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Lost Illusions by Honore De Balzac

Part 10 out of 14

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Lucien was forced to choose between d'Arthez and Coralie. His mistress
would be ruined unless he dealt his friend a death-blow in the _Reveil_
and the great newspaper. Poor poet! He went home with death in his
soul; and by the fireside he sat and read that finest production of
modern literature. Tears fell fast over it as the pages turned. For a
long while he hesitated, but at last he took up the pen and wrote a
sarcastic article of the kind that he understood so well, taking the
book as children might take some bright bird to strip it of its
plumage and torture it. His sardonic jests were sure to tell. Again he
turned to the book, and as he read it over a second time, his better
self awoke. In the dead of night he hurried across Paris, and stood
outside d'Arthez's house. He looked up at the windows and saw the
faint pure gleam of light in the panes, as he had so often seen it,
with a feeling of admiration for the noble steadfastness of that truly
great nature. For some moments he stood irresolute on the curbstone;
he had not courage to go further; but his good angel urged him on. He
tapped at the door and opened, and found d'Arthez sitting reading in a
fireless room.

"What has happened?" asked d'Arthez, for news of some dreadful kind
was visible in Lucien's ghastly face.

"Your book is sublime, d'Arthez," said Lucien, with tears in his eyes,
"and they have ordered me to write an attack upon it."

"Poor boy! the bread that they give you is hard indeed!" said d'Arthez

"I only ask for one favor, keep my visit a secret and leave me to my
hell, to the occupations of the damned. Perhaps it is impossible to
attain to success until the heart is seared and callous in every most
sensitive spot."

"The same as ever!" cried d'Arthez.

"Do you think me a base poltroon? No, d'Arthez; no, I am a boy half
crazed with love," and he told his story.

"Let us look at the article," said d'Arthez, touched by all that
Lucien said of Coralie.

Lucien held out the manuscript; d'Arthez read, and could not help

"Oh, what a fatal waste of intellect!" he began. But at the sight of
Lucien overcome with grief in the opposite armchair, he checked

"Will you leave it with me to correct? I will let you have it again
to-morrow," he went on. "Flippancy depreciates a work; serious and
conscientious criticism is sometimes praise in itself. I know a way to
make your article more honorable both for yourself and for me.
Besides, I know my faults well enough."

"When you climb a hot, shadowless hillside, you sometimes find fruit
to quench your torturing thirst; and I have found it here and now,"
said Lucien, as he sprang sobbing to d'Arthez's arms and kissed his
friend on the forehead. "It seems to me that I am leaving my
conscience in your keeping; some day I will come to you and ask for it

"I look upon a periodical repentance as great hypocrisy," d'Arthez
said solemnly; "repentance becomes a sort of indemnity for wrongdoing.
Repentance is virginity of the soul, which we must keep for God; a man
who repents twice is a horrible sycophant. I am afraid that you regard
repentance as absolution."

Lucien went slowly back to the Rue de la Lune, stricken dumb by those

Next morning d'Arthez sent back his article, recast throughout, and
Lucien sent it in to the review; but from that day melancholy preyed
upon him, and he could not always disguise his mood. That evening,
when the theatre was full, he experienced for the first time the
paroxysm of nervous terror caused by a _debut_; terror aggravated in
his case by all the strength of his love. Vanity of every kind was
involved. He looked over the rows of faces as a criminal eyes the
judges and the jury on whom his life depends. A murmur would have set
him quivering; any slight incident upon the stage, Coralie's exits and
entrances, the slightest modulation of the tones of her voice, would
perturb him beyond all reason.

The play in which Coralie made her first appearance at the Gymnase was
a piece of the kind which sometimes falls flat at first, and
afterwards has immense success. It fell flat that night. Coralie was
not applauded when she came on, and the chilly reception reacted upon
her. The only applause came from Camusot's box, and various persons
posted in the balcony and galleries silenced Camusot with repeated
cries of "Hush!" The galleries even silenced the _claqueurs_ when they
led off with exaggerated salvos. Martainville applauded bravely;
Nathan, Merlin, and the treacherous Florine followed his example; but
it was clear that the piece was a failure. A crowd gathered in
Coralie's dressing-room and consoled her, till she had no courage
left. She went home in despair, less for her own sake than for

"Braulard has betrayed us," Lucien said.

Coralie was heartstricken. The next day found her in a high fever,
utterly unfit to play, face to face with the thought that she had been
cut short in her career. Lucien hid the papers from her, and looked
them over in the dining-room. The reviewers one and all attributed the
failure of the piece to Coralie; she had overestimated her strength;
she might be the delight of a boulevard audience, but she was out of
her element at the Gymnase; she had been inspired by a laudable
ambition, but she had not taken her powers into account; she had
chosen a part to which she was quite unequal. Lucien read on through a
pile of penny-a-lining, put together on the same system as his attack
upon Nathan. Milo of Crotona, when he found his hands fast in the oak
which he himself had cleft, was not more furious than Lucien. He grew
haggard with rage. His friends gave Coralie the most treacherous
advice, in the language of kindly counsel and friendly interest. She
should play (according to these authorities) all kind of roles, which
the treacherous writers of these unblushing _feuilletons_ knew to be
utterly unsuited to her genius. And these were the Royalist papers,
led off by Nathan. As for the Liberal press, all the weapons which
Lucien had used were now turned against him.

Coralie heard a sob, followed by another and another. She sprang out
of bed to find Lucien, and saw the papers. Nothing would satisfy her
but she must read them all; and when she had read them, she went back
to bed, and lay there in silence.

Florine was in the plot; she had foreseen the outcome; she had studied
Coralie's part, and was ready to take her place. The management,
unwilling to give up the piece, was ready to take Florine in Coralie's
stead. When the manager came, he found poor Coralie sobbing and
exhausted on her bed; but when he began to say, in Lucien's presence,
that Florine knew the part, and that the play must be given that
evening, Coralie sprang up at once.

"I will play!" she cried, and sank fainting on the floor.

So Florine took the part, and made her reputation in it; for the piece
succeeded, the newspapers all sang her praises, and from that time
forth Florine was the great actress whom we all know. Florine's
success exasperated Lucien to the highest degree.

"A wretched girl, whom you helped to earn her bread! If the Gymnase
prefers to do so, let the management pay you to cancel your
engagement. I shall be the Comte de Rubempre; I will make my fortune,
and you shall be my wife."

"What nonsense!" said Coralie, looking at him with wan eyes.

"Nonsense!" repeated he. "Very well, wait a few days, and you shall
live in a fine house, you shall have a carriage, and I will write a
part for you!"

He took two thousand francs and hurried to Frascati's. For seven hours
the unhappy victim of the Furies watched his varying luck, and
outwardly seemed cool and self-contained. He experienced both extremes
of fortune during that day and part of the night that followed; at one
time he possessed as much as thirty thousand francs, and he came out
at last without a sou. In the Rue de la Lune he found Finot waiting
for him with a request for one of his short articles. Lucien so far
forgot himself, that he complained.

"Oh, it is not all rosy," returned Finot. "You made your
right-about-face in such a way that you were bound to lose the support
of the Liberal press, and the Liberals are far stronger in print than
all the Ministerialist and Royalist papers put together. A man should
never leave one camp for another until he has made a comfortable berth
for himself, by way of consolation for the losses that he must expect;
and in any case, a prudent politician will see his friends first, and
give them his reasons for going over, and take their opinions. You can
still act together; they sympathize with you, and you agree to give
mutual help. Nathan and Merlin did that before they went over. Hawks
don't pike out hawks' eyes. You were as innocent as a lamb; you will
be forced to show your teeth to your new party to make anything out of
them. You have been necessarily sacrificed to Nathan. I cannot conceal
from you that your article on d'Arthez has roused a terrific hubbub.
Marat is a saint compared with you. You will be attacked, and your
book will be a failure. How far have things gone with your romance?"

"These are the last proof sheets."

"All the anonymous articles against that young d'Arthez in the
Ministerialist and Ultra papers are set down to you. The _Reveil_ is
poking fun at the set in the Rue des Quatre-Vents, and the hits are
the more telling because they are funny. There is a whole serious
political coterie at the back of Leon Giraud's paper; they will come
into power too, sooner or later."

"I have not written a line in the _Reveil_ this week past."

"Very well. Keep my short articles in mind. Write fifty of them
straight off, and I will pay you for them in a lump; but they must be
of the same color as the paper." And Finot, with seeming carelessness,
gave Lucien an edifying anecdote of the Keeper of the Seals, a piece
of current gossip, he said, for the subject of one of the papers.

Eager to retrieve his losses at play, Lucien shook off his dejection,
summoned up his energy and youthful force, and wrote thirty articles
of two columns each. These finished, he went to Dauriat's, partly
because he felt sure of meeting Finot there, and he wished to give the
articles to Finot in person; partly because he wished for an
explanation of the non-appearance of the _Marguerites_. He found the
bookseller's shop full of his enemies. All the talk immediately ceased
as he entered. Put under the ban of journalism, his courage rose, and
once more he said to himself, as he had said in the alley at the
Luxembourg, "I will triumph."

