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  • 1843
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“Alas! yes, _Madame la Comtesse_.” (The son of the tailor in L’Houmeau had never once had occasion to use those three words in his life before, and his mouth was full of them.) “But it rests with you, Madame la Comtesse, whether or no I shall act for the Crown. M. Milaud is going to Nevers, it is said—-“

“But a man is usually second deputy and then first deputy, is he not?” broke in the Countess. “I should like to see you in the first deputy’s place at once. But I should like first to have some assurance of your devotion to the cause of our legitimate sovereigns, to religion, and more especially to M. de Villele, if I am to interest myself on your behalf to obtain the favor.”

Petit-Claud came nearer. “Madame,” he said in her ear, “I am the man to yield the King absolute obedience.”

“That is just what _we_ want to-day,” said the Countess, drawing back a little to make him understand that she had no wish for promises given under his breath. “So long as you satisfy Mme. de Senonches, you can count upon me,” she added, with a royal movement of her fan.

Petit-Claud looked toward the door of the boudoir, and saw Cointet standing there. “Madame,” he said, “Lucien is here, in Angouleme.”

“Well, sir?” asked the Countess, in tones that would have put an end to all power of speech in an ordinary man.

“Mme. la Comtesse does not understand,” returned Petit-Claud, bringing out that most respectful formula again. “How does Mme. la Comtesse wish that the great man of her making should be received in Angouleme? There is no middle course; he must be received or despised here.”

This was a dilemma to which Louise de Negrepelisse had never given a thought; it touched her closely, yet rather for the sake of the past than of the future. And as for Petit-Claud, his plan for arresting David Sechard depended upon the lady’s actual feelings towards Lucien. He waited.

“M. Petit-Claud,” said the Countess, with haughty dignity, “you mean to be on the side of the Government. Learn that the first principle of government is this–never to have been in the wrong, and that the instinct of power and the sense of dignity is even stronger in women than in governments.”

“That is just what I thought, madame,” he answered quickly, observing the Countess meanwhile with attention the more profound because it was scarcely visible. “Lucien came here in the depths of misery. But if he must receive an ovation, I can compel him to leave Angouleme by the means of the ovation itself. His sister and brother-in-law, David Sechard, are hard pressed for debts.”

In the Countess’ haughty face there was a swift, barely perceptible change; it was not satisfaction, but the repression of satisfaction. Surprised that Petit-Claud should have guessed her wishes, she gave him a glance as she opened her fan, and Francoise de la Haye’s entrance at that moment gave her time to find an answer.

“It will not be long before you are public prosecutor, monsieur,” she said, with a significant smile. That speech did not commit her in any way, but it was explicit enough. Francoise had come in to thank the Countess.

“Oh! madame, then I shall owe the happiness of my life to you,” she exclaimed, bending girlishly to add in the Countess’ ear, “To marry a petty provincial attorney would be like being burned by slow fires.”

It was Francis, with his knowledge of officialdom, who had prompted Zephirine to make this set upon Louise.

“In the very earliest days after promotion,” so the ex-consul-general told his fair friend, “everybody, prefect, or monarch, or man of business, is burning to exert his influence for his friends; but a patron soon finds out the inconveniences of patronage, and then turns from fire to ice. Louise will do more now for Petit-Claud than she would do for her husband in three months’ time.”

“Madame la Comtesse is thinking of all that our poet’s triumph entails?” continued Petit-Claud. “She should receive Lucien before there is an end of the nine-days’ wonder.”

The Countess terminated the audience with a bow, and rose to speak with Mme. de Pimentel, who came to the boudoir. The news of old Negrepelisse’s elevation to a marquisate had greatly impressed the Marquise; she judged it expedient to be amiable to a woman so clever as to rise the higher for an apparent fall.

“Do tell me, dear, why you took the trouble to put your father in the House of Peers?” said the Marquise, in the course of a little confidential conversation, in which she bent the knee before the superiority of “her dear Louise.”

“They were all the more ready to grant the favor because my father has no son to succeed him, dear, and his vote will always be at the disposal of the Crown; but if we should have sons, I quite expect that my oldest will succeed to his grandfather’s name, title, and peerage.”

Mme. de Pimentel saw, to her annoyance, that it was idle to expect a mother ambitious for children not yet in existence to further her own private designs of raising M. de Pimentel to a peerage.

“I have the Countess,” Petit-Claud told Cointet when they came away. “I can promise you your partnership. I shall be deputy prosecutor before the month is out, and Sechard will be in your power. Try to find a buyer for my connection; it has come to be the first in Angouleme in my hands during the last five months—-“

“Once put _you_ on the horse, and there is no need to do more,” said Cointet, half jealous of his own work.

The causes of Lucien’s triumphant reception in his native town must now be plain to everybody. Louise du Chatelet followed the example of that King of France who left the Duke of Orleans unavenged; she chose to forget the insults received in Paris by Mme. de Bargeton. She would patronize Lucien, and overwhelming him with her patronage, would completely crush him and get rid of him by fair means. Petit-Claud knew the whole tale of the cabals in Paris through town gossip, and shrewdly guessed how a woman must hate the man who would not love when she was fain of his love.

The ovation justified the past of Louise de Negrepelisse. The next day Petit-Claud appeared at Mme. Sechard’s house, heading a deputation of six young men of the town, all of them Lucien’s schoolfellows. He meant to finish his work, to intoxicate Lucien completely, and to have him in his power. Lucien’s old schoolfellows at the Angouleme grammar-school wished to invite the author of the _Marguerites_ and _The Archer of Charles IX._ to a banquet given in honor of the great man arisen from their ranks.

“Come, this is your doing, Petit-Claud!” exclaimed Lucien.

“Your return has stirred our conceit,” said Petit-Claud; “we made it a point of honor to get up a subscription, and we will have a tremendous affair for you. The masters and the headmaster will be there, and, at the present rate, we shall, no doubt, have the authorities too.”

“For what day?” asked Lucien.

“Sunday next.”

“That is quite out of the question,” said Lucien. “I cannot accept an invitation for the next ten days, but then I will gladly—-“

“Very well,” said Petit-Claud, “so be it then, in ten days’ time.”

Lucien behaved charmingly to his old schoolfellows, and they regarded him with almost respectful admiration. He talked away very wittily for half an hour; he had been set upon a pedestal, and wished to justify the opinion of his fellow-townsmen; so he stood with his hands thrust into his pockets, and held forth from the height to which he had been raised. He was modest and good-natured, as befitted genius in dressing-gown and slippers; he was the athlete, wearied by a wrestling bout with Paris, and disenchanted above all things; he congratulated the comrades who had never left the dear old province, and so forth, and so forth. They were delighted with him. He took Petit-Claud aside, and asked him for the real truth about David’s affairs, reproaching him for allowing his brother-in-law to go into hiding, and tried to match his wits against the little lawyer. Petit-Claud made an effort over himself, and gave his acquaintance to understand that he (Petit-Claud) was only an insignificant little country attorney, with no sort of craft nor subtlety.

The whole machinery of modern society is so infinitely more complex than in ancient times, that the subdivision of human faculty is the result. The great men of the days of old were perforce universal geniuses, appearing at rare intervals like lighted torches in an antique world. In the course of ages the intellect began to work on special lines, but the great man still could “take all knowledge for his province.” A man “full cautelous,” as was said of Louis XI., for instance, could apply that special faculty in every direction, but to-day the single quality is subdivided, and every profession has its special craft. A peasant or a pettifogging solicitor might very easily overreach an astute diplomate over a bargain in some remote country village; and the wiliest journalist may prove the veriest simpleton in a piece of business. Lucien could but be a puppet in the hands of Petit-Claud.

That guileful practitioner, as might have been expected, had written the article himself; Angouleme and L’Houmeau, thus put on their mettle, thought it incumbent upon them to pay honor to Lucien. His fellow-citizens, assembled in the Place du Murier, were Cointets’ workpeople from the papermills and printing-house, with a sprinkling of Lucien’s old schoolfellows and the clerks in the employ of Messieurs Petit-Claud and Cachan. As for the attorney himself, he was once more Lucien’s chum of old days; and he thought, not without reason, that before very long he should learn David’s whereabouts in some unguarded moment. And if David came to grief through Lucien’s fault, the poet would find Angouleme too hot to hold him. Petit-Claud meant to secure his hold; he posed, therefore, as Lucien’s inferior.

“What better could I have done?” he said accordingly. “My old chum’s sister was involved, it is true, but there are some positions that simply cannot be maintained in a court of law. David asked me on the first of June to ensure him a quiet life for three months; he had a quiet life until September, and even so I have kept his property out of his creditors’ power, for I shall gain my case in the Court-Royal; I contend that the wife is a privileged creditor, and her claim is absolute, unless there is evidence of intent to defraud. As for you, you have come back in misfortune, but you are a genius.”–(Lucien turned about as if the incense were burned too close to his face.) –“Yes, my dear fellow, a _genius_. I have read your _Archer of Charles IX._; it is more than a romance, it is literature. Only two living men could have written the preface–Chateaubriand and Lucien.”

Lucien accepted that d’Arthez had written the preface. Ninety-nine writers out of a hundred would have done the same.

“Well, nobody here seemed to have heard of you!” Petit-Claud continued, with apparent indignation. “When I saw the general indifference, I made up my mind to change all that. I wrote that article in the paper—-“

“What? did you write it?” exclaimed Lucien.

“I myself. Angouleme and L’Houmeau were stirred to rivalry; I arranged for a meeting of your old schoolfellows, and got up yesterday’s serenade; and when once the enthusiasm began to grow, we started a committee for the dinner. ‘If David is in hiding,’ said I to myself, ‘Lucien shall be crowned at any rate.’ And I have done even better than that,” continued Petit-Claud; “I have seen the Comtesse du Chatelet and made her understand that she owes it to herself to extricate David from his position; she can do it, and she ought to do it. If David had really discovered the secret of which he spoke to me, the Government ought to lend him a hand, it would not ruin the Government; and think what a fine thing for a prefect to have half the credit of the great invention for the well-timed help. It would set people talking about him as an enlightened administrator.–Your sister has taken fright at our musketry practice; she was scared of the smoke. A battle in the law-courts costs quite as much as a battle on the field; but David has held his ground, he has his secret. They cannot stop him, and they will not pull him up now.”

“Thanks, my dear fellow; I see that I can take you into my confidence; you shall help me to carry out my plan.”

Petit-Claud looked at Lucien, and his gimlet face was a point of interrogation.

“I intend to rescue Sechard,” Lucien said, with a certain importance. “I brought his misfortunes upon him; I mean to make full reparation. . . . I have more influence over Louise—-“

“Who is Louise?”

