and found himself face to face with the old

"Monsieur Ferragus?" he said.

"Don't know him."

"Doesn't Monsieur Ferragus live here?"

"Haven't such a name in the house."

"But, my good woman--"

"I'm not your good woman, monsieur, I'm the portress."

"But, madame," persisted the baron, "I have a letter for Monsieur

"Ah! if monsieur has a letter," she said, changing her tone, "that's
another matter. Will you let me see it--that letter?"

Auguste showed the folded letter. The old woman shook her head with a
doubtful air, hesitated, seemed to wish to leave the lodge and inform
the mysterious Ferragus of his unexpected visitor, but finally said:--

"Very good; go up, monsieur. I suppose you know the way?"

Without replying to this remark, which he thought might be a trap, the
young officer ran lightly up the stairway, and rang loudly at the door
of the second floor. His lover's instinct told him, "She is there."

The beggar of the porch, Ferragus, the "orther" of Ida's woes, opened
the door himself. He appeared in a flowered dressing-gown, white
flannel trousers, his feet in embroidered slippers, and his face
washed clean of stains. Madame Jules, whose head projected beyond the
casing of the door in the next room, turned pale and dropped into a

"What is the matter, madame?" cried the officer, springing toward her.

But Ferragus stretched forth an arm and flung the intruder back with
so sharp a thrust that Auguste fancied he had received a blow with an
iron bar full on his chest.

"Back! monsieur," said the man. "What do you want there? For five or
six days you have been roaming about the neighborhood. Are you a spy?"

"Are you Monsieur Ferragus?" said the baron.

"No, monsieur."

"Nevertheless," continued Auguste, "it is to you that I must return
this paper which you dropped in the gateway beneath which we both took
refuge from the rain."

While speaking and offering the letter to the man, Auguste did not
refrain from casting an eye around the room where Ferragus received
him. It was very well arranged, though simply. A fire burned on the
hearth; and near it was a table with food upon it, which was served
more sumptuously than agreed with the apparent conditions of the man
and the poorness of his lodging. On a sofa in the next room, which he
could see through the doorway, lay a heap of gold, and he heard a
sound which could be no other than that of a woman weeping.

"The paper belongs to me; I am much obliged to you," said the
mysterious man, turning away as if to make the baron understand that
he must go.

Too curious himself to take much note of the deep examination of which
he was himself the object, Auguste did not see the half-magnetic
glance with which this strange being seemed to pierce him; had he
encountered that basilisk eye he might have felt the danger that
encompassed him. Too passionately excited to think of himself, Auguste
bowed, went down the stairs, and returned home, striving to find a
meaning in the connection of these three persons,--Ida, Ferragus, and
Madame Jules; an occupation equivalent to that of trying to arrange
the many-cornered bits of a Chinese puzzle without possessing the key
to the game. But Madame Jules had seen him, Madame Jules went there,
Madame Jules had lied to him. Maulincour determined to go and see her
the next day. She could not refuse his visit, for he was now her
accomplice; he was hands and feet in the mysterious affair, and she
knew it. Already he felt himself a sultan, and thought of demanding
from Madame Jules, imperiously, all her secrets.

In those days Paris was seized with a building-fever. If Paris is a
monster, it is certainly a most mania-ridden monster. It becomes
enamored of a thousand fancies: sometimes it has a mania for building,
like a great seigneur who loves a trowel; soon it abandons the trowel
and becomes all military; it arrays itself from head to foot as a
national guard, and drills and smokes; suddenly, it abandons military
manoeuvres and flings away cigars; it is commercial, care-worn, falls
into bankruptcy, sells its furniture on the place de Chatelet, files
its schedule; but a few days later, lo! it has arranged its affairs
and is giving fetes and dances. One day it eats barley-sugar by the
mouthful, by the handful; yesterday it bought "papier Weymen"; to-day
the monster's teeth ache, and it applies to its walls an
alexipharmatic to mitigate their dampness; to-morrow it will lay in a
provision of pectoral paste. It has its manias for the month, for the
season, for the year, like its manias of a day.

