Part 2 out of 12
determined to read to the bottom of this man's heart on which he
founded his life.
One fine evening, when Lucien, lounging in an armchair, was
mechanically contemplating the hues of the setting sun through the
trees in the garden, blowing up the mist of scented smoke in slow,
regular clouds, as pensive smokers are wont, he was roused from his
reverie by hearing a deep sigh. He turned and saw the Abbe standing by
him with folded arms.
"You were there!" said the poet.
"For some time," said the priest, "my thoughts have been following the
wide sweep of yours." Lucien understood his meaning.
"I have never affected to have an iron nature such as yours is. To me
life is by turns paradise and hell; when by chance it is neither, it
bores me; and I am bored----"
"How can you be bored when you have such splendid prospects before
"If I have no faith in those prospects, or if they are too much
"Do not talk nonsense," said the priest. "It would be far more worthy
of you and of me that you should open your heart to me. There is now
that between us which ought never to have come between us--a secret.
This secret has subsisted for sixteen months. You are in love."
"And what then?"
"A foul hussy called La Torpille----"
"My boy, I told you you might have a mistress, but a woman of rank,
pretty, young, influential, a Countess at least. I had chosen Madame
d'Espard for you, to make her the instrument of your fortune without
scruple; for she would never have perverted your heart, she would have
left you free.--To love a prostitute of the lowest class when you have
not, like kings, the power to give her high rank, is a monstrous
"And am I the first man who had renounced ambition to follow the lead
of a boundless passion?"
"Good!" said the priest, stooping to pick up the mouthpiece of the
hookah which Lucien had dropped on the floor. "I understand the
retort. Cannot love and ambition be reconciled? Child, you have a
mother in old Herrera--a mother who is wholly devoted to you----"
"I know it, old friend," said Lucien, taking his hand and shaking it.
"You wished for the toys of wealth; you have them. You want to shine;
I am guiding you into the paths of power, I kiss very dirty hands to
secure your advancement, and you will get on. A little while yet and
you will lack nothing of what can charm man or woman. Though
effeminate in your caprices, your intellect is manly. I have dreamed
all things of you; I forgive you all. You have only to speak to have
your ephemeral passions gratified. I have aggrandized your life by
introducing into it that which makes it delightful to most people--the
stamp of political influence and dominion. You will be as great as you
now are small; but you must not break the machine by which we coin
money. I grant you all you will excepting such blunders as will
destroy your future prospects. When I can open the drawing-rooms of
the Faubourg Saint-Germain to you, I forbid your wallowing in the
gutter. Lucien, I mean to be an iron stanchion in your interest; I
will endure everything from you, for you. Thus I have transformed your
lack of tact in the game of life into the shrewd stroke of a skilful
Lucien looked up with a start of furious impetuosity.
"I carried off La Torpille!"
"You?" cried Lucien.
In a fit of animal rage the poet jumped up, flung the jeweled
mouthpiece in the priest's face, and pushed him with such violence as
to throw down that strong man.
"I," said the Spaniard, getting up and preserving his terrible
His black wig had fallen off. A bald skull, as shining as a death's
head, showed the man's real countenance. It was appalling. Lucien sat
on his divan, his hands hanging limp, overpowered, and gazing at the
Abbe with stupefaction.
"I carried her off," the priest repeated.
"What did you do with her? You took her away the day after the opera
"Yes, the day after I had seen a woman who belonged to you insulted by
wretches whom I would not have condescended to kick downstairs."
"Wretches!" interrupted Lucien, "say rather monsters, compared with
whom those who are guillotined are angels. Do you know what the
unhappy Torpille had done for three of them? One of them was her lover
for two months. She was poor, and picked up a living in the gutter; he
had not a sou; like me, when you rescued me, he was very near the
river; this fellow would get up at night and go to the cupboard where
the girl kept the remains of her dinner and eat it. At last she
discovered the trick; she understood the shameful thing, and took care
to leave a great deal; then she was happy. She never told any one but
me, that night, coming home from the opera.
"The second had stolen some money; but before the theft was found out,
she lent him the sum, which he was enabled to replace, and which he
always forgot to repay to the poor child.
"As to the third, she made his fortune by playing out a farce worthy
of Figaro's genius. She passed as his wife and became the mistress of
a man in power, who believed her to be the most innocent of good
citizens. To one she gave life, to another honor, to the third fortune
--what does it all count for to-day? And this is how they reward her!"
"Would you like to see them dead?" said Herrera, in whose eyes there
"Come, that is just like you! I know you by that----"
"Nay, hear all, raving poet," said the priest. "La Torpille is no
Lucien flew at Herrera to seize him by the throat, with such violence
that any other man must have fallen backwards; but the Spaniard's arm
held off his assailant.
"Come, listen," said he coldly. "I have made another woman of her,
chaste, pure, well bred, religious, a perfect lady. She is being
educated. She can, if she may, under the influence of your love,
become a Ninon, a Marion Delorme, a du Barry, as the journalist at the
opera ball remarked. You may proclaim her your mistress, or you may
retire behind a curtain of your own creating, which will be wiser. By
either method you will gain profit and pride, pleasure and
advancement; but if you are as great a politician as you are a poet,
Esther will be no more to you than any other woman of the town; for,
later, perhaps she may help us out of difficulties; she is worth her
weight in gold. Drink, but do not get tipsy.
"If I had not held the reins of your passion, where would you be now?
Rolling with La Torpille in the slough of misery from which I dragged
you. Here, read this," said Herrera, as simply as Talma in Manlius,
which he had never seen.
A sheet of paper was laid on the poet's knees, and startled him from
the ecstasy and surprise with which he had listened to this astounding
speech; he took it, and read the first letter written by Mademoiselle
To Monsieur l'Abbe Carlos Herrera.
"MY DEAR PROTECTOR,--Will you not suppose that gratitude is
stronger in me than love, when you see that the first use I make
of the power of expressing my thoughts is to thank you, instead of
devoting it to pouring forth a passion that Lucien has perhaps
forgotten. But to you, divine man, I can say what I should not
dare to tell him, who, to my joy, still clings to earth.
"Yesterday's ceremony has filled me with treasures of grace, and I
place my fate in your hands. Even if I must die far away from my
beloved, I shall die purified like the Magdalen, and my soul will
become to him the rival of his guardian angel. Can I ever forget
yesterday's festival? How could I wish to abdicate the glorious
throne to which I was raised? Yesterday I washed away every stain
in the waters of baptism, and received the Sacred Body of my
Redeemer; I am become one of His tabernacles. At that moment I
heard the songs of angels, I was more than a woman, born to a life
of light amid the acclamations of the whole earth, admired by the
world in a cloud of incense and prayers that were intoxicating,
adorned like a virgin for the Heavenly Spouse.
"Thus finding myself worthy of Lucien, which I had never hoped to
be, I abjured impure love and vowed to walk only in the paths of
virtue. If my flesh is weaker than my spirit, let it perish. Be
the arbiter of my destiny; and if I die, tell Lucien that I died
to him when I was born to God."
Lucien looked up at the Abbe with eyes full of tears.
"You know the rooms fat Caroline Bellefeuille had, in the Rue
Taitbout," the Spaniard said. "The poor creature, cast off by her
magistrate, was in the greatest poverty; she was about to be sold up.
I bought the place all standing, and she turned out with her clothes.
Esther, the angel who aspired to heaven, has alighted there, and is
waiting for you."
At this moment Lucien heard his horses pawing the ground in the
courtyard; he was incapable of expressing his admiration for a
devotion which he alone could appreciate; he threw himself into the
arms of the man he had insulted, made amends for all by a look and the
speechless effusion of his feelings. Then he flew downstairs, confided
Esther's address to his tiger's ear, and the horses went off as if
their master's passion had lived in their legs.
The next day a man, who by his dress might have been mistaken by the
passers-by for a gendarme in disguise, was passing the Rue Taitbout,
opposite a house, as if he were waiting for some one to come out; he
walked with an agitated air. You will often see in Paris such vehement
promenaders, real gendarmes watching a recalcitrant National
Guardsman, bailiffs taking steps to effect an arrest, creditors
planning a trick on the debtor who has shut himself in, lovers, or
jealous and suspicious husbands, or friends doing sentry for a friend;
but rarely do you meet a face portending such coarse and fierce
thoughts as animated that of the gloomy and powerful man who paced to
and fro under Mademoiselle Esther's windows with the brooding haste of
a bear in its cage.
At noon a window was opened, and a maid-servant's hand was put out to
push back the padded shutters. A few minutes later, Esther, in her
dressing-gown, came to breathe the air, leaning on Lucien; any one who
saw them might have taken them for the originals of some pretty
English vignette. Esther was the first to recognize the basilisk eyes
of the Spanish priest; and the poor creature, stricken as if she had
been shot, gave a cry of horror.
"There is that terrible priest," said she, pointing him out to Lucien.
"He!" said Lucien, smiling, "he is no more a priest than you are."
"What then?" she said in alarm.
"Why, an old villain who believes in nothing but the devil," said
This light thrown on the sham priest's secrets, if revealed to any one
less devoted than Esther, might have ruined Lucien for ever.
As they went along the corridor from their bedroom to the dining-room,
where their breakfast was served, the lovers met Carlos Herrera.
"What have you come here for?" said Lucien roughly.
"To bless you," replied the audacious scoundrel, stopping the pair and
detaining them in the little drawing-room of the apartment. "Listen to
me, my pretty dears. Amuse yourselves, be happy--well and good!
Happiness at any price is my motto.--But you," he went on to Esther,
"you whom I dragged from the mud, and have soaped down body and soul,
you surely do not dream that you can stand in Lucien's way?--As for
you, my boy," he went on after a pause, looking at Lucien, "you are no
longer poet enough to allow yourself another Coralie. This is sober
prose. What can be done with Esther's lover? Nothing. Can Esther
become Madame de Rubempre? No.
"Well, my child," said he, laying his hand on Esther's, and making her
shiver as if some serpent had wound itself round her, "the world must
never know of your existence. Above all, the world must never know
that a certain Mademoiselle Esther loves Lucien, and that Lucien is in
love with her.--These rooms are your prison, my pigeon. If you wish to
go out--and your health will require it--you must take exercise at
night, at hours when you cannot be seen; for your youth and beauty,
and the style you have acquired at the Convent, would at once be
observed in Paris. The day when any one in the world, whoever it be,"
he added in an awful voice, seconded by an awful look, "learns that
Lucien is your lover, or that you are his mistress, that day will be
your last but one on earth. I have procured that boy a patent
permitting him to bear the name and arms of his maternal ancestors.