“The Comtesse du Chatelet!”

Petit-Claud started.

“I have more influence over her than she herself suspects,” said Lucien; “only, my dear fellow, if I can do something with your authorities here, I have no decent clothes.”–Petit-Claud made as though he would offer his purse.

“Thank you,” said Lucien, grasping Petit-Claud’s hand. “In ten days’ time I will pay a visit to the Countess and return your call.”

The shook hands like old comrades, and separated.

“He ought to be a poet” said Petit-Claud to himself; “he is quite mad.”

“There are no friends like one’s school friends; it is a true saying,” Lucien thought at he went to find his sister.

“What can Petit-Claud have promised to do that you should be so friendly with him, my Lucien?” asked Eve. “Be on your guard with him.”

“With _him_?” cried Lucien. “Listen, Eve,” he continued, seeming to bethink himself; “you have no faith in me now; you do not trust me, so it is not likely you will trust Petit-Claud; but in ten or twelve days you will change your mind,” he added, with a touch of fatuity. And he went to his room, and indited the following epistle to Lousteau:–

_Lucien to Lousteau._

“MY FRIEND,–Of the pair of us, I alone can remember that bill for a thousand francs that I once lent you; and I know how things will be with you when you open this letter too well, alas! not to add immediately that I do not expect to be repaid in current coin of the realm; no, I will take it in credit from you, just as one would ask Florine for pleasure. We have the same tailor; therefore, you can order a complete outfit for me on the shortest possible notice. I am not precisely wearing Adam’s costume, but I cannot show myself here. To my astonishment, the honors paid by the departments to a Parisian celebrity awaited me. I am the hero of a banquet, for all the world as if I were a Deputy of the Left. Now, after that, do you understand that I must have a black coat? Promise to pay; have it put down to your account, try the advertisement dodge, rehearse an unpublished scene between Don Juan and M. Dimanche, for I must have a gala suit at all costs. I have nothing, nothing but rags: start with that; it is August, the weather is magnificent, ergo see that I receive by the end of the week a charming morning suit, dark bronze-green jacket, and three waistcoats, one a brimstone yellow, one a plaid, and the third must be white; furthermore, let there be three pairs of trousers of the most fetching kind–one pair of white English stuff, one pair of nankeen, and a third of thin black kerseymere; lastly, send a black dress-coat and a black satin waistcoat. If you have picked up another Florine somewhere, I beg her good offices for two cravats. So far this is nothing; I count upon you and your skill in these matters; I am not much afraid of the tailor. But the ingenuity of poverty, assuredly the most active of all poisons at work in the system of man (_id est_ the Parisian), an ingenuity that would catch Satan himself napping, has failed so far to discover a way to obtain a hat on credit!–How many a time, my dear friend, have we deplored this! When one of us shall bring a hat that costs one thousand francs into fashion, then, and not till then, can we afford to wear them; until that day comes we are bound to have cash enough in our pockets to pay for a hat. Ah! what an ill turn the Comedie-Francaise did us with, ‘Lafleur, you will put gold in my pockets!’

“I write with a profound sense of all the difficulties involved by the demand. Enclose with the above a pair of boots, a pair of pumps, a hat, half a dozen pairs of gloves. ‘Tis asking the impossible; I know it. But what is a literary life but a periodical recurrence of the impossible? Work the miracle, write a long article, or play some small scurvy trick, and I will hold your debt as fully discharged–this is all I say to you. It is a debt of honor after all, my dear fellow, and due these twelve months; you ought to blush for yourself if you have any blushes left.

“Joking apart, my dear Lousteau, I am in serious difficulties, as you may judge for yourself when I tell you that Mme. de Bargeton has married Chatelet, and Chatelet is prefect of Angouleme. The precious pair can do a good deal for my brother-in-law; he is in hiding at this moment on account of that letter of exchange, and the horrid business is all my doing. So it is a question of appearing before Mme. la Prefete and regaining my influence at all costs. It is shocking, is it not, that David Sechard’s fate should hang upon a neat pair of shoes, a pair of open-worked gray silk stockings (mind you, remember them), and a new hat? I shall give out that I am sick and ill, and take to my bed, like Duvicquet, to save the trouble of replying to the pressing invitations of my fellow-townsmen. My fellow-townsmen, dear boy, have treated me to a fine serenade. _My fellow-townsmen_, forsooth! I begin to wonder how many fools go to make up that word, since I learned that two or three of my old schoolfellows worked up the capital of the Angoumois to this pitch of enthusiasm.

“If you could contrive to slip a few lines as to my reception in among the news items, I should be several inches taller for it here; and besides, I should make Mme. la Prefete feel that, if I have not friends, I have some credit, at any rate, with the Parisian press. I give up none of my hopes, and I will return the compliment. If you want a good, solid, substantial article for some magazine or other, I have time enough now to think something out. I only say the word, my dear friend; I count upon you as you may count upon me, and I am yours sincerely.

“LUCIEN DE R.

“P. S.–Send the things to the coach office to wait until called for.”

Lucien held up his head again. In this mood he wrote the letter, and as he wrote his thoughts went back to Paris. He had spent six days in the provinces, and the uneventful quietness of provincial life had already entered into his soul; his mind returned to those dear old miserable days with a vague sense of regret. The Comtesse du Chatelet filled his thoughts for a whole week; and at last he came to attach so much importance to his reappearance, that he hurried down to the coach office in L’Houmeau after nightfall in a perfect agony of suspense, like a woman who has set her last hopes upon a new dress, and waits in despair until it arrives.

“Ah! Lousteau, all your treasons are forgiven,” he said to himself, as he eyed the packages, and knew from the shape of them that everything had been sent. Inside the hatbox he found a note from Lousteau:–

FLORINE’S DRAWING-ROOM.

“MY DEAR BOY,–The tailor behaved very well; but as thy profound retrospective glance led thee to forbode, the cravats, the hats, and the silk hosen perplexed our souls, for there was nothing in our purse to be perplexed thereby. As said Blondet, so say we; there is a fortune awaiting the establishment which will supply young men with inexpensive articles on credit; for when we do not pay in the beginning, we pay dear in the end. And by the by, did not the great Napoleon, who missed a voyage to the Indies for want of boots, say that, ‘If a thing is easy, it is never done?’ So everything went well–except the boots. I beheld a vision of thee, fully dressed, but without a hat! appareled in waistcoats, yet shoeless! and bethought me of sending a pair of moccasins given to Florine as a curiosity by an American. Florine offered the huge sum of forty francs, that we might try our luck at play for you. Nathan, Blondet, and I had such luck (as we were not playing for ourselves) that we were rich enough to ask La Torpille, des Lupeaulx’s sometime ‘rat,’ to supper. Frascati certainly owed us that much. Florine undertook the shopping, and added three fine shirts to the purchases. Nathan sends you a cane. Blondet, who won three hundred francs, is sending you a gold chain; and the gold watch, the size of a forty-franc piece, is from La Torpille; some idiot gave the thing to her, and it will not go. ‘Trumpery rubbish,’ she says, ‘like the man that owned it.’ Bixiou, who came to find us up at the _Rocher de Cancale_, wished to enclose a bottle of Portugal water in the package. Said our first comic man, ‘If this can make him happy, let him have it!’ growling it out in a deep bass voice with the _bourgeois_ pomposity that he can act to the life. Which things, my dear boy, ought to prove to you how much we care for our friends in adversity. Florine, whom I have had the weakness to forgive, begs you to send us an article on Nathan’s hat. Fare thee well, my son. I can only commiserate you on finding yourself back in the same box from which you emerged when you discovered your old comrade.

“ETIENNE L.”

“Poor fellows! They have been gambling for me,” said Lucien; he was quite touched by the letter. A waft of the breeze from an unhealthy country, from the land where one has suffered most, may seem to bring the odors of Paradise; and in a dull life there is an indefinable sweetness in memories of past pain.

Eve was struck dumb with amazement when her brother came down in his new clothes. She did not recognize him.

“Now I can walk out in Beaulieu,” he cried; “they shall not say it of me that I came back in rags. Look, here is a watch which I shall return to you, for it is mine; and, like its owner, it is erratic in its ways.”

“What a child he is!” exclaimed Eve. “It is impossible to bear you any grudge.”

“Then do you imagine, my dear girl, that I sent for all this with the silly idea of shining in Angouleme? I don’t care _that_ for Angouleme” (twirling his cane with the engraved gold knob). “I intend to repair the wrong I have done, and this is my battle array.”

Lucien’s success in this kind was his one real triumph; but the triumph, be it said, was immense. If admiration freezes some people’s tongues, envy loosens at least as many more, and if women lost their heads over Lucien, men slandered him. He might have cried, in the words of the songwriter, “I thank thee, my coat!” He left two cards at the prefecture, and another upon Petit-Claud. The next day, the day of the banquet, the following paragraph appeared under the heading “Angouleme” in the Paris newspapers:–

“ANGOULEME.

“The return of the author of _The Archer of Charles IX._ has been the signal for an ovation which does equal honor to the town and to M. Lucien de Rubempre, the young poet who has made so brilliant a beginning; the writer of the one French historical novel not written in the style of Scott, and of a preface which may be called a literary event. The town hastened to offer him a patriotic banquet on his return. The name of the recently-appointed prefect is associated with the public demonstration in honor of the author of the _Marguerites_, whose talent received such warm encouragement from Mme. du Chatelet at the outset of his career.”

In France, when once the impulse is given, nobody can stop. The colonel of the regiment offered to put his band at the disposal of the committee. The landlord of the _Bell_ (renowned for truffled turkeys, despatched in the most wonderful porcelain jars to the uttermost parts of the earth), the famous innkeeper of L’Houmeau, would supply the repast. At five o’clock some forty persons, all in state and festival array, were assembled in his largest ball, decorated with hangings, crowns of laurel, and bouquets. The effect was superb. A crowd of onlookers, some hundred persons, attracted for the most part by the military band in the yard, represented the citizens of Angouleme.

Petit-Claud went to the window. “All Angouleme is here,” he said, looking out.

“I can make nothing of this,” remarked little Postel to his wife (they had come out to hear the band play). “Why, the prefect and the receiver-general, and the colonel and the superintendent of the powder factory, and our mayor and deputy, and the headmaster of the school, and the manager of the foundry at Ruelle, and the public prosecutor, M. Milaud, and all the authorities, have just gone in!”

The bank struck up as they sat down to table with variations on the air _Vive le roy, vive la France_, a melody which has never found popular favor. It was then five o’clock in the evening; it was eight o’clock before dessert was served. Conspicuous among the sixty-five dishes appeared an Olympus in confectionery, surmounted by a figure of France modeled in chocolate, to give the signal for toasts and speeches.

