Part 3 out of 3
my love for you in your name. Eve was the one woman in the world; if
it was true in the outward world for Adam, it is true again in the
inner world of my heart for me. My God! do you love me?"
"Yes," said she, lengthening out the word as if to make it cover the
extent of feeling expressed by a single syllable.
"Well, let us sit here," he said, and taking Eve's hand, he went to a
great baulk of timber lying below the wheels of a paper-mill. "Let me
breathe the evening air, and hear the frogs croak, and watch the
moonlight quivering upon the river; let me take all this world about
us into my soul, for it seems to me that my happiness is written large
over it all; I am seeing it for the first time in all its splendor,
lighted up by love, grown fair through you. Eve, dearest, this is the
first moment of pure and unmixed joy that fate has given to me! I do
not think that Lucien can be as happy as I am."
David felt Eve's hand, damp and quivering in his own, and a tear fell
"May I not know the secret?" she pleaded coaxingly.
"You have a right to know it, for your father was interested in the
matter, and to-day it is a pressing question, and for this reason.
Since the downfall of the Empire, calico has come more and more into
use, because it is so much cheaper than linen. At the present moment,
paper is made of a mixture of hemp and linen rags, but the raw
material is dear, and the expense naturally retards the great advance
which the French press is bound to make. Now you cannot increase the
output of linen rags, a given population gives a pretty constant
result, and it only increases with the birth-rate. To make any
perceptible difference in the population for this purpose, it would
take a quarter of a century and a great revolution in habits of life,
trade, and agriculture. And if the supply of linen rags is not enough
to meet one-half nor one-third of the demand, some cheaper material
than linen rags must be found for cheap paper. This deduction is based
on facts that came under my knowledge here. The Angouleme
paper-makers, the last to use pure linen rags, say that the proportion
of cotton in the pulp has increased to a frightful extent of late
In answer to a question from Eve, who did not know what "pulp" meant,
David gave an account of paper-making, which will not be out of place
in a volume which owes its existence in book form to the paper
industry no less than to the printing-press; but the long digression,
doubtless, had best be condensed at first.
Paper, an invention not less marvelous than the other dependent
invention of printing, was known in ancient times in China. Thence by
the unrecognized channels of commerce the art reached Asia Minor,
where paper was made of cotton reduced to pulp and boiled. Parchment
had become so extremely dear that a cheap substitute was discovered in
an imitation of the cotton paper known in the East as _charta
bombycina_. The imitation, made from rags, was first made at Basel, in
1170, by a colony of Greek refugees, according to some authorities; or
at Padua, in 1301, by an Italian named Pax, according to others. In
these ways the manufacture of paper was perfected slowly and in
obscurity; but this much is certain, that so early as the reign of
Charles VI., paper pulp for playing-cards was made in Paris.
When those immortals, Faust, Coster, and Gutenberg, invented the Book,
craftsmen as obscure as many a great artist of those times
appropriated paper to the uses of typography. In the fifteenth
century, that naive and vigorous age, names were given to the various
formats as well as to the different sizes of type, names that bear the
impress of the naivete of the times; and the various sheets came to be
known by the different watermarks on their centres; the grapes, the
figure of our Saviour, the crown, the shield, or the flower-pot, just
as at a later day, the eagle of Napoleon's time gave the name to the
"double-eagle" size. And in the same way the types were called Cicero,
Saint-Augustine, and Canon type, because they were first used to print
the treatises of Cicero and theological and liturgical works. Italics
are so called because they were invented in Italy by Aldus of Venice.
Before the invention of machine-made paper, which can be woven in any
length, the largest sized sheets were the _grand jesus_ and the double
columbier (this last being scarcely used now except for atlases or
engravings), and the size of paper for printers' use was determined by
the dimensions of the impression-stone. When David explained these
things to Eve, web-paper was almost undreamed of in France, although,
about 1799, Denis Robert d'Essonne had invented a machine for turning
out a ribbon of paper, and Didot-Saint-Leger had since tried to
perfect it. The vellum paper invented by Ambroise Didot only dates
back as far as 1780.
This bird's eye view of the history of the invention shows
incontestably that great industrial and intellectual advances are made
exceedingly slowly, and little by little, even as Nature herself
proceeds. Perhaps articulate speech and the art of writing were
gradually developed in the same groping way as typography and
"Rag-pickers collect all the rags and old linen of Europe," the
printer concluded, "and buy any kind of tissue. The rags are sorted
and warehoused by the wholesale rag merchants, who supply the
paper-mills. To give you some idea of the extent of the trade, you
must know, mademoiselle, that in 1814 Cardon the banker, owner of the
pulping troughs of Bruges and Langlee (where Leorier de l'Isle
endeavored in 1776 to solve the very problem that occupied your
father), Cardon brought an action against one Proust for an error in
weights of two millions in a total of ten million pounds' weight of
rags, worth about four million francs! The manufacturer washes the
rags and reduces them to a thin pulp, which is strained, exactly as a
cook strains sauce through a tamis, through an iron frame with a fine
wire bottom where the mark which give its name to the size of the
paper is woven. The size of this _mould_, as it is called, regulates the
size of the sheet.
"When I was with the Messieurs Didot," David continued, "they were
very much interested in this question, and they are still interested;
for the improvement which your father endeavored to make is a great
commercial requirement, and one of the crying needs of the time. And
for this reason: although linen lasts so much longer than cotton, that
it is in reality cheaper in the end, the poor would rather make the
smaller outlay in the first instance, and, by virtue of the law of _Vae
victis!_ pay enormously more before they have done. The middle classes
do the same. So there is a scarcity of linen. In England, where
four-fifths of the population use cotton to the exclusion of linen,
they make nothing but cotton paper. The cotton paper is very soft and
easily creased to begin with, and it has a further defect: it is so
soluble that if you seep a book made of cotton paper in water for
fifteen minutes, it turns to a pulp, while an old book left in water
for a couple of hours is not spoilt. You could dry the old book, and
the pages, though yellow and faded, would still be legible, the work
would not be destroyed.
"There is a time coming when legislation will equalize our fortunes,
and we shall all be poor together; we shall want our linen and our
books to be cheap, just as people are beginning to prefer small
pictures because they have not wall space enough for large ones. Well,
the shirts and the books will not last, that is all; it is the same on
all sides, solidity is drying out. So this problem is one of the first
importance for literature, science, and politics.
"One day, in my office, there was a hot discussion going on about the
material that the Chinese use for making paper. Their paper is far
better than ours, because the raw material is better; and a good deal
was said about this thin, light Chinese paper, for if it is light and
thin, the texture is close, there are no transparent spots in it. In
Paris there are learned men among the printers' readers; Fourier and
Pierre Leroux are Lachevardiere's readers at this moment; and the
Comte de Saint-Simon, who happened to be correcting proofs for us,
came in in the middle of the discussion. He told us at once that,
according to Kempfer and du Halde, the _Broussonetia_ furnishes the
substance of the Chinese paper; it is a vegetable substance (like
linen or cotton for that matter). Another reader maintained that
Chinese paper was principally made of an animal substance, to wit, the
silk that is abundant there. They made a bet about it in my presence.
The Messieurs Didot are printers to the Institute, so naturally they
referred the question to that learned body. M. Marcel, who used to be
superintendent of the Royal Printing Establishment, was umpire, and he
sent the two readers to M. l'Abbe Grozier, Librarian at the Arsenal.
By the Abbe's decision they both lost their wages. The paper was not
made of silk nor yet from the _Broussonetia_; the pulp proved to be the
triturated fibre of some kind of bamboo. The Abbe Grozier had a
Chinese book, an iconographical and technological work, with a great
many pictures in it, illustrating all the different processes of
paper-making, and he showed us a picture of the workshop with the
bamboo stalks lying in a heap in the corner; it was extremely well
"Lucien told me that your father, with the intuition of a man of
talent, had a glimmering of a notion of some way of replacing linen
rags with an exceedingly common vegetable product, not previously
manufactured, but taken direct from the soil, as the Chinese use
vegetable fibre at first hand. I have classified the guesses made by
those who came before me, and have begun to study the question. The
bamboo is a kind of reed; naturally I began to think of the reeds that
grow here in France.
"Labor is very cheap in China, where a workman earns three halfpence a
day, and this cheapness of labor enables the Chinese to manipulate
each sheet of paper separately. They take it out of the mould, and
press it between heated tablets of white porcelain, that is the secret
of the surface and consistence, the lightness and satin smoothness of
the best paper in the world. Well, here in Europe the work must be
done by machinery; machinery must take the place of cheap Chinese
labor. If we could but succeed in making a cheap paper of as good a
quality, the weight and thickness of printed books would be reduced by
more than one-half. A set of Voltaire, printed on our woven paper and
bound, weighs about two hundred and fifty pounds; it would only weigh
fifty if we used Chinese paper. That surely would be a triumph, for
the housing of many books has come to be a difficulty; everything has
grown smaller of late; this is not an age of giants; men have shrunk,
everything about them shrinks, and house-room into the bargain. Great
mansions and great suites of rooms will be abolished sooner or later
in Paris, for no one will afford to live in the great houses built by
our forefathers. What a disgrace for our age if none of its books
should last! Dutch paper--that is, paper made from flax--will be quite
unobtainable in ten years' time. Well, your brother told me of this
idea of your father's, this plan for using vegetable fibre in
paper-making, so you see that if I succeed, you have a right to----"
Lucien came up at that moment and interrupted David's generous
"I do not know whether you have found the evening pleasant," said he;
"it has been a cruel time for me."
