Part 5 out of 12
wide the monster opens his eyes!) Well, I will undertake that too:
Four hundred thousand--and that, my fine fellow, you need not pay till
the day after. What do you think of that for honesty? I have more
confidence in you than you have in me. If I persuade madame to show
herself as your mistress, to compromise herself, to take every gift
you offer her,--perhaps this very day, you will believe that I am
capable of inducing her to throw open the pass of the Great Saint
Bernard. And it is a hard job, I can tell you; it will take as much
pulling to get your artillery through as it took the first Consul to
get over the Alps."
"Her heart is full of love, old shaver, rasibus, as you say who know
Latin," replied Asie. "She thinks herself the Queen of Sheba, because
she has washed herself in sacrifices made for her lover--an idea that
that sort of woman gets into her head! Well, well, old fellow, we must
be just.--It is fine! That baggage would die of grief at being your
mistress--I really should not wonder. But what I trust to, and I tell
you to give you courage, is that there is good in the girl at bottom."
"You hafe a genius for corruption," said the Baron, who had listened
to Asie in admiring silence, "just as I hafe de knack of de banking."
"Then it is settled, my pigeon?" said Asie.
"Done for fifty tousant franc insteat of ein hundert tousant!--An' I
shall give you fife hundert tousant de day after my triumph."
"Very good, I will set to work," said Asie. "And you may come,
monsieur," she added respectfully. "You will find madame as soft
already as a cat's back, and perhaps inclined to make herself
"Go, go, my goot voman," said the banker, rubbing his hands.
And after seeing the horrible mulatto out of the house, he said to
"How vise it is to hafe much money."
He sprang out of bed, went down to his office, and resumed the conduct
of his immense business with a light heart.
Nothing could be more fatal to Esther than the steps taken by
Nucingen. The hapless girl, in defending her fidelity, was defending
her life. This very natural instinct was what Carlos called prudery.
Now Asie, not without taking such precautions as usual in such cases,
went off to report to Carlos the conference she had held with the
Baron, and all the profit she had made by it. The man's rage, like
himself, was terrible; he came forthwith to Esther, in a carriage with
the blinds drawn, driving into the courtyard. Still almost white with
fury, the double-dyed forger went straight into the poor girl's room;
she looked at him--she was standing up--and she dropped on to a chair
as though her legs had snapped.
"What is the matter, monsieur?" said she, quaking in every limb.
"Leave us, Europe," said he to the maid.
Esther looked at the woman as a child might look at its mother, from
whom some assassin had snatched it to murder it.
"Do you know where you will send Lucien?" Carlos went on when he was
alone with Esther.
"Where?" asked she in a low voice, venturing to glance at her
"Where I come from, my beauty." Esther, as she looked at the man, saw
red. "To the hulks," he added in an undertone.
Esther shut her eyes and stretched herself out, her arms dropped, and
she turned white. The man rang, and Prudence appeared.
"Bring her round," he said coldly; "I have not done."
He walked up and down the drawing-room while waiting. Prudence-Europe
was obliged to come and beg monsieur to lift Esther on to the bed; he
carried her with the ease that betrayed athletic strength.
They had to procure all the chemist's strongest stimulants to restore
Esther to a sense of her woes. An hour later the poor girl was able to
listen to this living nightmare, seated at the foot of her bed, his
eyes fixed and glowing like two spots of molten lead.
"My little sweetheart," said he, "Lucien now stands between a splendid
life, honored, happy, and respected, and the hole full of water, mud,
and gravel into which he was going to plunge when I met him. The house
of Grandlieu requires of the dear boy an estate worth a million francs
before securing for him the title of Marquis, and handing over to him
that may-pole named Clotilde, by whose help he will rise to power.
Thanks to you, and me, Lucien has just purchased his maternal manor,
the old Chateau de Rubempre, which, indeed, did not cost much--thirty
thousand francs; but his lawyer, by clever negotiations, has succeeded
in adding to it estates worth a million, on which three hundred
thousand francs are paid. The chateau, the expenses, and percentages
to the men who were put forward as a blind to conceal the transaction
from the country people, have swallowed up the remainder.
"We have, to be sure, a hundred thousand francs invested in a business
here, which a few months hence will be worth two to three hundred
thousand francs; but there will still be four hundred thousand francs
to be paid.
"In three days Lucien will be home from Angouleme, where he has been,
because he must not be suspected of having found a fortune in remaking
"Oh no!" cried she, looking up with a noble impulse.
"I ask you, then, is this a moment to scare off the Baron?" he went on
calmly. "And you very nearly killed him the day before yesterday; he
fainted like a woman on reading your second letter. You have a fine
style--I congratulate you! If the Baron had died, where should we be
now?--When Lucien walks out of Saint-Thomas d'Aquin son-in-law to the
Duc de Grandlieu, if you want to try a dip in the Seine---- Well, my
beauty, I offer you my hand for a dive together. It is one way of
"But consider a moment. Would it not be better to live and say to
yourself again and again 'This fine fortune, this happy family'--for
he will have children--children!--Have you ever thought of the joy of
running your fingers through the hair of his children?"
Esther closed her eyes with a little shiver.
"Well, as you gaze on that structure of happiness, you may say to
yourself, 'This is my doing!' "
There was a pause, and the two looked at each other.
"This is what I have tried to make out of such despair as saw no issue
but the river," said Carlos. "Am I selfish? That is the way to love!
Men show such devotion to none but kings! But I have anointed Lucien
king. If I were riveted for the rest of my days to my old chain, I
fancy I could stay there resigned so long as I could say, 'He is gay,
he is at Court.' My soul and mind would triumph, while my carcase was
given over to the jailers! You are a mere female; you love like a
female! But in a courtesan, as in all degraded creatures, love should
be a means to motherhood, in spite of Nature, which has stricken you
"If ever, under the skin of the Abbe Carlos Herrera, any one were to
detect the convict I have been, do you know what I would do to avoid
Esther awaited the reply with some anxiety.
"Well," he said after a brief pause, "I would die as the Negroes do--
without a word. And you, with all your airs will put folks on my
traces. What did I require of you?--To be La Torpille again for six
months--for six weeks; and to do it to clutch a million.
"Lucien will never forget you. Men do not forget the being of whom
they are reminded day after day by the joy of awaking rich every
morning. Lucien is a better fellow than you are. He began by loving
Coralie. She died--good; but he had not enough money to bury her; he
did not do as you did just now, he did not faint, though he is a poet;
he wrote six rollicking songs, and earned three hundred francs, with
which he paid for Coralie's funeral. I have those songs; I know them
by heart. Well, then do you too compose your songs: be cheerful, be
wild, be irresistible and--insatiable! You hear me?--Do not let me
have to speak again.
"Kiss papa. Good-bye."
When, half an hour after, Europe went into her mistress' room, she
found her kneeling in front of a crucifix, in the attitude which the
most religious of painters has given to Moses before the burning bush
on Horeb, to depict his deep and complete adoration of Jehovah. After
saying her prayers, Esther had renounced her better life, the honor
she had created for herself, her glory, her virtue, and her love.
"Oh, madame, you will never look like that again!" cried Prudence
Servien, struck by her mistress' sublime beauty.
She hastily turned the long mirror so that the poor girl should see
herself. Her eyes still had a light as of the soul flying heavenward.
The Jewess' complexion was brilliant. Sparkling with tears unshed in
the fervor of prayer, her eyelashes were like leaves after a summer
shower, for the last time they shone with the sunshine of pure love.
Her lips seemed to preserve an expression as of her last appeal to the
angels, whose palm of martyrdom she had no doubt borrowed while
placing in their hands her past unspotted life. And she had the
majesty which Mary Stuart must have shown at the moment when she bid
adieu to her crown, to earth, and to love.
"I wish Lucien could have seen me thus!" she said with a smothered
sigh. "Now," she added, in a strident tone, "now for a fling!"
Europe stood dumb at hearing the words, as though she had heard an
"Well, why need you stare at me to see if I have cloves in my mouth
instead of teeth? I am nothing henceforth but a vile, foul creature, a
thief--and I expect milord. So get me a hot bath, and put my dress
out. It is twelve o'clock; the Baron will look in, no doubt, when the
Bourse closes; I shall tell him I was waiting for him, and Asie is to
prepare us dinner, first-chop, mind you; I mean to turn the man's
brain.--Come, hurry, hurry, my girl; we are going to have some fun--
that is to say, we must go to work."
She sat down at the table and wrote the following note:--
"MY FRIEND,--If the cook you have sent me had not already been in
my service, I might have thought that your purpose was to let me
know how often you had fainted yesterday on receiving my three
notes. (What can I say? I was very nervous that day; I was
thinking over the memories of my miserable existence.) But I know
how sincere Asie is. Still, I cannot repent of having caused you
so much pain, since it has availed to prove to me how much you
love me. This is how we are made, we luckless and despised
creatures; true affection touches us far more deeply than finding
ourselves the objects of lavish liberality. For my part, I have
always rather dreaded being a peg on which you would hang your
vanities. It annoyed me to be nothing else to you. Yes, in spite
of all your protestations, I fancied you regarded me merely as a
woman paid for.
"Well, you will now find me a good girl, but on condition of your
always obeying me a little.
"If this letter can in any way take the place of the doctor's
prescription, prove it by coming to see me after the Bourse
closes. You will find me in full fig, dressed in your gifts, for I
am for life your pleasure-machine,
At the Bourse the Baron de Nucingen was so gay, so cheerful, seemed so
easy-going, and allowed himself so many jests, that du Tillet and the
Kellers, who were on 'change, could not help asking him the reason of
his high spirits.
"I am belofed. Ve shall soon gife dat house-varming," he told du
"And how much does it cost you?" asked Francois Keller rudely--it was
said that he had spent twenty-five thousand francs a year on Madame
"Dat voman is an anchel! She never has ask' me for one sou."
"They never do," replied du Tillet. "And it is to avoid asking that
they have always aunts or mothers."
Between the Bourse and the Rue Taitbout seven times did the Baron say
to his servant:
"You go so slow--vip de horse!"
He ran lightly upstairs, and for the first time he saw his mistress in
all the beauty of such women, who have no other occupation than the
care of their person and their dress. Just out of her bath the flower
was quite fresh, and perfumed so as to inspire desire in Robert
Esther was in a charming toilette. A dress of black corded silk
trimmed with rose-colored gimp opened over a petticoat of gray satin,
the costume subsequently worn by Amigo, the handsome singer, in I
Puritani. A Honiton lace kerchief fell or floated over her shoulders.