“Gentlemen,” called the prefect, rising to his feet, “the King! the rightful ruler of France! To what do we owe the generation of poets and thinkers who maintain the sceptre of letters in the hands of France, if not to the peace which the Bourbons have restored—-“

“Long live the King!” cried the assembled guests (ministerialists predominated).

The venerable headmaster rose.

“To the hero of the day,” he said, “to the young poet who combines the gift of the _prosateur_ with the charm and poetic faculty of Petrarch in that sonnet-form which Boileau declares to be so difficult.”

Cheers.

The colonel rose next. “Gentlemen, to the Royalist! for the hero of this evening had the courage to fight for sound principles!”

“Bravo!” cried the prefect, leading the applause.

Then Petit-Claud called upon all Lucien’s schoolfellows there present. “To the pride of the grammar-school of Angouleme! to the venerable headmaster so dear to us all, to whom the acknowledgment for some part of our triumph is due!”

The old headmaster dried his eyes; he had not expected this toast. Lucien rose to his feet, the whole room was suddenly silent, and the poet’s face grew white. In that pause the old headmaster, who sat on his left, crowned him with a laurel wreath. A round of applause followed, and when Lucien spoke it was with tears in his eyes and a sob in his throat.

“He is drunk,” remarked the attorney-general-designate to his neighbor, Petit-Claud.

“My dear fellow-countrymen, my dear comrades,” Lucien said at last, “I could wish that all France might witness this scene; for thus men rise to their full stature, and in such ways as these our land demands great deeds and noble work of us. And when I think of the little that I have done, and of this great honor shown to me to-day, I can only feel confused and impose upon the future the task of justifying your reception of me. The recollection of this moment will give me renewed strength for efforts to come. Permit me to indicate for your homage my earliest muse and protectress, and to associate her name with that of my birthplace; so–to the Comtesse du Chatelet and the noble town of Angouleme!”

“He came out of that pretty well!” said the public prosecutor, nodding approval; “our speeches were all prepared, and his was improvised.”

At ten o’clock the party began to break up, and little knots of guests went home together. David Sechard heard the unwonted music.

“What is going on in L’Houmeau?” he asked of Basine.

“They are giving a dinner to your brother-in-law, Lucien—-“

“I know that he would feel sorry to miss me there,” he said.

At midnight Petit-Claud walked home with Lucien. As they reached the Place du Murier, Lucien said, “Come life, come death, we are friends, my dear fellow.”

“My marriage contract,” said the lawyer, “with Mlle. Francoise de la Haye will be signed to-morrow at Mme. de Senonches’ house; do me the pleasure of coming. Mme. de Senonches implored me to bring you, and you will meet Mme. du Chatelet; they are sure to tell her of your speech, and she will feel flattered by it.”

“I knew what I was about,” said Lucien.

“Oh! you will save David.”

“I am sure I shall,” the poet replied.

Just at that moment David appeared as if by magic in the Place du Murier. This was how it had come about. He felt that he was in a rather difficult position; his wife insisted that Lucien must neither go to David nor know of his hiding-place; and Lucien all the while was writing the most affectionate letters, saying that in a few days’ time all should be set right; and even as Basine Clerget explained the reason why the band played, she put two letters into his hands. The first was from Eve.

“DEAREST,” she wrote, “do as if Lucien were not here; do not trouble yourself in the least; our whole security depends upon the fact that your enemies cannot find you; get that idea firmly into your head. I have more confidence in Kolb and Marion and Basine than in my own brother; such is my misfortune. Alas! poor Lucien is not the ingenuous and tender-hearted poet whom we used to know; and it is simply because he is trying to interfere on your behalf, and because he imagines that he can discharge our debts (and this from pride, my David), that I am afraid of him. Some fine clothes have been sent from Paris for him, and five gold pieces in a pretty purse. He gave the money to me, and we are living on it.

“We have one enemy the less. Your father has gone, thanks to Petit-Claud. Petit-Claud unraveled his designs, and put an end to them at once by telling him that you would do nothing without consulting him, and that he (Petit-Claud) would not allow you to concede a single point in the matter of the invention until you had been promised an indemnity of thirty thousand francs; fifteen thousand to free you from embarrassment, and fifteen thousand more to be yours in any case, whether your invention succeeds or no. I cannot understand Petit-Claud. I embrace you, dear, a wife’s kiss for her husband in trouble. Our little Lucien is well. How strange it is to watch him grow rosy and strong, like a flower, in these stormy days! Mother prays God for you now, as always, and sends love only less tender than mine.–Your
“EVE.”

As a matter of fact, Petit-Claud and the Cointets had taken fright at old Sechard’s peasant shrewdness, and got rid of him so much the more easily because it was now vintage time at Marsac. Eve’s letter enclosed another from Lucien:–

“MY DEAR DAVID,–Everything is going well. I am armed _cap-a-pie_; to-day I open the campaign, and in forty-eight hours I shall have made great progress. How glad I shall be to embrace you when you are free again and my debts are all paid! My mother and sister persist in mistrusting me; their suspicion wounds me to the quick. As if I did not know already that you are hiding with Basine, for every time that Basine comes to the house I hear news of you and receive answers to my letters; and besides, it is plain that my sister could not find any one else to trust. It hurts me cruelly to think that I shall be so near you to-day, and yet that you will not be present at this banquet in my honor. I owe my little triumph to the vainglory of Angouleme; in a few days it will be quite forgotten, and you alone would have taken a real pleasure in it. But, after all, in a little while you will pardon everything to one who counts it more than all the triumphs in the world to be your brother,
“LUCIEN.”

Two forces tugged sharply at David’s heart; he adored his wife; and if he held Lucien in somewhat less esteem, his friendship was scarcely diminished. In solitude our feelings have unrestricted play; and a man preoccupied like David, with all-absorbing thoughts, will give way to impulses for which ordinary life would have provided a sufficient counterpoise. As he read Lucien’s letter to the sound of military music, and heard of this unlooked-for recognition, he was deeply touched by that expression of regret. He had known how it would be. A very slight expression of feeling appeals irresistibly to a sensitive soul, for they are apt to credit others with like depths. How should the drop fall unless the cup were full to the brim?

So at midnight, in spite of all Basine’s entreaties, David must go to see Lucien.

“Nobody will be out in the streets at this time of night,” he said; “I shall not be seen, and they cannot arrest me. Even if I should meet people, I can make use of Kolb’s way of going into hiding. And besides, it is so intolerably long since I saw my wife and child.”

The reasoning was plausible enough; Basine gave way, and David went. Petit-Claud was just taking leave as he came up and at his cry of _”Lucien!”_ the two brothers flung their arms about each other with tears in their eyes.

Life holds not many moments such as these. Lucien’s heart went out in response to this friendship for its own sake. There was never question of debtor and creditor between them, and the offender met with no reproaches save his own. David, generous and noble that he was, was longing to bestow pardon; he meant first of all to read Lucien a lecture, and scatter the clouds that overspread the love of the brother and sister; and with these ends in view, the lack of money and its consequent dangers disappeared entirely from his mind.

“Go home,” said Petit-Claud, addressing his client; “take advantage of your imprudence to see your wife and child again, at any rate; and you must not be seen, mind you!–How unlucky!” he added, when he was alone in the Place du Murier. “If only Cerizet were here—-“

The buildings magniloquently styled the Angouleme Law Courts were then in process of construction. Petit-Claud muttered these words to himself as he passed by the hoardings, and heard a tap upon the boards, and a voice issuing from a crack between two planks.

“Here I am,” said Cerizet; “I saw David coming out of L’Houmeau. I was beginning to have my suspicions about his retreat, and now I am sure; and I know where to have him. But I want to know something of Lucien’s plans before I set the snare for David; and here are you sending him into the house! Find some excuse for stopping here, at least, and when David and Lucien come out, send them round this way; they will think they are quite alone, and I shall overhear their good-bye.”

“You are a very devil,” muttered Petit-Claud.

“Well, I’m blessed if a man wouldn’t do anything for the thing you promised me.”

Petit-Claud walked away from the hoarding, and paced up and down in the Place du Murier; he watched the windows of the room where the family sat together, and thought of his own prospects to keep up his courage. Cerizet’s cleverness had given him the chance of striking the final blow. Petit-Claud was a double-dealer of the profoundly cautious stamp that is never caught by the bait of a present satisfaction, nor entangled by a personal attachment, after his first initiation into the strategy of self-seeking and the instability of the human heart. So, from the very first, he had put little trust in Cointet. He foresaw that his marriage negotiations might very easily be broken off, saw also that in that case he could not accuse Cointet of bad faith, and he had taken his measures accordingly. But since his success at the Hotel de Bargeton, Petit-Claud’s game was above board. A certain under-plot of his was useless now, and even dangerous to a man with his political ambitions. He had laid the foundations of his future importance in the following manner:–

Gannerac and a few of the wealthy men of business in L’Houmeau formed a sort of Liberal clique in constant communication (through commercial channels) with the leaders of the Opposition. The Villele ministry, accepted by the dying Louis XVIII., gave the signal for a change of tactics in the Opposition camp; for, since the death of Napoleon, the liberals had ceased to resort to the dangerous expedient of conspiracy. They were busy organizing resistance by lawful means throughout the provinces, and aiming at securing control of the great bulk of electors by convincing the masses. Petit-Claud, a rabid Liberal, and a man of L’Houmeau, was the instigator, the secret counselor, and the very life of this movement in the lower town, which groaned under the tyranny of the aristocrats at the upper end. He was the first to see the danger of leaving the whole press of the department in the control of the Cointets; the Opposition must have its organ; it would not do to be behind other cities.

“If each one of us gives Gannerac a bill for five hundred francs, he would have some twenty thousand francs and more; we might buy up Sechard’s printing-office, and we could do as we liked with the master-printer if we lent him the capital,” Petit-Claud had said.

Others had taken up the idea, and in this way Petit-Claud strengthened his position with regard to David on the one side and the Cointets on the other. Casting about him for a tool for his party, he naturally thought that a rogue of Cerizet’s calibre was the very man for the purpose.

“If you can find Sechard’s hiding-place and put him in our hands, somebody will lend you twenty thousand francs to buy his business, and very likely there will be a newspaper to print. So, set about it,” he had said.

Petit-Claud put more faith in Cerizet’s activity than in all the Doublons in existence; and then it was that he promised Cointet that Sechard should be arrested. But now that the little lawyer cherished hopes of office, he saw that he must turn his back upon the Liberals; and, meanwhile, the amount for the printing-office had been subscribed in L’Houmeau. Petit-Claud decided to allow things to take their natural course.