"Poor Lucien! what can have happened?" cried Eve, as she saw her
brother's excited face.
The poet told the history of his agony, pouring out a flood of
clamorous thoughts into those friendly hearts, Eve and David listening
in pained silence to a torrent of woes that exhibited such greatness
and such pettiness.
"M. de Bargeton is an old dotard. The indigestion will carry him off
before long, no doubt," Lucien said, as he made an end, "and then I
will look down on these proud people; I will marry Mme. de Bargeton. I
read to-night in her eyes a love as great as mine for her. Yes, she
felt all that I felt; she comforted me; she is as great and noble as
she is gracious and beautiful. She will never give me up."
"It is time that life was made smooth for him, is it not?" murmured
David, and for answer Eve pressed his arm without speaking. David
guessed her thoughts, and began at once to tell Lucien about his own
If Lucien was full of his troubles, the lovers were quite as full of
themselves. So absorbed were they, so eager that Lucien should approve
their happiness, that neither Eve nor David so much as noticed his
start of surprise at the news. Mme. de Bargeton's lover had been
dreaming of a great match for his sister; he would reach a high
position first, and then secure himself by an alliance with some
family of influence, and here was one more obstacle in his way to
success! His hopes were dashed to the ground. "If Mme. de Bargeton
consents to be Mme. de Rubempre, she would never care to have David
Sechard for a brother-in-law!"
This stated clearly and precisely was the thought that tortured
Lucien's inmost mind. "Louise is right!" he thought bitterly. "A man
with a career before him is never understood by his family."
If the marriage had not been announced immediately after Lucien's
fancy had put M. de Bargeton to death, he would have been radiant with
heartfelt delight at the news. If he had thought soberly over the
probable future of a beautiful and penniless girl like Eve Chardon, he
would have seen that this marriage was a piece of unhoped-for good
fortune. But he was living just now in a golden dream; he had soared
above all barriers on the wings of an _if_; he had seen a vision of
himself, rising above society; and it was painful to drop so suddenly
down to hard fact.
Eve and David both thought that their brother was overcome with the
sense of such generosity; to them, with their noble natures, the
silent consent was a sign of true friendship. David began to describe
with kindly and cordial eloquence the happy fortunes in store for them
all. Unchecked by protests put in by Eve, he furnished his first floor
with a lover's lavishness, built a second floor with boyish good faith
for Lucien, and rooms above the shed for Mme. Chardon--he meant to be
a son to her. In short, he made the whole family so happy and his
brother-in-law so independent, that Lucien fell under the spell of
David's voice and Eve's caresses; and as they went through the shadows
beside the still Charente, a gleam in the warm, star-lit night, he
forgot the sharp crown of thorns that had been pressed upon his head.
"M. de Rubempre" discovered David's real nature, in fact. His facile
character returned almost at once to the innocent, hard-working
burgher life that he knew; he saw it transfigured and free from care.
The buzz of the aristocratic world grew more and more remote; and when
at length they came upon the paved road of L'Houmeau, the ambitious
poet grasped his brother's hand, and made a third in the joy of the
"If only your father makes no objection to the marriage," he said.
"You know how much he troubles himself about me; the old man lives for
himself," said David. "But I will go over to Marsac to-morrow and see
him, if it is only to ask leave to build."
David went back to the house with the brother and sister, and asked
Mme. Chardon's consent to his marriage with the eagerness of a man who
would fain have no delay. Eve's mother took her daughter's hand, and
gladly laid it in David's; and the lover, grown bolder on this, kissed
his fair betrothed on the forehead, and she flushed red, and smiled at
"The betrothal of the poor," the mother said, raising her eyes as if
to pray for heaven's blessing upon them.--"You are brave, my boy," she
added, looking at David, "but we have fallen on evil fortune, and I am
afraid lest our bad luck should be infectious."
"We shall be rich and happy," David said earnestly. "To begin with,
you must not go out nursing any more, and you must come and live with
your daughter and Lucien in Angouleme."
The three began at once to tell the astonished mother all their
charming plans, and the family party gave themselves up to the
pleasure of chatting and weaving a romance, in which it is so pleasant
to enjoy future happiness, and to store the unsown harvest. They had
to put David out at the door; he could have wished the evening to last
for ever, and it was one o'clock in the morning when Lucien and his
future brother-in-law reached the Palet Gate. The unwonted movement
made honest Postel uneasy; he opened the window, and looking through
the Venetian shutters, he saw a light in Eve's room.
"What can be happening at the Chardons'?" thought he, and seeing
Lucien come in, he called out to him--
"What is the matter, sonny? Do you want me to do anything?"
"No, sir," returned the poet; "but as you are our friend, I can tell
you about it; my mother has just given her consent to my sister's
engagement to David Sechard."
For all answer, Postel shut the window with a bang, in despair that he
had not asked for Mlle. Chardon earlier.
David, however, did not go back into Angouleme; he took the road to
Marsac instead, and walked through the night the whole way to his
father's house. He went along by the side of the croft just as the sun
rose, and caught sight of the old "bear's" face under an almond-tree
that grew out of the hedge.
"Good day, father," called David.
"Why, is it you, my boy? How come you to be out on the road at this
time of day? There is your way in," he added, pointing to a little
wicket gate. "My vines have flowered and not a shoot has been frosted.
There will be twenty puncheons or more to the acre this year; but then
look at all the dung that has been put on the land!"
"Father, I have come on important business."
"Very well; how are your presses doing? You must be making heaps of
money as big as yourself."
"I shall some day, father, but I am not very well off just now."
"They all tell me that I ought not to put on so much manure," replied
his father. "The gentry, that is M. le Marquis, M. le Comte, and
Monsieur What-do-you-call-'em, say that I am letting down the quality
of the wine. What is the good of book-learning except to muddle your
wits? Just you listen: these gentlemen get seven, or sometimes eight
puncheons of wine to the acre, and they sell them for sixty francs
apiece, that means four hundred francs per acre at most in a good
year. Now, I make twenty puncheons, and get thirty francs apiece for
them--that is six hundred francs! And where are they, the fools?
Quality, quality, what is quality to me? They can keep their quality
for themselves, these Lord Marquises. Quality means hard cash for me,
that is what it means, You were saying?----"
"I am going to be married, father, and I have come to ask for----"
"Ask me for what? Nothing of the sort, my boy. Marry; I give you my
consent, but as for giving you anything else, I haven't a penny to
bless myself with. Dressing the soil is the ruin of me. These two
years I have been paying money out of pocket for top-dressing, and
taxes, and expenses of all kinds; Government eats up everything,
nearly all the profit goes to the Government. The poor growers have
made nothing these last two seasons. This year things don't look so
bad; and, of course, the beggarly puncheons have gone up to eleven
francs already. We work to put money into the coopers' pockets. Why,
are you going to marry before the vintage?----"
"I only came to ask for your consent, father."
"Oh! that is another thing. And who is the victim, if one may ask?"
"I am going to marry Mlle. Eve Chardon."
"Who may she be? What kind of victual does she eat?"
"She is the daughter of the late M. Chardon, the druggist in
"You are going to marry a girl out of L'Houmeau! _you_! a burgess of
Angouleme, and printer to His Majesty! This is what comes of
book-learning! Send a boy to school, forsooth! Oh! well, then she is
very rich, is she, my boy?" and the old vinegrower came up closer with
a cajoling manner; "if you are marrying a girl out of L'Houmeau, it
must be because she has lots of cash, eh? Good! you will pay me my rent
now. There are two years and one-quarter owing, you know, my boy; that
is two thousand seven hundred francs altogether; the money will come
just in the nick of time to pay the cooper. If it was anybody else, I
should have a right to ask for interest; for, after all, business is
business, but I will let you off the interest. Well, how much has
"Just as much as my mother had."
The old vinegrower very nearly said, "Then she has only ten thousand
francs!" but he recollected just in time that he had declined to give
an account of her fortune to her son, and exclaimed, "She has
"My mother's fortune was her beauty and intelligence," said David.
"You just go into the market and see what you can get for it! Bless my
buttons! what bad luck parents have with their children. David, when I
married, I had a paper cap on my head for my whole fortune, and a pair
of arms; I was a poor pressman; but with the fine printing-house that
I gave you, with your industry, and your education, you might marry a
burgess' daughter, a woman with thirty or forty thousand francs. Give
up your fancy, and I will find you a wife myself. There is some one
about three miles away, a miller's widow, thirty-two years old, with a
hundred thousand francs in land. There is your chance! You can add her
property to Marsac, for they touch. Ah! what a fine property we should
have, and how I would look after it! They say she is going to marry
her foreman Courtois, but you are the better man of the two. I would
look after the mill, and she should live like a lady up in Angouleme."
"I am engaged, father."
"David, you know nothing of business; you will ruin yourself, I see.
Yes, if you marry this girl out of L'Houmeau, I shall square accounts
and summons you for the rent, for I see that no good will come of
this. Oh! my presses, my poor presses! it took some money to grease
you and keep you going. Nothing but a good year can comfort me after
"It seems to me, father, that until now I have given you very little
"And paid mighty little rent," put in his parent.
