Part 3 out of 5
of art which need a splendidly carved frame! Well, you have your frame,
and well gilt too!"
He laughed and seemed pleased at Serge's happiness. He had taken one of
his hands and was patting it softly between his own.
"Not a very 'convenient' mother-in-law, for instance," he went on, good-
naturedly; "but you are so charming! Only you could have, coaxed Madame
Desvarennes, and you have succeeded. Oh! she likes you, my dear Prince;
she told me so only a little while ago. You have won her heart. I don't
know how you manage it, but you are irresistible! By the way, I was not
there when the marriage contract was read, and I, forgot to ask Cayrol.
Under what conditions art you married?"
The Prince looked at Herzog with a look that was hardly friendly. But
the financier appeared so indifferent, that Serge could not help
"My wife's fortune is settled on herself."
"Ah! ah! that is usual in Normandy!" replied Herzog with a grave look.
"I was told Madame Desvarennes was a clever woman and she has proved it.
And you signed the contract with your eyes shut, my dear Prince. It is
perfect, just as a gentleman should do!"
He said this with a good-natured air. Then, suddenly lifting his eyes,
and with an ironical smile playing on his lips, he added:
"You are bowled out, my dear fellow, don't you know?"
"Sir!" protested Serge with haughtiness.
"Don't cry out; it is too late, and would be useless," replied the
financier. "Let me explain your position to you. Your hands are tied.
You cannot dispose of a sou belonging to your wife without her consent.
It is true, you have influence over her, happily for you. Still you must
foresee that she will be guided by her mother. A strong woman, too,
the mother! Ah, Prince, you have allowed yourself to be done completely.
I would not have thought it of you."
Serge, nonplussed for a moment, regained his self-possession, and looked
Herzog in the face:
"I don't know what idea you have formed of me, sir, and I don't know what
object you have in speaking thus to me."
"My interest in you," interrupted the financier. "You are a charming
fellow: you please me much. With your tastes, it is possible that in a
brief time you may be short of money. Come and see me: I will put you
into the way of business. Au revoir, Prince."
And without giving Serge time to answer him, Herzog reached the boudoir
where his daughter was waiting with impatience. Behind him came the
Prince looking rather troubled. The financier's words had awakened
importunate ideas in his mind. Was it true that he had been duped by
Madame Desvarennes, and that the latter, while affecting airs of
greatness and generosity, had tied him like a noodle to her daughter's
apron-string? He made an effort to regain his serenity.
"Micheline loves me and all will be well," said he to himself.
Madame Desvarennes joined the young married people. The rooms were
clearing by degrees. Serge took Cayrol apart.
"What are you going to do to-night, my dear fellow?
"You know an apartment has been prepared for you here?"
"Yes, I have already thanked Madame Desvarennes, but I mean to go back to
Paris. Our little paradise is prepared for us, and I wish to enter it
to-night. I have my carriage and horses here. I am taking away my wife
"That is an elopement," said Serge; gayly, "quite in the style of the
"Yes, my dear Prince, that's how we bankers do it," said Cayrol,
Then changing his tone:
"See, I vibrate, I am palpitating. I am hot and cold by turns. Just
fancy, I have never loved before; my heart is whole, and I love to
Serge instinctively glanced at Jeanne. She was seated, looking sad and
Madame Desvarennes, between Jeanne and Micheline, had her arms twined
round the two young girls. Regret filled her eyes. The mother felt that
the last moments of her absolute reign were near, and she was
contemplating with supreme adoration these two children who had grown up
around her like two fragile and precious flowers. She was saying to
"Well, the great day is over. You are both married. You don't belong to
me any longer. How I shall miss you! This morning I had two children,
"You have four," interrupted Micheline. "Why do you complain?"
"I don't complain," retorted Madame Desvarennes, quickly.
"That's right!" said Micheline, gayly.
Then going toward Jeanne:
"But you are not speaking, you are so quiet; are you ill?"
Jeanne shuddered, and made an effort to soften the hard lines on her
"It is nothing. A little fatigue."
"And emotion," added Micheline. "This morning when we entered the
church, at the sound of the organ, in the midst of flowers, surrounded by
all our friends, I felt that I was whiter than my veil. And the crossing
to my place seemed so long, I thought I should never get there. I did
so, though. And now everybody calls me 'Madame' and some call me
'Princess.' It amuses me!"
Serge had approached.
"But you are a Princess," said he, smiling, "and everybody must call you
"Oh, not mamma, nor Jeanne, nor you," said the young wife, quickly;
"always call me Micheline. It will be less respectful, but it will be
Madame Desvarennes could not resist drawing her daughter once more to her
"Dear child," she said with emotion, "you need affection, as flowers need
the sun! But I love you, there."
She stopped and added:
"We love you."
And she held out her hand to her son-in-law. Then changing the subject:
"But I am thinking, Cayrol, as you are returning to Paris, you might take
some orders for me which I will write out."
"What? Business? Even on my wedding-day?" exclaimed Micheline.
"Eh! my daughter, we must have flour," replied the mistress, laughing.
"While we are enjoying ourselves Paris eats, and it has a famous
Micheline, leaving her mother, went to her husband.
"Serge, it is not yet late. Suppose we put in an appearance at the work-
people's ball? I promised them, and the good folks will be so happy!"
"As you please. I am awaiting your orders. Let us make ourselves
Madame Desvarennes had gone to her room. Carol took the opportunity of
telling his coachman to drive round by the park to the door of the little
conservatory and wait there. Thus, his wife and he would avoid meeting
any one, and would escape the leave-taking of friends and the curiosity
Micheline went up to Jeanne, and said:
"As you are going away quietly, dear, I shall not see you again this
And with a happy smile, she kissed her. Then taking her husband's arm
she led him toward the park.
Jeanne left alone, watched them as they disappeared with the light and
easy movements of lovers.
Serge, bending toward Micheline, was speaking tenderly. A rush of bitter
feeling caused Jeanne's heart to swell. She was alone, she, while he
whom she loved-her whole being revolted. Unhappy one! Why did she think
of this man? Had she the right to do so now? She no longer belonged to
herself. Another, who was as kind to her as Serge was ungrateful, was
her husband. She thought thus in sincerity of heart. She wished to love
Cayrol. Alas, poor Jeanne! She would load him with attentions and
caresses! And Serge would be jealous, for he could never have forgotten
her so soon.
Her thoughts again turned to him whom she wished to forget. She made an
effort, but in vain. Serge was uppermost; he possessed her. She was
afraid. Would she never be able to break off the remembrance? Would his
name be ever on her lips, his face ever before her eyes?
Thank heaven! she was about to leave. Travelling, and the sight of
strange places other than those where she had lived near Serge, would
draw her attention from the persecution she suffered. Her husband was
about to take her away, to defend her. It was his duty, and she would
help him with energy. With all the strength of her will she summoned
Cayrol. She clung violently to him as a drowning person catches at a
straw, with the vigor of despair.
There was between Jeanne and Cayrol a sympathetic communication.
Mentally called by his wife, the husband appeared.
"Ah! at last!" said she.
Cayrol, surprised at this welcome, smiled. Jeanne, without noticing,
"Well, Monsieur; are we leaving soon?"
The banker's surprise increased. But as this surprise was decidedly an
agreeable one he did not protest.
"In a moment, Jeanne, dear," he said.
"Why this delay?" asked the young wife, nervously.
"You will understand. There are more than twenty carriages before the
front door. Our coachman is driving round, and we will go out by the
conservatory door without being seen."
"Very well; we will wait."
This delay displeased Jeanne. In the ardor of her resolution, in the
first warmth of her struggle, she wished at once to put space between her
and Serge. Unfortunately, Cayrol had thwarted this effort of proud
revolt. She was vexed with him. He, without knowing the motives which
actuated his wife, guessed that something had displeased her. He wished
to change the current of her thoughts.
"You were marvellously beautiful to-night," he said, approaching her
gallantly. "You were much admired, and I was proud of you. If you had
heard my friends! It was a concert of congratulations: What a fortunate
fellow that Cayrol is! He is rich; he has a charming wife! You see,
Jeanne, thanks to you, in the eyes of all, my happiness is complete."
Jeanne frowned, and without answering, shook her head haughtily. Cayrol
continued, without noticing this forecast of a storm:
"They envy me; and I can understand it! I would not change places with
anybody. There, our friend Prince Panine is very happy; he has married a
woman whom he loves and who adores him. Well, he is not happier than I
Jeanne rose abruptly, and gave her husband a terrible look.
"Monsieur!" she cried with rage.
"I beg your pardon," said Cayrol, humbly; "I appear ridiculous to you,
but my happiness is stronger than I am, and I cannot hide my joy. You
will see that I can be grateful. I will spend my life in trying to
please you. I have a surprise for you to begin with."
"What kind of surprise?" asked Jeanne, with indifference.
Cayrol rubbed his hands with a mysterious air. He was enjoying
beforehand the pleasant surprise he had in store for his wife.
"You think we are going to Paris to spend our honeymoon like ordinary
Jeanne started. Cayrol seemed unfortunate in his choice of words.
"Well, not at all," continued the banker. "Tomorrow I leave my offices.
My customers may say what they like; I will leave my business, and we are
Jeanne showed signs of pleasure. A flash of joy lit up her face. To go
away, that was rest for her!
"And where shall we go?"
"That is the surprise! You know that the Prince and his wife intend
"Yes; but they refused to say where they were going;" interrupted Jeanne,
with a troubled expression.
