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The Lesser Bourgeoisie by Honore de Balzac

Part 10 out of 10

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the old gentleman was not likely to be frightened by grand airs. La
Peyrade therefore deferred to the wishes of his host, but he took care
to do so with the worst grace possible.

"Monsieur Cerizet," said du Portail, "a man of excellent standing in
the world, and who has the honor to be one of your friends--"

"I have nothing to do with that man now," said la Peyrade, sharply,
understanding the malicious meaning of the old man's speech.

"Well, the time has been," said du Portail, "when you saw him, at
least, occasionally: for instance, when you paid for his dinner at the
Rocher de Cancale. As I was saying, I charged the virtuous Monsieur
Cerizet to sound you as to a marriage--"

"Which I refused," interrupted la Peyrade, "and which I now refuse
again, more vehemently than ever."

"That's the question," said the old man. "I think, on the contrary,
that you will accept it; and it is to talk over this affair with you
that I have so long desired a meeting."

"But this crazy girl that you are flinging at my head," said la
Peyrade, "what is she to you? She can't be your daughter, or you would
put more decency into your hunt for a husband."

"This young girl," replied du Portail, "is the daughter of one of my
friends who died about ten years ago; at his death I took her to live
with me, and have given her all the care her sad condition needed. Her
fortune, which I have greatly increased, added to my own, which I
intend to leave to her, will make her a very rich heiress. I know that
you are no enemy to handsome 'dots,' for you have sought them in
various places,--Thuillier's house, for instance, or, to use your own
expression, that of a strumpet whom you scarcely knew. I have
therefore supposed you would accept at my hands a very rich young
woman, especially as her infirmity is declared by the best physicians
to be curable; whereas you can never cure Monsieur and Mademoiselle
Thuillier, the one of being a fool, the other of being a fury, any
more than you could cure Madame Komorn of being a woman of very medium
virtue and extremely giddy."

"It may suit me," replied la Peyrade, "to marry the daughter of a fool
and a fury if I choose her, or I might become the husband of a clever
coquette, if passion seized me, but the Queen of Sheba herself, if
imposed upon me, neither you, monsieur, nor the ablest and most
powerful man living could force me to accept."

"Precisely; therefore it is to your own good sense and intelligence
that I now address myself; but we have to come face to face with
people in order to speak to them, you know. Now, then, let us look
into your present situation, and don't get angry if, like a surgeon
who wants to cure his patient, I lay my hand mercilessly on wounds
which have long tormented and harassed you. The first point to state
is that the Celeste Colleville affair is at an end for you."

"Why so?" demanded la Peyrade.

"Because I have just seen Thuillier and terrified him with the history
of the misfortunes he has incurred, and those he will incur if he
persists in the idea of giving you his goddaughter in marriage. He
knows now that it was I who paralyzed Madame du Bruel's kind offices
in the matter of the cross; that I had his pamphlet seized; that I
sent that Hungarian woman into his house to handle you all, as she
did; and that my hand is opening fire in the ministerial journals,
which will only increase from bad to worse,--not to speak of other
machinations which will be directed against his candidacy. Therefore
you see, my good friend, that not only have you no longer the credit
in Thuillier's eyes of being his great helper to that election, but
that you actually block the way to his ambition. That is enough to
prove to you that the side by which you have imposed yourself on that
family--who have never sincerely liked or desired you--is now
completely battered down and dismantled."

"But to have done all that which you claim with such pretension, who
are you?" demanded la Peyrade.

"I shall not say that you are very inquisitive, for I intend to answer
your question later; but for the present let us continue, if you
please, the autopsy of your existence, dead to-day, but which I
propose to resuscitate gloriously. You are twenty-eight years old, and
you have begun a career in which I shall not allow you to make another
step. A few days hence the Council of the order of barristers will
assemble and will censure, more or less severely, your conduct in the
matter of the property you placed with such candor in Thuillier's
hands. Do not deceive yourself; censure from that quarter (and I
mention only your least danger) is as fatal to a barrister as being
actually disbarred."

"And it is to your kind offices, no doubt," said la Peyrade, "that I
shall owe that precious result?"

"Yes, I may boast of it," replied du Portail, "for, in order to tow
you into port it has been necessary to strip you of your rigging;
unless that were done, you would always have tried to navigate under
your own sails the bourgeois shoals that you are now among."

Seeing that he, undoubtedly, had to do with a strong hand, la Peyrade
thought best to modify his tone; and so, with a more circumspect air,
he said:--

"You will allow me, monsieur, to reserve my acknowledgments until I
receive some fuller explanation."

"Here you are, then," continued du Portail, "at twenty-eight years of
age, without a penny, virtually without a profession; with antecedents
that are very--middling; with associates like Monsieur Dutocq and the
courageous Cerizet; owing to Mademoiselle Thuillier ten thousand
francs, and to Madame Lambert twenty-five thousand, which you are no
doubt extremely desirous to return to her; and finally, this marriage,
your last hope, your sheet-anchor, has just become an utter
impossibility. Between ourselves, if I have something reasonable to
propose to you, do you not think that you had much better place
yourself at my disposal?"

"I have time enough to prove that your opinion is mistaken," returned
la Peyrade; "and I shall not form any resolutions so long as the
designs you choose to have upon me are not more fully explained."

"You were spoken to, at my instigation, about a marriage," resumed du
Portail. "This marriage, as I think, is closely connected with a past
existence from which a certain hereditary or family duty has devolved
upon you. Do you know what that uncle of yours, to whom you applied in
1829, was doing in Paris? In your family he was thought to be a
millionaire; and, dying suddenly, you remember, before you got to him,
he did not leave enough for his burial; a pauper's grave was all that
remained to him."

"Did you know him?" asked la Peyrade.

"He was my oldest and dearest friend," replied du Portail.

"If that is so," said la Peyrade, hastily, "a sum of two thousand
francs, which I received on my arrival in Paris from some unknown

"Came from me," replied du Portail. "Unfortunately, engaged at the
time in a rush of important affairs, which you shall hear of later, I
could not immediately follow up the benevolent interest I felt in you
for your uncle's sake; this explains why I left you in the straw of a
garret, where you came, like a medlar, to that maturity of ruin which
brought you under the hand of a Dutocq and a Cerizet."

"I am none the less grateful to you, monsieur," said la Peyrade; "and
if I had known you were that generous protector, whom I was never able
to discover, I should have been the first to seek occasion to meet you
and to thank you."

"A truce to compliments," said du Portail; "and, to come at once to
the serious side of our present conference, what should you say if I
told you that this uncle, whose protection and assistance you came to
Paris to obtain, was an agent of that occult power which has always
been the theme of feeble ridicule and the object of silly prejudice?"

"I do not seize your meaning," said la Peyrade, with uneasy curiosity;
"may I ask you to be more precise?"

"For example, I will suppose," continued du Portail, "that your uncle,
if still living, were to say to you to-day: 'You are seeking fortune
and influence, my good nephew; you want to rise above the crowd and to
play your part in all the great events of your time; you want
employment for a keen, active mind, full of resources, and slightly
inclined to intrigue; in short, you long to exert in some upper and
elegant sphere that force of will and subtlety which at present you
are wasting in the silly and useless manipulation of the most barren
and tough-skinned animal on earth, to wit: a bourgeois. Well, then,
lower your head, my fine nephew; enter with me through the little door
which I will open to you; it gives admittance to a great house, often
maligned, but better far than its reputation. That threshold once
crossed, you can rise to the height of your natural genius, whatever
its spark may be. Statesmen, kings even, will admit you to their most
secret thoughts; you will be their occult collaborator, and none of
the joys which money and the highest powers can bestow upon a man will
be lacking to you."

"But, monsieur," objected la Peyrade, "without venturing to understand
you, I must remark that my uncle died so poor, you tell me, that
public charity buried him."

"Your uncle," replied du Portail, "was a man of rare talent, but he
had a certain weak side in his nature which compromised his career. He
was eager for pleasure, a spendthrift, thoughtless for the future; he
wanted also to taste those joys that are meant for the common run of
men, but which for great, exceptional vocations are the worst of
snares and impediments: I mean the joys of family. He had a daughter
whom he madly loved, and it was through her that his terrible enemies
opened a breach in his life, and prepared the horrible catastrophe
that ended it."

"Is that an encouragement to enter this shady path, where, you say, he
might have asked me to follow him?"

"But if I myself," said du Portail, "should offer to guide you in it,
what then?"

"You, monsieur!" said la Peyrade, in stupefaction.