"I came to ask you something else besides. Will you build a second
floor to your house, and some rooms above the shed?"
"Deuce a bit of it; I have not the cash, and that you know right well.
Besides, it would be money thrown clean away, for what would it bring
in? Oh! you get up early of a morning to come and ask me to build you
a place that would ruin a king, do you? Your name may be David, but I
have not got Solomon's treasury. Why, you are mad! or they changed my
child at nurse. There is one for you that will have grapes on it," he
said, interrupting himself to point out a shoot. "Offspring of this
sort don't disappoint their parents; you dung the vines, and they
repay you for it. I sent you to school; I spent any amount of money to
make a scholar of you; I sent you to the Didots to learn your
business; and all this fancy education ends in a daughter-in-law out
of L'Houmeau without a penny to her name. If you had not studied
books, if I had kept you under my eye, you would have done as I
pleased, and you would be marrying a miller's widow this day with a
hundred thousand francs in hand, to say nothing of the mill. Oh! your
cleverness leads you to imagine that I am going to reward this fine
sentiment by building palaces for you, does it? . . . Really, anybody
might think that the house that has been a house these two hundred
years was nothing but a pigsty, not fit for the girl out of L'Houmeau
to sleep in! What next! She is the Queen of France, I suppose."
"Very well, father, I will build the second floor myself; the son will
improve his father's property. It is not the usual way, but it happens
"What, my lad! you can find money for building, can you, though you
can't find money to pay the rent, eh! You sly dog, to come round your
The question thus raised was hard to lay, for the old man was only too
delighted to seize an opportunity of posing as a good father without
disbursing a penny; and all that David could obtain was his bare
consent to the marriage and free leave to do what he liked in the
house--at his own expense; the old "bear," that pattern of a thrifty
parent, kindly consenting not to demand the rent and drain the savings
to which David imprudently owned. David went back again in low
spirits. He saw that he could not reckon on his father's help in
In Angouleme that day people talked of nothing but the Bishop's
epigram and Mme. de Bargeton's reply. Every least thing that happened
that evening was so much exaggerated and embellished and twisted out
of all knowledge, that the poet became the hero of the hour. While
this storm in a teacup raged on high, a few drops fell among the
_bourgeoisie_; young men looked enviously after Lucien as he passed on
his way through Beaulieu, and he overheard chance phrases that filled
him with conceit.
"There is a lucky young fellow!" said an attorney's clerk, named
Petit-Claud, a plain-featured youth who had been at school with
Lucien, and treated him with small, patronizing airs.
"Yes, he certainly is," answered one of the young men who had been
present on the occasion of the reading; "he is a good-looking fellow,
he has some brains, and Mme. de Bargeton is quite wild about him."
Lucien had waited impatiently until he could be sure of finding Louise
alone. He had to break the tidings of his sister's marriage to the
arbitress of his destinies. Perhaps after yesterday's soiree, Louise
would be kinder than usual, and her kindness might lead to a moment of
happiness. So he thought, and he was not mistaken; Mme. de Bargeton
met him with a vehemence of sentiment that seemed like a touching
progress of passion to the novice in love. She abandoned her hands,
her beautiful golden hair, to the burning kisses of the poet who had
passed through such an ordeal.
"If only you could have seen your face whilst you were reading," cried
Louise, using the familiar _tu_, the caress of speech, since yesterday,
while her white hands wiped the pearls of sweat from the brows on
which she set a poet's crown. "There were sparks of fire in those
beautiful eyes! From your lips, as I watched them, there fell the
golden chains that suspend the hearts of men upon the poet's mouth.
You shall read Chenier through to me from beginning to end; he is the
lover's poet. You shall not be unhappy any longer; I will not have it.
Yes, dear angel, I will make an oasis for you, there you shall live
your poet's life, sometimes busy, sometimes languid; indolent, full of
work, and musing by turns; but never forget that you owe your laurels
to me, let that thought be my noble guerdon for the sufferings which I
must endure. Poor love! the world will not spare me any more than it
has spared you; the world is avenged on all happiness in which it has
no share. Yes, I shall always be a mark for envy--did you not see that
last night? The bloodthirsty insects are quick enough to drain every
wound that they pierce. But I was happy; I lived. It is so long since
all my heartstrings vibrated."
The tears flowed fast, and for all answer Lucien took Louise's hand
and gave it a lingering kiss. Every one about him soothed and caressed
the poet's vanity; his mother and his sister and David and Louise now
did the same. Every one helped to raise the imaginary pedestal on
which he had set himself. His friends's kindness and the fury of his
enemies combined to establish him more firmly in an ureal world. A
young imagination readily falls in with the flattering estimates of
others, a handsome young fellow so full of promise finds others eager
to help him on every side, and only after one or two sharp and bitter
lessons does he begin to see himself as an ordinary mortal.
"My beautiful Louise, do you mean in very truth to be my Beatrice, a
Beatrice who condescends to be loved?"
Louise raised the fine eyes, hitherto down-dropped.
"If you show yourself worthy--some day!" she said, with an angelic
smile which belied her words. "Are you not happy? To be the sole
possessor of a heart, to speak freely at all times, with the certainty
of being understood, is not this happiness?"
"Yes," he answered, with a lover's pout of vexation.
"Child!" she exclaimed, laughing at him. "Come, you have something to
tell me, have you not? You came in absorbed in thought, my Lucien."
Lucien, in fear and trembling, confided to his beloved that David was
in love with his sister Eve, and that his sister Eve was in love with
David, and that the two were to be married shortly.
"Poor Lucien!" said Louise, "he was afraid he should be beaten and
scolded, as if it was he himself that was going to be married! Why,
where is the harm?" she continued, her fingers toying with Lucien's
hair. "What is your family to me when you are an exception? Suppose
that my father were to marry his cook, would that trouble you much?
Dear boy, lovers are for each other their whole family. Have I a
greater interest than my Lucien in the world? Be great, find the way
to win fame, that is our affair!"
This selfish answer made Lucien the happiest of mortals. But in the
middle of the fantastic reasonings, with which Louise convinced him
that they two were alone in the world, in came M. de Bargeton. Lucien
frowned and seemed to be taken aback, but Louise made him a sign, and
asked him to stay to dinner and to read Andre de Chenier aloud to them
until people arrived for their evening game at cards.
"You will give her pleasure," said M. de Bargeton, "and me also.
Nothing suits me better than listening to reading aloud after dinner."
Cajoled by M. de Bargeton, cajoled by Louise, waited upon with the
respect which servants show to a favored guest of the house, Lucien
remained in the Hotel de Bargeton, and began to think of the luxuries
which he enjoyed for the time being as the rightful accessories of
Lucien de Rubempre. He felt his position so strong through Louise's
love and M. de Bargeton's weakness, that as the rooms filled, he
assumed a lordly air, which that fair lady encouraged. He tasted the
delights of despotic sway which Nais had acquired by right of
conquest, and liked to share with him; and, in short, that evening he
tried to act up to the part of the lion of the little town. A few of
those who marked these airs drew their own conclusions from them, and
thought that, according to the old expression, he had come to the last
term with the lady. Amelie, who had come with M. du Chatelet, was sure
of the deplorable fact, in a corner of the drawing-room, where the
jealous and envious gathered together.
"Do not think of calling Nais to account for the vanity of a
youngster, who is as proud as he can be because he has got into
society, where he never expected to set foot," said Chatelet. "Don't
you see that this Chardon takes the civility of a woman of the world
for an advance? He does not know the difference between the silence of
real passion and the patronizing graciousness due to his good looks
and youth and talent. It would be too bad if women were blamed for all
the desires which they inspire. _He_ certainly is in love with her, but
as for Nais----"
"Oh! Nais," echoed the perfidious Amelie, "Nais is well enough
pleased. A young man's love has so many attractions--at her age. A
woman grows young again in his company; she is a girl, and acts a
girl's hesitation and manners, and does not dream that she is
ridiculous. Just look! Think of a druggist's son giving himself a
conqueror's airs with Mme. de Bargeton."
"Love knows nought of high or low degree," hummed Adrien.
There was not a single house in Angouleme next day where the degree of
intimacy between M. Chardon (alias de Rubempre) and Mme. de Bargeton
was not discussed; and though the utmost extent of their guilt
amounted to two or three kisses, the world already chose to believe
the worst of both. Mme. de Bargeton paid the penalty of her
sovereignty. Among the various eccentricities of society, have you
never noticed its erratic judgments and the unaccountable differences
in the standard it requires of this or that man or woman? There are
some persons who may do anything; they may behave totally
irrationally, anything becomes them, and it is who shall be first to
justify their conduct; then, on the other hand, there are those on
whom the world is unaccountably severe, they must do everything well,
they are not allowed to fail nor to make mistakes, at their peril they
do anything foolish; you might compare these last to the much-admired
statues which must come down at once from their pedestal if the frost
chips off a nose or a finger. They are not permitted to be human; they
are required to be for ever divine and for ever impeccable. So one
glance exchanged between Mme. de Bargeton and Lucien outweighed twelve
years of Zizine's connection with Francis in the social balance; and a
squeeze of the hand drew down all the thunders of the Charente upon
David had brought a little secret hoard back with him from Paris, and
it was this sum that he set aside for the expenses of his marriage and
for the building of the second floor in his father's house. His
father's house it was; but, after all, was he not working for himself?