Still, this is not all; we have not yet recovered the title of
Marquis; and to get it, he must marry a girl of good family, in whose
favor the King will grant this distinction. Such an alliance will get
Lucien on in the world and at Court. This boy, of whom I have made a
man, will be first Secretary to an Embassy; later, he shall be
Minister at some German Court, and God, or I--better still--helping
him, he will take his seat some day on the bench reserved for
"Or on the bench reserved for----" Lucien began, interrupting the man.
"Hold your tongue!" cried Carlos, laying his broad hand on Lucien's
mouth. "Would you tell such a secret to a woman?" he muttered in his
"Esther! A woman!" cried the poet of Les Marguerites.
"Still inditing sonnets!" said the Spaniard. "Nonsense! Sooner or
later all these angels relapse into being women, and every woman at
moments is a mixture of a monkey and a child, two creatures who can
kill us for fun.--Esther, my jewel," said he to the terrified girl, "I
have secured as your waiting-maid a creature who is as much mine as if
she were my daughter. For your cook, you shall have a mulatto woman,
which gives style to a house. With Europe and Asie you can live here
for a thousand-franc note a month like a queen--a stage queen. Europe
has been a dressmaker, a milliner, and a stage super; Asie has cooked
for an epicure Milord. These two women will serve you like two
Seeing Lucien go completely to the wall before this man, who was
guilty at least of sacrilege and forgery, this woman, sanctified by
her love, felt an awful fear in the depths of her heart. She made no
reply, but dragged Lucien into her room, and asked him:
"Is he the devil?"
"He is far worse to me!" he vehemently replied. "But if you love me,
try to imitate that man's devotion to me, and obey him on pain of
"Of death!" she exclaimed, more frightened than ever.
"Of death," repeated Lucien. "Alas! my darling, no death could be
compared with that which would befall me if----"
Esther turned pale at his words, and felt herself fainting.
"Well, well," cried the sacrilegious forger, "have you not yet spelt
out your daisy-petals?"
Esther and Lucien came out, and the poor girl, not daring to look at
the mysterious man, said:
"You shall be obeyed as God is obeyed, monsieur."
"Good," said he. "You may be very happy for a time, and you will need
only nightgowns and wrappers--that will be very economical."
The two lovers went on towards the dining-room, but Lucien's patron
signed to the pretty pair to stop. And they stopped.
"I have just been talking of your servants, my child," said he to
Esther. "I must introduce them to you."
The Spaniard rang twice. The women he had called Europe and Asie came
in, and it was at once easy to see the reason of these names.
Asie, who looked as if she might have been born in the Island of Java,
showed a face to scare the eye, as flat as a board, with the copper
complexion peculiar to Malays, with a nose that looked as if it had
been driven inwards by some violent pressure. The strange conformation
of the maxillary bones gave the lower part of this face a resemblance
to that of the larger species of apes. The brow, though sloping, was
not deficient in intelligence produced by habits of cunning. Two
fierce little eyes had the calm fixity of a tiger's, but they never
looked you straight in the face. Asie seemed afraid lest she might
terrify people. Her lips, a dull blue, were parted over prominent
teeth of dazzling whiteness, but grown across. The leading expression
of this animal countenance was one of meanness. Her black hair,
straight and greasy-looking like her skin, lay in two shining bands,
forming an edge to a very handsome silk handkerchief. Her ears were
remarkably pretty, and graced with two large dark pearls. Small,
short, and squat, Asie bore a likeness to the grotesque figures the
Chinese love to paint on screens, or, more exactly, to the Hindoo
idols which seem to be imitated from some non-existent type, found,
nevertheless, now and again by travelers. Esther shuddered as she
looked at this monstrosity, dressed out in a white apron over a stuff
"Asie," said the Spaniard, to whom the woman looked up with a gesture
that can only be compared to that of a dog to its master, "this is
And he pointed to Esther in her wrapper.
Asie looked at the young fairy with an almost distressful expression;
but at the same moment a flash, half hidden between her thick, short
eyelashes, shot like an incendiary spark at Lucien, who, in a
magnificent dressing-gown thrown open over a fine Holland linen shirt
and red trousers, with a fez on his head, beneath which his fair hair
fell in thick curls, presented a godlike appearance.
Italian genius could invent the tale of Othello; English genius could
put it on the stage; but Nature alone reserves the power of throwing
into a single glance an expression of jealousy grander and more
complete than England and Italy together could imagine. This look,
seen by Esther, made her clutch the Spaniard by the arm, setting her
nails in it as a cat sets its claws to save itself from falling into a
gulf of which it cannot see the bottom.
The Spaniard spoke a few words, in some unfamiliar tongue, to the
Asiatic monster, who crept on her knees to Esther's feet and kissed
"She is not merely a good cook," said Herrera to Esther; "she is a
past-master, and might make Careme mad with jealousy. Asie can do
everything by way of cooking. She will turn you out a simple dish of
beans that will make you wonder whether the angels have not come down
to add some herb from heaven. She will go to market herself every
morning, and fight like the devil she is to get things at the lowest
prices; she will tire out curiosity by silence.
"You are to be supposed to have been in India, and Asie will help you
to give effect to this fiction, for she is one of those Parisians who
are born to be of any nationality they please. But I do not advise
that you should give yourself out to be a foreigner.--Europe, what do
Europe was a perfect contrast to Asie, for she was the smartest
waiting-maid that Monrose could have hoped to see as her rival on the
stage. Slight, with a scatter-brain manner, a face like a weasel, and
a sharp nose, Europe's features offered to the observer a countenance
worn by the corruption of Paris life, the unhealthy complexion of a
girl fed on raw apples, lymphatic but sinewy, soft but tenacious. One
little foot was set forward, her hands were in her apron-pockets, and
she fidgeted incessantly without moving, from sheer excess of
liveliness. Grisette and stage super, in spite of her youth she must
have tried many trades. As full of evil as a dozen Madelonnettes put
together, she might have robbed her parents, and sat on the bench of a
Asie was terrifying, but you knew her thoroughly from the first; she
descended in a straight line from Locusta; while Europe filled you
with uneasiness, which could not fail to increase the more you had to
do with her; her corruption seemed boundless. You felt that she could
set the devils by the ears.
"Madame might say she had come from Valenciennes," said Europe in a
precise little voice. "I was born there--Perhaps monsieur," she added
to Lucien in a pedantic tone, "will be good enough to say what name he
proposes to give to madame?"
"Madame van Bogseck," the Spaniard put in, reversing Esther's name.
"Madame is a Jewess, a native of Holland, the widow of a merchant, and
suffering from a liver-complaint contracted in Java. No great fortune
--not to excite curiosity."
"Enough to live on--six thousand francs a year; and we shall complain
of her stinginess?" said Europe.
"That is the thing," said the Spaniard, with a bow. "You limbs of
Satan!" he went on, catching Asie and Europe exchanging a glance that
displeased him, "remember what I have told you. You are serving a
queen; you owe her as much respect as to a queen; you are to cherish
her as you would cherish a revenge, and be as devoted to her as to me.
Neither the door-porter, nor the neighbors, nor the other inhabitants
of the house--in short, not a soul on earth is to know what goes on
here. It is your business to balk curiosity if any should be roused.--
And madame," he went on laying his broad hairy hand on Esther's arm,
"madame must not commit the smallest imprudence; you must prevent it
in case of need, but always with perfect respect.
"You, Europe, are to go out for madame in anything that concerns her
dress, and you must do her sewing from motives of economy. Finally,
nobody, not even the most insignificant creature, is ever to set foot
in this apartment. You two, between you, must do all there is to be
"And you, my beauty," he went on, speaking to Esther, "when you want
to go out in your carriage by night, you can tell Europe; she will
know where to find your men, for you will have a servant in livery, of
my choosing, like those two slaves."
Esther and Lucien had not a word ready. They listened to the Spaniard,
and looked at the two precious specimens to whom he gave his orders.
What was the secret hold to which he owed the submission and servitude
that were written on these two faces--one mischievously recalcitrant,
the other so malignantly cruel?
He read the thoughts of Lucien and Esther, who seemed paralyzed, as
Paul and Virginia might have been at the sight of two dreadful snakes,
and he said in a good-natured undertone:
"You can trust them as you can me; keep no secrets from them; that
will flatter them.--Go to your work, my little Asie," he added to the
cook.--"And you, my girl, lay another place," he said to Europe; "the
children cannot do less than ask papa to breakfast."
When the two women had shut the door, and the Spaniard could hear
Europe moving to and fro, he turned to Lucien and Esther, and opening
a wide palm, he said:
"I hold them in the hollow of my hand."
The words and gesture made his hearers shudder.
"Where did you pick them up?" cried Lucien.
"What the devil! I did not look for them at the foot of the throne!"
replied the man. "Europe has risen from the mire, and is afraid of
sinking into it again. Threaten them with Monsieur Abbe when they do
not please you, and you will see them quake like mice when the cat is
mentioned. I am used to taming wild beasts," he added with a smile.
"You strike me as being a demon," said Esther, clinging closer to
"My child, I tried to win you to heaven; but a repentant Magdalen is
always a practical joke on the Church. If ever there were one, she
would relapse into the courtesan in Paradise. You have gained this
much: you are forgotten, and have acquired the manners of a lady, for
you learned in the convent what you never could have learned in the
ranks of infamy in which you were living.--You owe me nothing," said
he, observing a beautiful look of gratitude on Esther's face. "I did
it all for him," and he pointed to Lucien. "You are, you will always
be, you will die a prostitute; for in spite of the delightful theories
of cattle-breeders, you can never, here below, become anything but
what you are. The man who feels bumps is right. You have the bump of
The Spaniard, it will be seen, was a fatalist, like Napoleon, Mahomet,
and many other great politicians. It is a strange thing that most men
of action have a tendency to fatalism, just as most great thinkers
have a tendency to believe in Providence.
"What I am, I do not know," said Esther with angelic sweetness; "but I
love Lucien, and shall die worshiping him."
"Come to breakfast," said the Spaniard sharply. "And pray to God that
Lucien may not marry too soon, for then you would never see him
"His marriage would be my death," said she.
She allowed the sham priest to lead the way, that she might stand on
tiptoe and whisper to Lucien without being seen.
"Is it your wish," said she, "that I should remain in the power of
this man who sets two hyenas to guard me?"
Lucien bowed his head.
The poor child swallowed down her grief and affected gladness, but she
felt cruelly oppressed. It needed more than a year of constant and
devoted care before she was accustomed to these two dreadful creatures
whom Carlos Herrera called the two watch-dogs.
Lucien's conduct since his return to Paris had borne the stamp of such
profound policy that it excited--and could not fail to excite--the
jealousy of all his former friends, on whom he took no vengeance but
by making them furious at his success, at his exquisite "get up," and
his way of keeping every one at a distance. The poet, once so
communicative, so genial, had turned cold and reserved. De Marsay, the
model adopted by all the youth of Paris, did not make a greater
display of reticence in speech and deed than did Lucien. As to brains,
the journalist had ere now proved his mettle. De Marsay, against whom
many people chose to pit Lucien, giving a preference to the poet, was
small-minded enough to resent this.