"Not to me. They are going to Switzerland. Well, we shall join them
Jeanne arose like a startled deer when it hears the sound of a gun.
"Join them there!" she exclaimed.
"Yes; to continue the journey together. A party of four; two newly-
married couples. It will be charming. I spoke to Serge on the subject.
He objected at first, but the Princess came to my assistance. And when
he saw that his wife and I were agreed, he commenced to laugh, and said:
'You wish it? I consent. Don't say anything more!' It is all very well
to talk of love's solitude; in about a fortnight, passed tete-a-tete,
Serge will be glad to have us. We will go to Italy to see the lakes; and
there, in a boat, all four, of us will have such pleasant times."
Cayrol might have gone on talking for an hour, but Jeanne was not
listening. She was thinking. Thus all the efforts which she had decided
to make to escape from him whom she loved would be useless. An
invincible fatality ever brought her toward him whom she was seeking to
avoid. And it was her husband who was aiding this inevitable and
execrable meeting. A bitter smile played on her lips. There was
something mournfully comic in this stubbornness of Cayrol's, in throwing
her in the way of Serge.
Cayrol, embarrassed by Jeanne's silence, waited a moment.
"What is the matter?" he asked. "You are just like the Prince when I
spoke to him on the subject."
Jeanne turned away abruptly. Cayrol's comparison was too direct. His
blunders were becoming wearisome.
The banker, quite discomfited on seeing the effect of his words,
"You object to this journey? If so, I am willing to give it up."
The young wife was touched by this humble servility.
"Well, yes," she said, softly, "I should be grateful to you."
"I had hoped to please you," said Cayrol. "It is for me to beg pardon
for having succeeded so badly. Let us remain in Paris. It does not
matter to me what place we are in! Being near to you is all I desire."
He approached her, and, with beaming eyes, added:
"You are so beautiful, Jeanne; and I have loved you so long a time!"
She moved away, full of a vague dread. Cayrol, very excitedly, put her
cloak round her shoulders, and looking toward the door, added:
"The carriage is there, we can go now."
Jeanne, much troubled, did not rise.
"Wait another minute," said she.
Cayrol smiled constrainedly:
"A little while ago you were hurrying me off."
It was true. But a sudden change had come over Jeanne. Her energy had
given way. She felt very weary. The idea of going away with Cayrol, and
of being alone with him in the carriage frightened her. She looked
vaguely at her husband, and saw, in a sort of mist, this great fat man,
with a protruding shirt-front, rolls of red flesh on his neck above his
collar, long fat ears which only needed gold ear-rings, and his great
hairy hands, on the finger of one of which shone the new wedding-ring.
Then, in a rapid vision, she beheld the refined profile, the beautiful
blue eyes, and the long, fair mustache of Serge. A profound sadness came
over the young woman, and tears rushed to her eyes.
"What is the matter with you? You are crying!" exclaimed Cayrol,
"It is nothing; my nerves are shaken. I am thinking of this chateau
which bears my name. Here I spent my youth, and here my father died.
A thousand ties bind me to this dwelling, and I cannot leave it without
"Another home awaits you, luxuriantly adorned," murmured Cayrol, "and
worthy of receiving you. It is there you will live henceforth with me,
happy through me, and belonging to me."
Then, ardently supplicating her, he added:
"Let us go, Jeanne!"
He tried to take her in his arms, but the young wife disengaged herself.
"Leave me alone!" she said, moving away.
Cayrol looked at her in amazement.
"What is it? You are trembling and frightened!"
He tried to jest:
"Am I so very terrible, then? Or is it the idea of leaving here that
troubles you so much? If so, why did you not tell me sooner? I can
understand things. Let us remain here for a few days, or as long as you
like. I have arranged my affairs so as to be at liberty. Our little
paradise can wait for us."
He spoke pleasantly, but with an undercurrent of anxiety.
Jeanne came slowly to him, and calmly taking his hand, said:
"You are very good."
"I am not making any efforts to be so," retorted Cayrol, smiling. "What
do I ask? That you may be happy and satisfied."
"Well, do you wish to please me?" asked the young wife.
"Yes!" exclaimed Cayrol, warmly, "tell me how."
"Madame Desvarennes will be very lonely tomorrow when her daughter will
be gone. She will need consoling--"
"Ah, ah," said Cayrol, thinking that he understood, "and you would
"I would like to remain some time with her. You could come every day and
see us. I would be very grateful to you, and would love you very much!"
"But--but--but--!" exclaimed Cayrol, much confounded, "you cannot mean
what you say, Jeanne! What, my dear? You wish me to return alone to
Paris to-night? What would my servants say? You would expose me to
Poor Cayrol made a piteous face. Jeanne looked at him as she had never
looked before. It made his blood boil.
"Would you be so very ridiculous for having been delicate and tender?"
"I don't see what tenderness has to do with it," cried Cayrol; "on the
contrary! But I love you. You don't seem to think it!"
"Prove it," replied Jeanne, more provokingly.
This time Cayrol lost all patience.
"Is it in leaving you that I shall prove it? Really, Jeanne, I am
disposed to be kind and to humor your whims, but on condition that they
are reasonable. You seem to be making fun of me! If I give way on such
important points on the day of our marriage, whither will you lead me?
No; no! You are my wife. The wife must follow her husband; the law says
"Is it by law only that you wish to keep me? Have you forgotten what I
told you when you made me an offer of marriage? It is my hand only which
I give you."
"And I answered you, that it would be my aim to gain your heart. Well,
but give me the means. Come, dear," said the banker in a resolute tone,
"you take me for a child. I am not so simple as that! I know what this
resistance means; charming modesty so long as it is not everlasting."
Jeanne turned away without answering. Her face had changed its
expression; it was hard and determined.
"Really," continued Cayrol, "you would make a saint lose patience. Come,
answer me, what does this attitude mean?"
The young wife remained silent. She felt she could not argue any longer,
and seeing no way out of her trouble, felt quite discouraged. Still she
would not yield. She shuddered at the very idea of belonging to this
man; she had never thought of the issue of this brutal and vulgar
adventure. Now that she realized it, she felt terribly disgusted.
Cayrol anxiously watched the increasing anguish depicted on his wife's
face. He had a presentiment that she was hiding something from him, and
the thought nearly choked him. And, with this suspicion, his ingenuity
came to his aid. He approached Jeanne, and said, affectionately:
"Come, dear child, we are misleading one another; I in speaking too
harshly, you in refusing to understand me. Forget that I am your
husband; see in me only a friend and open your heart; your resistance
hides a mystery. You have had some grief or have been deceived."
Jeanne, softened, said, in a low tone:
"Don't speak to me like that; leave me."
"No," resumed Cayrol, quietly, "we are beginning life; there must be no
misunderstanding. Be frank, and you will find me indulgent. Come, young
girls are often romantic. They picture an ideal; they fall in love with
some one who does not return their love, which is sometimes even unknown
to him who is their hero. Then, suddenly, they have to return to a
reality. They find themselves face to face with a husband who is not the
expected Romeo, but who is a good man, devoted, loving, and ready to heal
the wounds he has not made. They are afraid of this husband; they
mistrust him, and will not follow him. It is wrong, because it is near
him, in honorable and right existence, that they find peace and
Cayrol's heart was torn by anxiety, and with trembling voice he tried to
read the effect of his words on Jeanne's features. She had turned.
away. Cayrol bent toward her and said:
"You don't answer me."
And as she still remained silent, he took her hand and forced her to look
at him. He saw that her face was covered with tears. He shuddered, and
then flew into a terrible passion.
"You are crying! It is true then? You have loved?"
Jeanne rose with a bound; she saw her imprudence. She understood the
trap he had laid; her cheeks burned. Drying her tears, she turned toward
Cayrol, and cried:
"Who has said so?"
"You cannot deceive me," replied the banker, violently. "I saw it in
your looks. Now, I want to know the man's name!"
Jeanne looked him straight in the face.
"Never!" she said.
"Ah, that is an avowal!" exclaimed Cayrol.
"You have deceived me unworthily by your pretended kindness," interrupted
Jeanne, proudly, "I will not say anything more."
Cayrol flew at her--the churl reappeared. He muttered a fearful oath,
and seizing her by the arm, shouted:
"Take care! Don't play with me. Speak, I insist, or--" and he shook her
Jeanne, indignant, screamed and tore herself away from him.
"Leave me," she said, "you fill me with horror!"
The husband, beside himself, pale as death and trembling convulsively,
could not utter a word, and was about to rush upon her when the door
opened, and Madame Desvarennes appeared, holding in her hand the letters
which she had written for Cayrol to take back to Paris. Jeanne uttered a
cry of joy, and with a bound threw herself into the arms of her who had
been a mother to her.
Madame Desvarennes understood the situation at a glance. She beheld
Cayrol livid, tottering, and excited. She felt Jeanne trembling on her
breast; she saw something serious had occurred. She calmed herself and
put on a cold manner to enable her the better to suppress any resistance
that they might offer.
"What is the matter?" she asked, looking severely at Cayrol.
"Something quite unexpected," replied the banker, laughing nervously.
"Madame refuses to follow me."
"And for what reason?" she asked.
"She dare not speak!" Cayrol resumed, whose excitement increased as he
spoke. "It appears she has in her heart an unhappy love! And as I do
not resemble the dreamed-of type, Madame has repugnances. But you
understand the affair is not going to end there. It is not usual to come
and say to a husband, twelve hours after marriage, 'Sir, I am very sorry,
but I love somebody else!' It would be too convenient. I shall not lend
myself to these whims."
