Part 3 out of 4
Madame de la Baudraye, the only person who could hear Bianchon's
remark, laughed so knowingly, and at the same time so bitterly, that
the physician could guess the mystery of this woman's life; her
premature wrinkles had been puzzling him all day.
But Dinah did not guess, on her part, the ominous prophecy contained
for her in her husband's little speech, which her kind old Abbe Duret,
if he had been alive, would not have failed to elucidate. Little La
Baudraye had detected in Dinah's eyes, when she glanced at the
journalist returning the ball of his jests, that swift and luminous
flash of tenderness which gilds the gleam of a woman's eye when
prudence is cast to the winds, and she is fairly carried away. Dinah
paid no more heed to her husband's hint to her to observe the
proprieties than Lousteau had done to Dinah's significant warnings on
the day of his arrival.
Any other man than Bianchon would have been surprised at Lousteau's
immediate success; but he was so much the doctor, that he was not even
nettled at Dinah's marked preference for the newspaper-rather than the
prescription-writer! In fact, Dinah, herself famous, was naturally
more alive to wit than to fame. Love generally prefers contrast to
similitude. Everything was against the physician--his frankness, his
simplicity, and his profession. And this is why: Women who want to
love--and Dinah wanted to love as much as to be loved--have an
instinctive aversion for men who are devoted to an absorbing
occupation; in spite of superiority, they are all women in the matter
of encroachment. Lousteau, a poet and journalist, and a libertine with
a veneer of misanthropy, had that tinsel of the intellect, and led the
half-idle life that attracts women. The blunt good sense and keen
insight of the really great man weighed upon Dinah, who would not
confess her own smallness even to herself. She said in her mind--"The
doctor is perhaps the better man, but I do not like him."
Then, again, she reflected on his professional duties, wondering
whether a woman could ever be anything but a /subject/ to a medical
man, who saw so many subjects in the course of a day's work. The first
sentence of the aphorism written by Bianchon in her album was a
medical observation striking so directly at woman, that Dinah could
not fail to be hit by it. And then Bianchon was leaving on the morrow;
his practice required his return. What woman, short of having Cupid's
mythological dart in her heart, could decide in so short a time?
These little things, which lead to such great catastrophes--having
been seen in a mass by Bianchon, he pronounced the verdict he had come
to as to Madame de la Baudraye in a few words to Lousteau, to the
journalist's great amazement.
While the two friends stood talking together, a storm was gathering in
the Sancerre circle, who could not in the least understand Lousteau's
paraphrases and commentaries, and who vented it on their hostess. Far
from finding in his talk the romance which the Public Prosecutor, the
Sous-prefet, the Presiding Judge, and his deputy, Lebas, had
discovered there--to say nothing of Monsieur de la Baudraye and Dinah
--the ladies now gathered round the tea-table, took the matter as a
practical joke, and accused the Muse of Sancerre of having a finger in
it. They had all looked forward to a delightful evening, and had all
strained in vain every faculty of their mind. Nothing makes provincial
folks so angry as the notion of having been a laughing-stock for Paris
Madame Piedefer left the table to say to her daughter, "Do go and talk
to the ladies; they are quite annoyed by your behavior."
Lousteau could not fail to see Dinah's great superiority over the best
women of Sancerre; she was better dressed, her movements were
graceful, her complexion was exquisitely white by candlelight--in
short, she stood out against this background of old faces, shy and
ill-dressed girls, like a queen in the midst of her court. Visions of
Paris faded from his brain; Lousteau was accepting the provincial
surroundings; and while he had too much imagination to remain
unimpressed by the royal splendor of this chateau, the beautiful
carvings, and the antique beauty of the rooms, he had also too much
experience to overlook the value of the personality which completed
this gem of the Renaissance. So by the time the visitors from Sancerre
had taken their leave one by one--for they had an hour's drive before
them--when no one remained in the drawing-room but Monsieur de Clagny,
Monsieur Lebas, Gatien, and Monsieur Gravier, who were all to sleep at
Anzy--the journalist had already changed his mind about Dinah. His
opinion had gone through the evolution that Madame de la Baudraye had
so audaciously prophesied at their first meeting.
"Ah, what things they will say about us on the drive home!" cried the
mistress of the house, as she returned to the drawing-room after
seeing the President and the Presidente to their carriage with Madame
and Mademoiselle Popinot-Chandier.
The rest of the evening had its pleasant side. In the intimacy of a
small party each one brought to the conversation his contribution of
epigrams on the figure the visitors from Sancerre had cut during
Lousteau's comments on the paper wrapped round the proofs.
"My dear fellow," said Bianchon to Lousteau as they went to bed--they
had an enormous room with two beds in it--"you will be the happy man
of this woman's choice--/nee/ Piedefer!"
"Do you think so?"
"It is quite natural. You are supposed here to have had many
mistresses in Paris; and to a woman there is something indescribably
inviting in a man whom other women favor--something attractive and
fascinating; is it that she prides herself on being longer remembered
than all the rest? that she appeals to his experience, as a sick man
will pay more to a famous physician? or that she is flattered by the
revival of a world-worn heart?"
"Vanity and the senses count for so much in love affairs," said
Lousteau, "that there may be some truth in all those hypotheses.
However, if I remain, it will be in consequence of the certificate of
innocence, without ignorance, that you have given Dinah. She is
handsome, is she not?"
"Love will make her beautiful," said the doctor. "And, after all, she
will be a rich widow some day or other! And a child would secure her
the life-interest in the Master of La Baudraye's fortune--"
"Why, it is quite an act of virtue to make love to her," said
Lousteau, rolling himself up in the bed-clothes, "and to-morrow, with
your help--yes, to-morrow, I--well, good-night."
On the following day, Madame de la Baudraye, to whom her husband had
six months since given a pair of horses, which he also used in the
fields, and an old carriage that rattled on the road, decided that she
would take Bianchon so far on his way as Cosne, where he would get
into the Lyons diligence as it passed through. She also took her
mother and Lousteau, but she intended to drop her mother at La
Baudraye, to go on to Cosne with the two Parisians, and return alone
with Etienne. She was elegantly dressed, as the journalist at once
perceived--bronze kid boots, gray silk stockings, a muslin dress, a
green silk scarf with shaded fringe at the ends, and a pretty black
lace bonnet with flowers in it. As to Lousteau, the wretch had assumed
his war-paint--patent leather boots, trousers of English kerseymere
with pleats in front, a very open waistcoat showing a particularly
fine shirt and the black brocade waterfall of his handsome cravat, and
a very thin, very short black riding-coat.
Monsieur de Clagny and Monsieur Gravier looked at each other, feeling
rather silly as they beheld the two Parisians in the carriage, while
they, like two simpletons, were left standing at the foot of the
steps. Monsieur de la Baudraye, who stood at the top waving his little
hand in a little farewell to the doctor, could not forbear from
smiling as he heard Monsieur de Clagny say to Monsieur Gravier:
"You should have escorted them on horseback."
At this juncture, Gatien, riding Monsieur de la Baudraye's quiet
little mare, came out of the side road from the stables and joined the
party in the chaise.
"Ah, good," said the Receiver-General, "the boy has mounted guard."
"What a bore!" cried Dinah as she saw Gatien. "In thirteen years--for
I have been married nearly thirteen years--I have never had three
"Married, madame?" said the journalist with a smile. "You remind me of
a saying of Michaud's--he was so witty! He was setting out for the
Holy Land, and his friends were remonstrating with him, urging his
age, and the perils of such an expedition. 'And then,' said one, 'you
are married.'--'Married!' said he, 'so little married.' "
Even the rigid Madame Piedefer could not repress a smile.
"I should not be surprised to see Monsieur de Clagny mounted on my
pony to complete the escort," said Dinah.
"Well, if the Public Prosecutor does not pursue us, you can get rid of
this little fellow at Sancerre. Bianchon must, of course, have left
something behind on his table--the notes for the first lecture of his
course--and you can ask Gatien to go back to Anzy to fetch it."
This simple little plot put Madame de la Baudraye into high spirits.
From the road between Anzy to Sancerre, a glorious landscape
frequently comes into view, of the noble stretches of the Loire,
looking like a lake, and it was got over very pleasantly, for Dinah
was happy in finding herself well understood. Love was discussed in
theory, a subject allowing lovers /in petto/ to take the measure, as
it were, of each other's heart. The journalist took a tone of refined
corruption to prove that love obeys no law, that the character of the
lovers gives infinite variety to its incidents, that the circumstances
of social life add to the multiplicity of its manifestations, that in
love all is possible and true, and that any given woman, after
resisting every temptation and the seductions of the most passionate
lover, may be carried off her feet in the course of a few hours by a
fancy, an internal whirlwind of which God alone would ever know the
"Why," said he, "is not that the key to all the adventures we have
talked over these three days past?"
For these three days, indeed, Dinah's lively imagination had been full
of the most insidious romances, and the conversation of the two
Parisians had affected the woman as the most mischievous reading might
have done. Lousteau watched the effects of this clever manoeuvre, to
seize the moment when his prey, whose readiness to be caught was
hidden under the abstraction caused by irresolution, should be quite
Dinah wished to show La Baudraye to her two visitors, and the farce
was duly played out of remembering the papers left by Bianchon in his
room at Anzy. Gatien flew off at a gallop to obey his sovereign;
Madame Piedefer went to do some shopping in Sancerre; and Dinah went
on to Cosne alone with the two friends. Lousteau took his seat by the
lady, Bianchon riding backwards. The two friends talked affectionately
and with deep compassion for the fate of this choice nature so ill
understood and in the midst of such vulgar surroundings. Bianchon
served Lousteau well by making fun of the Public Prosecutor, of
Monsieur Gravier, and of Gatien; there was a tone of such genuine
contempt in his remarks, that Madame de la Baudraye dared not take the
part of her adorers.
"I perfectly understand the position you have maintained," said the
doctor as they crossed the Loire. "You were inaccessible excepting to
that brain-love which often leads to heart-love; and not one of those
men, it is very certain, is capable of disguising what, at an early
stage of life, is disgusting to the senses in the eyes of a refined
woman. To you, now, love is indispensable."
"Indispensable!" cried Dinah, looking curiously at the doctor. "Do you
mean that you prescribe love to me?"
"If you go on living as you live now, in three years you will be
hideous," replied Bianchon in a dictatorial tone.
"Monsieur!" said Madame de la Baudraye, almost frightened.
"Forgive my friend," said Lousteau, half jestingly. "He is always the
medical man, and to him love is merely a question of hygiene. But he
is quite disinterested--it is for your sake only that he speaks--as is
evident, since he is starting in an hour--"
At Cosne a little crowd gathered round the old repainted chaise, with
the arms on the panels granted by Louis XIV. to the new La Baudraye.