So, at the moment of which we speak, all the world was building or
pulling down something,--people hardly knew what as yet. There were
very few streets in which high scaffoldings on long poles could not be
seen, fastened from floor to floor with transverse blocks inserted
into holes in the walls on which the planks were laid,--a frail
construction, shaken by the brick-layers, but held together by ropes,
white with plaster, and insecurely protected from the wheels of
carriages by the breastwork of planks which the law requires round all
such buildings. There is something maritime in these masts, and
ladders, and cordage, even in the shouts of the masons. About a dozen
yards from the hotel Maulincour, one of these ephemeral barriers was
erected before a house which was then being built of blocks of free-
stone. The day after the event we have just related, at the moment
when the Baron de Maulincour was passing this scaffolding in his
cabriolet on his way to see Madame Jules, a stone, two feet square,
which was being raised to the upper storey of this building, got loose
from the ropes and fell, crushing the baron's servant who was behind
the cabriolet. A cry of horror shook both the scaffold and the masons;
one of them, apparently unable to keep his grasp on a pole, was in
danger of death, and seemed to have been touched by the stone as it
passed him.

A crowd collected rapidly; the masons came down the ladders swearing
and insisting that Monsieur de Maulincour's cabriolet had been driven
against the boarding and so had shaken their crane. Two inches more
and the stone would have fallen on the baron's head. The groom was
dead, the carriage shattered. 'Twas an event for the whole
neighborhood, the newspapers told of it. Monsieur de Maulincour,
certain that he had not touched the boarding, complained; the case
went to court. Inquiry being made, it was shown that a small boy,
armed with a lath, had mounted guard and called to all foot-passengers
to keep away. The affair ended there. Monsieur de Maulincour obtained
no redress. He had lost his servant, and was confined to his bed for
some days, for the back of the carriage when shattered had bruised him
severely, and the nervous shock of the sudden surprise gave him a
fever. He did not, therefore, go to see Madame Jules.

Ten days after this event, he left the house for the first time, in
his repaired cabriolet, when, as he drove down the rue de Bourgogne
and was close to the sewer opposite to the Chamber of Deputies, the
axle-tree broke in two, and the baron was driving so rapidly that the
breakage would have caused the two wheels to come together with force
enough to break his head, had it not been for the resistance of the
leather hood. Nevertheless, he was badly wounded in the side. For the
second time in ten days he was carried home in a fainting condition to
his terrified grandmother. This second accident gave him a feeling of
distrust; he thought, though vaguely, of Ferragus and Madame Jules. To
throw light on these suspicions he had the broken axle brought to his
room and sent for his carriage-maker. The man examined the axle and
the fracture, and proved two things: First, the axle was not made in
his workshop; he furnished none that did not bear the initials of his
name on the iron. But he could not explain by what means this axle had
been substituted for the other. Secondly, the breakage of the
suspicious axle was caused by a hollow space having been blown in it
and a straw very cleverly inserted.

"Eh! Monsieur le baron, whoever did that was malicious!" he said; "any
one would swear, to look at it, that the axle was sound."

Monsieur de Maulincour begged the carriage-maker to say nothing of the
affair; but he felt himself warned. These two attempts at murder were
planned with an ability which denoted the enmity of intelligent minds.

"It is war to the death," he said to himself, as he tossed in his bed,
--"a war of savages, skulking in ambush, of trickery and treachery,
declared in the name of Madame Jules. What sort of man is this to whom
she belongs? What species of power does this Ferragus wield?"

Monsieur de Maulincour, though a soldier and brave man, could not
repress a shudder. In the midst of many thoughts that now assailed
him, there was one against which he felt he had neither defence nor
courage: might not poison be employed ere long by his secret enemies?
Under the influence of fears, which his momentary weakness and fever
and low diet increased, he sent for an old woman long attached to the
service of his grandmother, whose affection for himself was one of
those semi-maternal sentiments which are the sublime of the
commonplace. Without confiding in her wholly, he charged her to buy
secretly and daily, in different localities, the food he needed;
telling her to keep it under lock and key and bring it to him herself,
not allowing any one, no matter who, to approach her while preparing
it. He took the most minute precautions to protect himself against
that form of death. He was ill in his bed and alone, and he had
therefore the leisure to think of his own security,--the one necessity
clear-sighted enough to enable human egotism to forget nothing!

