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The Muse of the Department by Honore de Balzac

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"Consideration! So that is what you call it in these parts?" said the
journalist with a smile.

"I should suppose Madame de la Baudraye to have too much good taste to
trouble her head about that ugly ape," said Bianchon.

"Horace," said Lousteau, "look here, O learned interpreter of human
nature, let us lay a trap for the Public Prosecutor; we shall be doing
our friend Gatien a service, and get a laugh out of it. I do not love
Public Prosecutors."

"You have a keen intuition of destiny," said Horace. "But what can we

"Well, after dinner we will tell sundry little anecdotes of wives
caught out by their husbands, killed, murdered under the most terrible
circumstances.--Then we shall see the faces that Madame de la Baudraye
and de Clagny will make."

"Not amiss!" said Bianchon; "one or the other must surely, by look or

"I know a newspaper editor," Lousteau went on, addressing Gatien,
"who, anxious to forefend a grievous fate, will take no stories but
such as tell the tale of lovers burned, hewn, pounded, or cut to
pieces; of wives boiled, fried, or baked; he takes them to his wife to
read, hoping that sheer fear will keep her faithful--satisfied with
that humble alternative, poor man! 'You see, my dear, to what the
smallest error may lead you!' says he, epitomizing Arnolfe's address
to Agnes."

"Madame de la Baudraye is quite guiltless; this youth sees double,"
said Bianchon. "Madame Piedefer seems to me far too pious to invite
her daughter's lover to the Chateau d'Anzy. Madame de la Baudraye
would have to hoodwink her mother, her husband, her maid, and her
mother's maid; that is too much to do. I acquit her."

"Well with more reason because her husband never 'quits her,' " said
Gatien, laughing at his own wit.

"We can easily remember two or three stories that will make Dinah
quake," said Lousteau. "Young man--and you too, Bianchon--let me beg
you to maintain a stern demeanor; be thorough diplomatists, an easy
manner without exaggeration, and watch the faces of the two criminals,
you know, without seeming to do so--out of the corner of your eye, or
in a glass, on the sly. This morning we will hunt the hare, this
evening we will hunt the Public Prosecutor."

The evening began with a triumph for Lousteau, who returned the album
to the lady with this elegy written in it:


You ask for verse from me, the feeble prey
Of this self-seeking world, a waif and stray
With none to whom to cling;
From me--unhappy, purblind, hopeless devil!
Who e'en in what is good see only evil
In any earthly thing!

This page, the pastime of a dame so fair,
May not reflect the shadow of my care,
For all things have their place.
Of love, to ladies bright, the poet sings,
Of joy, and balls, and dress, and dainty things--
Nay, or of God and Grace.

It were a bitter jest to bid the pen
Of one so worn with life, so hating men,
Depict a scene of joy.
Would you exult in sight to one born blind,
Or--cruel! of a mother's love remind
Some hapless orphan boy?

When cold despair has gripped a heart still fond,
When there is no young heart that will respond
To it in love, the future is a lie.
If there is none to weep when he is sad,
And share his woe, a man were better dead!--
And so I soon must die.

Give me your pity! often I blaspheme
The sacred name of God. Does it not seem
That I was born in vain?
Why should I bless him? Or why thank Him, since
He might have made me handsome, rich, a prince--
And I am poor and plain?

September 1836, Chateau d'Anzy.

"And you have written those verses since yesterday?" cried Clagny in a
suspicious tone.

"Dear me, yes, as I was following the game; it is only too evident! I
would gladly have done something better for madame."

"The verses are exquisite!" cried Dinah, casting up her eyes to

"They are, alas! the expression of a too genuine feeling," replied
Lousteau, in a tone of deep dejection.

The reader will, of course, have guessed that the journalist had
stored these lines in his memory for ten years at least, for he had
written them at the time of the Restoration in disgust at being unable
to get on. Madame de la Baudraye gazed at him with such pity as the
woes of genius inspire; and Monsieur de Clagny, who caught her
expression, turned in hatred against this sham /Jeune Malade/ (the
name of an Elegy written by Millevoye). He sat down to backgammon with
the cure of Sancerre. The Presiding Judge's son was so extremely
obliging as to place a lamp near the two players in such a way as that
the light fell full on Madame de la Baudraye, who took up her work;
she was embroidering in coarse wool a wicker-plait paper-basket. The
three conspirators sat close at hand.

"For whom are you decorating that pretty basket, madame?" said
Lousteau. "For some charity lottery, perhaps?"

"No," she said, "I think there is too much display in charity done to
the sound of a trumpet."

"You are very indiscreet," said Monsieur Gravier.

"Can there be any indiscretion," said Lousteau, "in inquiring who the
happy mortal may be in whose room that basket is to stand?"

"There is no happy mortal in the case," said Dinah; "it is for
Monsieur de la Baudraye."

The Public Prosecutor looked slily at Madame de la Baudraye and her
work, as if he had said to himself, "I have lost my paper-basket!"

"Why, madame, may we not think him happy in having a lovely wife,
happy in her decorating his paper-baskets so charmingly? The colors
are red and black, like Robin Goodfellow. If ever I marry, I only hope
that twelve years after, my wife's embroidered baskets may still be
for me."

"And why should they not be for you?" said the lady, fixing her fine
gray eyes, full of invitation, on Etienne's face.

"Parisians believe in nothing," said the lawyer bitterly. "The virtue
of women is doubted above all things with terrible insolence. Yes, for
some time past the books you have written, you Paris authors, your
farces, your dramas, all your atrocious literature, turn on

"Come, come, Monsieur the Public Prosecutor," retorted Etienne,
laughing, "I left you to play your game in peace, I did not attack
you, and here you are bringing an indictment against me. On my honor
as a journalist, I have launched above a hundred articles against the
writers you speak of; but I confess that in attacking them it was to
attempt something like criticism. Be just; if you condemn them, you
must condemn Homer, whose /Iliad/ turns on Helen of Troy; you must
condemn Milton's /Paradise Lost/. Eve and her serpent seem to me a
pretty little case of symbolical adultery; you must suppress the
Psalms of David, inspired by the highly adulterous love affairs of
that Louis XIV. of Judah; you must make a bonfire of /Mithridate, le
Tartuffe, l'Ecole des Femmes, Phedre, Andromaque, le Mariage de
Figaro/, Dante's /Inferno/, Petrarch's Sonnets, all the works of Jean-
Jacques Rousseau, the romances of the Middle Ages, the History of
France, and of Rome, etc., etc. Excepting Bossuet's /Histoire des
Variations/ and Pascal's /Provinciales/, I do not think there are many
books left to read if you insist on eliminating all those in which
illicit love is mentioned."

"Much loss that would be!" said Monsieur de Clagny.

Etienne, nettled by the superior air assumed by Monsieur de Clagny,
wanted to infuriate him by one of those cold-drawn jests which consist
in defending an opinion in which we have no belief, simply to rouse
the wrath of a poor man who argues in good faith; a regular
journalist's pleasantry.

"If we take up the political attitude into which you would force
yourself," he went on, without heeding the lawyer's remark, "and
assume the part of Public Prosecutor of all the ages--for every
Government has its public ministry--well, the Catholic religion is
infected at its fountain-head by a startling instance of illegal
union. In the opinion of King Herod, and of Pilate as representing the
Roman Empire, Joseph's wife figured as an adulteress, since, by her
avowal, Joseph was not the father of Jesus. The heathen judge could no
more recognize the Immaculate Conception than you yourself would admit
the possibility of such a miracle if a new religion should nowadays be
preached as based on a similar mystery. Do you suppose that a judge
and jury in a police court would give credence to the operation of the
Holy Ghost! And yet who can venture to assert that God will never
again redeem mankind? Is it any better now than it was under

"Your argument is blasphemy," said Monsieur de Clagny.

"I grant it," said the journalist, "but not with malicious intent. You
cannot suppress historical fact. In my opinion, Pilate, when he
sentenced Jesus, and Anytus--who spoke for the aristocratic party at
Athens--when he insisted on the death of Socrates, both represented
established social interests which held themselves legitimate,
invested with co-operative powers, and obliged to defend themselves.
Pilate and Anytus in their time were not less logical than the public
prosecutors who demanded the heads of the sergeants of La Rochelle;
who, at this day, are guillotining the republicans who take up arms
against the throne as established by the revolution of July, and the
innovators who aim at upsetting society for their own advantage under
pretence of organizing it on a better footing. In the eyes of the
great families of Greece and Rome, Socrates and Jesus were criminals;
to those ancient aristocracies their opinions were akin to those of
the Mountain; and if their followers had been victorious, they would
have produced a little 'ninety-three' in the Roman Empire or in

"What are you trying to come to, monsieur?" asked the lawyer.

"To adultery!--For thus, monsieur, a Buddhist as he smokes his pipe
may very well assert that the Christian religion is founded in
adultery; as we believe that Mahomet is an impostor; that his Koran is
an epitome of the Old Testament and the Gospels; and that God never
had the least intention of constituting that camel-driver His

"If there were many men like you in France--and there are more than
enough, unfortunately--all government would be impossible."

"And there would be no religion at all," said Madame Piedefer, who had
been making strangely wry faces all through this discussion.

"You are paining them very much," said Bianchon to Lousteau in an
undertone. "Do not talk of religion; you are saying things that are
enough to upset them."