It would all be his again some day, and his father was sixty-eight
years old. So David build a timbered second story for Lucien, so as
not to put too great a strain on the old rifted house-walls. He took
pleasure in making the rooms where the fair Eve was to spend her life
as brave as might be.
It was a time of blithe and unmixed happiness for the friends. Lucien
was tired of the shabbiness of provincial life, and weary of the
sordid frugality that looked on a five-franc piece as a fortune, but
he bore the hardships and the pinching thrift without grumbling. His
moody looks had been succeeded by an expression of radiant hope. He
saw the star shining above his head, he had dreams of a great time to
come, and built the fabric of his good fortune on M. de Bargeton's
tomb. M. de Bargeton, troubled with indigestion from time to time,
cherished the happy delusion that indigestion after dinner was a
complaint to be cured by a hearty supper.
By the beginning of September, Lucien had ceased to be a printer's
foreman; he was M. de Rubempre, housed sumptuously in comparison with
his late quarters in the tumbledown attic with the dormer-window,
where "young Chardon" had lived in L'Houmeau; he was not even a "man
of L'Houmeau"; he lived in the heights of Angouleme, and dined four
times a week with Mme. de Bargeton. A friendship had grown up between
M. de Rubempre and the Bishop, and he went to the palace. His
occupations put him upon a level with the highest rank; his name would
be one day among the great names of France; and, in truth, as he went
to and fro in his apartments, the pretty sitting-room, the charming
bedroom, and the tastefully furnished study, he might console himself
for the thought that he drew thirty francs every month out of his
mother's and sister's hard earnings; for he saw the day approaching
when _An Archer of Charles IX._, the historical romance on which he had
been at work for two years, and a volume of verse entitled
_Marguerites_, should spread his fame through the world of literature,
and bring in money enough to repay them all, his mother and sister and
David. So, grown great in his own eyes, and giving ear to the echoes
of his name in the future, he could accept present sacrifices with
noble assurance; he smiled at his poverty, he relished the sense of
these last days of penury.
Eve and David had set Lucien's happiness before their own. They had
put off their wedding, for it took some time to paper and paint their
rooms, and to buy the furniture, and Lucien's affairs had been settled
first. No one who knew Lucien could wonder at their devotion. Lucien
was so engaging, he had such winning ways, his impatience and his
desires were so graciously expressed, that his cause was always won
before he opened his mouth to speak. This unlucky gift of fortune, if
it is the salvation of some, is the ruin of many more. Lucien and his
like find a world predisposed in favor of youth and good looks, and
ready to protect those who give it pleasure with the selfish
good-nature that flings alms to a beggar, if he appeals to the feelings
and awakens emotion; and in this favor many a grown child is content to
bask instead of putting it to a profitable use. With mistaken notions
as to the significance and the motive of social relations they imagine
that they shall always meet with deceptive smiles; and so at last the
moment comes for them when the world leaves them bald, stripped bare,
without fortune or worth, like an elderly coquette by the door of a
salon, or a stray rag in the gutter.
Eve herself had wished for the delay. She meant to establish the
little household on the most economical footing, and to buy only
strict necessaries; but what could two lovers refuse to a brother who
watched his sister at her work, and said in tones that came from the
heart, "How I wish I could sew!" The sober, observant David had shared
in the devotion; and yet, since Lucien's triumph, David had watched
him with misgivings; he was afraid that Lucien would change towards
them, afraid that he would look down upon their homely ways. Once or
twice, to try his brother, David had made him choose between home
pleasures and the great world, and saw that Lucien gave up the
delights of vanity for them, and exclaimed to himself, "They will not
spoil him for us!" Now and again the three friends and Mme. Chardon
arranged picnic parties in provincial fashion--a walk in the woods
along the Charente, not far from Angouleme, and dinner out on the
grass, David's apprentice bringing the basket of provisions to some
place appointed before-hand; and at night they would come back, tired
somewhat, but the whole excursion had not cost three francs. On great
occasion, when they dined at a _restaurat_, as it is called, a sort of a
country inn, a compromise between a provincial wineshop and a Parisian
_guinguette_, they would spend as much as five francs, divided between
David and the Chardons. David gave his brother infinite credit for
forsaking Mme. de Bargeton and grand dinners for these days in the
country, and the whole party made much of the great man of Angouleme.
Matters had gone so far, that the new home was very nearly ready, and
David had gone over to Marsac to persuade his father to come to the
wedding, not without a hope that the old man might relent at the sight
of his daughter-in-law, and give something towards the heavy expenses
of the alterations, when there befell one of those events which
entirely change the face of things in a small town.
Lucien and Louise had a spy in Chatelet, a spy who watched, with the
persistence of a hate in which avarice and passion are blended, for an
opportunity of making a scandal. Sixte meant that Mme. de Bargeton
should compromise herself with Lucien in such a way that she should be
"lost," as the saying goes; so he posed as Mme. de Bargeton's humble
confidant, admired Lucien in the Rue du Minage, and pulled him to
pieces everywhere else. Nais had gradually given him _les petites
entrees_, in the language of the court, for the lady no longer
mistrusted her elderly admirer; but Chatelet had taken too much for
granted--love was still in the Platonic stage, to the great despair of
Louise and Lucien.
There are, for that matter, love affairs which start with a good or a
bad beginning, as you prefer to take it. Two creatures launch into the
tactics of sentiment; they talk when they should be acting, and
skirmish in the open instead of settling down to a siege. And so they
grow tired of one another, expend their longings in empty space; and,
having time for reflection, come to their own conclusions about each
other. Many a passion that has taken the field in gorgeous array, with
colors flying and an ardor fit to turn the world upside down, has
turned home again without a victory, inglorious and crestfallen,
cutting but a foolish figure after these vain alarums and excursions.
Such mishaps are sometimes due to the diffidence of youth, sometimes
to the demurs of an inexperienced woman, for old players at this game
seldom end in a fiasco of this kind.
Provincial life, moreover, is singularly well calculated to keep
desire unsatisfied and maintain a lover's arguments on the
intellectual plane, while, at the same time, the very obstacles placed
in the way of the sweet intercourse which binds lovers so closely each
to each, hurry ardent souls on towards extreme measures. A system of
espionage of the most minute and intricate kind underlies provincial
life; every house is transparent, the solace of close friendships
which break no moral law is scarcely allowed; and such outrageously
scandalous constructions are put upon the most innocent human
intercourse, that many a woman's character is taken away without
cause. One here and there, weighed down by her unmerited punishment,
will regret that she has never known to the full the forbidden
felicity for which she is suffering. The world, which blames and
criticises with a superficial knowledge of the patent facts in which a
long inward struggle ends, is in reality a prime agent in bringing
such scandals about; and those whose voices are loudest in
condemnation of the alleged misconduct of some slandered woman never
give a thought to the immediate provocation of the overt step. That
step many a woman only takes after she has been unjustly accused and
condemned, and Mme. de Bargeton was now on the verge of this anomalous
The obstacles at the outset of a passion of this kind are alarming to
inexperience, and those in the way of the two lovers were very like
the bonds by which the population of Lilliput throttled Gulliver, a
multiplicity of nothings, which made all movement impossible, and
baffle the most vehement desires. Mme. de Bargeton, for instance, must
always be visible. If she had denied herself to visitors when Lucien
was with her, it would have been all over with her; she might as well
have run away with him at once. It is true that they sat in the
boudoir, now grown so familiar to Lucien that he felt as if he had a
right to be there; but the doors stood scrupulously open, and
everything was arranged with the utmost propriety. M. de Bargeton
pervaded the house like a cockchafer; it never entered his head that
his wife could wish to be alone with Lucien. If he had been the only
person in the way, Nais could have got rid of him, sent him out of the
house, or given him something to do; but he was not the only one;
visitors flocked in upon her, and so much the more as curiosity
increased, for your provincial has a natural bent for teasing, and
delights to thwart a growing passion. The servants came and went about
the house promiscuously and without a summons; they had formed the
habits with a mistress who had nothing to conceal; any change now made
in her household ways was tantamount to a confession, and Angouleme
still hung in doubt.
Mme. de Bargeton could not set foot outside her house but the whole
town knew whither she was going. To take a walk alone with Lucien out
of Angouleme would have been a decided measure, indeed; it would have
been less dangerous to shut herself up with him in the house. There
would have been comments the next day if Lucien had stayed on till
midnight after the rooms were emptied. Within as without her house,
Mme. de Bargeton lived in public.
These details describe life in the provinces; an intrigue is either
openly avoided or impossible anywhere.
Like all women carried away for the first time by passion, Louise
discovered the difficulties of her position one by one. They
frightened her, and her terror reacted upon the fond talk that fills
the fairest hours which lovers spend alone together. Mme. de Bargeton
had no country house whither she could take her beloved poet, after
the manner of some women who will forge ingenious pretexts for burying
themselves in the wilderness; but, weary of living in public, and
pushed to extremities by a tyranny which afforded no pleasures sweet
enough to compensate for the heaviness of the yoke, she even thought
of Escarbas, and of going to see her aged father--so much irritated
was she by these paltry obstacles.