But the unfortunate man had poisoned his own life by this dread, and,
in spite of himself, suspicion dyed all his hours with its gloomy
tints. These two lessons of attempted assassination did teach him,
however, the value of one of the virtues most necessary to a public
man; he saw the wise dissimulation that must be practised in dealing
with the great interests of life. To be silent about our own secret is
nothing; but to be silent from the start, to forget a fact as Ali
Pacha did for thirty years in order to be sure of a vengeance waited
for for thirty years, is a fine study in a land where there are few
men who can keep their own counsel for thirty days. Monsieur de
Maulincour literally lived only through Madame Jules. He was
perpetually absorbed in a sober examination into the means he ought to
employ to triumph in this mysterious struggle with these mysterious
persons. His secret passion for that woman grew by reason of all these
obstacles. Madame Jules was ever there, erect, in the midst of his
thoughts, in the centre of his heart, more seductive by her presumable
vices than by the positive virtues for which he had made her his idol.

At last, anxious to reconnoitre the position of the enemy, he thought
he might without danger initiate the vidame into the secrets of his
situation. The old commander loved Auguste as a father loves his
wife's children; he was shrewd, dexterous, and very diplomatic. He
listened to the baron, shook his head, and they both held counsel. The
worthy vidame did not share his young friend's confidence when Auguste
declared that in the time in which they now lived, the police and the
government were able to lay bare all mysteries, and that if it were
absolutely necessary to have recourse to those powers, he should find
them most powerful auxiliaries.

The old man replied, gravely: "The police, my dear boy, is the most
incompetent thing on this earth, and government the feeblest in all
matters concerning individuals. Neither the police nor the government
can read hearts. What we might reasonably ask of them is to search for
the causes of an act. But the police and the government are both
eminently unfitted for that; they lack, essentially, the personal
interest which reveals all to him who wants to know all. No human
power can prevent an assassin or a poisoner from reaching the heart of
a prince or the stomach of an honest man. Passions are the best

The vidame strongly advised the baron to go to Italy, and from Italy
to Greece, from Greece to Syria, from Syria to Asia, and not to return
until his secret enemies were convinced of his repentance, and would
so make tacit peace with him. But if he did not take that course, then
the vidame advised him to stay in the house, and even in his own room,
where he would be safe from the attempts of this man Ferragus, and not
to leave it until he could be certain of crushing him.

"We should never touch an enemy until we can be sure of taking his
head off," he said, gravely.

The old man, however, promised his favorite to employ all the
astuteness with which Heaven had provided him (without compromising
any one) in reconnoitring the enemy's ground, and laying his plans for
future victory. The Commander had in his service a retired Figaro, the
wiliest monkey that ever walked in human form; in earlier days as
clever as a devil, working his body like a galley-slave, alert as a
thief, sly as a woman, but now fallen into the decadence of genius for
want of practice since the new constitution of Parisian society, which
has reformed even the valets of comedy. This Scapin emeritus was
attached to his master as to a superior being; but the shrewd old
vidame added a good round sum yearly to the wages of his former
provost of gallantry, which strengthened the ties of natural affection
by the bonds of self-interest, and obtained for the old gentleman as
much care as the most loving mistress could bestow on a sick friend.
It was this pearl of the old-fashioned comedy-valets, relic of the
last century, auxiliary incorruptible from lack of passions to
satisfy, on whom the old vidame and Monsieur de Maulincour now relied.

"Monsieur le baron will spoil all," said the great man in livery, when
called into counsel. "Monsieur should eat, drink, and sleep in peace.
I take the whole matter upon myself."