"If I were a writer or a romancer," said Monsieur Gravier, "I should
take the side of the luckless husbands. I, who have seen many things,
and strange things too, know that among the ranks of deceived husbands
there are some whose attitude is not devoid of energy, men who, at a
crisis, can be very dramatic, to use one of your words, monsieur," he
said, addressing Etienne.

"You are very right, my dear Monsieur Gravier," said Lousteau. "I
never thought that deceived husbands were ridiculous; on the contrary,
I think highly of them--"

"Do you not think a husband's confidence a sublime thing?" said
Bianchon. "He believes in his wife, he does not suspect her, he trusts
her implicitly. But if he is so weak as to trust her, you make game of
him; if he is jealous and suspicious, you hate him; what, then, I ask
you, is the happy medium for a man of spirit?"

"If Monsieur de Clagny had not just expressed such vehement
disapproval of the immorality of stories in which the matrimonial
compact is violated, I could tell you of a husband's revenge," said

Monsieur de Clagny threw the dice with a convulsive jerk, and dared
not look up at the journalist.

"A story, from you!" cried Madame de la Baudraye. "I should hardly
have dared to hope for such a treat--"

"It is not my story, madame; I am not clever enough to invent such a
tragedy. It was told me--and how delightfully!--by one of our greatest
writers, the finest literary musician of our day, Charles Nodier."

"Well, tell it," said Dinah. "I never met Monsieur Nodier, so you have
no comparison to fear."

"Not long after the 18th Brumaire," Etienne began, "there was, as you
know, a call to arms in Brittany and la Vendee. The First Consul,
anxious before all things for peace in France, opened negotiations
with the rebel chiefs, and took energetic military measures; but,
while combining his plans of campaign with the insinuating charm of
Italian diplomacy, he also set the Machiavelian springs of the police
in movement, Fouche then being at its head. And none of these means
were superfluous to stifle the fire of war then blaring in the West.

"At this time a young man of the Maille family was despatched by the
Chouans from Brittany to Saumur, to open communications between
certain magnates of that town and its environs and the leaders of the
Royalist party. The envoy was, in fact, arrested on the very day he
landed--for he traveled by boat, disguised as a master mariner.
However, as a man of practical intelligence, he had calculated all the
risks of the undertaking; his passport and papers were all in order,
and the men told off to take him were afraid of blundering.

"The Chevalier de Beauvoir--I now remember his name--had studied his
part well; he appealed to the family whose name he had borrowed,
persisted in his false address, and stood his examination so boldly
that he would have been set at large but for the blind belief that the
spies had in their instructions, which were unfortunately only too
minute. In this dilemma the authorities were more ready to risk an
arbitrary act than to let a man escape to whose capture the Minister
attached great importance. In those days of liberty the agents of the
powers in authority cared little enough for what we now regard as
/legal/. The Chevalier was therefore imprisoned provisionally, until
the superior officials should come to some decision as to his
identity. He had not long to wait for it; orders were given to guard
the prisoner closely in spite of his denials.

"The Chevalier de Beauvoir was next transferred, in obedience to
further orders, to the Castle of l'Escarpe, a name which sufficiently
indicates its situation. This fortress, perched on very high rocks,
has precipices for its trenches; it is reached on all sides by steep
and dangerous paths; and, like every ancient castle, its principal
gate has a drawbridge over a wide moat. The commandant of this prison,
delighted to have charge of a man of family whose manners were most
agreeable, who expressed himself well, and seemed highly educated,
received the Chevalier as a godsend; he offered him the freedom of the
place on parole, that they might together the better defy its dulness.
The prisoner was more than content.

"Beauvoir was a loyal gentleman, but, unfortunately, he was also a
very handsome youth. He had attractive features, a dashing air, a
pleasing address, and extraordinary strength. Well made, active, full
of enterprise, and loving danger, he would have made an admirable
leader of guerillas, and was the very man for the part. The commandant
gave his prisoner the most comfortable room, entertained him at his
table, and at first had nothing but praise for the Vendean. This
officer was a Corsican and married; his wife was pretty and charming,
and he thought her, perhaps, not to be trusted--at any rate, he was as
jealous as a Corsican and a rather ill-looking soldier may be. The
lady took a fancy to Beauvoir, and he found her very much to his
taste; perhaps they loved! Love in a prison is quick work. Did they
commit some imprudence? Was the sentiment they entertained something
warmer than the superficial gallantry which is almost a duty of men
towards women?

"Beauvoir never fully explained this rather obscure episode of the
story; it is at least certain that the commandant thought himself
justified in treating his prisoner with excessive severity. Beauvoir
was placed in the dungeon, fed on black bread and cold water, and
fettered in accordance with the time-honored traditions of the
treatment lavished on captives. His cell, under the fortress-yard, was
vaulted with hard stone, the walls were of desperate thickness; the
tower overlooked the precipice.

"When the luckless man had convinced himself of the impossibility of
escape, he fell into those day-dreams which are at once the comfort
and the crowning despair of prisoners. He gave himself up to the
trifles which in such cases seem so important; he counted the hours
and the days; he studied the melancholy trade of being prisoner; he
became absorbed in himself, and learned the value of air and sunshine;
then, at the end of a fortnight, he was attacked by that terrible
malady, that fever for liberty, which drives prisoners to those heroic
efforts of which the prodigious achievements seem to us impossible,
though true, and which my friend the doctor" (and he turned to
Bianchon) "would perhaps ascribe to some unknown forces too recondite
for his physiological analysis to detect, some mysteries of the human
will of which the obscurity baffles science."

Bianchon shook his head in negation.

"Beauvoir was eating his heart out, for death alone could set him
free. One morning the turnkey, whose duty it was to bring him his
food, instead of leaving him when he had given him his meagre
pittance, stood with his arms folded, looking at him with strange
meaning. Conversation between them was brief, and the warder never
began it. The Chevalier was therefore greatly surprised when the man
said to him: 'Of course, monsieur, you know your own business when you
insist on being always called Monsieur Lebrun, or citizen Lebrun. It
is no concern of mine; ascertaining your name is no part of my duty.
It is all the same to me whether you call yourself Peter or Paul. If
every man minds his own business, the cows will not stray. At the same
time, /I/ know,' said he, with a wink, 'that you are Monsieur Charles-
Felix-Theodore, Chevalier de Beauvoir, and cousin to Madame la
Duchesse de Maille.--Heh?' he added after a short silence, during
which he looked at his prisoner.

"Beauvoir, seeing that he was safe under lock and key, did not imagine
that his position could be any the worse if his real name were known.

" 'Well, and supposing I were the Chevalier de Beauvoir, what should I
gain by that?' said he.

" 'Oh, there is everything to be gained by it,' replied the jailer in
an undertone. 'I have been paid to help you to get away; but wait a
minute! If I were suspected in the smallest degree, I should be shot
out of hand. So I have said that I will do no more in the matter than
will just earn the money.--Look here,' said he, taking a small file
out of his pocket, 'this is your key; with this you can cut through
one of your bars. By the Mass, but it will not be any easy job,' he
went on, glancing at the narrow loophole that let daylight into the

"It was in a splayed recess under the deep cornice that ran round the
top of the tower, between the brackets that supported the embrasures.

" 'Monsieur,' said the man, 'you must take care to saw through the
iron low enough to get your body through.'

" 'I will get through, never fear,' said the prisoner.

" 'But high enough to leave a stanchion to fasten a cord to,' the
warder went on.

" 'And where is the cord?' asked Beauvoir.

" 'Here,' said the man, throwing down a knotted rope. 'It is made of
raveled linen, that you may be supposed to have contrived it yourself,
and it is long enough. When you have got to the bottom knot, let
yourself drop gently, and the rest you must manage for yourself. You
will probably find a carriage somewhere in the neighborhood, and
friends looking out for you. But I know nothing about that.--I need
not remind you that there is a man-at-arms to the right of the tower.
You will take care, of course, to choose a dark night, and wait till
the sentinel is asleep. You must take your chance of being shot;

" 'All right! All right! At least I shall not rot here,' cried the
young man.

" 'Well, that may happen nevertheless,' replied the jailer, with a
stupid expression.

"Beauvoir thought this was merely one of the aimless remarks that such
folks indulge in. The hope of freedom filled him with such joy that he
could not be troubled to consider the words of a man who was no more
than a better sort of peasant. He set to work at once, and had filed
the bars through in the course of the day. Fearing a visit from the
Governor, he stopped up the breaches with bread crumb rubbed in rust
to make it look like iron; he hid his rope, and waited for a favorable
night with the intensity of anticipation, the deep anguish of soul
that makes a prisoner's life dramatic.

"At last, one murky night, an autumn night, he finished cutting
through the bars, tied the cord firmly to the stump, and perched
himself on the sill outside, holding on by one hand to the piece of
iron remaining. Then he waited for the darkest hour of the night, when
the sentinels would probably be asleep; this would be not long before
dawn. He knew the hours of their rounds, the length of each watch,
every detail with which prisoners, almost involuntarily, become
familiar. He waited till the moment when one of the men-at-arms had
spent two-thirds of his watch and gone into his box for shelter from
the fog. Then, feeling sure that the chances were at the best for his
escape, he let himself down knot by knot, hanging between earth and
sky, and clinging to his rope with the strength of a giant. All was
well. At the last knot but one, just as he was about to let himself
drop, a prudent impulse led him to feel for the ground with his feet,
and he found no footing. The predicament was awkward for a man bathed
in sweat, tired, and perplexed, and in a position where his life was
at stake on even chances. He was about to risk it, when a trivial
incident stopped him; his hat fell off; happily, he listened for the
noise it must make in striking the ground, and he heard not a sound.