Lucien, now in high favor with men who secretly pulled the wires of
power, was so completely indifferent to literary fame, that he did not
care about the success of his romance, republished under its real
title, L'Archer de Charles IX., or the excitement caused by his volume
of sonnets called Les Marguerites, of which Dauriat sold out the
edition in a week.
"It is posthumous fame," said he, with a laugh, to Mademoiselle des
Touches, who congratulated him.
The terrible Spaniard held his creature with an iron hand, keeping him
in the road towards the goal where the trumpets and gifts of victory
await patient politicians. Lucien had taken Beaudenord's bachelor
quarters on the Quai Malaquais, to be near the Rue Taitbout, and his
adviser was lodging under the same roof on the fourth floor. Lucien
kept only one horse to ride and drive, a man-servant, and a groom.
When he was not dining out, he dined with Esther.
Carlos Herrera kept such a keen eye on the service in the house on the
Quai Malaquais, that Lucien did not spend ten thousand francs a year,
all told. Ten thousand more were enough for Esther, thanks to the
unfailing and inexplicable devotion of Asie and Europe. Lucien took
the utmost precautions in going in and out at the Rue Taitbout. He
never came but in a cab, with the blinds down, and always drove into
the courtyard. Thus his passion for Esther and the very existence of
the establishment in the Rue Taitbout, being unknown to the world, did
him no harm in his connections or undertakings. No rash word ever
escaped him on this delicate subject. His mistakes of this sort with
regard to Coralie, at the time of his first stay in Paris, had given
In the first place, his life was marked by the correct regularity
under which many mysteries can be hidden; he remained in society every
night till one in the morning; he was always at home from ten till one
in the afternoon; then he drove in the Bois de Boulogne and paid calls
till five. He was rarely seen to be on foot, and thus avoided old
acquaintances. When some journalist or one of his former associates
waved him a greeting, he responded with a bow, polite enough to avert
annoyance, but significant of such deep contempt as killed all French
geniality. He thus had very soon got rid of persons whom he would
rather never have known.
An old-established aversion kept him from going to see Madame
d'Espard, who often wished to get him to her house; but when he met
her at those of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, of Mademoiselle des
Touches, of the Comtesse de Montcornet or elsewhere, he was always
exquisitely polite to her. This hatred, fully reciprocated by Madame
d'Espard, compelled Lucien to act with prudence; but it will be seen
how he had added fuel to it by allowing himself a stroke of revenge,
which gained him indeed a severe lecture from Carlos.
"You are not yet strong enough to be revenged on any one, whoever it
may be," said the Spaniard. "When we are walking under a burning sun
we do not stop to gather even the finest flowers."
Lucien was so genuinely superior, and had so fine a future before him,
that the young men who chose to be offended or puzzled by his return
to Paris and his unaccountable good fortune were enchanted whenever
they could do him an ill turn. He knew that he had many enemies, and
was well aware of those hostile feelings among his friends. The Abbe,
indeed, took admirable care of his adopted son, putting him on his
guard against the treachery of the world and the fatal imprudence of
youth. Lucien was expected to tell, and did in fact tell the Abbe each
evening, every trivial incident of the day. Thanks to his Mentor's
advice, he put the keenest curiosity--the curiosity of the world--off
the scent. Entrenched in the gravity of an Englishman, and fortified
by the redoubts cast up by diplomatic circumspection, he never gave
any one the right or the opportunity of seeing a corner even of his
concerns. His handsome young face had, by practice, become as
expressionless in society as that of a princess at a ceremonial.
Towards the middle of 1829 his marriage began to be talked of to the
eldest daughter of the Duchesse de Grandlieu, who at that time had no
less than four daughters to provide for. No one doubted that in honor
of such an alliance the King would revive for Lucien the title of
Marquis. This distinction would establish Lucien's fortune as a
diplomate, and he would probably be accredited as Minister to some
German Court. For the last three years Lucien's life had been regular
and above reproach; indeed, de Marsay had made this remarkable speech
"That young fellow must have a very strong hand behind him."
Thus Lucien was almost a person of importance. His passion for Esther
had, in fact, helped him greatly to play his part of a serious man. A
habit of this kind guards an ambitious man from many follies; having
no connection with any woman of fashion, he cannot be caught by the
reactions of mere physical nature on his moral sense.
As to happiness, Lucien's was the realization of a poet's dreams--a
penniless poet's, hungering in a garret. Esther, the ideal courtesan
in love, while she reminded Lucien of Coralie, the actress with whom
he had lived for a year, completely eclipsed her. Every loving and
devoted woman invents seclusion, incognito, the life of a pearl in the
depths of the sea; but to most of them this is no more than one of the
delightful whims which supply a subject for conversation; a proof of
love which they dream of giving, but do not give; whereas Esther, to
whom her first enchantment was ever new, who lived perpetually in the
glow of Lucien's first incendiary glance, never, in four yours, had an
impulse of curiosity. She gave her whole mind to the task of adhering
to the terms of the programme prescribed by the sinister Spaniard.
Nay, more! In the midst of intoxicating happiness she never took
unfair advantage of the unlimited power that the constantly revived
desire of a lover gives to the woman he loves to ask Lucien a single
question regarding Herrera, of whom indeed she lived in constant awe;
she dared not even think of him. The elaborate benefactions of that
extraordinary man, to whom Esther undoubtedly owed her feminine
accomplishment and her well-bred manner, struck the poor girl as
advances on account of hell.
"I shall have to pay for all this some day," she would tell herself
Every fine night she went out in a hired carriage. She was driven with
a rapidity no doubt insisted on by the Abbe, in one or another of the
beautiful woods round Paris, Boulogne, Vincennes, Romainville, or
Ville-d'Avray, often with Lucien, sometimes alone with Europe. There
she could walk about without fear; for when Lucien was not with her,
she was attended by a servant dressed like the smartest of outriders,
armed with a real knife, whose face and brawny build alike proclaimed
him a ruthless athlete. This protector was also provided, in the
fashion of English footmen, with a stick, but such as single-stick
players use, with which they can keep off more than one assailant. In
obedience to an order of the Abbe's, Esther had never spoken a word to
this escort. When madame wished to go home, Europe gave a call; the
man in waiting whistled to the driver, who was always within hearing.
When Lucien was walking with Esther, Europe and this man remained
about a hundred paces behind, like two of the infernal minions that
figure in the Thousand and One Nights, which enchanters place at the
service of their devotees.
The men, and yet more the women of Paris, know nothing of the charm of
a walk in the woods on a fine night. The stillness, the moonlight
effects, the solitude, have the soothing effect of a bath. Esther
usually went out at ten, walked about from midnight till one o'clock,
and came in at half-past two. It was never daylight in her rooms till
eleven. She then bathed and went through an elaborate toilet which is
unknown to most women, for it takes up too much time, and is rarely
carried out by any but courtesans, women of the town, or fine ladies
who have the day before them. She was only just ready when Lucien
came, and appeared before him as a newly opened flower. Her only care
was that her poet should be happy; she was his toy, his chattel; she
gave him entire liberty. She never cast a glance beyond the circle
where she shone. On this the Abbe had insisted, for it was part of his
profound policy that Lucien should have gallant adventures.
Happiness has no history, and the story-tellers of all lands have
understood this so well that the words, "They are happy," are the end
of every love tale. Hence only the ways and means can be recorded of
this really romantic happiness in the heart of Paris. It was happiness
in its loveliest form, a poem, a symphony, of four years' duration.
Every woman will exclaim, "That was much!" Neither Esther nor Lucien
had ever said, "This is too much!" And the formula, "They were happy,"
was more emphatically true, than even in a fairy tale, for "they had
So Lucien could coquet with the world, give way to his poet's
caprices, and, it may be plainly admitted, to the necessities of his
position. All this time he was slowly making his way, and was able to
render secret service to certain political personages by helping them
in their work. In such matters he was eminently discreet. He
cultivated Madame de Serizy's circle, being, it was rumored, on the
very best terms with that lady. Madame de Serizy had carried him off
from the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, who, it was said, had "thrown him
over," one of the phrases by which women avenge themselves on
happiness they envy. Lucien was in the lap, so to speak, of the High
Almoner's set, and intimate with women who were the Archbishop's
personal friends. He was modest and reserved; he waited patiently. So
de Marsay's speech--de Marsay was now married, and made his wife live
as retired a life as Esther--was significant in more ways that one.
But the submarine perils of such a course as Lucien's will be
sufficiently obvious in the course of this chronicle.
Matters were in this position when, one fine night in August, the
Baron de Nucingen was driving back to Paris from the country residence
of a foreign banker, settled in France, with whom he had been dining.
The estate lay at eight leagues from Paris in the district of la Brie.
Now, the Baron's coachman having undertaken to drive his master there
and back with his own horses, at nightfall ventured to moderate the
As they entered the forest of Vincennes the position of beast, man,
and master was as follows:--The coachman, liberally soaked in the
kitchen of the aristocrat of the Bourse, was perfectly tipsy, and
slept soundly, while still holding the reins to deceive other
wayfarers. The footman, seated behind, was snoring like a wooden top
from Germany--the land of little carved figures, of large wine-vats,
and of humming-tops. The Baron had tried to think; but after passing
the bridge at Gournay, the soft somnolence of digestion had sealed his
eyes. The horses understood the coachman's plight from the slackness
of the reins; they heard the footman's basso continuo from his perch
behind; they saw that they were masters of the situation, and took
advantage of their few minutes' freedom to make their own pace. Like
intelligent slaves, they gave highway robbers the chance of plundering
one of the richest capitalists in France, the most deeply cunning of
the race which, in France, have been energetically styled lynxes--
loups-cerviers. Finally, being independent of control, and tempted by
the curiosity which every one must have remarked in domestic animals,
they stopped where four roads met, face to face with some other
horses, whom they, no doubt, asked in horses' language: "Who may you
be? What are you doing? Are you comfortable?"
When the chaise stopped, the Baron awoke from his nap. At first he
fancied that he was still in his friend's park; then he was startled
by a celestial vision, which found him unarmed with his usual weapon--
self-interest. The moonlight was brilliant; he could have read by it--
even an evening paper. In the silence of the forest, under this pure
light, the Baron saw a woman, alone, who, as she got into a hired
chaise, looked at the strange spectacle of this sleep-stricken
carriage. At the sight of this angel the Baron felt as though a light
had flashed into glory within him. The young lady, seeing herself
admired, pulled down her veil with terrified haste. The man-servant
gave a signal which the driver perfectly understood, for the vehicle
went off like an arrow.