Dauriat was neither amiable or inclined to patronize; he was sarcastic
in tone, and determined not to bate an inch of his rights. The
_Marguerites_ should appear when it suited his purpose; he should wait
until Lucien was in a position to secure the success of the book; it
was his, he had bought it outright. When Lucien asserted that Dauriat
was bound to publish the _Marguerites_ by the very nature of the
contract, and the relative positions of the parties to the agreement,
Dauriat flatly contradicted him, said that no publisher could be
compelled by law to publish at a loss, and that he himself was the
best judge of the expediency of producing the book. There was,
besides, a remedy open to Lucien, as any court of law would admit--the
poet was quite welcome to take his verses to a Royalist publisher upon
the repayment of the thousand crowns.

Lucien went away. Dauriat's moderate tone had exasperated him even
more than his previous arrogance at their first interview. So the
_Marguerites_ would not appear until Lucien had found a host of
formidable supporters, or grown formidable himself! He walked home
slowly, so oppressed and out of heart that he felt ready for suicide.
Coralie lay in bed, looking white and ill.

"She must have a part, or she will die," said Berenice, as Lucien
dressed for a great evening party at Mlle. des Touches' house in the
Rue du Mont Blanc. Des Lupeaulx and Vignon and Blondet were to be
there, as well as Mme. d'Espard and Mme. de Bargeton.

The party was given in honor of Conti, the great composer, owner
likewise of one of the most famous voices off the stage, Cinti, Pasta,
Garcia, Levasseur, and two or three celebrated amateurs in society not
excepted. Lucien saw the Marquise, her cousin, and Mme. de Montcornet
sitting together, and made one of the party. The unhappy young fellow
to all appearances was light-hearted, happy, and content; he jested,
he was the Lucien de Rubempre of his days of splendor, he would not
seem to need help from any one. He dwelt on his services to the
Royalist party, and cited the hue and cry raised after him by the
Liberal press as a proof of his zeal.

"And you will be well rewarded, my friend," said Mme. de Bargeton,
with a gracious smile. "Go to the _Chancellerie_ the day after to-morrow
with 'the Heron' and des Lupeaulx, and you will find your patent
signed by His Majesty. The Keeper of the Seals will take it to-morrow
to the Tuileries, but there is to be a meeting of the Council, and he
will not come back till late. Still, if I hear the result to-morrow
evening, I will let you know. Where are you living?"

"I will come to you," said Lucien, ashamed to confess that he was
living in the Rue de la Lune.

"The Duc de Lenoncourt and the Duc de Navarreins have made mention of
you to the King," added the Marquise; "they praised your absolute and
entire devotion, and said that some distinction ought to avenge your
treatment in the Liberal press. The name and title of Rubempre, to
which you have a claim through your mother, would become illustrious
through you, they said. The King gave his lordship instructions that
evening to prepare a patent authorizing the Sieur Lucien Chardon to
bear the arms and title of the Comtes de Rubempre, as grandson of the
last Count by the mother's side. 'Let us favor the songsters'
(_chardonnerets_) 'of Pindus,' said his Majesty, after reading your
sonnet on the Lily, which my cousin luckily remembered to give the
Duke.--'Especially when the King can work miracles, and change the
song-bird into an eagle,' M. de Navarreins replied."

Lucien's expansion of feeling would have softened the heart of any
woman less deeply wounded than Louise d'Espard de Negrepelisse; but
her thirst for vengeance was only increased by Lucien's graciousness.
Des Lupeaulx was right; Lucien was wanting in tact. It never crossed
his mind that this history of the patent was one of the mystifications
at which Mme. d'Espard was an adept. Emboldened with success and the
flattering distinction shown to him by Mlle. des Touches, he stayed
till two o'clock in the morning for a word in private with his
hostess. Lucien had learned in Royalist newspaper offices that Mlle.
des Touches was the author of a play in which _La petite Fay_, the
marvel of the moment was about to appear. As the rooms emptied, he
drew Mlle. des Touches to a sofa in the boudoir, and told the story of
Coralie's misfortune and his own so touchingly, that Mlle. des Touches
promised to give the heroine's part to his friend.

That promise put new life into Coralie. But the next day, as they
breakfasted together, Lucien opened Lousteau's newspaper, and found
that unlucky anecdote of the Keeper of the Seals and his wife. The
story was full of the blackest malice lurking in the most caustic wit.
Louis XVIII. was brought into the story in a masterly fashion, and
held up to ridicule in such a way that prosecution was impossible.
Here is the substance of a fiction for which the Liberal party
attempted to win credence, though they only succeeded in adding one
more to the tale of their ingenious calumnies.

The King's passion for pink-scented notes and a correspondence full of
madrigals and sparkling wit was declared to be the last phase of the
tender passion; love had reached the Doctrinaire stage; or had passed,
in other words, from the concrete to the abstract. The illustrious
lady, so cruelly ridiculed under the name of Octavie by Beranger, had
conceived (so it was said) the gravest fears. The correspondence was
languishing. The more Octavie displayed her wit, the cooler grew the
royal lover. At last Octavie discovered the cause of her decline; her
power was threatened by the novelty and piquancy of a correspondence
between the august scribe and the wife of his Keeper of the Seals.
That excellent woman was believed to be incapable of writing a note;
she was simply and solely godmother to the efforts of audacious
ambition. Who could be hidden behind her petticoats? Octavie decided,
after making observations of her own, that the King was corresponding
with his Minister.

She laid her plans. With the help of a faithful friend, she arranged
that a stormy debate should detain the Minister at the Chamber; then
she contrived to secure a _tete-a-tete_, and to convince outraged
Majesty of the fraud. Louis XVIII. flew into a royal and truly Bourbon
passion, but the tempest broke on Octavie's head. He would not believe
her. Octavie offered immediate proof, begging the King to write a note
which must be answered at once. The unlucky wife of the Keeper of the
Seals sent to the Chamber for her husband; but precautions had been
taken, and at that moment the Minister was on his legs addressing the
Chamber. The lady racked her brains and replied to the note with such
intellect as she could improvise.

"Your Chancellor will supply the rest," cried Octavie, laughing at the
King's chagrin.

There was not a word of truth in the story; but it struck home to
three persons--the Keeper of the Seals, his wife, and the King. It was
said that des Lupeaulx had invented the tale, but Finot always kept
his counsel. The article was caustic and clever, the Liberal papers
and the Orleanists were delighted with it, and Lucien himself laughed,
and thought of it merely as a very amusing _canard_.

He called next day for des Lupeaulx and the Baron du Chatelet. The
Baron had just been to thank his lordship. The Sieur Chatelet, newly
appointed Councillor Extraordinary, was now Comte du Chatelet, with a
promise of the prefecture of the Charente so soon as the present
prefect should have completed the term of office necessary to receive
the maximum retiring pension. The Comte _du_ Chatelet (for the _du_ had
been inserted in the patent) drove with Lucien to the _Chancellerie_,
and treated his companion as an equal. But for Lucien's articles, he
said, his patent would not have been granted so soon; Liberal
persecution had been a stepping-stone to advancement. Des Lupeaulx was
waiting for them in the Secretary-General's office. That functionary
started with surprise when Lucien appeared and looked at des Lupeaulx.

"What!" he exclaimed, to Lucien's utter bewilderment. "Do you dare to
come here, sir? Your patent was made out, but his lordship has torn it
up. Here it is!" (the Secretary-General caught up the first torn sheet
that came to hand). "The Minister wished to discover the author of
yesterday's atrocious article, and here is the manuscript," added the
speaker, holding out the sheets of Lucien's article. "You call
yourself a Royalist, sir, and you are on the staff of that detestable
paper which turns the Minister's hair gray, harasses the Centre, and
is dragging the country headlong to ruin? You breakfast on the
_Corsair_, the _Miroir_, the _Constitutionnel_, and the _Courier_; you
dine on the _Quotidienne_ and the _Reveil_, and then sup with
Martainville, the worst enemy of the Government! Martainville urges the
Government on to Absolutist measures; he is more likely to bring on
another Revolution than if he had gone over to the extreme Left. You are
a very clever journalist, but you will never make a politician. The
Minister denounced you to the King, and the King was so angry that he
scolded M. le Duc de Navarreins, his First Gentleman of the Bedchamber.
Your enemies will be all the more formidable because they have hitherto
been your friends. Conduct that one expects from an enemy is atrocious
in a friend."

"Why, really, my dear fellow, are you a child?" said des Lupeaulx.
"You have compromised me. Mme. d'Espard, Mme. de Bargeton, and Mme. de
Montcornet, who were responsible for you, must be furious. The Duke is
sure to have handed on his annoyance to the Marquise, and the Marquise
will have scolded her cousin. Keep away from them and wait."

"Here comes his lordship--go!" said the Secretary-General.

Lucien went out into the Place Vendome; he was stunned by this
bludgeon blow. He walked home along the Boulevards trying to think
over his position. He saw himself a plaything in the hands of envy,
treachery, and greed. What was he in this world of contending
ambitions? A child sacrificing everything to the pursuit of pleasure
and the gratification of vanity; a poet whose thoughts never went
beyond the moment, a moth flitting from one bright gleaming object to
another. He had no definite aim; he was the slave of circumstance
--meaning well, doing ill. Conscience tortured him remorselessly. And
to crown it all, he was penniless and exhausted with work and emotion.
His articles could not compare with Merlin's or Nathan's work.