The sleeves of her gown were strapped round with cording to divide the
puffs, which for some little time fashion has substituted for the
large sleeves which had grown too monstrous. Esther had fastened a
Mechlin lace cap on her magnificent hair with a pin, a la folle, as it
is called, ready to fall, but not really falling, giving her an
appearance of being tumbled and in disorder, though the white parting
showed plainly on her little head between the waves of her hair.
"Is it not a shame to see madame so lovely in a shabby drawing-room
like this?" said Europe to the Baron, as she admitted him.
"Vel, den, come to the Rue Saint-Georches," said the Baron, coming to
a full stop like a dog marking a partridge. "The veather is splendit,
ve shall drife to the Champs Elysees, and Montame Saint-Estefe and
Eugenie shall carry dere all your clo'es an' your linen, an' ve shall
dine in de Rue Saint-Georches."
"I will do whatever you please," said Esther, "if only you will be so
kind as to call my cook Asie, and Eugenie Europe. I have given those
names to all the women who have served me ever since the first two. I
do not love change----"
"Asie, Europe! echoed the Baron, laughing. "How ver' droll you are.--
You hafe infentions.--I should hafe eaten many dinners before I should
hafe call' a cook Asie."
"It is our business to be droll," said Esther. "Come, now, may not a
poor girl be fed by Asia and dressed by Europe when you live on the
whole world? It is a myth, I say; some women would devour the earth, I
only ask for half.--You see?"
"Vat a voman is Montame Saint-Estefe!" said the Baron to himself as he
admired Esther's changed demeanor.
"Europe, my girl, I want my bonnet," said Esther. "I must have a black
silk bonnet lined with pink and trimmed with lace."
"Madame Thomas has not sent it home.--Come, Monsieur le Baron; quick,
off you go! Begin your functions as a man-of-all-work--that is to say,
of all pleasure! Happiness is burdensome. You have your carriage here,
go to Madame Thomas," said Europe to the Baron. "Make your servant ask
for the bonnet for Madame van Bogseck.--And, above all," she added in
his ear, "bring her the most beautiful bouquet to be had in Paris. It
is winter, so try to get tropical flowers."
The Baron went downstairs and told his servants to go to "Montame
The coachman drove to a famous pastrycook's.
"She is a milliner, you damn' idiot, and not a cake-shop!" cried the
Baron, who rushed off to Madame Prevot's in the Palais-Royal, where he
had a bouquet made up for the price of ten louis, while his man went
to the great modiste.
A superficial observer, walking about Paris, wonders who the fools can
be that buy the fabulous flowers that grace the illustrious
bouquetiere's shop window, and the choice products displayed by Chevet
of European fame--the only purveyor who can vie with the Rocher de
Cancale in a real and delicious Revue des deux Mondes.
Well, every day in Paris a hundred or more passions a la Nucingen come
into being, and find expression in offering such rarities as queens
dare not purchase, presented, kneeling, to baggages who, to use Asie's
word, like to cut a dash. But for these little details, a decent
citizen would be puzzled to conceive how a fortune melts in the hands
of these women, whose social function, in Fourier's scheme, is perhaps
to rectify the disasters caused by avarice and cupidity. Such
squandering is, no doubt, to the social body what a prick of the
lancet is to a plethoric subject. In two months Nucingen had shed
broadcast on trade more than two hundred thousand francs.
By the time the old lover returned, darkness was falling; the bouquet
was no longer of any use. The hour for driving in the Champs-Elysees
in winter is between two and four. However, the carriage was of use to
convey Esther from the Rue Taitbout to the Rue Saint-Georges, where
she took possession of the "little palace." Never before had Esther
been the object of such worship or such lavishness, and it amazed her;
but, like all royal ingrates, she took care to express no surprise.
When you go into St. Peter's at Rome, to enable you to appreciate the
extent and height of this queen of cathedrals, you are shown the
little finger of a statue which looks of a natural size, and which
measures I know not how much. Descriptions have been so severely
criticised, necessary as they are to a history of manners, that I must
here follow the example of the Roman Cicerone. As they entered the
dining-room, the Baron could not resist asking Esther to feel the
stuff of which the window curtains were made, draped with magnificent
fulness, lined with white watered silk, and bordered with a gimp fit
to trim a Portuguese princess' bodice. The material was silk brought
from Canton, on which Chinese patience had painted Oriental birds with
a perfection only to be seen in mediaeval illuminations, or in the
Missal of Charles V., the pride of the Imperial library at Vienna.
"It hafe cost two tousand franc' an ell for a milord who brought it
"It is very nice, charming," said Esther. "How I shall enjoy drinking
champagne here; the froth will not get dirty here on a bare floor."
"Oh! madame!" cried Europe, "only look at the carpet!"
"Dis carpet hafe been made for de Duc de Torlonia, a frient of mine,
who fount it too dear, so I took it for you who are my qveen," said
By chance this carpet, by one of our cleverest designers, matched with
the whimsicalities of the Chinese curtains. The walls, painted by
Schinner and Leon de Lora, represented voluptuous scenes, in carved
ebony frames, purchased for their weight in gold from Dusommerard, and
forming panels with a narrow line of gold that coyly caught the light.
From this you may judge of the rest.
"You did well to bring me here," said Esther. "It will take me a week
to get used to my home and not to look like a parvenu in it----"
"MY home! Den you shall accept it?" cried the Baron in glee.
"Why, of course, and a thousand times of course, stupid animal," said
"Animal vas enough----"
"Stupid is a term of endearment," said she, looking at him.
The poor man took Esther's hand and pressed it to his heart. He was
animal enough to feel, but too stupid to find words.
"Feel how it beats--for ein little tender vort----"
And he conducted his goddess to her room.
"Oh, madame, I cannot stay here!" cried Eugenie. "It makes me long to
go to bed."
"Well," said Esther, "I mean to please the magician who has worked all
these wonders.--Listen, my fat elephant, after dinner we will go to
the play together. I am starving to see a play."
It was just five years since Esther had been to a theatre. All Paris
was rushing at that time to the Porte-Saint-Martin, to see one of
those pieces to which the power of the actors lends a terrible
expression of reality, Richard Darlington. Like all ingenuous natures,
Esther loved to feel the thrills of fear as much as to yield to tears
"Let us go to see Frederick Lemaitre," said she; "he is an actor I
"It is a horrible piece," said Nucingen foreseeing the moment when he
must show himself in public.
He sent his servant to secure one of the two stage-boxes on the grand
tier.--And this is another strange feature of Paris. Whenever success,
on feet of clay, fills a house, there is always a stage-box to be had
ten minutes before the curtain rises. The managers keep it for
themselves, unless it happens to be taken for a passion a la Nucingen.
This box, like Chevet's dainties, is a tax levied on the whims of the
It would be superfluous to describe the plate and china. Nucingen had
provided three services of plate--common, medium, and best; and the
best--plates, dishes, and all, was of chased silver gilt. The banker,
to avoid overloading the table with gold and silver, had completed the
array of each service with porcelain of exquisite fragility in the
style of Dresden china, which had cost more than the plate. As to the
linen--Saxony, England, Flanders, and France vied in the perfection of
At dinner it was the Baron's turn to be amazed on tasting Asie's
"I understant," said he, "vy you call her Asie; dis is Asiatic
"I begin to think he loves me," said Esther to Europe; "he has said
something almost like a bon mot."
"I said many vorts," said he.
"Well! he is more like Turcaret than I had heard he was!" cried the
girl, laughing at this reply, worthy of the many artless speeches for
which the banker was famous.
The dishes were so highly spiced as to give the Baron an indigestion,
on purpose that he might go home early; so this was all he got in the
way of pleasure out of his first evening with Esther. At the theatre
he was obliged to drink an immense number of glasses of eau sucree,
leaving Esther alone between the acts.
By a coincidence so probable that it can scarcely be called chance,
Tullia, Mariette, and Madame du Val-Noble were at the play that
evening. Richard Darlington enjoyed a wild success--and a deserved
success--such as is seen only in Paris. The men who saw this play all
came to the conclusion that a lawful wife might be thrown out of
window, and the wives loved to see themselves unjustly persecuted.
The women said to each other: "This is too much! we are driven to it--
but it often happens!"
Now a woman as beautiful as Esther, and dressed as Esther was, could
not show off with impunity in a stage-box at the Porte-Saint-Martin.
And so, during the second act, there was quite a commotion in the box
where the two dancers were sitting, caused by the undoubted identity
of the unknown fair one with La Torpille.
"Heyday! where has she dropped from?" said Mariette to Madame du Val-
Noble. "I thought she was drowned."
"But is it she? She looks to me thirty-seven times younger and
handsomer than she was six years ago."
"Perhaps she has preserved herself in ice like Madame d'Espard and
Madame Zayonchek," said the Comte de Brambourg, who had brought the
three women to the play, to a pit-tier box. "Isn't she the 'rat' you
meant to send me to hocus my uncle?" said he, addressing Tullia.
"The very same," said the singer. "Du Bruel, go down to the stalls and
see if it is she."
"What brass she has got!" exclaimed Madame du Val-Noble, using an
expressive but vulgar phrase.
"Oh!" said the Comte de Brambourg, "she very well may. She is with my
friend the Baron de Nucingen--I will go----"
"Is that the immaculate Joan of Arc who has taken Nucingen by storm,
and who has been talked of till we are all sick of her, these three
months past?" asked Mariette.
"Good-evening, my dear Baron," said Philippe Bridau, as he went into
Nucingen's box. "So here you are, married to Mademoiselle Esther.--
Mademoiselle, I am an old officer whom you once on a time were to have
got out of a scrape--at Issoudun--Philippe Bridau----"
"I know nothing of it," said Esther, looking round the house through
"Dis lady," said the Baron, "is no longer known as 'Esther' so short!
She is called Montame de Champy--ein little estate vat I have bought
"Though you do things in such style," said the Comte, "these ladies
are saying that Madame de Champy gives herself too great airs.--If you
do not choose to remember me, will you condescend to recognize
Mariette, Tullia, Madame du Val-Noble?" the parvenu went on--a man for
whom the Duc de Maufrigneuse had won the Dauphin's favor.