The old banker was fearfully agitated; the blood left his feet cold
and carried fire to his brain, his head sent the flame back to his
heart; he was chocking. The unhappy man foresaw a fit of indigestion,
but in spite of that supreme terror he stood up.
"Follow qvick, fery qvick.--Tam you, you are ashleep!" he cried. "A
hundert franc if you catch up dat chaise."
At the words "A hundred francs," the coachman woke up. The servant
behind heard them, no doubt, in his dreams. The baron reiterated his
orders, the coachman urged the horses to a gallop, and at the Barriere
du Trone had succeeded in overtaking a carriage resembling that in
which Nucingen had seen the divine fair one, but which contained a
swaggering head-clerk from some first-class shop and a lady of the Rue
This blunder filled the Baron with consternation.
"If only I had prought Chorge inshtead of you, shtupid fool, he should
have fount dat voman," said he to the servant, while the excise
officers were searching the carriage.
"Indeed, Monsieur le Baron, the devil was behind the chaise, I
believe, disguised as an armed escort, and he sent this chaise instead
"Dere is no such ting as de Teufel," said the Baron.
The Baron de Nucingen owned to sixty; he no longer cared for women,
and for his wife least of all. He boasted that he had never known such
love as makes a fool of a man. He declared that he was happy to have
done with women; the most angelic of them, he frankly said, was not
worth what she cost, even if you got her for nothing. He was supposed
to be so entirely blase, that he no longer paid two thousand francs a
month for the pleasure of being deceived. His eyes looked coldly down
from his opera box on the corps de ballet; never a glance was shot at
the capitalist by any one of that formidable swarm of old young girls,
and young old women, the cream of Paris pleasure.
Natural love, artificial and love-of-show love, love based on self-
esteem and vanity, love as a display of taste, decent, conjugal love,
eccentric love--the Baron had paid for them all, had known them all
excepting real spontaneous love. This passion had now pounced down on
him like an eagle on its prey, as it did on Gentz, the confidential
friend of His Highness the Prince of Metternich. All the world knows
what follies the old diplomate committed for Fanny Elssler, whose
rehearsals took up a great deal more of his time than the concerns of
The woman who had just overthrown that iron-bound money-box, called
Nucingen, had appeared to him as one of those who are unique in their
generation. It is not certain that Titian's mistress, or Leonardo da
Vinci's Monna Lisa, or Raphael's Fornarina were as beautiful as this
exquisite Esther, in whom not the most practised eye of the most
experienced Parisian could have detected the faintest trace of the
ordinary courtesan. The Baron was especially startled by the noble and
stately air, the air of a well-born woman, which Esther, beloved, and
lapped in luxury, elegance, and devotedness, had in the highest
degree. Happy love is the divine unction of women; it makes them all
as lofty as empresses.
For eight nights in succession the Baron went to the forest of
Vincennes, then to the Bois de Boulogne, to the woods of Ville-
d'Avray, to Meudon, in short, everywhere in the neighborhood of Paris,
but failed to meet Esther. That beautiful Jewish face, which he called
"a face out of te Biple," was always before his eyes. By the end of a
fortnight he had lost his appetite.
Delphine de Nucingen, and her daughter Augusta, whom the Baroness was
now taking out, did not at first perceive the change that had come
over the Baron. The mother and daughter only saw him at breakfast in
the morning and at dinner in the evening, when they all dined at home,
and this was only on the evenings when Delphine received company. But
by the end of two months, tortured by a fever of impatience, and in a
state like that produced by acute home-sickness, the Baron, amazed to
find his millions impotent, grew so thin, and seemed so seriously ill,
that Delphine had secret hopes of finding herself a widow. She pitied
her husband, somewhat hypocritically, and kept her daughter in
seclusion. She bored her husband with questions; he answered as
Englishmen answer when suffering from spleen, hardly a word.
Delphine de Nucingen gave a grand dinner every Sunday. She had chosen
that day for her receptions, after observing that no people of fashion
went to the play, and that the day was pretty generally an open one.
The emancipation of the shopkeeping and middle classes makes Sunday
almost as tiresome in Paris as it is deadly in London. So the Baroness
invited the famous Desplein to dinner, to consult him in spite of the
sick man, for Nucingen persisted in asserting that he was perfectly
Keller, Rastignac, de Marsay, du Tillet, all their friends had made
the Baroness understand that a man like Nucingen could not be allowed
to die without any notice being taken of it; his enormous business
transactions demanded some care; it was absolutely necessary to know
where he stood. These gentlemen also were asked to dinner, and the
Comte de Gondreville, Francois Keller's father-in-law, the Chevalier
d'Espard, des Lupeaulx, Doctor Bianchon--Desplein's best beloved pupil
--Beaudenord and his wife, the Comte and Comtesse de Montcornet,
Blondet, Mademoiselle des Touches and Conti, and finally, Lucien de
Rubempre, for whom Rastignac had for the last five years manifested
the warmest regard--by order, as the advertisements have it.
"We shall not find it easy to get rid of that young fellow," said
Blondet to Rastignac, when he saw Lucien come in handsomer than ever,
and uncommonly well dressed.
"It is wiser to make friends with him, for he is formidable," said
"He?" said de Marsay. "No one is formidable to my knowledge but men
whose position is assured, and his is unattacked rather than
attackable! Look here, what does he live on? Where does his money come
from? He has, I am certain, sixty thousand francs in debts."
"He has found a friend in a very rich Spanish priest who has taken a
fancy to him," replied Rastignac.
"He is going to be married to the eldest Mademoiselle de Grandlieu,"
said Mademoiselle des Touches.
"Yes," said the Chevalier d'Espard, "but they require him to buy an
estate worth thirty thousand francs a year as security for the fortune
he is to settle on the young lady, and for that he needs a million
francs, which are not to be found in any Spaniard's shoes."
"That is dear, for Clotilde is very ugly," said the Baroness.
Madame de Nucingen affected to call Mademoiselle de Grandlieu by her
Christian name, as though she, nee Goriot, frequented that society.
"No," replied du Tillet, "the daughter of a duchess is never ugly to
the like of us, especially when she brings with her the title of
Marquis and a diplomatic appointment. But the great obstacle to the
marriage is Madame de Serizy's insane passion for Lucien. She must
give him a great deal of money."
"Then I am not surprised at seeing Lucien so serious; for Madame de
Serizy will certainly not give him a million francs to help him to
marry Mademoiselle de Grandlieu. He probably sees no way out of the
scrape," said de Marsay.
"But Mademoiselle de Grandlieu worships him," said the Comtesse de
Montcornet; "and with the young person's assistance, he may perhaps
make better terms."
"And what will he do with his sister and brother-in-law at Angouleme?"
asked the Chevalier d'Espard.
"Well, his sister is rich," replied Rastignac, "and he now speaks of
her as Madame Sechard de Marsac."
"Whatever difficulties there may be, he is a very good-looking
fellow," said Bianchon, rising to greet Lucien.
"How 'do, my dear fellow?" said Rastignac, shaking hands warmly with
De Marsay bowed coldly after Lucien had first bowed to him.
Before dinner Desplein and Bianchon, who studied the Baron while
amusing him, convinced themselves that this malady was entirely
nervous; but neither could guess the cause, so impossible did it seem
that the great politician of the money market could be in love. When
Bianchon, seeing nothing but love to account for the banker's
condition, hinted as much to Delphine de Nucingen, she smiled as a
woman who has long known all her husband's weaknesses. After dinner,
however, when they all adjourned to the garden, the more intimate of
the party gathered round the banker, eager to clear up this
extraordinary case when they heard Bianchon pronounce that Nucingen
must be in love.
"Do you know, Baron," said de Marsay, "that you have grown very thin?
You are suspected of violating the laws of financial Nature."
"Ach, nefer!" said the Baron.
"Yes, yes," replied de Marsay. "They dare to say that you are in
"Dat is true," replied Nucingen piteously; "I am in lof for somebody I
do not know."
"You, in love, you? You are a coxcomb!" said the Chevalier d'Espard.
"In lof, at my aje! I know dat is too ridiculous. But vat can I help
it! Dat is so."
"A woman of the world?" asked Lucien.
"Nay," said de Marsay. "The Baron would not grow so thin but for a
hopeless love, and he has money enough to buy all the women who will
or can sell themselves!"
"I do not know who she it," said the Baron. "And as Motame de Nucingen
is inside de trawing-room, I may say so, dat till now I have nefer
known what it is to lof. Lof! I tink it is to grow tin."
"And where did you meet this innocent daisy?" asked Rastignac.
"In a carriage, at mitnight, in de forest of Fincennes."
"Describe her," said de Marsay.
"A vhite gaze hat, a rose gown, a vhite scharf, a vhite feil--a face
just out of de Biple. Eyes like Feuer, an Eastern color----"
"You were dreaming," said Lucien, with a smile.
"Dat is true; I vas shleeping like a pig--a pig mit his shkin full,"
he added, "for I vas on my vay home from tinner at mine friend's----"
"Was she alone?" said du Tillet, interrupting him.
"Ja," said the Baron dolefully; "but she had ein heiduque behind dat
carriage and a maid-shervant----"
"Lucien looks as if he knew her," exclaimed Rastignac, seeing Esther's
"Who doesn't know the woman who would go out at midnight to meet
Nucingen?" said Lucien, turning on his heel.
"Well, she is not a woman who is seen in society, or the Baron would
have recognized the man," said the Chevalier d'Espard.
"I have nefer seen him," replied the Baron. "And for forty days now I
have had her seeked for by de Police, and dey do not find her."
"It is better that she should cost you a few hundred francs than cost
you your life," said Desplein; "and, at your age, a passion without
hope is dangerous, you might die of it."
"Ja, ja," replied the Baron, addressing Desplein. "And vat I eat does
me no goot, de air I breade feels to choke me. I go to de forest of
Fincennes to see de place vat I see her--and dat is all my life. I
could not tink of de last loan--I trust to my partners vat haf pity on
me. I could pay one million franc to see dat voman--and I should gain
by dat, for I do nothing on de Bourse.--Ask du Tillet."
"Very true," replied du Tillet; "he hates business; he is quite unlike
himself; it is a sign of death."
"A sign of lof," replied Nucingen; "and for me, dat is all de same
The simple candor of the old man, no longer the stock-jobber, who, for
the first time in his life, saw that something was more sacred and
more precious than gold, really moved these world-hardened men; some
exchanged smiles; other looked at Nucingen with an expression that
plainly said, "Such a man to have come to this!"--And then they all
returned to the drawing-room, talking over the event.
For it was indeed an event calculated to produce the greatest
sensation. Madame de Nucingen went into fits of laughter when Lucien
betrayed her husband's secret; but the Baron, when he heard his wife's
sarcasms, took her by the arm and led her into the recess of a window.