Accordingly, eight days after the conference, when Monsieur de
Maulincour, perfectly restored to health, was breakfasting with his
grandmother and the vidame, Justin entered to make his report. As soon
as the dowager had returned to her own apartments he said, with that
mock modesty which men of talent are so apt to affect:--

"Ferragus is not the name of the enemy who is pursuing Monsieur le
baron. This man--this devil, rather--is called Gratien, Henri, Victor,
Jean-Joseph Bourignard. The Sieur Gratien Bourignard is a former ship-
builder, once very rich, and, above all, one of the handsomest men of
his day in Paris,--a Lovelace, capable of seducing Grandison. My
information stops short there. He has been a simple workman; and the
Companions of the Order of the Devorants did, at one time, elect him
as their chief, under the title of Ferragus XXIII. The police ought to
know that, if the police were instituted to know anything. The man has
moved from the rue des Vieux-Augustins, and now roosts rue Joquelet,
where Madame Jules Desmarets goes frequently to see him; sometimes her
husband, on his way to the Bourse, drives her as far as the rue
Vivienne, or she drives her husband to the Bourse. Monsieur le vidame
knows about these things too well to want me to tell him if it is the
husband who takes the wife, or the wife who takes the husband; but
Madame Jules is so pretty, I'd bet on her. All that I have told you is
positive. Bourignard often plays at number 129. Saving your presence,
monsieur, he's a rogue who loves women, and he has his little ways
like a man of condition. As for the rest, he wins sometimes, disguises
himself like an actor, paints his face to look like anything he
chooses, and lives, I may say, the most original life in the world. I
don't doubt he has a good many lodgings, for most of the time he
manages to evade what Monsieur le vidame calls "parliamentary
investigations." If monsieur wishes, he could be disposed of
honorably, seeing what his habits are. It is always easy to get rid of
a man who loves women. However, this capitalist talks about moving
again. Have Monsieur le vidame and Monsieur le baron any other
commands to give me?"

"Justin, I am satisfied with you; don't go any farther in the matter
without my orders, but keep a close watch here, so that Monsieur le
baron may have nothing to fear."

"My dear boy," continued the vidame, when they were alone, "go back to
your old life, and forget Madame Jules."

"No, no," said Auguste; "I will never yield to Gratien Bourignard. I
will have him bound hand and foot, and Madame Jules also."

That evening the Baron Auguste de Maulincour, recently promoted to
higher rank in the company of the Body-Guard of the king, went to a
ball given by Madame la Duchesse de Berry at the Elysee-Bourbon.
There, certainly, no danger could lurk for him; and yet, before he
left the palace, he had an affair of honor on his hands,--an affair it
was impossible to settle except by a duel.

His adversary, the Marquis de Ronquerolles, considered that he had
strong reasons to complain of Monsieur de Maulincour, who had given
some ground for it during his former intimacy with Monsieur de
Ronquerolles' sister, the Comtesse de Serizy. That lady, the one who
detested German sentimentality, was all the more exacting in the
matter of prudery. By one of those inexplicable fatalities, Auguste
now uttered a harmless jest which Madame de Serizy took amiss, and her
brother resented it. The discussion took place in the corner of a
room, in a low voice. In good society, adversaries never raise their
voices. The next day the faubourg Saint-Germain and the Chateau talked
over the affair. Madame de Serizy was warmly defended, and all the
blame was laid on Maulincour. August personages interfered. Seconds of
the highest distinction were imposed on Messieurs de Maulincour and de
Ronquerolles and every precaution was taken on the ground that no one
should be killed.

When Auguste found himself face to face with his antagonist, a man of
pleasure, to whom no one could possibly deny sentiments of the highest
honor, he felt it was impossible to believe him the instrument of
Ferragus, chief of the Devorants; and yet he was compelled, as it
were, by an inexplicable presentiment, to question the marquis.

"Messieurs," he said to the seconds, "I certainly do not refuse to
meet the fire of Monsieur de Ronquerolles; but before doing so, I here
declare that I was to blame, and I offer him whatever excuses he may
desire, and publicly if he wishes it; because when the matter concerns
a woman, nothing, I think, can degrade a man of honor. I therefore
appeal to his generosity and good sense; is there not something rather
silly in fighting without a cause?"

Monsieur de Ronquerolles would not allow of this way of ending the
affair, and then the baron, his suspicions revived, walked up to him.

"Well, then! Monsieur le marquis," he said, "pledge me, in presence of
these gentlemen, your word as a gentleman that you have no other
reason for vengeance than that you have chosen to put forward."