"If these ladies are kind to me, I am willing to make myself pleasant
to them," replied Madame de Champy drily.
"Kind! Why, they are excellent; they have named you Joan of Arc,"
"Vell den, if dese ladies vill keep you company," said Nucingen, "I
shall go 'vay, for I hafe eaten too much. Your carriage shall come for
you and your people.--Dat teufel Asie!"
"The first time, and you leave me alone!" said Esther. "Come, come,
you must have courage enough to die on deck. I must have my man with
me as I go out. If I were insulted, am I to cry out for nothing?"
The old millionaire's selfishness had to give way to his duties as a
lover. The Baron suffered but stayed.
Esther had her own reasons for detaining "her man." If she admitted
her acquaintance, she would be less closely questioned in his presence
than if she were alone. Philippe Bridau hurried back to the box where
the dancers were sitting, and informed them of the state of affairs.
"Oh! so it is she who has fallen heir to my house in the Rue Saint-
Georges," observed Madame du Val-Noble with some bitterness; for she,
as she phrased it, was on the loose.
"Most likely," said the Colonel. "Du Tillet told me that the Baron had
spent three times as much there as your poor Falleix."
"Let us go round to her box," said Tullia.
"Not if I know it," said Mariette; "she is much too handsome, I will
call on her at home."
"I think myself good-looking enough to risk it," remarked Tullia.
So the much-daring leading dancer went round between the acts and
renewed acquaintance with Esther, who would talk only on general
"And where have you come back from, my dear child?" asked Tullia, who
could not restrain her curiosity.
"Oh, I was for five years in a castle in the Alps with an Englishman,
as jealous as a tiger, a nabob; I called him a nabot, a dwarf, for he
was not so big as le bailli de Ferrette.
"And then I came across a banker--from a savage to salvation, as
Florine might say. And now here I am in Paris again; I long so for
amusement that I mean to have a rare time. I shall keep open house. I
have five years of solitary confinement to make good, and I am
beginning to do it. Five years of an Englishman is rather too much;
six weeks are the allowance according to the advertisements."
"Was it the Baron who gave you that lace?"
"No, it is a relic of the nabob.--What ill-luck I have, my dear! He
was as yellow as a friend's smile at a success; I thought he would be
dead in ten months. Pooh! he was a strong as a mountain. Always
distrust men who say they have a liver complaint. I will never listen
to a man who talks of his liver.--I have had too much of livers--who
cannot die. My nabob robbed me; he died without making a will, and the
family turned me out of doors like a leper.--So, then, I said to my
fat friend here, 'Pay for two!'--You may as well call me Joan of Arc;
I have ruined England, and perhaps I shall die at the stake----"
"Of love?" said Tullia.
"And burnt alive," answered Esther, and the question made her
The Baron laughed at all this vulgar nonsense, but he did not always
follow it readily, so that his laughter sounded like the forgotten
crackers that go off after fireworks.
We all live in a sphere of some kind, and the inhabitants of every
sphere are endowed with an equal share of curiosity.
Next evening at the opera, Esther's reappearance was the great news
behind the scenes. Between two and four in the afternoon all Paris in
the Champs-Elysees had recognized La Torpille, and knew at last who
was the object of the Baron de Nucingen's passion.
"Do you know," Blondet remarked to de Marsay in the greenroom at the
opera-house, "that La Torpille vanished the very day after the evening
when we saw her here and recognized her in little Rubempre's
In Paris, as in the provinces, everything is known. The police of the
Rue de Jerusalem are not so efficient as the world itself, for every
one is a spy on every one else, though unconsciously. Carlos had fully
understood the danger of Lucien's position during and after the
episode of the Rue Taitbout.
No position can be more dreadful than that in which Madame du Val-
Noble now found herself; and the phrase to be on the loose, or, as the
French say, left on foot, expresses it perfectly. The recklessness and
extravagance of these women precludes all care for the future. In that
strange world, far more witty and amusing than might be supposed, only
such women as are not gifted with that perfect beauty which time can
hardly impair, and which is quite unmistakable--only such women, in
short, as can be loved merely as a fancy, ever think of old age and
save a fortune. The handsomer they are, the more improvident they are.
"Are you afraid of growing ugly that you are saving money?" was a
speech of Florine's to Mariette, which may give a clue to one cause of
Thus, if a speculator kills himself, or a spendthrift comes to the end
of his resources, these women fall with hideous promptitude from
audacious wealth to the utmost misery. They throw themselves into the
clutches of the old-clothes buyer, and sell exquisite jewels for a
mere song; they run into debt, expressly to keep up a spurious luxury,
in the hope of recovering what they have lost--a cash-box to draw
upon. These ups and downs of their career account for the costliness
of such connections, generally brought about as Asie had hooked
(another word of her vocabulary) Nucingen for Esther.
And so those who know their Paris are quite aware of the state of
affairs when, in the Champs-Elysees--that bustling and mongrel bazaar
--they meet some woman in a hired fly whom six months or a year before
they had seen in a magnificent and dazzling carriage, turned out in
the most luxurious style.
"If you fall on Sainte-Pelagie, you must contrive to rebound on the
Bois de Boulogne," said Florine, laughing with Blondet over the little
Vicomte de Portenduere.
Some clever women never run the risk of this contrast. They bury
themselves in horrible furnished lodgings, where they expiate their
extravagance by such privations as are endured by travelers lost in a
Sahara; but they never take the smallest fancy for economy. They
venture forth to masked balls; they take journeys into the provinces;
they turn out well dressed on the boulevards when the weather is fine.
And then they find in each other the devoted kindness which is known
only among proscribed races. It costs a woman in luck no effort to
bestow some help, for she says to herself, "I may be in the same
plight by Sunday!"
However, the most efficient protector still is the purchaser of dress.
When this greedy money-lender finds herself the creditor, she stirs
and works on the hearts of all the old men she knows in favor of the
mortgaged creature in thin boots and a fine bonnet.
In this way Madame du Val-Noble, unable to foresee the downfall of one
of the richest and cleverest of stockbrokers, was left quite
unprepared. She had spent Falleix's money on her whims, and trusted to
him for all necessaries and to provide for the future.
"How could I have expected such a thing in a man who seemed such a
In almost every class of society the good fellow is an open-handed
man, who will lend a few crowns now and again without expecting them
back, who always behaves in accordance with a certain code of delicate
feeling above mere vulgar, obligatory, and commonplace morality.
Certain men, regarded as virtuous and honest, have, like Nucingen,
ruined their benefactors; and certain others, who have been through a
criminal court, have an ingenious kind of honesty towards women.
Perfect virtue, the dream of Moliere, an Alceste, is exceedingly rare;
still, it is to be found everywhere, even in Paris. The "good fellow"
is the product of a certain facility of nature which proves nothing. A
man is a good fellow, as a cat is silky, as a slipper is made to slip
on to the foot. And so, in the meaning given to the word by a kept
woman, Falleix ought to have warned his mistress of his approaching
bankruptcy and have given her enough to live upon.
D'Estourny, the dashing swindler, was a good fellow; he cheated at
cards, but he had set aside thirty thousand francs for his mistress.
And at carnival suppers women would retort on his accusers: "No
matter. You may say what you like, Georges was a good fellow; he had
charming manners, he deserved a better fate."
These girls laugh laws to scorn, and adore a certain kind of
generosity; they sell themselves, as Esther had done, for a secret
ideal, which is their religion.
After saving a few jewels from the wreck with great difficulty, Madame
du Val-Noble was crushed under the burden of the horrible report: "She
ruined Falleix." She was almost thirty; and though she was in the
prime of her beauty, still she might be called an old woman, and all
the more so because in such a crisis all a woman's rivals are against
her. Mariette, Florine, Tullia would ask their friend to dinner, and
gave her some help; but as they did not know the extent of her debts,
they did not dare to sound the depths of that gulf. An interval of six
years formed rather too long a gap in the ebb and flow of the Paris
tide, between La Torpille and Madame du Val-Noble, for the woman "on
foot" to speak to the woman in her carriage; but La Val-Noble knew
that Esther was too generous not to remember sometimes that she had,
as she said, fallen heir to her possessions, and not to seek her out
by some meeting which might seem accidental though arranged. To bring
about such an accident, Madame du Val-Noble, dressed in the most lady-
like way, walked out every day in the Champs-Elysees on the arm of
Theodore Gaillard, who afterwards married her, and who, in these
straits, behaved very well to his former mistress, giving her boxes at
the play, and inviting her to every spree. She flattered herself that
Esther, driving out one fine day, would meet her face to face.
Esther's coachman was Paccard--for her household had been made up in
five days by Asie, Europe, and Paccard under Carlos' instructions, and
in such a way that the house in the Rue Saint-Georges was an
Peyrade, on his part, prompted by deep hatred, by the thirst for
vengeance, and, above all, by his wish to see his darling Lydie
married, made the Champs-Elysees the end of his walks as soon as he
heard from Contenson that Monsieur de Nucingen's mistress might be
seen there. Peyrade could dress so exactly like an Englishman, and
spoke French so perfectly with the mincing accent that the English
give the language; he knew England itself so well, and was so familiar
with all the customs of the country, having been sent to England by
the police authorities three times between 1779 and 1786, that he
could play his part in London and at ambassadors' residences without
awaking suspicion. Peyrade, who had some resemblance to Musson the
famous juggler, could disguise himself so effectually that once
Contenson did not recognize him.
Followed by Contenson dressed as a mulatto, Peyrade examined Esther
and her servants with an eye which, seeming heedless, took everything
in. Hence it quite naturally happened that in the side alley where the
carriage-company walk in fine dry weather, he was on the spot one day
when Esther met Madame du Val-Noble. Peyrade, his mulatto in livery at
his heels, was airing himself quite naturally, like a nabob who is
thinking of no one but himself, in a line with the two women, so as to
catch a few words of their conversation.
"Well, my dear child," said Esther to Madame du Val-Noble, "come and
see me. Nucingen owes it to himself not to leave his stockbroker's
mistress without a sou----"
"All the more so because it is said that he ruined Falleix," remarked
Theodore Gaillard, "and that we have every right to squeeze him."
