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Two Poets by Honore De Balzac

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Produced by Dagny; and John Bickers

(Lost Illusions Part I)



Translated By
Ellen Marriage


Two Poets is part one of a trilogy and begins the story of
Lucien, his sister Eve, and his friend David in the provincial
town of Angouleme. Part two, A Distinguished Provincial at
Paris is centered on Lucien's Parisian life. Part three, Eve
and David, reverts to the setting of Angouleme. In many
references parts one and three are combined under the title
Lost Illusions and A Distinguished Provincial at Paris is given
its individual title. Following this trilogy Lucien's story
is continued in another book, Scenes from a Courtesan's Life.



To Monsieur Victor Hugo,

It was your birthright to be, like a Rafael or a Pitt, a great
poet at an age when other men are children; it was your fate, the
fate of Chateaubriand and of every man of genius, to struggle
against jealousy skulking behind the columns of a newspaper, or
crouching in the subterranean places of journalism. For this
reason I desired that your victorious name should help to win a
victory for this work that I inscribe to you, a work which, if
some persons are to be believed, is an act of courage as well as a
veracious history. If there had been journalists in the time of
Moliere, who can doubt but that they, like marquises, financiers,
doctors, and lawyers, would have been within the province of the
writer of plays? And why should Comedy, _qui castigat ridendo
mores_, make an exception in favor of one power, when the Parisian
press spares none? I am happy, monsieur, in this opportunity of
subscribing myself your sincere admirer and friend,



At the time when this story opens, the Stanhope press and the
ink-distributing roller were not as yet in general use in small
provincial printing establishments. Even at Angouleme, so closely
connected through its paper-mills with the art of typography in Paris,
the only machinery in use was the primitive wooden invention to which
the language owes a figure of speech--"the press groans" was no mere
rhetorical expression in those days. Leather ink-balls were still used
in old-fashioned printing houses; the pressman dabbed the ink by hand
on the characters, and the movable table on which the form of type was
placed in readiness for the sheet of paper, being made of marble,
literally deserved its name of "impression-stone." Modern machinery
has swept all this old-world mechanism into oblivion; the wooden press
which, with all its imperfections, turned out such beautiful work for
the Elzevirs, Plantin, Aldus, and Didot is so completely forgotten,
that something must be said as to the obsolete gear on which
Jerome-Nicolas Sechard set an almost superstitious affection, for it
plays a part in this chronicle of great small things.

Sechard had been in his time a journeyman pressman, a "bear" in
compositors' slang. The continued pacing to and fro of the pressman
from ink-table to press, from press to ink-table, no doubt suggested
the nickname. The "bears," however, make matters even by calling the
compositors monkeys, on account of the nimble industry displayed by
those gentlemen in picking out the type from the hundred and fifty-two
compartments of the cases.

In the disastrous year 1793, Sechard, being fifty years old and a
married man, escaped the great Requisition which swept the bulk of
French workmen into the army. The old pressman was the only hand left
in the printing-house; and when the master (otherwise the "gaffer")
died, leaving a widow, but no children, the business seemed to be on
the verge of extinction; for the solitary "bear" was quite incapable
of the feat of transformation into a "monkey," and in his quality of
pressman had never learned to read or write. Just then, however, a
Representative of the People being in a mighty hurry to publish the
Decrees of the Convention, bestowed a master printer's license on
Sechard, and requisitioned the establishment. Citizen Sechard accepted
the dangerous patent, bought the business of his master's widow with
his wife's savings, and took over the plant at half its value. But he
was not even at the beginning. He was bound to print the Decrees of
the Republic without mistakes and without delay.

In this strait Jerome-Nicolas Sechard had the luck to discover a noble
Marseillais who had no mind to emigrate and lose his lands, nor yet to
show himself openly and lose his head, and consequently was fain to
earn a living by some lawful industry. A bargain was struck. M. le
Comte de Maucombe, disguised in a provincial printer's jacket, set up,
read, and corrected the decrees which forbade citizens to harbor
aristocrats under pain of death; while the "bear," now a "gaffer,"
printed the copies and duly posted them, and the pair remained safe
and sound.

In 1795, when the squall of the Terror had passed over, Nicolas
Sechard was obliged to look out for another jack-of-all-trades to be
compositor, reader, and foreman in one; and an Abbe who declined the
oath succeeded the Comte de Maucombe as soon as the First Consul
restored public worship. The Abbe became a Bishop at the Restoration,
and in after days the Count and the Abbe met and sat together on the
same bench of the House of Peers.

In 1795 Jerome-Nicolas had not known how to read or write; in 1802 he
had made no progress in either art; but by allowing a handsome margin
for "wear and tear" in his estimates, he managed to pay a foreman's
wages. The once easy-going journeyman was a terror to his "bears" and
"monkeys." Where poverty ceases, avarice begins. From the day when
Sechard first caught a glimpse of the possibility of making a fortune,
a growing covetousness developed and sharpened in him a certain
practical faculty for business--greedy, suspicious, and keen-eyed. He
carried on his craft in disdain of theory. In course of time he had
learned to estimate at a glance the cost of printing per page or per
sheet in every kind of type. He proved to unlettered customers that
large type costs more to move; or, if small type was under discussion,
that it was more difficult to handle. The setting-up of the type was
the one part of his craft of which he knew nothing; and so great was
his terror lest he should not charge enough, that he always made a
heavy profit. He never took his eyes off his compositors while they
were paid by the hour. If he knew that a paper manufacturer was in
difficulties, he would buy up his stock at a cheap rate and warehouse
the paper. So from this time forward he was his own landlord, and
owned the old house which had been a printing office from time

He had every sort of luck. He was left a widower with but one son. The
boy he sent to the grammar school; he must be educated, not so much
for his own sake as to train a successor to the business; and Sechard
treated the lad harshly so as to prolong the time of parental rule,
making him work at case on holidays, telling him that he must learn to
earn his own living, so as to recompense his poor old father, who was
slaving his life out to give him an education.

Then the Abbe went, and Sechard promoted one of his four compositors
to be foreman, making his choice on the future bishop's recommendation
of the man as an honest and intelligent workman. In these ways the
worthy printer thought to tide over the time until his son could take
a business which was sure to extend in young and clever hands.

David Sechard's school career was a brilliant one. Old Sechard, as a
"bear" who had succeeded in life without any education, entertained a
very considerable contempt for attainments in book learning; and when
he sent his son to Paris to study the higher branches of typography,
he recommended the lad so earnestly to save a good round sum in the
"working man's paradise" (as he was pleased to call the city), and so
distinctly gave the boy to understand that he was not to draw upon the
paternal purse, that it seemed as if old Sechard saw some way of
gaining private ends of his own by that sojourn in the Land of
Sapience. So David learned his trade, and completed his education at
the same time, and Didot's foreman became a scholar; and yet when he
left Paris at the end of 1819, summoned home by his father to take the
helm of business, he had not cost his parent a farthing.

Now Nicolas Sechard's establishment hitherto had enjoyed a monopoly of
all the official printing in the department, besides the work of the
prefecture and the diocese--three connections which should prove
mighty profitable to an active young printer; but precisely at this
juncture the firm of Cointet Brothers, paper manufacturers, applied to
the authorities for the second printer's license in Angouleme.
Hitherto old Sechard had contrived to reduce this license to a dead
letter, thanks to the war crisis of the Empire, and consequent atrophy
of commercial enterprise; but he had neglected to buy up the right
himself, and this piece of parsimony was the ruin of the old business.
Sechard thought joyfully when he heard the news that the coming
struggle with the Cointets would be fought out by his son and not by

"I should have gone to the wall," he thought, "but a young fellow from
the Didots will pull through."

The septuagenarian sighed for the time when he could live at ease in
his own fashion. If his knowledge of the higher branches of the craft
of printing was scanty, on the other hand, he was supposed to be past
master of an art which workmen pleasantly call "tipple-ography," an
art held in high esteem by the divine author of _Pantagruel_; though of
late, by reason of the persecution of societies yclept of Temperance,
the cult has fallen, day by day, into disuse.

Jerome-Nicolas Sechard, bound by the laws of etymology to be a dry
subject, suffered from an inextinguishable thirst. His wife, during
her lifetime, managed to control within reasonable bounds the passion
for the juice of the grape, a taste so natural to the bear that M. de
Chateaubriand remarked it among the ursine tribes of the New World.
But philosophers inform us that old age is apt to revert to the habits
of youth, and Sechard senior is a case in point--the older he grew,
the better he loved to drink. The master-passion had given a stamp of
originality to an ursine physiognomy; his nose had developed till it
reached the proportions of a double great-canon A; his veined cheeks
looked like vine-leaves, covered, as they were, with bloated patches
of purple, madder red, and often mottled hues; till altogether, the
countenance suggested a huge truffle clasped about by autumn vine
tendrils. The little gray eyes, peering out from beneath thick
eyebrows like bushes covered with snow, were agleam with the cunning
of avarice that had extinguished everything else in the man, down to
the very instinct of fatherhood. Those eyes never lost their cunning
even when disguised in drink. Sechard put you in mind of one of La
Fontaine's Franciscan friars, with the fringe of grizzled hair still
curling about his bald pate. He was short and corpulent, like one of
the old-fashioned lamps for illumination, that burn a vast deal of oil
to a very small piece of wick; for excess of any sort confirms the
habit of body, and drunkenness, like much study, makes the fat man
stouter, and the lean man leaner still.

For thirty years Jerome-Nicolas-Sechard had worn the famous municipal
three-cornered hat, which you may still see here and there on the head
of the towncrier in out-of-the-way places. His breeches and waistcoat
were of greenish velveteen, and he wore an old-fashioned brown
greatcoat, gray cotton stockings, and shoes with silver buckles to
them. This costume, in which the workman shone through the burgess,
was so thoroughly in keeping with the man's character, defects, and
way of life, that he might have come ready dressed into the world. You
could no more imagine him apart from his clothes than you could think
of a bulb without its husk. If the old printer had not long since
given the measure of his blind greed, the very nature of the man came
out in the manner of his abdication.

Knowing, as he did, that his son must have learned his business pretty
thoroughly in the great school of the Didots, he had yet been
ruminating for a long while over the bargain that he meant to drive
with David. All that the father made, the son, of course, was bound to
lose, but in business this worthy knew nothing of father or son. If,
in the first instance, he had looked on David as his only child, later
he came to regard him as the natural purchaser of the business, whose
interests were therefore his own. Sechard meant to sell dear; David,
of course, to buy cheap; his son, therefore, was an antagonist, and it
was his duty to get the better of him. The transformation of sentiment
into self-seeking, ordinarily slow, tortuous, and veiled by hypocrisy
in better educated people, was swift and direct in the old "bear," who
demonstrated the superiority of shrewd tipple-ography over
book-learned typography.

David came home, and the old man received him with all the cordiality
which cunning folk can assume with an eye to business. He was as full
of thought for him as any lover for his mistress; giving him his arm,
telling him where to put his foot down so as to avoid the mud, warming
the bed for him, lighting a fire in his room, making his supper ready.
The next day, after he had done his best to fluster his son's wits
over a sumptuous dinner, Jerome-Nicolas Sechard, after copious
potations, began with a "Now for business," a remark so singularly
misplaced between two hiccoughs, that David begged his parent to
postpone serious matters until the morrow. But the old "bear" was by
no means inclined to put off the long-expected battle; he was too well
prepared to turn his tipsiness to good account. He had dragged the
chain these fifty years, he would not wear it another hour; to-morrow
his son should be the "gaffer."