“Pooh!” he thought, “Cerizet will get into trouble with his paper, and give me an opportunity of displaying my talents.”

He walked up to the door of the printing-office and spoke to Kolb, the sentinel. “Go up and warn David that he had better go now,” he said, “and take every precaution. I am going home; it is one o’clock.”

Marion came to take Kolb’s place. Lucien and David came down together and went out, Kolb a hundred paces ahead of them, and Marion at the same distance behind. The two friends walked past the hoarding, Lucien talking eagerly the while.

“My plan is extremely simple, David; but how could I tell you about it while Eve was there? She would never understand. I am quite sure that at the bottom of Louise’s heart there is a feeling that I can rouse, and I should like to arouse it if it is only to avenge myself upon that idiot the prefect. If our love affair only lasts for a week, I will contrive to send an application through her for the subvention of twenty thousand francs for you. I am going to see her again to-morrow in the little boudoir where our old affair of the heart began; Petit-Claud says that the room is the same as ever; I shall play my part in the comedy; and I will send word by Basine to-morrow morning to tell you whether the actor was hissed. You may be at liberty by then, who knows?–Now do you understand how it was that I wanted clothes from Paris? One cannot act the lover’s part in rags.”

At six o’clock that morning Cerizet went to Petit-Claud.

“Doublon can be ready to take his man to-morrow at noon, I will answer for it,” he said; “I know one of Mlle. Clerget’s girls, do you understand?” Cerizet unfolded his plan, and Petit-Claud hurried to find Cointet.

“If M. Francis du Hautoy will settle his property on Francoise, you shall sign a deed of partnership with Sechard in two days. I shall not be married for a week after the contract is signed, so we shall both be within the terms of our little agreement, tit for tat. To-night, however, we must keep a close watch over Lucien and Mme. la Comtesse du Chatelet, for the whole business lies in that. . . . If Lucien hopes to succeed through the Countess’ influence, I have David safe—-“

“You will be Keeper of the Seals yet, it is my belief,” said Cointet.

“And why not? No one objects to M. de Peyronnet,” said Petit-Claud. He had not altogether sloughed his skin of Liberalism.

Mlle. de la Haye’s ambiguous position brought most of the upper town to the signing of the marriage contract. The comparative poverty of the young couple and the absence of a _corbeille_ quickened the interest that people love to exhibit; for it is with beneficence as with ovations, we prefer the deeds of charity which gratify self-love. The Marquise de Pimentel, the Comtesse du Chatelet, M. de Senonches, and one or two frequenters of the house had given Francoise a few wedding presents, which made great talk in the city. These pretty trifles, together with the trousseau which Zephirine had been preparing for the past twelve months, the godfather’s jewels, and the usual wedding gifts, consoled Francoise and roused the curiosity of some mothers of daughters.

Petit-Claud and Cointet had both remarked that their presence in the Angouleme Olympus was endured rather than courted. Cointet was Francoise’s trustee and quasi-guardian; and if Petit-Claud was to sign the contract, Petit-Claud’s presence was as necessary as the attendance of the man to be hanged at an execution; but though, once married, Mme. Petit-Claud might keep her right of entry to her godmother’s house, Petit-Claud foresaw some difficulty on his own account, and resolved to be beforehand with these haughty personages.

He felt ashamed of his parents. He had sent his mother to stay at Mansle; now he begged her to say that she was out of health and to give her consent in writing. So humiliating was it to be without relations, protectors, or witnesses to his signature, that Petit-Claud thought himself in luck that he could bring a presentable friend at the Countess’ request. He called to take up Lucien, and they drove to the Hotel de Bargeton.

On that memorable evening the poet dressed to outshine every man present. Mme. de Senonches had spoken of him as the hero of the hour, and a first interview between two estranged lovers is the kind of scene that provincials particularly love. Lucien had come to be the lion of the evening; he was said to be so handsome, so much changed, so wonderful, that every well-born woman in Angouleme was curious to see him again. Following the fashion of the transition period between the eighteenth century small clothes and the vulgar costume of the present day, he wore tight-fitting black trousers. Men still showed their figures in those days, to the utter despair of lean, clumsily-made mortals; and Lucien was an Apollo. The open-work gray silk stockings, the neat shoes, and the black satin waistcoat were scrupulously drawn over his person, and seemed to cling to him. His forehead looked the whiter by contrast with the thick, bright curls that rose above it with studied grace. The proud eyes were radiant. The hands, small as a woman’s, never showed to better advantage than when gloved. He had modeled himself upon de Marsay, the famous Parisian dandy, holding his hat and cane in one hand, and keeping the other free for the very occasional gestures which illustrated his talk.

Lucien had quite intended to emulate the famous false modesty of those who bend their heads to pass beneath the Porte Saint-Denis, and to slip unobserved into the room; but Petit-Claud, having but one friend, made him useful. He brought Lucien almost pompously through a crowded room to Mme. de Senonches. The poet heard a murmur as he passed; not so very long ago that hum of voices would have turned his head, to-day he was quite different; he did not doubt that he himself was greater than the whole Olympus put together.

“Madame,” he said, addressing Mme. de Senonches, “I have already congratulated my friend Petit-Claud (a man with the stuff in him of which Keepers of the Seals are made) on the honor of his approaching connection with you, slight as are the ties between godmother and goddaughter—-” (this with the air of a man uttering an epigram, by no means lost upon any woman in the room, for every woman was listening without appearing to do so.) “And as for myself,” he continued, “I am delighted to have the opportunity of paying my homage to you.”

He spoke easily and fluently, as some great lord might speak under the roof of his inferiors; and as he listened to Zephirine’s involved reply, he cast a glance over the room to consider the effect that he wished to make. The pause gave him time to discover Francis du Hautoy and the prefect; to bow gracefully to each with the proper shade of difference in his smile, and, finally, to approach Mme. du Chatelet as if he had just caught sight of her. That meeting was the real event of the evening. No one so much as thought of the marriage contract lying in the adjoining bedroom, whither Francoise and the notary led guest after guest to sign the document. Lucien made a step towards Louise de Negrepelisse, and then spoke with that grace of manner now associated, for her, with memories of Paris.

“Do I owe to you, madame, the pleasure of an invitation to dine at the Prefecture the day after to-morrow?” he said.

“You owe it solely to your fame, monsieur,” Louise answered drily, somewhat taken aback by the turn of a phrase by which Lucien deliberately tried to wound her pride.

“Ah! Madame la Comtesse, I cannot bring you the guest if the man is in disgrace,” said Lucien, and, without waiting for an answer, he turned and greeted the Bishop with stately grace.

“Your lordship’s prophecy has been partially fulfilled,” he said, and there was a winning charm in his tones; “I will endeavor to fulfil it to the letter. I consider myself very fortunate since this evening brings me an opportunity of paying my respects to you.”

Lucien drew the Bishop into a conversation that lasted for ten minutes. The women looked on Lucien as a phenomenon. His unexpected insolence had struck Mme. du Chatelet dumb; she could not find an answer. Looking round the room, she saw that every woman admired Lucien; she watched group after group repeating the phrases by which Lucien crushed her with seeming disdain, and her heart contracted with a spasm of mortification.

“Suppose that he should not come to the Prefecture after this, what talk there would be!” she thought. “Where did he learn this pride? Can Mlle. des Touches have taken a fancy for him? . . . He is so handsome. They say that she hurried to see him in Paris the day after that actress died. . . . Perhaps he has come to the rescue of his brother-in-law, and happened to be behind our caleche at Mansle by accident. Lucien looked at us very strangely that morning.”

A crowd of thoughts crossed Louise’s brain, and unluckily for her, she continued to ponder visibly as she watched Lucien. He was talking with the Bishop as if he were the king of the room; making no effort to find any one out, waiting till others came to him, looking round about him with varying expression, and as much at his ease as his model de Marsay. M. de Senonches appeared at no great distance, but Lucien still stood beside the prelate.

At the end of ten minutes Louise could contain herself no longer. She rose and went over to the Bishop and said:

“What is being said, my lord, that you smile so often?”

Lucien drew back discreetly, and left Mme. du Chatelet with his lordship.

“Ah! Mme. la Comtesse, what a clever young fellow he is! He was explaining to me that he owed all he is to you—-“

“_I_ am not ungrateful, madame,” said Lucien, with a reproachful glance that charmed the Countess.

“Let us have an understanding,” she said, beckoning him with her fan. “Come into the boudoir. My Lord Bishop, you shall judge between us.”

“She has found a funny task for his lordship,” said one of the Chandour camp, sufficiently audibly.

“Judge between us!” repeated Lucien, looking from the prelate to the lady; “then, is one of us in fault?”

Louise de Negrepelisse sat down on the sofa in the familiar boudoir. She made the Bishop sit on one side and Lucien on the other, then she began to speak. But Lucien, to the joy and surprise of his old love, honored her with inattention; her words fell unheeded on his ears; he sat like Pasta in _Tancredi_, with the words _O patria!_ upon her lips, the music of the great cavatina _Dell Rizzo_ might have passed into his face. Indeed, Coralie’s pupil had contrived to bring the tears to his eyes.

“Oh! Louise, how I loved you!” he murmured, careless of the Bishop’s presence, heedless of the conversation, as soon as he knew that the Countess had seen the tears.

“Dry your eyes, or you will ruin me here a second time,” she said in an aside that horrified the prelate.

“And once is enough,” was Lucien’s quick retort. “That speech from Mme. d’Espard’s cousin would dry the eyes of a weeping Magdalene. Oh me! for a little moment old memories, and lost illusions, and my twentieth year came back to me, and you have—-“

His lordship hastily retreated to the drawing-room at this; it seemed to him that his dignity was like to be compromised by this sentimental pair. Every one ostentatiously refrained from interrupting them, and a quarter of an hour went by; till at last Sixte du Chatelet, vexed by the laughter and talk, and excursions to the boudoir door, went in with a countenance distinctly overclouded, and found Louise and Lucien talking excitedly.

“Madame,” said Sixte in his wife’s ear, “you know Angouleme better than I do, and surely you should think of your position as Mme. la Prefete and of the Government?”

“My dear,” said Louise, scanning her responsible editor with a haughtiness that made him quake, “I am talking with M. de Rubempre of matters which interest you. It is a question of rescuing an inventor about to fall a victim to the basest machinations; you will help us. As to those ladies yonder, and their opinion of me, you shall see how I will freeze the venom of their tongues.”

She came out of the boudoir on Lucien’s arm, and drew him across to sign the contract with a great lady’s audacity.

“Write your name after mine,” she said, handing him the pen. And Lucien submissively signed in the place indicated beneath her name.