"He dines with me to-morrow," said Esther; "come and meet him." Then
she added in an undertone:
"I can do what I like with him, and as yet he has not that!" and she
put the nail of a gloved finger under the prettiest of her teeth with
the click that is familiarly known to express with peculiar energy:
"You have him safe----"
"My dear, as yet he has only paid my debts."
"How mean!" cried Suzanne du Val-Noble.
"Oh!" said Esther, "I had debts enough to frighten a minister of
finance. Now, I mean to have thirty thousand a year before the first
stroke of midnight. Oh! he is excellent, I have nothing to complain
of. He does it well.--In a week we give a house-warming; you must
come.--That morning he is to make me a present of the lease of the
house in the Rue Saint-Georges. In decency, it is impossible to live
in such a house on less than thirty thousand francs a year--of my own,
so as to have them safe in case of accident. I have known poverty, and
I want no more of it. There are certain acquaintances one has had
enough of at once."
"And you, who used to say, 'My face is my fortune!'--How you have
changed!" exclaimed Suzanne.
"It is the air of Switzerland; you grow thrifty there.--Look here; go
there yourself, my dear! Catch a Swiss, and you may perhaps catch a
husband, for they have not yet learned what such women as we are can
be. And, at any rate, you may come back with a passion for investments
in the funds--a most respectable and elegant passion!--Good-bye."
Esther got into her carriage again, a handsome carriage drawn by the
finest pair of dappled gray horses at that time to be seen in Paris.
"The woman who is getting into the carriage is handsome," said Peyrade
to Contenson, "but I like the one who is walking best; follow her, and
find out who she is."
"That is what that Englishman has just remarked in English," said
Theodore Gaillard, repeating Peyrade's remark to Madame du Val-Noble.
Before making this speech in English, Peyrade had uttered a word or
two in that language, which had made Theodore look up in a way that
convinced him that the journalist understood English.
Madame du Val-Noble very slowly made her way home to very decent
furnished rooms in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, glancing round now and then
to see if the mulatto were following her.
This establishment was kept by a certain Madame Gerard, whom Suzanne
had obliged in the days of her splendor, and who showed her gratitude
by giving her a suitable home. This good soul, an honest and virtuous
citizen, even pious, looked on the courtesan as a woman of a superior
order; she had always seen her in the midst of luxury, and thought of
her as a fallen queen; she trusted her daughters with her; and--which
is a fact more natural than might be supposed--the courtesan was as
scrupulously careful in taking them to the play as their mother could
have been, and the two Gerard girls loved her. The worthy, kind
lodging-house keeper was like those sublime priests who see in these
outlawed women only a creature to be saved and loved.
Madame du Val-Noble respected this worth; and often, as she chatted
with the good woman, she envied her while bewailing her own ill-
"Your are still handsome; you may make a good end yet," Madame Gerard
But, indeed, Madame du Val-Noble was only relatively impoverished.
This woman's wardrobe, so extravagant and elegant, was still
sufficiently well furnished to allow of her appearing on occasion--as
on that evening at the Porte-Saint-Martin to see Richard Darlington--
in much splendor. And Madame Gerard would most good-naturedly pay for
the cabs needed by the lady "on foot" to go out to dine, or to the
play, and to come home again.
"Well, dear Madame Gerard," said she to this worthy mother, "my luck
is about to change, I believe."
"Well, well, madame, so much the better. But be prudent; do not run
into debt any more. I have such difficulty in getting rid of the
people who are hunting for you."
"Oh, never worry yourself about those hounds! They have all made no
end of money out of me.--Here are some tickets for the Varietes for
your girls--a good box on the second tier. If any one should ask for
me this evening before I come in, show them up all the same. Adele, my
old maid, will be here; I will send her round."
Madame du Val-Noble, having neither mother nor aunt, was obliged to
have recourse to her maid--equally on foot--to play the part of a
Saint-Esteve with the unknown follower whose conquest was to enable
her to rise again in the world. She went to dine with Theodore
Gaillard, who, as it happened, had a spree on that day, that is to
say, a dinner given by Nathan in payment of a bet he had lost, one of
those orgies when a man says to his guests, "You can bring a woman."
It was not without strong reasons that Peyrade had made up his mind to
rush in person on to the field of this intrigue. At the same time, his
curiosity, like Corentin's, was so keenly excited, that, even in the
absence of reasons, he would have tried to play a part in the drama.
At this moment Charles X.'s policy had completed its last evolution.
After confiding the helm of State to Ministers of his own choosing,
the King was preparing to conquer Algiers, and to utilize the glory
that should accrue as a passport to what has been called his Coup
d'Etat. There were no more conspiracies at home; Charles X. believed
he had no domestic enemies. But in politics, as at sea, a calm may be
Thus Corentin had lapsed into total idleness. In such a case a true
sportsman, to keep his hand in, for lack of larks kills sparrows.
Domitian, we know, for lack of Christians, killed flies. Contenson,
having witnessed Esther's arrest, had, with the keen instinct of a
spy, fully understood the upshot of the business. The rascal, as we
have seen, did not attempt to conceal his opinion of the Baron de
"Who is benefiting by making the banker pay so dear for his passion?"
was the first question the allies asked each other. Recognizing Asie
as a leader in the piece, Contenson hoped to find out the author
through her; but she slipped through his fingers again and again,
hiding like an eel in the mud of Paris; and when he found her again as
the cook in Esther's establishment, it seemed to him inexplicable that
the half-caste woman should have had a finger in the pie. Thus, for
the first time, these two artistic spies had come on a text that they
could not decipher, while suspecting a dark plot to the story.
After three bold attempts on the house in the Rue Taitbout, Contenson
still met with absolute dumbness. So long as Esther dwelt there the
lodge porter seemed to live in mortal terror. Asie had, perhaps,
promised poisoned meat-balls to all the family in the event of any
On the day after Esther's removal, Contenson found this man rather
more amenable; he regretted the lady, he said, who had fed him with
the broken dishes from her table. Contenson, disguised as a broker,
tried to bargain for the rooms, and listened to the porter's
lamentations while he fooled him, casting a doubt on all the man said
by a questioning "Really?"
"Yes, monsieur, the lady lived here for five years without ever going
out, and more by token, her lover, desperately jealous though she was
beyond reproach, took the greatest precautions when he came in or went
out. And a very handsome young man he was too!"
Lucien was at this time still staying with his sister, Madame Sechard;
but as soon as he returned, Contenson sent the porter to the Quai
Malaquais to ask Monsieur de Rubempre whether he were willing to part
with the furniture left in the rooms lately occupied by Madame van
Bogseck. The porter then recognized Lucien as the young widow's
mysterious lover, and this was all that Contenson wanted. The deep but
suppressed astonishment may be imagined with which Lucien and Carlos
received the porter, whom they affected to regard as a madman; they
tried to upset his convictions.
Within twenty-four hours Carlos had organized a force which detected
Contenson red-handed in the act of espionage. Contenson, disguised as
a market-porter, had twice already brought home the provisions
purchased in the morning by Asie, and had twice got into the little
mansion in the Rue Saint-Georges. Corentin, on his part, was making a
stir; but he was stopped short by recognizing the certain identity of
Carlos Herrera; for he learned at once that this Abbe, the secret
envoy of Ferdinand VII., had come to Paris towards the end of 1823.
Still, Corentin thought it worth while to study the reasons which had
led the Spaniard to take an interest in Lucien de Rubempre. It was
soon clear to him, beyond doubt, that Esther had for five years been
Lucien's mistress; so the substitution of the Englishwoman had been
effected for the advantage of that young dandy.
Now Lucien had no means; he was rejected as a suitor for Mademoiselle
de Grandlieu; and he had just bought up the lands of Rubempre at the
cost of a million francs.
Corentin very skilfully made the head of the General Police take the
first steps; and the Prefet de Police a propos to Peyrade, informed
his chief that the appellants in that affair had been in fact the
Comte de Serizy and Lucien de Rubempre.
"We have it!" cried Peyrade and Corentin.
The two friends had laid plans in a moment.
"This hussy," said Corentin, "has had intimacies; she must have some
women friends. Among them we shall certainly find one or another who
is down on her luck; one of us must play the part of a rich foreigner
and take her up. We will throw them together. They always want
something of each other in the game of lovers, and we shall then be in
Peyrade naturally proposed to assume his disguise as an Englishman.
The wild life he should lead during the time that he would take to
disentangle the plot of which he had been the victim, smiled on his
fancy; while Corentin, grown old in his functions, and weakly too, did
not care for it. Disguised as a mulatto, Contenson at once evaded
Carlos' force. Just three days before Peyrade's meeting with Madame du
Val-Noble in the Champs-Elysees, this last of the agents employed by
MM. de Sartine and Lenoir had arrived, provided with a passport, at
the Hotel Mirabeau, Rue de la Paix, having come from the Colonies via
le Havre, in a traveling chaise, as mud-splashed as though it had
really come from le Havre, instead of no further than by the road from
Saint-Denis to Paris.
Carlos Herrera, on his part, had his passport vise at the Spanish
Embassy, and arranged everything at the Quai Malaquais to start for
Madrid. And this is why. Within a few days Esther was to become the
owner of the house in the Rue Saint-Georges and of shares yielding
thirty thousand francs a year; Europe and Asie were quite cunning
enough to persuade her to sell these shares and privately transmit the
money to Lucien. Thus Lucien, proclaiming himself rich through his
sister's liberality, would pay the remainder of the price of the
Rubempre estates. Of this transaction no one could complain. Esther
alone could betray herself; but she would die rather than blink an
Clotilde had appeared with a little pink kerchief round her crane's
neck, so she had won her game at the Hotel de Grandlieu. The shares in
the Omnibus Company were already worth thrice their initial value.
Carlos, by disappearing for a few days, would put malice off the
scent. Human prudence had foreseen everything; no error was possible.
The false Spaniard was to start on the morrow of the day when Peyrade
met Madame du Val-Noble. But that very night, at two in the morning,
Asie came in a cab to the Quai Malaquais, and found the stoker of the
machine smoking in his room, and reconsidering all the points of the
situation here stated in a few words, like an author going over a page
in his book to discover any faults to be corrected. Such a man would
not allow himself a second time such an oversight as that of the
porter in the Rue Taitbout.