Perhaps a word or two about the business premises may be said here.
The printing-house had been established since the reign of Louis XIV.
in the angle made by the Rue de Beaulieu and the Place du Murier; it
had been devoted to its present purposes for a long time past. The
ground floor consisted of a single huge room lighted on the side next
the street by an old-fashioned casement, and by a large sash window
that gave upon the yard at the back. A passage at the side led to the
private office; but in the provinces the processes of typography
excite such a lively interest, that customers usually preferred to
enter by way of the glass door in the street front, though they at
once descended three steps, for the floor of the workshop lay below
the level of the street. The gaping newcomer always failed to note the
perils of the passage through the shop; and while staring at the
sheets of paper strung in groves across the ceiling, ran against the
rows of cases, or knocked his hat against the tie-bars that secured
the presses in position. Or the customer's eyes would follow the agile
movements of a compositor, picking out type from the hundred and
fifty-two compartments of his case, reading his copy, verifying the
words in the composing-stick, and leading the lines, till a ream of
damp paper weighted with heavy slabs, and set down in the middle of
the gangway, tripped up the bemused spectator, or he caught his hip
against the angle of a bench, to the huge delight of boys, "bears,"
and "monkeys." No wight had ever been known to reach the further end
without accident. A couple of glass-windowed cages had been built out
into the yard at the back; the foreman sat in state in the one, the
master printer in the other. Out in the yard the walls were agreeably
decorated by trellised vines, a tempting bit of color, considering the
owner's reputation. On the one side of the space stood the kitchen, on
the other the woodshed, and in a ramshackle penthouse against the hall
at the back, the paper was trimmed and damped down. Here, too, the
forms, or, in ordinary language, the masses of set-up type, were
washed. Inky streams issuing thence blended with the ooze from the
kitchen sink, and found their way into the kennel in the street
outside; till peasants coming into the town of a market day believed
that the Devil was taking a wash inside the establishment.

As to the house above the printing office, it consisted of three rooms
on the first floor and a couple of attics in the roof. The first room
did duty as dining-room and lobby; it was exactly the same length as
the passage below, less the space taken up by the old-fashioned wooden
staircase; and was lighted by a narrow casement on the street and a
bull's-eye window looking into the yard. The chief characteristic of
the apartment was a cynic simplicity, due to money-making greed. The
bare walls were covered with plain whitewash, the dirty brick floor
had never been scoured, the furniture consisted of three rickety
chairs, a round table, and a sideboard stationed between the two doors
of a bedroom and a sitting-room. Windows and doors alike were dingy
with accumulated grime. Reams of blank paper or printed matter usually
encumbered the floor, and more frequently than not the remains of
Sechard's dinner, empty bottles and plates, were lying about on the

The bedroom was lighted on the side of the yard by a window with
leaded panes, and hung with the old-world tapestry that decorated
house fronts in provincial towns on Corpus Christi Day. For furniture
it boasted a vast four-post bedstead with canopy, valances and quilt
of crimson serge, a couple of worm-eaten armchairs, two
tapestry-covered chairs in walnut wood, an aged bureau, and a timepiece
on the mantel-shelf. The Seigneur Rouzeau, Jerome-Nicolas' master and
predecessor, had furnished the homely old-world room; it was just as
he had left it.

The sitting-room had been partly modernized by the late Mme. Sechard;
the walls were adorned with a wainscot, fearful to behold, painted
the color of powder blue. The panels were decorated with wall-paper
--Oriental scenes in sepia tint--and for all furniture, half-a-dozen
chairs with lyre-shaped backs and blue leather cushions were ranged
round the room. The two clumsy arched windows that gave upon the Place
du Murier were curtainless; there was neither clock nor candle sconce
nor mirror above the mantel-shelf, for Mme. Sechard had died before
she carried out her scheme of decoration; and the "bear," unable to
conceive the use of improvements that brought in no return in money,
had left it at this point.

Hither, _pede titubante_, Jerome-Nicolas Sechard brought his son, and
pointed to a sheet of paper lying on the table--a valuation of plant
drawn up by the foreman under his direction.

"Read that, my boy," said Jerome-Nicolas, rolling a drunken eye from
the paper to his son, and back to the paper. "You will see what a
jewel of a printing-house I am giving you."

"'Three wooden presses, held in position by iron tie-bars, cast-iron

"An improvement of my own," put in Sechard senior.

"'----Together with all the implements, ink-tables, balls, benches,
et cetera, sixteen hundred francs!' Why, father," cried David, letting
the sheet fall, "these presses of yours are old sabots not worth a
hundred crowns; they are only fit for firewood."

"Sabots?" cried old Sechard, "_Sabots_? There, take the inventory and
let us go downstairs. You will soon see whether your paltry iron-work
contrivances will work like these solid old tools, tried and trusty.
You will not have the heart after that to slander honest old presses
that go like mail coaches, and are good to last you your lifetime
without needing repairs of any sort. Sabots! Yes, sabots that are like
to hold salt enough to cook your eggs with--sabots that your father
has plodded on with these twenty years; they have helped him to make
you what you are."

The father, without coming to grief on the way, lurched down the worn,
knotty staircase that shook under his tread. In the passage he opened
the door of the workshop, flew to the nearest press (artfully oiled
and cleaned for the occasion) and pointed out the strong oaken cheeks,
polished up by the apprentice.

"Isn't it a love of a press?"

A wedding announcement lay in the press. The old "bear" folded down
the frisket upon the tympan, and the tympan upon the form, ran in the
carriage, worked the lever, drew out the carriage, and lifted the
frisket and tympan, all with as much agility as the youngest of the
tribe. The press, handled in this sort, creaked aloud in such fine
style that you might have thought some bird had dashed itself against
the window pane and flown away again.

"Where is the English press that could go at that pace?" the parent
asked of his astonished son.

Old Sechard hurried to the second, and then to the third in order,
repeating the manoeuvre with equal dexterity. The third presenting to
his wine-troubled eye a patch overlooked by the apprentice, with a
notable oath he rubbed it with the skirt of his overcoat, much as a
horse-dealer polishes the coat of an animal that he is trying to sell.

"With those three presses, David, you can make your nine thousand
francs a year without a foreman. As your future partner, I am opposed
to your replacing these presses by your cursed cast-iron machinery,
that wears out the type. You in Paris have been making such a to-do
over that damned Englishman's invention--a foreigner, an enemy of
France who wants to help the ironfounders to a fortune. Oh! you wanted
Stanhopes, did you? Thanks for your Stanhopes, that cost two thousand
five hundred francs apiece, about twice as much as my three jewels put
together, and maul your type to pieces, because there is no give in
them. I haven't book-learning like you, but you keep this well in
mind, the life of the Stanhope is the death of the type. Those three
presses will serve your turn well enough, the printing will be
properly done, and folk here in Angouleme won't ask any more of you.
You may print with presses made of wood or iron or gold or silver,
_they_ will never pay you a farthing more."

"'Item,'" pursued David, "'five thousand pounds weight of type from
M. Vaflard's foundry----'" Didot's apprentice could not help smiling
at the name.

"Laugh away! After twelve years of wear, that type is as good as new.
That is what I call a typefounder! M. Vaflard is an honest man, who
uses hard metal; and, to my way of thinking, the best typefounder is
the one you go to most seldom."

"'----Taken at ten thousand francs,'" continued David. "Ten thousand
francs, father! Why, that is two francs a pound, and the Messrs. Didot
only ask thirty-six sous for their _Cicero_! These nail-heads of yours
will only fetch the price of old metal--fivepence a pound."

"You call M. Gille's italics, running-hand and round-hand,
'nail-heads,' do you? M. Gille, that used to be printer to the Emperor!
And type that costs six francs a pound! masterpieces of engraving,
bought only five years ago. Some of them are as bright yet as when they
came from the foundry. Look here!"

Old Sechard pounced upon some packets of unused sorts, and held them
out for David to see.

"I am not book-learned; I don't know how to read or write; but, all
the same, I know enough to see that M. Gille's sloping letters are the
fathers of your Messrs. Didot's English running-hand. Here is the
round-hand," he went on, taking up an unused pica type.

David saw that there was no way of coming to terms with his father. It
was a case of Yes or No--of taking or leaving it. The very ropes
across the ceiling had gone down into the old "bear's" inventory, and
not the smallest item was omitted; jobbing chases, wetting-boards,
paste-pots, rinsing-trough, and lye-brushes had all been put down and
valued separately with miserly exactitude. The total amounted to
thirty thousand francs, including the license and the goodwill. David
asked himself whether or not this thing was feasible.

Old Sechard grew uneasy over his son's silence; he would rather have
had stormy argument than a wordless acceptance of the situation.
Chaffering in these sorts of bargains means that a man can look after
his interests. "A man who is ready to pay you anything you ask will
pay nothing," old Sechard was saying to himself. While he tried to
follow his son's train of thought, he went through the list of odds
and ends of plant needed by a country business, drawing David now to a
hot-press, now to a cutting-press, bragging of its usefulness and
sound condition.

"Old tools are always the best tools," said he. "In our line of
business they ought to fetch more than the new, like goldbeaters'

Hideous vignettes, representing Hymen and Cupids, skeletons raising
the lids of their tombs to describe a V or an M, and huge borders of
masks for theatrical posters became in turn objects of tremendous
value through old Jerome-Nicolas' vinous eloquence. Old custom, he
told his son, was so deeply rooted in the district that he (David)
would only waste his pains if he gave them the finest things in life.
He himself had tried to sell them a better class of almanac than the
_Double Liegeois_ on grocers' paper; and what came of it?--the original
_Double Liegeois_ sold better than the most sumptuous calendars. David
would soon see the importance of these old-fashioned things when he
found he could get more for them than for the most costly new-fangled

"Aha! my boy, Paris is Paris, and the provinces are the provinces. If
a man came in from L'Houmeau with an order for wedding cards, and you
were to print them without a Cupid and garlands, he would not believe
that he was properly married; you would have them all back again if
you sent them out with a plain M on them after the style of your
Messrs. Didot. They may be fine printers, but their inventions won't
take in the provinces for another hundred years. So there you are."

A generous man is a bad bargain-driver. David's nature was of the
sensitive and affectionate type that shrinks from a dispute, and gives
way at once if an opponent touches his feelings. His loftiness of
feeling, and the fact that the old toper had himself well in hand, put
him still further at a disadvantage in a dispute about money matters
with his own father, especially as he credited that father with the
best intentions, and took his covetous greed for a printer's
attachment to his old familiar tools. Still, as Jerome-Nicolas Sechard
had taken the whole place over from Rouzeau's widow for ten thousand
francs, paid in assignats, it stood to reason that thirty thousand
francs in coin at the present day was an exorbitant demand.

"Father, you are cutting my throat!" exclaimed David.

"_I_," cried the old toper, raising his hand to the lines of cord
across the ceiling, "I who gave you life? Why, David, what do you
suppose the license is worth? Do you know that the sheet of
advertisements alone, at fivepence a line, brought in five hundred
francs last month? You turn up the books, lad, and see what we make by
placards and the registers at the Prefecture, and the work for the
mayor's office, and the bishop too. You are a do-nothing that has no
mind to get on. You are haggling over the horse that will carry you to
some pretty bit of property like Marsac."

Attached to the valuation of plant there was a deed of partnership
between Sechard senior and his son. The good father was to let his
house and premises to the new firm for twelve hundred francs per
annum, reserving one of the two rooms in the roof for himself. So long
as David's purchase-money was not paid in full, the profits were to be
divided equally; as soon as he paid off his father, he was to be made
sole proprietor of the business.

David made a mental calculation of the value of the license, the
goodwill, and the stock of paper, leaving the plant out of account. It
was just possible, he thought, to clear off the debt. He accepted the
conditions. Old Sechard, accustomed to peasants' haggling, knowing
nothing of the wider business views of Paris, was amazed at such a
prompt conclusion.

"Can he have been putting money by?" he asked himself. "Or is he
scheming out, at this moment, some way of not paying me?"

With this notion in his head, he tried to find out whether David had
any money with him; he wanted to be paid something on account. The old
man's inquisitiveness roused his son's distrust; David remained close
buttoned up to the chin.