He walked at random, absorbed in these thoughts. As he passed some of
the reading-rooms which were already lending books as well as
newspapers, a placard caught his eyes. It was an advertisement of a
book with a grotesque title, but beneath the announcement he saw his
name in brilliant letters--"By Lucien Chardon de Rubempre." So his
book had come out, and he had heard nothing of it! All the newspapers
were silent. He stood motionless before the placard, his arms hanging
at his sides. He did not notice a little knot of acquaintances
--Rastignac and de Marsay and some other fashionable young men; nor did
he see that Michel Chrestien and Leon Giraud were coming towards him.

"Are you M. Chardon?" It was Michel who spoke, and there was that in
the sound of his voice that set Lucien's heartstrings vibrating.

"Do you not know me?" he asked, turning very pale.

Michel spat in his face.

"Take that as your wages for your article against d'Arthez. If
everybody would do as I do on his own or his friend's behalf, the
press would be as it ought to be--a self-respecting and respected

Lucien staggered back and caught hold of Rastignac.

"Gentlemen," he said, addressing Rastignac and de Marsay, "you will
not refuse to act as my seconds. But first, I wish to make matters
even and apology impossible."

He struck Michel a sudden, unexpected blow in the face. The rest
rushed in between the Republican and Royalist, to prevent a street
brawl. Rastignac dragged Lucien off to the Rue Taitbout, only a few
steps away from the Boulevard de Gand, where this scene took place. It
was the hour of dinner, or a crowd would have assembled at once. De
Marsay came to find Lucien, and the pair insisted that he should dine
with them at the Cafe Anglais, where they drank and made merry.

"Are you a good swordsman?" inquired de Marsay.

"I have never had a foil in my hands."

"A good shot?"

"Never fired a pistol in my life."

"Then you have luck on your side. You are a formidable antagonist to
stand up to; you may kill your man," said de Marsay.

Fortunately, Lucien found Coralie in bed and asleep.

She had played without rehearsal in a one-act play, and taken her
revenge. She had met with genuine applause. Her enemies had not been
prepared for this step on her part, and her success had determined the
manager to give her the heroine's part in Camille Maupin's play. He
had discovered the cause of her apparent failure, and was indignant
with Florine and Nathan. Coralie should have the protection of the

At five o'clock that morning, Rastignac came for Lucien.

"The name of your street my dear fellow, is particularly appropriate
for your lodgings; you are up in the sky," he said, by way of
greeting. "Let us be first upon the ground on the road to
Clignancourt; it is good form, and we ought to set them an example."

"Here is the programme," said de Marsay, as the cab rattled through
the Faubourg Saint-Denis: "You stand up at twenty-five paces, coming
nearer, till you are only fifteen apart. You have, each of you, five
paces to take and three shots to fire--no more. Whatever happens, that
must be the end of it. We load for your antagonist, and his seconds
load for you. The weapons were chosen by the four seconds at a
gunmaker's. We helped you to a chance, I will promise you; horse
pistols are to be the weapons."

For Lucien, life had become a bad dream. He did not care whether he
lived or died. The courage of suicide helped him in some sort to carry
things off with a dash of bravado before the spectators. He stood in
his place; he would not take a step, a piece of recklessness which the
others took for deliberate calculation. They thought the poet an
uncommonly cool hand. Michel Chrestien came as far as his limit; both
fired twice and at the same time, for either party was considered to
be equally insulted. Michel's first bullet grazed Lucien's chin;
Lucien's passed ten feet above Chrestien's head. The second shot hit
Lucien's coat collar, but the buckram lining fortunately saved its
wearer. The third bullet struck him in the chest, and he dropped.

"Is he dead?" asked Michel Chrestien.

"No," said the surgeon, "he will pull through."

"So much the worse," answered Michel.

"Yes; so much the worse," said Lucien, as his tears fell fast.

By noon the unhappy boy lay in bed in his own room. With untold pains
they had managed to remove him, but it had taken five hours to bring
him to the Rue de la Lune. His condition was not dangerous, but
precautions were necessary lest fever should set in and bring about
troublesome complications. Coralie choked down her grief and anguish.
She sat up with him at night through the anxious weeks of his illness,
studying her parts by his bedside. Lucien was in danger for two long
months; and often at the theatre Coralie acted her frivolous role with
one thought in her heart, "Perhaps he is dying at this moment."

Lucien owed his life to the skill and devotion of a friend whom he had
grievously hurt. Bianchon had come to tend him after hearing the story
of the attack from d'Arthez, who told it in confidence, and excused
the unhappy poet. Bianchon suspected that d'Arthez was generously
trying to screen the renegade; but on questioning Lucien during a
lucid interval in the dangerous nervous fever, he learned that his
patient was only responsible for the one serious article in Hector
Merlin's paper.

Before the first month was out, the firm of Fendant and Cavalier filed
their schedule. Bianchon told Coralie that Lucien must on no account
hear the news. The famous _Archer of Charles IX._, brought out with an
absurd title, had been a complete failure. Fendant, being anxious to
realize a little ready money before going into bankruptcy, had sold
the whole edition (without Cavalier's knowledge) to dealers in printed
paper. These, in their turn, had disposed of it at a cheap rate to
hawkers, and Lucien's book at that moment was adorning the bookstalls
along the Quays. The booksellers on the Quai des Augustins, who had
previously taken a quantity of copies, now discovered that after this
sudden reduction of the price they were like to lose heavily on their
purchases; the four duodecimo volumes, for which they had paid four
francs fifty centimes, were being given away for fifty sous. Great was
the outcry in the trade; but the newspapers preserved a profound
silence. Barbet had not foreseen this "clearance;" he had a belief in
Lucien's abilities; for once he had broken his rule and taken two
hundred copies. The prospect of a loss drove him frantic; the things
he said of Lucien were fearful to hear. Then Barbet took a heroic
resolution. He stocked his copies in a corner of his shop, with the
obstinacy of greed, and left his competitors to sell their wares at a
loss. Two years afterwards, when d'Arthez's fine preface, the merits
of the book, and one or two articles by Leon Giraud had raised the
value of the book, Barbet sold his copies, one by one, at ten francs

Lucien knew nothing of all this, but Berenice and Coralie could not
refuse to allow Hector Merlin to see his dying comrade, and Hector
Merlin made him drink, drop by drop, the whole of the bitter draught
brewed by the failure of Fendant and Cavalier, made bankrupts by his
first ill-fated book. Martainville, the one friend who stood by Lucien
through thick and thin, had written a magnificent article on his work;
but so great was the general exasperation against the editor of
_L'Aristarque_, _L'Oriflamme_, and _Le Drapeau Blanc_, that his
championship only injured Lucien. In vain did the athlete return the
Liberal insults tenfold, not a newspaper took up the challenge in
spite of all his attacks.

Coralie, Berenice, and Bianchon might shut the door on Lucien's
so-called friends, who raised a great outcry, but it was impossible
to keep out creditors and writs. After the failure of Fendant and
Cavalier, their bills were taken into bankruptcy according to that
provision of the Code of Commerce most inimical to the claims of third
parties, who in this way lose the benefit of delay.

Lucien discovered that Camusot was proceeding against him with great
energy. When Coralie heard the name, and for the first time learned
the dreadful and humiliating step which her poet had taken for her
sake, the angelic creature loved him ten times more than before, and
would not approach Camusot. The bailiff bringing the warrant of arrest
shrank back from the idea of dragging his prisoner out of bed, and
went back to Camusot before applying to the President of the Tribunal
of Commerce for an order to remove the debtor to a private hospital.
Camusot hurried at once to the Rue de la Lune, and Coralie went down
to him.

When she came up again she held the warrants, in which Lucien was
described as a tradesman, in her hand. How had she obtained those
papers from Camusot? What promise had she given? Coralie kept a sad,
gloomy silence, but when she returned she looked as if all the life
had gone out of her. She played in Camille Maupin's play, and
contributed not a little to the success of that illustrious literary
hermaphrodite; but the creation of this character was the last flicker
of a bright, dying lamp. On the twentieth night, when Lucien had so
far recovered that he had regained his appetite and could walk abroad,
and talked of getting to work again, Coralie broke down; a secret
trouble was weighing upon her. Berenice always believed that she had
promised to go back to Camusot to save Lucien.

Another mortification followed. Coralie was obliged to see her part
given to Florine. Nathan had threatened the Gymnase with war if the
management refused to give the vacant place to Coralie's rival.
Coralie had persisted till she could play no longer, knowing that
Florine was waiting to step into her place. She had overtasked her
strength. The Gymnase had advanced sums during Lucien's illness, she
had no money to draw; Lucien, eager to work though he was, was not yet
strong enough to write, and he helped besides to nurse Coralie and to
relieve Berenice. From poverty they had come to utter distress; but in
Bianchon they found a skilful and devoted doctor, who obtained credit
for them of the druggist. The landlord of the house and the
tradespeople knew by this time how matters stood. The furniture was
attached. The tailor and dressmaker no longer stood in awe of the
journalist, and proceeded to extremes; and at last no one, with the
exception of the pork-butcher and the druggist, gave the two unlucky
children credit. For a week or more all three of them--Lucien,
Berenice, and the invalid--were obliged to live on the various
ingenious preparations sold by the pork-butcher; the inflammatory diet
was little suited to the sick girl, and Coralie grew worse. Sheer want
compelled Lucien to ask Lousteau for a return of the loan of a
thousand francs lost at play by the friend who had deserted him in his
hour of need. Perhaps, amid all his troubles, this step cost him most
cruel suffering.