Gules, a pair of scales or; on a chief azure (color on color) three
cross-crosslets argent. For supporters two greyhounds argent, collared
azure, chained or. The ironical motto, /Deo sic patet fides et
hominibus/, had been inflicted on the converted Calvinist by Hozier
"Let us get out; they will come and find us," said the Baroness,
desiring her coachman to keep watch.
Dinah took Bianchon's arm, and the doctor set off by the banks of the
Loire at so rapid a pace that the journalist had to linger behind. The
physician had explained by a single wink that he meant to do Lousteau
a good turn.
"You have been attracted by Etienne," said Bianchon to Dinah; "he has
appealed strongly to your imagination; last night we were talking
about you.--He loves you. But he is frivolous, and difficult to hold;
his poverty compels him to live in Paris, while everything condemns
you to live at Sancerre.--Take a lofty view of life. Make Lousteau
your friend; do not ask too much of him; he will come three times a
year to spend a few days with you, and you will owe to him your
beauty, happiness, and fortune. Monsieur de la Baudraye may live to be
a hundred; but he might die in a few days if he should leave off the
flannel winding-sheet in which he swathes himself. So run no risks, be
prudent both of you.--Say not a work--I have read your heart."
Madame de la Baudraye was defenceless under this serried attack, and
in the presence of a man who spoke at once as a doctor, a confessor,
and confidential friend.
"Indeed!" said she. "Can you suppose that any woman would care to
compete with a journalist's mistresses?--Monsieur Lousteau strikes me
as agreeable and witty; but he is /blase/, etc., etc.----"
Dinah had turned back, and was obliged to check the flow of words by
which she tried to disguise her intentions; for Etienne, who seemed to
be studying progress in Cosne, was coming to meet them.
"Believe me," said Bianchon, "what he wants is to be truly loved; and
if he alters his course of life, it will be to the benefit of his
Dinah's coachman hurried up breathlessly to say that the diligence had
come in, and they walked on quickly, Madame de la Baudraye between the
"Good-bye, my children!" said Bianchon, before they got into the town,
"you have my blessing!"
He released Madame de la Baudraye's hand from his arm, and allowed
Lousteau to draw it into his, with a tender look, as he pressed it to
his heart. What a difference to Dinah! Etienne's arm thrilled her
deeply. Bianchon's had not stirred her in the least. She and the
journalist exchanged one of those glowing looks that are more than an
"Only provincial women wear muslin gowns in these days," thought
Lousteau to himself, "the only stuff which shows every crease. This
woman, who has chosen me for her lover, will make a fuss over her
frock! If she had but put on a foulard skirt, I should be happy.--What
is the meaning of these difficulties----"
While Lousteau was wondering whether Dinah had put on a muslin gown on
purpose to protect herself by an insuperable obstacle, Bianchon, with
the help of the coachman, was seeing his luggage piled on the
diligence. Finally, he came to take leave of Dinah, who was
excessively friendly with him.
"Go home, Madame la Baronne, leave me here--Gatien will be coming," he
added in an undertone. "It is getting late," said he aloud. "Good-
"Good-bye--great man!" cried Lousteau, shaking hands with Bianchon.
When the journalist and Madame de la Baudraye, side by side in the
rickety old chaise, had recrossed the Loire, they both were unready to
speak. In these circumstances, the first words that break the silence
are full of terrible meaning.
"Do you know how much I love you?" said the journalist point blank.
Victory might gratify Lousteau, but defeat could cause him no grief.
This indifference was the secret of his audacity. He took Madame de la
Baudraye's hand as he spoke these decisive words, and pressed it in
both his; but Dinah gently released it.
"Yes, I am as good as an actress or a /grisette/," she said in a voice
that trembled, though she spoke lightly. "But can you suppose that a
woman who, in spite of her absurdities, has some intelligence, will
have reserved the best treasures of her heart for a man who will
regard her merely as a transient pleasure?--I am not surprised to hear
from your lips the words which so many men have said to me--but----"
The coachman turned round.
"Here comes Monsieur Gatien," said he.
"I love you, I will have you, you shall be mine, for I have never felt
for any woman the passion I have for you!" said Lousteau in her ear.
"In spite of my will, perhaps?" said she, with a smile.
"At least you must seem to have been assaulted to save my honor," said
the Parisian, to whom the fatal immaculateness of clean muslin
suggested a ridiculous notion.
Before Gatien had reached the end of the bridge, the outrageous
journalist had crumpled up Madame de la Baudraye's muslin dress to
such an effect that she was absolutely not presentable.
"Oh, monsieur!" she exclaimed in dignified reproof.
"You defied me," said the Parisian.
But Gatien now rode up with the vehemence of a duped lover. To regain
a little of Madame de la Baudraye's esteem, Lousteau did his best to
hide the tumbled dress from Gatien's eyes by leaning out of the chaise
to speak to him from Dinah's side.
"Go back to our inn," said he, "there is still time; the diligence
does not start for half an hour. The papers are on the table of the
room Bianchon was in; he wants them particularly, for he will be lost
without his notes for the lecture."
"Pray go, Gatien," said Dinah to her young adorer, with an imperious
glance. And the boy thus commanded turned his horse and was off with a
"Go quickly to La Baudraye," cried Lousteau to the coachman. "Madame
is not well--Your mother only will know the secret of my trick," added
he, taking his seat by Dinah.
"You call such infamous conduct a trick?" cried Madame de la Baudraye,
swallowing down a few tears that dried up with the fire of outraged
She leaned back in the corner of the chaise, crossed her arms, and
gazed out at the Loire and the landscape, at anything rather than at
Lousteau. The journalist put on his most ingratiating tone, and talked
till they reached La Baudraye, where Dinah fled indoors, trying not to
be seen by any one. In her agitation she threw herself on a sofa and
burst into tears.
"If I am an object of horror to you, of aversion or scorn, I will go,"
said Lousteau, who had followed her. And he threw himself at her feet.
It was at this crisis that Madame Piedefer came in, saying to her
"What is the matter? What has happened?"
"Give your daughter another dress at once," said the audacious
Parisian in the prim old lady's ear.
Hearing the mad gallop of Gatien's horse, Madame de la Baudraye fled
to her bedroom, followed by her mother.
"There are no papers at the inn," said Gatien to Lousteau, who went
out to meet him.
"And you found none at the Chateau d'Anzy either?" replied Lousteau.
"You have been making a fool of me," said Gatien, in a cold, set
"Quite so," replied Lousteau. "Madame de la Baudraye was greatly
annoyed by your choosing to follow her without being invited. Believe
me, to bore a woman is a bad way of courting her. Dinah has played you
a trick, and you have given her a laugh; it is more than any of you
has done in these thirteen years past. You owe that success to
Bianchon, for your cousin was the author of the Farce of the
'Manuscript.'--Will the horse get over it?" asked Lousteau with a
laugh, while Gatien was wondering whether to be angry or not.
"The horse!" said Gatien.
At this moment Madame de la Baudraye came in, dressed in a velvet
gown, and accompanied by her mother, who shot angry flashes at
Lousteau. It would have been too rash for Dinah to seem cold or severe
to Lousteau in Gatien's presence; and Etienne, taking advantage of
this, offered his arm to the supposed Lucretia; however, she declined
"Do you mean to cast off a man who has vowed to live for you?" said
he, walking close beside her. "I shall stop at Sancerre and go home
"Are you coming, mamma?" said Madame de la Baudraye to Madame
Piedefer, thus avoiding a reply to the direct challenge by which
Lousteau was forcing her to a decision.
Lousteau handed the mother into the chaise, he helped Madame de la
Baudraye by gently taking her arm, and he and Gatien took the front
seat, leaving the saddle horse at La Baudraye.
"You have changed your gown," said Gatien, blunderingly, to Dinah.
"Madame la Baronne was chilled by the cool air off the river," replied
Lousteau. "Bianchon advised her to put on a warm dress."
Dinah turned as red as a poppy, and Madame Piedefer assumed a stern
"Poor Bianchon! he is on the road to Paris. A noble soul!" said
"Oh, yes!" cried Madame de la Baudraye, "he is high-minded, full of
"We were in such good spirits when we set out," said Lousteau; "now
you are overdone, and you speak to me so bitterly--why? Are you not
accustomed to being told how handsome and how clever you are? For my
part, I say boldly, before Gatien, I give up Paris; I mean to stay at
Sancerre and swell the number of your /cavalieri serventi/. I feel so
young again in my native district; I have quite forgotten Paris and
all its wickedness, and its bores, and its wearisome pleasures.--Yes,
my life seems in a way purified."
Dinah allowed Lousteau to talk without even looking at him; but at
last there was a moment when this serpent's rhodomontade was really so
inspired by the effort he made to affect passion in phrases and ideas
of which the meaning, though hidden from Gatien, found a loud response
in Dinah's heart, that she raised her eyes to his. This look seemed to
crown Lousteau's joy; his wit flowed more freely, and at last he made
Madame de la Baudraye laugh. When, under circumstances which so
seriously compromise her pride, a woman has been made to laugh, she is
As they drove in by the spacious graveled forecourt, with its lawn in
the middle, and the large vases filled with flowers which so well set
off the facade of Anzy, the journalist was saying:
"When women love, they forgive everything, even our crimes; when they
do not love, they cannot forgive anything--not even our virtues.--Do
you forgive me," he added in Madame de la Baudraye's ear, and pressing
her arm to his heart with tender emphasis. And Dinah could not help
All through dinner, and for the rest of the evening, Etienne was in
the most delightful spirits, inexhaustibly cheerful; but while thus
giving vent to his intoxication, he now and then fell into the dreamy
abstraction of a man who seems rapt in his own happiness.
After coffee had been served, Madame de la Baudraye and her mother
left the men to wander about the gardens. Monsieur Gravier then
remarked to Monsieur de Clagny:
"Did you observe that Madame de la Baudraye, after going out in a
muslin gown came home in a velvet?"
"As she got into the carriage at Cosne, the muslin dress caught on a
brass nail and was torn all the way down," replied Lousteau.
"Oh!" exclaimed Gatien, stricken to the heart by hearing two such
The journalist, who understood, took Gatien by the arm and pressed it
as a hint to him to be silent. A few minutes later Etienne left
Dinah's three adorers and took possession of little La Baudraye. Then
Gatien was cross-questioned as to the events of the day. Monsieur
Gravier and Monsieur de Clagny were dismayed to hear that on the
return from Cosne Lousteau had been alone with Dinah, and even more so
on hearing the two versions explaining the lady's change of dress. And
the three discomfited gentlemen were in a very awkward position for
the rest of the evening.