"Yes, I--I who was your uncle's pupil at first, and later his
protector and providence; I, whose influence the last half-century has
daily increased; I, who am wealthy; I, to whom all governments, as
they fall one on top of the others like houses of cards, come to ask
for safety and for the power to rebuild their future; I, who am the
manager of a great theatre of puppets (where I have Columbines in the
style of Madame de Godollo); I, who to-morrow, if it were necessary to
the success of one of my vaudevilles or one of my dramas, might
present myself to your eyes as the wearer of the grand cordon of the
Legion of honor, of the Order of the Black Eagle, or that of the
Golden Fleece. Do you wish to know why neither you nor I will die a
violent death like your uncle, and also why, more fortunate than
contemporaneous kings, I can transmit my sceptre to the successor whom
I myself may choose? Because, like you, my young friend, in spite of
your Southern appearance, I was cold, profoundly calculating, never
tempted to lose my time on trifles at the outskirts; because heat,
when I was led by force of circumstances to employ it, never went
below the surface. It is more than probable that you have heard of me;
well, for you I will open a window in my cloud; look at me, observe me
well; have I a cloven hoof, or a tail at the end of my spine? On the
contrary, am I not a model of the most inoffensive of householders in
the Saint-Sulpice quarter? In that quarter, where I have enjoyed, I
may say it, universal esteem for the last twenty-five years, I am
called du Portail; but to you, if you will allow me, I shall now name
myself CORENTIN."

"Corentin!" cried la Peyrade, with terrified astonishment.

"Yes, monsieur; and you see that in telling you that secret I lay my
hand upon you, and enlist you. Corentin! 'the greatest man of the
police in modern times,' as the author of an article in the
'Biographies of Living Men' has said of me--as to whom I ought in
justice to remark that he doesn't know a thing about my life."

"Monsieur," said la Peyrade, "I can assure you that I shall keep that
secret; but the place which you offer me near you--in your employ--"

"That frightens you, or, at least, it makes you uneasy," said
Corentin, quickly. "Before you have even considered the thing the word
scares you, does it? The police! POLICE! you are afraid to encounter
the terrible prejudice that brands it on the brow."

"Certainly," said la Peyrade, "it is a necessary institution; but I do
not think that it is always calumniated. If the business of those who
manage it is honorable why do they conceal themselves so carefully?"

"Because all that threatens society, which it is the mission of the
police to repress," replied Corentin, "is plotted and prepared in
hiding. Do thieves and conspirators put upon their hats, 'I am
Guillot, the shepherd of this flock'? And when we are after them must
we ring a bell to let them know we are coming?"

"Monsieur," said la Peyrade, "when a sentiment is universal it ceases
to be a prejudice, it becomes an opinion; and this opinion ought to be
a law to every man who desires to keep his own esteem and that of

"And when you robbed that notary to enrich the Thuilliers for your own
advantage," said Corentin, "did you keep your own esteem and that of
the Council of barristers? And who knows, monsieur, if in your life
there are not still blacker actions than that? I am a more honorable
man than you, because, outside of my functions, I have not one
doubtful act upon my conscience; and when the opportunity for GOOD has
been presented to me I have done it--always and everywhere. Do you
think that the guardianship of that poor insane girl in my home has
been all roses? But she was the daughter of my old friend, your uncle,
and when, feeling the years creep on me, I propose to you, between
sacks of money, to fit yourself to take my place--"

"What!" cried la Peyrade, "is that girl my uncle's daughter?"

"Yes; the girl I wish you to marry is the daughter of your uncle
Peyrade,--for he democratized his name,--or, if you like it better,
she was the daughter of Pere Canquoelle, a name he took from the
little estate on which your father lived and starved with eleven
children. You see, in spite of the secrecy your uncle always kept
about his family, that I know all about it. Do you suppose that before
selecting you as your cousin's husband I had not obtained every
possible information about you? And what I have learned need not make
you quite so supercilious to the police. Besides, as the vulgar saying
is, the best of your nose is made of it. Your uncle belonged to the
police, and, thanks to that, he became the confidant, I might almost
say the friend, of Louis XVIII., who took the greatest pleasure in his
companionship. And you, by nature and by mind, also by the foolish
position into which you have got yourself, in short, by your whole
being, have gravitated steadily to the conclusion I propose to you,
namely, that of succeeding me,--of succeeding Corentin. That is the
question between us, Monsieur. Do you really believe now that I have
not a grasp or a 'seizin,' as you call it, upon you, and that you can
manage to escape me for any foolish considerations of bourgeois

La Peyrade could not have been at heart so violently opposed to this
proposal as he seemed, for the vigorous language of the great master
of the police and the species of appropriation which he made of his
person brought a smile to the young man's lips.

Corentin had risen, and was walking up and down the room, speaking,
apparently, to himself.

"The police!" he cried; "one may say of it, as Basile said of calumny
to Batholo, 'The police, monsieur! you don't know what you despise!'
And, after all," he continued, after a pause, "who are they who
despise it? Imbeciles, who don't know any better than to insult their
protectors. Suppress the police, and you destroy civilization. Do the
police ask for the respect of such people? No, they want to inspire
them with one sentiment only: fear, that great lever with which to
govern mankind,--an impure race whose odious instincts God, hell, the
executioner, and the gendarmes can scarcely restrain!"

Stopping short before la Peyrade, and looking at him with a disdainful
smile, he continued:--

"So you are one of those ninnies who see in the police nothing more
than a horde of spies and informers? Have you never suspected the
statesmen, the diplomats, the Richelieus it produces? Mercury,
monsieur,--Mercury, the cleverest of the gods of paganism,--what was
he but the police incarnate? It is true that he was also the god of
thieves. We are better than he, for we don't allow that junction of

"And yet," said la Peyrade, "Vautrin, or, I should say, Jacques
Collin, the famous chief of the detective police--"

"Yes, yes! but that's in the lower ranks," replied Corentin, resuming
his walk; "there's always a muddy place somewhere. Still, don't be
mistaken even in that. Vautrin is a man of genius, but his passions,
like those of your uncle, dragged him down. But go up higher (for
there lies the whole question, namely, the rung of the ladder on which
a man has wits enough to perch). Take the prefect, for instance, that
honored minister, flattered and respected, is he a spy? Well, I,
monsieur, am the prefect of the secret police of diplomacy--of the
highest statesmanship. And you hesitate to mount that throne!--to seem
small and do great things; to live in a cave comfortably arranged like
this, and command the light; to have at your orders an invisible army,
always ready, always devoted, always submissive; to know the OTHER
SIDE of everything; to be duped by no intrigue because you hold the
threads of all within your fingers; to see through all partitions; to
penetrate all secrets, search all hearts, all consciences,--these are
the things you fear! And yet you were not afraid to go and wallow in a
Thuillier bog; you, a thoroughbred, allowed yourself to be harnessed
to a hackney-coach, to the ignoble business of electing that parvenu

"A man does what he can," said la Peyrade.

"Here's a very remarkable thing," pursued Corentin, replying to his
own thought; "the French language, more just than public opinion, has
given us our right place, for it has made the word police the synonym
of civilization and the antipodes of savage life, when it said and
wrote: 'l'Etat police,' from the Greek words state and city. So, I can
assure you, we care little for the prejudice that tries to brand us;
none know men as we do; and to know them brings contempt for their
contempt as well as for their esteem."

"There is certainly much truth in what you say with such warmth," said
la Peyrade, finally.

"Much truth!" exclaimed Corentin, going back to his chair, "say,
rather, that it is all true, and nothing but the truth; yet it is not
the whole truth. But enough for to-day, monsieur. To succeed me in my
functions, and to marry your cousin with a 'dot' that will not be less
than five hundred thousand francs, that is my offer. I do not ask you
for an answer now. I should have no confidence in a determination not
seriously reflected upon. To-morrow, I shall be at home all the
morning. I trust that my conviction may then have formed yours."

Dismissing his visitor with a curt little bow, he added: "I do not bid
you adieu, but au revoir, Monsieur de la Peyrade."

Whereupon Corentin went to a side-table, where he found all that he
needed to prepare a glass of "eau sucree," which he had certainly
earned, and, without looking at la Peyrade, who left the room rather
stunned, he seemed to have no other interest on his mind than that
prosaic preparation.

Was it, indeed, necessary that the morning after this meeting with
Corentin a visit from Madame Lambert, now become an exacting and
importunate creditor, should come to bear its weight on la Peyrade's
determination? As the great chief had pointed out to him the night
before, was there not in his nature, in his mind, in his aspirations,
in the mistakes and imprudences of his past life, a sort of
irresistible incline which drew him down toward the strange solution
of existence thus suddenly offered to him?