Lousteau was not to be found in the Rue de la Harpe. Hunted down like
a hare, he was lodging now with this friend, now with that. Lucien
found him at last at Flicoteaux's; he was sitting at the very table at
which Lucien had found him that evening when, for his misfortune, he
forsook d'Arthez for journalism. Lousteau offered him dinner, and
Lucien accepted the offer.

As they came out of Flicoteaux's with Claude Vignon (who happened to
be dining there that day) and the great man in obscurity, who kept his
wardrobe at Samanon's, the four among them could not produce enough
specie to pay for a cup of coffee at the Cafe Voltaire. They lounged
about the Luxembourg in the hope of meeting with a publisher; and, as
it fell out, they met with one of the most famous printers of the day.
Lousteau borrowed forty francs of him, and divided the money into four
equal parts.

Misery had brought down Lucien's pride and extinguished sentiment; he
shed tears as he told the story of his troubles, but each one of his
comrades had a tale as cruel as his own; and when the three versions
had been given, it seemed to the poet that he was the least
unfortunate among the four. All of them craved a respite from
remembrance and thoughts which made trouble doubly hard to bear.

Lousteau hurried to the Palais Royal to gamble with his remaining nine
francs. The great man unknown to fame, though he had a divine
mistress, must needs hie him to a low haunt of vice to wallow in
perilous pleasure. Vignon betook himself to the _Rocher de Cancale_ to
drown memory and thought in a couple of bottles of Bordeaux; Lucien
parted company with him on the threshold, declining to share that
supper. When he shook hands with the one journalist who had not been
hostile to him, it was with a cruel pang in his heart.

"What shall I do?" he asked aloud.

"One must do as one can," the great critic said. "Your book is good,
but it excited jealousy, and your struggle will be hard and long.
Genius is a cruel disease. Every writer carries a canker in his heart,
a devouring monster, like the tapeworm in the stomach, which destroys
all feeling as it arises in him. Which is the stronger? The man or the
disease? One has need be a great man, truly, to keep the balance
between genius and character. The talent grows, the heart withers.
Unless a man is a giant, unless he has the thews of a Hercules, he
must be content either to lose his gift or to live without a heart.
You are slender and fragile, you will give way," he added, as he
turned into the restaurant.

Lucien returned home, thinking over that terrible verdict. He beheld
the life of literature by the light of the profound truths uttered by

"Money! money!" a voice cried in his ears.

Then he drew three bills of a thousand francs each, due respectively
in one, two, and three months, imitating the handwriting of his
brother-in-law, David Sechard, with admirable skill. He endorsed the
bills, and took them next morning to Metivier, the paper-dealer in the
Rue Serpente, who made no difficulty about taking them. Lucien wrote a
few lines to give his brother-in-law notice of this assault upon his
cash-box, promising, as usual in such cases, to be ready to meet the
bills as they fell due.

When all debts, his own and Coralie's, were paid, he put the three
hundred francs which remained into Berenice's hands, bidding her to
refuse him money if he asked her for it. He was afraid of a return of
the gambler's frenzy. Lucien worked away gloomily in a sort of cold,
speechless fury, putting forth all his powers into witty articles,
written by the light of the lamp at Coralie's bedside. Whenever he
looked up in search of ideas, his eyes fell on that beloved face,
white as porcelain, fair with the beauty that belongs to the dying,
and he saw a smile on her pale lips, and her eyes, grown bright with a
more consuming pain than physical suffering, always turned on his

Lucien sent in his work, but he could not leave the house to worry
editors, and his articles did not appear. When he at last made up his
mind to go to the office, he met with a cool reception from Theodore
Gaillard, who had advanced him money, and turned his literary diamonds
to good account afterwards.

"Take care, my dear fellow, you are falling off," he said. "You must
not let yourself down, your work wants inspiration!"

"That little Lucien has written himself out with his romance and his
first articles," cried Felicien Vernou, Merlin, and the whole chorus
of his enemies, whenever his name came up at Dauriat's or the
Vaudeville. "The work he is sending us is pitiable."

"To have written oneself out" (in the slang of journalism), is a
verdict very hard to live down. It passed everywhere from mouth to
mouth, ruining Lucien, all unsuspicious as he was. And, indeed, his
burdens were too heavy for his strength. In the midst of a heavy
strain of work, he was sued for the bills which he had drawn in David
Sechard's name. He had recourse to Camusot's experience, and Coralie's
sometime adorer was generous enough to assist the man she loved. The
intolerable situation lasted for two whole months; the days being
diversified by stamped papers handed over to Desroches, a friend of
Bixiou, Blondet, and des Lupeaulx.

Early in August, Bianchon told them that Coralie's condition was
hopeless--she had only a few days to live. Those days were spent in
tears by Berenice and Lucien; they could not hide their grief from the
dying girl, and she was broken-hearted for Lucien's sake.

Some strange change was working in Coralie. She would have Lucien
bring a priest; she must be reconciled to the Church and die in peace.
Coralie died as a Christian; her repentance was sincere. Her agony and
death took all energy and heart out of Lucien. He sank into a low
chair at the foot of the bed, and never took his eyes off her till
Death brought the end of her suffering. It was five o'clock in the
morning. Some singing-bird lighting upon a flower-pot on the
window-sill, twittered a few notes. Berenice, kneeling by the bedside,
was covering a hand fast growing cold with kisses and tears. On the
chimney-piece there lay eleven sous.

Lucien went out. Despair made him beg for money to lay Coralie in her
grave. He had wild thoughts of flinging himself at the Marquise
d'Espard's feet, of entreating the Comte du Chatelet, Mme. de
Bargeton, Mlle. des Touches, nay, that terrible dandy of a de Marsay.
All his pride had gone with his strength. He would have enlisted as a
common soldier at that moment for money. He walked on with a
slouching, feverish gait known to all the unhappy, reached Camille
Maupin's house, entered, careless of his disordered dress, and sent in
a message. He entreated Mlle. des Touches to see him for a moment.

"Mademoiselle only went to bed at three o'clock this morning," said
the servant, "and no one would dare to disturb her until she rings."

"When does she ring?"

"Never before ten o'clock."

Then Lucien wrote one of those harrowing appeals in which the
well-dressed beggar flings all pride and self-respect to the winds.
One evening, not so very long ago, when Lousteau had told him of the
abject begging letters which Finot received, Lucien had thought it
impossible that any creature would sink so low; and now, carried away
by his pen, he had gone further, it may be, than other unlucky
wretches upon the same road. He did not suspect, in his fever and
imbecility, that he had just written a masterpiece of pathos. On his
way home along the Boulevards, he met Barbet.

"Barbet!" he begged, holding out his hand. "Five hundred francs!"

"No. Two hundred," returned the other.

"Ah! then you have a heart."

"Yes; but I am a man of business as well. I have lost a lot of money
through you," he concluded, after giving the history of the failure of
Fendant and Cavalier, "will you put me in the way of making some?"

Lucien quivered.

"You are a poet. You ought to understand all kinds of poetry,"
continued the little publisher. "I want a few rollicking songs at this
moment to put along with some more by different authors, or they will
be down upon me over the copyright. I want to have a good collection
to sell on the streets at ten sous. If you care to let me have ten
good drinking-songs by to-morrow morning, or something spicy,--you
know the sort of thing, eh!--I will pay you two hundred francs."

When Lucien returned home, he found Coralie stretched out straight and
stiff on a pallet-bed; Berenice, with many tears, had wrapped her in a
coarse linen sheet, and put lighted candles at the four corners of the
bed. Coralie's face had taken that strange, delicate beauty of death
which so vividly impresses the living with the idea of absolute calm;
she looked like some white girl in a decline; it seemed as if those
pale, crimson lips must open and murmur the name which had blended
with the name of God in the last words that she uttered before she

Lucien told Berenice to order a funeral which should not cost more
than two hundred francs, including the service at the shabby little
church of the Bonne-Nouvelle. As soon as she had gone out, he sat down
to a table, and beside the dead body of his love he composed ten
rollicking songs to fit popular airs. The effort cost him untold
anguish, but at last the brain began to work at the bidding of
Necessity, as if suffering were not; and already Lucien had learned to
put Claude Vignon's terrible maxims in practice, and to raise a
barrier between heart and brain. What a night the poor boy spent over
those drinking songs, writing by the light of the tall wax candles
while the priest recited the prayers for the dead!

Morning broke before the last song was finished. Lucien tried it over
to a street-song of the day, to the consternation of Berenice and the
priest, who thought that he was mad:--

Lads, 'tis tedious waste of time
To mingle song and reason;
Folly calls for laughing rhyme,
Sense is out of season.
Let Apollo be forgot
When Bacchus fills the drinking-cup;
Any catch is good, I wot,
If good fellows take it up.
Let philosophers protest,
Let us laugh,
And quaff,
And a fig for the rest!

As Hippocrates has said,
Every jolly fellow,
When a century has sped,
Still is fit and mellow.
No more following of a lass
With the palsy in your legs?
--While your hand can hold a glass,
You can drain it to the dregs,
With an undiminished zest.
Let us laugh,
And quaff,
And a fig for the rest!