Chatelet did not believe in such innocence. He lay in wait, and
watched Lucien into the house, and followed a few minutes later,
always taking M. de Chandour, the most indiscreet person in the
clique, along with him; and, putting that gentleman first, hoped to
find a surprise by such perseverance in pursuit of the chance. His own
part was a very difficult one to play, and its success was the more
doubtful because he was bound to appear neutral if he was to prompt
the other actors who were to play in his drama. So, to give himself a
countenance, he had attached himself to the jealous Amelie, the better
to lull suspicion in Lucien and in Mme. de Bargeton, who was not
without perspicacity. In order to spy upon the pair, he had contrived
of late to open up a stock controversy on the point with M. de
Chandour. Chatelet said that Mme. de Bargeton was simply amusing
herself with Lucien; she was too proud, too high-born, to stoop to the
apothecary's son. The role of incredulity was in accordance with the
plan which he had laid down, for he wished to appear as Mme. de
Bargeton's champion. Stanislas de Chandour held that Mme. de Bargeton
had not been cruel to her lover, and Amelie goaded them to argument,
for she longed to know the truth. Each stated his case, and (as not
unfrequently happens in small country towns) some intimate friends of
the house dropped in in the middle of the argument. Stanislas and
Chatelet vied with each other in backing up their opinions by
observations extremely pertinent. It was hardly to be expected that
the champions should not seek to enlist partisans. "What do you
yourself think?" they asked, each of his neighbor. These polemics kept
Mme. de Bargeton and Lucien well in sight.
At length one day Chatelet called attention to the fact that whenever
he went with M. de Chandour to Mme. de Bargeton's and found Lucien
there, there was not a sign nor a trace of anything suspicious; the
boudoir door stood open, the servants came and went, there was nothing
mysterious to betray the sweet crime of love, and so forth and so
forth. Stanislas, who did not lack a certain spice of stupidity in his
composition, vowed that he would cross the room on tiptoe the next
day, and the perfidious Amelie held him to his bargain.
For Lucien that morrow was the day on which a young man tugs out some
of the hairs of his head, and inwardly vows that he will give up the
foolish business of sighing. He was accustomed to his situation. The
poet, who had seated himself so bashfully in the boudoir-sanctuary of
the queen of Angouleme, had been transformed into an urgent lover. Six
months had been enough to bring him on a level with Louise, and now he
would fain be her lord and master. He left home with a settled
determination to be extravagant in his behavior; he would say that it
was a matter of life or death to him; he would bring all the resources
of torrid eloquence into play; he would cry that he had lost his head,
that he could not think, could not write a line. The horror that some
women feel for premeditation does honor to their delicacy; they would
rather surrender upon the impulse of passion, than in fulfilment of a
contract. In general, prescribed happiness is not the kind that any of
Mme. de Bargeton read fixed purpose in Lucien's eyes and forehead, and
in the agitation in his face and manner, and proposed to herself to
baffle him, urged thereto partly by a spirit of contradiction, partly
also by an exalted conception of love. Being given to exaggeration,
she set an exaggerated value upon her person. She looked upon herself
as a sovereign lady, a Beatrice, a Laura. She enthroned herself, like
some dame of the Middle Ages, upon a dais, looking down upon the
tourney of literature, and meant that Lucien, as in duty bound, should
win her by his prowess in the field; he must eclipse "the sublime
child," and Lamartine, and Sir Walter Scott, and Byron. The noble
creature regarded her love as a stimulating power; the desire which
she had kindled in Lucien should give him the energy to win glory for
himself. This feminine Quixotry is a sentiment which hallows love and
turns it to worthy uses; it exalts and reverences love. Mme. de
Bargeton having made up her mind to play the part of Dulcinea in
Lucien's life for seven or eight years to come, desired, like many
other provincials, to give herself as the reward of prolonged service,
a trial of constancy which should give her time to judge her lover.
Lucien began the strife by a piece of vehement petulence, at which a
woman laughs so long as she is heart-free, and saddens only when she
loves; whereupon Louise took a lofty tone, and began one of her long
orations, interlarded with high-sounding words.
"Was that your promise to me, Lucien?" she said, as she made an end.
"Do not sow regrets in the present time, so sweet as it is, to poison
my after life. Do not spoil the future, and, I say it with pride, do
not spoil the present! Is not my whole heart yours? What more must you
have? Can it be that your love is influenced by the clamor of the
senses, when it is the noblest privilege of the beloved to silence
them? For whom do you take me? Am I not your Beatrice? If I am not
something more than a woman for you, I am less than a woman."
"That is just what you might say to a man if you cared nothing at all
for him," cried Lucien, frantic with passion.
"If you cannot feel all the sincere love underlying my ideas, you will
never be worthy of me."
"You are throwing doubts on my love to dispense yourself from
responding to it," cried Lucien, and he flung himself weeping at her
The poor boy cried in earnest at the prospect of remaining so long at
the gate of paradise. The tears of the poet, who feels that he is
humbled through his strength, were mingled with childish crying for a
"You have never loved me!" he cried.
"You do not believe what you say," she answered, flattered by his
"Then give me proof that you are mine," said the disheveled poet.
Just at that moment Stanislas came up unheard by either of the pair.
He beheld Lucien in tears, half reclining on the floor, with his head
on Louise's knee. The attitude was suspicious enough to satisfy
Stanislas; he turned sharply round upon Chatelet, who stood at the
door of the salon. Mme. de Bargeton sprang up in a moment, but the
spies beat a precipate retreat like intruders, and she was not quick
enough for them.
"Who came just now?" she asked the servants.
"M. de Chandour and M. du Chatelet," said Gentil, her old footman.
Mme. de Bargeton went back, pale and trembling, to her boudoir.
"If they saw you just now, I am lost," she told Lucien.
"So much the better!" exclaimed the poet, and she smiled to hear the
cry, so full of selfish love.
A story of this kind is aggravated in the provinces by the way in
which it is told. Everybody knew in a moment that Lucien had been
detected at Nais feet. M. de Chandour, elated by the important part he
played in the affair, went first to tell the great news at the club,
and thence from house to house, Chatelet hastening to say that _he_ had
seen nothing; but by putting himself out of court, he egged Stanislas
on to talk, he drew him on to add fresh details; and Stanislas,
thinking himself very witty, added a little to the tale every time
that he told it. Every one flocked to Amelie's house that evening, for
by that time the most exaggerated versions of the story were in
circulation among the Angouleme nobility, every narrator having
followed Stanislas' example. Women and men were alike impatient to
know the truth; and the women who put their hands before their faces
and shrieked the loudest were none other than Mesdames Amelie,
Zephirine, Fifine, and Lolotte, all with more or less heavy
indictments of illicit love laid to their charge. There were
variations in every key upon the painful theme.
"Well, well," said one of the ladies, "poor Nais! have you heard about
it? I do not believe it myself; she has a whole blameless record
behind her; she is far too proud to be anything but a patroness to M.
Chardon. Still, if it is true, I pity her with all my heart."
"She is all the more to be pitied because she is making herself
frightfully ridiculous; she is old enough to be M. Lulu's mother, as
Jacques called him. The little poet it twenty-two at most; and Nais,
between ourselves, is quite forty."
"For my own part," said M. du Chatelet, "I think that M. de Rubempre's
position in itself proves Nais' innocence. A man does not go down on
his knees to ask for what he has had already."
"That is as may be!" said Francis, with levity that brought
Zephirine's disapproving glance down on him.
"Do just tell us how it really was," they besought Stanislas, and
formed a small, secret committee in a corner of the salon.
Stanislas, in the long length, had put together a little story full of
facetious suggestions, and accompanied it with pantomime, which made
the thing prodigiously worse.
"It is incredible!"
"Nais was the last person whom I should have suspected!"
"What will she do now?"
Then followed more comments, and suppositions without end. Chatelet
took Mme. de Bargeton's part; but he defended her so ill, that he
stirred the fire of gossip instead of putting it out.
Lili, disconsolate over the fall of the fairest angel in the
Angoumoisin hierarchy, went, dissolved in tears, to carry the news to
the palace. When the delighted Chatelet was convinced that the whole
town was agog, he went off to Mme. de Bargeton's, where, alas! there
was but one game of whist that night, and diplomatically asked Nais
for a little talk in the boudoir. They sat down on the sofa, and
Chatelet began in an undertone--
"You know what Angouleme is talking about, of course?"
"Very well, I am too much your friend to leave you in ignorance. I am
bound to put you in a position to silence slanders, invented, no
doubt, by Amelie, who has the overweening audacity to regard herself
as your rival. I came to call on you this morning with that monkey of
a Stanislas; he was a few paces ahead of me, and he came so far"
(pointing to the door of the boudoir); "he says that he _saw_ you and
M. de Rubempre in such a position that he could not enter; he turned
round upon me, quite bewildered as I was, and hurried me away before I
had time to think; we were out in Beaulieu before he told me why he
had beaten a retreat. If I had known, I would not have stirred out of
the house till I had cleared up the matter and exonerated you, but it
would have proved nothing to go back again then.