Fatality, if we may so call it, was lavish of the inducements to which
he was destined to succumb. This day was the 31st of October; the
vacation of the Palais was just over. The 2nd of November was the day
on which the courts reopened, and as Madame Lambert left his room he
received a summons to appear on that day before the Council of his

To Madame Lambert, who pressed him sharply to repay her, under
pretence that she was about to leave Monsieur Picot and return to her
native place, he replied: "Come here the day after to-morrow, at the
same hour, and your money will be ready for you."

To the summons to give account of his actions to his peers he replied
that he did not recognize the right of the Council to question him on
the facts of his private life. That was an answer of one sort,
certainly. Inevitably it would result in his being stricken from the
roll of the barristers of the Royal courts; but, at least, it had an
air of dignity and protestation which saved, in a measure, his self-

Finally, he wrote a letter to Thuillier, in which he said that his
visit to du Portail had resulted in his being obliged to accept
another marriage. He therefore returned to Thuillier his promise, and
took back his own. All this was curtly said, without the slightest
expression of regret for the marriage he renounced. In a postscript he
added: "We shall be obliged to discuss my position on the newspaper,"
--indicating that it might enter into his plans not to retain it.

He was careful to make a copy of this letter, and an hour later, when,
in Corentin's study, he was questioned as to the result of his night's
reflections, he gave that great general, for all answer, the
matrimonial resignation he had just despatched.

"That will do," said Corentin. "But as for your position on the
newspaper, you may perhaps have to keep it for a time. The candidacy
of that fool interferes with the plans of the government, and we must
manage in some way to trip up the heels of the municipal councillor.
In your position as editor-in-chief you may find a chance to do it,
and I think your conscience won't kick at the mission."

"No, indeed!" said la Peyrade, "the thought of the humiliations to
which I have been so long subjected will make it a precious joy to
lash that bourgeois brood."

"Take care!" said Corentin; "you are young, and you must watch against
those revengeful emotions. In our austere profession we love nothing
and we hate nothing. Men are to us mere pawns of wood or ivory,
according to their quality--with which we play our game. We are like
the blade that cuts what is given it to cut, but, careful only to be
delicately sharpened, wishes neither harm nor good to any one. Now let
us speak of your cousin, to whom, I suppose, you have some curiosity
to be presented."

La Peyrade was not obliged to pretend to eagerness, that which he felt
was genuine.

"Lydie de la Peyrade," said Corentin, "is nearly thirty, but her
innocence, joined to a gentle form of insanity, has kept her apart
from all those passions, ideas, and impressions which use up life, and
has, if I may say so, embalmed her in a sort of eternal youth. You
would not think her more than twenty. She is fair and slender; her
face, which is very delicate, is especially remarkable for an
expression of angelic sweetness. Deprived of her full reason by a
terrible catastrophe, her monomania has something touching about it.
She always carries in her arms or keeps beside her a bundle of linen
which she nurses and cares for as though it were a sick child; and,
excepting Bruneau and myself, whom she recognizes, she thinks all
other men are doctors, whom she consults about the child, and to whom
she listens as oracles. A crisis which lately happened in her malady
has convinced Horace Bianchon, that prince of science, that if the
reality could be substituted for this long delusion of motherhood, her
reason would assert itself. It is surely a worthy task to bring back
light to a soul in which it is scarcely veiled; and the existing bond
of relationship has seemed to me to point you out as specially
designated to effect this cure, the success of which Bianchon and two
other eminent doctors who have consulted with him declare to be beyond
a doubt. Now, I will take you to Lydie's presence; remember to play
the part of doctor; for the only thing that makes her lose her
customary serenity is not to enter into her notion of medical

After crossing several rooms Corentin was on the point of taking la
Peyrade into that usually occupied by Lydie when employed in cradling
or dandling her imaginary child, when suddenly they were stopped by
the sound of two or three chords struck by the hand of a master on a
piano of the finest sonority.

"What is that?" asked la Peyrade.

"That is Lydie," replied Corentin, with what might be called an
expression of paternal pride; "she is an admirable musician, and
though she no longer writes down, as in the days when her mind was
clear, her delightful melodies, she often improvises them in a way
that moves me to the soul--the soul of Corentin!" added the old man,
smiling. "Is not that the finest praise I can bestow upon her? But
suppose we sit down here and listen to her. If we go in, the concert
will cease and the medical consultation begin."

La Peyrade was amazed as he listened to an improvisation in which the
rare union of inspiration and science opened to his impressionable
nature a source of emotions as deep as they were unexpected. Corentin
watched the surprise which from moment to moment the Provencal
expressed by admiring exclamations.

"Hein! how she plays!" said the old man. "Liszt himself hasn't a
firmer touch."

To a very quick "scherzo" the performer now added the first notes of
an "adagio."

"She is going to sing," said Corentin, recognizing the air.

"Does she sing too?" asked la Peyrade.

"Like Pasta, like Malibran; but hush, listen to her!"

After a few opening bars in "arpeggio" a vibrant voice resounded, the
tones of which appeared to stir the Provencal to the depths of his

"How the music moves you!" said Corentin; "you were undoubtedly made
for each other."

"My God! the same air! the same voice!"

"Have you already met Lydie somewhere?" asked the great master of the

"I don't know--I think not," answered la Peyrade, in a stammering
voice; "in any case, it was long ago--But that air--that voice--I

"Let us go in," said Corentin.

Opening the door abruptly, he entered, pulling the young man after

Sitting with her back to the door, and prevented by the sound of the
piano from hearing what happened behind her, Lydie did not notice
their entrance.

"Now have you any remembrance of her?" said Corentin.

La Peyrade advanced a step, and no sooner had he caught a glimpse of
the girl's profile than he threw up his hands above his head, striking
them together.

"It is she!" he cried.

Hearing his cry, Lydie turned round, and fixing her attention on
Corentin, she said:--

"How naughty and troublesome you are to come and disturb me; you know
very well I don't like to be listened to. Ah! but--" she added,
catching sight of la Peyrade's black coat, "you have brought the
doctor; that is very kind of you; I was just going to ask you to send
for him. The baby has done nothing but cry since morning; I was
singing to put her to sleep, but nothing can do that."

And she ran to fetch what she called her child from a corner of the
room, where with two chairs laid on their backs and the cushions of
the sofa, she had constructed a sort of cradle.

As she went towards la Peyrade, carrying her precious bundle with one
hand, with the other she was arranging the imaginary cap of her
"little darling," having no eyes except for the sad creation of her
disordered brain. Step by step, as she advanced, la Peyrade, pale,
trembling, and with staring eyes, retreated backwards, until he struck
against a seat, into which, losing his equilibrium, he fell.

A man of Corentin's power and experience, and who, moreover, knew to
its slightest detail the horrible drama in which Lydie had lost her
reason, had already, of course, taken in the situation, but it suited
his purpose and his ideas to allow the clear light of evidence to
pierce this darkness.

"Look, doctor," said Lydie, unfastening the bundle, and putting the
pins in her mouth as she did so, "don't you see that she is growing
thinner every day?"

La Peyrade could not answer; he kept his handkerchief over his face,
and his breath came so fast from his chest that he was totally unable
to utter a word.

Then, with one of those gestures of feverish impatience, to which her
mental state predisposed her, she exclaimed, hastily:--

"But look at her doctor, look!" taking his arm violently and forcing
him to show his features. "My God!" she cried, when she had looked him
in the face.

Letting fall the linen bundle in her arms, she threw herself hastily
backwards, and her eyes grew haggard. Passing her white hands rapidly
over her forehead and through her hair, tossing it into disorder, she
seemed to be making an effort to obtain from her memory some dormant
recollection. Then, like a frightened mare, which comes to smell an
object that has given it a momentary terror, she approached la Peyrade
slowly, stooping to look into his face, which he kept lowered, while,
in the midst of a silence inexpressible, she examined him steadily for
several seconds. Suddenly a terrible cry escaped her breast; she ran
for refuge into the arms of Corentin, and pressing herself against him
with all her force, she exclaimed:--

"Save me! save me! It is he! the wretch! It is he who did it!"

And, with her finger pointed at la Peyrade, she seemed to nail the
miserable object of her terror to his place.

After this explosion, she muttered a few disconnected words, and her
eyes closed; Corentin felt the relaxing of all the muscles by which
she had held him as in a vice the moment before, and he took her in
his arms and laid her on the sofa, insensible.

"Do not stay here, monsieur," said Corentin. "Go into my study; I will
come to you presently."

A few minutes later, after giving Lydie into the care of Katte and
Bruneau, and despatching Perrache for Doctor Bianchon, Corentin
rejoined la Peyrade.