Whence we come we know full well.
Whiter are we going?
Ne'er a one of us can tell,
'Tis a thing past knowing.
Faith! what does it signify,
Take the good that Heaven sends;
It is certain that we die,
Certain that we live, my friends.
Life is nothing but a jest.
Let us laugh,
And quaff,
And a fig for the rest!

He was shouting the reckless refrain when d'Arthez and Bianchon
arrived, to find him in a paroxysm of despair and exhaustion, utterly
unable to make a fair copy of his verses. A torrent of tears followed;
and when, amid his sobs, he had told his story, he saw the tears
standing in his friends' eyes.

"This wipes out many sins," said d'Arthez.

"Happy are they who suffer for their sins in this world," the priest
said solemnly.

At the sight of the fair, dead face smiling at Eternity, while
Coralie's lover wrote tavern-catches to buy a grave for her, and
Barbet paid for the coffin--of the four candles lighted about the dead
body of her who had thrilled a great audience as she stood behind the
footlights in her Spanish basquina and scarlet green-clocked
stockings; while beyond in the doorway, stood the priest who had
reconciled the dying actress with God, now about to return to the
church to say a mass for the soul of her who had "loved much,"--all
the grandeur and the sordid aspects of the scene, all that sorrow
crushed under by Necessity, froze the blood of the great writer and
the great doctor. They sat down; neither of them could utter a word.

Just at that moment a servant in livery announced Mlle. des Touches.
That beautiful and noble woman understood everything at once. She
stepped quickly across the room to Lucien, and slipped two
thousand-franc notes into his hand as she grasped it.

"It is too late," he said, looking up at her with dull, hopeless eyes.

The three stayed with Lucien, trying to soothe his despair with
comforting words; but every spring seemed to be broken. At noon all
the brotherhood, with the exception of Michel Chrestien (who, however,
had learned the truth as to Lucien's treachery), was assembled in the
poor little church of the Bonne-Nouvelle; Mlle. de Touches was
present, and Berenice and Coralie's dresser from the theatre, with a
couple of supernumeraries and the disconsolate Camusot. All the men
accompanied the actress to her last resting-place in Pere Lachaise.
Camusot, shedding hot tears, had solemnly promised Lucien to buy the
grave in perpetuity, and to put a headstone above it with the words:



August, 1822

Lucien stayed there, on the sloping ground that looks out over Paris,
until the sun had set.

"Who will love me now?" he thought. "My truest friends despise me.
Whatever I might have done, she who lies here would have thought me
wholly noble and good. I have no one left to me now but my sister and
mother and David. And what do they think of me at home?"

Poor distinguished provincial! He went back to the Rue de la Lune; but
the sight of the rooms was so acutely painful, that he could not stay
in them, and he took a cheap lodging elsewhere in the same street.
Mlle. des Touches' two thousand francs and the sale of the furniture
paid the debts.

Berenice had two hundred francs left, on which they lived for two
months. Lucien was prostrate; he could neither write nor think; he
gave way to morbid grief. Berenice took pity upon him.

"Suppose that you were to go back to your own country, how are you to
get there?" she asked one day, by way of reply to an exclamation of

"On foot."

"But even so, you must live and sleep on the way. Even if you walk
twelve leagues a day, you will want twenty francs at least."

"I will get them together," he said.

He took his clothes and his best linen, keeping nothing but strict
necessaries, and went to Samanon, who offered fifty francs for his
entire wardrobe. In vain he begged the money-lender to let him have
enough to pay his fare by the coach; Samanon was inexorable. In a
paroxysm of fury, Lucien rushed to Frascati's, staked the proceeds of
the sale, and lost every farthing. Back once more in the wretched room
in the Rue de la Lune, he asked Berenice for Coralie's shawl. The good
girl looked at him, and knew in a moment what he meant to do. He had
confessed to his loss at the gaming-table; and now he was going to
hang himself.

"Are you mad, sir? Go out for a walk, and come back again at midnight.
I will get the money for you; but keep to the Boulevards, do not go
towards the Quais."

Lucien paced up and down the Boulevards. He was stupid with grief. He
watched the passers-by and the stream of traffic, and felt that he was
alone, and a very small atom in this seething whirlpool of Paris,
churned by the strife of innumerable interests. His thoughts went back
to the banks of his Charente; a craving for happiness and home awoke
in him; and with the craving, came one of the sudden febrile bursts of
energy which half-feminine natures like his mistake for strength. He
would not give up until he had poured out his heart to David Sechard,
and taken counsel of the three good angels still left to him on earth.

As he lounged along, he caught sight of Berenice--Berenice in her
Sunday clothes, speaking to a stranger at the corner of the Rue de la
Lune and the filthy Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, where she had taken her

"What are you doing?" asked Lucien, dismayed by a sudden suspicion.

"Here are your twenty francs," said the girl, slipping four five-franc
pieces into the poet's hand. "They may cost dear yet; but you can go,"
and she had fled before Lucien could see the way she went; for, in
justice to him, it must be said that the money burned his hand, he
wanted to return it, but he was forced to keep it as the final brand
set upon him by life in Paris.


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

A Man of Business
The Seamy Side of History
The Middle Classes

Beaudenord, Godefroid de
The Ball at Sceaux
The Firm of Nucingen

Lost Illusions

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

Blondet, Emile
Jealousies of a Country Town
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Modeste Mignon
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Firm of Nucingen
The Peasantry

Blondet, Virginie
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Secrets of a Princess
The Peasantry
Another Study of Woman
The Member for Arcis
A Daughter of Eve

Cousin Betty
Cousin Pons

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

Bruel, Jean Francois du
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
A Start in Life
A Prince of Bohemia
The Middle Classes
A Daughter of Eve

Bruel, Claudine Chaffaroux, Madame du
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Middle Classes

Cabirolle, Agathe-Florentine
A Start in Life
Lost Illusions
A Bachelor's Establishment

A Bachelor's Establishment
Cousin Pons
The Muse of the Department
Cesar Birotteau
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Canalis, Constant-Cyr-Melchior, Baron de
Letters of Two Brides
Modeste Mignon
The Magic Skin
Another Study of Woman
A Start in Life
The Unconscious Humorists
The Member for Arcis

Cardot, Jean-Jerome-Severin
A Start in Life
Lost Illusions

A Bachelor's Establishment
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

Carigliano, Duchesse de
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
The Peasantry
The Member for Arcis

The Seamy Side of History

The Government Clerks
A Man of Business

Chatelet, Sixte, Baron du
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Thirteen

Chatelet, Marie-Louise-Anais de Negrepelisse, Baronne du
Lost Illusions
The Government Clerks

Chrestien, Michel
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess

Collin, Jacques
Father Goriot
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Member for Arcis

A Bachelor's Establishment

Coralie, Mademoiselle
A Start in Life
A Bachelor's Establishment

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Modeste Mignon

Desroches (son)
A Bachelor's Establishment
Colonel Chabert
A Start in Life
A Woman of Thirty
The Commission in Lunacy
The Government Clerks
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Firm of Nucingen
A Man of Business
The Middle Classes

Arthez, Daniel d'
Letters of Two Brides
The Member for Arcis
The Secrets of a Princess

Espard, Jeanne-Clementine-Athenais de Blamont-Chauvry, Marquise d'
The Commission in Lunacy
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Letters of Two Brides
Another Study of Woman
The Gondreville Mystery
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve

Finot, Andoche
Cesar Birotteau
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Government Clerks
A Start in Life
Gaudissart the Great
The Firm of Nucingen

Foy, Maximilien-Sebastien
Cesar Birotteau

Gaillard, Theodore
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Gaillard, Madame Theodore
Jealousies of a Country Town
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Galathionne, Prince and Princess (both not in each story)
The Secrets of a Princess
The Middle Classes
Father Goriot
A Daughter of Eve

Lost Illusions

Giraud, Leon
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Unconscious Humorists

A Start in Life
A Bachelor's Establishment

Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Start in Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes
Cousin Betty

Lambert, Louis
Louis Lambert
A Seaside Tragedy

Listomere, Marquis de
The Lily of the Valley
A Study of Woman

Listomere, Marquise de
The Lily of the Valley
Lost Illusions
A Study of Woman
A Daughter of Eve

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

Lupeaulx, Clement Chardin des
The Muse of the Department
Eugenie Grandet
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Ursule Mirouet

Manerville, Paul Francois-Joseph, Comte de
The Thirteen
The Ball at Sceaux
Lost Illusions
A Marriage Settlement

Marsay, Henri de
The Thirteen
The Unconscious Humorists
Another Study of Woman
The Lily of the Valley
Father Goriot
Jealousies of a Country Town
Ursule Mirouet
A Marriage Settlement
Lost Illusions
Letters of Two Brides
The Ball at Sceaux
Modeste Mignon
The Secrets of a Princess
The Gondreville Mystery
A Daughter of Eve

Matifat (wealthy druggist)
Cesar Birotteau
A Bachelor's Establishment
Lost Illusions
The Firm of Nucingen
Cousin Pons

Louis Lambert

Montcornet, Marechal, Comte de
Domestic Peace
Lost Illusions

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Peasantry
A Man of Business
Cousin Betty

Montriveau, General Marquis Armand de
The Thirteen
Father Goriot
Lost Illusions
Another Study of Woman
The Member for Arcis

Nathan, Raoul
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
Letters of Two Brides
The Seamy Side of History
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Unconscious Humorists