"The prisoner felt vaguely suspicious as to this state of affairs. He
began to wonder whether the Commandant had not laid a trap for him--
but if so, why? Torn by doubts, he almost resolved to postpone the
attempt till another night. At any rate, he would wait for the first
gleam of day, when it would still not be impossible to escape. His
great strength enabled him to climb up again to his window; still, he
was almost exhausted by the time he gained the sill, where he crouched
on the lookout, exactly like a cat on the parapet of a gutter. Before
long, by the pale light of dawn, he perceived as he waved the rope
that there was a little interval of a hundred feet between the lowest
knot and the pointed rocks below.

" 'Thank you, my friend, the Governor!' said he, with characteristic
coolness. Then, after a brief meditation on this skilfully-planned
revenge, he thought it wise to return to his cell.

"He laid his outer clothes conspicuously on the bed, left the rope
outside to make it seem that he had fallen, and hid himself behind the
door to await the arrival of the treacherous turnkey, arming himself
with one of the iron bars he had filed out. The jailer, who returned
rather earlier than usual to secure the dead man's leavings, opened
the door, whistling as he came in; but when he was at arm's length,
Beauvoir hit him such a tremendous blow on the head that the wretch
fell in a heap without a cry; the bar had cracked his skull.

"The Chevalier hastily stripped him and put on his clothes, mimicked
his walk, and, thanks to the early hour and the undoubting confidence
of the warders of the great gate, he walked out and away."

It did not seem to strike either the lawyer or Madame de la Baudraye
that there was in this narrative the least allusion that should apply
to them. Those in the little plot looked inquiringly at each other,
evidently surprised at the perfect coolness of the two supposed

"Oh! I can tell you a better story than that," said Bianchon.

"Let us hear," said the audience, at a sign from Lousteau, conveying
that Bianchon had a reputation as a story-teller.

Among the stock of narratives he had in store, for every clever man
has a fund of anecdotes as Madame de la Baudraye had a collection of
phrases, the doctor chose that which is known as /La Grande Breteche/,
and is so famous indeed, that it was put on the stage at the /Gymnase-
Dramatique/ under the title of /Valentine/. So it is not necessary to
repeat it here, though it was then new to the inhabitants of the
Chateau d'Anzy. And it was told with the same finish of gesture and
tone which had won such praise for Bianchon when at Mademoiselle des
Touches' supper-party he had told it for the first time. The final
picture of the Spanish grandee, starved to death where he stood in the
cupboard walled up by Madame de Merret's husband, and that husband's
last word as he replied to his wife's entreaty, "You swore on that
crucifix that there was no one in that closet!" produced their full
effect. There was a silent minute, highly flattering to Bianchon.

"Do you know, gentlemen," said Madame de la Baudraye, "love must be a
mighty thing that it can tempt a woman to put herself in such a

"I, who have certainly seen some strange things in the course of my
life," said Gravier, "was cognizant in Spain of an adventure of the
same kind."

"You come forward after two great performers," said Madame de la
Baudraye, with coquettish flattery, as she glanced at the two
Parisians. "But never mind--proceed."

"Some little time after his entry into Madrid," said the Receiver-
General, "the Grand Duke of Berg invited the magnates of the capital
to an entertainment given to the newly conquered city by the French
army. In spite of the splendor of the affair, the Spaniards were not
very cheerful; their ladies hardly danced at all, and most of the
company sat down to cards. The gardens of the Duke's palace were so
brilliantly illuminated, that the ladies could walk about in as
perfect safety as in broad daylight. The fete was of imperial
magnificence. Nothing was grudged to give the Spaniards a high idea of
the Emperor, if they were to measure him by the standard of his

"In an arbor near the house, between one and two in the morning, a
party of French officers were discussing the chances of war, and the
not too hopeful outlook prognosticated by the conduct of the Spaniards
present at that grand ball.

" 'I can only tell you,' said the surgeon-major of the company of
which I was paymaster, 'I applied formally to Prince Murat only
yesterday to be recalled. Without being afraid exactly of leaving my
bones in the Peninsula, I would rather dress the wounds made by our
worthy neighbors the Germans. Their weapons do not run quite so deep
into the body as these Castilian daggers. Besides, a certain dread of
Spain is, with me, a sort of superstition. From my earliest youth I
have read Spanish books, and a heap of gloomy romances and tales of
adventures in this country have given me a serious prejudice against
its manners and customs.

" 'Well, now, since my arrival in Madrid, I have already been, not
indeed the hero, but the accomplice of a dangerous intrigue, as dark
and mysterious as any romance by Lady (Mrs.) Radcliffe. I am apt to
attend to my presentiments, and I am off to-morrow. Murat will not
refuse me leave, for, thanks to our varied services, we always have
influential friends.'

" 'Since you mean to cut your stick, tell us what's up,' said an old
Republican colonel, who cared not a rap for Imperial gentility and
choice language.

"The surgeon-major looked about him cautiously, as if to make sure who
were his audience, and being satisfied that no Spaniard was within
hearing, he said:

" 'We are none but Frenchmen--then, with pleasure, Colonel Hulot.
About six days since, I was quietly going home, at about eleven at
night, after leaving General Montcornet, whose hotel is but a few
yards from mine. We had come away together from the Quartermaster-
General's, where we had played rather high at /bouillotte/. Suddenly,
at the corner of a narrow high-street, two strangers, or rather, two
demons, rushed upon me and flung a large cloak round my head and arms.
I yelled out, as you may suppose, like a dog that is thrashed, but the
cloth smothered my voice, and I was lifted into a chaise with
dexterous rapidity. When my two companions released me from the cloak,
I heard these dreadful words spoken by a woman, in bad French:

" ' "If you cry out, or if you attempt to escape, if you make the very
least suspicious demonstration, the gentleman opposite to you will
stab you without hesitation. So you had better keep quiet.--Now, I
will tell you why you have been carried off. If you will take the
trouble to put your hand out in this direction, you will find your
case of instruments lying between us; we sent a messenger for them to
your rooms, in your name. You will need them. We are taking you to a
house that you may save the honor of a lady who is about to give birth
to a child that she wishes to place in this gentleman's keeping
without her husband's knowledge. Though monsieur rarely leaves his
wife, with whom he is still passionately in love, watching over her
with all the vigilance of Spanish jealousy, she had succeeded in
concealing her condition; he believes her to be ill. You must bring
the child into the world. The dangers of this enterprise do not
concern us: only, you must obey us, otherwise the lover, who is
sitting opposite to you in this carriage, and who does not understand
a word of French, will kill you on the least rash movement."

" ' "And who are you?" I asked, feeling for the speaker's hand, for
her arm was inside the sleeve of a soldier's uniform.

" ' "I am my lady's waiting-woman," said she, "and ready to reward you
with my own person if you show yourself gallant and helpful in our

" ' "Gladly," said I, seeing that I was inevitably started on a
perilous adventure.

" 'Under favor of the darkness, I felt whether the person and figure
of the girl were in keeping with the idea I had formed of her from her
tone of voice. The good soul had, no doubt, made up her mind from the
first to accept all the chances of this strange act of kidnapping, for
she kept silence very obligingly, and the coach had not been more than
ten minutes on the way when she accepted and returned a very
satisfactory kiss. The lover, who sat opposite to me, took no offence
at an occasional quite involuntary kick; as he did not understand
French, I conclude he paid no heed to them.

" ' "I can be your mistress on one condition only," said the woman, in
reply to the nonsense I poured into her ear, carried away by the
fervor of an improvised passion, to which everything was unpropitious.

" ' "And what is it?"

" ' "That you will never attempt to find out whose servant I am. If I
am to go to you, it must be at night, and you must receive me in the

" ' "Very good," said I.

" 'We had got as far as this, when the carriage drew up under a garden

" ' "You must allow me to bandage your eyes," said the maid. "You can
lean on my arm, and I will lead you."

" 'She tied a handkerchief over my eyes, fastening it in a tight knot
at the back of my head. I heard the sound of a key being cautiously
fitted to the lock of a little side door by the speechless lover who
had sat opposite to me. In a moment the waiting-woman, whose shape was
slender, and who walked with an elegant jauntiness'--/meneho/, as they
call it," Monsieur Gravier explained in a superior tone, "a word which
describes the swing which women contrive to give a certain part of
their dress that shall be nameless.--'The waiting-woman'--it is the
surgeon-major who is speaking," the narrator went on--" 'led me along
the gravel walks of a large garden, till at a certain spot she
stopped. From the louder sound of our footsteps, I concluded that we
were close to the house. "Now silence!" said she in a whisper, "and
mind what you are about. Do not overlook any of my signals; I cannot
speak without terrible danger for both of us, and at this moment your
life is of the first importance." Then she added: "My mistress is in a
room on the ground floor. To get into it we must pass through her
husband's room and close to his bed. Do not cough, walk softly, and
follow me closely, so as not to knock against the furniture or tread
anywhere but on the carpets I laid down."

" 'Here the lover gave an impatient growl, as a man annoyed by so much

" 'The woman said no more, I heard a door open, I felt the warm air of
the house, and we stole in like thieves. Presently the girl's light
hand removed the bandage. I found myself in a lofty and spacious room,
badly lighted by a smoky lamp. The window was open, but the jealous
husband had fitted it with iron bars. I was in the bottom of a sack,
as it were.