"Monsieur, that is a question you have no right to ask."

So saying, Monsieur de Ronquerolles took his place. It was agreed, in
advance, that the adversaries were to be satisfied with one exchange
of shots. Monsieur de Ronquerolles, in spite of the great distance
determined by the seconds, which seemed to make the death of either
party problematical, if not impossible, brought down the baron. The
ball went through the latter's body just below the heart, but
fortunately without doing vital injury.

"You aimed too well, monsieur," said the baron, "to be avenging only a
paltry quarrel."

And he fainted. Monsieur de Ronquerolles, who believed him to be a
dead man, smiled sardonically as he heard those words.

After a fortnight, during which time the dowager and the vidame gave
him those cares of old age the secret of which is in the hands of long
experience only, the baron began to return to life. But one morning
his grandmother dealt him a crushing blow, by revealing anxieties to
which, in her last days, she was now subjected. She showed him a
letter signed F, in which the history of her grandson's secret
espionage was recounted step by step. The letter accused Monsieur de
Maulincour of actions that were unworthy of a man of honor. He had, it
said, placed an old woman at the stand of hackney-coaches in the rue
de Menars; an old spy, who pretended to sell water from her cask to
the coachmen, but who was really there to watch the actions of Madame
Jules Desmarets. He had spied upon the daily life of a most
inoffensive man, in order to detect his secrets,--secrets on which
depended the lives of three persons. He had brought upon himself a
relentless struggle, in which, although he had escaped with life three
times, he must inevitably succumb, because his death had been sworn
and would be compassed if all human means were employed upon it.
Monsieur de Maulincour could no longer escape his fate by even
promising to respect the mysterious life of these three persons,
because it was impossible to believe the word of a gentleman who had
fallen to the level of a police-spy; and for what reason? Merely to
trouble the respectable life of an innocent woman and a harmless old

The letter itself was nothing to Auguste in comparison to the tender
reproaches of his grandmother. To lack respect to a woman! to spy upon
her actions without a right to do so! Ought a man ever to spy upon a
woman whom he loved?--in short, she poured out a torrent of those
excellent reasons which prove nothing; and they put the young baron,
for the first time in his life, into one of those great human furies
in which are born, and from which issue the most vital actions of a
man's life.

"Since it is war to the knife," he said in conclusion, "I shall kill
my enemy by any means that I can lay hold of."

The vidame went immediately, at Auguste's request, to the chief of the
private police of Paris, and without bringing Madame Jules' name or
person into the narrative, although they were really the gist of it,
he made the official aware of the fears of the family of Maulincour
about this mysterious person who was bold enough to swear the death of
an officer of the Guards, in defiance of the law and the police. The
chief pushed up his green spectacles in amazement, blew his nose
several times, and offered snuff to the vidame, who, to save his
dignity, pretended not to use tobacco, although his own nose was
discolored with it. Then the chief took notes and promised, Vidocq and
his spies aiding, to send in a report within a few days to the
Maulincour family, assuring them meantime that there were no secrets
for the police of Paris.

A few days after this the police official called to see the vidame at
the Hotel de Maulincour, where he found the young baron quite
recovered from his last wound. He gave them in bureaucratic style his
thanks for the indications they had afforded him, and told them that
Bourignard was a convict, condemned to twenty years' hard labor, who
had miraculously escaped from a gang which was being transported from
Bicetre to Toulon. For thirteen years the police had been endeavoring
to recapture him, knowing that he had boldly returned to Paris; but so
far this convict had escaped the most active search, although he was
known to be mixed up in many nefarious deeds. However, the man, whose
life was full of very curious incidents, would certainly be captured
now in one or other of his several domiciles and delivered up to
justice. The bureaucrat ended his report by saying to Monsieur de
Maulincour that if he attached enough importance to the matter to wish
to witness the capture of Bourignard, he might come the next day at
eight in the morning to a house in the rue Sainte-Foi, of which he
gave him the number. Monsieur de Maulincour excused himself from going
personally in search of certainty,--trusting, with the sacred respect
inspired by the police of Paris, in the capability of the authorities.