“M. de Senonches, would you have recognized M. de Rubempre?” she continued, and the insolent sportsman was compelled to greet Lucien.

She returned to the drawing-room on Lucien’s arm, and seated him on the awe-inspiring central sofa between herself and Zephirine. There, enthroned like a queen, she began, at first in a low voice, a conversation in which epigram evidently was not wanting. Some of her old friends, and several women who paid court to her, came to join the group, and Lucien soon became the hero of the circle. The Countess drew him out on the subject of life in Paris; his satirical talk flowed with spontaneous and incredible spirit; he told anecdotes of celebrities, those conversational luxuries which the provincial devours with such avidity. His wit was as much admired as his good looks. And Mme. la Comtesse Sixte du Chatelet, preparing Lucien’s triumph so patiently, sat like a player enraptured with the sound of his instrument; she gave him opportunities for a reply; she looked round the circle for applause so openly, that not a few of the women began to think that their return together was something more than a coincidence, and that Lucien and Louise, loving with all their hearts, had been separated by a double treason. Pique, very likely, had brought about this ill-starred match with Chatelet. And a reaction set in against the prefect.

Before the Countess rose to go at one o’clock in the morning, she turned to Lucien and said in a low voice, “Do me the pleasure of coming punctually to-morrow evening.” Then, with the friendliest little nod, she went, saying a few words to Chatelet, who was looking for his hat.

“If Mme. du Chatelet has given me a correct idea of the state of affairs, count on me, my dear Lucien,” said the prefect, preparing to hurry after his wife. She was going away without him, after the Paris fashion. “Your brother-in-law may consider that his troubles are at an end,” he added as he went.

“M. le Comte surely owes me so much,” smiled Lucien.

Cointet and Petit-Claud heard these farewell speeches.

“Well, well, we are done for now,” Cointet muttered in his confederate’s ear. Petit-Claud, thunderstruck by Lucien’s success, amazed by his brilliant wit and varying charm, was gazing at Francoise de la Haye; the girl’s whole face was full of admiration for Lucien. “Be like your friend,” she seemed to say to her betrothed. A gleam of joy flitted over Petit-Claud’s countenance.

“We still have a whole day before the prefect’s dinner; I will answer for everything.”

An hour later, as Petit-Claud and Lucien walked home together, Lucien talked of his success. “Well, my dear fellow, I came, I saw, I conquered! Sechard will be very happy in a few hours’ time.”

“Just what I wanted to know,” thought Petit-Claud. Aloud he said–“I thought you were simply a poet, Lucien, but you are a Lauzun too, that is to say–twice a poet,” and they shook hands–for the last time, as it proved.

“Good news, dear Eve,” said Lucien, waking his sister, “David will have no debts in less than a month!”

“How is that?”

“Well, my Louise is still hidden by Mme. du Chatelet’s petticoat. She loves me more than ever; she will send a favorable report of our discovery to the Minister of the Interior through her husband. So we have only to endure our troubles for one month, while I avenge myself on the prefect and complete the happiness of his married life.”

Eve listened, and thought that she must be dreaming.

“I saw the little gray drawing-room where I trembled like a child two years ago; it seemed as if scales fell from my eyes when I saw the furniture and the pictures and the faces again. How Paris changes one’s ideas!”

“Is that a good thing?” asked Eve, at last beginning to understand.

“Come, come; you are still asleep. We will talk about it to-morrow after breakfast.”

Cerizet’s plot was exceedingly simple, a commonplace stratagem familiar to the provincial bailiff. Its success entirely depends upon circumstances, and in this case it was certain, so intimate was Cerizet’s knowledge of the characters and hopes of those concerned. Cerizet had been a kind of Don Juan among the young work-girls, ruling his victims by playing one off against another. Since he had been the Cointet’s extra foreman, he had singled out one of Basine Clerget’s assistants, a girl almost as handsome as Mme. Sechard. Henriette Signol’s parents owned a small vineyard two leagues out of Angouleme, on the road to Saintes. The Signols, like everybody else in the country, could not afford to keep their only child at home; so they meant her to go out to service, in country phrase. The art of clear-starching is a part of every country housemaid’s training; and so great was Mme. Prieur’s reputation, that the Signols sent Henriette to her as apprentice, and paid for their daughter’s board and lodging.

Mme. Prieur was one of the old-fashioned mistresses, who consider that they fill a parent’s place towards their apprentices. They were part of the family; she took them with her to church, and looked scrupulously after them. Henriette Signol was a tall, fine-looking girl, with bold eyes, and long, thick, dark hair, and the pale, very fair complexion of girls in the South–white as a magnolia flower. For which reasons Henriette was one of the first on whom Cerizet cast his eyes; but Henriette came of “honest farmer folk,” and only yielded at last to jealousy, to bad example, and the treacherous promise of subsequent marriage. By this time Cerizet was the Cointet’s foreman. When he learned that the Signols owned a vineyard worth some ten or twelve thousand francs, and a tolerably comfortable cottage, he hastened to make it impossible for Henriette to marry any one else. Affairs had reached this point when Petit-Claud held out the prospect of a printing office and twenty thousand francs of borrowed capital, which was to prove a yoke upon the borrower’s neck. Cerizet was dazzled, the offer turned his head; Henriette Signol was now only an obstacle in the way of his ambitions, and he neglected the poor girl. Henriette, in her despair, clung more closely to her seducer as he tried to shake her off. When Cerizet began to suspect that David was hiding in Basine’s house, his views with regard to Henriette underwent another change, though he treated her as before. A kind of frenzy works in a girl’s brain when she must marry her seducer to conceal her dishonor, and Cerizet was on the watch to turn this madness to his own account.

During the morning of the day when Lucien had set himself to reconquer his Louise, Cerizet told Basine’s secret to Henriette, giving her to understand at the same time that their marriage and future prospects depended upon the discovery of David’s hiding-place. Thus instructed, Henriette easily made certain of the fact that David was in Basine Clerget’s inner room. It never occurred to the girl that she was doing wrong to act the spy, and Cerizet involved her in the guilt of betrayal by this first step.

Lucien was still sleeping while Cerizet, closeted with Petit-Claud, heard the history of the important trifles with which all Angouleme presently would ring.

The Cointets’ foreman gave a satisfied nod as Petit-Claud came to an end. “Lucien surely has written you a line since he came back, has he not?” he asked.

“This is all that I have,” answered the lawyer, and he held out a note on Mme. Sechard’s writing-paper.

“Very well,” said Cerizet, “let Doublon be in wait at the Palet Gate about ten minutes before sunset; tell him to post his gendarmes, and you shall have our man.”

“Are you sure of _your_ part of the business?” asked Petit-Claud, scanning Cerizet.

“I rely on chance,” said the ex-street boy, “and she is a saucy huzzy; she does not like honest folk.

“You must succeed,” said Cerizet. “You have pushed me into this dirty business; you may as well let me have a few banknotes to wipe off the stains.”–Then detecting a look that he did not like in the attorney’s face, he continued, with a deadly glance, “If you have cheated me, sir, if you don’t buy the printing-office for me within a week–you will leave a young widow;” he lowered his voice.

“If we have David on the jail register at six o’clock, come round to M. Gannerac’s at nine, and we will settle your business,” said Petit-Claud peremptorily.

“Agreed. Your will shall be done, governor,” said Cerizet.

Cerizet understood the art of washing paper, a dangerous art for the Treasury. He washed out Lucien’s four lines and replaced them, imitating the handwriting with a dexterity which augured ill for his own future:–

“MY DEAR DAVID,–Your business is settled; you need not fear to go to the prefect. You can go out at sunset. I will come to meet you and tell you what to do at the prefecture.–Your brother, “LUCIEN.”

At noon Lucien wrote to David, telling him of his evening’s success. The prefect would be sure to lend his influence, he said; he was full of enthusiasm over the invention, and was drawing up a report that very day to send to the Government. Marion carried the letter to Basine, taking some of Lucien’s linen to the laundry as a pretext for the errand.

Petit-Claud had told Cerizet that a letter would in all probability be sent. Cerizet called for Mlle. Signol, and the two walked by the Charente. Henriette’s integrity must have held out for a long while, for the walk lasted for two hours. A whole future of happiness and ease and the interests of a child were at stake, and Cerizet asked a mere trifle of her. He was very careful besides to say nothing of the consequences of that trifle. She was only to carry a letter and a message, that was all; but it was the greatness of the reward for the trifling service that frightened Henriette. Nevertheless, Cerizet gained her consent at last; she would help him in his stratagem.

At five o’clock Henriette must go out and come in again, telling Basine Clerget that Mme. Sechard wanted to speak to her at once. Fifteen minutes after Basine’s departure she must go upstairs, knock at the door of the inner room, and give David the forged note. That was all. Cerizet looked to chance to manage the rest.

For the first time in twelve months, Eve felt the iron grasp of necessity relax a little. She began at last to hope. She, too, would enjoy her brother’s visit; she would show herself abroad on the arm of a man feted in his native town, adored by the women, beloved by the proud Comtesse du Chatelet. She dressed herself prettily, and proposed to walk out after dinner with her brother to Beaulieu. In September all Angouleme comes out at that hour to breathe the fresh air.

“Oh! that is the beautiful Mme. Sechard,” voices said here and there.

“I should never have believed it of her,” said a woman.

“The husband is in hiding, and the wife walks abroad,” said Mme. Postel for young Mme. Sechard’s benefit.

“Oh, let us go home,” said poor Eve; “I have made a mistake.”

A few minutes before sunset, the sound of a crowd rose from the steps that lead down to L’Houmeau. Apparently some crime had been committed, for persons coming from L’Houmeau were talking among themselves. Curiosity drew Lucien and Eve towards the steps.

“A thief has just been arrested no doubt, the man looks as pale as death,” one of these passers-by said to the brother and sister. The crowd grew larger.

Lucien and Eve watched a group of some thirty children, old women and men, returning from work, clustering about the gendarmes, whose gold-laced caps gleamed above the heads of the rest. About a hundred persons followed the procession, the crowd gathering like a storm cloud.

“Oh! it is my husband!” Eve cried out.

_”David!”_ exclaimed Lucien.

“It is his wife,” said voices, and the crowd made way.

“What made you come out?” asked Lucien.

“Your letter,” said David, haggard and white.

“I knew it!” said Eve, and she fainted away. Lucien raised his sister, and with the help of two strangers he carried her home; Marion laid her in bed, and Kolb rushed off for a doctor. Eve was still insensible when the doctor arrived; and Lucien was obliged to confess to his mother that he was the cause of David’s arrest; for he, of course, knew nothing of the forged letter and Cerizet’s stratagem. Then he went up to his room and locked himself in, struck dumb by the malediction in his mother’s eyes.