" 'On the ground a woman was lying on a mat; her head was covered with
a muslin veil, but I could see her eyes through it full of tears and
flashing with the brightness of stars; she held a handkerchief in her
mouth, biting it so hard that her teeth were set in it: I never saw
finer limbs, but her body was writhing with pain like a harp-string
thrown on the fire. The poor creature had made a sort of struts of her
legs by setting her feet against a chest of drawers, and with both
hands she held on to the bar of a chair, her arms outstretched, with
every vein painfully swelled. She might have been a criminal
undergoing torture. But she did not utter a cry; there was not a
sound, all three speechless and motionless. The husband snored with
reassuring regularity. I wanted to study the waiting-woman's face, but
she had put on a mask, which she had removed, no doubt, during our
drive, and I could see nothing but a pair of black eyes and a
pleasingly rounded figure.

" 'The lover threw some towels over his mistress' legs and folded the
muslin veil double over her face. As soon as I had examined the lady
with care, I perceived from certain symptoms which I had noted once
before on a very sad occasion in my life, that the infant was dead. I
turned to the maid in order to tell her this. Instantly the suspicious
stranger drew his dagger; but I had time to explain the matter to the
woman, who explained in a word or two to him in a low voice. On
hearing my opinion, a quick, slight shudder ran through him from head
to foot like a lightning flash; I fancied I could see him turn pale
under his black velvet mask.

" 'The waiting-woman took advantage of a moment when he was bending in
despair over the dying woman, who had turned blue, to point to some
glasses of lemonade standing on a table, at the same time shaking her
head negatively. I understood that I was not to drink anything in
spite of the dreadful thirst that parched my throat. The lover was
thirsty too; he took an empty glass, poured out some fresh lemonade,
and drank it off.

" 'At this moment the lady had a violent attack of pain, which showed
me that now was the time to operate. I summoned all my courage, and in
about an hour had succeeded in delivering her of the child, cutting it
up to extract it. The Spaniard no longer thought of poisoning me,
understanding that I had saved the mother's life. Large tears fell on
his cloak. The woman uttered no sound, but she trembled like a hunted
animal, and was bathed in sweat.

" 'At one horribly critical moment she pointed in the direction of her
husband's room; he had turned in his sleep, and she alone had heard
the rustle of the sheets, the creaking of the bed or of the curtain.
We all paused, and the lover and the waiting-woman, through the
eyeholes of their masks, gave each other a look that said, "If he
wakes, shall we kill him?"

" 'At that instant I put out my hand to take the glass of lemonade the
Spaniard had drunk of. He, thinking that I was about to take one of
the full glasses, sprang forward like a cat, and laid his long dagger
over the two poisoned goblets, leaving me his own, and signing to me
to drink what was left. So much was conveyed by this quick action, and
it was so full of good feeling, that I forgave him his atrocious
schemes for killing me, and thus burying every trace of this event.

" 'After two hours of care and alarms, the maid and I put her mistress
to bed. The lover, forced into so perilous an adventure, had, to
provide means in case of having to fly, a packet of diamonds stuck to
paper; these he put into my pocket without my knowing it; and I may
add parenthetically, that as I was ignorant of the Spaniard's
magnificent gift, my servant stole the jewels the day after, and went
off with a perfect fortune.

" 'I whispered my instructions to the waiting-woman as to the further
care of her patient, and wanted to be gone. The maid remained with her
mistress, which was not very reassuring, but I was on my guard. The
lover made a bundle of the dead infant and the blood-stained clothes,
tying it up tightly, and hiding it under his cloak; he passed his hand
over my eyes as if to bid me to see nothing, and signed to me to take
hold of the skirt of his coat. He went first out of the room, and I
followed, not without a parting glance at my lady of an hour. She,
seeing the Spaniard had gone out, snatched off her mask and showed me
an exquisite face.

" 'When I found myself in the garden, in the open air, I confess that
I breathed as if a heavy load had been lifted from my breast. I
followed my guide at a respectful distance, watching his least
movement with keen attention. Having reached the little door, he took
my hand and pressed a seal to my lips, set in a ring which I had seen
him wearing on a finger of his left hand, and I gave him to understand
that this significant sign would be obeyed. In the street two horses
were waiting; we each mounted one. My Spaniard took my bridle, held
his own between his teeth, for his right hand held the bloodstained
bundle, and we went off at lightning speed.

" 'I could not see the smallest object by which to retrace the road we
came by. At dawn I found myself close by my own door, and the Spaniard
fled towards the Atocha gate.'

" 'And you saw nothing which could lead you to suspect who the woman
was whom you had attended?' the Colonel asked of the surgeon.

" 'One thing only,' he replied. 'When I turned the unknown lady over,
I happened to remark a mole on her arm, about half-way down, as big as
a lentil, and surrounded with brown hairs.'--At this instant the rash
speaker turned pale. All our eyes, that had been fixed on his,
followed his glance, and we saw a Spaniard, whose glittering eyes
shone through a clump of orange-trees. On finding himself the object
of our attention, the man vanished with the swiftness of a sylph. A
young captain rushed in pursuit.

" 'By Heaven!' cried the surgeon, 'that basilisk stare has chilled me
through, my friends. I can hear bells ringing in my ears! I may take
leave of you; you will bury me here!'

" 'What a fool you are!' exclaimed Colonel Hulot. 'Falcon is on the
track of the Spaniard who was listening, and he will call him to

" 'Well,' cried one and another, seeing the captain return quite out
of breath.

" 'The devil's in it,' said Falcon; 'the man went through a wall, I
believe! As I do not suppose that he is a wizard, I fancy he must
belong to the house! He knows every corner and turning, and easily

" 'I am done for,' said the surgeon, in a gloomy voice.

" 'Come, come, keep calm, Bega,' said I (his name was Bega), 'we will
sit on watch with you till you leave. We will not leave you this

"In point of fact, three young officers who had been losing at play
went home with the surgeon to his lodgings, and one of us offered to
stay with him.

"Within two days Bega had obtained his recall to France; he made
arrangements to travel with a lady to whom Murat had given a strong
escort, and had just finished dinner with a party of friends, when his
servant came to say that a young lady wished to speak to him. The
surgeon and the three officers went down suspecting mischief. The
stranger could only say, 'Be on your guard--' when she dropped down
dead. It was the waiting-woman, who, finding she had been poisoned,
had hoped to arrive in time to warn her lover.

" 'Devil take it!' cried Captain Falcon, 'that is what I call love! No
woman on earth but a Spaniard can run about with a dose of poison in
her inside!'

"Bega remained strangely pensive. To drown the dark presentiments that
haunted him, he sat down to table again, and with his companions drank
immoderately. The whole party went early to bed, half drunk.

"In the middle of the night the hapless Bega was aroused by the sharp
rattle of the curtain rings pulled violently along the rods. He sat up
in bed, in the mechanical trepidation which we all feel on waking with
such a start. He saw standing before him a Spaniard wrapped in a
cloak, who fixed on him the same burning gaze that he had seen through
the bushes.

"Bega shouted out, 'Help, help, come at once, friends!' But the
Spaniard answered his cry of distress with a bitter laugh.--'Opium
grows for all!' said he.

"Having thus pronounced sentence as it were, the stranger pointed to
the three other men sleeping soundly, took from under his cloak the
arm of a woman, freshly amputated, and held it out to Bega, pointing
to a mole like that he had so rashly described. 'Is it the same?' he
asked. By the light of the lantern the man had set on the bed, Bega
recognized the arm, and his speechless amazement was answer enough.

"Without waiting for further information, the lady's husband stabbed
him to the heart."

"You must tell that to the marines!" said Lousteau. "It needs their
robust faith to swallow it! Can you tell me which told the tale, the
dead man or the Spaniard?"

"Monsieur," replied the Receiver-General, "I nursed poor Bega, who
died five days after in dreadful suffering.--That is not the end.

"At the time of the expedition sent out to restore Ferdinand VII. I
was appointed to a place in Spain; but, happily for me, I got no
further than Tours when I was promised the post of Receiver here at
Sancerre. On the eve of setting out I was at a ball at Madame de
Listomere's, where we were to meet several Spaniards of high rank. On
rising from the card-table, I saw a Spanish grandee, an /afrancesado/
in exile, who had been about a fortnight in Touraine. He had arrived
very late at this ball--his first appearance in society--accompanied
by his wife, whose right arm was perfectly motionless. Everybody made
way in silence for this couple, whom we all watched with some
excitement. Imagine a picture by Murillo come to life. Under black and
hollow brows the man's eyes were like a fixed blaze; his face looked
dried up, his bald skull was red, and his frame was a terror to
behold, he was so emaciated. His wife--no, you cannot imagine her. Her
figure had the supple swing for which the Spaniards created the word
/meneho/; though pale, she was still beautiful; her complexion was
dazzlingly fair--a rare thing in a Spaniard; and her gaze, full of the
Spanish sun, fell on you like a stream of melted lead.

" 'Madame,' said I to her, towards the end of the evening, 'what
occurrence led to the loss of your arm?'

" 'I lost it in the war of independence,' said she."

"Spain is a strange country," said Madame de la Baudraye. "It still
shows traces of Arab manners."

"Oh!" said the journalist, laughing, "the mania for cutting off arms
is an old one there. It turns up every now and then like some of our
newspaper hoaxes, for the subject has given plots for plays on the
Spanish stage so early as 1570--"

"Then do you think me capable of inventing such a story?" said
Monsieur Gravier, nettled by Lousteau's impertinent tone.