"You see now, monsieur," he said with solemnity, "that in pursuing
with a sort of passion the idea of this marriage, I was following, in
a sense, the ways of God."

"Monsieur," said la Peyrade, with compunction, "I will confess to

"Useless," said Corentin; "you can tell me nothing that I do not know;
I, on the contrary, have much to tell you. Old Peyrade, your uncle, in
the hope of earning a POT for this daughter whom he idolized, entered
into a dangerous private enterprise, the nature of which I need not
explain. In it he made enemies; enemies who stopped at nothing,--
murder, poison, rape. To paralyze your uncle's action by attacking him
in his dearest spot, Lydie was, not abducted, but enticed from her
home and taken to a house apparently respectable, where for ten days
she was kept concealed. She was not much alarmed by this detention,
being told that it was done at her father's wish, and she spent her
time with her music--you remember, monsieur, how she sang?"

"Oh!" exclaimed la Peyrade, covering his face with his hands.

"I told you yesterday that you might perhaps have more upon your
conscience than the Thuillier house. But you were young; you had just
come from your province, with that brutality, that frenzy of Southern
blood in your veins which flings itself upon such an occasion.
Besides, your relationship became known to those who were preparing
the ruin of this new Clarissa Harlowe, and I am willing to believe
than an abler and better man than you might not have escaped the
entanglement into which you fell. Happily, Providence has granted that
there is nothing absolutely irreparable in this horrible history. The
same poison, according to the use that is made of it, may give either
death or health."

"But, monsieur," said la Peyrade, "shall I not always be to her an
object of horror?"

"The doctor, monsieur," said Katte, opening the door.

"How is Mademoiselle Lydie?" asked la Peyrade, eagerly.

"Very calm," replied Katte. "Just now, when we put her to bed,--though
she did not want to go, saying she felt well,--I took her the bundle
of linen, but she told me to take it away, and asked what I meant her
to do with it."

"You see," said Corentin, grasping the Provencal's hand, "you are the
lance of Achilles."

And he left the room with Katte to receive Doctor Bianchon.

Left alone, Theodose was a prey to thoughts which may perhaps be
imagined. After a while the door opened, and Bruneau, the old valet,
ushered in Cerizet. Seeing la Peyrade, the latter exclaimed:--

"Ha! ha! I knew it! I knew you would end by seeing du Portail. And the
marriage,--how does that come on?"

"What are you doing here?" asked la Peyrade.

"Something that concerns you; or rather, something that we must do
together. Du Portail, who is too busy to attend to business just now,
has sent me in here to see you, and consult as to the best means of
putting a spoke in Thuillier's election; it seems that the government
is determined to prevent his winning it. Have you any ideas about it?"

"No," replied la Peyrade; "and I don't feel in the mood just now to be

"Well, here's the situation," said Cerizet. "The government has
another candidate, which it doesn't yet produce, because the
ministerial negotiations with him have been rather difficult. During
this time Thuillier's chances have been making headway. Minard, on
whom they counted to create a diversion, sits, the stupid fool, in his
corner; the seizure of that pamphlet has given your blockhead of a
protege a certain perfume of popularity. In short, the ministry are
afraid he'll be elected, and nothing could be more disagreeable to
them. Pompous imbeciles, like Thuillier, are horribly embarrassing in
the Opposition; they are pitchers without handles; you can't take hold
of them anywhere."

"Monsieur Cerizet," said la Peyrade, beginning to assume a protecting
tone, and wishing to discover his late associate's place in Corentin's
confidence, "you seem to know a good deal about the secret intentions
of the government; have you found your way to a certain desk in the
rue de Grenelle?"

"No. All that I tell you," said Cerizet, "I get from du Portail."

"Ah ca!" said la Peyrade, lowering his voice, "who IS du Portail? You
seem to have known him for some time. A man of your force ought to
have discovered the real character of a man who seems to me to be
rather mysterious."

"My friend," replied Cerizet, "du Portail is a pretty strong man. He's
an old slyboots, who has had some post, I fancy, in the administration
of the national domain, or something of that kind, under government;
in which, I think, he must have been employed in the departments
suppressed under the Empire."

"Yes?" said la Peyrade.

"That's where I think he made his money," continued Cerizet; "and
being a shrewd old fellow, and having a natural daughter to marry, he
has concocted this philanthropic tale of her being the daughter of an
old friend named Peyrade; and your name being the same may have given
him the idea of fastening upon you--for, after all, he has to marry
her to somebody."

"Yes, that's all very well; but his close relations with the
government, and the interest he takes in elections, how do you explain
all that?"

"Naturally enough," replied Cerizet. "Du Portail is a man who loves
money, and likes to handle it; he has done Rastignac, that great
manipulator of elections, who is, I think, his compatriot, several
signal services as an amateur; Rastignac, in return, gives him
information, obtained through Nucingen, which enables him to gamble at
the Bourse."

"Did he himself tell you all this?" asked la Peyrade.

"What do you take me for?" returned Cerizet. "With that worthy old
fellow, from whom I have already wormed a promise of thirty thousand
francs, I play the ninny; I flatten myself to nothing. But I've made
Bruneau talk, that old valet of his. You can safely ally yourself to
his family, my dear fellow; du Portail is powerfully rich; he'll get
you made sub-prefect somewhere; and thence to a prefecture and a
fortune is but one step."

"Thanks for the information," said la Peyrade; "at least, I shall know
on which foot to hop. But you yourself, how came you to know him?"

"Oh! that's quite a history; by my help he was able to get back a lot
of diamonds which had been stolen from him."

At this moment Corentin entered the room.

"All is well," he said to la Peyrade. "There are signs of returning
reason. Bianchon, to whom I have told all, wishes to confer with you;
therefore, my dear Monsieur Cerizet, we will postpone until this
evening, if you are willing, our little study over the Thuillier

"Well, so here you have him, at last!" said Cerizet, slapping la
Peyrade's shoulder.

"Yes," said Corentin, "and you know what I promised; you may rely on

Cerizet departed joyful.



The day after that evening, when Corentin, la Peyrade, and Cerizet
were to have had their consultation in reference to the attack on
Thuillier's candidacy, the latter was discussing with his sister
Brigitte the letter in which Theodose declined the hand of Celeste,
and his mind seemed particularly to dwell on the postscript where it
was intimated that la Peyrade might not continue the editor of the
"Echo de la Bievre." At this moment Henri, the "male domestic,"
entered the room to ask if his master would receive Monsieur Cerizet.

Thuillier's first impulse was to deny himself to that unwelcome
visitor. Then, thinking better of it, he reflected that if la Peyrade
suddenly left him in the lurch, Cerizet might possibly prove a
precious resource. Consequently, he ordered Henri to show him in. His
manner, however, was extremely cold, and in some sort expectant. As
for Cerizet, he presented himself without the slightest embarrassment
and with the air of a man who had calculated all the consequences of
the step he was taking.

"Well, my dear monsieur," he began, "I suppose by this time you have
been posted as to the Sieur la Peyrade."

"What may you mean by that?" said Thuillier, stiffly.

"Well, the man," replied Cerizet, "who, after intriguing to marry your
goddaughter, breaks off the marriage abruptly--as he will, before
long, break that lion's-share contract he made you sign about his
editorship--can't be, I should suppose, the object of the same blind
confidence you formerly reposed in him."

"Ah!" said Thuillier, hastily, "then do you know anything about la
Peyrade's intention of leaving the newspaper?"

"No," said the other; "on the terms I now am with him, you can readily
believe we don't see each other; still less should I receive his
confidences. But I draw the induction from the well-known character of
the person, and you may be sure that when he finds it for his interest
to leave you, he'll throw you away like an old coat--I've passed that
way, and I speak from experience."

"Then you must have had some difficulties with him before you joined
my paper?" said Thuillier, interrogatively.

"Parbleu!" replied Cerizet; "the affair of this house which he helped
you to buy was mine; I started that hare. He was to put me in relation
with you, and make me the principal tenant of the house. But the
unfortunate affair of that bidding-in gave him a chance to knock me
out of everything and get all the profits for himself."

"Profits!" exclaimed Thuillier. "I don't see that he got anything out
of that transaction, except the marriage which he now refuses--"

"But," interrupted Cerizet, "there's the ten thousand francs he got
out of you on pretence of the cross which you never received, and the
twenty-five thousand he owes to Madame Lambert, for which you went
security, and which you will soon have to pay like a good fellow."

"What's this I hear?" cried Brigitte, up in arms; "twenty-five
thousand francs for which you have given security?"