"Motame," said he in an undertone, "have I ever laughed at all at your
passions, that you should laugh at mine? A goot frau should help her
husband out of his difficulty vidout making game of him like vat you
From the description given by the old banker, Lucien had recognized
his Esther. Much annoyed that his smile should have been observed, he
took advantage of a moment when coffee was served, and the
conversation became general, to vanish from the scene.
"What has become of Monsieur de Rubempre?" said the Baroness.
"He is faithful to his motto: Quid me continebit?" said Rastignac.
"Which means, 'Who can detain me?' or 'I am unconquerable,' as you
choose," added de Marsay.
"Just as Monsieur le Baron was speaking of his unknown lady, Lucien
smiled in a way that makes me fancy he may know her," said Horace
Bianchon, not thinking how dangerous such a natural remark might be.
"Goot!" said the banker to himself.
Like all incurables, the Baron clutched at everything that seemed at
all hopeful; he promised himself that he would have Lucien watched by
some one besides Louchard and his men--Louchard, the sharpest
commercial detective in Paris--to whom he had applied about a
"Before going home to Esther, Lucien was due at the Hotel Grandlieu,
to spend the two hours which made Mademoiselle Clotilde Frederique de
Grandlieu the happiest girl in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. But the
prudence characteristic of this ambitious youth warned him to inform
Carlos Herrera forthwith of the effect resulting from the smile wrung
from him by the Baron's description of Esther. The banker's passion
for Esther, and the idea that had occurred to him of setting the
police to seek the unknown beauty, were indeed events of sufficient
importance to be at once communicated to the man who had sought, under
a priest's robe, the shelter which criminals of old could find in a
church. And Lucien's road from the Rue Saint-Lazare, where Nucingen at
that time lived, to the Rue Saint-Dominique, where was the Hotel
Grandlieu, led him past his lodgings on the Quai Malaquais.
Lucien found his formidable friend smoking his breviary--that is to
say, coloring a short pipe before retiring to bed. The man, strange
rather than foreign, had given up Spanish cigarettes, finding them too
"Matters look serious," said the Spaniard, when Lucien had told him
all. "The Baron, who employs Louchard to hunt up the girl, will
certainly be sharp enough to set a spy at your heels, and everything
will come out. To-night and to-morrow morning will not give me more
than enough time to pack the cards for the game I must play against
the Baron; first and foremost, I must prove to him that the police
cannot help him. When our lynx has given up all hope of finding his
ewe-lamb, I will undertake to sell her for all she is worth to
"Sell Esther!" cried Lucien, whose first impulse was always the right
"Do you forget where we stand?" cried Carlos Herrera.
"No money left," the Spaniard went on, "and sixty thousand francs of
debts to be paid! If you want to marry Clotilde de Grandlieu, you must
invest a million of francs in land as security for that ugly
creature's settlement. Well, then, Esther is the quarry I mean to set
before that lynx to help us to ease him of that million. That is my
"Esther will never----"
"That is my concern."
"She will die of it."
"That is the undertaker's concern. Besides, what then?" cried the
savage, checking Lucien's lamentations merely by his attitude. "How
many generals died in the prime of life for the Emperor Napoleon?" he
asked, after a short silence. "There are always plenty of women. In
1821 Coralie was unique in your eyes; and yet you found Esther. After
her will come--do you know who?--the unknown fair. And she of all
women is the fairest, and you will find her in the capital where the
Duc de Grandlieu's son-in-law will be Minister and representative of
the King of France.--And do you tell me now, great Baby, that Esther
will die of it? Again, can Mademoiselle de Grandlieu's husband keep
"You have only to leave everything to me; you need not take the
trouble to think at all; that is my concern. Only you must do without
Esther for a week or two; but go to the Rue Taitbout, all the same.--
Come, be off to bill and coo on your plank of salvation, and play your
part well; slip the flaming note you wrote this morning into
Clotilde's hand, and bring me back a warm response. She will
recompense herself for many woes in writing. I take to that girl.
"You will find Esther a little depressed, but tell her to obey. We
must display our livery of virtue, our doublet of honesty, the screen
behind which all great men hide their infamy.--I must show off my
handsomer self--you must never be suspected. Chance has served us
better than my brain, which has been beating about in a void for these
two months past."
All the while he was jerking out these dreadful sentences, one by one,
like pistol shots, Carlos Herrera was dressing himself to go out.
"You are evidently delighted," cried Lucien. "You never liked poor
Esther, and you look forward with joy to the moment when you will be
rid of her."
"You have never tired of loving her, have you? Well, I have never
tired of detesting her. But have I not always behaved as though I were
sincerely attached to the hussy--I, who, through Asie, hold her life
in my hands? A few bad mushrooms in a stew--and there an end. But
Mademoiselle Esther still lives!--and is happy!--And do you know why?
Because you love her. Do not be a fool. For four years we have been
waiting for a chance to turn up, for us or against us; well, it will
take something more than mere cleverness to wash the cabbage luck has
flung at us now. There are good and bad together in this turn of the
wheel--as there are in everything. Do you know what I was thinking of
when you came in?"
"Of making myself heir here, as I did at Barcelona, to an old bigot,
by Asie's help."
"I saw no other way of securing your fortune. The creditors are making
a stir. If once the bailiffs were at your heels, and you were turned
out of the Hotel Grandlieu, where would you be? There would be the
devil to pay then."
And Carlos Herrera, by a pantomimic gesture, showed the suicide of a
man throwing himself into the water; then he fixed on Lucien one of
those steady, piercing looks by which the will of a strong man is
injected, so to speak, into a weak one. This fascinating glare, which
relaxed all Lucien's fibres of resistance, revealed the existence not
merely of secrets of life and death between him and his adviser, but
also of feelings as far above ordinary feeling as the man himself was
above his vile position.
Carlos Herrera, a man at once ignoble and magnanimous, obscure and
famous, compelled to live out of the world from which the law had
banned him, exhausted by vice and by frenzied and terrible struggles,
though endowed with powers of mind that ate into his soul, consumed
especially by a fever of vitality, now lived again in the elegant
person of Lucien de Rubempre, whose soul had become his own. He was
represented in social life by the poet, to whom he lent his tenacity
and iron will. To him Lucien was more than a son, more than a woman
beloved, more than a family, more than his life; he was his revenge;
and as souls cling more closely to a feeling than to existence, he had
bound the young man to him by insoluble ties.
After rescuing Lucien's life at the moment when the poet in
desperation was on the verge of suicide, he had proposed to him one of
those infernal bargains which are heard of only in romances, but of
which the hideous possibility has often been proved in courts of
justice by celebrated criminal dramas. While lavishing on Lucien all
the delights of Paris life, and proving to him that he yet had a great
future before him, he had made him his chattel.
But, indeed, no sacrifice was too great for this strange man when it
was to gratify his second self. With all his strength, he was so weak
to this creature of his making that he had even told him all his
secrets. Perhaps this abstract complicity was a bond the more between
Since the day when La Torpille had been snatched away, Lucien had
known on what a vile foundation his good fortune rested. That priest's
robe covered Jacques Collin, a man famous on the hulks, who ten years
since had lived under the homely name of Vautrin in the Maison
Vauquer, where Rastignac and Bianchon were at that time boarders.
Jacques Collin, known as Trompe-la-Mort, had escaped from Rochefort
almost as soon as he was recaptured, profiting by the example of the
famous Comte de Sainte-Helene, while modifying all that was ill
planned in Coignard's daring scheme. To take the place of an honest
man and carry on the convict's career is a proposition of which the
two terms are too contradictory for a disastrous outcome not to be
inevitable, especially in Paris; for, by establishing himself in a
family, a convict multiplies tenfold the perils of such a
substitution. And to be safe from all investigation, must not a man
assume a position far above the ordinary interests of life. A man of
the world is subject to risks such as rarely trouble those who have no
contact with the world; hence the priest's gown is the safest disguise
when it can be authenticated by an exemplary life in solitude and
"So a priest I will be," said the legally dead man, who was quite
determined to resuscitate as a figure in the world, and to satisfy
passions as strange as himself.
The civil war caused by the Constitution of 1812 in Spain, whither
this energetic man had betaken himself, enabled him to murder secretly
the real Carlos Herrera from an ambush. This ecclesiastic, the bastard
son of a grandee, long since deserted by his father, and not knowing
to what woman he owed his birth, was intrusted by King Ferdinand VII.,
to whom a bishop had recommended him, with a political mission to
France. The bishop, the only man who took any interest in Carlos
Herrera, died while this foundling son of the Church was on his
journey from Cadiz to Madrid, and from Madrid to France. Delighted to
have met with this longed-for opportunity, and under the most
desirable conditions, Jacques Collin scored his back to efface the
fatal letters, and altered his complexion by the use of chemicals.
Thus metamorphosing himself face to face with the corpse, he contrived
to achieve some likeness to his Sosia. And to complete a change almost
as marvelous as that related in the Arabian tale, where a dervish has
acquired the power, old as he is, of entering into a young body, by a
magic spell, the convict, who spoke Spanish, learned as much Latin as
an Andalusian priest need know.
As banker to three hulks, Collin was rich in the cash intrusted to his
known, and indeed enforced, honesty. Among such company a mistake is
paid for by a dagger thrust. To this capital he now added the money
given by the bishop to Don Carlos Herrera. Then, before leaving Spain,
he was able to possess himself of the treasure of an old bigot at
Barcelona, to whom he gave absolution, promising that he would make
restitution of the money constituting her fortune, which his penitent
had stolen by means of murder.
Jacques Collin, now a priest, and charged with a secret mission which
would secure him the most brilliant introductions in Paris, determined
to do nothing that might compromise the character he had assumed, and
had given himself up to the chances of his new life, when he met
Lucien on the road between Angouleme and Paris. In this youth the sham
priest saw a wonderful instrument for power; he saved him from suicide
"Give yourself over to me as to a man of God, as men give themselves
over to the devil, and you will have every chance of a new career. You
will live as in a dream, and the worst awakening that can come to you
will be death, which you now wish to meet."
The alliance between these two beings, who were to become one, as it
were, was based on this substantial reasoning, and Carlos Herrera
cemented it by an ingeniously plotted complicity. He had the very
genius of corruption, and undermined Lucien's honesty by plunging him
into cruel necessity, and extricating him by obtaining his tacit
consent to bad or disgraceful actions, which nevertheless left him
pure, loyal, and noble in the eyes of the world. Lucien was the social
magnificence under whose shadow the forger meant to live.