In the dead of night he wrote one more letter amid constant interruptions; the reader can divine the agony of the writer’s mind from those phrases, jerked out, as it were, one by one:–

“MY BELOVED SISTER,–We have seen each other for the last time. My resolution is final, and for this reason. In many families there is one unlucky member, a kind of disease in their midst. I am that unlucky one in our family. The observation is not mine; it was made at a friendly supper one evening at the _Rocher de Cancale_ by a diplomate who has seen a great deal of the world. While we laughed and joked, he explained the reason why some young lady or some other remained unmarried, to the astonishment of the world –it was ‘a touch of her father,’ he said, and with that he unfolded his theory of inherited weaknesses. He told us how such and such a family would have flourished but for the mother; how it was that a son had ruined his father, or a father had stripped his children of prospects and respectability. It was said laughingly, but we thought of so many cases in point in ten minutes that I was struck with the theory. The amount of truth in it furnished all sorts of wild paradoxes, which journalists maintain cleverly enough for their own amusement when there is nobody else at hand to mystify. I bring bad luck to our family. My heart is full of love for you, yet I behave like an enemy. The blow dealt unintentionally is the cruelest blow of all. While I was leading a bohemian life in Paris, a life made up of pleasure and misery; taking good fellowship for friendship, forsaking my true friends for those who wished to exploit me, and succeeded; forgetful of you, or remembering you only to cause you trouble,–all that while you were walking in the humble path of hard work, making your way slowly but surely to the fortune which I tried so madly to snatch. While you grew better, I grew worse; a fatal element entered into my life through my own choice. Yes, unbounded ambition makes an obscure existence simply impossible for me. I have tastes and remembrances of past pleasures that poison the enjoyments within my reach; once I should have been satisfied with them, now it is too late. Oh, dear Eve, no one can think more hardly of me than I do myself; my condemnation is absolute and pitiless. The struggle in Paris demands steady effort; my will power is spasmodic, my brain works intermittently. The future is so appalling that I do not care to face it, and the present is intolerable.

“I wanted to see you again. I should have done better to stay in exile all my days. But exile without means of subsistence would be madness; I will not add another folly to the rest. Death is better than a maimed life; I cannot think of myself in any position in which my overweening vanity would not lead me into folly.

“Some human beings are like the figure 0, another must be put before it, and they acquire ten times their value. I am nothing unless a strong inexorable will is wedded to mine. Mme. de Bargeton was in truth my wife; when I refused to leave Coralie for her I spoiled my life. You and David might have been excellent pilots for me, but you are not strong enough to tame my weakness, which in some sort eludes control. I like an easy life, a life without cares; to clear an obstacle out of my way I can descend to baseness that sticks at nothing. I was born a prince. I have more than the requisite intellectual dexterity for success, but only by moments; and the prizes of a career so crowded by ambitious competitors are to those who expend no more than the necessary strength, and retain a sufficient reserve when they reach the goal.

“I shall do harm again with the best intentions in the world. Some men are like oaks, I am a delicate shrub it may be, and I forsooth, must needs aspire to be a forest cedar.

“There you have my bankrupt’s schedule. The disproportion between my powers and my desires, my want of balance, in short, will bring all my efforts to nothing. There are many such characters among men of letters, many men whose intellectual powers and character are always at variance, who will one thing and wish another. What would become of me? I can see it all beforehand, as I think of this and that great light that once shone on Paris, now utterly forgotten. On the threshold of old age I shall be a man older than my age, needy and without a name. My whole soul rises up against the thought of such a close; I will not be a social rag. Ah, dear sister, loved and worshiped at least as much for your severity at the last as for your tenderness at the first–if we have paid so dear for my joy at seeing you all once more, you and David may perhaps some day think that you could grudge no price however high for a little last happiness for an unhappy creature who loved you. Do not try to find me, Eve; do not seek to know what becomes of me. My intellect for once shall be backed by my will. Renunciation, my angel, is daily death of self; my renunciation will only last for one day; I will take advantage now of that day. . . .

“_Two o’clock_.

“Yes, I have quite made up my mind. Farewell for ever, dear Eve. There is something sweet in the thought that I shall live only in your hearts henceforth, and I wish no other burying place. Once more, farewell. . . . That is the last word from your brother

“LUCIEN.”

Lucien read the letter over, crept noiselessly down stairs, and left it in the child’s cradle; amid falling tears he set a last kiss on the forehead of his sleeping sister; then he went out. He put out his candle in the gray dusk, took a last look at the old house, stole softly along the passage, and opened the street door; but in spite of his caution, he awakened Kolb, who slept on a mattress on the workshop floor.

“Who goes there?” cried Kolb.

“It is I, Lucien; I am going away, Kolb.”

“You vould haf done better gif you at nefer kom,” Kolb muttered audibly.

“I should have done better still if I had never come into the world,” Lucien answered. “Good-bye, Kolb; I don’t bear you any grudge for thinking as I think myself. Tell David that I was sorry I could not bid him good-bye, and say that this was my last thought.”

By the time the Alsacien was up and dressed, Lucien had shut the house door, and was on his way towards the Charente by the Promenade de Beaulieu. He might have been going to a festival, for he had put on his new clothes from Paris and his dandy’s trinkets for a drowning shroud. Something in Lucien’s tone had struck Kolb. At first the man thought of going to ask his mistress whether she knew that her brother had left the house; but as the deepest silence prevailed, he concluded that the departure had been arranged beforehand, and lay down again and slept.

Little, considering the gravity of the question, has been written on the subject of suicide; it has not been studied. Perhaps it is a disease that cannot be observed. Suicide is one effect of a sentiment which we will call self-esteem, if you will, to prevent confusion by using the word “honor.” When a man despises himself, and sees that others despise him, when real life fails to fulfil his hopes, then comes the moment when he takes his life, and thereby does homage to society–shorn of his virtues or his splendor, he does not care to face his fellows. Among atheists–Christians being without the question of suicide–among atheists, whatever may be said to the contrary, none but a base coward can take up a dishonored life.

There are three kinds of suicide–the first is only the last and acute stage of a long illness, and this kind belongs distinctly to pathology; the second is the suicide of despair; and the third the suicide based on logical argument. Despair and deductive reasoning had brought Lucien to this pass, but both varieties are curable; it is only the pathological suicide that is inevitable. Not infrequently you find all three causes combined, as in the case of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Lucien having made up his mind fell to considering methods. The poet would fain die as became a poet. At first he thought of throwing himself into the Charente and making an end then and there; but as he came down the steps from Beaulieu for the last time, he heard the whole town talking of his suicide; he saw the horrid sight of a drowned dead body, and thought of the recognition and the inquest; and, like some other suicides, felt that vanity reached beyond death.

He remembered the day spent at Courtois’ mill, and his thoughts returned to the round pool among the willows that he saw as he came along by the little river, such a pool as you often find on small streams, with a still, smooth surface that conceals great depths beneath. The water is neither green nor blue nor white nor tawny; it is like a polished steel mirror. No sword-grass grows about the margin; there are no blue water forget-me-nots, nor broad lily leaves; the grass at the brim is short and thick, and the weeping willows that droop over the edge grow picturesquely enough. It is easy to imagine a sheer precipice beneath filled with water to the brim. Any man who should have the courage to fill his pockets with pebbles would not fail to find death, and never be seen thereafter.

At the time while he admired the lovely miniature of a landscape, the poet had thought to himself, “‘Tis a spot to make your mouth water for a _noyade_.”

He thought of it now as he went down into L’Houmeau; and when he took his way towards Marsac, with the last sombre thoughts gnawing at his heart, it was with the firm resolve to hide his death. There should be no inquest held over him, he would not be laid in earth; no one should see him in the hideous condition of the corpse that floats on the surface of the water. Before long he reached one of the slopes, common enough on all French highroads, and commonest of all between Angouleme and Poitiers. He saw the coach from Bordeaux to Paris coming up at full speed behind him, and knew that the passengers would probably alight to walk up the hill. He did not care to be seen just then. Turning off sharply into a beaten track, he began to pick the flowers in a vineyard hard by.

When Lucien came back to the road with a great bunch of the yellow stone-crop which grows everywhere upon the stony soil of the vineyards, he came out upon a traveler dressed in black from head to foot. The stranger wore powder, there were silver buckles on his shoes of Orleans leather, and his brown face was scarred and seamed as if he had fallen into the fire in infancy. The traveler, so obviously clerical in his dress, was walking slowly and smoking a cigar. He turned as Lucien jumped down from the vineyard into the road. The deep melancholy on the handsome young face, the poet’s symbolical flowers, and his elegant dress seemed to strike the stranger. He looked at Lucien with something of the expression of a hunter that has found his quarry at last after long and fruitless search. He allowed Lucien to come alongside in nautical phrase; then he slackened his pace, and appeared to look along the road up the hill; Lucien, following the direction of his eyes, saw a light traveling carriage with two horses, and a post-boy standing beside it.

“You have allowed the coach to pass you, monsieur; you will lose your place unless you care to take a seat in my caleche and overtake the mail, for it is rather quicker traveling post than by the public conveyance.” The traveler spoke with extreme politeness and a very marked Spanish accent.

Without waiting for an answer, he drew a cigar-case from his pocket, opened it, and held it out to Lucien.

“I am not on a journey,” said Lucien, “and I am too near the end of my stage to indulge in the pleasure of smoking—-“

“You are very severe with yourself,” returned the Spaniard. “Though I am a canon of the cathedral of Toledo, I occasionally smoke a cigarette. God gave us tobacco to allay our passions and our pains. You seem to be downcast, or at any rate, you carry the symbolical flower of sorrow in your hand, like the rueful god Hymen. Come! all your troubles will vanish away with the smoke,” and again the ecclesiastic held out his little straw case; there was something fascinating in his manner, and kindliness towards Lucien lighted up his eyes.

“Forgive me, father” Lucien answered stiffly; “there is no cigar that can scatter my troubles.” Tears came to his eyes at the words.

“It must surely be Divine Providence that prompted me to take a little exercise to shake off a traveler’s morning drowsiness,” said the churchman. “A divine prompting to fulfil my mission here on earth by consoling you.–What great trouble can you have at your age?”

“Your consolations, father, can do nothing for me. You are a Spaniard, I am a Frenchman; you believe in the commandments of the Church, I am an atheist.”

“_Santa Virgen del Pilar_! you are an atheist!” cried the other, laying a hand on Lucien’s arm with maternal solicitude. “Ah! here is one of the curious things I promised myself to see in Paris. We, in Spain, do not believe in atheists. There is no country but France where one can have such opinions at nineteen years.”