Three days later, hearing nothing, and seeing nothing in the
newspapers about the projected arrest, which was certainly of enough
importance to have furnished an article, Monsieur de Maulincour was
beginning to feel anxieties which were presently allayed by the
following letter:--

Monsieur le Baron,--I have the honor to announce to you that you
need have no further uneasiness touching the affair in question.
The man named Gratien Bourignard, otherwise called Ferragus, died
yesterday, at his lodgings, rue Joquelet No. 7. The suspicions we
naturally conceived as to the identity of the dead body have been
completely set at rest by the facts. The physician of the
Prefecture of police was despatched by us to assist the physician
of the arrondissement, and the chief of the detective police made
all the necessary verifications to obtain absolute certainty.
Moreover, the character of the persons who signed the certificate
of death, and the affidavits of those who took care of the said
Bourignard in his last illness, among others that of the worthy
vicar of the church of the Bonne-Nouvelle (to whom he made his
last confession, for he died a Christian), do not permit us to
entertain any sort of doubt.

Accept, Monsieur le baron, etc., etc.

Monsieur de Maulincour, the dowager, and the vidame breathed again
with joy unspeakable. The good old woman kissed her grandson leaving a
tear upon his cheek, and went away to thank God in prayer. The dear
soul, who was making a novena for Auguste's safety, believed her
prayers were answered.

"Well," said the vidame, "now you had better show yourself at the ball
you were speaking of. I oppose no further objections."



Monsieur de Maulincour was all the more anxious to go to this ball
because he knew that Madame Jules would be present. The fete was given
by the Prefect of the Seine, in whose salons the two social worlds of
Paris met as on neutral ground. Auguste passed through the rooms
without finding the woman who now exercised so mighty an influence on
his fate. He entered an empty boudoir where card-tables were placed
awaiting players; and sitting down on a divan he gave himself up to
the most contradictory thoughts about her. A man presently took the
young officer by the arm, and looking up the baron was stupefied to
behold the pauper of the rue Coquilliere, the Ferragus of Ida, the
lodger in the rue Soly, the Bourignard of Justin, the convict of the
police, and the dead man of the day before.

"Monsieur, not a sound, not a word," said Bourignard, whose voice he
recognized. The man was elegantly dressed; he wore the order of the
Golden-Fleece, and a medal on his coat. "Monsieur," he continued, and
his voice was sibilant like that of a hyena, "you increase my efforts
against you by having recourse to the police. You will perish,
monsieur; it has now become necessary. Do you love Madame Jules? Are
you beloved by her? By what right do you trouble her peaceful life,
and blacken her virtue?"

Some one entered the card-room. Ferragus rose to go.

"Do you know this man?" asked Monsieur de Maulincour of the new-comer,
seizing Ferragus by the collar. But Ferragus quickly disengaged
himself, took Monsieur de Maulincour by the hair, and shook his head

"Must you have lead in it to make it steady?" he said.

"I do not know him personally," replied Henri de Marsay, the spectator
of this scene, "but I know that he is Monsieur de Funcal, a rich

Monsieur de Funcal had disappeared. The baron followed but without
being able to overtake him until he reached the peristyle, where he
saw Ferragus, who looked at him with a jeering laugh from a brilliant
equipage which was driven away at high speed.

"Monsieur," said Auguste, re-entering the salon and addressing de
Marsay, whom he knew, "I entreat you to tell me where Monsieur de
Funcal lives."

"I do not know; but some one here can no doubt tell you."

The baron, having questioned the prefect, ascertained that the Comte
de Funcal lived at the Portuguese embassy. At this moment, while he
still felt the icy fingers of that strange man in his hair, he saw
Madame Jules in all her dazzling beauty, fresh, gracious, artless,
resplendent with the sanctity of womanhood which had won his love.
This creature, now infernal to him, excited no emotion in his soul but
that of hatred; and this hatred shone in a savage, terrible look from
his eyes. He watched for a moment when he could speak to her unheard,
and then he said:--

"Madame, your /bravi/ have missed me three times."

"What do you mean, monsieur?" she said, flushing. "I know that you
have had several unfortunate accidents lately, which I have greatly
regretted; but how could I have had anything to do with them?"