"Yes, mademoiselle," interposed Cerizet; "behind that sum which this
woman had lent him there was a mystery, and if I had not laid my hand
on the true explanation, there would certainly have been a very dirty
ending to it. La Peyrade was clever enough not only to whitewash
himself in Monsieur Thuillier's eyes, but to get him to secure the

"But," said Thuillier, "how do you know that I did give security for
that debt, if you have not seen him since then?"

"I know it from the woman herself, who tells the whole story now she
is certain of being paid."

"Well," said Brigitte to her brother, "a pretty business you are
engaged in!"

"Mademoiselle," said Cerizet, "I only meant to warn Monsieur Thuillier
a little. I think myself that you are sure to be paid. Without knowing
the exact particulars of this new marriage, I am certain the family
would never allow him to owe you to such mortifying debts; if
necessary, I should be very glad to intervene."

"Monsieur," said Thuillier, stiffly, "thanking you for your officious
intervention, permit me to say that it surprises me a little, for the
manner in which we parted would not have allowed me to hope it."

"Ah ca!" said Cerizet; "you don't think I was angry with you for that,
do you? I pitied you, that was all. I saw you under the spell, and I
said to myself: 'Leave him to learn la Peyrade by experience.' I knew
very well that the day of justice would dawn for me, and before long,
too. La Peyrade is a man who doesn't make you wait for his
questionable proceedings."

"Allow me to say," remarked Thuillier, "that I do not consider the
rupture of the marriage we had proposed a questionable proceeding. The
matter was arranged, I may say, by mutual consent."

"And the trick he is going to play you by leaving the paper in the
lurch, and the debt he has saddled you with, what are they?"

"Monsieur Cerizet," continued Thuillier, still holding himself on the
reserve, "as I have said more than once to la Peyrade, no man is
indispensable; and if the editorship of my paper becomes vacant, I
feel confident that I shall at once meet with persons very eager to
offer me their services."

"Is it for me you say that?" asked Cerizet. "Well, you haven't hit the
nail; if you did me the honor to want my services it would be
impossible for me to grant them. I have long been disgusted with
journalism. I let la Peyrade, I hardly know why, persuade me to make
this campaign with you; it didn't turn out happily, and I have vowed
to myself to have no more to do with newspapers. It was about another
matter altogether than I came to speak to you."

"Ah!" said Thuillier.

"Yes," continued Cerizet, "remembering the business-like manner in
which you managed the affair of this house in which you do me the
honor to receive me, I thought I could not do better than to call your
attention to a matter of the same kind which I have just now in hand.
But I shall not do as la Peyrade did,--make a bargain for the hand of
your goddaughter, and profess great friendship and devotion to you
personally. This is purely business, and I expect to make my profit
out of it. Now, as I still desire to become the principal tenant of
this house,--the letting of which must be a care and a disappointment
to mademoiselle, for I saw as I came along that the shops were still
unrented,--I think that this lease to me, if you will make it, might
be reckoned in to my share of the profits. You see, monsieur, that the
object of my visit has nothing to do with the newspaper."

"What is this new affair?" said Brigitte; "that's the first thing to

"It relates to a farm in Beauce, which has just been sold for a song,
and it is placed in my hands to resell, at an advance, but a small
one; you could really buy it, as the saying is, for a bit of bread."

And Cerizet went on to explain the whole mechanism of the affair,
which we need not relate here, as no one but Brigitte would take any
interest in it. The statement was clear and precise, and it took close
hold on the old maid's mind. Even Thuillier himself, in spite of his
inward distrust, was obliged to own that the affair had all the
appearance of a good speculation.

"Only," said Brigitte, "we must first see the farm ourselves."

This, the reader will remember, was her answer to la Peyrade when he
first proposed the purchase of the house at the Madeleine.

"Nothing is easier than that," said Cerizet. "I myself want to see it,
and I have been intending to make a little excursion there. If you
like, I'll be at your door this afternoon with a post-chaise, and
to-morrow morning, very early, we can examine the farm, breakfast at
some inn near by, and be back in time for dinner."

"A post-chaise!" said Brigitte, "that's very lordly; why not take the

"Diligences are so uncertain," replied Cerizet; "you never know at
what time they will get to a place. But you need not think about the
expense, for I should otherwise go alone, and I am only too happy to
offer you two seats in my carriage."

To misers, small gains are often determining causes in great matters;
after a little resistance "pro forma," Brigitte ended by accepting the
proposal, and three hours later the trio were on the road to Chartres,
Cerizet having advised Thuillier not to let la Peyrade know of his
absence, lest he might take some unfair advantage of it.

The next day, by five o'clock, the party had returned, and the brother
and sister, who kept their opinions to themselves in presence of
Cerizet, were both agreed that the purchase was a good one. They had
found the soil of the best quality, the buildings in perfect repair,
the cattle looked sound and healthy; in short, this idea of becoming
the mistress of rural property seemed to Brigitte the final
consecration of opulence.

"Minard," she remarked, "has only a town-house and invested capital,
whereas we shall have all that and a country-place besides; one can't
be really rich without it."

Thuillier was not sufficiently under the charm of that dream--the
realization of which was, in any case, quite distant--to forget, even
for a moment, the "Echo de la Bievre" and his candidacy. No sooner had
he reached home than he asked for the morning's paper.

"It has not come," said the "male domestic."

"That's a fine distribution, when even the owner of the paper is not
served!" cried Thuillier, discontentedly.

Although it was nearly dinner-time, and after his journey he would
much rather have taken a bath than rush to the rue Saint-Dominique,
Thuillier ordered a cab and drove at once to the office of the "Echo."

There a fresh disappointment met him. The paper "was made," as they
say, and all the employees had departed, even la Peyrade. As for
Coffinet, who was not to be found at his post of office-boy, nor yet
at his other post of porter, he had gone "of an errand," his wife
said, taking the key of the closet in which the remaining copies of
the paper were locked up. Impossible, therefore, to procure the number
which the unfortunate proprietor had come so far to fetch.

To describe Thuillier's indignation would be impossible. He marched up
and down the room, talking aloud to himself, as people do in moments
of excitement.

"I'll turn them all out!" he cried. And we are forced to omit the rest
of the furious objurgation.

As he ended his anathema a rap was heard on the door.

"Come in!" said Thuillier, in a tone that depicted his wrath and his
frantic impatience.

The door opened, and Minard rushed precipitately into his arms.

"My good, my excellent friend!" cried the mayor of the eleventh
arrondissement, concluding his embrace with a hearty shake of the

"Why! what is it?" said Thuillier, unable to comprehend the warmth of
this demonstration.

"Ah! my dear friend," continued Minard, "such an admirable proceeding!
really chivalrous! most disinterested! The effect, I assure you, is
quite stupendous in the arrondissement."

"But what, I say?" cried Thuillier, impatiently.

"The article, the whole action," continued Minard, "so noble, so

"But what article? what action?" said the proprietor of the "Echo,"
getting quite beside himself.

"The article of this morning," said Minard.

"The article of this morning?"

"Ah ca! did you write it when you were asleep; or, like Monsieur
Jourdain doing prose, do you do heroism without knowing it?"

"I! I haven't written any article!" cried Thuillier. "I have been away
from Paris for a day, and I don't even know what is in this morning's
paper; and the office-boy is not here to give me a copy."

"I have one," said Minard, pulling the much desired paper from his
pocket. "If the article is not years you have certainly inspired it;
in any case, the deed is done."

Thuillier hurriedly unfolded the sheet Minard had given him, and
devoured rather than read the following article:--

Long enough has the proprietor of this regenerated journal
submitted without complaint and without reply to the cowardly
insinuations with which a venal press insults all citizens who,
strong in their convictions, refuse to pass beneath the Caudine
Forks of power. Long enough has a man, who has already given
proofs of devotion and abnegation in the important functions of
the aedility of Paris, allowed these sheets to call him ambitious
and self-seeking. Monsieur Jerome Thuillier, strong in his
dignity, has suffered such coarse attacks to pass him with
contempt. Encouraged by this disdainful silence, the stipendiaries
of the press have dared to write that this journal, a work of
conviction and of the most disinterested patriotism, was but the
stepping-stone of a man, the speculation of a seeker for election.
Monsieur Jerome Thuillier has held himself impassible before these
shameful imputations because justice and truth are patient, and he
bided his time to scotch the reptile. That time has come.

"That deuce of a Peyrade!" said Thuillier, stopping short; "how he
does touch it off!"

"It is magnificent!" cried Minard.

Reading aloud, Thuillier continued:--

Every one, friends and enemies alike, can bear witness that
Monsieur Jerome Thuillier has done nothing to seek a candidacy
which was offered to him spontaneously.