"Now, whether Stanislas' eyes deceived him, or whether he is right, _he
must have made a mistake_. Dear Nais, do not let that dolt trifle with
your life, your honor, your future; stop his mouth at once. You know
my position here. I have need of all these people, but still I am
entirely yours. Dispose of a life that belongs to you. You have
rejected my prayers, but my heart is always yours; I am ready to prove
my love for you at any time and in any way. Yes, I will watch over you
like a faithful servant, for no reward, but simply for the sake of the
pleasure that it is to me to do anything for you, even if you do not
know of it. This morning I have said everywhere that I was at the door
of the salon, and had seen nothing. If you are asked to give the name
of the person who told you about this gossip, pray make use of me. I
should be very proud to be your acknowledged champion; but, between
ourselves, M. de Bargeton is the proper person to ask Stanislas for an
explanation. . . . Suppose that young Rubempre had behaved foolishly,
a woman's character ought not to be at the mercy of the first
hare-brained boy who flings himself at her feet. That is what I have
Nais bowed in acknowledgment, and looked thoughtful. She was weary to
disgust of provincial life. Chatelet had scarcely begun before her
mind turned to Paris. Meanwhile Mme. de Bargeton's adorer found the
silence somewhat awkward.
"Dispose of me, I repeat," he added.
"Thank you," answered the lady.
"What do you think of doing?"
"I shall see."
A prolonged pause.
"Are you so fond of that young Rubempre?"
A proud smile stole over her lips, she folded her arms, and fixed her
gaze on the curtains. Chatelet went out; he could not read that high
Later in the evening, when Lucien had taken his leave, and likewise
the four old gentlemen who came for their whist, without troubling
themselves about ill-founded tittle-tattle, M. de Bargeton was
preparing to go to bed, and had opened his mouth to bid his wife
good-night, when she stopped him.
"Come here, dear, I have something to say to you," she said, with a
M. de Bargeton followed her into the boudoir.
"Perhaps I have done wrongly," she said, "to show a warm interest in
M. de Rubempre, which he, as well as the stupid people here in the
town, has misinterpreted. This morning Lucien threw himself here at my
feet with a declaration, and Stanislas happened to come in just as I
told the boy to get up again. A woman, under any circumstances, has
claims which courtesy prescribes to a gentleman; but in contempt of
these, Stanislas has been saying that he came unexpectedly and found
us in an equivocal position. I was treating the boy as he deserved. If
the young scatterbrain knew of the scandal caused by his folly, he
would go, I am convinced, to insult Stanislas, and compel him to
fight. That would simply be a public proclamation of his love. I need
not tell you that your wife is pure; but if you think, you will see
that it is something dishonoring for both you and me if M. de Rubempre
defends her. Go at once to Stanislas and ask him to give you
satisfaction for his insulting language; and mind, you must not accept
any explanation short of a full and public retraction in the presence
of witnesses of credit. In this way you will win back the respect of
all right-minded people; you will behave like a man of spirit and a
gentleman, and you will have a right to my esteem. I shall send Gentil
on horseback to the Escarbas; my father must be your second; old as he
is, I know that he is the man to trample this puppet under foot that
has smirched the reputation of a Negrepelisse. You have the choice of
weapons, choose pistols; you are an admirable shot."
"I am going," said M. de Bargeton, and he took his hat and his walking
"Good, that is how I like a man to behave, dear; you are a gentleman,"
said his wife. She felt touched by his conduct, and made the old man
very happy and proud by putting up her forehead for a kiss. She felt
something like a maternal affection for the great child; and when the
carriage gateway had shut with a clang behind him, the tears came into
her eyes in spite of herself.
"How he loves me!" she thought. "He clings to life, poor, dear man,
and yet he would give his life for me."
It did not trouble M. de Bargeton that he must stand up and face his
man on the morrow, and look coolly into the muzzle of a pistol pointed
straight at him; no, only one thing in the business made him feel
uncomfortable, and on the way to M. de Chandour's house he quaked
"What shall I say?" he thought within himself; "Nais really ought to
have told me what to say," and the good gentleman racked his brains to
compose a speech that should not be ridiculous.
But people of M. de Bargeton's stamp, who live perforce in silence
because their capacity is limited and their outlook circumscribed,
often behave at great crises with a ready-made solemnity. If they say
little, it naturally follows that they say little that is foolish;
their extreme lack of confidence leads them to think a good deal over
the remarks that they are obliged to make; and, like Balaam's ass,
they speak marvelously to the point if a miracle loosens their
tongues. So M. de Bargeton bore himself like a man of uncommon sense
and spirit, and justified the opinion of those who held that he was a
philosopher of the school of Pythagoras.
He reached Stanislas' house at nine o'clock, bowed silently to Amelie
before a whole room full of people, and greeted others in turn with
that simple smile of his, which under the present circumstances seemed
profoundly ironical. There followed a great silence, like the pause
before a storm. Chatelet had made his way back again, and now looked
in a very significant fashion from M. de Bargeton to Stanislas, whom
the injured gentleman accosted politely.
Chatelet knew what a visit meant at this time of night, when old M. de
Bargeton was invariably in his bed. It was evidently Nais who had set
the feeble arm in motion. Chatelet was on such a footing in that house
that he had some right to interfere in family concerns. He rose to his
feet and took M. de Bargeton aside, saying, "Do you wish to speak to
"Yes," said the old gentleman, well pleased to find a go-between who
perhaps might say his say for him.
"Very well; go into Amelie's bedroom," said the controller of excise,
likewise well pleased at the prospect of a duel which possibly might
make Mme. de Bargeton a widow, while it put a bar between her and
Lucien, the cause of the quarrel. Then Chatelet went to M. de
"Stanislas," he said, "here comes Bargeton to call you to account, no
doubt, for the things you have been saying about Nais. Go into your
wife's room, and behave, both of you, like gentlemen. Keep the thing
quiet, and make a great show of politeness, behave with phlegmatic
British dignity, in short."
In another minute Stanislas and Chatelet went to Bargeton.
"Sir," said the injured husband, "do you say that you discovered Mme.
de Bargeton and M. de Rubempre in an equivocal position?"
"M. Chardon," corrected Stanislas, with ironical stress; he did not
take Bargeton seriously.
"So be it," answered the other. "If you do not withdraw your
assertions at once before the company now in your house, I must ask
you to look for a second. My father-in-law, M. de Negrepelisse, will
wait upon you at four o'clock to-morrow morning. Both of us may as
well make our final arrangements, for the only way out of the affair
is the one that I have indicated. I choose pistols, as the insulted
This was the speech that M. de Bargeton had ruminated on the way; it
was the longest that he had ever made in life. He brought it out
without excitement or vehemence, in the simplest way in the world.
Stanislas turned pale. "After all, what did I see?" said he to
Put between the shame of eating his words before the whole town, and
fear, that caught him by the throat with burning fingers; confronted
by this mute personage, who seemed in no humor to stand nonsense,
Stanislas chose the more remote peril.
"All right. To-morrow morning," he said, thinking that the matter
might be arranged somehow or other.
The three went back to the room. Everybody scanned their faces as they
came in; Chatelet was smiling, M. de Bargeton looked exactly as if he
were in his own house, but Stanislas looked ghastly pale. At the sight
of his face, some of the women here and there guessed the nature of
the conference, and the whisper, "They are going to fight!" circulated
from ear to ear. One-half of the room was of the opinion that
Stanislas was in the wrong, his white face and his demeanor convicted
him of a lie; the other half admired M. de Bargeton's attitude.
Chatelet was solemn and mysterious. M. de Bargeton stayed a few
minutes, scrutinized people's faces, and retired.
"Have you pistols?" Chatelet asked in a whisper of Stanislas, who
shook from head to foot.
Amelie knew what it all meant. She felt ill, and the women flocked
about her to take her into her bedroom. There was a terrific
sensation; everybody talked at once. The men stopped in the
drawing-room, and declared, with one voice, that M. de Bargeton was
within his right.
"Would you have thought the old fogy capable of acting like this?"
asked M. de Saintot.
"But he was a crack shot when he was young," said the pitiless
Jacques. "My father often used to tell me of Bargeton's exploits."
"Pooh! Put them at twenty paces, and they will miss each other if you
give them cavalry pistols," said Francis, addressing Chatelet.
Chatelet stayed after the rest had gone to reassure Stanislas and his
wife, and to explain that all would go off well. In a duel between a
man of sixty and a man of thirty-five, all the advantage lay with the
Early next morning, as Lucien sat at breakfast with David, who had
come back alone from Marsac, in came Mme. Chardon with a scared face.
"Well, Lucien," she said, "have you heard the news? Everyone is
talking of it, even the people in the market. M. de Bargeton all but
killed M. de Chandour this morning in M. Tulloy's meadow; people are
making puns on the name. (Tue Poie.) It seems that M. de Chandour said
that he found you with Mme. de Bargeton yesterday."
"It is a lie! Mme. de Bargeton is innocent," cried Lucien.
"I heard about the duel from a countryman, who saw it all from his
cart. M. de Negrepelisse came over at three o'clock in the morning to
be M. de Bargeton's second; he told M. de Chandour that if anything
happened to his son-in-law, he should avenge him. A cavalry officer
lent the pistols. M. de Negrepelisse tried them over and over again.
M. du Chatelet tried to prevent them from practising with the pistols,
but they referred the question to the officer; and he said that,
unless they meant to behave like children, they ought to have pistols
in working order. The seconds put them at twenty-five paces. M. de
Bargeton looked as if he had just come out for a walk. He was the
first to fire; the ball lodged in M. de Chandour's neck, and he
dropped before he could return the shot. The house-surgeon at the
hospital has just said that M. de Chandour will have a wry neck for
the rest of his days. I came to tell you how it ended, lest you should
go to Mme. de Bargeton's or show yourself in Angouleme, for some of M.
de Chandour's friends might call you out."