"You knew that /bravi/ were employed against me by that man of the rue


"Madame, I now call you to account, not for my happiness only, but for
my blood--"

At this instant Jules Desmarets approached them.

"What are you saying to my wife, monsieur?"

"Make that inquiry at my own house, monsieur, if you are curious,"
said Maulincour, moving away, and leaving Madame Jules in an almost
fainting condition.

There are few women who have not found themselves, once at least in
their lives, /a propos/ of some undeniable fact, confronted with a
direct, sharp, uncompromising question,--one of those questions
pitilessly asked by husbands, the mere apprehension of which gives a
chill, while the actual words enter the heart like the blade of a
dagger. It is from such crises that the maxim has come, "All women
lie." Falsehood, kindly falsehood, venial falsehood, sublime
falsehood, horrible falsehood,--but always the necessity to lie. This
necessity admitted, ought they not to know how to lie well? French
women do it admirably. Our manners and customs teach them deception!
Besides, women are so naively saucy, so pretty, graceful, and withal
so true in lying,--they recognize so fully the utility of doing so in
order to avoid in social life the violent shocks which happiness might
not resist,--that lying is seen to be as necessary to their lives as
the cotton-wool in which they put away their jewels. Falsehood becomes
to them the foundation of speech; truth is exceptional; they tell it,
if they are virtuous, by caprice or by calculation. According to
individual character, some women laugh when they lie; others weep;
others are grave; some grow angry. After beginning life by feigning
indifference to the homage that deeply flatters them, they often end
by lying to themselves. Who has not admired their apparent superiority
to everything at the very moment when they are trembling for the
secret treasures of their love? Who has never studied their ease,
their readiness, their freedom of mind in the greatest embarrassments
of life? In them, nothing is put on. Deception comes as the snow from
heaven. And then, with what art they discover the truth in others!
With what shrewdness they employ a direct logic in answer to some
passionate question which has revealed to them the secret of the heart
of a man who was guileless enough to proceed by questioning! To
question a woman! why, that is delivering one's self up to her; does
she not learn in that way all that we seek to hide from her? Does she
not know also how to be dumb, through speaking? What men are daring
enough to struggle with the Parisian woman?--a woman who knows how to
hold herself above all dagger thrusts, saying: "You are very
inquisitive; what is it to you? Why do you wish to know? Ah! you are
jealous! And suppose I do not choose to answer you?"--in short, a
woman who possesses the hundred and thirty-seven methods of saying
/No/, and incommensurable variations of the word /Yes/. Is not a
treatise on the words /yes/ and /no/, a fine diplomatic, philosophic,
logographic, and moral work, still waiting to be written? But to
accomplish this work, which we may also call diabolic, isn't an
androgynous genius necessary? For that reason, probably, it will never
be attempted. And besides, of all unpublished works isn't it the best
known and the best practised among women? Have you studied the
behavior, the pose, the /disinvoltura/ of a falsehood? Examine it.

Madame Desmarets was seated in the right-hand corner of her carriage,
her husband in the left. Having forced herself to recover from her
emotion in the ballroom, she now affected a calm demeanor. Her husband
had then said nothing to her, and he still said nothing. Jules looked
out of the carriage window at the black walls of the silent houses
before which they passed; but suddenly, as if driven by a determining
thought, when turning the corner of a street he examined his wife, who
appeared to be cold in spite of the fur-lined pelisse in which she was
wrapped. He thought she seemed pensive, and perhaps she really was so.
Of all communicable things, reflection and gravity are the most

"What could Monsieur de Maulincour have said to affect you so keenly?"
said Jules; "and why does he wish me to go to his house and find out?"

"He can tell you nothing in his house that I cannot tell you here,"
she replied.

Then, with that feminine craft which always slightly degrades virtue,
Madame Jules waited for another question. Her husband turned his face
back to the houses, and continued his study of their walls. Another
question would imply suspicion, distrust. To suspect a woman is a
crime in love. Jules had already killed a man for doubting his wife.
Clemence did not know all there was of true passion, of loyal
reflection, in her husband's silence; just as Jules was ignorant of
the generous drama that was wringing the heart of his Clemence.