"Paccard," whispered Asie in her master's ear, "recognized Contenson
yesterday, at half-past two, in the Champs-Elysees, disguised as a
mulatto servant to an Englishman, who for the last three days has been
seen walking in the Champs-Elysees, watching Esther. Paccard knew the
hound by his eyes, as I did when he dressed up as a market-porter.
Paccard drove the girl home, taking a round so as not to lose sight of
the wretch. Contenson is at the Hotel Mirabeau; but he exchanged so
many signs of intelligence with the Englishman, that Paccard says the
other cannot possibly be an Englishman."
"We have a gadfly behind us," said Carlos. "I will not leave till the
day after to-morrow. That Contenson is certainly the man who sent the
porter after us from the Rue Taitbout; we must ascertain whether this
sham Englishman is our foe."
At noon Mr. Samuel Johnson's black servant was solemnly waiting on his
master, who always breakfasted too heartily, with a purpose. Peyrade
wished to pass for a tippling Englishman; he never went out till he
was half-seas over. He wore black cloth gaiters up to his knees, and
padded to make his legs look stouter; his trousers were lined with the
thickest fustian; his waistcoat was buttoned up to his cheeks; a red
scratch wig hid half his forehead, and he had added nearly three
inches to his height; in short, the oldest frequenter of the Cafe
David could not have recognized him. From his squarecut coat of black
cloth with full skirts he might have been taken for an English
Contenson made a show of the cold insolence of a nabob's confidential
servant; he was taciturn, abrupt, scornful, and uncommunicative, and
indulged in fierce exclamations and uncouth gestures.
Peyrade was finishing his second bottle when one of the hotel waiters
unceremoniously showed in a man in whom Peyrade and Contenson both at
once discerned a gendarme in mufti.
"Monsieur Peyrade," said the gendarme to the nabob, speaking in his
ear, "my instructions are to take you to the Prefecture."
Peyrade, without saying a word, rose and took down his hat.
"You will find a hackney coach at the door," said the man as they went
downstairs. "The Prefet thought of arresting you, but he decided on
sending for you to ask some explanation of your conduct through the
peace-officer whom you will find in the coach."
"Shall I ride with you?" asked the gendarme of the peace-officer when
Peyrade had got in.
"No," replied the other; "tell the coachman quietly to drive to the
Peyrade and Carlos were now face to face in the coach. Carlos had a
stiletto under his hand. The coach-driver was a man he could trust,
quite capable of allowing Carlos to get out without seeing him, or
being surprised, on arriving at his journey's end, to find a dead body
in his cab. No inquiries are ever made about a spy. The law almost
always leaves such murders unpunished, it is so difficult to know the
rights of the case.
Peyrade looked with his keenest eye at the magistrate sent to examine
him by the Prefet of Police. Carlos struck him as satisfactory: a bald
head, deeply wrinkled at the back, and powdered hair; a pair of very
light gold spectacles, with double-green glasses over weak eyes, with
red rims, evidently needing care. These eyes seemed the trace of some
squalid malady. A cotton shirt with a flat-pleated frill, a shabby
black satin waistcoat, the trousers of a man of law, black spun silk
stockings, and shoes tied with ribbon; a long black overcoat, cheap
gloves, black, and worn for ten days, and a gold watch-chain--in every
point the lower grade of magistrate known by a perversion of terms as
"My dear Monsieur Peyrade, I regret to find such a man as you the
object of surveillance, and that you should act so as to justify it.
Your disguise is not to the Prefet's taste. If you fancy that you can
thus escape our vigilance, you are mistaken. You traveled from England
by way of Beaumont-sur-Oise, no doubt."
"Beaumont-sur-Oise?" repeated Peyrade.
"Or by Saint-Denis?" said the sham lawyer.
Peyrade lost his presence of mind. The question must be answered. Now
any reply might be dangerous. In the affirmative it was farcical; in
the negative, if this man knew the truth, it would be Peyrade's ruin.
"He is a sharp fellow," thought he.
He tried to look at the man and smile, and he gave him a smile for an
answer; the smile passed muster without protest.
"For what purpose have you disguised yourself, taken rooms at the
Mirabeau, and dressed Contenson as a black servant?" asked the peace-
"Monsieur le Prefet may do what he chooses with me, but I owe no
account of my actions to any one but my chief," said Peyrade with
"If you mean me to infer that you are acting by the orders of the
General Police," said the other coldly, "we will change our route, and
drive to the Rue de Grenelle instead of the Rue de Jerusalem. I have
clear instructions with regard to you. But be careful! You are not in
any deep disgrace, and you may spoil your own game in a moment. As for
me--I owe you no grudge.--Come; tell me the truth."
"Well, then, this is the truth, said Peyrade, with a glance at his
Cerberus' red eyes.
The sham lawyer's face remained expressionless, impassible; he was
doing his business, all truths were the same to him, he looked as
though he suspected the Prefet of some caprice. Prefets have their
"I have fallen desperately in love with a woman--the mistress of that
stockbroker who is gone abroad for his own pleasure and the
displeasure of his creditors--Falleix."
"Madame du Val-Noble?"
"Yes," replied Peyrade. "To keep her for a month, which will not cost
me more than a thousand crowns, I have got myself up as a nabob and
taken Contenson as my servant. This is so absolutely true, monsieur,
that if you like to leave me in the coach, where I will wait for you,
on my honor as an old Commissioner-General of Police, you can go to
the hotel and question Contenson. Not only will Contenson confirm what
I have the honor of stating, but you may see Madame du Val-Noble's
waiting-maid, who is to come this morning to signify her mistress'
acceptance of my offers, or the conditions she makes.
"An old monkey knows what grimaces mean: I have offered her a thousand
francs a month and a carriage--that comes to fifteen hundred; five
hundred francs' worth of presents, and as much again in some outings,
dinners and play-going; you see, I am not deceiving you by a centime
when I say a thousand crowns.--A man of my age may well spend a
thousand crowns on his last fancy."
"Bless me, Papa Peyrade! and you still care enough for women to----?
But you are deceiving me. I am sixty myself, and I can do without 'em.
--However, if the case is as you state it, I quite understand that you
should have found it necessary to get yourself up as a foreigner to
indulge your fancy."
"You can understand that Peyrade, or old Canquoelle of the Rue des
"Ay, neither of them would have suited Madame du Val-Noble," Carlos
put in, delighted to have picked up Canquoelle's address. "Before the
Revolution," he went on, "I had for my mistress a woman who had
previously been kept by the gentleman-in-waiting, as they then called
the executioner. One evening at the play she pricked herself with a
pin, and cried out--a customary ejaculation in those days--'Ah!
Bourreau!' on which her neighbor asked her if this were a
reminiscence?--Well, my dear Peyrade, she cast off her man for that
"I suppose you have no wish to expose yourself to such a slap in the
face.--Madame du Val-Noble is a woman for gentlemen. I saw her once at
the opera, and thought her very handsome.
"Tell the driver to go back to the Rue de la Paix, my dear Peyrade. I
will go upstairs with you to your rooms and see for myself. A verbal
report will no doubt be enough for Monsieur le Prefet."
Carlos took a snuff-box from his side-pocket--a black snuff-box lined
with silver-gilt--and offered it to Peyrade with an impulse of
delightful good-fellowship. Peyrade said to himself:
"And these are their agents! Good Heavens! what would Monsieur Lenoir
say if he could come back to life, or Monsieur de Sartines?"
"That is part of the truth, no doubt, but it is not all," said the
sham lawyer, sniffing up his pinch of snuff. "You have had a finger in
the Baron de Nucingen's love affairs, and you wish, no doubt, to
entangle him in some slip-knot. You missed fire with the pistol, and
you are aiming at him with a field-piece. Madame du Val-Noble is a
friend of Madame de Champy's----"
"Devil take it. I must take care not to founder," said Peyrade to
himself. "He is a better man than I thought him. He is playing me; he
talks of letting me go, and he goes on making me blab."
"Well?" asked Carlos with a magisterial air.
"Monsieur, it is true that I have been so foolish as to seek a woman
in Monsieur de Nucingen's behoof, because he was half mad with love.
That is the cause of my being out of favor, for it would seem that
quite unconsciously I touched some important interests."
The officer of the law remained immovable.
"But after fifty-two years' experience," Peyrade went on, "I know the
police well enough to have held my hand after the blowing up I had
from Monsieur le Prefet, who, no doubt, was right----"
"Then you would give up this fancy if Monsieur le Prefet required it
of you? That, I think, would be the best proof you could give of the
sincerity of what you say."
"He is going it! he is going it!" thought Peyrade. "Ah! by all that's
holy, the police to-day is a match for that of Monsieur Lenoir."
"Give it up?" said he aloud. "I will wait till I have Monsieur le
Prefet's orders.--But here we are at the hotel, if you wish to come
"Where do you find the money?" said Carlos point-blank, with a
"Monsieur, I have a friend----"
"Get along," said Carlos; "go and tell that story to an examining
This audacious stroke on Carlos' part was the outcome of one of those
calculations, so simple that none but a man of his temper would have
thought it out.
At a very early hour he had sent Lucien to Madame de Serizy's. Lucien
had begged the Count's private secretary--as from the Count--to go and
obtain from the Prefet of Police full particulars concerning the agent
employed by the Baron de Nucingen. The secretary came back provided
with a note concerning Peyrade, a copy of the summary noted on the
back of his record:--
"In the police force since 1778, having come to Paris from Avignon
two years previously.
"Without money or character; possessed of certain State secrets.
"Lives in the Rue des Moineaux under the name of Canquoelle, the
name of a little estate where his family resides in the department
of Vaucluse; very respectable people.
"Was lately inquired for by a grand-nephew named Theodore de la
Peyrade. (See the report of an agent, No. 37 of the Documents.)"
"He must be the man to whom Contenson is playing the mulatto servant!"
cried Carlos, when Lucien returned with other information besides this
Within three hours this man, with the energy of a Commander-in-Chief,
had found, by Paccard's help, an innocent accomplice capable of
playing the part of a gendarme in disguise, and had got himself up as
a peace-officer. Three times in the coach he had thought of killing
Peyrade, but he had made it a rule never to commit a murder with his
own hand; he promised himself that he would get rid of Peyrade all in
good time by pointing him out as a millionaire to some released
convicts about the town.
Peyrade and his Mentor, as they went in, heard Contenson's voice
arguing with Madame du Val-Noble's maid. Peyrade signed to Carlos to
remain in the outer room, with a look meant to convey: "Thus you can
assure yourself of my sincerity."