As she spoke, the apprentice brought in Gentil, M. de Bargeton's
footman. The man had come with a note for Lucien; it was from Louise.
"You have doubtless heard the news," she wrote, "of the duel between
Chandour and my husband. We shall not be at home to any one to-day. Be
careful; do not show yourself. I ask this in the name of the affection
you bear me. Do you not think that it would be best to spend this
melancholy day in listening to your Beatrice, whose whole life has
been changed by this event, who has a thousand things to say to you?"
"Luckily, my marriage is fixed for the day after to-morrow," said
David, "and you will have an excuse for not going to see Mme. de
Bargeton quite so often."
"Dear David," returned Lucien, "she asks me to go to her to-day; and I
ought to do as she wishes, I think; she knows better than we do how I
should act in the present state of things."
"Then is everything ready here?" asked Mme. Chardon.
"Come and see," cried David, delighted to exhibit the transformation
of the first floor. Everything there was new and fresh; everything was
pervaded by the sweet influences of early married days, still crowned
by the wreath of orange blossoms and the bridal veil; days when the
springtide of love finds its reflection in material things, and
everything is white and spotless and has not lost its bloom.
"Eve's home will be fit for a princess," said the mother, "but you
have spent too much, you have been reckless."
David smiled by way of answer. But Mme. Chardon had touched the sore
spot in a hidden wound which caused the poor lover cruel pangs. The
cost of carrying out his ideas had far exceeded his estimates; he
could not afford to build above the shed. His mother-in-law must wait
awhile for the home he had meant to make for her. There is nothing
more keenly painful to a generous nature than a failure to keep such
promises as these; it is like mortification to the little vanities of
affection, as they may be styled. David sedulously hid his
embarrassment to spare Lucien; he was afraid that Lucien might be
overwhelmed by the sacrifices made for his sake.
"Eve and her girl friends have been working very hard, too," said Mme.
Chardon. "The wedding clothes and the house linen are all ready. The
girls are so fond of her, that, without letting her know about it,
they have covered the mattresses with white twill and a rose-colored
piping at the edges. So pretty! It makes one wish one were going to be
Mother and daughter had spent all their little savings to furnish
David's home with the things of which a young bachelor never thinks.
They knew that he was furnishing with great splendor, for something
had been said about ordering a dinner-service from Limoges, and the
two women had striven to make Eve's contributions to the housekeeping
worthy of David's. This little emulation in love and generosity could
but bring the husband and wife into difficulties at the very outset of
their married life, with every sign of homely comfort about them,
comfort that might be regarded as positive luxury in a place so behind
the times as the Angouleme of those days.
As soon as Lucien saw his mother and David enter the bedroom with the
blue-and-white draperies and neat furniture that he knew, he slipped
away to Mme. de Bargeton. He found Nais at table with her husband; M.
de Bargeton's early morning walk had sharpened his appetite, and he
was breakfasting quite unconcernedly after all that had passed. Lucien
saw the dignified face of M. de Negrepelisse, the old provincial
noble, a relic of the old French _noblesse_, sitting beside Nais.
When Gentil announced M. de Rubempre, the white-headed old man gave
him a keen, curious glance; the father was anxious to form his own
opinions of this man whom his daughter had singled out for notice.
Lucien's extreme beauty made such a vivid impression upon him, that he
could not repress an approving glance; but at the same time he seemed
to regard the affair as a flirtation, a mere passing fancy on his
daughter's part. Breakfast over, Louise could leave her father and M.
de Bargeton together; she beckoned Lucien to follow her as she
"Dear," she said, and the tones of her voice were half glad, half
melancholy, "I am going to Paris, and my father is taking Bargeton
back with him to the Escarbas, where he will stay during my absence.
Mme. d'Espard (she was a Blamont-Chauvry before her marriage) has
great influence herself, and influential relations. The d'Espards are
connections of ours; they are the older branch of the Negrepelisses;
and if she vouchsafes to acknowledge the relationship, I intend to
cultivate her a good deal; she may perhaps procure a place for
Bargeton. At my solicitation, it might be desired at Court that he
should represent the Charente, and that would be a step towards his
election here. If he were a deputy, it would further other steps that
I wish to take in Paris. You, my darling, have brought about this
change in my life. After this morning's duel, I am obliged to shut up
my house for some time; for there will be people who will side with
the Chandours against us. In our position, and in a small town,
absence is the only way of softening down bad feeling. But I shall
either succeed, and never see Angouleme again, or I shall not succeed,
and then I mean to wait in Paris until the time comes when I can spend
my summers at the Escarbas and the winters in Paris. It is the only
life for a woman of quality, and I have waited too long before
entering upon it. The one day will be enough for our preparations;
to-morrow night I shall set out, and you are coming with me, are you
not? You shall start first. I will overtake you between Mansle and
Ruffec, and we shall soon be in Paris. There, beloved, is the life for
a man who has anything in him. We are only at our ease among our
equals; we are uncomfortable in any other society. Paris, besides, is
the capital of the intellectual world, the stage on which you will
succeed; overleap the gulf that separates us quickly. You must not
allow your ideas to grow rancid in the provinces; put yourself into
communication at once with the great men who represent the nineteenth
century. Try to stand well with the Court and with those in power. No
honor, no distinction, comes to seek out the talent that perishes for
lack of light in a little town; tell me, if you can, the name of any
great work of art executed in the provinces! On the contrary, see how
Jean-Jacques, himself sublime in his poverty, felt the irresistible
attraction of that sun of the intellectual world, which produces
ever-new glories and stimulates the intellect--Paris, where men rub
against one another. What is it but your duty to hasten to take your
place in the succession of pleiades that rise from generation to
generation? You have no idea how it contributes to the success of a
clever young man to be brought into a high light, socially speaking.
I will introduce you to Mme. d'Espard; it is not easy to get into her
set; but you meet all the greatest people at her house, Cabinet
ministers and ambassadors, and great orators from the Chamber of
Deputies, and peers and men of influence, and wealthy or famous people.
A young man with good looks and more than sufficient genius could fail
to excite interest only by very bad management.
"There is no pettiness about those who are truly great; they will lend
you their support; and when you yourself have a high position, your
work will rise immensely in public opinion. The great problem for the
artist is the problem of putting himself in evidence. In these ways
there will be hundreds of chances of making your way, of sinecures, of
a pension from the civil list. The Bourbons are so fond of encouraging
letters and the arts, and you therefore must be a religious poet and a
Royalist poet at the same time. Not only is it the right course, but
it is the way to get on in life. Do the Liberals and the Opposition
give places and rewards, and make the fortunes of men of letters? Take
the right road and reach the goal of genius. You have my secret, do
not breathe a syllable of it, and prepare to follow me.--Would you
rather not go?" she added, surprised that her lover made no answer.
To Lucien, listening to the alluring words, and bewildered by the
rapid bird's-eye view of Paris which they brought before him, it
seemed as if hitherto he had been using only half his brain and
suddenly had found the other half, so swiftly his ideas widened. He
saw himself stagnating in Angouleme like a frog under a stone in a
marsh. Paris and her splendors rose before him; Paris, the Eldorado of
provincial imaginings, with golden robes and the royal diadem about
her brows, and arms outstretched to talent of every kind. Great men
would greet him there as one of their order. Everything smiled upon
genius. There, there were no jealous booby-squires to invent stinging
gibes and humiliate a man of letters; there was no stupid indifference
to poetry in Paris. Paris was the fountain-head of poetry; there the
poet was brought into the light and paid for his work. Publishers
should no sooner read the opening pages of _An Archer of Charles IX._
than they should open their cash-boxes with "How much do you want?"
And besides all this, he understood that this journey with Mme. de
Bargeton would virtually give her to him; that they should live
So at the words, "Would you rather not go?" tears came into his eyes,
he flung his arms about Louise, held her tightly to his heart, and
marbled her throat with impassioned kisses. Suddenly he checked
himself, as if memory had dealt him a blow.
"Great heavens!" he cried, "my sister is to be married on the day
That exclamation was the last expiring cry of noble and single-hearted
boyhood. The so-powerful ties that bind young hearts to home, and a
first friendship, and all early affections, were to be severed at one
"Well," cried the haughty Negrepelisse, "and what has your sister's
marriage to do with the progress of our love? Have you set your mind
so much on being best man at a wedding party of tradespeople and
workingmen, that you cannot give up these exalted joys for my sake? A
great sacrifice, indeed!" she went on, scornfully. "This morning I
sent my husband out to fight in your quarrel. There, sir, go; I am
mistaken in you."
She sank fainting upon the sofa. Lucien went to her, entreating her
pardon, calling execrations upon his family, his sister, and David.
"I had such faith in you!" she said. "M. de Cante-Croix had an adored
mother; but to win a letter from me, and the words, 'I am satisfied,'
he fell in the thick of the fight. And now, when I ask you to take a
journey with me, you cannot think of giving up a wedding dinner for my
Lucien was ready to kill himself; his desperation was so unfeigned,
that Louise forgave him, though at the same time she made him feel
that he must redeem his mistake.
"Come, come," she said, "be discreet, and to-morrow at midnight be
upon the road, a hundred paces out of Mansle."