"That's evident," said Thuillier, interrupting himself. Then he

But, since his sentiments are so odiously misrepresented, and his
intentions so falsely travestied, Monsieur Jerome Thuillier owes
it to himself, and above all to the great national party of which
he is the humblest soldier, to give an example which shall
confound the vile sycophants of power.

"It is fine, the way la Peyrade poses me!" said Thuillier, pausing
once more in his reading. "I see now why he didn't send me the paper;
he wanted to enjoy my surprise--'confound the vile sycophants of
power!' how fine that is!"

After which reflection, he continued:--

Monsieur Thuillier was so far from founding this journal of
dynastic opposition to support and promote his election that, at
the very moment when the prospects of that election seem most
favorable to himself and most disastrous to his rivals, he here
declares publicly, and in the most formal, absolute, and
irrevocable manner that he RENOUNCES HIS CANDIDACY.

"What?" cried Thuillier, thinking he had read wrong, or had
misunderstood what he read.

"Go on! go on!" said the mayor of the eleventh.

Then, as Thuillier, with a bewildered air, seemed not disposed to
continue his reading, Minard took the paper from his hands and read
the rest of the article himself, beginning where the other had left

Renounces his candidacy; and he strongly urges the electors to
transfer to Monsieur Minard, mayor of the eleventh arrondissement
and his friend and colleague in his municipal functions, all the
votes with which they seemed about to honor him.

"But this is infamous!" cried Thuillier, recovering his speech; "you
have bought that Jesuit la Peyrade."

"So," said Minard, stupefied by Thuillier's attitude, "the article was
not agreed upon between you?"

"The wretch has profited by my absence to slip it into the paper; I
understand now why he prevented a copy from reaching me to-day."

"My dear friend," said Minard, "what you tell me will seem incredible
to the public."

"I tell you it is treachery; it is an abominable trap. Renounce my
candidacy!--why should I?"

"You understand, my dear friend," said Minard, "that I am truly sorry
if your confidence has been abused, but I have just issued my circular
manifesto; the die is cast, and luck to the lucky now."

"Leave me," said Thuillier; "it is a comedy for which you have paid."

"Monsieur Thuillier," said Minard, in a threatening voice, "I advise
you not to repeat those words, unless you are ready to give me
satisfaction for them."

Happily for Thuillier, who, we may remember, had made his profession
of faith as to civic courage some time before, he was relieved from
answering by Coffinet, who now opened the door of the editorial
sanctum, and announced:--

"Messieurs the electors of the twelfth arrondissement."

The arrondissement was represented on this occasion by five persons.
An apothecary, chairman of the deputation, proceeded to address
Thuillier in the following terms:--

"We have come, monsieur, after taking cognizance of an article
inserted this morning in the 'Echo de la Bievre,' to inquire of you
what may be precisely the origin and bearing of that article; thinking
it incredible that, having solicited our suffrages, you should, on the
eve of this election, and from a most mistaken puritanism, have cast
disorder and disunion into our ranks, and probably have caused the
triumph of the ministerial candidate. A candidate does not belong to
himself; he belongs to the electors who have promised to honor him
with their votes. But," continued the orator, casting his eye at
Minard, "the presence in these precincts of the candidate whom you
have gone out of your way to recommend to us, indicates that between
you and him there is connivance; and I have no need to ask who is
being here deceived."

"No, messieurs, no," said Thuillier; "I have not renounced my
candidacy. That article was written and printed without my knowledge
or consent. To-morrow you will see the denial of it in the same paper,
and you will also learn that the infamous person who has betrayed my
confidence is no longer the editor of this journal."

"Then," said the orator of the deputation, "in spite of your
declaration to the contrary, you do continue to be the candidate of
the Opposition?"

"Yes, messieurs, until death; and I beg you to use your utmost
influence in the quarter to neutralize the effect of this deliberate
falsehood until I am able to officially present the most formal

"Hear! hear!" said the electors.

"And, as for the presence of Monsieur Minard, my competitor, in these
precincts, I have not invited it; and at the moment when you entered
this room, I was engaged in a very sharp and decided explanation with

"Hear! hear!" said the electors again.

Then, after cordially shaking the hand of the apothecary, Thuillier
conducted the deputation to the outer door of the apartment; after
which, returning to the editorial sanctum, he said:--

"My dear Minard, I withdraw the words which wounded you; but you can
see now what justification I had for my indignation."

Here Coffinet again opened the door and announced:--

"Messieurs the electors of the eleventh arrondissement."

The arrondissement was represented this time by seven persons. A
linen-draper, chairman of the delegation, addressed Thuillier in the
following speech:--

"Monsieur, it is with sincere admiration that we have learned this
morning from the columns of your paper, the great civic act by which
you have touched all hearts. You have shown, in thus retiring, a most
unusual disinterestedness, and the esteem of your fellow-citizens--"

"Excuse me," said Thuillier, interrupting him, "I cannot allow you to
continue; the article about which you are so good as to congratulate
me, was inserted by mistake."

"What!" said the linen-draper; "then do you not retire? Can you
suppose that in opposition to the candidacy of Monsieur Minard (whose
presence in these precincts seems to me rather singular) you have the
slightest chance of success?"

"Monsieur," said Thuillier, "have the goodness to request the electors
of your arrondissement to await the issue of to-morrow's paper, in
which I shall furnish categorical explanations of the most distinct
character. The article to-day is the result of a misunderstanding."

"It will be a sad pity, monsieur," said the linen-draper, "if you lose
this occasion to place yourself in the eyes of your fellow-citizens
beside the Washingtons and other great men of antiquity."

"I say again, TO-MORROW, messieurs," said Thuillier. "I am none the
less sensible to the honor you do me, and I trust that when you know
the whole truth, I shall not suffer in your esteem."

"A pretty queer mess this seems to be," said the voice of an elector.

"Yes," said another; "it looks as if they meant to bamboozle us."

"Messieurs, messieurs!" cried the chairman, putting a stop to the
outbreak; "to-morrow--we will wait until to-morrow for the promised

Whereupon, the deputation retired.

It is not likely that Thuillier would have accompanied them beyond the
door of the sanctum, but in any case he was prevented by the sudden
entrance of la Peyrade.

"I have just come from your house, my dear fellow," said the
Provencal; "they told me I should find you here."

"You have come, doubtless, for the purpose of explaining to me the
strange article you allowed yourself to insert in my name."

"Precisely," said la Peyrade. "The remarkable man whom you know, and
whose powerful influence you have already felt, confided to me
yesterday, in your interests, the plans of the government, and I saw
at once that your defeat was inevitable. I wished therefore to secure
to you an honorable and dignified retreat. There was no time to lose;
you were absent from Paris, and therefore--"

"Very good, monsieur," said Thuillier; "but you will take notice that
from the present moment you are no longer the editor of this paper."

"That is what I came to tell you."

"Perhaps you also came to settle the little account we have together."

"Messieurs," said Minard, "I see that this is a business interview; I
shall therefore take leave of you."

As soon as Minard had left the room, la Peyrade pulled out his pocket-

"Here are ten thousand francs," he said, "which I will beg you to
remit to Mademoiselle Brigitte; and here, also, is the bond by which
you secured the payment of twenty-five thousand francs to Madame
Lambert; that sum I have now paid in full, and here is the receipt."

"Very good, monsieur," said Thuillier.

La Peyrade bowed and went away.

"Serpent!" said Thuillier as he watched him go.

"Cerizet said the right thing," thought la Peyrade,--"a pompous

The blow struck at Thuillier's candidacy was mortal, but Minard did
not profit by it. While the pair were contending for votes, a
government man, an aide-de-camp to the king, arrived with his hands
full of tobacco licenses and other electoral small change, and, like
the third thief, he slipped between the two who were thumping each
other, and carried off the booty.

It is needless to say that Brigitte did not get her farm in Beauce.
That was only a mirage, by help of which Thuillier was enticed out of
Paris long enough for la Peyrade to deal his blow,--a service rendered
to the government on the one hand, but also a precious vengeance for
the many humiliations he had undergone.

Thuillier had certainly some suspicions as to the complicity of
Cerizet, but that worthy managed to justify himself; and by
manoeuvring the sale of the "Echo de la Bievre," now become a
nightmare to the luckless owner, he ended by appearing as white as

The paper was secretly bought up by Corentin, and the late opposition
sheet became a "canard" sold on Sundays in the wine-shops and
concocted in the dens of the police.