"Quite incapable of such a thing," said the journalist with grave

"Pooh!" said Bianchon, "the inventions of romances and play-writers
are quite as often transferred from their books and pieces into real
life, as the events of real life are made use of on the stage or
adapted to a tale. I have seen the comedy of /Tartufe/ played out--
with the exception of the close; Orgon's eyes could not be opened to
the truth."

"And the tragi-comedy of /Adolphe/ by Benjamin Constant is constantly
enacted," cried Lousteau.

"And do you suppose," asked Madame de la Baudraye, "that such
adventures as Monsieur Gravier has related could ever occur now, and
in France?"

"Dear me!" cried Clagny, "of the ten or twelve startling crimes that
are annually committed in France, quite half are mixed up with
circumstances at least as extraordinary as these, and often outdoing
them in romantic details. Indeed, is not this proved by the reports in
the /Gazette des Tribunaux/--the Police news--in my opinion, one of
the worst abuses of the Press? This newspaper, which was started only
in 1826 or '27, was not in existence when I began my professional
career, and the facts of the crime I am about to speak of were not
known beyond the limits of the department where it was committed.

"In the quarter of Saint-Pierre-des-Corps at Tours a woman whose
husband had disappeared at the time when the army of the Loire was
disbanded, and who had mourned him deeply, was conspicuous for her
excess of devotion. When the mission priests went through all the
provinces to restore the crosses that had been destroyed and to efface
the traces of revolutionary impiety, this widow was one of their most
zealous proselytes, she carried a cross and nailed to it a silver
heart pierced by an arrow; and, for a long time after, she went every
evening to pray at the foot of the cross which was erected behind the
Cathedral apse.

"At last, overwhelmed by remorse, she confessed to a horrible crime.
She had killed her husband, as Fualdes was murdered, by bleeding him;
she had salted the body and packed it in pieces into old casks,
exactly as if it have been pork; and for a long time she had taken a
piece every morning and thrown it into the Loire. Her confessor
consulted his superiors, and told her that it would be his duty to
inform the public prosecutor. The woman awaited the action of the Law.
The public prosecutor and the examining judge, on examining the
cellar, found the husband's head still in pickle in one of the casks.
--'Wretched woman,' said the judge to the accused, 'since you were so
barbarous as to throw your husband's body into the river, why did you
not get rid of the head? Then there would have been no proof.'

" 'I often tried, monsieur,' said she, 'but it was too heavy.' "

"Well, and what became of the woman?" asked the two Parisians.

"She was sentenced and executed at Tours," replied the lawyer; "but
her repentance and piety had attracted interest in spite of her
monstrous crime."

"And do you suppose, said Bianchon, "that we know all the tragedies
that are played out behind the curtain of private life that the public
never lifts?--It seems to me that human justice is ill adapted to
judge of crimes as between husband and wife. It has every right to
intervene as the police; but in equity it knows nothing of the heart
of the matter."

"The victim has in many cases been for so long the tormentor," said
Madame de la Baudraye guilelessly, "that the crime would sometimes
seem almost excusable if the accused could tell all."

This reply, led up to by Bianchon and by the story which Clagny had
told, left the two Parisians excessively puzzled as to Dinah's

At bedtime council was held, one of those discussions which take place
in the passages of old country-houses where the bachelors linger,
candle in hand, for mysterious conversations.

Monsieur Gravier was now informed of the object in view during this
entertaining evening which had brought Madame de la Baudraye's
innocence to light.

"But, after all," said Lousteau, "our hostess' serenity may indicate
deep depravity instead of the most child-like innocence. The Public
Prosecutor looks to me quite capable of suggesting that little La
Baudraye should be put in pickle----"

"He is not to return till to-morrow; who knows what may happen in the
course of the night?" said Gatien.

"We will know!" cried Monsieur Gravier.

In the life of a country house a number of practical jokes are
considered admissible, some of them odiously treacherous. Monsieur
Gravier, who had seen so much of the world, proposed setting seals on
the door of Madame de la Baudraye and of the Public Prosecutor. The
ducks that denounced the poet Ibycus are as nothing in comparison with
the single hair that these country spies fasten across the opening of
a door by means of two little flattened pills of wax, fixed so high
up, or so low down, that the trick is never suspected. If the gallant
comes out of his own door and opens the other, the broken hair tells
the tale.

When everybody was supposed to be asleep, the doctor, the journalist,
the receiver of taxes, and Gatien came barefoot, like robbers, and
silently fastened up the two doors, agreeing to come again at five in
the morning to examine the state of the fastenings. Imagine their
astonishment and Gatien's delight when all four, candle in hand, and
with hardly any clothes on, came to look at the hairs, and found them
in perfect preservation on both doors.

"Is it the same wax?" asked Monsieur Gravier.

"Are they the same hairs?" asked Lousteau.

"Yes," replied Gatien.

"This quite alters the matter!" cried Lousteau. "You have been beating
the bush for a will-o'-the-wisp."

Monsieur Gravier and Gatien exchanged questioning glances which were
meant to convey, "Is there not something offensive to us in that
speech? Ought we to laugh or to be angry?"

"If Dinah is virtuous," said the journalist in a whisper to Bianchon,
"she is worth an effort on my part to pluck the fruit of her first

The idea of carrying by storm a fortress that had for nine years stood
out against the besiegers of Sancerre smiled on Lousteau.

With this notion in his head, he was the first to go down and into the
garden, hoping to meet his hostess. And this chance fell out all the
more easily because Madame de la Baudraye on her part wished to
converse with her critic. Half such chances are planned.

"You were out shooting yesterday, monsieur," said Madame de la
Baudraye. "This morning I am rather puzzled as to how to find you any
new amusement; unless you would like to come to La Baudraye, where you
may study more of our provincial life than you can see here, for you
have made but one mouthful of my absurdities. However, the saying
about the handsomest girl in the world is not less true of the poor
provincial woman!"

"That little simpleton Gatien has, I suppose, related to you a speech
I made simply to make him confess that he adored you," said Etienne.
"Your silence, during dinner the day before yesterday and throughout
the evening, was enough to betray one of those indiscretions which we
never commit in Paris.--What can I say? I do not flatter myself that
you will understand me. In fact, I laid a plot for the telling of all
those stories yesterday solely to see whether I could rouse you and
Monsieur de Clagny to a pang of remorse.--Oh! be quite easy; your
innocence is fully proved.

"If you had the slightest fancy for that estimable magistrate, you
would have lost all your value in my eyes.--I love perfection.

"You do not, you cannot love that cold, dried-up, taciturn little
usurer on wine casks and land, who would leave any man in the lurch
for twenty-five centimes on a renewal. Oh, I have fully recognized
Monsieur de la Baudraye's similarity to a Parisian bill-discounter;
their nature is identical.--At eight-and-twenty, handsome, well
conducted, and childless--I assure you, madame, I never saw the
problem of virtue more admirably expressed.--The author of /Paquita la
Sevillane/ must have dreamed many dreams!

"I can speak of such things without the hypocritical gloss lent them
by young men, for I am old before my time. I have no illusions left.
Can a man have any illusions in the trade I follow?"

By opening the game in this tone, Lousteau cut out all excursions in
the /Pays de Tendre/, where genuine passion beats the bush so long; he
went straight to the point and placed himself in a position to force
the offer of what women often make a man pray for, for years; witness
the hapless Public Prosecutor, to whom the greatest favor had
consisted in clasping Dinah's hand to his heart more tenderly than
usual as they walked, happy man!

And Madame de la Baudraye, to be true to her reputation as a Superior
Woman, tried to console the Manfred of the Press by prophesying such a
future of love as he had not had in his mind.

"You have sought pleasure," said she, "but you have never loved.
Believe me, true love often comes late in life. Remember Monsieur de
Gentz, who fell in love in his old age with Fanny Ellsler, and left
the Revolution of July to take its course while he attended the
dancer's rehearsals."

"It seems to me unlikely," replied Lousteau. "I can still believe in
love, but I have ceased to believe in woman. There are in me, I
suppose, certain defects which hinder me from being loved, for I have
often been thrown over. Perhaps I have too strong a feeling for the
ideal--like all men who have looked too closely into reality----"

Madame de la Baudraye at last heard the mind of a man who, flung into
the wittiest Parisian circles, represented to her its most daring
axioms, its almost artless depravity, its advanced convictions; who,
if he were not really superior, acted superiority extremely well.
Etienne, performing before Dinah, had all the success of a first
night. /Paquita/ of Sancerre scented the storms, the atmosphere of
Paris. She spent one of the most delightful days of her life with
Lousteau and Bianchon, who told her strange tales about the great men
of the day, the anecdotes which will some day form the /Ana/ of our
century; sayings and doings that were the common talk of Paris, but
quite new to her.

Of course, Lousteau spoke very ill of the great female celebrity of Le
Berry, with the obvious intention of flattering Madame de la Baudraye
and leading her into literary confidences, by suggesting that she
could rival so great a writer. This praise intoxicated Madame de la
Baudraye; and Monsieur de Clagny, Monsieur Gravier, and Gatien, all
thought her warmer in her manner to Etienne than she had been on the
previous day. Dinah's three /attaches/ greatly regretted having all
gone to Sancerre to blow the trumpet in honor of the evening at Anzy;
nothing, to hear them, had ever been so brilliant. The Hours had fled
on feet so light that none had marked their pace. The two Parisians
they spoke of as perfect prodigies.