Next day, old Sechard made the apprentice move all his own household
stuff up into the attic until such time as an empty market cart could
take it out on the return journey into the country; and David entered
into possession of three bare, unfurnished rooms on the day that saw
him installed in the printing-house, without one sou wherewith to pay
his men's wages. When he asked his father, as a partner, to contribute
his share towards the working expenses, the old man pretended not to
understand. He had found the printing-house, he said, and he was not
bound to find the money too. He had paid his share. Pressed close by
his son's reasoning, he answered that when he himself had paid
Rouzeau's widow he had not had a penny left. If he, a poor, ignorant
working man, had made his way, Didot's apprentice should do still
better. Besides, had not David been earning money, thanks to an
education paid for by the sweat of his old father's brow? Now surely
was the time when the education would come in useful.

"What have you done with your 'polls?'" he asked, returning to the
charge. He meant to have light on a problem which his son left
unresolved the day before.

"Why, had I not to live?" David asked indignantly, "and books to buy

"Oh! you bought books, did you? You will make a poor man of business.
A man that buys books is hardly fit to print them," retorted the

Then David endured the most painful of humiliations--the sense of
shame for a parent; there was nothing for it but to be passive while
his father poured out a flood of reasons--sordid, whining,
contemptible, money-getting reasons--in which the niggardly old man
wrapped his refusal. David crushed down his pain into the depths of
his soul; he saw that he was alone; saw that he had no one to look to
but himself; saw, too, that his father was trying to make money out of
him; and in a spirit of philosophical curiosity, he tried to find out
how far the old man would go. He called old Sechard's attention to the
fact that he had never as yet made any inquiry as to his mother's
fortune; if that fortune would not buy the printing-house, it might go
some ways towards paying the working expenses.

"Your mother's fortune?" echoed old Sechard; "why, it was her beauty
and intelligence!"

David understood his father thoroughly after that answer; he
understood that only after an interminable, expensive, and disgraceful
lawsuit could he obtain any account of the money which by rights was
his. The noble heart accepted the heavy burden laid upon it, seeing
clearly beforehand how difficult it would be to free himself from the
engagements into which he had entered with his father.

"I will work," he said to himself. "After all, if I have a rough time
of it, so had the old man; besides, I shall be working for myself,
shall I not?"

"I am leaving you a treasure," said Sechard, uneasy at his son's

David asked what the treasure might be.

"Marion!" said his father.

Marion, a big country girl, was an indispensable part of the
establishment. It was Marion who damped the paper and cut it to size;
Marion did the cooking, washing, and marketing; Marion unloaded the
paper carts, collected accounts, and cleaned the ink-balls; and if
Marion had but known how to read, old Sechard would have put her to
set up type into the bargain.

Old Sechard set out on foot for the country. Delighted as he was with
his sale of the business, he was not quite easy in his mind as to the
payment. To the throes of the vendor, the agony of uncertainty as to
the completion of the purchase inevitably succeeds. Passion of every
sort is essentially Jesuitical. Here was a man who thought that
education was useless, forcing himself to believe in the influence of
education. He was mortgaging thirty thousand francs upon the ideas of
honor and conduct which education should have developed in his son;
David had received a good training, so David would sweat blood and
water to fulfil his engagements; David's knowledge would discover new
resources; and David seemed to be full of fine feelings, so--David
would pay! Many a parent does in this way, and thinks that he has
acted a father's part; old Sechard was quite of that opinion by the
time that he had reached his vineyard at Marsac, a hamlet some four
leagues out of Angouleme. The previous owner had built a nice little
house on the bit of property, and from year to year had added other
bits of land to it, until in 1809 the old "bear" bought the whole, and
went thither, exchanging the toil of the printing press for the labor
of the winepress. As he put it himself, "he had been in that line so
long that he ought to know something about it."

During the first twelvemonth of rural retirement, Sechard senior
showed a careful countenance among his vine props; for he was always
in his vineyard now, just as, in the old days, he had lived in his
shop, day in, day out. The prospect of thirty thousand francs was even
more intoxicating than sweet wine; already in imagination he fingered
the coin. The less the claim to the money, the more eager he grew to
pouch it. Not seldom his anxieties sent him hurrying from Marsac to
Angouleme; he would climb up the rocky staircases into the old city
and walk into his son's workshop to see how business went. There stood
the presses in their places; the one apprentice, in a paper cap, was
cleaning the ink-balls; there was a creaking of a press over the
printing of some trade circular, the old type was still unchanged, and
in the dens at the end of the room he saw his son and the foreman
reading books, which the "bear" took for proof-sheets. Then he would
join David at dinner and go back to Marsac, chewing the cud of uneasy

Avarice, like love, has the gift of second sight, instinctively
guessing at future contingencies, and hugging its presentiments.
Sechard senior living at a distance, far from the workshop and the
machinery which possessed such a fascination for him, reminding him,
as it did, of days when he was making his way, could _feel_ that there
were disquieting symptoms of inactivity in his son. The name of
Cointet Brothers haunted him like a dread; he saw Sechard & Son
dropping into the second place. In short, the old man scented
misfortune in the wind.

His presentiments were too well founded; disaster was hovering over
the house of Sechard. But there is a tutelary deity for misers, and by
a chain of unforeseen circumstances that tutelary deity was so
ordering matters that the purchase-money of his extortionate bargain
was to be tumbled after all into the old toper's pouch.

Indifferent to the religious reaction brought about by the
Restoration, indifferent no less to the Liberal movement, David
preserved a most unlucky neutrality on the burning questions of the
day. In those times provincial men of business were bound to profess
political opinions of some sort if they meant to secure custom; they
were forced to choose for themselves between the patronage of the
Liberals on the one hand or the Royalists on the other. And Love,
moreover, had come to David's heart, and with his scientific
preoccupation and finer nature he had not room for the dogged greed of
which our successful man of business is made; it choked the keen
money-getting instinct which would have led him to study the
differences between the Paris trade and the business of a provincial
printing-house. The shades of opinion so sharply defined in the
country are blurred and lost in the great currents of Parisian
business life. Cointet Brothers set themselves deliberately to
assimilate all shades of monarchical opinion. They let every one know
that they fasted of a Friday and kept Lent; they haunted the
cathedral; they cultivated the society of the clergy; and in
consequence, when books of devotion were once more in demand, Cointet
Brothers were the first in this lucrative field. They slandered David,
accusing him of Liberalism, Atheism, and what not. How, asked they,
could any one employ a man whose father had been a Septembrist, a
Bonapartist, and a drunkard to boot? The old man was sure to leave
plenty of gold pieces behind him. They themselves were poor men with
families to support, while David was a bachelor and could do as he
pleased; he would have plenty one of these days; he could afford to
take things easily; whereas . . . and so forth and so forth.

Such tales against David, once put into circulation, produced their
effect. The monopoly of the prefectorial and diocesan work passed
gradually into the hands of Cointet Brothers; and before long David's
keen competitors, emboldened by his inaction, started a second local
sheet of advertisements and announcements. The older establishment was
left at length with the job-printing orders from the town, and the
circulation of the _Charente Chronicle_ fell off by one-half. Meanwhile
the Cointets grew richer; they had made handsome profits on their
devotional books; and now they offered to buy Sechard's paper, to have
all the trade and judicial announcements of the department in their
own hands.

The news of this proposal sent by David to his father brought the old
vinegrower from Marsac into the Place du Murier with the swiftness of
the raven that scents the corpses on a battlefield.

"Leave me to manage the Cointets," said he to his son; "don't you
meddle in this business."

The old man saw what the Cointets meant; and they took alarm at his
clearsighted sagacity. His son was making a blunder, he said, and he,
Sechard, had come to put a stop to it.

"What was to become of the connection if David gave up the paper? It
all depended upon the paper. All the attorneys and solicitors and men
of business in L'Houmeau were Liberals to a man. The Cointets had
tried to ruin the Sechards by accusing them of Liberalism, and by so
doing gave them a plank to cling to--the Sechards should keep the
Liberal business. Sell the paper indeed! Why, you might as well sell
the stock-in-trade and the license!"

Old Sechard asked the Cointets sixty thousand francs for the printing
business, so as not to ruin his son; he was fond of his son; he was
taking his son's part. The vinegrower brought his son to the front to
gain his point, as a peasant brings in his wife.

His son was unwilling to do this, that, or the other; it varied
according to the offers which he wrung one after another from the
Cointets, until, not without an effort, he drew them on to give
twenty-two thousand francs for the _Charente Chronicle_. But, at the
same time, David must pledge himself thenceforward to print no
newspaper whatsoever, under a penalty of thirty thousand francs for

That transaction dealt the deathblow to the Sechard establishment; but
the old vinegrower did not trouble himself much on that head. Murder
usually follows robbery. Our worthy friend intended to pay himself
with the ready money. To have the cash in his own hands he would have
given in David himself over and above the bargain, and so much the
more willingly since that this nuisance of a son could claim one-half
of the unexpected windfall. Taking this fact into consideration,
therefore, the generous parent consented to abandon his share of the
business but not the business premises; and the rental was still
maintained at the famous sum of twelve hundred francs per annum.

The old man came into town very seldom after the paper was sold to the
Cointets. He pleaded his advanced age, but the truth was that he took
little interest in the establishment now that it was his no longer.
Still, he could not quite shake off his old kindness for his
stock-in-trade; and when business brought him into Angouleme, it would
have been hard to say which was the stronger attraction to the old house
--his wooden presses or the son whom (as a matter of form) he asked for
rent. The old foreman, who had gone over to the rival establishment,
knew exactly how much this fatherly generosity was worth; the old fox
meant to reserve a right to interfere in his son's affairs, and had
taken care to appear in the bankruptcy as a privileged creditor for
arrears of rent.

The causes of David's heedlessness throw a light on the character of
that young man. Only a few days after his establishment in the
paternal printing office, he came across an old school friend in the
direst poverty. Lucien Chardon, a young fellow of one-and-twenty or
thereabouts, was the son of a surgeon-major who had retired with a
wound from the republican army. Nature had meant M. Chardon senior for
a chemist; chance opened the way for a retail druggist's business in
Angouleme. After many years of scientific research, death cut him off
in the midst of his incompleted experiments, and the great discovery
that should have brought wealth to the family was never made. Chardon
had tried to find a specific for the gout. Gout is a rich man's
malady; the rich will pay large sums to recover health when they have
lost it, and for this reason the druggist deliberately selected gout
as his problem. Halfway between the man of science on the one side and
the charlatan on the other, he saw that the scientific method was the
one road to assured success, and had studied the causes of the
complaint, and based his remedy on a certain general theory of
treatment, with modifications in practice for varying temperaments.
Then, on a visit to Paris undertaken to solicit the approval of the
_Academie des Sciences_, he died, and lost all the fruits of his labors.

It may have been that some presentiment of the end had led the country
druggist to do all that in him lay to give his boy and girl a good
education; the family had been living up to the income brought in by
the business; and now when they were left almost destitute, it was an
aggravation of their misfortune that they had been brought up in the
expectations of a brilliant future; for these hopes were extinguished
by their father's death. The great Desplein, who attended Chardon in
his last illness, saw him die in convulsions of rage.