About two months after the scene in which la Peyrade had been
convinced that through a crime of his past life his future was
irrevocably settled, he (being now married to his victim, who was
beginning to have lucid intervals, though the full return of her
reason would not take place until the occasion indicated by the
doctors) was sitting one morning with the head of the police in the
latter's office. Taking part in the work of the department, the young
man was serving an apprenticeship under that great master in the
difficult and delicate functions to which he was henceforth riveted.
But Corentin found that his pupil did not bring to this initiation all
the ardor and amiability that he desired. It was plain that in la
Peyrade's soul there was a sense of forfeiture and degradation; time
would get the better of that impression, but the callus was not yet

Opening a number of sealed envelopes enclosing the reports of his
various agents, Corentin glanced over these documents, seldom as
useful as the public suppose, casting them one after another
contemptuously into a basket, whence they issued in a mass for a
burning. But to one of them the great man evidently gave some
particular attention; as he read it a smile flickered on his lips, and
when he had finished, instead of adding it to the pile in the basket,
he gave it to la Peyrade.

"Here," he said, "here's something that concerns you; it shows that in
our profession, which just now seems to you unpleasantly serious, we
do occasionally meet with comedies. Read it aloud; it will cheer me

Before la Peyrade began to read, Corentin added:--

"I ought to tell you that the report is from a man called Henri, whom
Madame Komorn introduced as man-servant at the Thuilliers'; you
probably remember him."

"So!" said la Peyrade, "servants placed in families! is that one of
your methods?"

"Sometimes," replied Corentin; "in order to know all, we must use all
means. But a great many lies are told about us on that subject. It is
not true that the police, making a system of it, has, at certain
periods, by a general enrolment of lacqueys and lady's-maids,
established a vast network in private families. Nothing is fixed and
absolute in our manner of proceeding; we act in accordance with the
time and circumstances. I wanted an ear and an influence in the
Thuillier household; accordingly, I let loose the Godollo upon it, and
she, in turn, partly to assist herself, installed there one of our
men, an intelligent fellow, as you will see for yourself. But for all
that, if, at another time, a servant came and offered to sell me the
secrets of his master, I should have him arrested, and let a warning
reach the ears of the family to distrust the other servants. Now go
on, and read that report."

Monsieur the Director of the Secret Police,

read la Peyrade aloud,--

I did not stay long with the little baron; he is a man wholly
occupied in frivolous pleasures; and there was nothing to be
gathered there that was worthy of a report to you. I have found
another place, where I have already witnessed several thing which
fit into the mission that Madame de Godollo gave me, and
therefore, thinking them likely to interest you, I hasten to bring
them to your knowledge. The household in which I am now employed
is that of an old savant, named Monsieur Picot, who lives on a
first floor, Place de la Madeleine, in the house and apartment
formerly occupied by my late masters, the Thuilliers--

"What!" cried la Peyrade, interrupting his reading, "Pere Picot, that
ruined old lunatic, occupying such an apartment as that?"

"Go on, go on!" said Corentin; "life is full of many strange things.
You'll find the explanation farther along; for our correspondent--it
is the defect of those fellows to waste themselves on details--is only
too fond of dotting his i's."

La Peyrade read on:--

The Thuilliers left this apartment some weeks ago to return to
their Latin quarter. Mademoiselle Brigitte never really liked our
sphere; her total want of education made her ill at ease. Just
because I speak correctly, she was always calling me 'the orator,'
and she could not endure Monsieur Pascal, her porter, because,
being beadle in the church of the Madeleine, he had manners; she
even found something to say against the dealers in the great
market behind the church, where, of course, she bought her
provisions; she complained that they gave themselves CAPABLE airs,
merely because they are not so coarse-tongued as those of the
Halle, and only laughed at her when she tried to beat them down.
She has leased the whole house to a certain Monsieur Cerizet (a
very ugly man, with a nose all eaten away) for an annual rent of
fifty-five thousand francs. This tenant seems to know what he is
about. He has lately married an actress at one of the minor
theatres, Mademoiselle Olympe Cardinal, and he was just about to
occupy himself the first-floor apartment, where he proposed to
establish his present business, namely, insurance for the "dots"
of children, when Monsieur Picot, arriving from England with his
wife, a very rich Englishwoman, saw the apartment and offered such
a good price that Monsieur Cerizet felt constrained to take it.
That was the time when, by the help of M. Pascal, the porter, with
whom I have been careful to maintain good relations, I entered the
household of Monsieur Picot.

"Monsieur Picot married to a rich Englishwoman!" exclaimed la Peyrade,
interrupting himself again; "but it is incomprehensible."

"Go on, I tell you," said Corentin; "you'll comprehend it presently."

The fortune of my new master,

continued la Peyrade,

is quite a history; and I speak of it to Monsieur le directeur
because another person in whom Madame de Godollo was interested
has his marriage closely mixed up in it. That other person is
Monsieur Felix Phellion, the inventor of a star, who, in despair
at not being able to marry that demoiselle whom they wanted to
give to the Sieur la Peyrade whom Madame de Godollo made such a
fool of--

"Scoundrel!" said the Provencal, in a parenthesis. "Is that how he
speaks of me? He doesn't know who I am."

Corentin laughed heartily and exhorted his pupil to read on.

--who, in despair at not being able to marry that demoiselle . . .
went to England in order to embark for a journey round the world--
a lover's notion! Learning of this departure, Monsieur Picot, his
former professor, who took great interest in his pupil, went after
him to prevent that nonsense, which turned out not to be
difficult. The English are naturally very jealous of discoveries,
and when they saw Monsieur Phellion coming to embark at the heels
of their own savants they asked him for his permit from the
Admiralty; which, not having been provided, he could not produce;
so then they laughed in his face and would not let him embark at
all, fearing that he should prove more learned than they.

"He is a fine hand at the 'entente cordiale,' your Monsieur Henri,"
said la Peyrade, gaily.

"Yes," replied Corentin; "you will be struck, in the reports of nearly
all our agents, with this general and perpetual inclination to
calumniate. But what's to be done? For the trade of spies we can't
have angels."

Left upon the shore, Telemachus and his mentor--

"You see our men are lettered," commented Corentin.

--Telemachus and his mentor thought best to return to France, and
were about to do so when Monsieur Picot received a letter such as
none but an Englishwoman could write. It told him that the writer
had read his "Theory of Perpetual Motion," and had also heard of
his magnificent discovery of a star; that she regarded him as a
genius only second to Newton, and that if the hand of her who
addressed him, joined to eighty thousand pounds sterling--that is,
two millions--of "dot," was agreeable to him it was at his
disposal. The first thought of the good man was to make his pupil
marry her, but finding that impossible, he told her, before
accepting on his own account, that he was old and three-quarters
blind, and had never discovered a star, and did not own a penny.
The Englishwoman replied that Milton was not young either, and was
altogether blind; that Monsieur Picot seemed to her to have
nothing worse than a cataract, for she knew all about it, being
the daughter of a great oculist, and she would have him operated
upon; that as for the star, she did not care so very much about
that; it was the author of the "Theory of Perpetual Motion" who
was the man of her dreams, and to whom she again offered her hand
with eighty thousand pounds sterling (two millions) of "dot."
Monsieur Picot replied that if his sight were restored and she
would consent to live in Paris, for he hated England, he would let
himself be married. The operation was performed and was
successful, and, at the end of three weeks the newly married pair
arrived in the capital. These details I obtained from the lady's
maid, with whom I am on the warmest terms.

"Oh! the puppy!" said Corentin, laughing.

The above is therefore hearsay, but what remains to be told to
Monsieur le directeur are facts of which I can speak "de visu,"
and to which I am, consequently, in a position to certify. As
soon as Monsieur and Madame Picot had installed themselves, which
was done in the most sumptuous and comfortable manner, my master
gave me a number of invitations to dinner to carry to the
Thuillier family, the Colleville family, the Minard family, the
Abbe Gondrin, vicar of the Madeleine, and nearly all the guests
who were present at another dinner a few months earlier, when he
had an encounter with Mademoiselle Thuillier, and behaved, I must
say, in a rather singular manner. All the persons who received
these invitations were so astonished to learn that the old man
Picot had married a rich wife and was living in the Thuilliers'
old apartment that most of them came to inquire of Monsieur
Pascal, the porter, to see if they were hoaxed. The information
they obtained being honest and honorable, the whole society
arrived punctually on time; but Monsieur Picot did not appear.
The guests were received by Madame Picot, who does not speak
French and could only say, "My husband is coming soon"; after
which, not being able to make further conversation, the company
were dull and ill at ease. At last Monsieur Picot arrived, and all
present were stupefied on seeing, instead of an old blind man,
shabbily dressed, a handsome young elderly man, bearing his years
jauntily, like Monsieur Ferville of the Gymnase, who said with a
lively air:

"I beg your pardon, mesdames, for not being here at the moment of
your arrival; but I was at the Academy of Sciences, awaiting the
result of an election,--that of Monsieur Felix Phellion, who has
been elected unanimously less three votes."