Nathan, Madame Raoul
The Muse of the Department
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Government Clerks
A Bachelor's Establishment
Ursule Mirouet
Eugenie Grandet
The Imaginary Mistress
A Prince of Bohemia

Negrepelisse, De
The Commission in Lunacy
Lost Illusions

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

Nucingen, Baronne Delphine de
Father Goriot
The Thirteen
Eugenie Grandet
Cesar Birotteau
Melmoth Reconciled
Lost Illusions
The Commission in Lunacy
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Modeste Mignon
The Firm of Nucingen
Another Study of Woman
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis

Palma (banker)
The Firm of Nucingen
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
The Ball at Sceaux

Pombreton, Marquis de
Lost Illusions
Jealousies of a Country Town

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

Rhetore, Duc Alphonse de
A Bachelor's Establishment

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Letters of Two Brides
Albert Savarus
The Member for Arcis

Ridal, Fulgence
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Unconscious Humorists

Rubempre, Lucien-Chardon de
Lost Illusions
The Government Clerks
Ursule Mirouet
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

The Government Clerks
A Man of Business
Cousin Betty

Sechard, David
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Sechard, Madame David
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

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

Touches, Mademoiselle Felicite des
Lost Illusions
A Bachelor's Establishment
Another Study of Woman
A Daughter of Eve
The Muse of the Department

Vandenesse, Comte Felix de
The Lily of the Valley
Lost Illusions
Cesar Birotteau
Letters of Two Brides
A Start in Life
The Marriage Settlement
The Secrets of a Princess
Another Study of Woman
The Gondreville Mystery
A Daughter of Eve

Vernou, Felicien
A Bachelor's Establishment
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve
Cousin Betty

Vignon, Claude
A Daughter of Eve
Cousin Betty
The Unconscious Humorists


(Lost Illusions Part III)



Translated By
Ellen Marriage

Lucien had gone to Paris; and David Sechard, with the courage and
intelligence of the ox which painters give the Evangelist for
accompanying symbol, set himself to make the large fortune for which
he had wished that evening down by the Charente, when he sat with Eve
by the weir, and she gave him her hand and her heart. He wanted to
make the money quickly, and less for himself than for Eve's sake and
Lucien's. He would place his wife amid the elegant and comfortable
surroundings that were hers by right, and his strong arm should
sustain her brother's ambitions--this was the programme that he saw
before his eyes in letters of fire.

Journalism and politics, the immense development of the book trade, of
literature and of the sciences; the increase of public interest in
matters touching the various industries in the country; in fact, the
whole social tendency of the epoch following the establishment of the
Restoration produced an enormous increase in the demand for paper. The
supply required was almost ten times as large as the quantity in which
the celebrated Ouvrard speculated at the outset of the Revolution.
Then Ouvrard could buy up first the entire stock of paper and then the
manufacturers; but in the year 1821 there were so many paper-mills in
France, that no one could hope to repeat his success; and David had
neither audacity enough nor capital enough for such speculation.
Machinery for producing paper in any length was just coming into use
in England. It was one of the most urgent needs of the time,
therefore, that the paper trade should keep pace with the requirements
of the French system of civil government, a system by which the right
of discussion was to be extended to every man, and the whole fabric
based upon continual expression of individual opinion; a grave
misfortune, for the nation that deliberates is but little wont to act.

So, strange coincidence! while Lucien was drawn into the great
machinery of journalism, where he was like to leave his honor and his
intelligence torn to shreds, David Sechard, at the back of his
printing-house, foresaw all the practical consequences of the
increased activity of the periodical press. He saw the direction in
which the spirit of the age was tending, and sought to find means to
the required end. He saw also that there was a fortune awaiting the
discoverer of cheap paper, and the event has justified his
clearsightedness. Within the last fifteen years, the Patent Office has
received more than a hundred applications from persons claiming to
have discovered cheap substances to be employed in the manufacture of
paper. David felt more than ever convinced that this would be no
brilliant triumph, it is true, but a useful and immensely profitable
discovery; and after his brother-in-law went to Paris, he became more
and more absorbed in the problem which he had set himself to solve.

The expenses of his marriage and of Lucien's journey to Paris had
exhausted all his resources; he confronted the extreme of poverty at
the very outset of married life. He had kept one thousand francs for
the working expenses of the business, and owed a like sum, for which
he had given a bill to Postel the druggist. So here was a double
problem for this deep thinker; he must invent a method of making cheap
paper, and that quickly; he must make the discovery, in fact, in order
to apply the proceeds to the needs of the household and of the
business. What words can describe the brain that can forget the cruel
preoccupations caused by hidden want, by the daily needs of a family
and the daily drudgery of a printer's business, which requires such
minute, painstaking care; and soar, with the enthusiasm and
intoxication of the man of science, into the regions of the unknown in
quest of a secret which daily eludes the most subtle experiment? And
the inventor, alas! as will shortly be seen, has plenty of woes to
endure, besides the ingratitude of the many; idle folk that can do
nothing themselves tell them, "Such a one is a born inventor; he could
not do otherwise. He no more deserves credit for his invention than a
prince for being born to rule! He is simply exercising his natural
faculties, and his work is its own reward," and the people believe

Marriage brings profound mental and physical perturbations into a
girl's life; and if she marries under the ordinary conditions of lower
middle-class life, she must moreover begin to study totally new
interests and initiate herself in the intricacies of business. With
marriage, therefore, she enters upon a phase of her existence when she
is necessarily on the watch before she can act. Unfortunately, David's
love for his wife retarded this training; he dared not tell her the
real state of affairs on the day after their wedding, nor for some
time afterwards. His father's avarice condemned him to the most
grinding poverty, but he could not bring himself to spoil the
honeymoon by beginning his wife's commercial education and prosaic
apprenticeship to his laborious craft. So it came to pass that
housekeeping, no less than working expenses, ate up the thousand
francs, his whole fortune. For four months David gave no thought to
the future, and his wife remained in ignorance. The awakening was
terrible! Postel's bill fell due; there was no money to meet it, and
Eve knew enough of the debt and its cause to give up her bridal
trinkets and silver.

That evening Eve tried to induce David to talk of their affairs, for
she had noticed that he was giving less attention to the business and
more to the problem of which he had once spoken to her. Since the
first few weeks of married life, in fact, David spent most of his time
in the shed in the backyard, in the little room where he was wont to
mould his ink-rollers. Three months after his return to Angouleme, he
had replaced the old fashioned round ink-balls by rollers made of
strong glue and treacle, and an ink-table, on which the ink was evenly
distributed, an improvement so obvious that Cointet Brothers no sooner
saw it than they adopted the plan themselves.

By the partition wall of this kitchen, as it were, David had set up a
little furnace with a copper pan, ostensibly to save the cost of fuel
over the recasting of his rollers, though the moulds had not been used
twice, and hung there rusting upon the wall. Nor was this all; a solid
oak door had been put in by his orders, and the walls were lined with
sheet-iron; he even replaced the dirty window sash by panes of ribbed
glass, so that no one without could watch him at his work.

When Eve began to speak about the future, he looked uneasily at her,
and cut her short at the first word by saying, "I know all that you
must think, child, when you see that the workshop is left to itself,
and that I am dead, as it were, to all business interests; but see,"
he continued, bringing her to the window, and pointing to the
mysterious shed, "there lies our fortune. For some months yet we must
endure our lot, but let us bear it patiently; leave me to solve the
problem of which I told you, and all our troubles will be at an end."

David was so good, his devotion was so thoroughly to be taken upon his
word, that the poor wife, with a wife's anxiety as to daily expenses,
determined to spare her husband the household cares and to take the
burden upon herself. So she came down from the pretty blue-and-white
room, where she sewed and talked contentedly with her mother, took
possession of one of the two dens at the back of the printing-room,
and set herself to learn the business routine of typography. Was it
not heroism in a wife who expected ere long to be a mother?

During the past few months David's workmen had left him one by one;
there was not enough work for them to do. Cointet Brothers, on the
other hand, were overwhelmed with orders; they were employing all the
workmen of the department; the alluring prospect of high wages even
brought them a few from Bordeaux, more especially apprentices, who
thought themselves sufficiently expert to cancel their articles and go
elsewhere. When Eve came to look into the affairs of Sechard's
printing works, she discovered that he employed three persons in all.

First in order stood Cerizet, an apprentice of Didot's, whom David had
chosen to train. Most foremen have some one favorite among the great
numbers of workers under them, and David had brought Cerizet to
Angouleme, where he had been learning more of the business. Marion, as
much attached to the house as a watch-dog, was the second; and the
third was Kolb, an Alsacien, at one time a porter in the employ of the
Messrs. Didot. Kolb had been drawn for military service, chance
brought him to Angouleme, and David recognized the man's face at a
review just as his time was about to expire. Kolb came to see David,
and was smitten forthwith by the charms of the portly Marion; she
possessed all the qualities which a man of his class looks for in a
wife--the robust health that bronzes the cheeks, the strength of a man
(Marion could lift a form of type with ease), the scrupulous honesty
on which an Alsacien sets such store, the faithful service which
bespeaks a sterling character, and finally, the thrift which had saved
a little sum of a thousand francs, besides a stock of clothing and
linen, neat and clean, as country linen can be. Marion herself, a big,
stout woman of thirty-six, felt sufficiently flattered by the
admiration of a cuirassier, who stood five feet seven in his
stockings, a well-built warrior, strong as a bastion, and not
unnaturally suggested that he should become a printer. So, by the time
Kolb received his full discharge, Marion and David between them had
transformed him into a tolerably creditable "bear," though their pupil
could neither read nor write.