"Madame agrees to everything," said Adele. "Madame is at this moment
calling on a friend, Madame de Champy, who has some rooms in the Rue
Taitbout on her hands for a year, full of furniture, which she will
let her have, no doubt. Madame can receive Mr. Johnson more suitably
there, for the furniture is still very decent, and monsieur might buy
it for madame by coming to an agreement with Madame de Champy."
"Very good, my girl. If this is not a job of fleecing, it is a bit of
the wool," said the mulatto to the astonished woman. "However, we will
"That is your darkey all over!" cried Mademoiselle Adele. "If your
nabob is a nabob, he can very well afford to give madame the
furniture. The lease ends in April 1830; your nabob may renew it if he
"I am quite willing," said Peyrade, speaking French with a strong
English accent, as he came in and tapped the woman on the shoulder.
He cast a knowing look back at Carlos, who replied by an assenting
nod, understanding that the nabob was to keep up his part.
But the scene suddenly changed its aspect at the entrance of a person
over whom neither Carlos nor Peyrade had the least power. Corentin
suddenly came in. He had found the door open, and looked in as he went
by to see how his old friend played his part as nabob.
"The Prefet is still bullying me!" said Peyrade in a whisper to
Corentin. "He has found me out as a nabob."
"We will spill the Prefet," Corentin muttered in reply.
Then after a cool bow he stood darkly scrutinizing the magistrate.
"Stay here till I return," said Carlos; "I will go to the Prefecture.
If you do not see me again, you may go your own way."
Having said this in an undertone to Peyrade, so as not to humiliate
him in the presence of the waiting-maid, Carlos went away, not caring
to remain under the eye of the newcomer, in whom he detected one of
those fair-haired, blue-eyed men, coldly terrifying.
"That is the peace-officer sent after me by the Prefet," said Peyrade.
"That?" said Corentin. "You have walked into a trap. That man has
three packs of cards in his shoes; you can see that by the place of
his foot in the shoe; besides, a peace-officer need wear no disguise."
Corentin hurried downstairs to verify his suspicions: Carlos was
getting into the fly.
"Hallo! Monsieur l'Abbe!" cried Corentin.
Carlos looked around, saw Corentin, and got in quickly. Still,
Corentin had time to say:
"That was all I wanted to know.--Quai Malaquais," he shouted to the
driver with diabolical mockery in his tone and expression.
"I am done!" said Jacques Collin to himself. "They have got me. I must
get ahead of them by sheer pace, and, above all, find out what they
want of us."
Corentin had seen the Abbe Carlos Herrera five or six times, and the
man's eyes were unforgettable. Corentin had suspected him at once from
the cut of his shoulders, then by his puffy face, and the trick of
three inches of added height gained by a heel inside the shoe.
"Ah! old fellow, they have drawn you," said Corentin, finding no one
in the room but Peyrade and Contenson.
"Who?" cried Peyrade, with metallic hardness; "I will spend my last
days in putting him on a gridiron and turning him on it."
"It is the Abbe Carlos Herrera, the Corentin of Spain, as I suppose.
This explains everything. The Spaniard is a demon of the first water,
who has tried to make a fortune for that little young man by coining
money out of a pretty baggage's bolster.--It is your lookout if you
think you can measure your skill with a man who seems to me the very
devil to deal with."
"Oh!" exclaimed Contenson, "he fingered the three hundred thousand
francs the day when Esther was arrested; he was in the cab. I remember
those eyes, that brow, and those marks of the smallpox."
"Oh! what a fortune my Lydie might have had!" cried Peyrade.
"You may still play the nabob," said Corentin. "To keep an eye on
Esther you must keep up her intimacy with Val-Noble. She was really
"They have got more than five hundred thousand francs out of Nucingen
already," said Contenson.
"And they want as much again," Corentin went on. "The Rubempre estate
is to cost a million.--Daddy," added he, slapping Peyrade on the
shoulder, "you may get more than a hundred thousand francs to settle
"Don't tell me that, Corentin. If your scheme should fail, I cannot
tell what I might not do----"
"You will have it by to-morrow perhaps! The Abbe, my dear fellow, is
most astute; we shall have to kiss his spurs; he is a very superior
devil. But I have him sure enough. He is not a fool, and he will knock
under. Try to be a gaby as well as a nabob, and fear nothing."
In the evening of this day, when the opposing forces had met face to
face on level ground, Lucien spent the evening at the Hotel Grandlieu.
The party was a large one. In the face of all the assembly, the
Duchess kept Lucien at her side for some time, and was most kind to
"You are going away for a little while?" said she.
"Yes, Madame la Duchesse. My sister, in her anxiety to promote my
marriage, has made great sacrifices. and I have been enabled to
repurchase the lands of the Rubempres, to reconstitute the whole
estate. But I have found in my Paris lawyer a very clever man, who has
managed to save me from the extortionate terms that the holders would
have asked if they had known the name of the purchaser."
"Is there a chateau?" asked Clotilde, with too broad a smile.
"There is something which might be called a chateau; but the wiser
plan would be to use the building materials in the construction of a
Clotilde's eyes blazed with happiness above her smile of satisfaction.
"You must play a rubber with my father this evening," said she. "In a
fortnight I hope you will be asked to dinner."
"Well, my dear sir," said the Duc de Grandlieu, "I am told that you
have bought the estate of Rubempre. I congratulate you. It is an
answer to those who say you are in debt. We bigwigs, like France or
England, are allowed to have a public debt; but men of no fortune,
beginners, you see, may not assume that privilege----"
"Indeed, Monsieur le Duc, I still owe five hundred thousand francs on
"Well, well, you must marry a wife who can bring you the money; but
you will have some difficulty in finding a match with such a fortune
in our Faubourg, where daughters do not get large dowries."
"Their name is enough," said Lucien.
"We are only three wisk players--Maufrigneuse, d'Espard, and I--will
you make a fourth?" said the Duke, pointing to the card-table.
Clotilde came to the table to watch her father's game.
"She expects me to believe that she means it for me," said the Duke,
patting his daughter's hands, and looking round at Lucien, who
remained quite grave.
Lucien, Monsieur d'Espard's partner, lost twenty louis.
"My dear mother," said Clotilde to the Duchess, "he was so judicious
as to lose."
At eleven o'clock, after a few affectionate words with Mademoiselle de
Grandlieu, Lucien went home and to bed, thinking of the complete
triumph he was to enjoy a month hence; for he had not a doubt of being
accepted as Clotilde's lover, and married before Lent in 1830.
On the morrow, when Lucien was smoking his cigarettes after breakfast,
sitting with Carlos, who had become much depressed, M. de Saint-Esteve
was announced--what a touch of irony--who begged to see either the
Abbe Carlos Herrera or Monsieur Lucien de Rubempre.
"Was he told downstairs that I had left Paris?" cried the Abbe.
"Yes, sir," replied the groom.
"Well, then, you must see the man," said he to Lucien. "But do not say
a single compromising word, do not let a sign of surprise escape you.
It is the enemy."
"You will overhear me," said Lucien.
Carlos hid in the adjoining room, and through the crack of the door he
saw Corentin, whom he recognized only by his voice, such powers of
transformation did the great man possess. This time Corentin looked
like an old paymaster-general.
"I have not had the honor of being known to you, monsieur," Corentin
"Excuse my interrupting you, monsieur, but----"
"But the matter in point is your marriage to Mademoiselle Clotilde de
Grandlieu--which will never take place," Corentin added eagerly.
Lucien sat down and made no reply.
"You are in the power of a man who is able and willing and ready to
prove to the Duc de Grandlieu that the lands of Rubempre are to be
paid for with the money that a fool has given to your mistress,
Mademoiselle Esther," Corentin went on. "It will be quite easy to find
the minutes of the legal opinions in virtue of which Mademoiselle
Esther was summoned; there are ways too of making d'Estourny speak.
The very clever manoeuvres employed against the Baron de Nucingen will
be brought to light.
"As yet all can be arranged. Pay down a hundred thousand francs, and
you will have peace.--All this is no concern of mine. I am only the
agent of those who levy this blackmail; nothing more."
Corentin might have talked for an hour; Lucien smoked his cigarette
with an air of perfect indifference.
"Monsieur," replied he, "I do not want to know who you are, for men
who undertake such jobs as these have no name--at any rate, in my
vocabulary. I have allowed you to talk at your leisure; I am at home.
--You seem to me not bereft of common sense; listen to my dilemma."
There was a pause, during which Lucien met Corentin's cat-like eye
fixed on him with a perfectly icy stare.
"Either you are building on facts that are absolutely false, and I
need pay no heed to them," said Lucien; "or you are in the right; and
in that case, by giving you a hundred thousand francs, I put you in a
position to ask me for as many hundred thousand francs as your
employer can find Saint-Esteves to ask for.
"However, to put an end, once and for all, to your kind intervention,
I would have you know that I, Lucien de Rubempre, fear no one. I have
no part in the jobbery of which you speak. If the Grandlieus make
difficulties, there are other young ladies of very good family ready
to be married. After all, it is no loss to me if I remain single,
especially if, as you imagine, I deal in blank bills to such
"If Monsieur l'Abbe Carlos Herrera----"
"Monsieur," Lucien put in, "the Abbe Herrera is at this moment on the
way to Spain. He has nothing to do with my marriage, my interests are
no concern of his. That remarkable statesman was good enough to assist
me at one time with his advice, but he has reports to present to his
Majesty the King of Spain; if you have anything to say to him, I
recommend you to set out for Madrid."
"Monsieur," said Corentin plainly, "you will never be Mademoiselle
Clotilde de Grandlieu's husband."
"So much the worse for her!" replied Lucien, impatiently pushing
Corentin towards the door.
"You have fully considered the matter?" asked Corentin coldly.
"Monsieur, I do not recognize that you have any right either to meddle
in my affairs, or to make me waste a cigarette," said Lucien, throwing
away his cigarette that had gone out.
"Good-day, monsieur," said Corentin. "We shall not meet again.--But
there will certainly be a moment in your life when you would give half
your fortune to have called me back from these stairs."
In answer to this threat, Carlos made as though he were cutting off a
"Now to business!" cried he, looking at Lucien, who was as white as
ashes after this dreadful interview.