"I am the author, you are the play; if you fail, it is I who shall be
hissed," said he on the day when he confessed his sacrilegious
Carlos prudently confessed only a little at a time, measuring the
horrors of his revelations by Lucien's progress and needs. Thus
Trompe-la-Mort did not let out his last secret till the habit of
Parisian pleasures and success, and gratified vanity, had enslaved the
weak-minded poet body and soul. Where Rastignac, when tempted by this
demon, had stood firm, Lucien, better managed, and more ingeniously
compromised, succumbed, conquered especially by his satisfaction in
having attained an eminent position. Incarnate evil, whose poetical
embodiment is called the Devil, displayed every delightful seduction
before this youth, who was half a woman, and at first gave much and
asked for little. The great argument used by Carlos was the eternal
secret promised by Tartufe to Elmire.
The repeated proofs of absolute devotion, such as that of Said to
Mahomet, put the finishing touch to the horrible achievement of
Lucien's subjugation by a Jacques Collin.
At this moment not only had Esther and Lucien devoured all the funds
intrusted to the honesty of the banker of the hulks, who, for their
sakes, had rendered himself liable to a dreadful calling to account,
but the dandy, the forger, and the courtesan were also in debt. Thus,
as the very moment of Lucien's expected success, the smallest pebble
under the foot of either of these three persons might involve the ruin
of the fantastic structure of fortune so audaciously built up.
At the opera ball Rastignac had recognized the man he had known as
Vautrin at Madame Vauquer's; but he knew that if he did not hold his
tongue, he was a dead man. So Madame de Nucingen's lover and Lucien
had exchanged glances in which fear lurked, on both sides, under an
expression of amity. In the moment of danger, Rastignac, it is clear,
would have been delighted to provide the vehicle that should convey
Jacques Collin to the scaffold. From all this it may be understood
that Carlos heard of the Baron's passion with a glow of sombre
satisfaction, while he perceived in a single flash all the advantage a
man of his temper might derive by means of a hapless Esther.
"Go on," said he to Lucien. "The Devil is mindful of his chaplain."
"You are smoking on a powder barrel."
"Incedo per ignes," replied Carlos with a smile. "That is my trade."
The House of Grandlieu divided into two branches about the middle of
the last century: first, the ducal line destined to lapse, since the
present duke has only daughters; and then the Vicomtes de Grandlieu,
who will now inherit the title and armorial bearings of the elder
branch. The ducal house bears gules, three broad axes or in fess, with
the famous motto: Caveo non timeo, which epitomizes the history of the
The coat of the Vicomtes de Grandlieu is the same quartered with that
of Navarreins: gules, a fess crenelated or, surmounted by a knight's
helmet, with the motto: Grands faits, grand lieu. The present
Viscountess, widowed in 1813, has a son and a daughter. Though she
returned from the Emigration almost ruined, she recovered a
considerable fortune by the zealous aid of Derville the lawyer.
The Duc and Duchesse de Grandlieu, on coming home in 1804, were the
object of the Emperor's advances; indeed, Napoleon, seeing them come
to his court, restored to them all of the Grandlieu estates that had
been confiscated to the nation, to the amount of about forty thousand
francs a year. Of all the great nobles of the Faubourg Saint-Germain
who allowed themselves to be won over by Napoleon, this Duke and
Duchess--she was an Ajuda of the senior branch, and connected with the
Braganzas--were the only family who afterwards never disowned him and
his liberality. When the Faubourg Saint-Germain remembered this as a
crime against the Grandlieus, Louis XVIII. respected them for it; but
perhaps his only object was to annoy MONSIEUR.
A marriage was considered likely between the young Vicomte de
Grandlieu and Marie-Athenais, the Duke's youngest daughter, now nine
years old. Sabine, the youngest but one, married the Baron du Guenic
after the revolution of July 1830; Josephine, the third, became Madame
d'Ajuda-Pinto after the death of the Marquis' first wife, Mademoiselle
de Rochefide, or Rochegude. The eldest had taken the veil in 1822. The
second, Mademoiselle Clotilde Frederique, at this time seven-and-
twenty years of age, was deeply in love with Lucien de Rubempre. It
need not be asked whether the Duc de Grandlieu's mansion, one of the
finest in the Rue Saint-Dominique, did not exert a thousand spells
over Lucien's imagination. Every time the heavy gate turned on its
hinges to admit his cab, he experienced the gratified vanity to which
"Though my father was a mere druggist at l'Houmeau, I may enter here!"
This was his thought.
And, indeed, he would have committed far worse crimes than allying
himself with a forger to preserve his right to mount the steps of that
entrance, to hear himself announced, "Monsieur de Rubempre" at the
door of the fine Louis XIV. drawing-room, decorated in the time of the
grand monarque on the pattern of those at Versailles, where that
choicest circle met, that cream of Paris society, called then le petit
The noble Portuguese lady, one of those who never care to go out of
their own home, was usually the centre of her neighbors' attentions--
the Chaulieus, the Navarreins, the Lenoncourts. The pretty Baronne de
Macumer--nee de Chaulieu--the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, Madame
d'Espard, Madame de Camps, and Mademoiselle des Touches--a connection
of the Grandlieus, who are a Breton family--were frequent visitors on
their way to a ball or on their return from the opera. The Vicomte de
Grandlieu, the Duc de Rhetore, the Marquis de Chaulieu--afterwards Duc
de Lenoncourt-Chaulieu--his wife, Madeleine de Mortsauf, the Duc de
Lenoncourt's grand-daughter, the Marquis d'Ajuda-Pinto, the Prince de
Blamont-Chauvry, the Marquis de Beauseant, the Vidame de Pamiers, the
Vandenesses, the old Prince de Cadignan, and his son the Duc de
Maufrigneuse, were constantly to be seen in this stately drawing-room,
where they breathed the atmosphere of a Court, where manners, tone,
and wit were in harmony with the dignity of the Master and Mistress
whose aristocratic mien and magnificence had obliterated the memory of
their servility to Napoleon.
The old Duchesse d'Uxelles, mother of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse,
was the oracle of this circle, to which Madame de Serizy had never
gained admittance, though nee de Ronquerolles.
Lucien was brought thither by Madame de Maufrigneuse, who had won over
her mother to speak in his favor, for she had doted on him for two
years; and the engaging young poet had kept his footing there, thanks
to the influence of the high Almoner of France, and the support of the
Archbishop of Paris. Still, he had not been admitted till he had
obtained the patent restoring to him the name and arms of the Rubempre
family. The Duc de Rhetore, the Chevalier d'Espard, and some others,
jealous of Lucien, periodically stirred up the Duc de Grandlieu's
prejudices against him by retailing anecdotes of the young man's
previous career; but the Duchess, a devout Catholic surrounded by the
great prelates of the Church, and her daughter Clotilde would not give
Lucien accounted for these hostilities by his connection with Madame
de Bargeton, Madame d'Espard's cousin, and now Comtesse du Chatelet.
Then, feeling the importance of allying himself to so powerful a
family, and urged by his privy adviser to win Clotilde, Lucien found
the courage of the parvenu; he came to the house five days in the
week, he swallowed all the affronts of the envious, he endured
impertinent looks, and answered irony with wit. His persistency, the
charm of his manners, and his amiability, at last neutralized
opposition and reduced obstacles. He was still in the highest favor
with Madame de Maufrigneuse, whose ardent letters, written under the
influence of her passion, were preserved by Carlos Herrera; he was
idolized by Madame de Serizy, and stood well in Mademoiselle des
Touches' good graces; and well content with being received in these
houses, Lucien was instructed by the Abbe to be as reserved as
possible in all other quarters.
"You cannot devote yourself to several houses at once," said his
Mentor. "The man who goes everywhere finds no one to take a lively
interest in him. Great folks only patronize those who emulate their
furniture, whom they see every day, and who have the art of becoming
as necessary to them as the seat they sit on."
Thus Lucien, accustomed to regard the Grandlieus' drawing-room as his
arena, reserved his wit, his jests, his news, and his courtier's
graces for the hours he spent there every evening. Insinuating,
tactful, and warned by Clotilde of the shoals he should avoid, he
flattered Monsieur de Grandlieu's little weaknesses. Clotilde, having
begun by envying Madame de Maufrigneuse her happiness, ended by
falling desperately in love with Lucien.
Perceiving all the advantages of such a connection, Lucien played his
lover's part as well as it could have been acted by Armand, the latest
jeune premier at the Comedie Francaise.
He wrote to Clotilde, letters which were certainly masterpieces of
literary workmanship; and Clotilde replied, vying with him in genius
in the expression of perfervid love on paper, for she had no other
outlet. Lucien went to church at Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin every Sunday,
giving himself out as a devout Catholic, and he poured forth
monarchical and pious harangues which were a marvel to all. He also
wrote some exceedingly remarkable articles in papers devoted to the
"Congregation," refusing to be paid for them, and signing them only
with an "L." He produced political pamphlets when required by King
Charles X. or the High Almoner, and for these he would take no
"The King," he would say, "has done so much for me, that I owe him my
For some days past there had been an idea of attaching Lucien to the
prime minister's cabinet as his private secretary; but Madame d'Espard
brought so many persons into the field in opposition to Lucien, that
Charles X.'s Maitre Jacques hesitated to clinch the matter. Nor was
Lucien's position by any means clear; not only did the question, "What
does he live on?" on everybody's lips as the young man rose in life,
require an answer, but even benevolent curiosity--as much as
malevolent curiosity--went on from one inquiry to another, and found
more than one joint in the ambitious youth's harness.
Clotilde de Grandlieu unconsciously served as a spy for her father and
mother. A few days since she had led Lucien into a recess and told him
of the difficulties raised by her family.
"Invest a million francs in land, and my hand is yours: that is my
mother's ultimatum," Clotilde had explained.
"And presently they will ask you where you got the money," said
Carlos, when Lucien reported this last word in the bargain.
"My brother-in-law will have made his fortune," remarked Lucien; "we
can make him the responsible backer."
"Then only the million is needed," said Carlos. "I will think it
To be exact as to Lucien's position in the Hotel Grandlieu, he had
never dined there. Neither Clotilde, nor the Duchesse d'Uxelles, nor
Madame de Maufrigneuse, who was always extremely kind to Lucien, could
ever obtain this favor from the Duke, so persistently suspicious was
the old nobleman of the man that he designated as "le Sire de
Rubempre." This shade of distinction, understood by every one who
visited at the house, constantly wounded Lucien's self-respect, for he
felt that he was no more than tolerated. But the world is justified in
being suspicious; it is so often taken in!
To cut a figure in Paris with no known source of wealth and no
recognized employment is a position which can by no artifice be long
maintained. So Lucien, as he crept up in the world, gave more and more
weight to the question, "What does he live on?" He had been obliged
indeed to confess to Madame de Serizy, to whom he owed the patronage
of Monsieur Granville, the Public Prosecutor, and of the Comte Octave
de Bauvan, a Minister of State, and President of one of the Supreme
Courts: "I am dreadfully in debt."