“Oh! I am an atheist in the fullest sense of the word. I have no belief in God, in society, in happiness. Take a good look at me, father; for in a few hours’ time life will be over for me. My last sun has risen,” said Lucien; with a sort of rhetorical effect he waved his hand towards the sky.

“How so; what have you done that you must die? Who has condemned you to die?”

“A tribunal from which there is no appeal–I myself.”

“You, child!” cried the priest. “Have you killed a man? Is the scaffold waiting for you? Let us reason together a little. If you are resolved, as you say, to return to nothingness, everything on earth is indifferent to you, is it not?”

Lucien bowed assent.

“Very well, then; can you not tell me about your troubles? Some little affair of the heart has taken a bad turn, no doubt?”

Lucien shrugged his shoulders very significantly.

“Are you resolved to kill yourself to escape dishonor, or do you despair of life? Very good. You can kill yourself at Poitiers quite as easily as at Angouleme, and at Tours it will be no harder than at Poitiers. The quicksands of the Loire never give up their prey—-“

“No, father,” said Lucien; “I have settled it all. Not three weeks ago I chanced upon the most charming raft that can ferry a man sick and tired of this life into the other world—-“

“The other world? You are not an atheist.”

“Oh! by another world I mean my next transformation, animal or plant.”

“Have you some incurable disease?”

“Yes, father.”

“Ah! now we come to the point. What is it?”

“Poverty.”

The priest looked at Lucien. “The diamond does not know its own value,” he said, and there was an inexpressible charm, and a touch of something like irony in his smile.

“None but a priest could flatter a poor man about to die,” exclaimed Lucien.

“You are not going to die,” the Spaniard returned authoritatively.

“I have heard many times of men that were robbed on the highroad, but I have never yet heard of one that found a fortune there,” said Lucien.

“You will hear of one now,” said the priest, glancing towards the carriage to measure the time still left for their walk together. “Listen to me,” he continued, with his cigar between his teeth; “if you are poor, that is no reason why you should die. I need a secretary, for mine has just died at Barcelona. I am in the same position as the famous Baron Goertz, minister of Charles XII. He was traveling toward Sweden (just as I am going to Paris), and in some little town or other he chanced upon the son of a goldsmith, a young man of remarkable good looks, though they could scarcely equal yours. . . . Baron Goertz discerned intelligence in the young man (just as I see poetry on your brow); he took him into his traveling carriage, as I shall take you very shortly; and of a boy condemned to spend his days in burnishing spoons and forks and making trinkets in some little town like Angouleme, he made a favorite, as you shall be mine.

“Arrived at Stockholm, he installed his secretary and overwhelmed him with work. The young man spent his nights in writing, and, like all great workers, he contracted a bad habit, a trick–he took to chewing paper. The late M. de Malesherbes use to rap people over the knuckles; and he did this once, by the by, to somebody or other whose suit depended upon him. The handsome young secretary began by chewing blank paper, found it insipid for a while, and acquired a taste for manuscript as having more flavor. People did not smoke as yet in those days. At last, from flavor to flavor, he began to chew parchment and swallow it. Now, at that time a treaty was being negotiated between Russia and Sweden. The States-General insisted that Charles XII. should make peace (much as they tried in France to make Napoleon treat for peace in 1814) and the basis of these negotiations was the treaty between the two powers with regard to Finland. Goertz gave the original into his secretary’s keeping; but when the time came for laying the draft before the States-General, a trifling difficulty arose; the treaty was not to be found. The States-General believed that the Minister, pandering to the King’s wishes, had taken it into his head to get rid of the document. Baron Goertz was, in fact, accused of this, and the secretary owned that he had eaten the treaty. He was tried and convicted and condemned to death.–But you have not come to that yet, so take a cigar and smoke till we reach the caleche.”

Lucien took a cigar and lit it, Spanish fashion, at the priest’s cigar. “He is right,” he thought; “I can take my life at any time.”

“It often happens that a young man’s fortunes take a turn when despair is darkest,” the Spaniard continued. “That is what I wished to tell you, but I preferred to prove it by a case in point. Here was the handsome young secretary lying under sentence of death, and his case the more desperate because, as he had been condemned by the States-General, the King could not pardon him, but he connived at his escape. The secretary stole away in a fishing-boat with a few crowns in his pocket, and reached the court of Courland with a letter of introduction from Goertz, explaining his secretary’s adventures and his craze for paper. The Duke of Courland was a spendthrift; he had a steward and a pretty wife–three several causes of ruin. He placed the charming young stranger with his steward.

“If you can imagine that the sometime secretary had been cured of his depraved taste by a sentence of death, you do not know the grip that a man’s failings have upon him; let a man discover some satisfaction for himself, and the headsman will not keep him from it.–How is it that the vice has this power? Is it inherent strength in the vice, or inherent weakness in human nature? Are there certain tastes that should be regarded as verging on insanity? For myself, I cannot help laughing at the moralists who try to expel such diseases by fine phrases.–Well, it so fell out that the steward refused a demand for money; and the Duke taking fright at this, called for an audit. Sheer imbecility! Nothing easier than to make out a balance-sheet; the difficulty never lies there. The steward gave his secretary all the necessary documents for compiling a schedule of the civil list of Courland. He had nearly finished it when, in the dead of night, the unhappy paper-eater discovered that he was chewing up one of the Duke’s discharges for a considerable sum. He had eaten half the signature! Horror seized upon him; he fled to the Duchess, flung himself at her feet, told her of his craze, and implored the aid of his sovereign lady, implored her in the middle of the night. The handsome young face made such an impression on the Duchess that she married him as soon as she was left a widow. And so in the mid- eighteenth century, in a land where the king-at-arms is king, the goldsmith’s son became a prince, and something more. On the death of Catherine I. he was regent; he ruled the Empress Anne, and tried to be the Richelieu of Russia. Very well, young man; now know this–if you are handsomer than Biron, I, simple canon that I am, am worth more than a Baron Goertz. So get in; we will find a duchy of Courland for you in Paris, or failing the duchy, we shall certainly find the duchess.”

The Spanish priest laid a hand on Lucien’s arm, and literally forced him into the traveling carriage. The postilion shut the door.

“Now speak; I am listening,” said the canon of Toledo, to Lucien’s bewilderment. “I am an old priest; you can tell me everything, there is nothing to fear. So far we have only run through our patrimony or squandered mamma’s money. We have made a flitting from our creditors, and we are honor personified down to the tips of our elegant little boots. . . . Come, confess, boldly; it will be just as if you were talking to yourself.”

Lucien felt like that hero of an Eastern tale, the fisher who tried to drown himself in mid-ocean, and sank down to find himself a king of countries under the sea. The Spanish priest seemed so really affectionate, that the poet hesitated no longer; between Angouleme and Ruffec he told the story of his whole life, omitting none of his misdeeds, and ended with the final catastrophe which he had brought about. The tale only gained in poetic charm because this was the third time he had told it in the past fortnight. Just as he made an end they passed the house of the Rastignac family.

“Young Rastignac left that place for Paris,” said Lucien; “he is certainly not my equal, but he has had better luck.”

The Spaniard started at the name. “Oh!” he said.

“Yes. That shy little place belongs to his father. As I was telling you just now, he was the lover of Mme. de Nucingen, the famous banker’s wife. I drifted into poetry; he was cleverer, he took the practical side.”

The priest stopped the caleche; and was so far curious as to walk down the little avenue that led to the house, showing more interest in the place than Lucien expected from a Spanish ecclesiastic.

“Then, do you know the Rastignacs?” asked Lucien.

“I know every one in Paris,” said the Spaniard, taking his place again in the carriage. “And so for want of ten or twelve thousand francs, you were about to take your life; you are a child, you know neither men nor things. A man’s future is worth the value that he chooses to set upon it, and you value yours at twelve thousand francs! Well, I will give more than that for you any time. As for your brother-in-law’s imprisonment, it is the merest trifle. If this dear M. Sechard has made a discovery, he will be a rich man some day, and a rich man has never been imprisoned for debt. You do not seem to me to be strong in history. History is of two kinds–there is the official history taught in schools, a lying compilation _ad usum delphini_; and there is the secret history which deals with the real causes of events –a scandalous chronicle. Let me tell you briefly a little story which you have not heard. There was, once upon a time, a man, young and ambitious, and a priest to boot. He wanted to enter upon a political career, so he fawned on the Queen’s favorite; the favorite took an interest in him, gave him the rank of minister, and a seat at the council board. One evening somebody wrote to the young aspirant, thinking to do him a service (never do a service, by the by, unless you are asked), and told him that his benefactor’s life was in danger. The King’s wrath was kindled against his rival; to-morrow, if the favorite went to the palace, he would certainly be stabbed; so said the letter. Well, now, young man, what would you have done?”

“I should have gone at once to warn my benefactor,” Lucien exclaimed quickly.

“You are indeed the child which your story reveals!” said the priest. “Our man said to himself, ‘If the King is resolved to go to such lengths, it is all over with my benefactor; I must receive this letter too late;’ so he slept on till the favorite was stabbed—-“

“He was a monster!” said Lucien, suspecting that the priest meant to sound him.

“So are all great men; this one was the Cardinal de Richelieu, and his benefactor was the Marechal d’Ancre. You really do not know your history of France, you see. Was I not right when I told you that history as taught in schools is simply a collection of facts and dates, more than doubtful in the first place, and with no bearing whatever on the gist of the matter. You are told that such a person as Jeanne Darc once existed; where is the use of that? Have you never drawn your own conclusions from that fact? never seen that if France had accepted the Angevin dynasty of the Plantagenets, the two peoples thus reunited would be ruling the world to-day, and the islands that now brew political storms for the continent would be French provinces? . . . Why, have you so much as studied the means by which simple merchants like the Medicis became Grand Dukes of Tuscany?”

“A poet in France is not bound to be ‘as learned as a Benedictine,'” said Lucien.

“Well, they became Grand-Dukes as Richelieu became a minister. If you had looked into history for the causes of events instead of getting the headings by heart, you would have found precepts for your guidance in this life. These real facts taken at random from among so many supply you with the axiom–‘Look upon men, and on women most of all, as your instruments; but never let them see this.’ If some one higher in place can be useful to you, worship him as your god; and never leave him until he has paid the price of your servility to the last farthing. In your intercourse with men, in short, be grasping and mean as a Jew; all that the Jew does for money, you must do for power. And besides all this, when a man has fallen from power, care no more for him than if he had ceased to exist. And do you ask why you must do these things? You mean to rule the world, do you not? You must begin by obeying and studying it. Scholars study books; politicians study men, and their interests and the springs of action. Society and mankind in masses are fatalists; they bow down and worship the accomplished fact. Do you know why I am giving you this little history lesson? It seems to me that your ambition is boundless—-“

“Yes, father.”