Next day each, on various business, was obliged to leave Anzy; Dinah
remained with her mother, Lousteau, and her husband. The annoyance
vented by the three victims gave rise to an organized rebellion in
Sancerre. The surrender of the Muse of Le Berry, of the Nivernais, and
of Morvan was the cause of a perfect hue and cry of slander, evil
report, and various guesses in which the story of the muslin gown held
a prominent place. No dress Dinah had ever worn had been so much
commented on, or was half as interesting to the girls, who could not
conceive what the connection might be, that made the married women
laugh, between love and a muslin gown.
The Presidente Boirouge, furious at her son's discomfiture, forgot the
praise she had lavished on the poem of /Paquita/, and fulminated
terrific condemnation on the woman who could publish such a
"The wretched woman commits every crime she writes about," said she.
"Perhaps she will come to the same end as her heroine!"
Dinah's fate among the good folks of Sancerre was like that of
Marechal Soult in the opposition newspapers; as long as he is minister
he lost the battle of Toulouse; whenever he is out of the Government
he won it! While she was virtuous, Dinah was a match for Camille de
Maupin, a rival of the most famous women; but as soon as she was
happy, she was an /unhappy creature/.
Monsieur de Clagny was her valiant champion; he went several times to
the Chateau d'Anzy to acquire the right to contradict the rumors
current as to the woman he still faithfully adored, even in her fall;
and he maintained that she and Lousteau were engaged together on some
great work. But the lawyer was laughed to scorn.
The month of October was lovely; autumn is the finest season in the
valley of the Loire; but in 1836 it was unusually glorious. Nature
seemed to aid and abet Dinah, who, as Bianchon had predicted,
gradually developed a heart-felt passion. In one month she was an
altered woman. She was surprised to find in herself so many inert and
dormant qualities, hitherto in abeyance. To her Lousteau seemed an
angel; for heart-love, the crowning need of a great nature, had made a
new woman of her. Dinah was alive! She had found an outlet for her
powers, she saw undreamed-of vistas in the future--in short, she was
happy, happy without alarms or hindrances. The vast castle, the
gardens, the park, the forest, favored love.
Lousteau found in Madame de la Baudraye an artlessness, nay, if you
will, an innocence of mind which made her very original; there was
much more of the unexpected and winning in her than in a girl.
Lousteau was quite alive to a form of flattery which in most women is
assumed, but which in Dinah was genuine; she really learned from him
the ways of love; he really was the first to reign in her heart. And,
indeed, he took the trouble to be exceedingly amiable.
Men, like women, have a stock in hand of recitatives, of /cantabile/,
of /nocturnes/, airs and refrains--shall we say of recipes, although
we speak of love--which each one believes to be exclusively his own.
Men who have reached Lousteau's age try to distribute the "movements"
of this repertoire through the whole opera of a passion. Lousteau,
regarding this adventure with Dinah as a mere temporary connection,
was eager to stamp himself on her memory in indelible lines; and
during that beautiful October he was prodigal of his most entrancing
melodies and most elaborate /barcarolles/. In fact, he exhausted every
resource of the stage management of love, to use an expression
borrowed from the theatrical dictionary, and admirably descriptive of
"If that woman ever forgets me!" he would sometimes say to himself as
they returned together from a long walk in the woods, "I will owe her
no grudge--she will have found something better."
When two beings have sung together all the duets of that enchanting
score, and still love each other, it may be said that they love truly.
Lousteau, however, had not time to repeat himself, for he was to leave
Anzy in the early days of November. His paper required his presence in
Paris. Before breakfast, on the day before he was to leave, the
journalist and Dinah saw the master of the house come in with an
artist from Nevers, who restored carvings of all kinds.
"What are you going to do?" asked Lousteau. "What is to be done to the
"This is what I am going to do," said the little man, leading
Lousteau, the local artist, and Dinah out on the terrace.
He pointed out, on the front of the building, a shield supported by
two sirens, not unlike that which may be seen on the arcade, now
closed, through which there used to be a passage from the Quai des
Tuileries to the courtyard of the old Louvre, and over which the words
may still be seen, "/Bibliotheque du Cabinet du Roi/." This shield
bore the arms of the noble House of Uxelles, namely, Or and gules
party per fess, with two lions or, dexter and sinister as supporters.
Above, a knight's helm, mantled of the tincture of the shield, and
surmounted by a ducal coronet. Motto, /Cy paroist!/ A proud and
"I want to put my own coat of arms in the place of that of the
Uxelles; and as they are repeated six times on the two fronts and the
two wings, it is not a trifling affair."
"Your arms, so new, and since 1830!" exclaimed Dinah.
"Have I not created an entail?"
"I could understand it if you had children," said the journalist.
"Oh!" said the old man, "Madame de la Baudraye is still young; there
is no time lost."
This allusion made Lousteau smile; he did not understand Monsieur de
"There, Didine!" said he in Dinah's ear, "what a waste of remorse!"
Dinah begged him to give her one day more, and the lovers parted after
the manner of certain theatres, which give ten last performances of a
piece that is paying. And how many promises they made! How many solemn
pledges did not Dinah exact and the unblushing journalist give her!
Dinah, with superiority of the Superior Woman, accompanied Lousteau,
in the face of all the world, as far as Cosne, with her mother and
little La Baudraye. When, ten days later, Madame de la Baudraye saw in
her drawing-room at La Baudraye, Monsieur de Clagny, Gatien, and
Gravier, she found an opportunity of saying to each in turn:
"I owe it to Monsieur Lousteau that I discovered that I had not been
loved for my own sake."
And what noble speeches she uttered, on man, on the nature of his
feelings, on the end of his base passions, and so forth. Of Dinah's
three worshipers, Monsieur de Clagny only said to her: "I love you,
come what may"--and Dinah accepted him as her confidant, lavished on
him all the marks of friendship which women can devise for the Gurths
who are ready thus to wear the collar of gilded slavery.
In Paris once more, Lousteau had, in a few weeks, lost the impression
of the happy time he had spent at the Chateau d'Anzy. This is why:
Lousteau lived by his pen.
In this century, especially since the triumph of the /bourgeoisie/--
the commonplace, money-saving citizen--who takes good care not to
imitate Francis I. or Louis XIV.--to live by the pen is a form of
penal servitude to which a galley-slave would prefer death. To live by
the pen means to create--to create to-day, and to-morrow, and
incessantly--or to seem to create; and the imitation costs as dear as
the reality. So, besides his daily contribution to a newspaper, which
was like the stone of Sisyphus, and which came every Monday, crashing
down on to the feather of his pen, Etienne worked for three or four
literary magazines. Still, do not be alarmed; he put no artistic
conscientiousness into his work. This man of Sancerre had a facility,
a carelessness, if you call it so, which ranked him with those writers
who are mere scriveners, literary hacks. In Paris, in our day, hack-
work cuts a man off from every pretension to a literary position. When
he can do no more, or no longer cares for advancement, the man who can
write becomes a journalist and a hack.
The life he leads is not unpleasing. Blue-stockings, beginners in
every walk of life, actresses at the outset or the close of a career,
publishers and authors, all make much of these writers of the ready
pen. Lousteau, a thorough man about town, lived at scarcely any
expense beyond paying his rent. He had boxes at all the theatres; the
sale of the books he reviewed or left unreviewed paid for his gloves;
and he would say to those authors who published at their own expense,
"I have your book always in my hands!" He took toll from vanity in the
form of drawings or pictures. Every day had its engagements to dinner,
every night its theatre, every morning was filled up with callers,
visits, and lounging. His serial in the paper, two novels a year for
weekly magazines, and his miscellaneous articles were the tax he paid
for this easy-going life. And yet, to reach this position, Etienne had
struggled for ten years.
At the present time, known to the literary world, liked for the good
or the mischief he did with equally facile good humor, he let himself
float with the stream, never caring for the future. He ruled a little
set of newcomers, he had friendships--or rather, habits of fifteen
years' standing, and men with whom he supped, and dined, and indulged
his wit. He earned from seven to eight hundred francs a month, a sum
which he found quite insufficient for the prodigality peculiar to the
impecunious. Indeed, Lousteau found himself now just as hard up as
when, on first appearing in Paris, he had said to himself, "If I had
but five hundred francs a month, I should be rich!"
The cause of this phenomenon was as follows: Lousteau lived in the Rue
des Martyrs in pretty ground-floor rooms with a garden, and splendidly
furnished. When he settled there in 1833 he had come to an agreement
with an upholsterer that kept his pocket money low for a long time.
These rooms were let for twelve hundred francs. The months of January,
April, July, and October were, as he phrased it, his indigent months.
The rent and the porter's account cleaned him out. Lousteau took no
fewer hackney cabs, spend a hundred francs in breakfasts all the same,
smoked thirty francs' worth of cigars, and could never refuse the
mistress of a day a dinner or a new dress. He thus dipped so deeply
into the fluctuating earnings of the following months, that he could
no more find a hundred francs on his chimney-piece now, when he was
making seven or eight hundred francs a month, than he could in 1822,
when he was hardly getting two hundred.
Tired, sometimes, by the incessant vicissitudes of a literary life,
and as much bored by amusement as a courtesan, Lousteau would get out
of the tideway and sit on the bank, and say to one and another of his
intimate allies--Nathan or Bixiou, as they sat smoking in his scrap of
garden, looking out on an evergreen lawn as big as a dinner-table:
"What will be the end of us? White hairs are giving us respectful
"Lord! we shall marry when we choose to give as much thought to the
matter as we give to a drama or a novel," said Nathan.
"And Florine?" retorted Bixiou.
"Oh, we all have a Florine," said Etienne, flinging away the end of
his cigar and thinking of Madame Schontz.
Madame Schontz was a pretty enough woman to put a very high price on
the interest on her beauty, while reserving absolute ownership for
Lousteau, the man of her heart. Like all those women who get the name
in Paris of /Lorettes/, from the Church of Notre Dame de Lorette,
round about which they dwell, she lived in the Rue Flechier, a stone's
throw from Lousteau. This lady took a pride and delight in teasing her
friends by boasting of having a Wit for her lover.
These details of Lousteau's life and fortune are indispensable, for
this penury and this bohemian existence of a man to whom Parisian
luxury had become a necessity, were fated to have a cruel influence on
Dinah's life. Those to whom the bohemia of Paris is familiar will now
understand how it was that, by the end of a fortnight, the journalist,
up to his ears in the literary environment, could laugh about his
Baroness with his friends and even with Madame Schontz. To such
readers as regard such things as utterly mean, it is almost useless to
make excuses which they will not accept.