These exaggerated reports loudly proclaimed on the Mall brought
sixteen persons to Anzy that evening, some in family coaches, some in
wagonettes, and a few bachelors on hired saddle horses. By about seven
o'clock this provincial company had made a more or less graceful entry
into the huge Anzy drawing-room, which Dinah, warned of the invasion,
had lighted up, giving it all the lustre it was capable of by taking
the holland covers off the handsome furniture, for she regarded this
assembly as one of her great triumphs. Lousteau, Bianchon, and Dinah
exchanged meaning looks as they studied the attitudes and listened to
the speeches of these visitors, attracted by curiosity.

What invalided ribbons, what ancestral laces, what ancient flowers,
more imaginative than imitative, were boldly displayed on some
perennial caps! The Presidente Boirouge, Bianchon's cousin, exchanged
a few words with the doctor, from whom she extracted some "advice
gratis" by expatiating on certain pains in the chest, which she
declared were nervous, but which he ascribed to chronic indigestion.

"Simply drink a cup of tea every day an hour after dinner, as the
English do, and you will get over it, for what you suffer from is an
English malady," Bianchon replied very gravely.

"He is certainly a great physician," said the Presidente, coming back
to Madame de Clagny, Madame Popinot-Chandier, and Madame Gorju, the
Mayor's wife.

"They say," replied Madame de Clagny behind her fan, "that Dinah sent
for him, not so much with a view to the elections as to ascertain why
she has no children."

In the first excitement of this success, Lousteau introduced the great
doctor as the only possible candidate at the ensuing elections. But
Bianchon, to the great satisfaction of the new Sous-prefet, remarked
that it seemed to him almost impossible to give up science in favor of

"Only a physician without a practice," said he, "could care to be
returned as a deputy. Nominate statesmen, thinkers, men whose
knowledge is universal, and who are capable of placing themselves on
the high level which a legislator should occupy. That is what is
lacking in our Chambers, and what our country needs."

Two or three young ladies, some of the younger men, and the elder
women stared at Lousteau as if he were a mountebank.

"Monsieur Gatien Boirouge declares that Monsieur Lousteau makes twenty
thousand francs a year by his writings," observed the Mayor's wife to
Madame de Clagny. "Can you believe it?"

"Is it possible? Why, a Public Prosecutor gets but a thousand crowns!"

"Monsieur Gatien," said Madame Chandier, "get Monsieur Lousteau to
talk a little louder. I have not heard him yet."

"What pretty boots he wears," said Mademoiselle Chandier to her
brother, "and how they shine!"

"Yes--patent leather."

"Why haven't you the same?"

Lousteau began to feel that he was too much on show, and saw in the
manners of the good townsfolk indications of the desires that had
brought them there.

"What trick can I play them?" thought he.

At this moment the footman, so called--a farm-servant put into livery
--brought in the letters and papers, and among them a packet of proof,
which the journalist left for Bianchon; for Madame de la Baudraye, on
seeing the parcel, of which the form and string were obviously from
the printers, exclaimed:

"What, does literature pursue you even here?"

"Not literature," replied he, "but a review in which I am now
finishing a story to come out ten days hence. I have reached the stage
of '/To be concluded in our next/,' so I was obliged to give my
address to the printer. Oh, we eat very hard-earned bread at the hands
of these speculators in black and white! I will give you a description
of these editors of magazines."

"When will the conversation begin?" Madame de Clagny asked of Dinah,
as one might ask, "When do the fireworks go off?"

"I fancied we should hear some amusing stories," said Madame Popinot
to her cousin, the Presidente Boirouge.

At this moment, when the good folks of Sancerre were beginning to
murmur like an impatient pit, Lousteau observed that Bianchon was lost
in meditation inspired by the wrapper round the proofs.

"What is it?" asked Etienne.

"Why, here is the most fascinating romance possible on some spoiled
proof used to wrap yours in. Here, read it. /Olympia, or Roman

"Let us see," said Lousteau, taking the sheet the doctor held out to
him, and he read aloud as follows:--


cavern. Rinaldo, indignant at his
companions' cowardice, for they had
no courage but in the open field, and
dared not venture into Rome, looked
at them with scorn.

"Then I go alone?" said he. He
seemed to reflect, and then he went
on: "You are poor wretches. I shall
proceed alone, and have the rich
booty to myself.--You hear me!

"My Captain," said Lamberti, "if
you should be captured without
having succeeded?"

"God protects me!" said Rinaldo,
pointing to the sky.

With these words he went out,
and on his way he met the steward

"That is the end of the page," said Lousteau, to whom every one had
listened devoutly.

"He is reading his work to us," said Gatien to Madame Popinot-
Chandier's son.

"From the first word, ladies," said the journalist, jumping at an
opportunity of mystifying the natives, "it is evident that the
brigands are in a cave. But how careless romancers of that date were
as to details which are nowadays so closely, so elaborately studied
under the name of 'local color.' If the robbers were in a cavern,
instead of pointing to the sky he ought to have pointed to the vault
above him.--In spite of this inaccuracy, Rinaldo strikes me as a man
of spirit, and his appeal to God is quite Italian. There must have
been a touch of local color in this romance. Why, what with brigands,
and a cavern, and one Lamberti who could foresee future possibilities
--there is a whole melodrama in that page. Add to these elements a
little intrigue, a peasant maiden with her hair dressed high, short
skirts, and a hundred or so of bad couplets.--Oh! the public will
crowd to see it! And then Rinaldo--how well the name suits Lafont! By
giving him black whiskers, tightly-fitting trousers, a cloak, a
moustache, a pistol, and a peaked hat--if the manager of the
Vaudeville Theatre were but bold enough to pay for a few newspaper
articles, that would secure fifty performances, and six thousand
francs for the author's rights, if only I were to cry it up in my

"To proceed:--


The Duchess of Bracciano found
her glove. Adolphe, who had brought
her back to the orange grove, might
certainly have supposed that there
was some purpose in her forgetful-
ness, for at this moment the arbor
was deserted. The sound of the fes-
tivities was audible in the distance.
The puppet show that had been
promised had attracted all the
guests to the ballroom. Never had
Olympia looked more beautiful.
Her lover's eyes met hers with an
answering glow, and they under-
stood each other. There was a mo-
ment of silence, delicious to their
souls, and impossible to describe.
They sat down on the same bench
where they had sat in the presence
of the Cavaliere Paluzzi and the

"Devil take it! Our Rinaldo has vanished!" cried Lousteau. "But a
literary man once started by this page would make rapid progress in
the comprehension of the plot. The Duchesse Olympia is a lady who
could intentionally forget her gloves in a deserted arbor."

"Unless she may be classed between the oyster and head-clerk of an
office, the two creatures nearest to marble in the zoological kingdom,
it is impossible to discern in Olympia--" Bianchon began.

"A woman of thirty," Madame de la Baudraye hastily interposed, fearing
some all too medical term.

"Then Adolphe must be two-and-twenty," the doctor went on, "for an
Italian woman at thirty is equivalent to a Parisian of forty."

"From these two facts, the romance may easily be reconstructed," said
Lousteau. "And this Cavaliere Paluzzi--what a man!--The style is weak
in these two passages; the author was perhaps a clerk in the Excise
Office, and wrote the novel to pay his tailor!"

"In his time," said Bianchon, "the censor flourished; you must show as
much indulgence to a man who underwent the ordeal by scissors in 1805
as to those who went to the scaffold in 1793."

"Do you understand in the least?" asked Madame Gorju timidly of Madame
de Clagny.

The Public Prosecutor's wife, who, to use a phrase of Monsieur
Gravier's, might have put a Cossack to flight in 1814, straightened
herself in her chair like a horseman in his stirrups, and made a face
at her neighbor, conveying, "They are looking at us; we must smile as
if we understood."

"Charming!" said the Mayoress to Gatien. "Pray go on, Monsieur

Lousteau looked at the two women, two Indian idols, and contrived to
keep his countenance. He thought it desirable to say, "Attention!"
before going on as follows:--


dress rustled in the silence. Sud-
denly Cardinal Borborigano stood
before the Duchess.

"His face was gloomy, his brow
was dark with clouds, and a bitter
smile lurked in his wrinkles.

"Madame," said he, "you are under
suspicion. If you are guilty, fly. If
you are not, still fly; because,
whether criminal or innocent, you
will find it easier to defend yourself
from a distance."

"I thank your Eminence for your
solicitude," said she. "The Duke of
Bracciano will reappear when I find
it needful to prove that he is alive."

"Cardinal Borborigano!" exclaimed Bianchon. "By the Pope's keys! If
you do not agree with me that there is a magnificent creation in the
very name, if at those words /dress rustled in the silence/ you do not
feel all the poetry thrown into the part of Schedoni by Mrs. Radcliffe
in /The Black Penitent/, you do not deserve to read a romance."

"For my part," said Dinah, who had some pity on the eighteen faces
gazing up at Lousteau, "I see how the story is progressing. I know it
all. I am in Rome; I can see the body of a murdered husband whose
wife, as bold as she is wicked, has made her bed on the crater of a
volcano. Every night, at every kiss, she says to herself, 'All will be
discovered!' "

"Can you see her," said Lousteau, "clasping Monsieur Adolphe in her
arms, to her heart, throwing her whole life into a kiss?--Adolphe I
see as a well-made young man, but not clever--the sort of man an
Italian woman likes. Rinaldo hovers behind the scenes of a plot we do
not know, but which must be as full of incident as a melodrama by
Pixerecourt. Or we can imagine Rinaldo crossing the stage in the
background like a figure in one of Victor Hugo's plays."