"Cayrol, oblige me by speaking in a, lower tone," said Madame
Desvarennes, quietly. "There is some misunderstanding between you and
The husband shrugged his broad shoulders.
"A misunderstanding? Faith! I think so! You have a delicacy of
language which pleases me! A misunderstanding! Say rather a shameful
deception! But I want to know the gentleman's name. She will have to
speak. I am not a scented, educated gentleman. I am a peasant, and if I
"Enough," said Madame Desvarennes, sharply tapping with the tips of her
fingers Cayrol's great fist which he held menacingly like a butcher about
to strike. Then, taking him quietly aside toward the window, she added:
"You are a fool to go on like this! Go to my room for a moment. To you,
now, she will not say anything; to me she will confide all and we shall
know what to do."
Cayrol's face brightened.
"You are right," he said. "Yes, as ever, you are right. You must excuse
rile, I do not know how to talk to women. Rebuke her and put a little
sense in her head. But don't leave her; she is fit to commit any folly."
Madame Desvarennes smiled.
"Be easy," she answered.
And making a sign to Cayrol, who was leaving the room, she returned to
"Come, my child, compose yourself. We are alone and you will tell me
what happened. Among women we understand each other. Come, you were
Jeanne was one petrified, immovable, and dumb, she fixed her eyes on a
flower which was hanging from a vase. This red flower fascinated her.
She could not take her eyes off it. Within her a persistent thought
recurred: that of her irremediable misfortune. Madame Desvarennes looked
at her for a moment; then, gently touching her shoulder, resumed;
"Won't you answer me? Have you not confidence in me? Have I not brought
you up? And if you are not born of me, have not the tenderness and care
I have lavished upon you made me your real mother?"
Jeanne did not answer, but her eyes filled with tears;
"You know that I love you," continued the mistress. "Come, come to my
arms as you used to do when you were little and were suffering. Place
your head thereon my heart and let your tears flow. I see they are
Jeanne could no longer resist, and falling on her knees beside Madame
Desvarennes, she buried her face in the silky and scented folds of her
dress like a frightened bird that flies to the nest and hides itself
under the wings of its mother.
This great and hopeless grief was to the mistress a certain proof that
Cayrol was right. Jeanne had loved and still loved another man than her
husband. But why had she not said anything, and why had she allowed
herself to be married to the banker? She had resisted, she remembered
now. She had struggled, and the refusals they had put down to pride they
must now attribute to passion.
She did not wish to be separated from him whom she loved. Hence the
struggle that had ended in her abandoning her hand to Cayrol, perhaps in
a moment of despair and discouragement. But why had he whom she loved
not married her? What obstacle had arisen between him and the young
girl? Jeanne, so beautiful, and dowered by Madame Desvarennes, who then
could have hesitated to ask her hand?
Perhaps he whom Jeanne loved was unworthy of her? No! She would not
have chosen him. Perhaps he was not free to marry? Yes, it must be
that. Some married man, perhaps! A scoundrel who did not mind breaking
a young girl's heart! Where had she met him? In society at her house in
the Rue Saint-Dominique, perhaps! Who could tell? He very likely still
continued to come there. At the thought Madame Desvarennes grew angry.
She wished to know the name of the man so that she might have an
explanation with him, and tell him what she thought of his base conduct.
The gentleman should have respectable, well-educated girls to trifle
with, should he? And he risked nothing! He should be shown to the door
with all honors due to his shameful conduct.
Jeanne was still weeping silently at Madame Desvarennes's knee. The
latter raised her head gently and wiped away the tears with her lace
"Come, my child! all this deluge means nothing. You must make up your
mind. I can understand your hiding anything from your husband, but not
from me! What is your lover's name?"
This question so simply put, threw a faint light on Jeanne's troubled
brain. She saw the danger she was running. To speak before Madame
Desvarennes! To tell the name of him who had been false to her!
To her! Was it possible? In a moment she understood that she was about
to destroy Micheline and Serge. Her conscience revolted and she would
not. She raised herself and looking at Madame Desvarennes with still
"For pity's sake, forget my tears! Don't believe what my husband has
told you. Never seek to know. Remain ignorant as you are on the
"Then he whom you love is related to me, as: you wish to hide his name
even from me," said Madame Desvarennes with instinctive anguish.
She was silent. Her eyes became fixed. They looked without seeing. She
"I beseech you," cried Jeanne, madly placing her hands before Madame
Desvarennes's face as if to check her scrutiny.
"If I had a, son," continued the mistress, "I would believe--" Suddenly
she ceased speaking; she became pale, and bending toward Jeanne, she
looked into her very soul.
"Is it--"she began.
"No! no!" interrupted Jeanne, terrified at seeing that the mistress had
found out the truth.
"You deny it before I have pronounced the name?" said Madame Desvarennes
in a loud voice. "You read it then on my lips? Unhappy girl! The man
whom you love is the husband of my daughter!"
My daughter! The accent with which Madame Desvarennes pronounced the
word "my" was full of tragical power. It revealed the mother capable of
doing anything to defend the happiness of the child whom she adored.
Serge had calculated well. Between Jeanne and Micheline, Madame
Desvarennes would not hesitate. She would have allowed the world to
crumble away to make of its ruins a shelter where her daughter would be
joyous and happy.
Jeanne had fallen back overwhelmed. The mistress raised her roughly.
She had no more consideration for her. It was necessary that she should
speak. Jeanne was the sole witness, and if the truth had to be got by
main force she should be made to speak it.
"Ah, forgive me!" moaned the young girl.
"It is not a question of that! In one word, answer me: Does he love
"Do I know?"
"Did he tell you he did?"
"And he has married Micheline!" exclaimed Madame Desvarennes, with a
fearful gesture. "I distrusted him. Why did I not obey my instinct?"
And she began walking about like a lioness in a cage. Then, suddenly
stopping and placing herself before Jeanne, she continued:
"You must help me to save Micheline!"
She thought only of her own flesh and blood. Without hesitation,
unconsciously, she abandoned the other--the child of adoption. She
claimed the safety of her daughter as a debt.
"What has she to fear?" asked Jeanne, bitterly. "She triumphs, as she
is his wife."
"If he were to abandon her," said the mother with anguish. Then,
reflecting: "Still, he has sworn to me that he loved her."
"He lied!" cried Jeanne, with rage. "He wanted Micheline for her
"But why that?" inquired Madame Desvarennes, menacingly. "Is she not
pretty enough to have pleased him? Do you think that you are the only
one to be loved?"
"If I had been rich he would have married me!", replied Jeanne,
She had risen in revolt. They were treading too heavily on her. With a
ferocious cry of triumph; she added:
"The night he used his influence with me to get me to marry Cayrol, he
assured me so on his word of honor!"
"Honor!" ironically repeated Madame Desvarennes, overwhelmed. "How he
has deceived us all! But what can I do? What course can I take? A
separation? Micheline would not consent. She loves him."
And, in an outburst of fury, she cried:
"Is it possible that that stupid girl loves that worthless dandy? And
she has my blood in her veins! If she knew the truth she would die!"
"Am I dead?" asked Jeanne, gloomily.
"You have an energetic nature," retorted the mistress, compassionately;
"but she is so weak, so gentle! Ah! Jeanne, think what I have been to
you; raise some insurmountable barrier between yourself and Serge!
"Go back to your husband. You would not go with him a little while ago.
It was folly. If you separate from Cayrol, you will not be able to keep
away Serge, and you will take my daughter's husband from her!"
"Ah! you think only of her! Her, always! She above all!" cried
Jeanne, with rage. "But me, I exist, I count, I have the right to be
protected, of being happy! And you wish me to sacrifice myself, to give
myself up to this man, whom I do not love, and who terrifies me?"
This time the question was plainly put. Madame Desvarennes became
herself. She straightened her figure, and in her commanding voice whose
authority no one resisted, said:
"What then? You wish to be separated from him? To regain your liberty
at the price of scandal? And what liberty? You will be repulsed,
disdained. Believe me, impose silence on your heart and listen to your
reason. Your husband is a good, loyal man. If you cannot love him, he
will command your respect. In marrying him, you have entered into
engagements toward him. Fulfil them; it is your duty."
Jeanne felt overpowered and vanquished. "But what will my life be?" she
"That of an honest woman," replied Madame Desvarennes, with true
grandeur. "Be a wife; God will make you a mother, and you will be
Jeanne bowed herself at these words. She no longer felt in them the
selfishness of the mother. What the mistress now said was sincere and
true. It was no longer her agitated and alarmed heart that inspired her;
it was her conscience, calm and sincere.
"Very well; I will obey you," said the young wife, simply. "Kiss me
She bent her brow, and Madame Desvarennes let tears of gratitude and
admiration fall on it. Then Jeanne went of her own accord to the room
"Come, Monsieur," called she to Cayrol.
The husband, grown cooler while waiting, and troubled at the length of
the interview, showed his anxious face on the threshold. He saw Madame
Desvarennes grave, and Jeanne collected. He dared not speak.
"Cayrol, everything is explained," said the mistress. "You have nothing
to fear from him whom you suspected. He is separated from Jeanne
forever, And; besides, nothing has passed between him and her who is your
wife that could arouse your jealousy. I will not tell you the name of
this man now. But if perchance he by some impossibility reappeared and
threatened your happiness, I would myself--you understand, me?--point him
out to you!"
Cayrol remained thinking for, a moment; then addressing Madame
"It is well. I have confidence in you."
Then turning toward Jeanne, he added:
"Forgive me and let everything be forgotten."