If among the small number of my readers who take an interest in the
moral and philosophical side of this book there should be only one
capable of believing that the Baron de Nucingen was happy, that one
would prove how difficult it is to explain the heart of a courtesan by
any kind of physiological formula. Esther was resolved to make the
poor millionaire pay dearly for what he called his day of triumph. And
at the beginning of February 1830 the house-warming party had not yet
been given in the "little palace."
"Well," said Esther in confidence to her friends, who repeated it to
the Baron, "I shall open house at the Carnival, and I mean to make my
man as happy as a cock in plaster."
The phrase became proverbial among women of her kidney.
The Baron gave vent to much lamentation; like married men, he made
himself very ridiculous, he began to complain to his intimate friends,
and his dissatisfaction was generally known.
Esther, meanwhile, took quite a serious view of her position as the
Pompadour of this prince of speculators. She had given two or three
small evening parties, solely to get Lucien into the house. Lousteau,
Rastignac, du Tillet, Bixiou, Nathan, the Comte de Brambourg--all the
cream of the dissipated crew--frequented her drawing-room. And, as
leading ladies in the piece she was playing, Esther accepted Tullia,
Florentine, Fanny Beaupre, and Florine--two dancers and two actresses
--besides Madame du Val-Noble. Nothing can be more dreary than a
courtesan's home without the spice of rivalry, the display of dress,
and some variety of type.
In six weeks Esther had become the wittiest, the most amusing, the
loveliest, and the most elegant of those female pariahs who form the
class of kept women. Placed on the pedestal that became her, she
enjoyed all the delights of vanity which fascinate women in general,
but still as one who is raised above her caste by a secret thought.
She cherished in her heart an image of herself which she gloried in,
while it made her blush; the hour when she must abdicate was ever
present to her consciousness; thus she lived a double life, really
scorning herself. Her sarcastic remarks were tinged by the temper
which was roused in her by the intense contempt felt by the Angel of
Love, hidden in the courtesan, for the disgraceful and odious part
played by the body in the presence, as it were, of the soul. At once
actor and spectator, victim and judge, she was a living realization of
the beautiful Arabian Tales, in which a noble creature lies hidden
under a degrading form, and of which the type is the story of
Nebuchadnezzar in the book of books--the Bible. Having granted herself
a lease of life till the day after her infidelity, the victim might
surely play awhile with the executioner.
Moreover, the enlightenment that had come to Esther as to the secretly
disgraceful means by which the Baron had made his colossal fortune
relieved her of every scruple. She could play the part of Ate, the
goddess of vengeance, as Carlos said. And so she was by turns
enchanting and odious to the banker, who lived only for her. When the
Baron had been worked up to such a pitch of suffering that he wanted
only to be quit of Esther, she brought him round by a scene of tender
Herrera, making a great show of starting for Spain, had gone as far as
Tours. He had sent the chaise on as far as Bordeaux, with a servant
inside, engaged to play the part of master, and to wait for him at
Bordeaux. Then, returning by diligence, dressed as a commercial
traveler, he had secretly taken up his abode under Esther's roof, and
thence, aided by Asie and Europe, carefully directed all his
machinations, keeping an eye on every one, and especially on Peyrade.
About a fortnight before the day chosen for her great entertainment,
which was to be given in the evening after the first opera ball, the
courtesan, whose witticisms were beginning to make her feared,
happened to be at the Italian opera, at the back of a box which the
Baron--forced to give a box--had secured in the lowest tier, in order
to conceal his mistress, and not to flaunt her in public within a few
feet of Madame de Nucingen. Esther had taken her seat, so as to "rake"
that of Madame de Serizy, whom Lucien almost invariably accompanied.
The poor girl made her whole happiness centre in watching Lucien on
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays by Madame de Serizy's side.
At about half-past nine in the evening Esther could see Lucien enter
the Countess' box, with a care-laden brow, pale, and with almost drawn
features. These symptoms of mental anguish were legible only to
Esther. The knowledge of a man's countenance is, to the woman who
loves him, like that of the sea to a sailor.
"Good God! what can be the matter? What has happened? Does he want to
speak with that angel of hell, who is to him a guardian angel, and who
lives in an attic between those of Europe and Asie?"
Tormented by such reflections, Esther scarcely listened to the music.
Still less, it may be believed, did she listen to the Baron, who held
one of his "Anchel's" hands in both his, talking to her in his
horrible Polish-Jewish accent, a jargon which must be as unpleasant to
read as it is to hear spoken.
"Esther," said he, releasing her hand, and pushing it away with a
slight touch of temper, "you do not listen to me."
"I tell you what, Baron, you blunder in love as you gibber in French."
"I am not in my boudoir here, I am at the opera. If you were not a
barrel made by Huret or Fichet, metamorphosed into a man by some trick
of nature, you would not make so much noise in a box with a woman who
is fond of music. I don't listen to you? I should think not! There you
sit rustling my dress like a cockchafer in a paper-bag, and making me
laugh with contempt. You say to me, 'You are so pretty, I should like
to eat you!' Old simpleton! Supposing I were to say to you, 'You are
less intolerable this evening than you were yesterday--we will go
home?'--Well, from the way you puff and sigh--for I feel you if I
don't listen to you--I perceive that you have eaten an enormous
dinner, and your digestion is at work. Let me instruct you--for I cost
you enough to give some advice for your money now and then--let me
tell you, my dear fellow, that a man whose digestion is so troublesome
as yours is, is not justified in telling his mistress that she is
pretty at unseemly hours. An old soldier died of that very folly 'in
the arms of Religion,' as Blondet has it.
"It is now ten o'clock. You finished dinner at du Tillet's at nine
o'clock, with your pigeon the Comte de Brambourg; you have millions
and truffles to digest. Come to-morrow night at ten."
"Vat you are cruel!" cried the Baron, recognizing the profound truth
of this medical argument.
"Cruel!" echoed Esther, still looking at Lucien. "Have you not
consulted Bianchon, Desplein, old Haudry?--Since you have had a
glimpse of future happiness, do you know what you seem like to me?"
"A fat old fellow wrapped in flannel, who walks every hour from his
armchair to the window to see if the thermometer has risen to the
degree marked 'SILKWORMS,' the temperature prescribed by his
"You are really an ungrateful slut!" cried the Baron, in despair at
hearing a tune, which, however, amorous old men not unfrequently hear
at the opera.
"Ungrateful!" retorted Esther. "What have you given me till now? A
great deal of annoyance. Come, papa! Can I be proud of you? You! you
are proud of me; I wear your livery and badge with an air. You paid my
debts? So you did. But you have grabbed so many millions--come, you
need not sulk; you admitted that to me--that you need not think twice
of that. And this is your chief title to fame. A baggage and a thief--
a well-assorted couple!
"You have built a splendid cage for a parrot that amuses you. Go and
ask a Brazilian cockatoo what gratitude it owes to the man who placed
it in a gilded cage.--Don't look at me like that; you are just like a
"Well, you show your red-and-white cockatoo to all Paris. You say,
'Does anybody else in Paris own such a parrot? And how well it talks,
how cleverly it picks its words!' If du Tillet comes in, it says at
once, 'How'do, little swindler!'--Why, you are as happy as a Dutchman
who has grown an unique tulip, as an old nabob pensioned off in Asia
by England, when a commercial traveler sells him the first Swiss
snuff-box that opens in three places.
"You want to win my heart? Well, now, I will tell you how to do it."
"Speak, speak, dere is noting I shall not do for you. I lofe to be
fooled by you."
"Be young, be handsome, be like Lucien de Rubempre over there by your
wife, and you shall have gratis what you can never buy with all your
"I shall go 'vay, for really you are too bat dis evening!" said the
banker, with a lengthened face.
"Very well, good-night then," said Esther. "Tell Georches to make your
pillows very high and place your fee low, for you look apoplectic this
evening.--You cannot say, my dear, that I take no interest in your
The Baron was standing up, and held the door-knob in his hand.
"Here, Nucingen," said Esther, with an imperious gesture.
The Baron bent over her with dog-like devotion.
"Do you want to see me very sweet, and giving you sugar-and-water, and
petting you in my house, this very evening, old monster?"
"You shall break my heart!"
"Break your heart--you mean bore you," she went on. "Well, bring me
Lucien that I may invite him to our Belshazzar's feast, and you may be
sure he will not fail to come. If you succeed in that little
transaction, I will tell you that I love you, my fat Frederic, in such
plain terms that you cannot but believe me."
"You are an enchantress," said the Baron, kissing Esther's glove. "I
should be villing to listen to abuse for ein hour if alvays der vas a
kiss at de ent of it."
"But if I am not obeyed, I----" and she threatened the Baron with her
finger as we threaten children.
The Baron raised his head like a bird caught in a springe and
imploring the trapper's pity.
"Dear Heaven! What ails Lucien?" said she to herself when she was
alone, making no attempt to check her falling tears; "I never saw him
This is what had happened to Lucien that very evening.
At nine o'clock he had gone out, as he did every evening, in his
brougham to go to the Hotel de Grandlieu. Using his saddle-horse and
cab in the morning only, like all young men, he had hired a brougham
for winter evenings, and had chosen a first-class carriage and
splendid horses from one of the best job-masters. For the last month
all had gone well with him; he had dined with the Grandlieus three
times; the Duke was delightful to him; his shares in the Omnibus
Company, sold for three hundred thousand francs, had paid off a third
more of the price of the land; Clotilde de Grandlieu, who dressed
beautifully now, reddened inch thick when he went into the room, and
loudly proclaimed her attachment to him. Some personages of high
estate discussed their marriage as a probable event. The Duc de
Chaulieu, formerly Ambassador to Spain, and now for a short while
Minister for Foreign Affairs, had promised the Duchesse de Grandlieu
that he would ask for the title of Marquis for Lucien.
So that evening, after dining with Madame de Serizy, Lucien had driven
to the Faubourg Saint-Germain to pay his daily visit.
He arrives, the coachman calls for the gate to be opened, he drives
into the courtyard and stops at the steps. Lucien, on getting out,
remarks four other carriages in waiting. On seeing Monsieur de
Rubempre, one of the footmen placed to open and shut the hall-door
comes forward and out on to the steps, in front of the door, like a
soldier on guard.
"His Grace is not at home," says he.