"What did you do at Sancerre?" asked Bixiou the first time he met
"I did good service to three worthy provincials--a Receiver-General of
Taxes, a little cousin of his, and a Public Prosecutor, who for ten
years had been dancing round and round one of the hundred 'Tenth
Muses' who adorn the Departments," said he. "But they had no more
dared to touch her than we touch a decorated cream at dessert till
some strong-minded person has made a hole in it."
"Poor boy!" said Bixiou. "I said you had gone to Sancerre to turn
Pegasus out to grass."
"Your joke is as stupid as my Muse is handsome," retorted Lousteau.
"Ask Bianchon, my dear fellow."
"A Muse and a Poet! A homoeopathic cure then!" said Bixiou.
On the tenth day Lousteau received a letter with the Sancerre post-
"Good! very good!" said Lousteau.
" 'Beloved friend, idol of my heart and soul----' twenty pages of it!
all at one sitting, and dated midnight! She writes when she finds
herself alone. Poor woman! Ah, ha! And a postscript--
" 'I dare not ask you to write to me as I write, every day; still, I
hope to have a few lines from my dear one every week, to relieve my
mind.'--What a pity to burn it all! it is really well written," said
Lousteau to himself, as he threw the ten sheets of paper into the fire
after having read them. "That woman was born to reel off copy!"
Lousteau was not much afraid of Madame Schontz, who really loved him
for himself, but he had supplanted a friend in the heart of a
Marquise. This Marquise, a lady nowise coy, sometimes dropped in
unexpectedly at his rooms in the evening, arriving veiled in a hackney
coach; and she, as a literary woman, allowed herself to hunt through
all his drawers.
A week later, Lousteau, who hardly remembered Dinah, was startled by
another budget from Sancerre--eight leaves, sixteen pages! He heard a
woman's step; he thought it announced a search from the Marquise, and
tossed these rapturous and entrancing proofs of affections into the
"A woman's letter!" exclaimed Madame Schontz, as she came in. "The
paper, the wax, are scented--"
"Here you are, sir," said a porter from the coach office, setting down
two huge hampers in the ante-room. "Carriage paid. Please to sign my
"Carriage paid!" cried Madame Schontz. "It must have come from
"Yes, madame," said the porter.
"Your Tenth Muse is a remarkably intelligent woman," said the
courtesan, opening one of the hampers, while Lousteau was writing his
name. "I like a Muse who understands housekeeping, and who can make
game pies as well as blots. And, oh! what beautiful flowers!" she went
on, opening the second hamper. "Why, you could get none finer in
Paris!--And here, and here! A hare, partridges, half a roebuck!--We
will ask your friends and have a famous dinner, for Athalie has a
special talent for dressing venison."
Lousteau wrote to Dinah; but instead of writing from the heart, he was
clever. The letter was all the more insidious; it was like one of
Mirabeau's letters to Sophie. The style of a true lover is
transparent. It is a clear stream which allows the bottom of the heart
to be seen between two banks, bright with the trifles of existence,
and covered with the flowers of the soul that blossom afresh every
day, full of intoxicating beauty--but only for two beings. As soon as
a love letter has any charm for a third reader, it is beyond doubt the
product of the head, not of the heart. But a woman will always be
beguiled; she always believes herself to be the determining cause of
this flow of wit.
By the end of December Lousteau had ceased to read Dinah's letters;
they lay in a heap in a drawer of his chest that was never locked,
under his shirts, which they scented.
Then one of those chances came to Lousteau which such bohemians ought
to clutch by every hair. In the middle of December, Madame Schontz,
who took a real interest in Etienne, sent to beg him to call on her
one morning on business.
"My dear fellow, you have a chance of marrying."
"I can marry very often, happily, my dear."
"When I say marrying, I mean marrying well. You have no prejudices: I
need not mince matters. This is the position: A young lady has got
into trouble; her mother knows nothing of even a kiss. Her father is
an honest notary, a man of honor; he has been wise enough to keep it
dark. He wants to get his daughter married within a fortnight, and he
will give her a fortune of a hundred and fifty thousand francs--for he
has three other children; but--and it is not a bad idea--he will add a
hundred thousand francs, under the rose, hand to hand, to cover the
damages. They are an old family of Paris citizens, Rue des
"Well, then, why does not the lover marry her?"
"What a romance! Such things are nowhere to be heard of but in the Rue
"But do not take it into your head that a jealous brother murdered the
seducer. The young man died in the most commonplace way of a pleurisy
caught as he came out of the theatre. A head-clerk and penniless, the
man entrapped the daughter in order to marry into the business--A
judgment from heaven, I call it!"
"Where did you hear the story?"
"From Malaga; the notary is her /milord/."
"What, Cardot, the son of that little old man in hair-powder,
Florentine's first friend?"
"Just so. Malaga, whose 'fancy' is a little tomtit of a fiddler of
eighteen, cannot in conscience make such a boy marry the girl.
Besides, she has no cause to do him an ill turn.--Indeed, Monsieur
Cardot wants a man of thirty at least. Our notary, I feel sure, will
be proud to have a famous man for his son-in-law. So just feel
yourself all over.--You will pay your debts, you will have twelve
thousand francs a year, and be a father without any trouble on your
part; what do you say to that to the good? And, after all, you only
marry a very consolable widow. There is an income of fifty thousand
francs in the house, and the value of the connection, so in due time
you may look forward to not less than fifteen thousand francs a year
more for your share, and you will enter a family holding a fine
political position; Cardot is the brother-in-law of old Camusot, the
depute who lived so long with Fanny Beaupre."
"Yes," said Lousteau, "old Camusot married little Daddy Cardot's
eldest daughter, and they had high times together!"
"Well!" Madame Schontz went on, "and Madame Cardot, the notary's wife,
was a Chiffreville--manufacturers of chemical products, the
aristocracy of these days! Potash, I tell you! Still, this is the
unpleasant side of the matter. You will have a terrible mother-in-law,
a woman capable of killing her daughter if she knew--! This Cardot
woman is a bigot; she has lips like two faded narrow pink ribbons.
"A man of the town like you would never pass muster with that woman,
who, in her well-meaning way, will spy out your bachelor life and know
every fact of the past. However, Cardot says he means to exert his
paternal authority. The poor man will be obliged to do the civil to
his wife for some days; a woman made of wood, my dear fellow; Malaga,
who has seen her, calls her a penitential scrubber. Cardot is a man of
forty; he will be mayor of his district, and perhaps be elected
deputy. He is prepared to give in lieu of the hundred thousand francs
a nice little house in the Rue Saint-Lazare, with a forecourt and a
garden, which cost him no more than sixty thousand at the time of the
July overthrow; he would sell, and that would be an opportunity for
you to go and come at the house, to see the daughter, and be civil to
the mother.--And it would give you a look of property in Madame
Cardot's eyes. You would be housed like a prince in that little
mansion. Then, by Camusot's interest, you may get an appointment as
librarian to some public office where there is no library.--Well, and
then if you invest your money in backing up a newspaper, you will get
ten thousand francs a year on it, you can earn six, your librarianship
will bring you in four.--Can you do better for yourself?
"If you were to marry a lamb without spot, it might be a light woman
by the end of two years. What is the damage?--an anticipated dividend!
It is quite the fashion.
"Take my word for it, you can do no better than come to dine with
Malaga to-morrow. You will meet your father-in-law; he will know the
secret has been let out--by Malaga, with whom he cannot be angry--and
then you are master of the situation. As to your wife!--Why her
misconduct leaves you as free as a bachelor----"
"Your language is as blunt as a cannon ball."
"I love you for your own sake, that is all--and I can reason. Well!
why do you stand there like a wax image of Abd-el-Kader? There is
nothing to meditate over. Marriage is heads or tails--well, you have
tossed heads up."
"You shall have my reply to-morrow," said Lousteau.
"I would sooner have it at once; Malaga will write you up to-night."
"Well, then, yes."
Lousteau spent the evening in writing a long letter to the Marquise,
giving her the reasons which compelled him to marry; his constant
poverty, the torpor of his imagination, his white hairs, his moral and
physical exhaustion--in short, four pages of arguments.--"As to Dinah,
I will send her a circular announcing the marriage," said he to
himself. "As Bixiou says, I have not my match for knowing how to dock
the tail of a passion."
Lousteau, who at first had been on some ceremony with himself, by next
day had come to the point of dreading lest the marriage should not
come off. He was pressingly civil to the notary.
"I knew monsieur your father," said he, "at Florentine's, so I may
well know you here, at Mademoiselle Turquet's. Like father, like son.
A very good fellow and a philosopher, was little Daddy Cardot--excuse
me, we always called him so. At that time, Florine, Florentine,
Tullia, Coralie, and Mariette were the five fingers of your hand, so
to speak--it is fifteen years ago. My follies, as you may suppose, are
a thing of the past.--In those days it was pleasure that ran away with
me; now I am ambitious; but, in our day, to get on at all a man must
be free from debt, have a good income, a wife, and a family. If I pay
taxes enough to qualify me, I may be a deputy yet, like any other
Maitre Cardot appreciated this profession of faith. Lousteau had laid
himself out to please and the notary liked him, feeling himself more
at his ease, as may be easily imagined, with a man who had known his
father's secrets than he would have been with another. On the
following day Lousteau was introduced to the Cardot family as the
purchaser of the house in the Rue Saint-Lazare, and three days later
he dined there.
Cardot lived in an old house near the Place du Chatelet. In this house
everything was "good." Economy covered every scrap of gilding with
green gauze; all the furniture wore holland covers. Though it was
impossible to feel a shade of uneasiness as to the wealth of the
inhabitants, at the end of half an hour no one could suppress a yawn.
Boredom perched in every nook; the curtains hung dolefully; the
dining-room was like Harpagon's. Even if Lousteau had not known all
about Malaga, he could have guessed that the notary's real life was
The journalist saw a tall, fair girl with blue eyes, at once shy and
languishing. The elder brother took a fancy to him; he was the fourth
clerk in the office, but strongly attracted by the snares of literary
fame, though destined to succeed his father. The younger sister was
twelve years old. Lousteau, assuming a little Jesuitical air, played
the Monarchist and Churchman for the benefit of the mother, was quite
smooth, deliberate, and complimentary.
Within three weeks of their introduction, at his fourth dinner there,
Felicie Cardot, who had been watching Lousteau out of the corner of
her eye, carried him a cup of coffee where he stood in the window
recess, and said in a low voice, with tears in her eyes:
"I will devote my whole life, monsieur, to thanking you for your
sacrifice in favor of a poor girl----"
Lousteau was touched; there was so much expression in her look, her
accent, her attitude. "She would make a good man happy," thought he,
pressing her hand in reply.
Madame Cardot looked upon her son-in-law as a man with a future before
him; but, above all the fine qualities she ascribed to him, she was
most delighted by his high tone of morals. Etienne, prompted by the
wily notary, had pledged his word that he had no natural children, no
tie that could endanger the happiness of her dear Felicie.