"He, perhaps, is the husband," exclaimed Madame de la Baudraye.

"Do you understand anything of it all?" Madame Piedefer asked of the

"Why, it is charming!" said Dinah to her mother.

All the good folks of Sancerre sat with eyes as large as five-franc

"Go on, I beg," said the hostess.

Lousteau went on:--


"Your key----"

"Have you lost it?"

"It is in the arbor."

"Let us hasten."

"Can the Cardinal have taken it?"

"No, here it is."

"What danger we have escaped!"

Olympia looked at the key, and
fancied she recognized it as her own.
But Rinaldo had changed it; his
cunning had triumphed; he had the
right key. Like a modern Cartouche,
he was no less skilful than bold,
and suspecting that nothing but a
vast treasure could require a duchess
to carry it constantly at her belt.

"Guess!" cried Lousteau. "The corresponding page is not here. We must
look to page 212 to relieve our anxiety."


"If the key had been lost?"

"He would now be a dead man."

"Dead? But ought you not to
grant the last request he made, and
to give him his liberty on the con-

"You do not know him."


"Silence! I took you for my
lover, not for my confessor."

Adolphe was silent.

"And then comes an exquisite galloping goat, a tail-piece drawn by
Normand, and cut by Duplat.--the names are signed," said Lousteau.

"Well, and then?" said such of the audience as understood.

"That is the end of the chapter," said Lousteau. "The fact of this
tailpiece changes my views as to the authorship. To have his book got
up, under the Empire, with vignettes engraved on wood, the writer must
have been a Councillor of State, or Madame Barthelemy-Hadot, or the
late lamented Desforges, or Sewrin."

" 'Adolphe was silent.'--Ah!" cried Bianchon, "the Duchess must have
been under thirty."

"If there is no more, invent a conclusion," said Madame de la

"You see," said Lousteau, "the waste sheet has been printed fair on
one side only. In printer's lingo, it is a back sheet, or, to make it
clearer, the other side which would have to be printed is covered all
over with pages printed one above another, all experiments in making
up. It would take too long to explain to you all the complications of
a making-up sheet; but you may understand that it will show no more
trace of the first twelve pages that were printed on it than you would
in the least remember the first stroke of the bastinado if a Pasha
condemned you to have fifty on the soles of your feet."

"I am quite bewildered," said Madame Popinot-Chandier to Monsieur
Gravier. "I am vainly trying to connect the Councillor of State, the
Cardinal, the key, and the making-up----"

"You have not the key to the jest," said Monsieur Gravier. "Well! no
more have I, fair lady, if that can comfort you."

"But here is another sheet," said Bianchon, hunting on the table where
the proofs had been laid.

"Capital!" said Lousteau, "and it is complete and uninjured. It is
signed IV.; J, Second Edition. Ladies, the figure IV. means that this
is part of the fourth volume. The letter J, the tenth letter of the
alphabet, shows that this is the tenth sheet. And it is perfectly
clear to me, that in spite of any publisher's tricks, this romance in
four duodecimo volumes, had a great success, since it came to a second
edition.--We will read on and find a clue to the mystery.


corridor; but finding that he was
pursued by the Duchess' people

"Oh, get along!"

"But," said Madame de la Baudraye, "some important events have taken
place between your waste sheet and this page."

"This complete sheet, madame, this precious made-up sheet. But does
the waste sheet in which the Duchess forgets her gloves in the arbor
belong to the fourth volume? Well, deuce take it--to proceed.

Rinaldo saw no safer refuge than to
make forthwith for the cellar where
the treasures of the Bracciano fam-
ily no doubt lay hid. As light of
foot as Camilla sung by the Latin
poet, he flew to the entrance to the
Baths of Vespasian. The torchlight
already flickered on the walls when
Rinaldo, with the readiness be-
stowed on him by nature, discovered
the door concealed in the stone-
work, and suddenly vanished. A
hideous thought then flashed on
Rinaldo's brain like lightning rend-
ing a cloud: He was imprisoned!
He felt the wall with uneasy haste

"Yes, this made-up sheet follows the waste sheet. The last page of the
damaged sheet was 212, and this is 217. In fact, since Rinaldo, who in
the earlier fragment stole the key of the Duchess' treasure by
exchanging it for another very much like it, is now--on the made-up
sheet--in the palace of the Dukes of Bracciano, the story seems to me
to be advancing to a conclusion of some kind. I hope it is as clear to
you as it is to me.--I understand that the festivities are over, the
lovers have returned to the Bracciano Palace; it is night--one o'clock
in the morning. Rinaldo will have a good time."

"And Adolphe too!" said President Boirouge, who was considered rather
free in his speech.

"And the style!" said Bianchon.--"Rinaldo, who saw /no better refuge
than to make for the cellar/."

"It is quite clear that neither Maradan, nor Treuttel and Wurtz, nor
Doguereau, were the printers," said Lousteau, "for they employed
correctors who revised the proofs, a luxury in which our publishers
might very well indulge, and the writers of the present day, would
benefit greatly. Some scrubby pamphlet printer on the Quay--"

"What quay?" a lady asked of her neighbor. "They spoke of baths--"

"Pray go on," said Madame de la Baudraye.

"At any rate, it is not by a councillor," said Bianchon.

"It may be by Madame Hadot," replied Lousteau.

"What has Madame Hadot of La Charite to do with it?" the Presidente
asked of her son.

"This Madame Hadot, my dear friend," the hostess answered, "was an
authoress, who lived at the time of the Consulate."

"What, did women write in the Emperor's time?" asked Madame Popinot-

"What of Madame de Genlis and Madame de Stael?" cried the Public
Prosecutor, piqued on Dinah's account by this remark.

"To be sure!"

"I beg you to go on," said Madame de la Baudraye to Lousteau.

Lousteau went on saying: "Page 218.


and gave a shriek of despair when
he had vainly sought any trace of a
secret spring. It was impossible to
ignore the horrible truth. The door,
cleverly constructed to serve the
vengeful purposes of the Duchess,
could not be opened from within.
Rinaldo laid his cheek against the
wall in various spots; nowhere
could he feel the warmer air from
the passage. He had hoped he
might find a crack that would show
him where there was an opening in
the wall, but nothing, nothing! The
whole seemed to be of one block of

Then he gave a hollow roar like
that of a hyaena----

"Well, we fancied that the cry of the hyaena was a recent invention of
our own!" said Lousteau, "and here it was already known to the
literature of the Empire. It is even introduced with a certain skill
in natural history, as we see in the word /hollow/."

"Make no more comments, monsieur," said Madame de la Baudraye.

"There, you see!" cried Bianchon. "Interest, the romantic demon, has
you by the collar, as he had me a while ago."

"Read on," cried de Clagny, "I understand."

"What a coxcomb!" said the Presiding Judge in a whisper to his
neighbor the Sous-prefet.

"He wants to please Madame de la Baudraye," replied the new Sous-

"Well, then I will read straight on," said Lousteau solemnly.

Everybody listened in dead silence.


A deep groan answered Rinaldo's
cry, but in his alarm he took it for
an echo, so weak and hollow was
the sound. It could not proceed
from any human breast.

"Santa Maria!" said the voice.

"If I stir from this spot I shall
never find it again," thought Ri-
naldo, when he had recovered his
usual presence of mind. "If I knock,
I shall be discovered. What am I
to do?"

"Who is here?" asked the voice.

"Hallo!" cried the brigand; "do
the toads here talk?"

"I am the Duke of Bracciano.
Whoever you may be, if you are not
a follower of the Duchess', in the
name of all the saints, come towards


"I should have to know where to
find you, Monsieur le Duc," said Ri-
naldo, with the insolence of a man
who knows himself to be necessary.

"I can see you, my friend, for my
eyes are accustomed to the darkness.
Listen: walk straight forward--
good; now turn to the left--come
on--this way. There, we are close
to each other."

Rinaldo putting out his hands as
a precaution, touched some iron

"I am being deceived," cried the

"No, you are touching my cage.


Sit down on a broken shaft of por-
phyry that is there."

"How can the Duke of Bracciano
be in a cage?" asked the brigand.

"My friend, I have been here for
thirty months, standing up, unable
to sit down----But you, who are

"I am Rinaldo, prince of the Cam-
pagna, the chief of four-and-twenty
brave men whom the law describes
as miscreants, whom all the ladies
admire, and whom judges hang in
obedience to an old habit."

"God be praised! I am saved.
An honest man would have been
afraid, whereas I am sure of coming
to an understanding with you,"
cried the Duke. "Oh, my worthy


deliverer, you must be armed to the

"/E verissimo/" (most true).

"Do you happen to have--"

"Yes, files, pincers--/Corpo di
Bacco/! I came to borrow the treas-
ures of the Bracciani on a long

"You will earn a handsome share
of them very legitimately, my good
Rinaldo, and we may possibly go
man hunting together--"

"You surprise me, Eccellenza!"