As he entered the courtyard of the mansion where he found an excuse
for all his vanities, he was saying to himself as he reflected on
"I can hear the ground cracking under my feet!"
He loved Esther, and he wanted to marry Mademoiselle de Grandlieu! A
strange dilemma! One must be sold to buy the other.
Only one person could effect this bargain without damage to Lucien's
honor, and that was the supposed Spaniard. Were they not bound to be
equally secret, each for the other? Such a compact, in which each is
in turn master and slave, is not to be found twice in any one life.
Lucien drove away the clouds that darkened his brow, and walked into
the Grandlieu drawing-room gay and beaming. At this moment the windows
were open, the fragrance from the garden scented the room, the flower-
basket in the centre displayed its pyramid of flowers. The Duchess,
seated on a sofa in the corner, was talking to the Duchesse de
Chaulieu. Several women together formed a group remarkable for their
various attitudes, stamped with the different expression which each
strove to give to an affected sorrow. In the fashionable world nobody
takes any interest in grief or suffering; everything is talk. The men
were walking up and down the room or in the garden. Clotilde and
Josephine were busy at the tea-table. The Vidame de Pamiers, the Duc
de Grandlieu, the Marquis d'Ajuda-Pinto, and the Duc de Maufrigneuse
were playing Wisk, as they called it, in a corner of the room.
When Lucien was announced he walked across the room to make his bow to
the Duchess, asking the cause of the grief he could read in her face.
"Madame de Chaulieu has just had dreadful news; her son-in-law, the
Baron de Macumer, ex-duke of Soria, is just dead. The young Duc de
Soria and his wife, who had gone to Chantepleurs to nurse their
brother, have written this sad intelligence. Louise is heart-broken."
"A women is not loved twice in her life as Louise was loved by her
husband," said Madeleine de Mortsauf.
"She will be a rich widow," observed the old Duchesse d'Uxelles,
looking at Lucien, whose face showed no change of expression.
"Poor Louise!" said Madame d'Espard. "I understand her and pity her."
The Marquise d'Espard put on the pensive look of a woman full of soul
and feeling. Sabine de Grandlieu, who was but ten years old, raised
knowing eyes to her mother's face, but the satirical glance was
repressed by a glance from the Duchess. This is bringing children up
"If my daughter lives through the shock," said Madame de Chaulieu,
with a very maternal manner, "I shall be anxious about her future
life. Louise is so very romantic."
"It is so difficult nowadays," said a venerable Cardinal, "to
reconcile feeling with the proprieties."
Lucien, who had not a word to say, went to the tea-table to do what
was polite to the demoiselles de Grandlieu. When the poet had gone a
few yards away, the Marquise d'Espard leaned over to whisper in the
"And do you really think that that young fellow is so much in love
with your Clotilde?"
The perfidy of this question cannot be fully understood but with the
help of a sketch of Clotilde. That young lady was, at this moment,
standing up. Her attitude allowed the Marquise d'Espard's mocking eye
to take in Clotilde's lean, narrow figure, exactly like an asparagus
stalk; the poor girl's bust was so flat that it did not allow of the
artifice known to dressmakers as fichus menteurs, or padded
habitshirts. And Clotilde, who knew that her name was a sufficient
advantage in life, far from trying to conceal this defect, heroically
made a display of it. By wearing plain, tight dresses she achieved the
effect of that stiff prim shape which medieval sculptors succeeded in
giving to the statuettes whose profiles are conspicuous against the
background of the niches in which they stand in cathedrals.
Clotilde was more than five feet four in height; if we may be allowed
to use a familiar phrase, which has the merit at any rate of being
perfectly intelligible--she was all legs. These defective proportions
gave her figure an almost deformed appearance. With a dark complexion,
harsh black hair, very thick eyebrows, fiery eyes, set in sockets that
were already deeply discolored, a side face shaped like the moon in
its first quarter, and a prominent brow, she was the caricature of her
mother, one of the handsomest women in Portugal. Nature amuses herself
with such tricks. Often we see in one family a sister of wonderful
beauty, whose features in her brother are absolutely hideous, though
the two are amazingly alike. Clotilde's lips, excessively thin and
sunken, wore a permanent expression of disdain. And yet her mouth,
better than any other feature of her face, revealed every secret
impulse of her heart, for affection lent it a sweet expression, which
was all the more remarkable because her cheeks were too sallow for
blushes, and her hard, black eyes never told anything. Notwithstanding
these defects, notwithstanding her board-like carriage, she had by
birth and education a grand air, a proud demeanor, in short,
everything that has been well named le je ne sais quoi, due partly,
perhaps, to her uncompromising simplicity of dress, which stamped her
as a woman of noble blood. She dressed her hair to advantage, and it
might be accounted to her for a beauty, for it grew vigorously, thick
She had cultivated her voice, and it could cast a spell; she sang
exquisitely. Clotilde was just the woman of whom one says, "She has
fine eyes," or, "She has a delightful temper." If any one addressed
her in the English fashion as "Your Grace," she would say, "You mean
'Your leanness.' "
"Why should not my poor Clotilde have a lover?" replied the Duchess to
the Marquise. "Do you know what she said to me yesterday? 'If I am
loved for ambition's sake, I undertake to make him love me for my own
sake.'--She is clever and ambitious, and there are men who like those
two qualities. As for him--my dear, he is as handsome as a vision; and
if he can but repurchase the Rubempre estates, out of regard for us
the King will reinstate him in the title of Marquis.--After all, his
mother was the last of the Rubempres."
"Poor fellow! where is he to find a million francs?" said the
"That is no concern of ours," replied the Duchess. "He is certainly
incapable of stealing the money.--Besides, we would never give
Clotilde to an intriguing or dishonest man even if he were handsome,
young, and a poet, like Monsieur de Rubempre."
"You are late this evening," said Clotilde, smiling at Lucien with
"Yes, I have been dining out."
"You have been quite gay these last few days," said she, concealing
her jealousy and anxiety behind a smile.
"Quite gay?" replied Lucien. "No--only by the merest chance I have
been dining every day this week with bankers; to-day with the
Nucingens, yesterday with du Tillet, the day before with the
Whence, it may be seen, that Lucien had succeeded in assuming the tone
of light impertinence of great people.
"You have many enemies," said Clotilde, offering him--how graciously!
--a cup of tea. "Some one told my father that you have debts to the
amount of sixty thousand francs, and that before long Sainte-Pelagie
will be your summer quarters.--If you could know what all these
calumnies are to me!--It all recoils on me.--I say nothing of my own
suffering--my father has a way of looking that crucifies me--but of
what you must be suffering if any least part of it should be the
"Do not let such nonsense worry you; love me as I love you, and give
me time--a few months----" said Lucien, replacing his empty cup on the
"Do not let my father see you; he would say something disagreeable;
and as you could not submit to that, we should be done for.--That
odious Marquise d'Espard told him that your mother had been a monthly
nurse and that your sister did ironing----"
"We were in the most abject poverty," replied Lucien, the tears rising
to his eyes. "That is not calumny, but it is most ill-natured gossip.
My sister now is a more than millionaire, and my mother has been dead
two years.--This information has been kept in stock to use just when I
should be on the verge of success here----"
"But what have you done to Madame d'Espard?"
"I was so rash, at Madame de Serizy's, as to tell the story, with some
added pleasantries, in the presence of MM. de Bauvan and de Granville,
of her attempt to get a commission of lunacy appointed to sit on her
husband, the Marquis d'Espard. Bianchon had told it to me. Monsieur de
Granville's opinion, supported by those of Bauvan and Serizy,
influenced the decision of the Keeper of the Seals. They all were
afraid of the Gazette des Tribunaux, and dreaded the scandal, and the
Marquise got her knuckles rapped in the summing up for the judgment
finally recorded in that miserable business.
"Though M. de Serizy by his tattle has made the Marquise my mortal
foe, I gained his good offices, and those of the Public Prosecutor,
and Comte Octave de Bauvan; for Madame de Serizy told them the danger
in which I stood in consequence of their allowing the source of their
information to be guessed at. The Marquis d'Espard was so clumsy as to
call upon me, regarding me as the first cause of his winning the day
in that atrocious suit."
"I will rescue you from Madame d'Espard," said Clotilde.
"How?" cried Lucien.
"My mother will ask the young d'Espards here; they are charming boys,
and growing up now. The father and sons will sing your praises, and
then we are sure never to see their mother again."
"Oh, Clotilde, you are an angel! If I did not love you for yourself, I
should love you for being so clever."
"It is not cleverness," said she, all her love beaming on her lips.
"Goodnight. Do not come again for some few days. When you see me in
church, at Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin, with a pink scarf, my father will be
in a better temper.--You will find an answer stuck to the back of the
chair you are sitting in; it will comfort you perhaps for not seeing
me. Put the note you have brought under my handkerchief----"
This young person was evidently more than seven-and-twenty.
Lucien took a cab in the Rue de la Planche, got out of it on the
Boulevards, took another by the Madeleine, and desired the driver to
have the gates opened and drive in at the house in the Rue Taitbout.
On going in at eleven o'clock, he found Esther in tears, but dressed
as she was wont to dress to do him honor. She awaited her Lucien
reclining on a sofa covered with white satin brocaded with yellow
flowers, dressed in a bewitching wrapper of India muslin with cherry-
colored bows; without her stays, her hair simply twisted into a knot,
her feet in little velvet slippers lined with cherry-colored satin;
all the candles were burning, the hookah was prepared. But she had not
smoked her own, which stood beside her unlighted, emblematical of her
loneliness. On hearing the doors open she sprang up like a gazelle,
and threw her arms round Lucien, wrapping him like a web caught by the
wind and flung about a tree.
"Parted.--Is it true?"
"Oh, just for a few days," replied Lucien.
Esther released him, and fell back on her divan like a dead thing.
In these circumstances, most women babble like parrots. Oh! how they
love! At the end of five years they feel as if their first happiness
were a thing of yesterday, they cannot give you up, they are
magnificent in their indignation, despair, love, grief, dread,
dejection, presentiments. In short, they are as sublime as a scene
from Shakespeare. But make no mistake! These women do not love. When
they are really all that they profess, when they love truly, they do
as Esther did, as children do, as true love does; Esther did not say a
word, she lay with her face buried in the pillows, shedding bitter
Lucien, on his part, tried to lift her up, and spoke to her.
"But, my child, we are not to part. What, after four years of
happiness, is this the way you take a short absence.--What on earth do
I do to all these girls?" he added to himself, remembering that
Coralie had loved him thus.
"Ah, monsieur, you are so handsome," said Europe.