The mistress's face beamed with joy, as she followed their departing
figures with her eyes, and murmured:
Then, changing her expression:
"Now for the other one!" exclaimed she.
And she went out on to the terrace.
The air was mild, the night clear and bright. Cayrol's carriage rolled
rapidly along the broad avenue of the park shadowed by tall trees, the
lanterns throwing, as they passed, their quivering light on the thickets.
The rumbling carriages took the last guests to the railway station. It
was past midnight. A nightingale began singing his song of love to the
Madame Desvarennes mechanically stopped to listen. A sense of sorrow
came over this mother who was a prey to the most cruel mental anguish.
She thought that she could have been very happy on that splendid night,
if her heart had been full of quietude and serenity. Her two daughters
were married; her last task was accomplished. She ought to have nothing
to do but enjoy life after her own fashioning, and be calm and satisfied.
Instead of that, here were fear and dissimulation taking possession of
her mind; and an ardent, pitiless struggle beginning against the man who
had deceived her daughter and lied to her. The bark which carried her
fortune, on reaching port, had caught fire, and it was necessary to begin
laboring again amid cares and pains.
A dull rage filled her heart. To have so surely built up the edifice of
her happiness, to have embellished it every hour, and then to see an
intruder audaciously taking possession of it, and making his despotic and
hateful authority prevail! And what could she do against this new
master? Nothing. He was marvellously protected by Micheline's mad love
for him. To strike Serge would be to wound Micheline, surely and
mortally. So this scoundrel could laugh at her and dare her with
What must she do? Take him aside and tell him that she knew of his
disloyal conduct, and tell him of her contempt and hatred for him? And
after that? What would be the consequence of this outburst of violence?
The Prince, using his power over Micheline, would separate the daughter
from the mother. And Madame Desvarennes would be alone in her corner,
abandoned like a poor dog, and would die of despair and anger. What
other course then? She must dissemble, mask her face with indifference,
if possible with tenderness, and undertake the difficult task of
separating Micheline from the man whom she adored. It was quite a feat
of strategy to plan. To bring out the husband's faults and to make his
errors known, and give her the opportunity of proving his worthlessness.
In a word, to make the young wife understand that she had married an
elegant manikin, unworthy of her love.
It would be an easy matter to lay snares for Serge. He was a gambler.
She could let him have ready money to satisfy his passion. Once in the
clutches of the demon of play, he would neglect his wife, and the mother
might regain a portion of the ground she had lost. Micheline's fortune
once broken into, she would interpose between her daughter and son-in-
law. She would make him pull up, and holding him tightly by her purse
strings, would lead him whither she liked.
Already in fancy she saw her authority regained, and her daughter, her
treasure, her life, true mistress of the situation, grateful to her for
having saved her. And then, she thought, a baby will come, and if
Micheline is really my daughter, she will adore the little thing, and the
blind love which she has given to her husband will be diminished by so
Serge did not know what an adversary he had against him in his mother-in-
law. It was a bad thing to cross the mistress when business matters were
concerned, but now that her daughter's happiness was at stake! A smile
came to her lips. A firm resolution from that hour must guide her, and
the struggle between her son-in-law and herself could only end by the
crushing of one of them.
In the distance the music from the work-people's ball was heard. Madame
Desvarennes mechanically bent her steps toward the tent under which the
heavy bounds of the dancers reechoed. Every now and then large shadows
appeared on the canvas. A joyful clamor issued from the ballroom. Loud
laughter resounded, mingled with piercing cries of tickled women.
The voice of the master of the ceremonies could be heard jocose and
solemn: "La poule! Advance! Set to partners!" Then the stamping of
heavy shoes on the badly planed floor, and, above all, the melancholy
sounds of the clarionet and the shrill notes of the cornet were audible.
At the entrance of the ballroom, surrounded by tables and stools, two
barrels of wine on stands presented their wooden taps, ready for those
who wanted to quench their thirst. A large red mark under each barrel
showed that the hands of the drinkers wire no longer steady. A cake-
seller had taken up his place at the other side, and was kneading a last
batch of paste, while his apprentice was ringing a bell which hung over
the iron cooking-stove to attract customers. There was an odor of rancid
butter, spilled wine, and paraffin oil.
Adjoining the ballroom, a merry-go-round; which had been the delight of
the village urchins all day, appealed for custom by the aid of a barrel-
organ on which a woman in a white bodice was playing the waltz from 'Les
Cloches de Corneville'.
The animation of this fete, in the midst of which Madame Desvarennes
suddenly appeared, was a happy diversion from the serious thoughts which
beset her. She remembered that Serge and Micheline must be there. She
came from under the shadow of the avenue into the full light. On
recognizing her, all the workpeople, who were seated, rose. She was
really mistress and lady of the place. And then she had fed these people
since morning. With a sign she bade them be seated, and walking quickly
toward the dancing-room, lifted the red and white cotton curtain which
hung over the entrance.
There, in a space of a hundred square yards or so, about a hundred and
fifty people were sitting or standing. At the end, on a stage, were the
musicians, each with a bottle of wine at his feet, from which they
refreshed themselves during the intervals. An impalpable dust, raised by
the feet of the dancers, filled the air charged with acrid odors. The
women in light dresses and bareheaded, and the men arrayed in their
Sunday clothes, gave themselves up with frantic ardor to their favorite
Ranged in double rows, vis-a-vis, they were waiting with impatience for
the music to strike up for the last figure. Near the orchestra, Serge
was dancing with the Mayor's daughter opposite Micheline, whose partner
was the mayor himself. An air of joyful gravity lit up the municipal
officer's face. He was enjoying the honor which the Princess had done
him. His pretty young daughter, dressed, in her confirmation dress,
which had been lengthened with a muslin flounce, a rose in her hair, and
her hands encased in straw-colored one-button kid gloves, hardly dared
raise her eyes to the Prince, and with burning cheeks, answered in
monosyllables the few remarks Serge felt forced to address to her.
The orchestra bellowed, the floor shook; the two lines of dancers had
advanced in a body. Madame Desvarennes, leaning against the door-post,
followed with her eyes her daughter, whose light footsteps contrasted
strangely with the heavy tread of the women around her. The mayor, eager
and respectful, followed her, making efforts to keep up with her without
treading on her long train. It was,
"Excuse me, Madame la Princesse. If Madame la Princesse will do me the
honor to give me her hand, it is our turn to cross."
They had just crossed. Serge suddenly found himself facing his mother-
in-law. His face lit up, and he uttered a joyful exclamation. Micheline
raised her eyes, and following her husband's look, perceived her mother.
Then it was a double joy. With a mischievous wink, Serge called Madame
Desvarennes's attention to the mayor's solemn appearance as he was
galloping with Micheline, also the comical positions of the rustics.
Micheline was smiling. She was enjoying herself. All this homely
gayety, of which she was the cause, made her feel happy. She enjoyed the
pleasure of those around her. With her compassionate eyes she thanked
her mother in the distance for having prepared this fete in honor of her
marriage. The clarionet, violin, and cornet sounded a last modulation,
then the final cadence put an end to the bounds of the dances. Each took
his lady to her place--the mayor with pompous gait, Serge with as much
grace as if he had been at an ambassador's ball and was leading a young
lady of highest rank.
Madame Desvarennes was suddenly surrounded; cheers resounded, the band
struck up the Marseillaise.
"Let us escape," said Serge, "because these good people will think
nothing of carrying us in triumph."
And leading away his mother-in-law and his wife, he left the ballroom
followed by cheers.
Outside they all three walked in silence. The night air was delightful
after coming out of that furnace. The cheering had ceased, and the
orchestra was playing a polka. Micheline had taken her husband's arm.
They went along slowly, and close together. Not a word was exchanged;
they all three seemed to be listening within themselves. When they
reached the house, they went up the steps leading into the greenhouse,
which served also as a boudoir to Madame Desvarennes.
The atmosphere was still warm and scented, the lamps still burning. The
guests had left; Micheline looked round. The remembrance of this happy
evening, which had been the crowning of her happiness, filled her heart
with emotion. Turning toward her mother with a radiant face, she cried:
"Ah! mamma! I am so happy," and threw her arms around her.
Serge started at this cry. Two tears came to his eyes, and looking a
little pale, he stretched out to Madame Desvarennes his hands, which she
felt trembling in hers, and said:
Madame Desvarennes gazed at him for a moment. She did not see the shadow
of a wicked thought on his brow. He was sincerely affected, truly
grateful. The idea occurred to her that Jeanne had deceived her, or had
deceived herself, and that Serge had not loved her. A feeling of relief
took possession of her. But distrust had unfortunately entered her mind.
She put away that flattering hope. And giving her son-in-law such a
look, which, had he been less moved, he would have understood, she
"We shall see."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A uniform is the only garb which can hide poverty honorably
Forget a dream and accept a reality
I don't pay myself with words
Implacable self-interest which is the law of the world
In life it is only nonsense that is common-sense
Is a man ever poor when he has two arms?
Is it by law only that you wish to keep me?
Nothing that provokes laughter more than a disappointed lover
Suffering is a human law; the world is an arena
The uncontested power which money brings
We had taken the dream of a day for eternal happiness
What is a man who remains useless
By GEORGES OHNET
THE FIRST BREAK
The first two months of this union were truly enchanting. Serge and
Micheline never left each other. After an absence of eight days they had
returned to Paris with Madame Desvarennes, and the hitherto dull mansion
in the Rue Saint-Dominique was filled with joyful bustle. The splendid
stables, formerly too large for the mistress's three horses, were now
insufficient for the service of the Prince. There were eight splendid
carriage-horses, a pair of charming ponies--bought especially for
Micheline's use, but which the young wife had not been able to make up
her mind to drive herself--four saddle-horses, upon which every morning
about eight o'clock, when the freshness of night had perfumed the Bois de
Boulogne, the young people took their ride round the lake.