This news seemed to have a great effect upon the company. So then
Monsieur Picot resumed:--

"I must also, mesdames, ask your pardon for the rather improper
manner in which I behaved a short time ago in the house where we
are now assembled. My excuse must be my late infirmity, the
annoyances of a family lawsuit, and of an old housekeeper who
robbed me and tormented me in a thousand ways, from whom I am
happily delivered. To-day you see me another man, rejuvenated and
rich with the blessings bestowed upon me by the amiable woman who
has given me her hand; and I should be in the happiest frame of
mind to receive you if the recollection of my young friend, whose
eminence as a man of science has just been consecrated by the
Academy, did not cast upon my mind a veil of sadness. All here
present," continued Monsieur Picot, raising his voice, which is
rather loud, "are guilty towards him: I, for ingratitude when he
gave me the glory of his discovery and the reward of his immortal
labors; that young lady, whom I see over there with tears in her
eyes, for having foolishly accused him of atheism; that other
lady, with the stern face, for having harshly replied to the
proposals of his noble father, whose white hairs she ought rather
to have honored; Monsieur Thuillier, for having sacrificed him to
ambition; Monsieur Colleville, for not performing his part of
father and choosing for his daughter the worthiest and most
honorable man; Monsieur Minard, for having tried to foist his son
into his place. There are but two persons in the room at this
moment who have done him full justice,--Madame Thuillier and
Monsieur l'Abbe Gondrin. Well, I shall now ask that man of God
whether we can help doubting the divine justice when this generous
young man, the victim of all of us, is, at the present hour, at
the mercy of waves and tempests, to which for three long years he
is consigned."

"Providence is very powerful, monsieur," replied the Abbe Gondrin.
"God will protect Monsieur Felix Phellion wherever he may be, and
I have the firmest hope that three years hence he will be among
his friends once more."

"But three years!" said Monsieur Picot. "Will it still be time?
Will Mademoiselle Colleville have waited for him?"

"Yes, I swear it!" cried the young girl, carried away by an
impulse she could not control.

Then she sat down again, quite ashamed, and burst into tears.

"And you, Mademoiselle Thuillier, and you, Madame Colleville, will
you permit this young lady to reserve herself for one who is
worthy of her?"

"Yes! Yes!" cried everybody; for Monsieur Picot's voice, which is
very full and sonorous, seemed to have tears in it and affected

"Then it is time," he said, "to forgive Providence."

And rushing suddenly to the door, where my ear was glued to the
keyhole, he very nearly caught me.

"Announce," he said to me, in a very loud tone of voice, "Monsieur
Felix Phellion and his family."

And thereupon the door of a side room opened, and five or six
persons came out, who were led by Monsieur Picot into the salon.

At the sight of her LOVER, Mademoiselle Colleville was taken ill,
but the faint lasted only a minute; seeing Monsieur Felix at her
feet she threw herself into Madame Thuillier's arms, crying out:--

"Godmother! you always told me to hope."

Mademoiselle Thuillier, who, in spite of her harsh nature and want
of education, I have always myself thought a remarkable woman, now
had a fine impulse. As the company were about to go into the

"One moment!" she said.

Then going up to Monsieur Phellion, senior, she said to him:

"Monsieur and old friend! I ask you for the hand of Monsieur Felix
Phellion for our adopted daughter, Mademoiselle Colleville."

"Bravo! bravo!" they call cried in chorus.

"My God!" said Monsieur Phellion, with tears in his eyes; "what
have I done to deserve such happiness?"

"You have been an honest man and a Christian without knowing it,"
replied the Abbe Gondrin.

Here la Peyrade flung down the manuscript.

"You did not finish it," said Corentin, taking back the paper.
"However, there's not much more. Monsieur Henri confesses to me that
the scene had MOVED HIM; he also says that, knowing the interest I had
formerly taken in the marriage, he thought he ought to inform me of
its conclusion; ending with a slightly veiled suggestion of a fee. No,
stay," resumed Corentin, "here is a detail of some importance:--"

The English woman seems to have made it known during dinner that,
having no heirs, her fortune, after the lives of herself and her
husband, will go to Felix. That will make him powerfully rich one
of these days.

La Peyrade had risen and was striding about the room with rapid steps.

"Well," said Corentin, "what is the matter with you?"


"That is not true," said the great detective. "I think you envy the
happiness of that young man. My dear fellow, permit me to tell you
that if such a conclusion were to your taste, you should have acted as
he has done. When I sent you two thousand francs on which to study
law, I did not intend you to succeed me; I expected you to row your
galley laboriously, to have the needful courage for obscure and
painful toil; your day would infallibly have come. But you chose to
violate fortune--"


"I mean hasten it, reap it before it ripened. You flung yourself into
journalism; then into business, questionable business; you made
acquaintance with Messieurs Dutocq and Cerizet. Frankly, I think you
fortunate to have entered the port which harbors you to-day. In any
case, you are not sufficiently simple of heart to have really valued
the joys reserved for Felix Phellion. These bourgeois--"

"These bourgeois," said la Peyrade, quickly,--"I know them now. They
have great absurdities, great vices even, but they have virtues, or,
at the least, estimable qualities; in them lies the vital force of our
corrupt society."

"YOUR society!" said Corentin, smiling; "you speak as if you were
still in the ranks. You have another sphere, my dear fellow; and you
must learn to be more content with your lot. Governments pass,
societies perish or dwindle; but we--WE dominate all things; the
police is eternal."


Note.--This volume ("Les Petits Bourgeois") was not published
until 1854, more than three years after Balzac's death; although
he says of it in March, 1844: "I must tell you that my work
entitled 'Les Petits Bourgeois,' owing to difficulties of
execution, requires still a month's labor, although the book is
entirely written." And again, in October, 1846, he says: "It is to
such scruples" (care in perfecting his work) "that delays which
have injured several of my works are due; for instance, 'Les
Paysans,' which has long been nearly finished, and 'Les Petits
Bourgeois,' which has been in type at the printing office for the
last eighteen months."


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

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Man of Business
The Seamy Side of History
The Middle Classes

Baudoyer, Isidore
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Beaumesnil, Mademoiselle
The Middle Classes
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Second Home

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

Bousquier, Du (or Du Croisier or Du Bourguier)
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Middle Classes

Brisetout, Heloise
Cousin Betty
Cousin Pons
The Middle Classes

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

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

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

Cardot (Parisian notary)
The Muse of the Department
A Man of Business
Jealousies of a Country Town
Pierre Grassou
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Lost Illusions
A Man of Business
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

Cesar Birotteau
A Prince of Bohemia
The Middle Classes

Claparon, Charles
A Bachelor's Establishment
Cesar Birotteau
Melmoth Reconciled
The Firm of Nucingen
A Man of Business
The Middle Classes

Cochin, Emile-Louis-Lucien-Emmanuel
Cesar Birotteau
The Government Clerks
The Firm of Nucingen
The Middle Classes

The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Colleville, Flavie Minoret, Madame
The Government Clerks
Cousin Betty
The Middle Classes

The Chouans
The Gondreville Mystery
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

The Firm of Nucingen
The Middle Classes

Crochard, Charles
A Second Home
The Middle Classes

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

The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

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

Godard, Joseph
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Godeschal, Francois-Claude-Marie
Colonel Chabert
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
The Commission in Lunacy
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Grassou, Pierre
Pierre Grassou
A Bachelor's Establishment
Cousin Betty
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

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

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

Keller, Adolphe
The Middle Classes
Cesar Birotteau

La Peyrade, Charles-Marie-Theodose de
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

La Peyrade, Madame de
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

La Roche-Hugon, Martial de
Domestic Peace
The Peasantry
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
The Middle Classes
Cousin Betty

The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

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

Lost Illusions
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Metivier (nephew)
The Seamy Side of History
The Middle Classes

Minard, Auguste-Jean-Francois
The Government Clerks
The Firm of Nucingen
The Middle Classes

Minard, Madame
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Poiret, the elder
The Government Clerks
Father Goriot
A Start in Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

Poiret, Madame (nee Christine-Michelle Michonneau)
Father Goriot
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

Popinot, Jean-Jules
Cesar Birotteau
The Commission in Lunacy
The Seamy Side of History
The Middle Classes

Rabourdin, Xavier
The Government Clerks
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau
The Middle Classes

The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Thuillier, Marie-Jeanne-Brigitte
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Thuillier, Louis-Jerome
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

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

The Member for Arcis
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Vinet, Olivier
The Member for Arcis
Cousin Pons
The Middle Classes

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