Job printing, as it is called, was not so abundant at this season but
that Cerizet could manage it without help. Cerizet, compositor,
clicker, and foreman, realized in his person the "phenomenal
triplicity" of Kant; he set up type, read proof, took orders, and made
out invoices; but the most part of the time he had nothing to do, and
used to read novels in his den at the back of the workshop while he
waited for an order for a bill-head or a trade circular. Marion,
trained by old Sechard, prepared and wetted down the paper, helped
Kolb with the printing, hung the sheets to dry, and cut them to size;
yet cooked the dinner, none the less, and did her marketing very early
of a morning.

Eve told Cerizet to draw out a balance-sheet for the last six months,
and found that the gross receipts amounted to eight hundred francs. On
the other hand, wages at the rate of three francs per day--two francs
to Cerizet, and one to Kolb--reached a total of six hundred francs;
and as the goods supplied for the work printed and delivered amounted
to some hundred odd francs, it was clear to Eve that David had been
carrying on business at a loss during the first half-year of their
married life. There was nothing to show for rent, nothing for Marion's
wages, nor for the interest on capital represented by the plant, the
license, and the ink; nothing, finally, by way of allowance for the
host of things included in the technical expression "wear and tear," a
word which owes its origin to the cloths and silks which are used to
moderate the force of the impression, and to save wear to the type; a
square of stuff (the _blanket_) being placed between the platen and the
sheet of paper in the press.

Eve made a rough calculation of the resources of the printing office
and of the output, and saw how little hope there was for a business
drained dry by the all-devouring activity of the brothers Cointet; for
by this time the Cointets were not only contract printers to the town
and the prefecture, and printers to the Diocese by special appointment
--they were paper-makers and proprietors of a newspaper to boot. That
newspaper, sold two years ago by the Sechards, father and son, for
twenty-two thousand francs, was now bringing in eighteen thousand
francs per annum. Eve began to understand the motives lurking beneath
the apparent generosity of the brothers Cointet; they were leaving the
Sechard establishment just sufficient work to gain a pittance, but not
enough to establish a rival house.

When Eve took the management of the business, she began by taking
stock. She set Kolb and Marion and Cerizet to work, and the workshop
was put to rights, cleaned out, and set in order. Then one evening
when David came in from a country excursion, followed by an old woman
with a huge bundle tied up in a cloth, Eve asked counsel of him as to
the best way of turning to profit the odds and ends left them by old
Sechard, promising that she herself would look after the business.
Acting upon her husband's advice, Mme. Sechard sorted all the remnants
of paper which she found, and printed old popular legends in double
columns upon a single sheet, such as peasants paste on their walls,
the histories of _The Wandering Jew_, _Robert the Devil_, _La Belle
Maguelonne_ and sundry miracles. Eve sent Kolb out as a hawker.

Cerizet had not a moment to spare now; he was composing the naive
pages, with the rough cuts that adorned them, from morning to night;
Marion was able to manage the taking off; and all domestic cares fell
to Mme. Chardon, for Eve was busy coloring the prints. Thanks to
Kolb's activity and honesty, Eve sold three thousand broad sheets at a
penny apiece, and made three hundred francs in all at a cost of thirty

But when every peasant's hut and every little wine-shop for twenty
leagues round was papered with these legends, a fresh speculation must
be discovered; the Alsacien could not go beyond the limits of the
department. Eve, turning over everything in the whole printing house,
had found a collection of figures for printing a "Shepherd's
Calendar," a kind of almanac meant for those who cannot read,
letterpress being replaced by symbols, signs, and pictures in colored
inks, red, black and blue. Old Sechard, who could neither read nor
write himself, had made a good deal of money at one time by bringing
out an almanac in hieroglyph. It was in book form, a single sheet
folded to make one hundred and twenty-eight pages.

Thoroughly satisfied with the success of the broad sheets, a piece of
business only undertaken by country printing offices, Mme. Sechard
invested all the proceeds in the _Shepherd's Calendar_, and began it
upon a large scale. Millions of copies of this work are sold annually
in France. It is printed upon even coarser paper than the _Almanac of
Liege_, a ream (five hundred sheets) costing in the first instance
about four francs; while the printed sheets sell at the rate of a
halfpenny apiece--twenty-five francs per ream.

Mme. Sechard determined to use one hundred reams for the first
impression; fifty thousand copies would bring in two thousand francs.
A man so deeply absorbed in his work as David in his researches is
seldom observant; yet David, taking a look round his workshop, was
astonished to hear the groaning of a press and to see Cerizet always
on his feet, setting up type under Mme. Sechard's direction. There was
a pretty triumph for Eve on the day when David came in to see what she
was doing, and praised the idea, and thought the calendar an excellent
stroke of business. Furthermore, David promised to give advice in the
matter of colored inks, for an almanac meant to appeal to the eye; and
finally, he resolved to recast the ink-rollers himself in his
mysterious workshop, so as to help his wife as far as he could in her
important little enterprise.

But just as the work began with strenuous industry, there came letters
from Lucien in Paris, heart-sinking letters that told his mother and
sister and brother-in-law of his failure and distress; and when Eve,
Mme. Chardon, and David each secretly sent money to their poet, it
must be plain to the reader that the three hundred francs they sent
were like their very blood. The overwhelming news, the disheartening
sense that work as bravely as she might, she made so little, left Eve
looking forward with a certain dread to an event which fills the cup
of happiness to the full. The time was coming very near now, and to
herself she said, "If my dear David has not reached the end of his
researches before my confinement, what will become of us? And who will
look after our poor printing office and the business that is growing

The _Shepherd's Calendar_ ought by rights to have been ready before the
1st of January, but Cerizet was working unaccountably slowly; all the
work of composing fell to him; and Mme. Sechard, knowing so little,
could not find fault, and was fain to content herself with watching
the young Parisian.

Cerizet came from the great Foundling Hospital in Paris. He had been
apprenticed to the MM. Didot, and between the ages of fourteen and
seventeen he was David Sechard's fanatical worshiper. David put him
under one of the cleverest workmen, and took him for his copy-holder,
his page. Cerizet's intelligence naturally interested David; he won
the lad's affection by procuring amusements now and again for him, and
comforts from which he was cut off by poverty. Nature had endowed
Cerizet with an insignificant, rather pretty little countenance, red
hair, and a pair of dull blue eyes; he had come to Angouleme and
brought the manners of the Parisian street-boy with him. He was
formidable by reason of a quick, sarcastic turn and a spiteful
disposition. Perhaps David looked less strictly after him in
Angouleme; or, perhaps, as the lad grew older, his mentor put more
trust in him, or in the sobering influences of a country town; but be
that as it may, Cerizet (all unknown to his sponsor) was going
completely to the bad, and the printer's apprentice was acting the
part of a Don Juan among little work girls. His morality, learned in
Paris drinking-saloons, laid down the law of self-interest as the sole
rule of guidance; he knew, moreover, that next year he would be "drawn
for a soldier," to use the popular expression, saw that he had no
prospects, and ran into debt, thinking that soon he should be in the
army, and none of his creditors would run after him. David still
possessed some ascendency over the young fellow, due not to his
position as master, nor yet to the interest that he had taken in his
pupil, but to the great intellectual power which the sometime
street-boy fully recognized.

Before long Cerizet began to fraternize with the Cointets' workpeople,
drawn to them by the mutual attraction of blouse and jacket, and the
class feeling, which is, perhaps, strongest of all in the lowest ranks
of society. In their company Cerizet forgot the little good doctrine
which David had managed to instil into him; but, nevertheless, when
the others joked the boy about the presses in his workshop ("old
sabots," as the "bears" contemptuously called them), and showed him
the magnificent machines, twelve in number, now at work in the
Cointets' great printing office, where the single wooden press was
only used for experiments, Cerizet would stand up for David and fling
out at the braggarts.

"My gaffer will go farther with his 'sabots' than yours with their
cast-iron contrivances that turn out mass books all day long," he
would boast. "He is trying to find out a secret that will lick all the
printing offices in France and Navarre."

"And meantime you take your orders from a washer-woman, you snip of a
foreman, on two francs a day."

"She is pretty though," retorted Cerizet; "it is better to have her to
look at than the phizes of your gaffers."

"And do you live by looking at his wife?"

From the region of the wineshop, or from the door of the printing
office, where these bickerings took place, a dim light began to break
in upon the brothers Cointet as to the real state of things in the
Sechard establishment. They came to hear of Eve's experiment, and held
it expedient to stop these flights at once, lest the business should
begin to prosper under the poor young wife's management.

"Let us give her a rap over the knuckles, and disgust her with the
business," said the brothers Cointet.

One of the pair, the practical printer, spoke to Cerizet, and asked
him to do the proof-reading for them by piecework, to relieve their
reader, who had more than he could manage. So it came to pass that
Cerizet earned more by a few hours' work of an evening for the
brothers Cointet than by a whole day's work for David Sechard. Other
transactions followed; the Cointets seeing no small aptitude in
Cerizet, he was told that it was a pity that he should be in a
position so little favorable to his interests.