A bright sun made the sheet of water sparkle between its borders of dark
fir-trees; the flesh air played in Micheline's veil, and the tawny
leather of the saddles creaked. Those were happy days for Micheline, who
was delighted at having Serge near her, attentive to her every want, and
controlling his thoroughbred English horse to her gentle pace. Every now
and then his mount would wheel about and rear in revolt, she following
him with fond looks, proud of the elegant cavalier who could subdue
without apparent effort, by the mere pressure of his thighs, that
Then she would give her horse a touch with the whip, and off she would go
at a gallop, feeling happy with the wind blowing in her face, and he whom
she loved by her side to smile on and encourage her. Then they would
scamper along; the dog with his thin body almost touching the ground,
racing and frightening the rabbits, which shot across the road swift as
bullets. Out of breath by the violent ride, Micheline would stop, and
pat the neck of her lovely chestnut horse. Slowly the young people would
return to the Rue Saint-Dominique, and, on arriving in the courtyard,
there was such a pawing of feet as brought the clerks to the windows,
hiding behind the curtains. Tired with healthy exercise, Micheline would
go smiling to the office where her mother was hard at work, and say:
"Here we are, mamma!"
The mistress would rise and kiss her daughter beaming with freshness.
Then they would go up to breakfast.
Madame Desvarennes's doubts were lulled to rest. She saw her daughter
happy. Her son-in-law was in every respect cordial and charming toward
her. Cayrol and his wife had scarcely been in Paris since their
marriage. The banker had joined Herzog in his great scheme of the
"Credit," and was travelling all over Europe establishing offices and
securing openings. Jeanne accompanied him. They were then in Greece.
The young wife's letters to her adopted mother breathed calmness and
satisfaction. She highly praised her husband's kindness to her, and said
it was unequalled.
No allusion was made to that evening of their marriage, when, escaping
from Cayrol's wrath, she had thrown herself in Madame Desvarennes's arms,
and had allowed her secret to be found out. The mistress might well
think then that the thought which at times still troubled her mind was a
remembrance of a bad dream.
What contributed especially to make her feel secure was Jeanne's absence.
If the young woman had been near Serge, Madame Desvarennes might have
trembled. But Micheline's beautiful rival was far away, and Serge seemed
very much in love with his wife.
Everything was for the best. The formidable projects which Madame
Desvarennes had formed in the heat of her passion had not been earned
out. Serge had as yet not given Madame Desvarennes cause for real
displeasure. Certainly he was spending money foolishly, but then his
wife was so rich!
He had put his household on an extraordinary footing. Everything that
most refined luxury had invented he had introduced as a matter of course,
and for everyday use. He entertained magnificently several times a week.
And Madame Desvarennes, from her apartments, for she would never appear
at these grand receptions, heard the noise of these doings. This woman,
modest and simple in her ideas, whose luxury had always been artistic,
wondered that they could spend so much on frivolous entertainments. But
Micheline was queen of these sumptuous ceremonies. She came in full
dress to be admired by her mother, before going down to receive her
guests, and the mistress had not courage to offer any remonstrances as to
expense when she saw her daughter so brilliant and contented.
They played cards very much. The great colony of foreigners who came
every week to Panine's receptions brought with them their immoderate
passion for cards, and he was only too willing to give way to it. These
gentlemen, among them all, almost without taking off their white kid
gloves, would win or lose between forty and fifty thousand francs at
bouillotte, just to give them an appetite before going to the club to
finish the night at baccarat.
Meanwhile the ladies, with their graceful toilettes displayed on the low
soft chairs, talked of dress behind their fans, or listened to the songs
of a professional singer, while young men whispered soft nothings in
It was rumored that the Prince lost heavily. It was not to be wondered
at; he was so happy in love! Madame Desvarennes, who used every means of
gaining information on the subject, even to the gossip of the servants,
heard that the sums were enormous. No doubt they were exaggerated, but
the fact remained the same. The Prince was losing.
Madame Desvarennes could not resist the inclination of finding out
whether Micheline knew what was going on, and one morning when the young
wife came down to see her mother, dressed in a lovely pink gown, the
mistress, while teasing her daughter, said, carelessly:
"It seems your husband lost heavily last night."
Micheline looked astonished at Madame Desvarennes, and in a quiet voice
"A good host may not win from his guests; it would look as if he invited
them to rob them. Losses at cards are included in the costs of a
Madame Desvarennes thought that her daughter had become a very grand
lady, and had soon acquired expanded ideas. But she dared not say
anything more. She dreaded a quarrel with her daughter, and would have
sacrificed everything to retain her cajoling ways.
She threw herself into her work with renewed vigor.
"If the Prince spends large sums," she said to herself, "I will earn
larger ones. There can be no hole dug deep enough by him that I shall
not be able, to fill up."
And she made the money come in at the door so that her son-in-law might
throw it out of the window.
One fine day these great people who visited at the mansion in the Rue
Saint-Dominique hastened away to the country. September had arrived,
bringing with it the shooting season. The Prince and Micheline settled
themselves at Cernay, not as in the first days of their marriage as
lovers who sought quietude, but as people sure of their happiness, who
wished to make a great show. They took all the carriages with them, and
there was nothing but bustle and movement. The four keepers, dressed in
the Prince's livery, came daily for orders as to shooting arrangements.
And every week shoals of visitors arrived, brought from the station in
large breaks drawn by four horses.
The princely dwelling was in its full splendor. There was a continual
going and coming of fashionable worldlings. From top to bottom of the
castle was a constant rustling of silk dresses; groups of pretty women,
coming downstairs with peals of merry laughter and singing snatches from
the last opera. In the spacious hall they played billiards and other
games, while one of the gentlemen performed on the large organ. There
was a strange mixture of freedom and strictness. The smoke of Russian
cigarettes mingled with the scent of opoponax. An elegant confusion
which ended about six o'clock in a general flight, when the sportsmen
came home, and the guests went to their rooms. An hour afterward all
these people met in the large drawing-room; the ladies in low-bodied
evening dresses; the gentlemen in dress-coats and white satin waistcoats,
with a sprig of mignonette and a white rose in their buttonholes. After
dinner, they danced in the drawing-rooms, where a mad waltz would even
restore energy to the gentlemen tired out by six hours spent in the
Madame Desvarennes did not join in that wild existence. She had remained
in Paris, attentive to business. On Saturdays she came down by the five
o'clock train and regularly returned on the Monday morning. Her presence
checked their wild gayety a little. Her black dress was like a blot
among the brocades and satins. Her severe gravity, that of a woman who
pays and sees the money going too fast, was like a reproach, silent but
explicit, to that gay and thoughtless throng of idlers, solely taken up
by their pleasure.
The servants made fun of her. One day the Prince's valet, who thought
himself a clever fellow, said before all the other servants that Mother
Damper had arrived. Of course they all roared with laughter and
"Bother the old woman! Why does she come and worry us? She had far
better stop in the office and earn money; that's all she's good for!"
The disdain which the servants learned from their master grew rapidly.
So much so that one Monday morning, toward nine o'clock, Madame
Desvarennes came down to the courtyard, expecting to find the carriage
which generally took her to the station. It was the second coachman's
duty to drive her, and she did not see him. Thinking that he was a
little late, she walked to the stable-yard. There, instead of the
victoria which usually took her, she saw a large mail-coach to which two
grooms were harnessing the Prince's four bays. The head coachman, an
Englishman, dressed like a gentleman, with a stand-up collar, and a rose
in his buttonhole, stood watching the operations with an air of
Madame Desvarennes went straight to him. He had seen her coming, out of
the, corner of his eye, without disturbing himself.
"How is it that the carriage is not ready to take me to the station?"
asked the mistress.
"I don't know, Madame," answered this personage, condescendingly, without
taking his hat off.
"But where is the coachman who generally drives me?"
"I don't know. If Madame would like to see in the stables--"
And with a careless gesture, the Englishman pointed out to Madame
Desvarennes the magnificent buildings at the end of the courtyard.
The blood rose to the mistress's cheeks; she gave the coachman such a
look that he moved away a little. Then glancing at her watch, she said,
"I have only a quarter of an hour before the train leaves, but here are
horses that ought to go well. Jump on the box, my man, you shall drive
The Englishman shook his head.
"Those horses are not for service; they are only for pleasure," he
answered. "I drive the Prince. I don't mind driving the Princess, but I
am not here to drive you, Madame."
And with an insolent gesture, setting his hat firmly on his head, he
turned his back upon the mistress. At the same moment, a sharp stroke
from a light cane made his hat roll on the pavement. And as the
Englishman turned round, red with rage, he found himself face to face
with the Prince, whose approach neither Madame Desvarennes nor he had
Serge, in an elegant morning suit, was going round his stables when he
had been attracted by this discussion. The Englishman, uneasy, sought to
frame an excuse.
"Hold your tongue!" exclaimed the Prince, sharply, "and go and wait my
And turning toward the mistress:
"Since this man refuses to drive you, I shall have the pleasure of taking
you to the station myself," he said, with a charming smile.