The secret of the army surgeon's ambition lay in his passionate love
for his wife, the last survivor of the family of Rubempre, saved as by
a miracle from the guillotine in 1793. He had gained time by declaring
that she was pregnant, a lie told without the girl's knowledge or
consent. Then, when in a manner he had created a claim to call her his
wife, he had married her in spite of their common poverty. The
children of this marriage, like all children of love, inherited the
mother's wonderful beauty, that gift so often fatal when accompanied
by poverty. The life of hope and hard work and despair, in all of
which Mme. Chardon had shared with such keen sympathy, had left deep
traces in her beautiful face, just as the slow decline of a scanty
income had changed her ways and habits; but both she and her children
confronted evil days bravely enough. She sold the druggist's shop in
the Grand' Rue de L'Houmeau, the principal suburb of Angouleme; but it
was impossible for even one woman to exist on the three hundred francs
of income brought in by the investment of the purchase-money, so the
mother and daughter accepted the position, and worked to earn a
living. The mother went out as a monthly nurse, and for her gentle
manners was preferred to any other among the wealthy houses, where she
lived without expense to her children, and earned some seven francs a
week. To save her son the embarrassment of seeing his mother reduced
to this humble position, she assumed the name of Madame Charlotte; and
persons requiring her services were requested to apply to M. Postel,
M. Chardon's successor in the business. Lucien's sister worked for a
laundress, a decent woman much respected in L'Houmeau, and earned
fifteen daily sous. As Mme. Prieur's forewoman she had a certain
position in the workroom, which raised her slightly above the class of

The two women's slender earnings, together with Mme. Chardon's three
hundred francs of _rentes_, amounted to about eight hundred francs a
year, and on this sum three persons must be fed, clothed, and lodged.
Yet, with all their frugal thrift, the pittance was scarcely
sufficient; nearly the whole of it was needed for Lucien. Mme. Chardon
and her daughter Eve believed in Lucien as Mahomet's wife believed in
her husband; their devotion for his future knew no bounds. Their
present landlord was the successor to the business, for M. Postel let
them have rooms at the further end of a yard at the back of the
laboratory for a very low rent, and Lucien slept in the poor garret
above. A father's passion for natural science had stimulated the boy,
and at first induced him to follow in the same path. Lucien was one of
the most brilliant pupils at the grammar school of Angouleme, and when
David Sechard left, his future friend was in the third form.

When chance brought the school-fellows together again, Lucien was
weary of drinking from the rude cup of penury, and ready for any of
the rash, decisive steps that youth takes at the age of twenty.
David's generous offer of forty francs a month if Lucien would come to
him and learn the work of a printer's reader came in time; David had
no need whatever of a printer's reader, but he saved Lucien from
despair. The ties of a school friendship thus renewed were soon drawn
closer than ever by the similarity of their lot in life and the
dissimilarity of their characters. Both felt high swelling hopes of
manifold success; both consciously possessed the high order of
intelligence which sets a man on a level with lofty heights, consigned
though they were socially to the lowest level. Fate's injustice was a
strong bond between them. And then, by different ways, following each
his own bent of mind, they had attained to poesy. Lucien, destined for
the highest speculative fields of natural science, was aiming with hot
enthusiasm at fame through literature; while David, with that
meditative temperament which inclines to poetry, was drawn by his
tastes towards natural science.

The exchange of roles was the beginning of an intellectual
comradeship. Before long, Lucien told David of his own father's
farsighted views of the application of science to manufacture, while
David pointed out the new ways in literature that Lucien must follow
if he meant to succeed. Not many days had passed before the young
men's friendship became a passion such as is only known in early
manhood. Then it was that David caught a glimpse of Eve's fair face,
and loved, as grave and meditative natures can love. The _et nunc et
semper et in secula seculorum_ of the Liturgy is the device taken by
many a sublime unknown poet, whose works consist in magnificent epics
conceived and lost between heart and heart. With a lover's insight,
David read the secret hopes set by the mother and sister on Lucien's
poet's brow; and knowing their blind devotion, it was very sweet to
him to draw nearer to his love by sharing her hopes and her
self-sacrifice. And in this way Lucien came to be David's chosen
brother. As there are ultras who would fain be more Royalist than the
King, so David outdid the mother and sister in his belief in Lucien's
genius; he spoiled Lucien as a mother spoils her child.

Once, under pressure of the lack of money which tied their hands, the
two were ruminating after the manner of young men over ways of
promptly realizing a large fortune; and, after fruitless shakings of
all the trees already stripped by previous comers, Lucien bethought
himself of two of his father's ideas. M. Chardon had talked of a
method of refining sugar by a chemical process, which would reduce the
cost of production by one-half; and he had another plan for employing
an American vegetable fibre for making paper, something after the
Chinese fashion, and effecting an enormous saving in the cost of raw
material. David, knowing the importance of a question raised already
by the Didots, caught at this latter notion, saw a fortune in it, and
looked upon Lucien as the benefactor whom he could never repay.

Any one may guess how the ruling thoughts and inner life of this pair
of friends unfitted them for carrying on the business of a printing
house. So far from making fifteen to twenty thousand francs, like
Cointet Brothers, printers and publishers to the diocese, and
proprietors of the _Charente Chronicle_ (now the only newspaper in the
department)--Sechard & Son made a bare three hundred francs per month,
out of which the foreman's salary must be paid, as well as Marion's
wages and the rent and taxes; so that David himself was scarcely
making twelve hundred francs per annum. Active and industrious men of
business would have bought new type and new machinery, and made an
effort to secure orders for cheap printing from the Paris book trade;
but master and foreman, deep in absorbing intellectual interests, were
quite content with such orders as came to them from their remaining

In the long length the Cointets had come to understand David's
character and habits. They did not slander him now; on the contrary,
wise policy required that they should allow the business to flicker
on; it was to their interest indeed to maintain it in a small way,
lest it should fall into the hands of some more formidable
competitor; they made a practice of sending prospectuses and circulars
--job-printing, as it is called--to the Sechard's establishment. So it
came about that, all unwittingly, David owed his existence,
commercially speaking, to the cunning schemes of his competitors. The
Cointets, well pleased with his "craze," as they called it, behaved to
all appearance both fairly and handsomely; but, as a matter of fact,
they were adopting the tactics of the mail-coach owners who set up a
sham opposition coach to keep _bona fide_ rivals out of the field.

Inside and outside, the condition of the Sechard printing
establishment bore testimony to the sordid avarice of the old "bear,"
who never spent a penny on repairs. The old house had stood in sun and
rain, and borne the brunt of the weather, till it looked like some
venerable tree trunk set down at the entrance of the alley, so riven
it was with seams and cracks of all sorts and sizes. The house front,
built of brick and stone, with no pretensions to symmetry, seemed to
be bending beneath the weight of a worm-eaten roof covered with the
curved pantiles in common use in the South of France. The decrepit
casements were fitted with the heavy, unwieldy shutters necessary in
that climate, and held in place by massive iron cross bars. It would
have puzzled you to find a more dilapidated house in Angouleme;
nothing but sheer tenacity of mortar kept it together. Try to picture
the workshop, lighted at either end, and dark in the middle; the walls
covered with handbills and begrimed by friction of all the workmen who
had rubbed past them for thirty years; the cobweb of cordage across
the ceiling, the stacks of paper, the old-fashioned presses, the pile
of slabs for weighting the damp sheets, the rows of cases, and the two
dens in the far corners where the master printer and foreman sat--and
you will have some idea of the life led by the two friends.

One day early in May, 1821, David and Lucien were standing together by
the window that looked into the yard. It was nearly two o'clock, and
the four or five men were going out to dinner. David waited until the
apprentice had shut the street door with the bell fastened to it; then
he drew Lucien out into the yard as if the smell of paper, ink, and
presses and old woodwork had grown intolerable to him, and together
they sat down under the vines, keeping the office and the door in
view. The sunbeams, playing among the trellised vine-shoots, hovered
over the two poets, making, as it were, an aureole about their heads,
bringing the contrast between their faces and their characters into a
vigorous relief that would have tempted the brush of some great

David's physique was of the kind that Nature gives to the fighter, the
man born to struggle in obscurity, or with the eyes of all men turned
upon him. The strong shoulders, rising above the broad chest, were in
keeping with the full development of his whole frame. With his thick
crop of black hair, his fleshy, high-colored, swarthy face, supported
by a thick neck, he looked at first sight like one of Boileau's
canons: but on a second glance there was that in the lines about the
thick lips, in the dimple of the chin, in the turn of the square
nostrils, with the broad irregular line of central cleavage, and,
above all, in the eyes, with the steady light of an all-absorbing love
that burned in them, which revealed the real character of the man--the
wisdom of the thinker, the strenuous melancholy of a spirit that
discerns the horizon on either side, and sees clearly to the end of
winding ways, turning the clear light of analysis upon the joys of
fruition, known as yet in idea alone, and quick to turn from them in
disgust. You might look for the flash of genius from such a face; you
could not miss the ashes of the volcano; hopes extinguished beneath a
profound sense of the social annihilation to which lowly birth and
lack of fortune condemns so many a loftier mind. And by the side of
the poor printer, who loathed a handicraft so closely allied to
intellectual work, close to this Silenus, joyless, self-sustained,
drinking deep draughts from the cup of knowledge and of poetry that he
might forget the cares of his narrow lot in the intoxication of soul
and brain, stood Lucien, graceful as some sculptured Indian Bacchus.

For in Lucien's face there was the distinction of line which stamps
the beauty of the antique; the Greek profile, with the velvet
whiteness of women's faces, and eyes full of love, eyes so blue that
they looked dark against a pearly setting, and dewy and fresh as those
of a child. Those beautiful eyes looked out from under their long
chestnut lashes, beneath eyebrows that might have been traced by a
Chinese pencil. The silken down on his cheeks, like his bright curling
hair, shone golden in the sunlight. A divine graciousness transfused
the white temples that caught that golden gleam; a matchless nobleness
had set its seal in the short chin raised, but not abruptly. The smile
that hovered about the coral lips, yet redder as they seemed by force
of contrast with the even teeth, was the smile of some sorrowing
angel. Lucien's hands denoted race; they were shapely hands; hands
that men obey at a sign, and women love to kiss. Lucien was slender
and of middle height. From a glance at his feet, he might have been
taken for a girl in disguise, and this so much the more easily from
the feminine contour of the hips, a characteristic of keen-witted, not
to say, astute, men. This is a trait which seldom misleads, and in
Lucien it was a true indication of character; for when he analyzed the
society of to-day, his restless mind was apt to take its stand on the
lower ground of those diplomatists who hold that success justifies the
use of any means however base. It is one of the misfortunes attendant
upon great intellects that perforce they comprehend all things, both
good and evil.

The two young men judged society by the more lofty standard because
their social position was at the lowest end of the scale, for
unrecognized power is apt to avenge itself for lowly station by
viewing the world from a lofty standpoint. Yet it is, nevertheless,
true that they grew but the more bitter and hopeless after these swift
soaring flights to the upper regions of thought, their world by right.
Lucien had read much and compared; David had thought much and deeply.
In spite of the young printer's look of robust, country-bred health,
his turn of mind was melancholy and somewhat morbid--he lacked
confidence in himself; but Lucien, on the other hand, with a boldness
little to be expected from his feminine, almost effeminate, figure,
graceful though it was, Lucien possessed the Gascon temperament to the
highest degree--rash, brave, and adventurous, prone to make the most
of the bright side, and as little as possible of the dark; his was the
nature that sticks at no crime if there is anything to be gained by
it, and laughs at the vice which serves as a stepping-stone. Just now
these tendencies of ambition were held in check, partly by the fair
illusions of youth, partly by the enthusiasm which led him to prefer
the nobler methods, which every man in love with glory tries first of
all. Lucien was struggling as yet with himself and his own desires,
and not with the difficulties of life; at strife with his own power,
and not with the baseness of other men, that fatal exemplar for
impressionable minds. The brilliancy of his intellect had a keen
attraction for David. David admired his friend, while he kept him out
of the scrapes into which he was led by the _furie francaise_.

David, with his well-balanced mind and timid nature at variance with a
strong constitution, was by no means wanting in the persistence of the
Northern temper; and if he saw all the difficulties before him, none
the less he vowed to himself to conquer, never to give way. In him the
unswerving virtue of an apostle was softened by pity that sprang from
inexhaustible indulgence. In the friendship grown old already, one was
the worshiper, and that one was David; Lucien ruled him like a woman
sure of love, and David loved to give way. He felt that his friend's
physical beauty implied a real superiority, which he accepted, looking
upon himself as one made of coarser and commoner human clay.

"The ox for patient labor in the fields, the free life for the bird,"
he thought to himself. "I will be the ox, and Lucien shall be the

So for three years these friends had mingled the destinies bright with
such glorious promise. Together they read the great works that
appeared above the horizon of literature and science since the Peace
--the poems of Schiller, Goethe, and Byron, the prose writings of
Scott, Jean-Paul, Berzelius, Davy, Cuvier, Lamartine, and many more.
They warmed themselves beside these great hearthfires; they tried
their powers in abortive creations, in work laid aside and taken up
again with new glow of enthusiasm. Incessantly they worked with the
unwearied vitality of youth; comrades in poverty, comrades in the
consuming love of art and science, till they forgot the hard life of
the present, for their minds were wholly bent on laying the
foundations of future fame.