The carriage rolled on through a silent Paris, bearing the couple,--
two lovers who adored each other, and who, gently leaning on the same
silken cushion, were being parted by an abyss. In these elegant coupes
returning from a ball between midnight and two in the morning, how
many curious and singular scenes must pass,--meaning those coupes with
lanterns, which light both the street and the carriage, those with
their windows unshaded; in short, legitimate coupes, in which couples
can quarrel without caring for the eyes of pedestrians, because the
civil code gives a right to provoke, or beat, or kiss, a wife in a
carriage or elsewhere, anywhere, everywhere! How many secrets must be
revealed in this way to nocturnal pedestrians,--to those young fellows
who have gone to a ball in a carriage, but are obliged, for whatever
cause it may be, to return on foot. It was the first time that Jules
and Clemence had been together thus,--each in a corner; usually the
husband pressed close to his wife.

"It is very cold," remarked Madame Jules.

But her husband did not hear her; he was studying the signs above the
shop windows.

"Clemence," he said at last, "forgive me the question I am about to
ask you."

He came closer, took her by the waist, and drew her to him.

"My God, it is coming!" thought the poor woman. "Well," she said
aloud, anticipating the question, "you want to know what Monsieur de
Maulincour said to me. I will tell you, Jules; but not without fear.
Good God! how is it possible that you and I should have secrets from
one another? For the last few moments I have seen you struggling
between a conviction of our love and vague fears. But that conviction
is clear within us, is it not? And these doubts and fears, do they not
seem to you dark and unnatural? Why not stay in that clear light of
love you cannot doubt? When I have told you all, you will still desire
to know more; and yet I myself do not know what the extraordinary
words of that man meant. What I fear is that this may lead to some
fatal affair between you. I would rather that we both forget this
unpleasant moment. But, in any case, swear to me that you will let
this singular adventure explain itself naturally. Here are the facts.
Monsieur de Maulincour declared to me that the three accidents you
have heard mentioned--the falling of a stone on his servant, the
breaking down of his cabriolet, and his duel about Madame de Serizy--
were the result of some plot I had laid against him. He also
threatened to reveal to you the cause of my desire to destroy him. Can
you imagine what all this means? My emotion came from the sight of his
face convulsed with madness, his haggard eyes, and also his words,
broken by some violent inward emotion. I thought him mad. That is all
that took place. Now, I should be less than a woman if I had not
perceived that for over a year I have become, as they call it, the
passion of Monsieur de Maulincour. He has never seen me except at a
ball; and our intercourse has been most insignificant,--merely that
which every one shares at a ball. Perhaps he wants to disunite us, so
that he may find me at some future time alone and unprotected. There,
see! already you are frowning! Oh, how cordially I hate society! We
were so happy without him; why take any notice of him? Jules, I
entreat you, forget all this! To-morrow we shall, no doubt, hear that
Monsieur de Maulincour has gone mad."

"What a singular affair!" thought Jules, as the carriage stopped under
the peristyle of their house. He gave his arm to his wife and together
they went up to their apartments.

To develop this history in all its truth of detail, and to follow its
course through many windings, it is necessary here to divulge some of
love's secrets, to glide beneath the ceilings of a marriage chamber,
not shamelessly, but like Trilby, frightening neither Dougal nor
Jeannie, alarming no one,--being as chaste as our noble French
language requires, and as bold as the pencil of Gerard in his picture
of Daphnis and Chloe.

The bedroom of Madame Jules was a sacred plot. Herself, her husband,
and her maid alone entered it. Opulence has glorious privileges, and
the most enviable are those which enable the development of sentiments
to their fullest extent,--fertilizing them by the accomplishment of
even their caprices, and surrounding them with a brilliancy that
enlarges them, with refinements that purify them, with a thousand
delicacies that make them still more alluring. If you hate dinners on
the grass, and meals ill-served, if you feel a pleasure in seeing a
damask cloth that is dazzlingly white, a silver-gilt dinner service,
and porcelain of exquisite purity, lighted by transparent candles,
where miracles of cookery are served under silver covers bearing coats

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