And as Madame Desvarennes remonstrated,
"Oh! I can drive four-in-hand," he added. "For once in my life that
talent will have been of some use to me. Pray jump in."
And opening the door of the mail-coach he handed her into the vast
carriage. Then, climbing with one bound to the box, he gathered the
reins and, cigar in mouth, with all the coolness of an old coachman, he
started the horses in the presence of all the grooms, and made a perfect
semicircle on the gravel of the courtyard.
The incident was repeated favorably for Serge. It was agreed that he had
behaved like a true nobleman. Micheline was proud of it, and saw in this
act of deference to her mother a proof of his love for her. As to the
mistress, she understood the advantage this clever manoeuvre gave to the
Prince. At the same time she felt the great distance which henceforth
separated her from the world in which her daughter lived.
The insolence of that servant was a revelation to her. They despised
her. The Prince's coachman would not condescend to drive a plebeian like
her. She paid the wages of these servants to no purpose. Her plebeian
origin and business habits were a vice. They submitted to her; they did
not respect her.
Although her son-in-law and daughter were perfect toward her in their
behavior, she became gloomy and dull, and but seldom went now to Cernay.
She felt in the way, and uncomfortable. The smiling and superficial
politeness of the visitors irritated her nerves. These people were too
well bred to be rude toward Panine's mother-in-law, but she felt that
their politeness was forced. Under their affected nicety she detected
irony. She began to hate them all.
Serge, sovereign lord of Cernay, was really happy. Every moment he
experienced new pleasure in gratifying his taste for luxury. His love
for horses grew more and more. He gave orders to have a model stud-house
erected in the park amid the splendid meadows watered by the Oise; and
bought stallions and breeding mares from celebrated English breeders. He
contemplated starting a racing stable.
One day when Madame Desvarennes arrived at Cernay, she was surprised to
see the greensward bordering the woods marked out with white stakes. She
asked inquiringly what these stakes meant? Micheline answered in an easy
"Ah! you saw them? That is the track for training. We made
Mademoiselle de Cernay gallop there to-day. She's a level-going filly
with which Serge hopes to win the next Poule des Produits."
The mistress was amazed. A child who had been brought up so simply, in
spite of her large fortune, a little commoner, speaking of level-going
fillies and the Poule des Produits! What a change had come over her and
what incredible influence this frivolous, vain Panine had over that young
and right-minded girl! And that in a few months! What would it be
later? He would succeed in imparting to her his tastes and would mould
her to his whims, and the young modest girl whom he had received from the
mother would become a horsey and fast woman.
Was it possible that Micheline could be happy in that hollow and empty
life? The love of her husband satisfied her. His love was all she asked
for, all else was indifferent to her. Thus of her mother, the
impassioned toiler, was born the passionate lover! All the fervency
which the mother had given to business, Micheline had given to love.
Moreover, Serge behaved irreproachably. One must do him that justice.
Not even an appearance accused him. He was faithful, unlikely as that
may seem in a man of his kind; he never left his wife. He had hardly
ever gone out without her; they were a couple of turtle-doves. They were
"The Princess has tied a string round Serge's foot," was said by some of
Serge's former woman friends!
It was something to be sure of her daughter's happiness. That happiness
was dearly, bought; but as the proverb says:
"Money troubles are not mortal!"
And, besides, it was evident that the Prince did not keep account of his
money; his hand was always open. And never did a great lord do more
honor to his fortune. Panine, in marrying Micheline, had found the
mistress's cash-box at his disposal.
This prodigious cash-box had seemed to him inexhaustible, and he had
drawn on it like a Prince in the Arabian Nights on the treasure of the
Perhaps it would suffice to let him see that he was spending the capital
as well as the income to make him alter his line of conduct. At all
events, the moment was not yet opportune, and, besides, the amount was
not yet large enough. Cry out about some hundred thousand francs!
Madame Desvarennes would be thought a miser and would be covered with
shame. She must wait.
And, shut up in her office in the Rue Saint-Dominique with Marechal, who
acted as her confidant, she worked with heart and soul full of passion
and anger, making money. It was fine to witness the duel between these
two beings: the one useful, the other useless; one sacrificing everything
to work, the other everything to pleasure.
Toward the end of October, the weather at Cernay became unsettled, and
Micheline complained of the cold. Country life so pleased Serge that he
turned a deaf ear to her complaints. But lost in that large house, the
autumn winds rustling through the trees, whose leaves were tinted with
yellow, Micheline became sad, and the Prince understood that it was time
to go back to Paris.
The town seemed deserted to Serge. Still, returning to his splendid
apartments was a great satisfaction and pleasure to him. Everything
appeared new. He reviewed the hangings, the expensive furniture, the
paintings and rare objects. He was charmed. It was really of wonderful
beauty, and the cage seemed worthy of the bird. For several evenings he
remained quietly at home with Micheline, in the little silver-gray
drawing-room that was his favorite room. He looked through albums, too,
while his wife played at her piano quietly or sang.
They retired early and came down late. Then he had become a gourmand.
He spent hours in arranging menus and inventing unknown dishes about
which he consulted his chef, a cook of note.
He rode in the Bois in the course of the day, but did not meet any one
there; for of every two carriages one was a hackney coach with a worn-out
sleepy horse, his head hanging between his knees, going the round of the
lake. He ceased going to the Bois, and went out on foot in the Champs-
Elysees. He crossed the Pont de la Concorde, and walked up and down the
avenues near the Cirque.
He was wearied. Life had never appeared so monotonous to him. Formerly
he had at least the preoccupations of the future. He asked himself how
he could alter the sad condition in which he vegetated! Shut up in this
happy existence, without a care or a cross, he grew weary like a prisoner
in his cell. He longed for the unforeseen; his wife irritated him, she
was of too equable a temperament. She always met him with the same smile
on her lips. And then happiness agreed with her too well; she was
One day, on the Boulevard des Italiens, Serge met an old friend, the
Baron de Prefont, a hardened 'roue'. He had not seen him since his
marriage. It was a pleasure to him. They had a thousand things to say
to each other. And walking along, they came to the Rue Royale.
"Come to the club," said Prefont, taking Serge by the arm.
The Prince, having nothing else to do, allowed himself to be led away,
and went. He felt a strange pleasure in those large rooms of the club,
the Grand Cercle, with their glaring furniture. The common easy-chairs,
covered with dark leather, seemed delightful. He did not notice the
well-worn carpets burned here and there by the hot cigar-ash; the strong
smell of tobacco, impregnated in the curtains, did not make him feel
qualmish. He was away from home, and was satisfied with anything for a
change. He had been domesticated long enough.
One morning, taking up the newspaper, a name caught Madame Desvarennes's
eye-that of the Prince. She read:
"The golden book of the Grand Cercle has just had another illustrious
name inscribed in it. The Prince Panine was admitted yesterday, proposed
by the Baron de Prefont and the Duc de Bligny."
These few lines made Madame Desvarennes's blood boil. Her ears tingled
as if all the bells of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont had been rung together. In
a rapid vision, she saw misfortune coming. Her son-in-law, that born
gambler, at the Grand Cercle! No more smiles for Micheline; henceforth
she had a terrible rival--the devouring love of play.
Then Madame Desvarennes reflected. The husband's deserting his fireside
would be salvation for herself. The door by which he went out, would
serve as an entrance for her. The plan which she had conceived at Cernay
that terrible night of the marriage when Jeanne had confided in her,
remained for her to execute. By opening her purse widely to the Prince,
she would help him in his vice. And she would infallibly succeed in
separating Serge and Micheline.
But the mistress checked herself. Lend her hands to the destruction of
her son-in-law in a fit of fierce maternal egoism? Was it not unworthy
of her? How many tears would the Prince's errors cost her whom she
wished to regain at all price? And then would she always be there to
compensate by her devoted affection the bitterly regretted estrangement
from the husband? She would, in dying, leave the household disunited.
She was horrified at what she had for an instant dreamed of doing. And
instead of helping the Prince on to destruction, she determined to do all
in her power to keep him in the path of honor. That resolution formed,
Madame Desvarennes was satisfied. She felt superior to Serge, and to a
mind like hers the thought was strengthening.
The admission to the Grand Cercle gave Serge a powerful element of
interest in life: He had to manoeuvre to obtain his liberty. His first
evenings spent from home troubled Micheline deeply. The young wife was
jealous when she saw her husband going out. She feared a rival, and
trembled for her love. Serge's mysterious conduct caused her intolerable
torture. She dared not say anything to her mother, and remained
perfectly quiet on the subject before her husband. She sought
discreetly, listened to the least word that might throw any light on the
One day she found an ivory counter, bearing the stamp of the Grand
Cercle, in her husband's dressing-room. It was in the Rue Royale then
that her husband spent his evenings. This discovery was a great relief
to her. It was not very wrong to go there, and if the Prince did go and
smoke a few cigars and have a game at bouillotte, it was not a very great
crime. The return of his usual friends to Paris and the resumption of
their receptions would bring him home again.
Serge now left Micheline about ten o'clock in the evening regularly and
arrived at the club about eleven. High play did not commence until after
midnight. Then he seated himself at the gaming-table with all the ardor
of a professional gambler. His face changed its expression. When
winning, it was animated with an expression of awful joy; when losing,
he looked as hard as a stone, his features contracted, and his eyes were
full of gloomy fire. He bit his mustache convulsively. Moreover, always
silent, winning or losing with superb indifference.
He lost. His bad luck had followed him. At the club his losses were no
longer limited. There was always some one willing to take a hand, and
until dawn he played, wasting his life and energies to satisfy his insane
love of gambling.