"Lucien," said David, "do you know what I have just received from
Paris?" He drew a tiny volume from his pocket. "Listen!"

And David read, as a poet can read, first Andre de Chenier's Idyll
_Neere_, then _Le Malade_, following on with the Elegy on a Suicide,
another elegy in the classic taste, and the last two _Iambes_.

"So that is Andre de Chenier!" Lucien exclaimed again and again. "It
fills one with despair!" he cried for the third time, when David
surrendered the book to him, unable to read further for emotion.--"A
poet rediscovered by a poet!" said Lucien, reading the signature of
the preface.

"After Chenier had written those poems, he thought that he had written
nothing worth publishing," added David.

Then Lucien in his turn read aloud the fragment of an epic called
_L'Aveugle_ and two or three of the Elegies, till, when he came upon the

If they know not bliss, is there happiness on earth?

He pressed the book to his lips, and tears came to the eyes of either,
for the two friends were lovers and fellow-worshipers.

The vine-stems were changing color with the spring; covering the
rifted, battered walls of the old house where squalid cracks were
spreading in every direction, with fluted columns and knots and
bas-reliefs and uncounted masterpieces of I know not what order of
architecture, erected by fairy hands. Fancy had scattered flowers and
crimson gems over the gloomy little yard, and Chenier's _Camille_ became
for David the Eve whom he worshiped, for Lucien a great lady to whom
he paid his homage. Poetry had shaken out her starry robe above the
workshop where the "monkeys" and "bears" were grotesquely busy among
types and presses. Five o'clock struck, but the friends felt neither
hunger nor thirst; life had turned to a golden dream, and all the
treasures of the world lay at their feet. Far away on the horizon lay
the blue streak to which Hope points a finger in storm and stress; and
a siren voice sounded in their ears, calling, "Come, spread your
wings; through that streak of gold or silver or azure lies the sure
way of escape from evil fortune!"

Just at that moment the low glass door of the workshop was opened, and
out came Cerizet, an apprentice (David had brought the urchin from
Paris). This youth introduced a stranger, who saluted the friends
politely, and spoke to David.

"This, sir, is a monograph which I am desirous of printing," said he,
drawing a huge package of manuscript from his pocket. "Will you oblige
me with an estimate?"

"We do not undertake work on such a scale, sir," David answered,
without looking at the manuscript. "You had better see the Messieurs
Cointet about it."

"Still we have a very pretty type which might suit it," put in Lucien,
taking up the roll. "We must ask you to be kind enough, sir, to leave
your commission with us and call again to-morrow, and we will give you
an estimate."

"Have I the pleasure of addressing M. Lucien Chardon?"

"Yes, sir," said the foreman.

"I am fortunate in this opportunity of meeting with a young poet
destined to such greatness," returned the author. "Mme. de Bargeton
sent me here."

Lucien flushed red at the name, and stammered out something about
gratitude for the interest which Mme. de Bargeton took in him. David
noticed his friend's embarrassed flush, and left him in conversation
with the country gentleman, the author of a monograph on silkwork
cultivation, prompted by vanity to print the effort for the benefit of
fellow-members of the local agricultural society.

When the author had gone, David spoke.

"Lucien, are you in love with Mme. de Bargeton?"


"But social prejudices set you as far apart as if she were living at
Pekin and you in Greenland."

"The will of two lovers can rise victorious over all things," said
Lucien, lowering his eyes.

"You will forget us," returned the alarmed lover, as Eve's fair face
rose before his mind.

"On the contrary, I have perhaps sacrificed my love to you," cried

"What do you mean?"

"In spite of my love, in spite of the different motives which bid me
obtain a secure footing in her house, I have told her that I will
never go thither again unless another is made welcome too, a man whose
gifts are greater than mine, a man destined for a brilliant future
--David Sechard, my brother, my friend. I shall find an answer waiting
when I go home. All the aristocrats may have been asked to hear me
read my verses this evening, but I shall not go if the answer is
negative, and I will never set foot in Mme. de Bargeton's house

David brushed the tears from his eyes, and wrung Lucien's hand. The
clock struck six.

"Eve must be anxious; good-bye," Lucien added abruptly.

He hurried away. David stood overcome by the emotion that is only felt
to the full at his age, and more especially in such a position as his
--the friends were like two young swans with wings unclipped as yet by
the experiences of provincial life.

"Heart of gold!" David exclaimed to himself, as his eyes followed
Lucien across the workshop.

Lucien went down to L'Houmeau along the broad Promenade de Beaulieu,
the Rue du Minage, and Saint-Peter's Gate. It was the longest way
round, so you may be sure that Mme. de Bargeton's house lay on the
way. So delicious it was to pass under her windows, though she knew
nothing of his presence, that for the past two months he had gone
round daily by the Palet Gate into L'Houmeau.

Under the trees of Beaulieu he saw how far the suburb lay from the
city. The custom of the country, moreover, had raised other barriers
harder to surmount than the mere physical difficulty of the steep
flights of steps which Lucien was descending. Youth and ambition had
thrown the flying-bridge of glory across the gulf between the city and
the suburb, yet Lucien was as uneasy in his mind over his lady's
answer as any king's favorite who has tried to climb yet higher, and
fears that being over-bold he is like to fall. This must seem a dark
saying to those who have never studied the manners and customs of
cities divided into the upper and lower town; wherefore it is
necessary to enter here upon some topographical details, and this so
much the more if the reader is to comprehend the position of one of
the principal characters in the story--Mme. de Bargeton.

The old city of Angouleme is perched aloft on a crag like a
sugar-loaf, overlooking the plain where the Charente winds away through
the meadows. The crag is an outlying spur on the Perigord side of a
long, low ridge of hill, which terminates abruptly just above the road
from Paris to Bordeaux, so that the Rock of Angouleme is a sort of
promontory marking out the line of three picturesque valleys. The
ramparts and great gateways and ruined fortress on the summit of the
crag still remain to bear witness to the importance of this stronghold
during the Religious Wars, when Angouleme was a military position
coveted alike of Catholics and Calvinists, but its old-world strength
is a source of weakness in modern days; Angouleme could not spread
down to the Charente, and shut in between its ramparts and the steep
sides of the crag, the old town is condemned to stagnation of the most
fatal kind.

The Government made an attempt about this very time to extend the town
towards Perigord, building a Prefecture, a Naval School, and barracks
along the hillside, and opening up roads. But private enterprise had
been beforehand elsewhere. For some time past the suburb of L'Houmeau
had sprung up, a mushroom growth at the foot of the crag and along the
river-side, where the direct road runs from Paris to Bordeaux.
Everybody has heard of the great paper-mills of Angouleme, established
perforce three hundred years ago on the Charente and its branch
streams, where there was a sufficient fall of water. The largest State
factory of marine ordnance in France was established at Ruelle, some
six miles away. Carriers, wheelwrights, posthouses, and inns, every
agency for public conveyance, every industry that lives by road or
river, was crowded together in Lower Angouleme, to avoid the
difficulty of the ascent of the hill. Naturally, too, tanneries,
laundries, and all such waterside trades stood within reach of the
Charente; and along the banks of the river lay the stores of brandy
and great warehouses full of the water-borne raw material; all the
carrying trade of the Charente, in short, had lined the quays with

So the Faubourg of L'Houmeau grew into a busy and prosperous city, a
second Angouleme rivaling the upper town, the residence of the powers
that be, the lords spiritual and temporal of Angouleme; though
L'Houmeau, with all its business and increasing greatness, was still a
mere appendage of the city above. The _noblesse_ and officialdom dwelt
on the crag, trade and wealth remained below. No love was lost between
these two sections of the community all the world over, and in
Angouleme it would have been hard to say which of the two camps
detested the other the more cordially. Under the Empire the machinery
worked fairly smoothly, but the Restoration wrought both sides to the
highest pitch of exasperation.

Nearly every house in the upper town of Angouleme is inhabited by
noble, or at any rate by old burgher, families, who live independently
on their incomes--a sort of autochthonous nation who suffer no aliens
to come among them. Possibly, after two hundred years of unbroken
residence, and it may be an intermarriage or two with one of the
primordial houses, a family from some neighboring district may be
adopted, but in the eyes of the aboriginal race they are still
newcomers of yesterday.

Prefects, receivers-general, and various administrations that have
come and gone during the last forty years, have tried to tame the
ancient families perched aloft like wary ravens on their crag; the
said families were always willing to accept invitations to dinners and
dances; but as to admitting the strangers to their own houses, they
were inexorable. Ready to scoff and disparage, jealous and niggardly,
marrying only among themselves, the families formed a serried phalanx
to keep out intruders. Of modern luxury they had no notion; and as for
sending a boy to Paris, it was sending him, they thought to certain
ruin. Such sagacity will give a sufficient idea of the old-world
manners and customs of this society, suffering from thick-headed
Royalism, infected with bigotry rather than zeal, all stagnating
together, motionless as their town founded upon a rock. Yet Angouleme
enjoyed a great reputation in the provinces round about for its
educational advantages, and neighboring towns sent their daughters to
its boarding schools and convents.

It is easy to imagine the influence of the class sentiment which held
Angouleme aloof from L'Houmeau. The merchant classes are rich, the
_noblesse_ are usually poor. Each side takes its revenge in scorn of the
other. The tradespeople in Angouleme espouse the quarrel. "He is a man
of L'Houmeau!" a shopkeeper of the upper town will tell you, speaking
of a merchant in the lower suburb, throwing an accent into the speech
which no words can describe. When the Restoration defined the position
of the French _noblesse_, holding out hopes to them which could only be
realized by a complete and general topsy-turvydom, the distance
between Angouleme and L'Houmeau, already more strongly marked than the
distance between the hill and plain, was widened yet further. The
better families, all devoted as one man to the Government, grew more
exclusive here than in any other part of France. "The man of
L'Houmeau" became little better than a pariah. Hence the deep,
smothered hatred which broke out everywhere with such ugly unanimity
in the insurrection of 1830 and destroyed the elements of a durable
social system in France. As the overweening haughtiness of the Court
nobles detached the provincial _noblesse_ from the throne, so did these
last alienate the _bourgeoisie_ from the royal cause by behavior that
galled their vanity in every possible way.

So "a man of L'Houmeau," a druggist's son, in Mme. de Bargeton's house
was nothing less than a little revolution. Who was responsible for it?
Lamartine and Victor Hugo, Casimir Delavigne and Canalis, Beranger and
Chateaubriand. Davrigny, Benjamin Constant and Lamennais, Cousin and
Michaud,--all the old and young illustrious names in literature in
short, Liberals and Royalists, alike must divide the blame among them.
Mme. de Bargeton loved art and letters, eccentric taste on her part, a
craze deeply deplored in Angouleme. In justice to the lady, it is
necessary to give a sketch of the previous history of a woman born to
shine, and left by unlucky circumstances in the shade, a woman whose
influence decided Lucien's career.