"You may perhaps think I go rather too far," said the bigot to the
journalist; "but in giving such a jewel as my Felicie to any man, one
must think of the future. I am not one of those mothers who want to be
rid of their daughters. Monsieur Cardot hurries matters on, urges
forward his daughter's marriage; he wishes it over. This is the only
point on which we differ.--Though with a man like you, monsieur, a
literary man whose youth has been preserved by hard work from the
moral shipwreck now so prevalent, we may feel quite safe; still, you
would be the first to laugh at me if I looked for a husband for my
daughter with my eyes shut. I know you are not an innocent, and I
should be very sorry for my Felicie if you were" (this was said in a
whisper); "but if you had any /liaison/--For instance, monsieur, you
have heard of Madame Roguin, the wife of a notary who, unhappily for
our faculty, was sadly notorious. Madame Roguin has, ever since 1820,
been kept by a banker--"
"Yes, du Tillet," replied Etienne; but he bit his tongue as he
recollected how rash it was to confess to an acquaintance with du
"Yes.--Well, monsieur, if you were a mother, would you not quake at
the thought that Madame du Tillet's fate might be your child's? At her
age, and /nee/ de Granville! To have as a rival a woman of fifty and
more. Sooner would I see my daughter dead than give her to a man who
had such a connection with a married woman. A grisette, an actress,
you take her and leave her.--There is no danger, in my opinion, from
women of that stamp; love is their trade, they care for no one, one
down and another to come on!--But a woman who has sinned against duty
must hug her sin, her only excuse is constancy, if such a crime can
ever have an excuse. At least, that is the view I hold of a
respectable woman's fall, and that is what makes it so terrible----"
Instead of looking for the meaning of these speeches, Etienne made a
jest of them at Malaga's, whither he went with his father-in-law
elect; for the notary and the journalist were the best of friends.
Lousteau had already given himself the airs of a person of importance;
his life at last was to have a purpose; he was in luck's way, and in a
few days would be the owner of a delightful little house in the Rue
Saint-Lazare; he was going to be married to a charming woman, he would
have about twenty thousand francs a year, and could give the reins to
his ambition; the young lady loved him, and he would be connected with
several respectable families. In short, he was in full sail on the
blue waters of hope.
Madame Cardot had expressed a wish to see the prints for /Gil Blas/,
one of the illustrated volumes which the French publishers were at
that time bringing out, and Lousteau had taken the first numbers for
the lady's inspection. The lawyer's wife had a scheme of her own, she
had borrowed the book merely to return it; she wanted an excuse for
walking in on her future son-in-law quite unexpectedly. The sight of
those bachelor rooms, which her husband had described as charming,
would tell her more, she thought, as to Lousteau's habits of life than
any information she could pick up. Her sister-in-law, Madame Camusot,
who knew nothing of the fateful secret, was terrified at such a
marriage for her niece. Monsieur Camusot, a Councillor of the Supreme
Court, old Camusot's son by his first marriage, had given his step-
mother, who was Cardot's sister, a far from flattering account of the
Lousteau, clever as he was, did not think it strange that the wife of
a rich notary should wish to inspect a volume costing fifteen francs
before deciding on the purchase. Your clever man never condescends to
study the middle-class, who escape his ken by this want of attention;
and while he is making game of them, they are at leisure to throttle
So one day early in January 1837, Madame Cardot and her daughter took
a hackney coach and went to the Rue des Martyrs to return the parts of
/Gil Blas/ to Felicie's betrothed, both delighted at the thought of
seeing Lousteau's rooms. These domiciliary visitations are not unusual
in the old citizen class. The porter at the front gate was not in; but
his daughter, on being informed by the worthy lady that she was in the
presence of Monsieur Lousteau's future mother-in-law and bride, handed
over the key of the apartment--all the more readily because Madame
Cardot placed a gold piece in her hand.
It was by this time about noon, the hour at which the journalist would
return from breakfasting at the Cafe Anglais. As he crossed the open
space between the Church of Notre-Dame de Lorette and the Rue des
Martyrs, Lousteau happened to look at a hired coach that was toiling
up the Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, and he fancied it was a dream when
he saw the face of Dinah! He stood frozen to the spot when, on
reaching his house, he beheld his Didine at the coach door.
"What has brought you here?" he inquired.--He adopted the familiar
/tu/. The formality of /vous/ was out of the question to a woman he
must get rid of.
"Why, my love," cried she, "have you not read my letters?"
"Certainly I have," said Lousteau.
"You are a father," replied the country lady.
"Faugh!" cried he, disregarding the barbarity of such an exclamation.
"Well," thought he to himself, "she must be prepared for the blow."
He signed to the coachman to wait, gave his hand to Madame de la
Baudraye, and left the man with the chaise full of trunks, vowing that
he would send away /illico/, as he said to himself, the woman and her
luggage, back to the place she had come from.
"Monsieur, monsieur," called out little Pamela.
The child had some sense, and felt that three women must not be
allowed to meet in a bachelor's rooms.
"Well, well!" said Lousteau, dragging Dinah along.
Pamela concluded that the lady must be some relation; however, she
"The key is in the door; your mother-in-law is there."
In his agitation, while Madame de la Baudraye was pouring out a flood
of words, Etienne understood the child to say, "Mother is there," the
only circumstance that suggested itself as possible, and he went in.
Felicie and her mother, who were by this time in the bed-room, crept
into a corner on seeing Etienne enter with a woman.
"At last, Etienne, my dearest, I am yours for life!" cried Dinah,
throwing her arms round his neck, and clasping him closely, while he
took the key from the outside of the door. "Life is a perpetual
anguish to me in that house at Anzy. I could bear it no longer; and
when the time came for me to proclaim my happiness--well, I had not
the courage.--Here I am, your wife with your child! And you have not
written to me; you have left me two months without a line."
"But, Dinah, you place me in the greatest difficulty--"
"Do you love me?"
"How can I do otherwise than love you?--But would you not have been
wiser to remain at Sancerre?--I am in the most abject poverty, and I
fear to drag you into it--"
"Your misery will be paradise to me. I only ask to live here, never to
"Good God! that is all very fine in words, but--" Dinah sat down and
melted into tears as she heard this speech, roughly spoken.
Lousteau could not resist this distress. He clasped the Baroness in
his arms and kissed her.
"Do not cry, Didine!" said he; and, as he uttered the words, he saw in
the mirror the figure of Madame Cardot, looking at him from the
further end of the rooms. "Come, Didine, go with Pamela and get your
trunks unloaded," said he in her ear. "Go; do not cry; we will be
He led her to the door, and then came back to divert the storm.
"Monsieur," said Madame Cardot, "I congratulate myself on having
resolved to see for myself the home of the man who was to have been my
son-in-law. If my daughter were to die of it, she should never be the
wife of such a man as you. You must devote yourself to making your
Didine happy, monsieur."
And the virtuous lady walked out, followed by Felicie, who was crying
too, for she had become accustomed to Etienne. The dreadful Madame
Cardot got into her hackney-coach again, staring insolently at the
hapless Dinah, in whose heart the sting still rankled of "that is all
very fine in words"; but who, nevertheless, like every woman in love,
believed in the murmured, "Do not cry, Didine!"
Lousteau, who was not lacking in the sort of decision which grows out
of the vicissitudes of a storm-tossed life, reflected thus:
"Didine is high-minded; when once she knows of my proposed marriage,
she will sacrifice herself for my future prospects, and I know how I
can manage to let her know." Delighted at having hit on a trick of
which the success seemed certain, he danced round to a familiar tune:
"/Larifla, fla, fla!/--And Didine once out of the way," he went on,
talking to himself, "I will treat Maman Cardot to a call and a
novelette: I have seduced her Felicie at Saint-Eustache--Felicie,
guilty through passion, bears in her bosom the pledge of our affection
--and /larifla, fla, fla!/ the father /Ergo/, the notary, his wife,
and his daughter are caught, nabbed----"
And, to her great amazement, Dinah discovered Etienne performing a
"Your arrival and our happiness have turned my head with joy," said
he, to explain this crazy mood.
"And I had fancied you had ceased to love me!" exclaimed the poor
woman, dropping the handbag she was carrying, and weeping with joy as
she sank into a chair.
"Make yourself at home, my darling," said Etienne, laughing in his
sleeve; "I must write two lines to excuse myself from a bachelor
party, for I mean to devote myself to you. Give your orders; you are
Etienne wrote to Bixiou:
"MY DEAR BOY,--My Baroness has dropped into my arms, and will be
fatal to my marriage unless we perform one of the most familiar
stratagems of the thousand and one comedies at the Gymnase. I rely
on you to come here, like one of Moliere's old men, to scold your
nephew Leandre for his folly, while the Tenth Muse lies hidden in
my bedroom; you must work on her feelings; strike hard, be brutal,
offensive. I, you understand, shall express my blind devotion, and
shall seem to be deaf, so that you may have to shout at me.
"Come, if you can, at seven o'clock.
Having sent this letter by a commissionaire to the man who, in all
Paris, most delighted in such practical jokes--in the slang of
artists, a /"charge"/--Lousteau made a great show of settling the Muse
of Sancerre in his apartment. He busied himself in arranging the
luggage she had brought, and informed her as to the persons and ways
of the house with such perfect good faith, and a glee which overflowed
in kind words and caresses, that Dinah believed herself the best-
beloved woman in the world. These rooms, where everything bore the
stamp of fashion, pleased her far better than her old chateau.
Pamela Migeon, the intelligent damsel of fourteen, was questioned by
the journalist as to whether she would like to be waiting-maid to the
imposing Baroness. Pamela, perfectly enchanted, entered on her duties
at once, by going off to order dinner from a restaurant on the
boulevard. Dinah was able to judge of the extreme poverty that lay
hidden under the purely superficial elegance of this bachelor home
when she found none of the necessaries of life. As she took possession
of the closets and drawers, she indulged in the fondest dreams; she
would alter Etienne's habits, she would make him home-keeping, she
would fill his cup of domestic happiness.
The novelty of the position hid its disastrous side; Dinah regarded
reciprocated love as the absolution of her sin; she did not yet look
beyond the walls of these rooms. Pamela, whose wits were as sharp as
those of a /lorette/, went straight to Madame Schontz to beg the loan
of some plate, telling her what had happened to Lousteau. After making
the child welcome to all she had, Madame Schontz went off to her
friend Malaga, that Cardot might be warned of the catastrophe that had
befallen his future son-in-law.