Lucien felt the globe shrink under his feet; he went back to David's
house, hopes pursuing him as the Furies followed Orestes, for he had
glimmerings of endless difficulties, all summed up in the appalling
words, "Where is the money to come from?"
He stood in such terror of David's perspicacity, that he locked
himself into his pretty new study until he could recover himself, his
head was swimming in this new position. So he must leave the rooms
just furnished for him at such a cost, and all the sacrifices that had
been made for him had been made in vain. Then it occurred to Lucien
that his mother might take the rooms and save David the heavy expense
of building at the end of the yard, as he had meant to do; his
departure would be, in fact, a convenience to the family. He
discovered any quantity of urgent reasons for his sudden flight; for
there is no such Jesuit as the desire of your heart. He hurried down
at once to tell the news to his sister in L'Houmeau and to take
counsel with her. As he reached Postel's shop, he bethought himself
that if all other means failed, he could borrow enough to live upon
for a year from his father's successor.
"Three francs per day will be abundance for me if I live with Louise,"
he thought; "it is only a thousand francs for a whole year. And in six
months' time I shall have plenty of money."
Then, under seal and promise of secrecy, Eve and her mother heard
Lucien's confidences. Both the women began to cry as they heard of the
ambitious plans; and when he asked the reason of their trouble, they
told him that every penny they possessed had been spent on
table-linen, house-linen, Eve's wedding clothes, and on a host of
things that David had overlooked. They had been so glad to do this, for
David had made a marriage-settlement of ten thousand francs on Eve.
Lucien then spoke of his idea of a loan, and Mme. Chardon undertook to
ask M. Postel to lend them a thousand francs for a twelve-month.
"But, Lucien," said Eve, as a thought clutched at her heart, "you will
not be here at my wedding! Oh! come back, I will put it off for a few
days. Surely she will give you leave to come back in a fortnight, if
only you go with her now? Surely, she would spare you to us for a
week, Lucien, when we brought you up for her? We shall have no luck if
you are not at the wedding. . . . But will a thousand francs be enough
for you?" she asked, suddenly interrupting herself. "Your coat suits
you divinely, but you have only that one! You have only two fine
shirts, the other six are coarse linen; and three of your white ties
are just common muslin, there are only two lawn cravats, and your
pocket-handkerchiefs are not good ones. Where will you find a sister
in Paris who will get up your linen in one day as you want it? You
will want ever so much more. Then you have just the one pair of new
nankeen trousers, last year's trousers are tight for you; you will be
obliged to have clothes made in Paris, and Paris prices are not like
Angouleme prices. You have only two presentable white waistcoats; I
have mended the others already. Come, I advise you to take two
David came in as she spoke, and apparently heard the last two words,
for he looked at the brother and sister and said nothing.
"Do not keep anything from me," he said at last.
"Well," exclaimed Eve, "he is going away with _her_."
Mme. Chardon came in again, and, not seeing David, began at once:
"Postel is willing to lend you the thousand francs, Lucien," she said,
"but only for six months; and even then he wants you to let him have a
bill endorsed by your brother-in-law, for he says that you are giving
him no security."
She turned and saw David, and there was a deep silence in the room.
The Chardons thought how they had abused David's goodness, and felt
ashamed. Tears stood in the young printer's eyes.
"Then you will not be here at our wedding," he began. "You are not
going to live with us! And here have I been squandering all that I
had! Oh! Lucien, as I came along, bringing Eve her little bits of
wedding jewelry, I did not think that I should be sorry I spent the
money on them." He brushed his hand over his eyes as he drew the
little cases from his pocket.
He set down the tiny morocco-covered boxes on the table in front of
"Oh! why do you think so much for me?" protested Eve, giving him a
divinely sweet smile that belied her words.
"Mamma, dear," said David, "just tell M. Postel that I will put my
name to the bill, for I can tell from your face, Lucien, that you have
quite made up your mind to go."
Lucien's head sank dejectedly; there was a little pause, then he said,
"Do not think hardly of me, my dear, good angels."
He put his arms about Eve and David, and drew them close, and held
them tightly to him as he added, "Wait and see what comes of it, and
you shall know how much I love you. What is the good of our high
thinking, David, if it does not enable us to disregard the petty
ceremonial in which the law entangles our affections? Shall I not be
with you in spirit, in spite of the distance between us? Shall we not
be united in thought? Have I not a destiny to fulfil? Will publishers
come here to seek my _Archer of Charles IX._ and the _Marguerites_? A
little sooner or a little later I shall be obliged in any case to do
as I am doing to-day, should I not? And shall I ever find a better
opportunity than this? Does not my success entirely depend upon my
entrance on life in Paris through the Marquise d'Espard's salon?"
"He is right," said Eve; "you yourself were saying, were you not, that
he ought to go to Paris at once?"
David took Eve's hand in his, and drew her into the narrow little room
where she had slept for seven years.
"Love, you were saying just now that he would want two thousand
francs?" he said in her ear. "Postel is only lending one thousand."
Eve gave her betrothed a look, and he read all her anguish in her
"Listen, my adored Eve, we are making a bad start in life. Yes, my
expenses have taken all my capital; I have just two thousand francs
left, and half of it will be wanted to carry on the business. If we
give your brother the thousand francs, it will mean that we are giving
away our bread, that we shall live in anxiety. If I were alone, I know
what I should do; but we are two. Decide for us."
Eve, distracted, sprang to her lover's arms, and kissed him tenderly,
as she answered through her tears:
"Do as you would do if you were alone; I will work to earn the money."
In spite of the most impassioned kiss ever given and taken by
betrothed lovers, David left Eve overcome with trouble, and went out
"Do not worry yourself," he said; "you shall have your two thousand
"Go in to see Postel," said Mme. Chardon, "for you must both give your
signatures to the bill."
When Lucien and David came back again unexpectedly, they found Eve and
her mother on their knees in prayer. The women felt sure that Lucien's
return would bring the realization of many hopes; but at the moment
they could only feel how much they were losing in the parting, and the
happiness to come seemed too dearly bought by an absence that broke up
their life together, and would fill the coming days with innumerable
fears for Lucien.
"If you could ever forget this sight," David said in Lucien's ear,
"you would be the basest of men."
David, no doubt, thought that these brave words were needed; Mme. de
Bargeton's influence seemed to him less to be feared than his friend's
unlucky instability of character, Lucien was so easily led for good or
evil. Eve soon packed Lucien's clothes; the Fernando Cortez of
literature carried but little baggage. He was wearing his best
overcoat, his best waistcoat, and one of the two fine shirts. The
whole of his linen, the celebrated coat, and his manuscript made up so
small a package that to hide it from Mme. de Bargeton, David proposed
to send it by coach to a paper merchant with whom he had dealings, and
wrote and advised him to that effect, and asked him to keep the parcel
until Lucien sent for it.
In spite of Mme. de Bargeton's precautions, Chatelet found out that
she was leaving Angouleme; and with a view to discovering whether she
was traveling alone or with Lucien, he sent his man to Ruffec with
instructions to watch every carriage that changed horses at that
"If she is taking her poet with her," thought he, "I have her now."
Lucien set out before daybreak the next morning. David went with him.
David had hired a cabriolet, pretending that he was going to Marsac on
business, a little piece of deception which seemed probable under the
circumstances. The two friends went to Marsac, and spent part of the
day with the old "bear." As evening came on they set out again, and in
the beginning of the dawn they waited in the road, on the further side
of Mansle, for Mme. de Bargeton. When the seventy-year old traveling
carriage, which he had many a time seen in the coach-house, appeared
in sight, Lucien felt more deeply moved than he had ever been in his
life before; he sprang into David's arms.
"God grant that this may be for your good!" said David, and he climbed
into the shabby cabriolet and drove away with a feeling of dread
clutching at his heart; he had terrible presentiments of the fate
awaiting Lucien in Paris.
Note: Two Poets is part one of a trilogy. The second part is A
Distinguished Provincial at Paris and details the further adventures
of Lucien. Part three is titled Eve and David and continues their
story. In other addendum references parts one and three are combined
under the title of Lost Illusions.
The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.
Bargeton, Madame de (see Chatelet, Baronne du)
Eve and David
A Man of Business
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes
Chardon, Madame (nee Rubempre)
Eve and David
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Chatelet, Sixte, Baron du
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Chatelet, Marie-Louise-Anais de Negrepelisse, Baronne du
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Government Clerks
Eve and David
The Firm of Nucingen
The Member for Arcis
Eve and David
Eve and David
Eve and David
The Atheist's Mass
The Government Clerks
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Seamy Side of History
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Commission in Lunacy
Hautoy, Francis du
Eve and David
Maucombe, Comte de
Letters of Two Brides
Montriveau, General Marquis Armand de
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Another Study of Woman
The Member for Arcis
The Commission in Lunacy
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Eve and David
Pimentel, Marquis and Marquise de
Eve and David
Eve and David
Eve and David
Rastignac, Baron and Baronne de (Eugene's parents)
Rastignac, Laure-Rose and Agathe de
The Member for Arcis
Rubempre, Lucien-Chardon de
Eve and David
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Government Clerks
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Eve and David
Eve and David
A Distinguished Provincial At Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Sechard, Madame David
Eve and David
A Distinguished Provincial At Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Senonches, Jacques de
Eve and David
Senonches, Madame Jacques de
Eve and David
Stanhope, Lady Esther
The Lily of the Valley