M. de Bargeton was the great-grandson of an alderman of Bordeaux named
Mirault, ennobled under Louis XIII. for long tenure of office. His
son, bearing the name of Mirault de Bargeton, became an officer in the
household troops of Louis XIV., and married so great a fortune that in
the reign of Louis XV. his son dropped the Mirault and was called
simply M. de Bargeton. This M. de Bargeton, the alderman's grandson,
lived up to his quality so strenuously that he ran through the family
property and checked the course of its fortunes. Two of his brothers
indeed, great-uncles of the present Bargeton, went into business
again, for which reason you will find the name of Mirault among
Bordeaux merchants at this day. The lands of Bargeton, in Angoumois in
the barony of Rochefoucauld, being entailed, and the house in
Angouleme, called the Hotel Bargeton, likewise, the grandson of M. de
Bargeton the Waster came in for these hereditaments; though the year
1789 deprived him of all seignorial rights save to the rents paid by
his tenants, which amounted to some ten thousand francs per annum. If
his grandsire had but walked in the ways of his illustrious
progenitors, Bargeton I. and Bargeton II., Bargeton V. (who may be
dubbed Bargeton the Mute by way of distinction) should by rights have
been born to the title of Marquis of Bargeton; he would have been
connected with some great family or other, and in due time he would
have been a duke and a peer of France, like many another; whereas, in
1805, he thought himself uncommonly lucky when he married Mlle.
Marie-Louise-Anais de Negrepelisse, the daughter of a noble long
relegated to the obscurity of his manor-house, scion though he was of
the younger branch of one of the oldest families in the south of
France. There had been a Negrepelisse among the hostages of St. Louis.
The head of the elder branch, however, had borne the illustrious name
of d'Espard since the reign of Henri Quatre, when the Negrepelisse of
that day married an heiress of the d'Espard family. As for M. de
Negrepelisse, the younger son of a younger son, he lived upon his
wife's property, a small estate in the neighborhood of Barbezieux,
farming the land to admiration, selling his corn in the market
himself, and distilling his own brandy, laughing at those who
ridiculed him, so long as he could pile up silver crowns, and now and
again round out his estate with another bit of land.

Circumstances unusual enough in out-of-the-way places in the country
had inspired Mme. de Bargeton with a taste for music and reading.
During the Revolution one Abbe Niollant, the Abbe Roze's best pupil,
found a hiding-place in the old manor-house of Escarbas, and brought
with him his baggage of musical compositions. The old country
gentleman's hospitality was handsomely repaid, for the Abbe undertook
his daughter's education. Anais, or Nais, as she was called must
otherwise have been left to herself, or, worse still, to some
coarse-minded servant-maid. The Abbe was not only a musician, he was
well and widely read, and knew both Italian and German; so Mlle. de
Negrepelise received instruction in those tongues, as well as in
counterpoint. He explained the great masterpieces of the French,
German, and Italian literatures, and deciphered with her the music of
the great composers. Finally, as time hung heavy on his hands in the
seclusion enforced by political storms, he taught his pupil Latin and
Greek and some smatterings of natural science. A mother might have
modified the effects of a man's education upon a young girl, whose
independent spirit had been fostered in the first place by a country
life. The Abbe Niollant, an enthusiast and a poet, possessed the
artistic temperament in a peculiarly high degree, a temperament
compatible with many estimable qualities, but prone to raise itself
above _bourgeois_ prejudices by the liberty of its judgments and
breadth of view. In society an intellect of this order wins pardon for
its boldness by its depth and originality; but in private life it
would seem to do positive mischief, by suggesting wanderings from the
beaten track. The Abbe was by no means wanting in goodness of heart,
and his ideas were therefore the more contagious for this high-spirited
girl, in whom they were confirmed by a lonely life. The Abbe Niollant's
pupil learned to be fearless in criticism and ready in judgement; it
never occurred to her tutor that qualities so necessary in a man are
disadvantages in a woman destined for the homely life of a
house-mother. And though the Abbe constantly impressed it upon his
pupil that it behoved her to be the more modest and gracious with the
extent of her attainments, Mlle. de Negrepelisse conceived an excellent
opinion of herself and a robust contempt for ordinary humanity. All
those about her were her inferiors, or persons who hastened to do her
bidding, till she grew to be as haughty as a great lady, with none of
the charming blandness and urbanity of a great lady. The instincts of
vanity were flattered by the pride that the poor Abbe took in his
pupil, the pride of an author who sees himself in his work, and for
her misfortune she met no one with whom she could measure herself.
Isolation is one of the greatest drawbacks of a country life. We lose
the habit of putting ourselves to any inconvenience for the sake of
others when there is no one for whom to make the trifling sacrifices
of personal effort required by dress and manner. And everything in us
shares in the change for the worse; the form and the spirit
deteriorate together.

With no social intercourse to compel self-repression, Mlle. de
Negrepelisse's bold ideas passed into her manner and the expression of
her face. There was a cavalier air about her, a something that seems
at first original, but only suited to women of adventurous life. So
this education, and the consequent asperities of character, which
would have been softened down in a higher social sphere, could only
serve to make her ridiculous at Angouleme so soon as her adorers
should cease to worship eccentricities that charm only in youth.

As for M. de Negrepelisse, he would have given all his daughter's
books to save the life of a sick bullock; and so miserly was he, that
he would not have given her two farthings over and above the allowance
to which she had a right, even if it had been a question of some
indispensable trifle for her education.

In 1802 the Abbe died, before the marriage of his dear child, a
marriage which he, doubtless, would never have advised. The old father
found his daughter a great care now that the Abbe was gone. The
high-spirited girl, with nothing else to do, was sure to break into
rebellion against his niggardliness, and he felt quite unequal to the
struggle. Like all young women who leave the appointed track of
woman's life, Nais had her own opinions about marriage, and had no
great inclination thereto. She shrank from submitting herself, body
and soul, to the feeble, undignified specimens of mankind whom she had
chanced to meet. She wished to rule, marriage meant obedience; and
between obedience to coarse caprices and a mind without indulgence for
her tastes, and flight with a lover who should please her, she would
not have hesitated for a moment.

M. de Negrepelisse maintained sufficient of the tradition of birth to
dread a _mesalliance_. Like many another parent, he resolved to marry
his daughter, not so much on her account as for his own peace of mind.
A noble or a country gentleman was the man for him, somebody not too
clever, incapable of haggling over the account of the trust; stupid
enough and easy enough to allow Nais to have her own way, and
disinterested enough to take her without a dowry. But where to look
for a son-in-law to suit father and daughter equally well, was the
problem. Such a man would be the phoenix of sons-in-law.

To M. de Negrepelisse pondering over the eligible bachelors of the
province with these double requirements in his mind. M. de Bargeton
seemed to be the only one who answered to this description. M. de
Bargeton, aged forty, considerably shattered by the amorous
dissipations of his youth, was generally held to be a man of
remarkably feeble intellect; but he had just the exact amount of
commonsense required for the management of his fortune, and breeding
sufficient to enable him to avoid blunders or blatant follies in
society in Angouleme. In the bluntest manner M. de Negrepelisse
pointed out the negative virtues of the model husband designed for his
daughter, and made her see the way to manage him so as to secure her
own happiness. So Nais married the bearer of arms, two hundred years
old already, for the Bargeton arms are blazoned thus: _the first or,
three attires gules; the second, three ox's heads cabossed, two and
one, sable; the third, barry of six, azure and argent, in the first,
six shells or, three, two, and one_. Provided with a chaperon, Nais
could steer her fortunes as she chose under the style of the firm, and
with the help of such connections as her wit and beauty would obtain
for her in Paris. Nais was enchanted by the prospect of such liberty.
M. de Bargeton was of the opinion that he was making a brilliant
marriage, for he expected that in no long while M. de Negrepelisse
would leave him the estates which he was rounding out so lovingly; but
to an unprejudiced spectator it certainly seemed as though the duty of
writing the bridegroom's epitaph might devolve upon his father-in-law.

By this time Mme. de Bargeton was thirty-six years old and her husband
fifty-eight. The disparity in age was the more startling since M. de
Bargeton looked like a man of seventy, whereas his wife looked
scarcely half her age. She could still wear rose-color, and her hair
hanging loose upon her shoulders. Although their income did not exceed
twelve thousand francs, they ranked among the half-dozen largest
fortunes in the old city, merchants and officials excepted; for M. and
Mme. de Bargeton were obliged to live in Angouleme until such time as
Mme. de Bargeton's inheritance should fall in and they could go to
Paris. Meanwhile they were bound to be attentive to old M. de
Negrepelisse (who kept them waiting so long that his son-in-law in
fact predeceased him), and Nais' brilliant intellectual gifts, and the
wealth that lay like undiscovered ore in her nature, profited her
nothing, underwent the transforming operation of Time and changed to
absurdities. For our absurdities spring, in fact, for the most part,
from the good in us, from some faculty or quality abnormally
developed. Pride, untempered by intercourse with the great world
becomes stiff and starched by contact with petty things; in a loftier
moral atmosphere it would have grown to noble magnanimity. Enthusiasm,
that virtue within a virtue, forming the saint, inspiring the devotion
hidden from all eyes and glowing out upon the world in verse, turns to
exaggeration, with the trifles of a narrow existence for its object.
Far away from the centres of light shed by great minds, where the air
is quick with thought, knowledge stands still, taste is corrupted like
stagnant water, and passion dwindles, frittered away upon the
infinitely small objects which it strives to exalt. Herein lies the
secret of the avarice and tittle-tattle that poison provincial life.
The contagion of narrow-mindedness and meanness affects the noblest
natures; and in such ways as these, men born to be great, and women
who would have been charming if they had fallen under the forming
influence of greater minds, are balked of their lives.

Here was Mme. de Bargeton, for instance, smiting the lyre for every
trifle, and publishing her emotions indiscriminately to her circle. As
a matter of fact, when sensations appeal to an audience of one, it is
better to keep them to ourselves. A sunset certainly is a glorious
poem; but if a woman describes it, in high-sounding words, for the
benefit of matter-of-fact people, is she not ridiculous? There are
pleasures which can only be felt to the full when two souls meet, poet
and poet, heart and heart. She had a trick of using high-sounding
phrases, interlarded with exaggerated expressions, the kind of stuff
ingeniously nicknamed _tartines_ by the French journalist, who furnishes
a daily supply of the commodity for a public that daily performs the
difficult feat of swallowing it. She squandered superlatives
recklessly in her talk, and the smallest things took giant
proportions. It was at this period of her career that she began to
type-ize, individualize, synthesize, dramatize, superiorize, analyze,
poetize, angelize, neologize, tragedify, prosify, and colossify--you
must violate the laws of language to find words to express the
new-fangled whimsies in which even women here and there indulge. The
heat of her language communicated itself to the brain, and the
dithyrambs on her lips were spoken out of the abundance of her heart.
She palpitated, swooned, and went into ecstasies over anything and
everything, over the devotion of a sister of Charity, and the
execution of the brothers Fauchet, over M. d'Arlincourt's _Ipsiboe_,
Lewis' _Anaconda_, or the escape of La Valette, or the presence of mind
of a lady friend who put burglars to flight by imitating a man's
voice. Everything was heroic, extraordinary, strange, wonderful, and
divine. She would work herself into a state of excitement,
indignation, or depression; she soared to heaven, and sank again,
gazed at the sky, or looked to earth; her eyes were always filled with
tears. She wore herself out with chronic admiration, and wasted her
strength on curious dislikes. Her mind ran on the Pasha of Janina; she
would have liked to try conclusions with him in his seraglio, and had
a great notion of being sewn in a sack and thrown into the water. She
envied that blue-stocking of the desert, Lady Hester Stanhope; she
longed to be a sister of Saint Camilla and tend the sick and die of
yellow fever in a hospital at Barcelona; 'twas a high, a noble
destiny! In short, she thirsted for any draught but the clear spring
water of her own life, flowing hidden among green pastures. She adored
Byron and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or anybody else with a picturesque or
dramatic career. Her tears were ready to flow for every misfortune;
she sang paeans for every victory. She sympathized with the fallen
Napoleon, and with Mehemet Ali, massacring the foreign usurpers of
Egypt. In short, any kind of genius was accommodated with an aureole,
and she was fully persuaded that gifted immortals lived on incense and

A good many people looked upon her as a harmless lunatic, but in these
extravagances of hers a keener observer surely would have seen the
broken fragments of a magnificent edifice that had crumbled into ruin
before it was completed, the stones of a heavenly Jerusalem--love, in
short, without a lover. And this was indeed the fact.