The journalist, not in the least uneasy about the crisis as affecting
his marriage, was more and more charming to the lady from the
provinces. The dinner was the occasion of the delightful child's-play
of lovers set at liberty, and happy to be free. When they had had
their coffee, and Lousteau was sitting in front of the fire, Dinah on
his knee, Pamela ran in with a scared face.
"Here is Monsieur Bixiou!" said she.
"Go into the bedroom," said the journalist to his mistress; "I will
soon get rid of him. He is one of my most intimate friends, and I
shall have to explain to him my new start in life."
"Oh, ho! dinner for two, and a blue velvet bonnet!" cried Bixiou. "I
am off.--Ah! that is what comes of marrying--one must go through some
partings. How rich one feels when one begins to move one's sticks,
"Who talks of marrying?" said Lousteau.
"What! are you not going to be married, then?" cried Bixiou.
"No? My word, what next? Are you making a fool of yourself, if you
please?--What!--You, who, by the mercy of Heaven, have come across
twenty thousand francs a year, and a house, and a wife connected with
all the first families of the better middle class--a wife, in short,
out of the Rue des Lombards--"
"That will do, Bixiou, enough; it is at an end. Be off!"
"Be off? I have a friend's privileges, and I shall take every
advantage of them.--What has come over you?"
"What has 'come over' me is my lady from Sancerre. She is a mother,
and we are going to live together happily to the end of our days.--You
would have heard it to-morrow, so you may as well be told it now."
"Many chimney-pots are falling on my head, as Arnal says. But if this
woman really loves you, my dear fellow, she will go back to the place
she came from. Did any provincial woman ever yet find her sea-legs in
Paris? She will wound all your vanities. Have you forgotten what a
provincial is? She will bore you as much when she is happy as when she
is sad; she will have as great a talent for escaping grace as a
Parisian has in inventing it.
"Lousteau, listen to me. That a passion should lead you to forget to
some extent the times in which we live, is conceivable; but I, my dear
fellow, have not the mythological bandage over my eyes.--Well, then
consider your position. For fifteen years you have been tossing in the
literary world; you are no longer young, you have padded the hoof till
your soles are worn through!--Yes, my boy, you turn your socks under
like a street urchin to hide the holes, so that the legs cover the
heels! In short, the joke is too stale. Your excuses are more familiar
than a patent medicine--"
"I may say to you, like the Regent to Cardinal Dubois, 'That is
kicking enough!' " said Lousteau, laughing.
"Oh, venerable young man," replied Bixiou, "the iron has touched the
sore to the quick. You are worn out, aren't you? Well, then; in the
heyday of youth, under the pressure of penury, what have you done? You
are not in the front rank, and you have not a thousand francs of your
own. That is the sum-total of the situation. Can you, in the decline
of your powers, support a family by your pen, when your wife, if she
is an honest woman, will not have at her command the resources of the
woman of the streets, who can extract her thousand-franc note from the
depths where milord keeps it safe? You are rushing into the lowest
depths of the social theatre.
"And this is only the financial side. Now, consider the political
position. We are struggling in an essentially /bourgeois/ age, in
which honor, virtue, high-mindedness, talent, learning--genius, in
short, is summed up in paying your way, owing nobody anything, and
conducting your affairs with judgment. Be steady, be respectable, have
a wife, and children, pay your rent and taxes, serve in the National
Guard, and be on the same pattern as all the men of your company--then
you may indulge in the loftiest pretensions, rise to the Ministry!--
and you have the best chances possible, since you are no Montmorency.
You were preparing to fulfil all the conditions insisted on for
turning out a political personage, you are capable of every mean trick
that is necessary in office, even of pretending to be commonplace--you
would have acted it to the life. And just for a woman, who will leave
you in the lurch--the end of every eternal passion--in three, five, or
seven years--after exhausting your last physical and intellectual
powers, you turn your back on the sacred Hearth, on the Rue des
Lombards, on a political career, on thirty thousand francs per annum,
on respectability and respect!--Ought that to be the end of a man who
has done with illusions?
"If you had kept a pot boiling for some actress who gave you your fun
for it--well; that is what you may call a cabinet matter. But to live
with another man's wife? It is a draft at sight on disaster; it is
bolting the bitter pills of vice with none of the gilding."
"That will do. One word answers it all; I love Madame de la Baudraye,
and prefer her to every fortune, to every position the world can
offer.--I may have been carried away by a gust of ambition, but
everything must give way to the joy of being a father."
"Ah, ha! you have a fancy for paternity? But, wretched man, we are the
fathers only of our legitimate children. What is a brat that does not
bear your name? The last chapter of the romance.--Your child will be
taken from you! We have seen that story in twenty plays these ten
"Society, my dear boy, will drop upon you sooner or later. Read
/Adolphe/ once more.--Dear me! I fancy I can see you when you and she
are used to each other;--I see you dejected, hang-dog, bereft of
position and fortune, and fighting like the shareholders of a bogus
company when they are tricked by a director!--Your director is
"Say no more, Bixiou."
"But I have only just begun," said Bixiou. "Listen, my dear boy.
Marriage has been out of favor for some time past; but, apart from the
advantages it offers in being the only recognized way of certifying
heredity, as it affords a good-looking young man, though penniless,
the opportunity of making his fortune in two months, it survives in
spite of disadvantages. And there is not the man living who would not
repent, sooner or later, of having, by his own fault, lost the chance
of marrying thirty thousand francs a year."
"You won't understand me," cried Lousteau, in a voice of exasperation.
"Go away--she is there----"
"I beg your pardon; why did you not tell me sooner?--You are of age,
and so is she," he added in a lower voice, but loud enough to be heard
by Dinah. "She will make you repent bitterly of your happiness!----"
"If it is a folly, I intend to commit it.--Good-bye."
"A man gone overboard!" cried Bixiou.
"Devil take those friends who think they have a right to preach to
you," said Lousteau, opening the door of the bedroom, where he found
Madame de la Baudraye sunk in an armchair and dabbing her eyes with an
"Oh, why did I come here?" sobbed she. "Good Heavens, why indeed?--
Etienne, I am not so provincial as you think me.--You are making a
fool of me."
"Darling angel," replied Lousteau, taking Dinah in his arms, lifting
her from her chair, and dragging her half dead into the drawing-room,
"we have both pledged our future, it is sacrifice for sacrifice. While
I was loving you at Sancerre, they were engaging me to be married
here, but I refused.--Oh! I was extremely distressed----"
"I am going," cried Dinah, starting wildly to her feet and turning to
"You will stay here, my Didine. All is at an end. And is this fortune
so lightly earned after all? Must I not marry a gawky, tow-haired
creature, with a red nose, the daughter of a notary, and saddle myself
with a stepmother who could give Madame de Piedefer points on the
score of bigotry--"
Pamela flew in, and whispered in Lousteau's ear:
Lousteau rose, leaving Dinah on the sofa, and went out.
"It is all over with you, my dear," said the woman. "Cardot does not
mean to quarrel with his wife for the sake of a son-in-law. The lady
made a scene--something like a scene, I can tell you! So, to conclude,
the head-clerk, who was the late head-clerk's deputy for two years,
agrees to take the girl with the business."
"Mean wretch!" exclaimed Lousteau. "What! in two hours he has made up
"Bless me, that is simple enough. The rascal, who knew all the dead
man's little secrets, guessed what a fix his master was in from
overhearing a few words of the squabble with Madame Cardot. The notary
relies on your honor and good feeling, for the affair is settled. The
clerk, whose conduct has been admirable, went so far as to attend
mass! A finished hypocrite, I say--just suits the mamma. You and
Cardot will still be friends. He is to be a director in an immense
financial concern, and he may be of use to you.--So you have been
waked from a sweet dream."
"I have lost a fortune, a wife, and--"
"And a mistress," said Madame Schontz, smiling. "Here you are, more
than married; you will be insufferable, you will be always wanting to
get home, there will be nothing loose about you, neither your clothes
nor your habits. And, after all, my Arthur does things in style. I
will be faithful to him and cut Malaga's acquaintance.
"Let me peep at her through the door--your Sancerre Muse," she went
on. "Is there no finer bird than that to be found in the desert?" she
exclaimed. "You are cheated! She is dignified, lean, lachrymose; she
only needs Lady Dudley's turban!"
"What is it now?" asked Madame de la Baudraye, who had heard the
rustle of a silk dress and the murmur of a woman's voice.
"It is, my darling, that we are now indissolubly united.--I have just
had an answer to the letter you saw me write, which was to break off
"So that was the party which you gave up?"
"Oh, I will be more than your wife--I am your slave, I give you my
life," said the poor deluded creature. "I did not believe I could love
you more than I did!--Now I shall not be a mere incident, but your
"Yes, my beautiful, my generous Didine."
"Swear to me," said she, "that only death shall divide us."
Lousteau was ready to sweeten his vows with the most fascinating
prettinesses. And this was why. Between the door of the apartment
where he had taken the lorette's farewell kiss, and that of the
drawing-room, where the Muse was reclining, bewildered by such a
succession of shocks, Lousteau had remembered little De la Baudraye's
precarious health, his fine fortune, and Bianchon's remark about
Dinah, "She will be a rich widow!" and he said to himself, "I would a
hundred times rather have Madame de la Baudraye for a wife than
His plan of action was quickly decided on; he determined to play the
farce of passion once more, and to perfection. His mean self-
interestedness and his false vehemence of passion had disastrous
results. Madame de la Baudraye, when she set out from Sancerre for
Paris, had intended to live in rooms of her own quite near to
Lousteau; but the proofs of devotion her lover had given her by giving
up such brilliant prospects, and yet more the perfect happiness of the
first days of their illicit union, kept her from mentioning such a
parting. The second day was to be--and indeed was--a high festival, in
which such a suggestion proposed to "her angel" would have been a
Lousteau, on his part, anxious to make Dinah feel herself dependent on
him, kept her in a state of constant intoxication by incessant
amusement. These circumstances hindered two persons so clever as these
were from avoiding the slough into which they fell--that of a life in
common, a piece of folly of which, unfortunately, many instances may
be seen in Paris in literary circles.
And thus was the whole programme played out of a provincial amour, so
satirically described by Lousteau to Madame de la Baudraye--a fact
which neither he nor she remembered. Passion is born a deaf-mute.
This winter in Paris was to Madame de la Baudraye all that the month
of October had been at Sancerre. Etienne, to initiate "his wife" into
Paris life, varied this honeymoon by evenings at the play, where Dinah
would only go to the stage box. At first Madame de la Baudraye
preserved some remnants of her countrified modesty; she was afraid of
being seen; she hid her happiness. She would say:
"Monsieur de Clagny or Monsieur Gravier may have followed me to
Paris." She was afraid on Sancerre even in Paris.