"Madame la Duchesse is receiving company," observes Lucien to the
"Madame la Duchesse is gone out," replies the man solemnly.
"I do not think that Mademoiselle Clotilde will see you, monsieur, in
the absence of Madame la Duchesse."
"But there are people here," replies Lucien in dismay.
"I do not know, sir," says the man, trying to seem stupid and to be
There is nothing more fatal than etiquette to those who regard it as
the most formidable arm of social law. Lucien easily interpreted the
meaning of this scene, so disastrous to him. The Duke and Duchess
would not admit him. He felt the spinal marrow freezing in the core of
his vertebral column, and a sickly cold sweat bedewed his brow. The
conversation had taken place in the presence of his own body-servant,
who held the door of the brougham, doubting whether to shut it. Lucien
signed to him that he was going away again; but as he stepped into the
carriage, he heard the noise of people coming downstairs, and the
servant called out first, "Madame la Duchesse de Chaulieu's people,"
then "Madame la Vicomtesse de Grandlieu's carriage!"
Lucien merely said, "To the Italian opera"; but in spite of his haste,
the luckless dandy could not escape the Duc de Chaulieu and his son,
the Duc de Rhetore, to whom he was obliged to bow, for they did not
speak a word to him. A great catastrophe at Court, the fall of a
formidable favorite, has ere now been pronounced on the threshold of a
royal study, in one word from an usher with a face like a plaster
"How am I to let my adviser know of this disaster--this instant----?"
thought Lucien as he drove to the opera-house. "What is going on?"
He racked his brain with conjectures.
This was what had taken place. That morning, at eleven o'clock, the
Duc de Grandlieu, as he went into the little room where the family all
breakfasted together, said to Clotilde after kissing her, "Until
further orders, my child, think no more of the Sieur de Rubempre."
Then he had taken the Duchesse by the hand, and led her into a window
recess to say a few words in an undertone, which made poor Clotilde
turn pale; for she watched her mother as she listened to the Duke, and
saw her expression of extreme surprise.
"Jean," said the Duke to one of his servants, "take this note to
Monsieur le Duc de Chaulieu, and beg him to answer by you, Yes or No.
--I am asking him to dine here to-day," he added to his wife.
Breakfast had been a most melancholy meal. The Duchess was meditative,
the Duke seemed to be vexed with himself, and Clotilde could with
difficulty restrain her tears.
"My child, your father is right; you must obey him," the mother had
said to the daughter with much emotion. "I do not say as he does,
'Think no more of Lucien.' No--for I understand your suffering"--
Clotilde kissed her mother's hand--"but I do say, my darling, Wait,
take no step, suffer in silence since you love him, and put your trust
in your parents' care.--Great ladies, my child, are great just because
they can do their duty on every occasion, and do it nobly."
"But what is it about?" asked Clotilde as white as a lily.
"Matters too serious to be discussed with you, my dearest," the
Duchess replied. "For if they are untrue, your mind would be
unnecessarily sullied; and if they are true, you must never know
At six o'clock the Duc de Chaulieu had come to join the Duc de
Grandlieu, who awaited him in his study.
"Tell me, Henri"--for the Dukes were on the most familiar terms, and
addressed each other by their Christian names. This is one of the
shades invented to mark a degree of intimacy, to repel the audacity of
French familiarity, and humiliate conceit--"tell me, Henri, I am in
such a desperate difficulty that I can only ask advice of an old
friend who understands business, and you have practice and experience.
My daughter Clotilde, as you know, is in love with that little
Rubempre, whom I have been almost compelled to accept as her promised
husband. I have always been averse to the marriage; however, Madame de
Grandlieu could not bear to thwart Clotilde's passion. When the young
fellow had repurchased the family estate and paid three-quarters of
the price, I could make no further objections.
"But last evening I received an anonymous letter--you know how much
that is worth--in which I am informed that the young fellow's fortune
is derived from some disreputable source, and that he is telling lies
when he says that his sister is giving him the necessary funds for his
purchase. For my daughter's happiness, and for the sake of our family,
I am adjured to make inquiries, and the means of doing so are
suggested to me. Here, read it."
"I am entirely of your opinion as to the value of anonymous letters,
my dear Ferdinand," said the Duc de Chaulieu after reading the letter.
"Still, though we may contemn them, we must make use of them. We must
treat such letters as we would treat a spy. Keep the young man out of
the house, and let us make inquiries----
"I know how to do it. Your lawyer is Derville, a man in whom we have
perfect confidence; he knows the secrets of many families, and can
certainly be trusted with this. He is an honest man, a man of weight,
and a man of honor; he is cunning and wily; but his wiliness is only
in the way of business, and you need only employ him to obtain
evidence you can depend upon.
"We have in the Foreign Office an agent of the superior police who is
unique in his power of discovering State secrets; we often send him on
such missions. Inform Derville that he will have a lieutenant in the
case. Our spy is a gentleman who will appear wearing the ribbon of the
Legion of Honor, and looking like a diplomate. This rascal will do the
hunting; Derville will only look on. Your lawyer will then tell you if
the mountain brings forth a mouse, or if you must throw over this
little Rubempre. Within a week you will know what you are doing."
"The young man is not yet so far a Marquis as to take offence at my
being 'Not at home' for a week," said the Duc de Grandlieu.
"Above all, if you end by giving him your daughter," replied the
Minister. "If the anonymous letter tells the truth, what of that? You
can send Clotilde to travel with my daughter-in-law Madeleine, who
wants to go to Italy."
"You relieve me immensely. I don't know whether I ought to thank you."
"Wait till the end."
"By the way," exclaimed the Duc de Grandlieu, "what is your man's
name? I must mention it to Derville. Send him to me to-morrow by five
o'clock; I will have Derville here and put them in communication."
"His real name," said M. de Chaulieu, "is, I think, Corentin--a name
you must never have heard, for my gentleman will come ticketed with
his official name. He calls himself Monsieur de Saint-Something--Saint
Yves--Saint-Valere?--Something of the kind.--You may trust him; Louis
XVIII. had perfect confidence in him."
After this confabulation the steward had orders to shut the door on
Monsieur de Rubempre--which was done.
Lucien paced the waiting-room at the opera-house like a man who was
drunk. He fancied himself the talk of all Paris. He had in the Duc de
Rhetore one of those unrelenting enemies on whom a man must smile, as
he can never be revenged, since their attacks are in conformity with
the rules of society. The Duc de Rhetore knew the scene that had just
taken place on the outside steps of the Grandlieus' house. Lucien,
feeling the necessity of at once reporting the catastrophe to his high
privy councillor, nevertheless was afraid of compromising himself by
going to Esther's house, where he might find company. He actually
forgot that Esther was here, so confused were his thoughts, and in the
midst of so much perplexity he was obliged to make small talk with
Rastignac, who, knowing nothing of the news, congratulated him on his
At this moment Nucingen appeared smiling, and said to Lucien:
"Vill you do me de pleasure to come to see Montame de Champy, vat vill
infite you herself to von house-varming party----"
"With pleasure, Baron," replied Lucien, to whom the Baron appeared as
a rescuing angel.
"Leave us," said Esther to Monsieur de Nucingen, when she saw him come
in with Lucien. "Go and see Madame du Val-Noble, whom I discover in a
box on the third tier with her nabob.--A great many nabobs grow in the
Indies," she added, with a knowing glance at Lucien.
"And that one," said Lucien, smiling, "is uncommonly like yours."
"And them," said Esther, answering Lucien with another look of
intelligence, while still speaking to the Baron, "bring her here with
her nabob; he is very anxious to make your acquaintance. They say he
is very rich. The poor woman has already poured out I know not how
many elegies; she complains that her nabob is no good; and if you
relieve him of his ballast, perhaps he will sail closer to the wind."
"You tink ve are all tieves!" said the Baron as he went away.
"What ails you, my Lucien?" asked Esther in her friend's ear, just
touching it with her lips as soon as the box door was shut.
"I am lost! I have just been turned from the door of the Hotel de
Grandlieu under pretence that no one was admitted. The Duke and
Duchess were at home, and five pairs of horses were champing in the
"What! will the marriage not take place?" exclaimed Esther, much
agitated, for she saw a glimpse of Paradise.
"I do not yet know what is being plotted against me----"
"My Lucien," said she in a deliciously coaxing voice, "why be worried
about it? You can make a better match by and by--I will get you the
price of two estates----"
"Give us supper to-night that I may be able to speak in secret to
Carlos, and, above all, invite the sham Englishman and Val-Noble. That
nabob is my ruin; he is our enemy; we will get hold of him, and
But Lucien broke off with a gesture of despair.
"Well, what is it?" asked the poor girl.
"Oh! Madame de Serizy sees me!" cried Lucien, "and to crown our woes,
the Duc de Rhetore, who witnessed my dismissal, is with her."
In fact, at that very minute, the Duc de Rhetore was amusing himself
with Madame de Serizy's discomfiture.
"Do you allow Lucien to be seen in Mademoiselle Esther's box?" said
the young Duke, pointing to the box and to Lucien; "you, who take an
interest in him, should really tell him such things are not allowed.
He may sup at her house, he may even--But, in fact, I am no longer
surprised at the Grandlieus' coolness towards the young man. I have
just seen their door shut in his face--on the front steps----"
"Women of that sort are very dangerous," said Madame de Serizy,
turning her opera-glass on Esther's box.
"Yes," said the Duke, "as much by what they can do as by what they
"They will ruin him!" cried Madame de Serizy, "for I am told they cost
as much whether they are paid or no."
"Not to him!" said the young Duke, affecting surprise. "They are far
from costing him anything; they give him money at need, and all run
The Countess' lips showed a little nervous twitching which could not
be included in any category of smiles.
"Well, then," said Esther, "come to supper at midnight. Bring Blondet
and Rastignac; let us have two amusing persons at any rate; and we
won't be more than nine."
"You must find some excuse for sending the Baron to fetch Eugenie
under pretence of warning Asie, and tell her what has befallen me, so
that Carlos may know before he has the nabob under his claws."
"That shall be done," said Esther.
And thus Peyrade was probably about to find himself unwittingly under
the same roof with his adversary. The tiger was coming into the lion's
den, and a lion surrounded by his guards.
When Lucien went back to Madame de Serizy's box, instead of turning to
him, smiling and arranging her skirts for him to sit by her, she