The story of the first eighteen years of Mme. de Bargeton's married
life can be summed up in a few words. For a long while she lived upon
herself and distant hopes. Then, when she began to see that their
narrow income put the longed-for life in Paris quite out of the
question, she looked about her at the people with whom her life must
be spent, and shuddered at her loneliness. There was not a single man
who could inspire the madness to which women are prone when they
despair of a life become stale and unprofitable in the present, and
with no outlook for the future. She had nothing to look for, nothing
to expect from chance, for there are lives in which chance plays no
part. But when the Empire was in the full noonday of glory, and
Napoleon was sending the flower of his troops to the Peninsula, her
disappointed hopes revived. Natural curiosity prompted her to make an
effort to see the heroes who were conquering Europe in obedience to a
word from the Emperor in the order of the day; the heroes of a modern
time who outdid the mythical feats of paladins of old. The cities of
France, however avaricious or refractory, must perforce do honor to
the Imperial Guard, and mayors and prefects went out to meet them with
set speeches as if the conquerors had been crowned kings. Mme. de
Bargeton went to a _ridotto_ given to the town by a regiment, and fell
in love with an officer of a good family, a sub-lieutenant, to whom
the crafty Napoleon had given a glimpse of the baton of a Marshal of
France. Love, restrained, greater and nobler than the ties that were
made and unmade so easily in those days, was consecrated coldly by the
hands of death. On the battlefield of Wagram a shell shattered the
only record of Mme. de Bargeton's young beauty, a portrait worn on the
heart of the Marquis of Cante-Croix. For long afterwards she wept for
the young soldier, the colonel in his second campaign, for the heart
hot with love and glory that set a letter from Nais above Imperial
favor. The pain of those days cast a veil of sadness over her face, a
shadow that only vanished at the terrible age when a woman first
discovers with dismay that the best years of her life are over, and
she has had no joy of them; when she sees her roses wither, and the
longing for love is revived again with the desire to linger yet for a
little on the last smiles of youth. Her nobler qualities dealt so many
wounds to her soul at the moment when the cold of the provinces seized
upon her. She would have died of grief like the ermine if by chance
she had been sullied by contact with those men whose thoughts are bent
on winning a few sous nightly at cards after a good dinner; pride
saved her from the shabby love intrigues of the provinces. A woman so
much above the level of those about her, forced to decide between the
emptiness of the men whom she meets and the emptiness of her own life,
can make but one choice; marriage and society became a cloister for
Anais. She lived by poetry as the Carmelite lives by religion. All the
famous foreign books published in France for the first time between
1815 and 1821, the great essayists, M. de Bonald and M. de Maistre
(those two eagles of thought)--all the lighter French literature, in
short, that appeared during that sudden outburst of first vigorous
growth might bring delight into her solitary life, but not flexibility
of mind or body. She stood strong and straight like some forest tree,
lightning-blasted but still erect. Her dignity became a stilted
manner, her social supremacy led her into affectation and sentimental
over-refinements; she queened it with her foibles, after the usual
fashion of those who allow their courtiers to adore them.

This was Mme. de Bargeton's past life, a dreary chronicle which must
be given if Lucien's position with regard to the lady is to be
comprehensible. Lucien's introduction came about oddly enough. In the
previous winter a newcomer had brought some interest into Mme. de
Bargeton's monotonous life. The place of controller of excise fell
vacant, and M. de Barante appointed a man whose adventurous life was a
sufficient passport to the house of the sovereign lady who had her
share of feminine curiosity.

M. de Chatelet--he began life as plain Sixte Chatelet, but since 1806
had the wit to adopt the particle--M. du Chatelet was one of the
agreeable young men who escaped conscription after conscription by
keeping very close to the Imperial sun. He had begun his career as
private secretary to an Imperial Highness, a post for which he
possessed every qualification. Personable and of a good figure, a
clever billiard-player, a passable amateur actor, he danced well, and
excelled in most physical exercises; he could, moreover, sing a ballad
and applaud a witticism. Supple, envious, never at a loss, there was
nothing that he did not know--nothing that he really knew. He knew
nothing, for instance, of music, but he could sit down to the piano
and accompany, after a fashion, a woman who consented after much
pressing to sing a ballad learned by heart in a month of hard
practice. Incapable though he was of any feeling for poetry, he would
boldly ask permission to retire for ten minutes to compose an
impromptu, and return with a quatrain, flat as a pancake, wherein
rhyme did duty for reason. M. du Chatelet had besides a very pretty
talent for filling in the ground of the Princess' worsted work after
the flowers had been begun; he held her skeins of silk with infinite
grace, entertained her with dubious nothings more or less
transparently veiled. He was ignorant of painting, but he could copy a
landscape, sketch a head in profile, or design a costume and color it.
He had, in short, all the little talents that a man could turn to such
useful account in times when women exercised more influence in public
life than most people imagine. Diplomacy he claimed to be his strong
point; it usually is with those who have no knowledge, and are
profound by reason of their emptiness; and, indeed, this kind of skill
possesses one signal advantage, for it can only be displayed in the
conduct of the affairs of the great, and when discretion is the
quality required, a man who knows nothing can safely say nothing, and
take refuge in a mysterious shake of the head; in fact; the cleverest
practitioner is he who can swim with the current and keep his head
well above the stream of events which he appears to control, a man's
fitness for this business varying inversely as his specific gravity.
But in this particular art or craft, as in all others, you shall find
a thousand mediocrities for one man of genius; and in spite of
Chatelet's services, ordinary and extraordinary, Her Imperial Highness
could not procure a seat in the Privy Council for her private
secretary; not that he would not have made a delightful Master of
Requests, like many another, but the Princess was of the opinion that
her secretary was better placed with her than anywhere else in the
world. He was made a Baron, however, and went to Cassel as
envoy-extraordinary, no empty form of words, for he cut a very
extraordinary figure there--Napoleon used him as a diplomatic courier
in the thick of a European crisis. Just as he had been promised the
post of minister to Jerome in Westphalia, the Empire fell to pieces;
and balked of his _ambassade de famille_ as he called it, he went off
in despair to Egypt with General de Montriveau. A strange chapter of
accidents separated him from his traveling companion, and for two long
years Sixte du Chatelet led a wandering life among the Arab tribes of
the desert, who sold and resold their captive--his talents being not
of the slightest use to the nomad tribes. At length, about the time
that Montriveau reached Tangier, Chatelet found himself in the
territory of the Imam of Muscat, had the luck to find an English
vessel just about to set sail, and so came back to Paris a year sooner
than his sometime companion. Once in Paris, his recent misfortunes,
and certain connections of long standing, together with services
rendered to great persons now in power, recommended him to the
President of the Council, who put him in M. de Barante's department
until such time as a controllership should fall vacant. So the part
that M. du Chatelet once had played in the history of the Imperial
Princess, his reputation for success with women, the strange story of
his travels and sufferings, all awakened the interest of the ladies of

M. le Baron Sixte du Chatelet informed himself as to the manners and
customs of the upper town, and took his cue accordingly. He appeared
on the scene as a jaded man of the world, broken in health, and weary
in spirit. He would raise his hand to his forehead at all seasons, as
if pain never gave him a moment's respite, a habit that recalled his
travels and made him interesting. He was on visiting terms with the
authorities--the general in command, the prefect, the
receiver-general, and the bishop but in every house he was frigid,
polite, and slightly supercilious, like a man out of his proper place
awaiting the favors of power. His social talents he left to conjecture,
nor did they lose anything in reputation on that account; then when
people began to talk about him and wish to know him, and curiosity was
still lively; when he had reconnoitred the men and found them nought,
and studied the women with the eyes of experience in the cathedral for
several Sundays, he saw that Mme. de. Bargeton was the person with
whom it would be best to be on intimate terms. Music, he thought,
should open the doors of a house where strangers were never received.
Surreptitiously he procured one of Miroir's Masses, learned it upon
the piano; and one fine Sunday when all Angouleme went to the
cathedral, he played the organ, sent those who knew no better into
ecstasies over the performance, and stimulated the interest felt in
him by allowing his name to slip out through the attendants. As he
came out after mass, Mme. de Bargeton complimented him, regretting
that she had no opportunity of playing duets with such a musician; and
naturally, during an interview of her own seeking, he received the
passport, which he could not have obtained if he had asked for it.

So the adroit Baron was admitted to the circle of the queen of
Angouleme, and paid her marked attention. The elderly beau--he was
forty-five years old--saw that all her youth lay dormant and ready to
revive, saw treasures to be turned to account, and possibly a rich
widow to wed, to say nothing of expectations; it would be a marriage
into the family of Negrepelisse, and for him this meant a family
connection with the Marquise d'Espard, and a political career in
Paris. Here was a fair tree to cultivate in spite of the ill-omened,
unsightly mistletoe that grew thick upon it; he would hang his
fortunes upon it, and prune it, and wait till he could gather its
golden fruit.

High-born Angouleme shrieked against the introduction of a Giaour into
the sanctuary, for Mme. de Bargeton's salon was a kind of holy of
holies in a society that kept itself unspotted from the world. The
only outsider intimate there was the bishop; the prefect was admitted
twice or thrice in a year, the receiver-general was never received at
all; Mme. de Bargeton would go to concerts and "at homes" at his
house, but she never accepted invitations to dinner. And now, she who
had declined to open her doors to the receiver-general, welcomed a
mere controller of excise! Here was a novel order of precedence for
snubbed authority; such a thing it had never entered their minds to

Those who by dint of mental effort can understand a kind of pettiness
which, for that matter, can be found on any and every social level,
will realize the awe with which the _bourgeoisie_ of Angouleme regarded
the Hotel de Bargeton. The inhabitant of L'Houmeau beheld the grandeur
of that miniature Louvre, the glory of the Angoumoisin Hotel de
Rambouillet, shining at a solar distance; and yet, within it there was
gathered together all the direst intellectual poverty, all the decayed
gentility from twenty leagues round about.

Political opinion expanded itself in wordy commonplaces vociferated
with emphasis; the _Quotidienne_ was comparatively Laodicean in its
loyalty, and Louis XVIII. a Jacobin. The women, for the most part,
were awkward, silly, insipid, and ill dressed; there was always
something amiss that spoiled the whole; nothing in them was complete,
toilette or talk, flesh or spirit. But for his designs on Mme. de
Bargeton, Chatelet could not have endured the society. And yet the
manners and spirit of the noble in his ruined manor-house, the
knowledge of the traditions of good breeding,--these things covered a
multitude of deficiencies. Nobility of feeling was far more real here
than in the lofty world of Paris. You might compare these country
Royalists, if the metaphor may be allowed, to old-fashioned silver
plate, antiquated and tarnished, but weighty; their attachment to the
House of Bourbon as the House of Bourbon did them honor. The very
fixity of their political opinions was a sort of faithfulness. The
distance that they set between themselves and the _bourgeoisie_, their
very exclusiveness, gave them a certain elevation, and enhanced their
value. Each noble represented a certain price for the townsmen, as
Bambara Negroes, we are told, attach a money value to cowrie shells.

Some of the women, flattered by M. du Chatelet, discerned in him the
superior qualities lacking in the men of their own sect, and the
insurrection of self-love was pacified. These ladies all hoped to
succeed to the Imperial Highness. Purists were of the opinion that you
might see the intruder in Mme. de Bargeton's house, but not elsewhere.
Du Chatelet was fain to put up with a good deal of insolence, but he
held his ground by cultivating the clergy. He encouraged the queen of
Angouleme in foibles bred of the soil; he brought her all the newest
books; he read aloud the poetry that appeared. Together they went into
ecstasies over these poets; she in all sincerity, he with suppressed
yawns; but he bore with the Romantics with a patience hardly to be
expected of a man of the Imperial school, who scarcely could make out
what the young writers meant. Not so Mme. de Bargeton; she waxed
enthusiastic over the renaissance, due to the return of the Bourbon
Lilies; she loved M. de Chateaubriand for calling Victor Hugo "a
sublime child." It depressed her that she could only know genius from
afar, she sighed for Paris, where great men live. For these reasons M.
du Chatelet thought he had done a wonderfully clever thing when he
told the lady that at that moment in Angouleme there was "another
sublime child," a young poet, a rising star whose glory surpassed the
whole Parisian galaxy, though he knew it not. A great man of the
future had been born in L'Houmeau! The headmaster of the school had
shown the Baron some admirable verses. The poor and humble lad was a
second Chatterton, with none of the political baseness and ferocious
hatred of the great ones of earth that led his English prototype to
turn pamphleteer and revile his benefactors. Mme. de Bargeton in her
little circle of five or six persons, who were supposed to share her
tastes for art and letters, because this one scraped a fiddle, and
that splashed sheets of white paper, more or less, with sepia, and the
other was president of a local agricultural society, or was gifted
with a bass voice that rendered _Se fiato in corpo_ like a war whoop
--Mme. de Bargeton amid these grotesque figures was like a famished
actor set down to a stage dinner of pasteboard. No words, therefore,
can describe her joy at these tidings. She must see this poet, this
angel! She raved about him, went into raptures, talked of him for
whole hours together. Before two days were out the sometime diplomatic
courier had negotiated (through the headmaster) for Lucien's
appearance in the Hotel de Bargeton.