Lousteau, who was excessively vain, educated Dinah, took her to the
best dressmakers, and pointed out to her the most fashionable women,
advising her to take them as models for imitation. And Madame de la
Baudraye's provincial appearance was soon a thing of the past.
Lousteau, when his friends met him, was congratulated on his conquest.
All through that season Etienne wrote little and got very much into
debt, though Dinah, who was proud, bought all her clothes out of her
savings, and fancied she had not been the smallest expense to her
beloved. By the end of three months Dinah was acclimatized; she had
reveled in the music at the Italian opera; she knew the pieces "on" at
all theatres, and the actors and jests of the day; she had become
inured to this life of perpetual excitement, this rapid torrent in
which everything is forgotten. She no longer craned her neck or stood
with her nose in the air, like an image of Amazement, at the constant
surprises that Paris has for a stranger. She had learned to breathe
that witty, vitalizing, teeming atmosphere where clever people feel
themselves in their element, and which they can no longer bear to
One morning, as she read the papers, for Lousteau had them all, two
lines carried her back to Sancerre and the past, two lines that seemed
not unfamiliar--as follows:
"Monsieur le Baron de Clagny, Public Prosecutor to the Criminal Court
at Sancerre, has been appointed Deputy Public Prosecutor to the
Supreme Court in Paris."
"How well that worthy lawyer loves you!" said the journalist, smiling.
"Poor man! said she. "What did I tell you? He is following me."
Etienne and Dinah were just then at the most dazzling and fervid stage
of a passion when each is perfectly accustomed to the other, and yet
love has not lost its freshness and relish. The lovers know each other
well, but all is not yet understood; they have not been a second time
to the same secret haunts of the soul; they have not studied each
other till they know, as they must later, the very thought, word, and
gesture that responds to every event, the greatest and the smallest.
Enchantment reigns; there are no collisions, no differences of
opinion, no cold looks. Their two souls are always on the same side.
And Dinah would speak the magical words, emphasized by the yet more
magical expression and looks which every woman can use under such
"When you cease to love me, kill me.--If you should cease to love me,
I believe I could kill you first and myself after."
To this sweet exaggeration, Lousteau would reply:
"All I ask of God is to see you as constant as I shall be. It is you
who will desert me!"
"My love is supreme."
"Supreme," echoed Lousteau. "Come, now? Suppose I am dragged away to a
bachelor party, and find there one of my former mistresses, and she
makes fun of me; I, out of vanity, behave as if I were free, and do
not come in here till next morning--would you still love me?"
"A woman is only sure of being loved when she is preferred; and if you
came back to me, if--Oh! you make me understand what the happiness
would be of forgiving the man I adore."
"Well, then, I am truly loved for the first time in my life!" cried
"At last you understand that!" said she.
Lousteau proposed that they should each write a letter setting forth
the reasons which would compel them to end by suicide. Once in
possession of such a document, each might kill the other without
danger in case of infidelity. But in spite of mutual promises, neither
wrote the letter.
The journalist, happy for the moment, promised himself that he would
deceive Dinah when he should be tired of her, and would sacrifice
everything to the requirements of that deception. To him Madame de la
Baudraye was a fortune in herself. At the same time, he felt the yoke.
Dinah, by consenting to this union, showed a generous mind and the
power derived from self-respect. In this absolute intimacy, in which
both lovers put off their masks, the young woman never abdicated her
modesty, her masculine rectitude, and the strength peculiar to
ambitious souls, which formed the basis of her character. Lousteau
involuntarily held her in high esteem. As a Parisian, Dinah was
superior to the most fascinating courtesan; she could be as amusing
and as witty as Malaga; but her extensive information, her habits of
mind, her vast reading enabled her to generalize her wit, while the
Florines and the Schontzes exerted theirs over a very narrow circle.
"There is in Dinah," said Etienne to Bixiou, "the stuff to make both a
Ninon and a De Stael."
"A woman who combines an encyclopaedia and a seraglio is very
dangerous," replied the mocking spirit.
When the expected infant became a visible fact, Madame de la Baudraye
would be seen no more; but before shutting herself up, never to go out
unless into the country, she was bent on being present at the first
performance of a play by Nathan. This literary solemnity occupied the
minds of the two thousand persons who regard themselves as
constituting "all Paris." Dinah, who had never been at a first night's
performance, was very full of natural curiosity. She had by this time
arrived at such a pitch of affection for Lousteau that she gloried in
her misconduct; she exerted a sort of savage strength to defy the
world; she was determined to look it in the face without turning her
She dressed herself to perfection, in a style suited to her delicate
looks and the sickly whiteness of her face. Her pallid complexion gave
her an expression of refinement, and her black hair in smooth bands
enhanced her pallor. Her brilliant gray eyes looked finer than ever,
set in dark rings. But a terribly distressing incident awaited her. By
a very simple chance, the box given to the journalist, on the first
tier, was next to that which Anna Grossetete had taken. The two
intimate friends did not even bow; neither chose to acknowledge the
other. At the end of the first act Lousteau left his seat, abandoning
Dinah to the fire of eyes, the glare of opera-glasses; while the
Baronne de Fontaine and the Comtesse Marie de Vandenesse, who
accompanied her, received some of the most distinguished men of
Dinah's solitude was all the more distressing because she had not the
art of putting a good face to the matter by examining the company
through her opera-glass. In vain did she try to assume a dignified and
thoughtful attitude, and fix her eyes on vacancy; she was
overpoweringly conscious of being the object of general attention; she
could not disguise her discomfort, and lapsed a little into
provincialism, displaying her handkerchief and making involuntary
movements of which she had almost cured herself. At last, between the
second and third acts, a man had himself admitted to Dinah's box! It
was Monsieur de Clagny.
"I am happy to see you, to tell you how much I am pleased by your
promotion," said she.
"Oh! Madame, for whom should I come to Paris----?"
"What!" said she. "Have I anything to do with your appointment?"
"Everything," said he. "Since you left Sancerre, it had become
intolerable to me; I was dying--"
"Your sincere friendship does me good," replied she, holding out her
hand. "I am in a position to make much of my true friends; I now know
their value.--I feared I must have lost your esteem, but the proof you
have given me by this visit touches me more deeply than your ten
"You are an object of curiosity to the whole house," said the lawyer.
"Oh! my dear, is this a part for you to be playing? Could you not be
happy and yet remain honored?--I have just heard that you are Monsieur
Etienne Lousteau's mistress, that you live together as man and wife!--
You have broken for ever with society; even if you should some day
marry your lover, the time will come when you will feel the want of
the respectability you now despise. Ought you not to be in a home of
your own with your mother, who loves you well enough to protect you
with her aegis?--Appearances at least would be saved."
"I am in the wrong to have come here," replied she, "that is all.--I
have bid farewell to all the advantages which the world confers on
women who know how to reconcile happiness and the proprieties. My
abnegation is so complete that I only wish I could clear a vast space
about me to make a desert of my love, full of God, of /him/, and of
myself.--We have made too many sacrifices on both sides not to be
united--united by disgrace if you will, but indissolubly one. I am
happy; so happy that I can love freely, my friend, and confide in you
more than of old--for I need a friend."
The lawyer was magnanimous, nay, truly great. To this declaration, in
which Dinah's soul thrilled, he replied in heartrending tones:
"I wanted to go to see you, to be sure that you were loved: I shall
now be easy and no longer alarmed as to your future.--But will your
lover appreciate the magnitude of your sacrifice; is there any
gratitude in his affection?"
"Come to the Rue des Martyrs and you will see!"
"Yes, I will call," he replied. "I have already passed your door
without daring to inquire for you.--You do not yet know the literary
world. There are glorious exceptions, no doubt; but these men of
letters drag terrible evils in their train; among these I account
publicity as one of the greatest, for it blights everything. A woman
may commit herself with--"
"With a Public Prosecutor?" the Baronne put in with a smile.
"Well!--and then after a rupture there is still something to fall back
on; the world has known nothing. But with a more or less famous man
the public is thoroughly informed. Why look there! What an example you
have close at hand! You are sitting back to back with the Comtesse
Marie Vandenesse, who was within an ace of committing the utmost folly
for a more celebrated man than Lousteau--for Nathan--and now they do
not even recognize each other. After going to the very edge of the
precipice, the Countess was saved, no one knows how; she neither left
her husband nor her house; but as a famous man was scorned, she was
the talk of the town for a whole winter. But her husband's great
fortune, great name, and high position, but for the admirable
management of that true statesman--whose conduct to his wife, they
say, was perfect--she would have been ruined; in her position no other
woman would have remained respected as she is."
"And how was Sancerre when you came away?" asked Madame de la
Baudraye, to change the subject.
"Monsieur de la Baudraye announced that your expected confinement
after so many years made it necessary that it should take place in
Paris, and that he had insisted on your going to be attended by the
first physicians," replied Monsieur de Clagny, guessing what it was
that Dinah most wanted to know. "And so, in spite of the commotion to
which your departure gave rise, you still have your legal status."
"Why!" she exclaimed, "can Monsieur de la Baudraye still hope----"
"Your husband, madame, did what he always does--made a little
The lawyer left the box when the journalist returned, bowing with
"You are a greater hit than the piece," said Etienne to Dinah.
This brief triumph brought greater happiness to the poor woman than
she had ever known in the whole of her provincial existence; still, as
they left the theatre she was very grave.
"What ails you, my Didine?" asked Lousteau.
"I am wondering how a woman succeeds in conquering the world?"
"There are two ways. One is by being Madame de Stael, the other is by
having two hundred thousand francs a year."
"Society," said she, "asserts its hold on us by appealing to our
vanity, our love of appearances.--Pooh! We will be philosophers!"
That evening was the last gleam of the delusive well-being in which
Madame de la Baudraye had lived since coming to Paris. Three days
later she observed a cloud on Lousteau's brow as he walked round the
little garden-plot smoking a cigar. This woman, who had acquired from
her husband the habit and the pleasure of never owing anybody a sou,
was informed that the household was penniless, with two quarters' rent
owing, and on the eve, in fact, of an execution.
This reality of Paris life pierced Dinah's heart like a thorn; she
repented of having tempted Etienne into the extravagances of love. It
is so difficult to pass from pleasure to work, that happiness has
wrecked more poems than sorrows ever helped to flow in sparkling jets.
Dinah, happy in seeing Etienne taking his ease, smoking a cigar after
breakfast, his face beaming as he basked like a lizard in the
sunshine, could not summon up courage enough to make herself the bum-
bailiff of a magazine.
It struck her that through the worthy Migeon, Pamela's father, she
might pawn the few jewels she possessed, on which her "uncle," for she
was learning to talk the slang of the town, advanced her nine hundred
francs. She kept three hundred for her baby-clothes and the expenses
of her illness, and joyfully presented the sum due to Lousteau, who
was ploughing, furrow by furrow, or, if you will, line by line,
through a novel for a periodical.