The senses have their own ideal. When added to this fascinating beauty
we find the sweetness of nature, the poetry, that characterized
Lucien, it is easy to conceive of the mad passion roused in such
women, keenly alive as they are to external gifts, and artless in
their admiration. Esther was sobbing quietly, and lay in an attitude
expressive of the deepest distress.
"But, little goose," said Lucien, "did you not understand that my life
is at stake?"
At these words, which he chose on purpose, Esther started up like a
wild animal, her hair fell, tumbling about her excited face like
wreaths of foliage. She looked steadily at Lucien.
"Your life?" she cried, throwing up her arms, and letting them drop
with a gesture known only to a courtesan in peril. "To be sure; that
friend's note speaks of serious risk."
She took a shabby scrap of paper out of her sash; then seeing Europe,
she said, "Leave us, my girl."
When Europe had shut the door she went on--"Here, this is what he
writes," and she handed to Lucien a note she had just received from
Carlos, which Lucien read aloud:--
"You must leave to-morrow at five in the morning; you will be
taken to a keeper's lodge in the heart of the Forest of Saint-
Germain, where you will have a room on the first floor. Do not
quit that room till I give you leave; you will want for nothing.
The keeper and his wife are to be trusted. Do not write to Lucien.
Do not go to the window during daylight; but you may walk by night
with the keeper if you wish for exercise. Keep the carriage blinds
down on the way. Lucien's life is at stake.
"Lucien will go to-night to bid you good-bye; burn this in his
Lucien burned the note at once in the flame of a candle.
"Listen, my own Lucien," said Esther, after hearing him read this
letter as a criminal hears the sentence of death; "I will not tell you
that I love you; it would be idiotic. For nearly five years it has
been as natural to me to love you as to breathe and live. From the
first day when my happiness began under the protection of that
inscrutable being, who placed me here as you place some little curious
beast in a cage, I have known that you must marry. Marriage is a
necessary factor in your career, and God preserve me from hindering
the development of your fortunes.
"That marriage will be my death. But I will not worry you; I will not
do as the common girls do who kill themselves by means of a brazier of
charcoal; I had enough of that once; twice raises your gorge, as
Mariette says. No, I will go a long way off, out of France. Asie knows
the secrets of her country; she will help me to die quietly. A prick--
whiff, it is all over!
"I ask but one thing, my dearest, and that is that you will not
deceive me. I have had my share of living. Since the day I first saw
you, in 1824, till this day, I have known more happiness than can be
put into the lives of ten fortunate wives. So take me for what I am--a
woman as strong as I am weak. Say 'I am going to be married.' I will
ask no more of you than a fond farewell, and you shall never hear of
There was a moment's silence after this explanation as sincere as her
action and tone were guileless.
"Is it that you are going to be married?" she repeated, looking into
Lucien's blue eyes with one of her fascinating glances, as brilliant
as a steel blade.
"We have been toiling at my marriage for eighteen months past, and it
is not yet settled," replied Lucien. "I do not know when it can be
settled; but it is not in question now, child!--It is the Abbe, I,
you.--We are in real peril. Nucingen saw you----"
"Yes, in the wood at Vincennes," said she. "Did he recognize me?"
"No," said Lucien. "But he has fallen so desperately in love with you,
that he would sacrifice his coffers. After dinner, when he was
describing how he had met you, I was so foolish as to smile
involuntarily, and most imprudently, for I live in a world like a
savage surrounded by the traps of a hostile tribe. Carlos, who spares
me the pains of thinking, regards the position as dangerous, and he
has undertaken to pay Nucingen out if the Baron takes it into his head
to spy on us; and he is quite capable of it; he spoke to me of the
incapacity of the police. You have lighted a flame in an old chimney
choked with soot."
"And what does your Spaniard propose to do?" asked Esther very softly.
"I do not know in the least," said Lucien; "he told me I might sleep
soundly and leave it to him;"--but he dared not look at Esther.
"If that is the case, I will obey him with the dog-like submission I
profess," said Esther, putting her hand through Lucien's arm and
leading him into her bedroom, saying, "At any rate, I hope you dined
well, my Lulu, at that detestable Baron's?"
"Asie's cooking prevents my ever thinking a dinner good, however
famous the chef may be, where I happen to dine. However, Careme did
the dinner to-night, as he does every Sunday."
Lucien involuntarily compared Esther with Clotilde. The mistress was
so beautiful, so unfailingly charming, that she had as yet kept at
arm's length the monster who devours the most perennial loves--
"What a pity," thought he, "to find one's wife in two volumes. In
one--poetry, delight, love, devotion, beauty, sweetness----"
Esther was fussing about, as women do, before going to bed; she came
and went and fluttered round, singing all the time; you might have
thought her a humming-bird.
"In the other--a noble name, family, honors, rank, knowledge of the
world!--And no earthly means of combining them!" cried Lucien to
Next morning, at seven, when the poet awoke in the pretty pink-and-
white room, he found himself alone. He rang, and Europe hurried in.
"What are monsieur's orders?"
"Madame went off this morning at a quarter to five. By Monsieur
l'Abbe's order, I admitted a new face--carriage paid."
"No, sir, an English woman--one of those people who do their day's
work by night, and we are ordered to treat her as if she were madame.
What can you have to say to such hack!--Poor Madame, how she cried
when she got into the carriage. 'Well, it has to be done!' cried she.
'I left that poor dear boy asleep,' said she, wiping away her tears;
'Europe, if he had looked at me or spoken my name, I should have
stayed--I could but have died with him.'-- I tell you, sir, I am so
fond of madame, that I did not show her the person who has taken her
place; some waiting maids would have broken her heart by doing so."
"And is the stranger there?"
"Well, sir, she came in the chaise that took away madame, and I hid
her in my room in obedience to my instructions----"
"Is she nice-looking?"
"So far as such a second-hand article can be. But she will find her
part easy enough if you play yours, sir," said Europe, going to fetch
the false Esther.
The night before, ere going to bed, the all-powerful banker had given
his orders to his valet, who, at seven in the morning, brought in to
him the notorious Louchard, the most famous of the commercial police,
whom he left in a little sitting-room; there the Baron joined him, in
a dressing gown and slippers.
"You haf mate a fool of me!" he said, in reply to this official's
"I could not help myself, Monsieur le Baron. I do not want to lose my
place, and I had the honor of explaining to you that I could not
meddle in a matter that had nothing to do with my functions. What did
I promise you? To put you into communication with one of our agents,
who, as it seemed to me, would be best able to serve you. But you
know, Monsieur le Baron, the sharp lines that divide men of different
trades: if you build a house, you do not set a carpenter to do smith's
work. Well, there are two branches of the police--the political police
and the judicial police. The political police never interfere with the
other branch, and vice versa. If you apply to the chief of the
political police, he must get permission from the Minister to take up
our business, and you would not dare to explain it to the head of the
police throughout the kingdom. A police-agent who should act on his
own account would lose his place.
"Well, the ordinary police are quite as cautious as the political
police. So no one, whether in the Home Office or at the Prefecture of
Police, ever moves excepting in the interests of the State or for the
ends of Justice.
"If there is a plot or a crime to be followed up, then, indeed, the
heads of the corps are at your service; but you must understand,
Monsieur le Baron, that they have other fish to fry than looking after
the fifty thousand love affairs in Paris. As to me and my men, our
only business is to arrest debtors; and as soon as anything else is to
be done, we run enormous risks if we interfere with the peace and
quiet of any man or woman. I sent you one of my men, but I told you I
could not answer for him; you instructed him to find a particular
woman in Paris; Contenson bled you of a thousand-franc note, and did
not even move. You might as well look for a needle in the river as for
a woman in Paris, who is supposed to haunt Vincennes, and of whom the
description answers to every pretty woman in the capital."
"And could not Contenson haf tolt me de truf, instead of making me
pleed out one tousand franc?"
"Listen to me, Monsieur le Baron," said Louchard. "Will you give me a
thousand crowns? I will give you--sell you--a piece of advice?"
"Is it vort one tousand crowns--your atvice?" asked Nucingen.
"I am not to be caught, Monsieur le Baron," answered Louchard. "You
are in love, you want to discover the object of your passion; you are
getting as yellow as a lettuce without water. Two physicians came to
see you yesterday, your man tells me, who think your life is in
danger; now, I alone can put you in the hands of a clever fellow.--But
the deuce is in it! If your life is not worth a thousand crowns----"
"Tell me de name of dat clefer fellow, and depent on my
Louchard took up his hat, bowed, and left the room.
"Wat ein teufel!" cried Nucingen. "Come back--look here----"
"Take notice," said Louchard, before taking the money, "I am only
selling a piece of information, pure and simple. I can give you the
name and address of the only man who is able to be of use to you--but
he is a master----"
"Get out mit you," cried Nucingen. "Dere is not no name dat is vort
one tousant crown but dat von Varschild--and dat only ven it is sign
at the bottom of a bank-bill.--I shall gif you one tousant franc."
Louchard, a little weasel, who had never been able to purchase an
office as lawyer, notary, clerk, or attorney, leered at the Baron in a
"To you--a thousand crowns, or let it alone. You will get them back in
a few seconds on the Bourse," said he.
"I will gif you one tousant franc," repeated the Baron.
"You would cheapen a gold mine!" said Louchard, bowing and leaving.
"I shall get dat address for five hundert franc!" cried the Baron, who
desired his servant to send his secretary to him.
Turcaret is no more. In these days the smallest banker, like the
greatest, exercises his acumen in the smallest transactions; he
bargains over art, beneficence, and love; he would bargain with the
Pope for a dispensation. Thus, as he listened to Louchard, Nucingen
had hastily concluded that Contenson, Louchard's right-hand man, must
certainly know the address of that master spy. Contenson would tell
him for five hundred francs what Louchard wanted to see a thousand
crowns for. The rapid calculation plainly proves that if the man's
heart was in possession of love, his head was still that of the lynx
"Go your own self, mensieur," said the Baron to his secretary, "to
Contenson, dat spy of Louchart's de bailiff man--but go in one
capriolette, very qvick, and pring him here qvick to me. I shall vait.
--Go out trough de garten.--Here is dat key, for no man shall see dat
man in here. You shall take him into dat little garten-house. Try to
do dat little business very clefer."
Visitors called to see Nucingen on business; but he waited for
Contenson, he was dreaming of Esther, telling himself that before long
he would see again the woman who had aroused in him such unhoped-for
emotions, and he sent everybody away with vague replies and double-
edged promises. Contenson was to him the most important person in
Paris, and he looked out into the garden every minute. Finally, after
giving orders that no one else was to be admitted, he had his
breakfast served in the summer-house at one corner of the garden. In
the banker's office the conduct and hesitancy of the most knowing, the
most clearsighted, the shrewdest of Paris financiers seemed