One morning, Marechal entered Madame Desvarennes's private office,
holding a little square piece of paper. Without speaking a word, he
placed it on the desk. The mistress took it, read what was written upon
it in shaky handwriting, and suddenly becoming purple, rose. The paper
bore these simple words:
"Received from Monsieur Salignon the sum of one hundred thousand francs.
"Who brought this paper?" asked Madame Desvarennes, crushing it between
"The waiter who attends the card-room at the club."
"The waiter?" cried Madame Desvarennes, astonished.
"Oh, he is a sort of banker," said Marechal. "These gentlemen apply to
him when they run short of money. The Prince must have found himself in
that predicament. Still he has just received the rents for the property
in the Rue de Rivoli."
"The rents!" grumbled Madame Desvarennes, with an energetic movement.
"The rents! A drop of water in a river! You don't know that he is a man
to lose the hundred thousand francs which they claim, in one night."
The mistress paced up and down the room. She suddenly came to a
standstill. "If I don't stop him, the rogue will sell the feather-bed
from under my daughter! But he shall have a little of my mind! He has
provoked me long enough. Pay it! I'll take my money's worth out of
And in a second, Madame Desvarennes was in the Prince's room.
Serge, after a delicate breakfast, was smoking and dozing on the smoking-
room sofa. The night had been a heavy one for him. He had won two
hundred and fifty thousand francs from Ibrahim Bey, then he had lost all,
besides five thousand louis advanced by the obliging Salignon. He had
told the waiter to come to the Rue Saint-Dominique, and by mistake the
man had gone to the office.
The sudden opening of the smoking-room door roused Serge. He unclosed
his eyes and looked very much astonished at seeing Madame Desvarennes
appear. Pale, frowning, and holding the accusing paper in her hand, she
"Do you recognize that?" and placed the receipt which he had signed,
before him, as he slowly rose.
Serge seized it quickly, and then looking coldly at his mother-in-law,
"How did this paper come into your hands?"
"It has just been brought to my cashier. A hundred thousand francs!
Faith! You are going ahead! Do you know how many bushels of corn must
be ground to earn that?"
"I beg your pardon, Madame," said the Prince, interrupting Madame
Desvarennes. "I don't suppose you came here to give me a lesson in
commercial statistics. This paper was presented to your cashier by
mistake. I was expecting it, and here is the money ready to pay it.
As you have been good enough to do so, pray refund yourself."
And taking a bundle of bank-notes from a cabinet, the Prince handed them
to the astonished mistress.
"But," she sought to say, very much put out by this unexpected answer,
"where did you get this money from? You must have inconvenienced
"I beg your pardon," said the Prince, quietly, "that only concerns
myself. Be good enough to see whether the amount is there," added he
with a smile. "I reckon so badly that it is possible I may have made a
mistake to your disadvantage."
Madame Desvarennes pushed away the hand which presented the bank-notes,
and shook her head gravely:
"Keep this money," she said; "unfortunately you will need it. You have
entered on a very dangerous path, which grieves me very much. I would
willingly give ten times the amount, at once, to be sure that you would
never touch another card."
"Madame!" said the Prince with impatience.
"Oh! I know what I am risking by speaking thus. It weighs so heavily
on my heart. I must give vent to it or I shall choke. You are spending
money like a man who does not know what it is to earn it. And if you
Madame Desvarennes raised her eyes and looked at the Prince. She saw him
so pale with suppressed rage that she dared not say another word. She
read deadly hatred in the young man's look. Frightened at what she had
just been saying, she stepped back, and went quickly toward the door.
"Take this money, Madame," said Serge, in a trembling voice. "Take it,
or all is over between us forever."
And, seizing the notes, he put them by force in Madame Desvarennes's
hands. Then tearing up with rage the paper that had been the cause of
this painful scene, he threw the pieces in the fireplace.
Deeply affected, Madame Desvarennes descended the stairs which she had a
few minutes before gone up with so much resolution. She had a
presentiment that an irreparable rupture had just taken place between
herself and her son-in-law. She had ruffled Panine's pride. She felt
that he would never forgive her. She went to her room sad and
thoughtful. Life was becoming gloomy for this poor woman. Her
confidence in herself had disappeared. She hesitated now, and was
irresolute when she had to take a decision. She no longer went straight
to the point by the shortest road. Her sonorous voice was softened. She
was no longer the same willing energetic woman who feared no obstacles.
She had known defeat.
The attitude of her daughter had changed toward her. It seemed as if
Micheline wished to absolve herself of all complicity with Madame
Desvarennes. She kept away to prove to her husband that if her mother
had displeased him in any way, she had nothing to do with it. This
behavior grieved her mother, who felt that Serge was working secretly to
turn Micheline against her. And the mad passion of the young wife for
him whom she recognized as her master did not allow the mother to doubt
which side she would take if ever she had to choose between husband and
One day Micheline came down to see her mother. It was more than a month
since she had visited her. In a moment Madame Desvarennes saw that she
had something of an embarrassing nature to speak of. To begin with she
was more affectionate than usual, seeming to wish with the honey of her
kisses to sweeten the bitter cross which the mistress was doomed to bear.
Then she hesitated. She fidgeted about the room humming. At last she
said that the doctor had come at the request of Serge, who was most
anxious about his wife's health. And that excellent Doctor Rigaud, who
had known her from a child, had found her suffering from great weakness.
He had ordered change of air.
At these words Madame Desvarennes raised her head and gave her daughter a
"Come, no nonsense! Speak the truth! He is taking you away!"
"But, mamma," said Micheline, disconcerted at this interruption, "I
assure you, you are mistaken. Anxiety for my health alone guides my
"Your husband!" broke forth Madame Desvarennes. "Your husband! Ah,
there; go away! Because if you stop here, I shall not be able to control
myself, and shall say things about him that you will not forgive in a
hurry! As you are ill, you are right to have change of air. I shall
remain here, without you, fastened to my chain, earning money for you
while you are far, away. Go along!"
And seizing her daughter by the arm with convulsive strength, she pushed
her roughly; for the first time in her life, repeating, in a low tone:
"Go away! Leave me alone!"
Micheline suffered herself to be put outside the room, and went to her
own apartments astonished and frightened. The young wife had hardly left
the room when Madame Desvarennes suffered the reaction of the emotion she
had just felt. Her nerves were unstrung, and falling on a chair she
remained immovable and humbled. Was it possible that her daughter, her
adored child, would abandon her to obey the grudges of her husband? No,
Micheline, when back in her room, would remember that she was carrying
away all the joy of the house, and that it was cruel to deprive her
mother of her only happiness in life.
Slightly reassured, she went down to the office. As she reached the
landing, she saw the Prince's servants carrying up trunks belonging to
their master to be packed. She felt sick at heart. She understood that
this project had been discussed and settled beforehand. It seemed to her
that all was over; that her daughter was going away forever, and that she
would never see her again. She thought of going to beseech Serge and ask
him what sum he would take in exchange for Micheline's liberty; but the
haughty and sarcastic face of the Prince forcibly putting the bank-notes
in her hands, passed before her, and she guessed that she would not
obtain anything. Cast down and despairing, she entered her office and
set to work.
The next day, by the evening express, the Prince and Princess left for
Nice with all their household, and the mansion in the Rue Saint-Dominique
remained silent and deserted.
A SUDDEN JOURNEY
At the end of the Promenade des Anglais, on the pleasant road bordered
with tamarind-trees, stands, amid a grove of cork-oaks and eucalypti, a
charming white villa with pink shutters. A Russian lady, the Countess
Woreseff, had it built five years ago, and occupied it one winter. Then,
tired of the monotonous noise of the waves beating on the terrace and the
brightness of the calm blue sky, she longed for the mists of her native
country, and suddenly started for St. Petersburg, leaving that charming
residence to be let.
It was there, amid rhododendrons and strawberry-trees in full bloom,
that Micheline and Serge had taken up their abode. Until that day the
Princess had scarcely travelled. Her mother, always occupied in
commercial pursuits, had never left Paris. Micheline had remained with
her. During this long journey, accomplished in most luxurious style,
she had behaved like a child astonished at everything, and pleased at the
least thing. With her face close to the window she saw through the
transparent darkness of a lovely winter's night, villages and forests
gliding past like phantoms. Afar off, in the depths of the country, she
caught sight of a light glimmering, and she loved to picture a family
gathered by the fire, the children asleep and the mother working in the
Children! She often thought of them, and never without a sigh of regret
rising to her lips. She had been married for some months, and her dreams
of becoming a mother had not been realized. How happy she would have
been to have a baby, with fair hair, to fondle and kiss! Then the idea
of a child reminded her of her own mother. She thought of the deep love
one must feel for a child. And the image of the mistress, sad and alone,
in the large house of the Rue Saint-Dominique, came to her mind. A vague
remorse seized her heart. She felt she had behaved badly. She said to
herself: "If, to punish me, Heaven will not grant me a child!" She wept,
and soon her grief and trouble vanished with her tears. Sleep
overpowered her, and when she awoke it was broad daylight and they were
From that moment everything was dazzling. The arrival at Marseilles; the
journey along the coast, the approach to Nice, were all matters of
ecstacy to Micheline. But it was when the carriage, which was waiting
for them at the railway station, stopped at the gates of the villa, that
she broke into raptures. She could not feast her eyes enough on the
scene which was before her. The blue sea, the sky without a cloud, the
white houses rising on the hill amid the dark foliage, and in the
distance the mountaintops covered with snow, and tinged with pink under
the brilliant rays of the sun. All this vigorous and slightly wild
nature surprised the Parisienne. It was a new experience. Dazzled by
the light and intoxicated with the perfumes, a sort of languor came over
her. She soon recovered and became quite strong--something altogether
new for her, and she felt thoroughly happy.