"Listen to me, Rinaldo. I will
say nothing of the craving for
vengeance that gnaws at my heart.
I have been here for thirty months
--you too are Italian--you will un-


derstand me! Alas, my friend, my
fatigue and my horrible incarcera-
tion are nothing in comparison
with the rage that devours my soul.
The Duchess of Bracciano is still
one of the most beautiful women in
Rome. I loved her well enough to
be jealous--"

"You, her husband!"

"Yes, I was wrong, no doubt."

"It is not the correct thing, to be
sure," said Rinaldo.

"My jealousy was roused by the
Duchess' conduct," the Duke went
on. "The event proved me right. A
young Frenchman fell in love with
Olympia, and she loved him. I had
proofs of their reciprocal affection

"Pray excuse me, ladies," said Lousteau, "but I find it impossible to
go on without remarking to you how direct this Empire literature is,
going to the point without any details, a characteristic, as it seems
to me, of a primitive time. The literature of that period holds a
place between the summaries of chapters in /Telemaque/ and the
categorical reports of a public office. It had ideas, but refrained
from expressing them, it was so scornful! It was observant, but would
not communicate its observations to any one, it was so miserly! Nobody
but Fouche ever mentioned what he had observed. 'At that time,' to
quote the words of one of the most imbecile critics in the /Revue des
Deux Mondes/, 'literature was content with a clear sketch and the
simple outline of all antique statues. It did not dance over its
periods.'--I should think not! It had no periods to dance over. It had
no words to play with. You were plainly told that Lubin loved
Toinette; that Toinette did not love Lubin; that Lubin killed Toinette
and the police caught Lubin, who was put in prison, tried at the
assizes, and guillotined.--A strong sketch, a clear outline! What a
noble drama! Well, in these days the barbarians make words sparkle."

"Like a hair in a frost," said Monsieur de Clagny.

"So those are the airs you affect?"[*] retorted Lousteau.

[*] The rendering given above is only intended to link the various
speeches into coherence; it has no resemblance with the French. In
the original, "Font chatoyer les /mots/."

"Et quelquefois les /morts/," dit Monsieur de Clagny.

"Ah! Lousteau! vous vous donnez de ces R-la (airs-la)."

Literally: "And sometimes the dead."--"Ah, are those the airs you
assume?"--the play on the insertion of the letter R (/mots,
morts/) has no meaning in English.

"What can he mean?" asked Madame de Clagny, puzzled by this vile pun.

"I seem to be walking in the dark," replied the Mayoress.

"The jest would be lost in an explanation," remarked Gatien.

"Nowadays," Lousteau went on, "a novelist draws characters, and
instead of a 'simple outline,' he unveils the human heart and gives
you some interest either in Lubin or in Toinette."

"For my part, I am alarmed at the progress of public knowledge in the
matter of literature," said Bianchon. "Like the Russians, beaten by
Charles XII., who at least learned the art of war, the reader has
learned the art of writing. Formerly all that was expected of a
romance was that it should be interesting. As to style, no one cared
for that, not even the author; as to ideas--zero; as to local color--
/non est/. By degrees the reader has demanded style, interest, pathos,
and complete information; he insists on the five literary senses--
Invention, Style, Thought, Learning, and Feeling. Then some criticism
commenting on everything. The critic, incapable of inventing anything
but calumny, pronounces every work that proceeds from a not perfect
brain to be deformed. Some magicians, as Walter Scott, for instance,
having appeared in the world, who combined all the five literary
senses, such writers as had but one--wit or learning, style or feeling
--these cripples, these acephalous, maimed or purblind creatures--in a
literary sense--have taken to shrieking that all is lost, and have
preached a crusade against men who were spoiling the business, or have
denounced their works."

"The history of your last literary quarrel!" Dinah observed.

"For pity's sake, come back to the Duke of Bracciano," cried Monsieur
de Clagny.

To the despair of all the company, Lousteau went on with the made-up


I then wished to make sure of my
misfortune that I might be avenged
under the protection of Providence
and the Law. The Duchess guessed
my intentions. We were at war in
our purposes before we fought with
poison in our hands. We tried to
tempt each other to such confidence
as we could not feel, I to induce her
to drink a potion, she to get posses-
sion of me. She was a woman, and
she won the day; for women have a
snare more than we men. I fell into
it--I was happy; but I awoke next
day in this iron cage. All through
the day I bellowed with rage in the


darkness of this cellar, over which
is the Duchess' bedroom. At night
an ingenious counterpoise acting as
a lift raised me through the floor,
and I saw the Duchess in her lover's
arms. She threw me a piece of
bread, my daily pittance.

"Thus have I lived for thirty
months! From this marble prison
my cries can reach no ear. There is
no chance for me. I will hope no
more. Indeed, the Duchess' room is
at the furthest end of the palace,
and when I am carried up there
none can hear my voice. Each time
I see my wife she shows me the


poison I had prepared for her and
her lover. I crave it for myself, but
she will not let me die; she gives
me bread, and I eat it.

"I have done well to eat and live;
I had not reckoned on robbers!"

"Yes, Eccellenza, when those fools
the honest men are asleep, we are
wide awake."

"Oh, Rinaldo, all I possess shall
be yours; we will share my treasure
like brothers; I would give you
everything--even to my Duchy----"

"Eccellenza, procure from the
Pope an absolution /in articulo mor-
tis/. It would be of more use to me
in my walk of life."


"What you will. Only file
through the bars of my cage and
lend me your dagger. We have but
little time, quick, quick! Oh, if my
teeth were but files!--I have tried
to eat through this iron."

"Eccellenza," said Rinaldo, "I
have already filed through one bar."

"You are a god!"

"Your wife was at the fete given
by the Princess Villaviciosa. She
brought home her little Frenchman;
she is drunk with love.--You have
plenty of time."

"Have you done?"



"Your dagger?" said the Duke
eagerly to the brigand.

"Here it is."

"Good. I hear the clatter of the

"Do not forget me!" cried the
robber, who knew what gratitude

"No more than my father," cried
the Duke.

"Good-bye!" said Rinaldo. "Lord!
How he flies up!" he added to him-
self as the Duke disappeared.--"No
more than his father! If that is
all he means to do for me.--And I


had sworn a vow never to injure a

But let us leave the robber for a
moment to his meditations and go
up, like the Duke, to the rooms in
the palace.

"Another tailpiece, a Cupid on a snail! And page 230 is blank," said
the journalist. "Then there are two more blank pages before we come to
the word it is such a joy to write when one is unhappily so happy as
to be a novelist--/Conclusion/!


Never had the Duchess been more
lovely; she came from her bath
clothed like a goddess, and on seeing


Adolphe voluptuously reclining on
piles of cushions--

"You are beautiful," said she.

"And so are you, Olympia!"

"And you still love me?"

"More and more," said he.

"Ah, none but a Frenchman
knows how to love!" cried the
Duchess. "Do you love me well to-


"Then come!"

And with an impulse of love and
hate--whether it was that Cardinal
Borborigano had reminded her of
her husband, or that she felt un-
wonted passion to display, she
pressed the springs and held out her

"That is all," said Lousteau, "for the foreman has torn off the rest
in wrapping up my proofs. But it is enough to show that the author was
full of promise."

"I cannot make head or tail of it," said Gatien Boirouge, who was the
first to break the silence of the party from Sancerre.

"Nor I," replied Monsieur Gravier.

"And yet it is a novel of the time of the Empire," said Lousteau.

"By the way in which the brigand is made to speak," said Monsieur
Gravier, "it is evident that the author knew nothing of Italy.
Banditti do not allow themselves such graceful conceits."

Madame Gorju came up to Bianchon, seeing him pensive, and with a
glance towards her daughter Mademoiselle Euphemie Gorju, the owner of
a fairly good fortune--"What a rhodomontade!" said she. "The
prescriptions you write are worth more than all that rubbish."

The Mayoress had elaborately worked up this speech, which, in her
opinion, showed strong judgment.

"Well, madame, we must be lenient, we have but twenty pages out of a
thousand," said Bianchon, looking at Mademoiselle Gorju, whose figure
threatened terrible things after the birth of her first child.

"Well, Monsieur de Clagny," said Lousteau, "we were talking yesterday
of the forms of revenge invented by husbands. What do you say to those
invented by wives?"

"I say," replied the Public Prosecutor, "that the romance is not by a
Councillor of State, but by a woman. For extravagant inventions the
imagination of women far outdoes that of men; witness /Frankenstein/
by Mrs. Shelley, /Leone Leoni/ by George Sand, the works of Anne
Radcliffe, and the /Nouveau Promethee/ (New Prometheus) of Camille de

Dinah looked steadily at Monsieur de Clagny, making him feel, by an
expression that gave him a chill, that in spite of the illustrious
examples he had quoted, she regarded this as a reflection on /Paquita
la Sevillane/.

"Pooh!" said little Baudraye, "the Duke of Bracciano, whom his wife
puts into a cage, and to whom she shows herself every night in the
arms of her lover, will kill her--and do you call that revenge?--Our
laws and our society are far more cruel."

"Why, little La Baudraye is talking!" said Monsieur Boirouge to his

"Why, the woman is left to live on a small allowance, the world turns
its back on her, she has no more finery, and no respect paid her--the
two things which, in my opinion, are the sum-total of woman," said the
little old man.

"But she has happiness!" said Madame de la Baudraye sententiously.

"No," said the master of the house, lighting his candle to go to bed,
"for she has a lover."

"For a man who thinks of nothing but his vine-stocks and poles, he has
some spunk," said Lousteau.

"Well, he must have something!" replied Bianchon.

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