"You might be foreman some day in a big printing office, making six
francs a day," said one of the Cointets one day, "and with your
intelligence you might come to have a share in the business."

"Where is the use of my being a good foreman?" returned Cerizet. "I am
an orphan, I shall be drawn for the army next year, and if I get a bad
number who is there to pay some one else to take my place?"

"If you make yourself useful," said the well-to-do printer, "why
should not somebody advance the money?"

"It won't be my gaffer in any case!" said Cerizet.

"Pooh! Perhaps by that time he will have found out the secret."

The words were spoken in a way that could not but rouse the worst
thoughts in the listener; and Cerizet gave the papermaker and printer
a very searching look.

"I do not know what he is busy about," he began prudently, as the
master said nothing, "but he is not the kind of man to look for
capitals in the lower case!"

"Look here, my friend," said the printer, taking up half-a-dozen
sheets of the diocesan prayer-book and holding them out to Cerizet,
"if you can correct these for us by to-morrow, you shall have eighteen
francs to-morrow for them. We are not shabby here; we put our
competitor's foreman in the way of making money. As a matter of fact,
we might let Mme. Sechard go too far to draw back with her _Shepherd's
Calendar_, and ruin her; very well, we give you permission to tell her
that we are bringing out a _Shepherd's Calendar_ of our own, and to call
her attention too to the fact that she will not be the first in the

Cerizet's motive for working so slowly on the composition of the
almanac should be clear enough by this time.

When Eve heard that the Cointets meant to spoil her poor little
speculation, dread seized upon her; at first she tried to see a proof
of attachment in Cerizet's hypocritical warning of competition; but
before long she saw signs of an over-keen curiosity in her sole
compositor--the curiosity of youth, she tried to think.

"Cerizet," she said one morning, "you stand about on the threshold,
and wait for M. Sechard in the passage, to pry into his private
affairs; when he comes out into the yard to melt down the rollers, you
are there looking at him, instead of getting on with the almanac.
These things are not right, especially when you see that I, his wife,
respect his secrets, and take so much trouble on myself to leave him
free to give himself up to his work. If you had not wasted time, the
almanac would be finished by now, and Kolb would be selling it, and
the Cointets could have done us no harm."

"Eh! madame," answered Cerizet. "Here am I doing five francs' worth of
composing for two francs a day, and don't you think that that is
enough? Why, if I did not read proofs of an evening for the Cointets,
I might feed myself on husks."

"You are turning ungrateful early," said Eve, deeply hurt, not so much
by Cerizet's grumbling as by his coarse tone, threatening attitude,
and aggressive stare; "you will get on in life."

"Not with a woman to order me about though, for it is not often that
the month has thirty days in it then."

Feeling wounded in her womanly dignity, Eve gave Cerizet a withering
look and went upstairs again. At dinner-time she spoke to David.

"Are you sure, dear, of that little rogue Cerizet?"

"Cerizet!" said David. "Why, he was my youngster; I trained him, I
took him on as my copy-holder. I put him to composing; anything that
he is he owes to me, in fact! You might as well ask a father if he is
sure of his child."

Upon this, Eve told her husband that Cerizet was reading proofs for
the Cointets.

"Poor fellow! he must live," said David, humbled by the consciousness
that he had not done his duty as a master.

"Yes, but there is a difference, dear, between Kolb and Cerizet--Kolb
tramps about twenty leagues every day, spends fifteen or twenty sous,
and brings us back seven and eight and sometimes nine francs of sales;
and when his expenses are paid, he never asks for more than his wages.
Kolb would sooner cut off his hand than work a lever for the Cointets;
Kolb would not peer among the things that you throw out into the yard
if people offered him a thousand crowns to do it; but Cerizet picks
them up and looks at them."

It is hard for noble natures to think evil, to believe in ingratitude;
only through rough experience do they learn the extent of human
corruption; and even when there is nothing left them to learn in this
kind, they rise to an indulgence which is the last degree of contempt.

"Pooh! pure Paris street-boy's curiosity," cried David.

"Very well, dear, do me the pleasure to step downstairs and look at
the work done by this boy of yours, and tell me then whether he ought
not to have finished our almanac this month."

David went into the workshop after dinner, and saw that the calendar
should have been set up in a week. Then, when he heard that the
Cointets were bringing out a similar almanac, he came to the rescue.
He took command of the printing office, Kolb helped at home instead of
selling broadsheets. Kolb and Marion pulled off the impressions from
one form while David worked another press with Cerizet, and
superintended the printing in various inks. Every sheet must be
printed four separate times, for which reason none but small houses
will attempt to produce a _Shepherd's Calendar_, and that only in the
country where labor is cheap, and the amount of capital employed in
the business is so small that the interest amounts to little.
Wherefore, a press which turns out beautiful work cannot compete in
the printing of such sheets, coarse though they may be.

So, for the first time since old Sechard retired, two presses were at
work in the old house. The calendar was, in its way, a masterpiece;
but Eve was obliged to sell it for less than a halfpenny, for the
Cointets were supplying hawkers at the rate of three centimes per
copy. Eve made no loss on the copies sold to hawkers; on Kolb's sales,
made directly, she gained; but her little speculation was spoiled.
Cerizet saw that his fair employer distrusted him; in his own
conscience he posed as the accuser, and said to himself, "You suspect
me, do you? I will have my revenge," for the Paris street-boy is made
on this wise. Cerizet accordingly took pay out of all proportion to
the work of proof-reading done for the Cointets, going to their office
every evening for the sheets, and returning them in the morning. He
came to be on familiar terms with them through the daily chat, and at
length saw a chance of escaping the military service, a bait held out
to him by the brothers. So far from requiring prompting from the
Cointets, he was the first to propose the espionage and exploitation
of David's researches.

Eve saw how little she could depend upon Cerizet, and to find another
Kolb was simply impossible; she made up her mind to dismiss her one
compositor, for the insight of a woman who loves told her that Cerizet
was a traitor; but as this meant a deathblow to the business, she took
a man's resolution. She wrote to M. Metivier, with whom David and the
Cointets and almost every papermaker in the department had business
relations, and asked him to put the following advertisement into a
trade paper:

"FOR SALE, as a going concern, a Printing Office, with License and
Plant; situated at Angouleme. Apply for particulars to M. Metivier,
Rue Serpente."

The Cointets saw the advertisement. "That little woman has a head on
her shoulders," they said. "It is time that we took her business under
our own control, by giving her enough work to live upon; we might find
a real competitor in David's successor; it is in our interest to keep
an eye upon that workshop."

The Cointets went to speak to David Sechard, moved thereto by this
thought. Eve saw them, knew that her stratagem had succeeded at once,
and felt a thrill of the keenest joy. They stated their proposal. They
had more work than they could undertake, their presses could not keep
pace with the work, would M. Sechard print for them? They had sent to
Bordeaux for workmen, and could find enough to give full employment to
David's three presses.

"Gentlemen," said Eve, while Cerizet went across to David's workshop
to announce the two printers, "while my husband was with the MM. Didot
he came to know of excellent workers, honest and industrious men; he
will choose his successor, no doubt, from among the best of them. If
he sold his business outright for some twenty thousand francs, it
might bring us in a thousand francs per annum; that would be better
than losing a thousand yearly over such trade as you leave us. Why did
you envy us the poor little almanac speculation, especially as we have
always brought it out?"

"Oh, why did you not give us notice, madame? We would not have
interfered with you," one of the brothers answered blandly (he was
known as the "tall Cointet").

"Oh, come gentlemen! you only began your almanac after Cerizet told
you that I was bringing out mine."

She spoke briskly, looking full at "the tall Cointet" as she spoke. He
lowered his eyes; Cerizet's treachery was proven to her.

This brother managed the business and the paper-mill; he was by far
the cleverer man of business of the two. Jean showed no small ability
in the conduct of the printing establishment, but in intellectual
capacity he might be said to take colonel's rank, while Boniface was a
general. Jean left the command to Boniface. This latter was thin and
spare in person; his face, sallow as an altar candle, was mottled with
reddish patches; his lips were pinched; there was something in his
eyes that reminded you of a cat's eyes. Boniface Cointet never excited
himself; he would listen to the grossest insults with the serenity of
a bigot, and reply in a smooth voice. He went to mass, he went to
confession, he took the sacrament. Beneath his caressing manners,
beneath an almost spiritless look, lurked the tenacity and ambition of
the priest, and the greed of the man of business consumed with a
thirst for riches and honors. In the year 1820 "tall Cointet" wanted
all that the _bourgeoisie_ finally obtained by the Revolution of 1830.
In his heart he hated the aristocrats, and in religion he was
indifferent; he was as much or as little of a bigot as Bonaparte was a
member of the Mountain; yet his vertebral column bent with a
flexibility wonderful to behold before the noblesse and the official
hierarchy; for the powers that be, he humbled himself, he was meek and
obsequious. One final characteristic will describe him for those who
are accustomed to dealings with all kinds of men, and can appreciate
its value--Cointet concealed the expression of his eyes by wearing
colored glasses, ostensibly to preserve his sight from the reflection
of the sunlight on the white buildings in the streets; for Angouleme,
being set upon a hill, is exposed to the full glare of the sun. Tall
Cointet was really scarcely above middle height; he looked much taller
than he actually was by reason of the thinness, which told of overwork
and a brain in continual ferment. His lank, sleek gray hair, cut in

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