The life of the Prince and the Princess became at Nice what it had been
in Paris during the early days of their marriage. Visitors flocked to
their house. All that the colony could reckon of well-known Parisians
and foreigners of high repute presented themselves at the villa. The
fetes recommenced. They gave receptions three times a week; the other
evenings Serge went to the Cercle.
This absorbing life had gone on for two months. It was the beginning of
February, and already nature was assuming a new appearance under the
influence of spring. One evening, three people--two gentlemen and a
lady--stepped out of a carriage at the villa gates, and found themselves
face to face with a traveller who had come on foot. Two exclamations
broke out simultaneously.
"Marechal!" "Monsieur Savinien!"
"You! at Nice? And by what miracle?"
"A miracle which makes you travel fifteen leagues an hour in exchange for
a hundred and thirty-three francs first-class, and is called the
"I beg your pardon, my dear friend. I have not introduced you to
Monsieur and Mademoiselle Herzog."
"I have already had the honor of meeting Mademoiselle Herzog at Madame
Desvarennes's," said Marechal, bowing to the young girl, without
appearing to notice the father.
"You were going to the villa?" asked Savinien. "We, too, were going.
But how is my aunt? When did you leave her?"
"I have not left her."
"What's that you say?"
"I say that she is here."
Savinien let his arms drop in profound consternation to show how
difficult it was for him to believe what was going on. Then, in a faint
treble voice, he said:
"My aunt! At Nice! Promenade des Anglais! That's something more
wonderful than the telephone and phonograph! If you had told me that the
Pantheon had landed one fine night on the banks of the Paillon, I should
not be more astonished. I thought Madame Desvarennes was as deeply
rooted in Paris as the Colonne Vendome! But tell me, what is the object
of this journey?"
"Which manifested itself--"
"Yesterday morning at breakfast. Pierre Delarue, who is going to finish
his business in Algeria, and then settle in France, came to say 'Good-by'
to Madame Desvarennes. A letter arrived from the Princess. She
commenced reading it, then all at once she exclaimed 'Cayrol and his wife
arrived at Nice two days ago!' Pierre and I were astonished at the tone
in which she uttered these words. She was lost in thought for a few
moments, then she said to Pierre: 'You are leaving tonight for
Marseilles? Well, I shall go with you. You will accompany me to Nice.'
And turning toward me, she added: 'Marechal, pack up your portmanteau.
I shall take you with me."'
While speaking, they had walked across the garden, and reached the steps
leading to the villa.
"Nothing is easier than to explain this sudden journey," remarked
Mademoiselle Herzog. "On learning that Monsieur and Madame Cayrol were
at Nice with the Princess, Madame Desvarennes must have felt how very
lonely she was in Paris. She had a longing to be near them, and
Herzog listened attentively, and seemed to be seeking the connection
which should exist between the arrival of the Cayrols and the departure
of Madame Desvarennes.
"The funniest thing to me is Marechal taking a holiday," observed
Savinien. "They are still at dinner," he added, entering the drawing-
room, through the great doors of which sounds of voices and rattling of
plates were heard.
"Well, let us wait for them; we are in agreeable company," said Herzog,
turning toward Marechal, who only answered by a cold bow.
"What are you going to do here, Marechal?" inquired Savinien. "You will
be awfully bored."
"Why? Once in a way I am going to enjoy myself and be a swell. You will
teach me, Monsieur Savinien. It cannot be very difficult. It is only
necessary to wear a dove-colored coat like you, a gardenia in my
buttonhole like Monsieur Le Bride, frizzled hair like Monsieur du
Tremblay, and to assail the bank at Monaco."
"Like all these gentlemen," said Suzanne, gayly, "you are a gambler
"I have never touched a card."
"But then you ought to have great good luck," said the young girl.
Herzog had come up to them.
"Will you go partners?" he asked of Marechal. "We will divide the
"You are too kind," replied Marechal, dryly, turning away.
He could not get used to Herzog's familiarity, and there was something in
the man which displeased him greatly. There was, he thought, a police-
court atmosphere about him.
Suzanne, on the contrary, interested him. The simple, lively, and frank
young girl attracted him, and he liked to talk with her. On several
occasions, at Madame Desvarennes's, he had been her partner. There was
through this a certain intimacy between them which he could not extend to
Herzog had that faculty, fortunately for him, of never appearing offended
at what was said to him. He took Savinien's arm in a familiar manner and
asked: "Have you noticed that the Prince has looked very preoccupied for
the last few days?"
"I don't wonder at it," replied Savinien. "He has been very unlucky at
cards. It is all very well for his wife, my charming cousin, to be rich,
but if he is going on like that it won't last long!"
The two men withdrew to the window.
Suzanne went up to Marechal. She had resumed her thoughtful air. He saw
her advancing, and, guessing what she was going to say, felt
uncomfortable at having to tell an untruth if he did not wish to hurt her
feelings by brutal frankness.
"Monsieur Marechal," she began, "how is it that you are always so cold
and formal with my father?"
"My dear young lady, there is a great difference between your father and
me. I keep my place, that's all."
The young girl shook her head sadly.
"It is not that; you are amiable and ever friendly with me--"
"You are a woman, and the least politeness--"
"No! My father must have hurt your feelings unwittingly; for he is very
good. I have asked him, and he did not seem to understand what I meant.
But my questions drew his attention to you. He thinks highly of you and
would like to see you filling a position more in harmony with your merit.
You know that Monsieur Cayrol and my father have just launched a
"The 'Credit European'?"
"Yes. They will have offices in all the commercial centres of European
commerce. Would you like the management of one of these branches?"
"I, Mademoiselle?" cried Marechal, astonished, and already asking himself
what interest Herzog could have in making him leave the house of
"The enterprise is colossal," continued Suzanne, "and frightens me at
times. Is it necessary to be so rich? I would like my father to retire
from these enormous speculations into which he has thrown himself, body
and soul. I have simple tastes. My father wishes to make a tremendous
fortune for me, he says. All he undertakes is for me, I know. It seems
to me that he runs a great risk. That is why I am talking to you. I am
very superstitious, and I fancy if you were with us it would bring us
Suzanne, while speaking, had leaned toward Marechal. Her face reflected
the seriousness of her thoughts. Her lovely eyes implored. The young
man asked himself how this charming girl could belong to that horrible
"Believe me that I am deeply touched, Mademoiselle, by the favor you have
done me," said he, with emotion. "I owe it solely to your kindness, I
know; but I do not belong to myself. I am bound to Madame Desvarennes by
stronger ties than those of interest--those of gratitude."
"You refuse?" she cried, painfully.
"The position you fill is humble."
"I was very glad to accept it at a time when my daily bread was not
"You have been reduced," said the young girl, with trembling voice, "to
"Wretchedness. Yes, Mademoiselle, my outset in life was hard. I am
without relations. Mother Marechal, a kind fruiterer of the Rue Pavee au
Marais, found me one morning by the curbstone, rolled in a number of the
Constitutionnel, like an old pair of boots. The good woman took me home,
brought me up and sent me to college. I must tell you that I was very
successful and gained a scholarship. I won all the prizes. Yes, and I
had to sell my gilt-edged books from the Lycee Charlemagne in the days of
distress. I was eighteen when my benefactress, Mother Marechal, died.
I was without help or succor. I tried to get along by myself. After ten
years of struggling and privations I felt physical and moral vigor giving
way. I looked around me and saw those who overcame obstacles were
stronger than I. I felt that I was doomed not to make way in the world,
not being one of those who could command, so I resigned myself to obey.
I fill a humble position as you know, but one which satisfies my wants.
I am without ambition. A little philosophical, I observe all that goes
on around me. I live happily like Diogenes in his tub."
"You are a wise man," resumed Suzanne. "I, too, am a philosopher, and I
live amid surroundings which do not please me. I, unfortunately, lost my
mother when I was very young, and although my father is very kind, he has
been obliged to neglect me a little. I see around me people who are
millionaires or who aspire to be. I am doomed to receive the attentions
of such men as Le Bride and Du Tremblay--empty-headed coxcombs, who court
my money, and to whom I am not a woman, but a sack of ducats trimmed with
"These gentlemen are the modern Argonauts. They are in search of the
Golden Fleece," observed Marechal.
"The Argonauts!" cried Suzanne, laughing. "You are right. I shall
never call them anything else."
"Oh, they will not understand you!" said Marechal, gayly. "I don't
think they know much of mythology."
"Well, you see I am not very happy in the bosom of riches," continued the
young girl. "Do not abandon me. Come and talk with me sometimes. You
will not chatter trivialities. It will be a change from the others."
And, nodding pleasantly to Marechal, Mademoiselle Herzog joined her
father, who was gleaning details about the house of Desvarennes from
The secretary remained silent for a moment.
"Strange girl!" he murmured. "What a pity she has such a father."
The door of the room in which Monsieur and Mademoiselle Herzog, Marechal
and Savinien were, opened, and Madame Desvarennes entered, followed by
her daughter, Cayrol, Serge and Pierre. The room, at the extreme end of
the villa, was square, surrounded on three sides by a gallery shut in by
glass and stocked with greenhouse plants. Lofty archways, half veiled
with draperies, led to the gallery. This room had been the favorite one