Poor helots of the provinces, for whom the distances between class and
class are so far greater than for the Parisian (for whom, indeed,
these distances visibly lessen day by day); souls so grievously
oppressed by the social barriers behind which all sorts and conditions
of men sit crying _Raca_! with mutual anathemas--you, and you alone,
will fully comprehend the ferment in Lucien's heart and brain, when
his awe-inspiring headmaster told him that the great gates of the
Hotel de Bargeton would shortly open and turn upon their hinges at his
fame! Lucien and David, walking together of an evening in the
Promenade de Beaulieu, had looked up at the house with the
old-fashioned gables, and wondered whether their names would ever so
much as reach ears inexorably deaf to knowledge that came from a lowly
origin; and now he (Lucien) was to be made welcome there!

No one except his sister was in the secret. Eve, like the thrifty
housekeeper and divine magician that she was, conjured up a few louis
d'or from her savings to buy thin shoes for Lucien of the best
shoemaker in Angouleme, and an entirely new suit of clothes from the
most renowned tailor. She made a frill for his best shirt, and washed
and pleated it with her own hands. And how pleased she was to see him
so dressed! How proud she felt of her brother, and what quantities of
advice she gave him! Her intuition foresaw countless foolish fears.
Lucien had a habit of resting his elbows on the table when he was in
deep thought; he would even go so far as to draw a table nearer to
lean upon it; Eve told him that he must not forget himself in those
aristocratic precincts.

She went with him as far as St. Peter's Gate, and when they were
almost opposite the cathedral she stopped, and watched him pass down
the Rue de Beaulieu to the Promenade, where M. du Chatelet was waiting
for him. And after he was out of sight, she still stood there, poor
girl! in a great tremor of emotion, as though some great thing had
happened to them. Lucien in Mme. de Bargeton's house!--for Eve it
meant the dawn of success. The innocent creature did not suspect that
where ambition begins, ingenuous feeling ends.

Externals in the Rue du Minage gave Lucien no sense of surprise. This
palace, that loomed so large in his imagination, was a house built of
the soft stone of the country, mellowed by time. It looked dismal
enough from the street, and inside it was extremely plain; there was
the usual provincial courtyard--chilly, prim, and neat; and the house
itself was sober, almost convent-like, but in good repair.

Lucien went up the old staircase with the balustrade of chestnut wood
(the stone steps ceased after the second floor), crossed a shabby
antechamber, and came into the presence in a little wainscoted
drawing-room, beyond a dimly-lit salon. The carved woodwork, in the
taste of the eighteenth century, had been painted gray. There were
monochrome paintings on the frieze panels, and the walls were adorned
with crimson damask with a meagre border. The old-fashioned furniture
shrank piteously from sight under covers of a red-and-white check
pattern. On the sofa, covered with thin mattressed cushions, sat Mme.
de Bargeton; the poet beheld her by the light of two wax candles on a
sconce with a screen fitted to it, that stood before her on a round
table with a green cloth.

The queen did not attempt to rise, but she twisted very gracefully on
her seat, smiling on the poet, who was not a little fluttered by the
serpentine quiverings; her manner was distinguished, he thought. For
Mme. de Bargeton, she was impressed with Lucien's extreme beauty, with
his diffidence, with everything about him; for her the poet already
was poetry incarnate. Lucien scrutinized his hostess with discreet
side glances; she disappointed none of his expectations of a great

Mme. de Bargeton, following a new fashion, wore a coif of slashed
black velvet, a head-dress that recalls memories of mediaeval legend
to a young imagination, to amplify, as it were, the dignity of
womanhood. Her red-gold hair, escaping from under her cap, hung loose;
bright golden color in the light, red in the rounded shadow of the
curls that only partially hid her neck. Beneath a massive white brow,
clean cut and strongly outlined, shone a pair of bright gray eyes
encircled by a margin of mother-of-pearl, two blue veins on each side
of the nose bringing out the whiteness of that delicate setting. The
Bourbon curve of the nose added to the ardent expression of an oval
face; it was as if the royal temper of the House of Conde shone
conspicuous in this feature. The careless cross-folds of the bodice
left a white throat bare, and half revealed the outlines of a still
youthful figure and shapely, well placed contours beneath.

With fingers tapering and well-kept, though somewhat too thin, Mme. de
Bargeton amiably pointed to a seat by her side, M. du Chatelet
ensconced himself in an easy-chair, and Lucien then became aware that
there was no one else in the room.

Mme. de Bargeton's words intoxicated the young poet from L'Houmeau.
For Lucien those three hours spent in her presence went by like a
dream that we would fain have last forever. She was not thin, he
thought; she was slender; in love with love, and loverless; and
delicate in spite of her strength. Her foibles, exaggerated by her
manner, took his fancy; for youth sets out with a love of hyperbole,
that infirmity of noble souls. He did not so much as see that her
cheeks were faded, that the patches of color on the cheek-bone were
faded and hardened to a brick-red by listless days and a certain
amount of ailing health. His imagination fastened at once on the
glowing eyes, on the dainty curls rippling with light, on the dazzling
fairness of her skin, and hovered about those bright points as the
moth hovers about the candle flame. For her spirit made such appeal to
his that he could no longer see the woman as she was. Her feminine
exaltation had carried him away, the energy of her expressions, a
little staled in truth by pretty hard and constant wear, but new to
Lucien, fascinated him so much the more easily because he was
determined to be pleased. He had brought none of his own verses to
read, but nothing was said of them; he had purposely left them behind
because he meant to return; and Mme. de Bargeton did not ask for them,
because she meant that he should come back some future day to read
them to her. Was not this a beginning of an understanding?

As for M. Sixte du Chatelet, he was not over well pleased with all
this. He perceived rather too late in the day that he had a rival in
this handsome young fellow. He went with him as far as the first
flight of steps below Beaulieu to try the effect of a little
diplomacy; and Lucien was not a little astonished when he heard the
controller of excise pluming himself on having effected the
introduction, and proceeding in this character to give him (Lucien)
the benefit of his advice.

"Heaven send that Lucien might meet with better treatment than he had
done," such was the matter of M. du Chatelet's discourse. "The Court
was less insolent that this pack of dolts in Angouleme. You were
expected to endure deadly insults; the superciliousness you had to put
up with was something abominable. If this kind of folk did not alter
their behavior, there would be another Revolution of '89. As for
himself, if he continued to go to the house, it was because he had
found Mme. de Bargeton to his taste; she was the only woman worth
troubling about in Angouleme; he had been paying court to her for want
of anything better to do, and now he was desperately in love with her.
She would be his before very long, she loved him, everything pointed
that way. The conquest of this haughty queen of the society would be
his one revenge on the whole houseful of booby clodpates."

Chatelet talked of his passion in the tone of a man who would have a
rival's life if he crossed his path. The elderly butterfly of the
Empire came down with his whole weight on the poor poet, and tried to
frighten and crush him by his self-importance. He grew taller as he
gave an embellished account of his perilous wanderings; but while he
impressed the poet's imagination, the lover was by no means afraid of

In spite of the elderly coxcomb, and regardless of his threats and
airs of a _bourgeois_ bravo, Lucien went back again and again to the
house--not too often at first, as became a man of L'Houmeau; but
before very long he grew accustomed to the vast condescension, as it
had seemed to him at the outset, and came more and more frequently.
The druggist's son was a completely insignificant being. If any of the
_noblesse_, men or women, calling upon Nais, found Lucien in the room,
they met him with the overwhelming graciousness that well-bred people
use towards their inferiors. Lucien thought them very kind for a time,
and later found out the real reason for their specious amiability. It
was not long before he detected a patronizing tone that stirred his
gall and confirmed him in his bitter Republicanism, a phase of opinion
through which many a would-be patrician passes by way of prelude to
his introduction to polite society.

But was there anything that he would not have endured for Nais?--for
so he heard her named by the clan. Like Spanish grandees and the old
Austrian nobility at Vienna, these folk, men and women alike, called
each other by their Christian names, a final shade of distinction in
the inmost ring of Angoumoisin aristocracy.

Lucien loved Nais as a young man loves the first woman who flatters
him, for Nais prophesied great things and boundless fame for Lucien.
She used all her skill to secure her hold upon her poet; not merely
did she exalt him beyond measure, but she represented him to himself
as a child without fortune whom she meant to start in life; she
treated him like a child, to keep him near her; she made him her
reader, her secretary, and cared more for him than she would have
thought possible after the dreadful calamity that had befallen her.

She was very cruel to herself in those days, telling herself that it
would be folly to love a young man of twenty, so far apart from her
socially in the first place; and her behavior to him was a bewildering
mixture of familiarity and capricious fits of pride arising from her
fears and scruples. She was sometimes a lofty patroness, sometimes she
was tender and flattered him. At first, while he was overawed by her
rank, Lucien experienced the extremes of dread, hope, and despair, the
torture of a first love, that is beaten deep into the heart with the
hammer strokes of alternate bliss and anguish. For two months Mme. de
Bargeton was for him a benefactress who would take a mother's interest
in him; but confidences came next. Mme. de Bargeton began to address
her poet as "dear Lucien," and then as "dear," without more ado. The
poet grew bolder, and addressed the great lady as Nais, and there
followed a flash of anger that captivates a boy; she reproached him
for calling her by a name in everybody's mouth. The haughty and
high-born Negrepelisse offered the fair angel youth that one of her
appellations which was unsoiled by use; for him she would be "Louise."
Lucien was in the third heaven.

One evening when Lucien came in, he found Mme. de Bargeton looking at
a portrait, which she promptly put away. He wished to see it, and to
quiet the despair of a first fit of jealousy Louise showed him
Cante-Croix's picture, and told with tears the piteous story of a love
so stainless, so cruelly cut short. Was she experimenting with herself?
Was she trying a first unfaithfulness to the memory of the dead? Or
had she taken it into her head to raise up a rival to Lucien in the
portrait? Lucien was too much of a boy to analyze his lady-love; he
gave way to unfeigned despair when she opened the campaign by
entrenching herself behind the more or less skilfully devised scruples
which women raise to have them battered down. When a woman begins to
talk about her duty, regard for appearances or religion, the
objections she raises are so many redoubts which she loves to have
carried by storm. But on the guileless Lucien these coquetries were
thrown away; he would have advanced of his own accord.

"_I_ shall not die for you, I will live for you," he cried audaciously
one evening; he meant to have no more of M. de Cante-Croix, and gave
Louise a glance which told plainly that a crisis was at hand.

Startled at the progress of this new love in herself and her poet,
Louise demanded some verses promised for the first page of her album,
looking for a pretext for a quarrel in his tardiness. But what became
of her when she read the following stanzas, which, naturally, she
considered finer than the finest work of Canalis, the poet of the

The magic brush, light flying flights of song--
To these, but not to these alone, belong
My pages fair;
Often to me, my mistress' pencil steals
To tell the secret gladness that she feels,
The hidden care.

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