"Dearest heart," said she, "finish your novel without making any
sacrifice to necessity; polish the style, work up the subject.--I have
played the fine lady too long; I am going to be the housewife and
attend to business."
For the last four months Etienne had been taking Dinah to the Cafe
Riche to dine every day, a corner being always kept for them. The
countrywoman was in dismay at being told that five hundred francs were
owing for the last fortnight.
"What! we have been drinking wine at six francs a bottle! A sole
/Normande/ costs five francs!--and twenty centimes for a roll?" she
exclaimed, as she looked through the bill Lousteau showed her.
"Well, it makes very little difference to us whether we are robbed at
a restaurant or by a cook," said Lousteau.
"Henceforth, for the cost of your dinner, you shall live like a
Having induced the landlord to let her have a kitchen and two
servants' rooms, Madame de la Baudraye wrote a few lines to her
mother, begging her to send her some linen and a loan of a thousand
francs. She received two trunks full of linen, some plate, and two
thousand francs, sent by the hand of an honest and pious cook
recommended her by her mother.
Ten days after the evening at the theatre when they had met, Monsieur
de Clagny came to call at four o'clock, after coming out of court, and
found Madame de la Baudraye making a little cap. The sight of this
proud and ambitious woman, whose mind was so accomplished, and who had
queened it so well at the Chateau d'Anzy, now condescending to
household cares and sewing for the coming infant, moved the poor
lawyer, who had just left the bench. And as he saw the pricks on one
of the taper fingers he had so often kissed, he understood that Madame
de la Baudraye was not merely playing at this maternal task.
In the course of this first interview the magistrate saw to the depths
of Dinah's soul. This perspicacity in a man so much in love was a
superhuman effort. He saw that Didine meant to be the journalist's
guardian spirit and lead him into a nobler road; she had seen that the
difficulties of his practical life were due to some moral defects.
Between two beings united by love--in one so genuine, and in the other
so well feigned--more than one confidence had been exchanged in the
course of four months. Notwithstanding the care with which Etienne
wrapped up his true self, a word now and then had not failed to
enlighten Dinah as to the previous life of a man whose talents were so
hampered by poverty, so perverted by bad examples, so thwarted by
obstacles beyond his courage to surmount. "He will be a greater man if
life is easy to him," said she to herself. And she strove to make him
happy, to give him the sense of a sheltered home by dint of such
economy and method as are familiar to provincial folks. Thus Dinah
became a housekeeper, as she had become a poet, by the soaring of her
soul towards the heights.
"His happiness will be my absolution."
These words, wrung from Madame de la Baudraye by her friend the
lawyer, accounted for the existing state of things. The publicity of
his triumph, flaunted by Etienne on the evening of the first
performance, had very plainly shown the lawyer what Lousteau's purpose
was. To Etienne, Madame de la Baudraye was, to use his own phrase, "a
fine feather in his cap." Far from preferring the joys of a shy and
mysterious passion, of hiding such exquisite happiness from the eyes
of the world, he found a vulgar satisfaction in displaying the first
woman of respectability who had ever honored him with her affection.
The Judge, however, was for some time deceived by the attentions which
any man would lavish on any woman in Madame de la Baudraye's
situation, and Lousteau made them doubly charming by the ingratiating
ways characteristic of men whose manners are naturally attractive.
There are, in fact, men who have something of the monkey in them by
nature, and to whom the assumption of the most engaging forms of
sentiment is so easy that the actor is not detected; and Lousteau's
natural gifts had been fully developed on the stage on which he had
Between the months of April and July, when Dinah expected her
confinement, she discovered why it was that Lousteau had not triumphed
over poverty; he was idle and had no power of will. The brain, to be
sure, must obey its own laws; it recognizes neither the exigencies of
life nor the voice of honor; a man cannot write a great book because a
woman is dying, or to pay a discreditable debt, or to bring up a
family; at the same time, there is no great talent without a strong
will. These twin forces are requisite for the erection of the vast
edifice of personal glory. A distinguished genius keeps his brain in a
productive condition, just as the knights of old kept their weapons
always ready for battle. They conquer indolence, they deny themselves
enervating pleasures, or indulge only to a fixed limit proportioned to
their powers. This explains the life of such men as Walter Scott,
Cuvier, Voltaire, Newton, Buffon, Bayle, Bossuet, Leibnitz, Lopez de
Vega, Calderon, Boccacio, Aretino, Aristotle--in short, every man who
delighted, governed, or led his contemporaries.
A man may and ought to pride himself more on his will than on his
talent. Though Talent has its germ in a cultivated gift, Will means
the incessant conquest of his instincts, of proclivities subdued and
mortified, and difficulties of every kind heroically defeated. The
abuse of smoking encouraged Lousteau's indolence. Tobacco, which can
lull grief, inevitably numbs a man's energy.
Then, while the cigar deteriorated him physically, criticism as a
profession morally stultified a man so easily tempted by pleasure.
Criticism is as fatal to the critic as seeing two sides to a question
is to a pleader. In these professions the judgment is undermined, the
mind loses its lucid rectitude. The writer lives by taking sides.
Thus, we may distinguish two kinds of criticism, as in painting we may
distinguish art from practical dexterity. Criticism, after the pattern
of most contemporary leader-writers, is the expression of judgments
formed at random in a more or less witty way, just as an advocate
pleads in court on the most contradictory briefs. The newspaper critic
always finds a subject to work up in the book he is discussing. Done
after this fashion, the business is well adapted to indolent brains,
to men devoid of the sublime faculty of imagination, or, possessed of
it indeed, but lacking courage to cultivate it. Every play, every book
comes to their pen as a subject, making no demand on their
imagination, and of which they simply write a report, seriously or in
irony, according to the mood of the moment. As to an opinion, whatever
it may be, French wit can always justify it, being admirably ready to
defend either side of any case. And conscience counts for so little,
these /bravi/ have so little value for their own words, that they will
loudly praise in the greenroom the work they tear to tatters in print.
Nay, men have been known to transfer their services from one paper to
another without being at the pains to consider that the opinions of
the new sheet must be diametrically antagonistic to those of the old.
Madame de la Baudraye could smile to see Lousteau with one article on
the Legitimist side and one on the side of the new dynasty, both on
the same occasion. She admired the maxim he preached:
"We are the attorneys of public opinion."
The other kind of criticism is a science. It necessitates a thorough
comprehension of each work, a lucid insight into the tendencies of the
age, the adoption of a system, and faith in fixed principles--that is
to say, a scheme of jurisprudence, a summing-up, and a verdict. The
critic is then a magistrate of ideas, the censor of his time; he
fulfils a sacred function; while in the former case he is but an
acrobat who turns somersaults for a living so long as he had a leg to
stand on. Between Claude Vignon and Lousteau lay the gulf that divides
mere dexterity from art.
Dinah, whose mind was soon freed from rust, and whose intellect was by
no means narrow, had ere long taken literary measure of her idol. She
saw Lousteau working up to the last minute under the most
discreditable compulsion, and scamping his work, as painters say of a
picture from which sound technique is absent; but she would excuse him
by saying, "He is a poet!" so anxious was she to justify him in her
own eyes. When she thus guessed the secret of many a writer's
existence, she also guessed that Lousteau's pen could never be trusted
to as a resource.
Then her love for him led her to take a step she would never had
thought of for her own sake. Through her mother she tried to negotiate
with her husband for an allowance, but without Etienne's knowledge;
for, as she thought, it would be an offence to his delicate feelings,
which must be considered. A few days before the end of July, Dinah
crumbled up in her wrath the letter from her mother containing
Monsieur de la Baudraye's ultimatum:
"Madame de la Baudraye cannot need an allowance in Paris when she can
live in perfect luxury at her Chateau of Anzy: she may return."
Lousteau picked up this letter and read it.
"I will avenge you!" said he to Dinah in the ominous tone that
delights a woman when her antipathies are flattered.
Five days after this Bianchon and Duriau, the famous ladies' doctor,
were engaged at Lousteau's; for he, ever since little La Baudraye's
reply, had been making a great display of his joy and importance over
the advent of the infant. Monsieur de Clagny and Madame Piedefer--sent
for in all haste were to be the godparents, for the cautious
magistrate feared lest Lousteau should commit some compromising
blunder. Madame de la Baudraye gave birth to a boy that might have
filled a queen with envy who hoped for an heir-presumptive.
Bianchon and Monsieur de Clagny went off to register the child at the
Mayor's office as the son of Monsieur and Madame de la Baudraye,
unknown to Etienne, who, on his part, rushed off to a printer's to
have this circular set up:
/"Madame la Baronne de la Baudraye is happily delivered of a son.
"Monsieur Etienne Lousteau has the pleasure of informing you of
"The mother and child are doing well."/
Lousteau had already sent out sixty of these announcements when
Monsieur de Clagny, on coming to make inquiries, happened to see the
list of persons at Sancerre to whom Lousteau proposed to send this
amazing notice, written below the names of the persons in Paris to
whom it was already gone. The lawyer confiscated the list and the
remainder of the circulars, showed them to Madame Piedefer, begging
her on no account to allow Lousteau to carry on this atrocious jest,
and jumped into a cab. The devoted friend then ordered from the same
printer another announcement in the following words:
/"Madame la Baronne de la Baudraye is happily delivered of a son.
"Monsieur le Baron de la Baudraye has the honor of informing you
of the fact.
"Mother and child are doing well."/
After seeing the proofs destroyed, the form of type, everything that
could bear witness to the existence of the former document, Monsieur
de Clagny set to work to intercept those that had been sent; in many
cases he changed them at the porter's lodge, he got back thirty into
his own hands, and at last, after three days of hard work, only one of
the original notes existed, that, namely sent to Nathan.
Five times had the lawyer called on the great man without finding him.
By the time Monsieur de Clagny was admitted, after requesting an
interview, the story of the announcement was known to all Paris. Some
persons regarded it as one of those waggish calumnies, a sort of stab
to which every reputation, even the most ephemeral, is exposed; others
said they had read the paper and returned it to some friend of the La
Baudraye family; a great many declaimed against the immorality of
journalists; in short, this last remaining specimen was regarded as a
curiosity. Florine, with whom Nathan was living, had shown it about,
stamped in the post as paid, and addressed in Etienne's hand. So, as
soon as the judge spoke of the announcement, Nathan began to smile.
"Give up that monument of recklessness and folly?" cried he. "That
autograph is one of those weapons which an athlete in the circus
cannot afford to lay down. That note proves that Lousteau has no
heart, no taste, no dignity; that he knows nothing of the world nor of
public morality; that he insults himself when he can find no one else