“I saw that myself,” said the priest. “But at this moment you are thinking, ‘Here is this Spanish canon inventing anecdotes and straining history to prove to me that I have too much virtue—-‘”

Lucien began to smile; his thoughts had been read so clearly.

“Very well, let us take facts that every schoolboy knows. One day France is almost entirely overrun by the English; the King has only a single province left. Two figures arise from among the people–a poor herd girl, that very Jeanne Darc of whom we were speaking, and a burgher named Jacques Coeur. The girl brings the power of virginity, the strength of her arm; the burgher gives his gold, and the kingdom is saved. The maid is taken prisoner, and the King, who could have ransomed her, leaves her to be burned alive. The King allows his courtier to accuse the great burgher of capital crime, and they rob him and divide all his wealth among themselves. The spoils of an innocent man, hunted down, brought to bay, and driven into exile by the Law, went to enrich five noble houses; and the father of the Archbishop of Bourges left the kingdom for ever without one sou of all his possessions in France, and no resource but moneys remitted to Arabs and Saracens in Egypt. It is open to you to say that these examples are out of date, that three centuries of public education have since elapsed, and that the outlines of those ages are more or less dim figures. Well, young man, do you believe in the last demi-god of France, in Napoleon? One of his generals was in disgrace all through his career; Napoleon made him a marshal grudgingly, and never sent him on service if he could help it. That marshal was Kellermann. Do you know the reason of the grudge? . . . Kellermann saved France and the First Consul at Marengo by a brilliant charge; the ranks applauded under fire and in the thick of the carnage. That heroic charge was not even mentioned in the bulletin. Napoleon’s coolness toward Kellermann, Fouche’s fall, and Talleyrand’s disgrace were all attributable to the same cause; it is the ingratitude of a Charles VII., or a Richelieu, or —-“

“But, father,” said Lucien, “suppose that you should save my life and make my fortune, you are making the ties of gratitude somewhat slight.”

“Little rogue,” said the Abbe, smiling as he pinched Lucien’s ear with an almost royal familiarity. “If you are ungrateful to me, it will be because you are a strong man, and I shall bend before you. But you are not that just yet; as a simple ‘prentice you have tried to be master too soon, the common fault of Frenchmen of your generation. Napoleon’s example has spoiled them all. You send in your resignation because you have not the pair of epaulettes that you fancied. But have you attempted to bring the full force of your will and every action of your life to bear upon your one idea?”

“Alas! no.”

“You have been inconsistent, as the English say,” smiled the canon.

“What I have been matters nothing now,” said Lucien, “if I can be nothing in the future.”

“If at the back of all your good qualities there is power _semper virens_,” continued the priest, not averse to show that he had a little Latin, “nothing in this world can resist you. I have taken enough of a liking for you already—-“

Lucien smiled incredulously.

“Yes,” said the priest, in answer to the smile, “you interest me as much as if you had been my son; and I am strong enough to afford to talk to you as openly as you have just done to me. Do you know what it is that I like about you?–This: you have made a sort of _tabula rasa_ within yourself, and are ready to hear a sermon on morality that you will hear nowhere else; for mankind in the mass are even more consummate hypocrites than any one individual can be when his interests demand a piece of acting. Most of us spend a good part of our lives in clearing our minds of the notions that sprang up unchecked during our nonage. This is called ‘getting our experience.'”

Lucien, listening, thought within himself, “Here is some old intriguer delighted with a chance of amusing himself on a journey. He is pleased with the idea of bringing about a change of opinion in a poor wretch on the brink of suicide; and when he is tired of his amusement, he will drop me. Still he understands paradox, and seems to be quite a match for Blondet or Lousteau.”

But in spite of these sage reflections, the diplomate’s poison had sunk deeply into Lucien’s soul; the ground was ready to receive it, and the havoc wrought was the greater because such famous examples were cited. Lucien fell under the charm of his companion’s cynical talk, and clung the more willingly to life because he felt that this arm which drew him up from the depths was a strong one.

In this respect the ecclesiastic had evidently won the day; and, indeed, from time to time a malicious smile bore his cynical anecdotes company.

“If your system of morality at all resembles your manner of regarding history,” said Lucien, “I should dearly like to know the motive of your present act of charity, for such it seems to be.”

“There, young man, I have come to the last head of my sermon; you will permit me to reserve it, for in that case we shall not part company to-day,” said the canon, with the tact of the priest who sees that his guile has succeeded.

“Very well, talk morality,” said Lucien. To himself he said, “I will draw him out.”

“Morality begins with the law,” said the priest. “If it were simply a question of religion, laws would be superfluous; religious peoples have few laws. The laws of statecraft are above civil law. Well, do you care to know the inscription which a politician can read, written at large over your nineteenth century? In 1793 the French invented the idea of the sovereignty of the people–and the sovereignty of the people came to an end under the absolute ruler in the Emperor. So much for your history as a nation. Now for your private manners. Mme. Tallien and Mme. Beauharnais both acted alike. Napoleon married the one, and made her your Empress; the other he would never receive at court, princess though she was. The sans-culotte of 1793 takes the Iron Crown in 1804. The fanatical lovers of Equality or Death conspire fourteen years afterwards with a Legitimist aristocracy to bring back Louis XVIII. And that same aristocracy, lording it to-day in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, has done worse–has been merchant, usurer, pastry-cook, farmer, and shepherd. So in France systems political and moral have started from one point and reached another diametrically opposed; and men have expressed one kind of opinion and acted on another. There has been no consistency in national policy, nor in the conduct of individuals. You cannot be said to have any morality left. Success is the supreme justification of all actions whatsoever. The fact in itself is nothing; the impression that it makes upon others is everything. Hence, please observe a second precept: Present a fair exterior to the world, keep the seamy side of life to yourself, and turn a resplendent countenance upon others. Discretion, the motto of every ambitious man, is the watchword of our Order; take it for your own. Great men are guilty of almost as many base deeds as poor outcasts; but they are careful to do these things in shadow and to parade their virtues in the light, or they would not be great men. Your insignificant man leaves his virtues in the shade; he publicly displays his pitiable side, and is despised accordingly. You, for instance, have hidden your titles to greatness and made a display of your worst failings. You openly took an actress for your mistress, lived with her and upon her; you were by no means to blame for this; everybody admitted that both of you were perfectly free to do as you liked; but you ran full tilt against the ideas of the world, and the world has not shown you the consideration that is shown to those who obey the rules of the game. If you had left Coralie to this M. Camusot, if you had hidden your relations with her, you might have married Mme. de Bargeton; you would now be prefect of Angouleme and Marquis de Rubempre.

“Change your tactics, bring your good looks, your charm, your wit, your poetry to the front. If you indulge in small discreditable courses, let it be within four walls, and you will never again be guilty of a blot on the decorations of this great theatrical scene called society. Napoleon called this ‘washing dirty linen at home.’ The corollary follows naturally on this second precept–Form is everything. Be careful to grasp the meaning of that word ‘form.’ There are people who, for want of knowing better, will help themselves to money under pressure of want, and take it by force. These people are called criminals; and, perforce, they square accounts with Justice. A poor man of genius discovers some secret, some invention as good as a treasure; you lend him three thousand francs (for that, practically, the Cointets have done; they hold your bills, and they are about to rob your brother-in-law); you torment him until he reveals or partly reveals his secret; you settle your accounts with your own conscience, and your conscience does not drag you into the assize court.

“The enemies of social order, beholding this contrast, take occasion to yap at justice, and wax wroth in the name of the people, because, forsooth, burglars and fowl-stealers are sent to the hulks, while a man who brings whole families to ruin by a fraudulent bankruptcy is let off with a few months’ imprisonment. But these hypocrites know quite well that the judge who passes sentence on the thief is maintaining the barrier set between the poor and the rich, and that if that barrier were overturned, social chaos would ensue; while, in the case of the bankrupt, the man who steals an inheritance cleverly, and the banker who slaughters a business for his own benefit, money merely changes hands, that is all.

“Society, my son, is bound to draw those distinctions which I have pointed out for your benefit. The one great point is this–you must be a match for society. Napoleon, Richelieu, and the Medicis were a match for their generations. And as for you, you value yourself at twelve thousand francs! You of this generation in France worship the golden calf; what else is the religion of your Charter that will not recognize a man politically unless he owns property? What is this but the command, ‘Strive to be rich?’ Some day, when you shall have made a fortune without breaking the law, you will be rich; you will be the Marquis de Rubempre, and you can indulge in the luxury of honor. You will be so extremely sensitive on the point of honor that no one will dare to accuse you of past shortcomings if in the process of making your way you should happen to smirch it now and again, which I myself should never advise,” he added, patting Lucien’s hand.

“So what must you put in that comely head of yours? Simply this and nothing more–propose to yourself a brilliant and conspicuous goal, and go towards it secretly; let no one see your methods or your progress. You have behaved like a child; be a man, be a hunter, lie in wait for your quarry in the world of Paris, wait for your chance and your game; you need not be particular nor mindful of your dignity, as it is called; we are all of us slaves to something, to some failing of our own or to necessity; but keep that law of laws–secrecy.”

“Father, you frighten me,” said Lucien; “this seems to me to be a highwayman’s theory.”

“And you are right,” said the canon, “but it is no invention of mine. All _parvenus_ reason in this way–the house of Austria and the house of France alike. You have nothing, you say? The Medicis, Richelieu, and Napoleon started from precisely your standpoint; but _they_, my child, considered that their prospects were worth ingratitude, treachery, and the most glaring inconsistencies. You must dare all things to gain all things. Let us discuss it. Suppose that you sit down to a game of _bouillotte_, do you begin to argue over the rules of the game? There they are, you accept them.”

“Come, now,” thought Lucien, “he can play _bouillotte_.”

“And what do you do?” continued the priest; “do you practise openness, that fairest of virtues? Not merely do you hide your tactics, but you do your best to make others believe that you are on the brink of ruin as soon as you are sure of winning the game. In short, you dissemble, do you not? You lie to win four or five louis d’or. What would you think of a player so generous as to proclaim that he held a hand full of trumps? Very well; the ambitious man who carries virtue’s precepts into the arena when his antagonists have left them behind is behaving like a child. Old men of the world might say to him, as card-players would say to the man who declines to take advantage of his trumps, ‘Monsieur, you ought not to play at _bouillotte_.’

“Did you make the rules of the game of ambition? Why did I tell you to be a match for society?–Because, in these days, society by degrees has usurped so many rights over the individual, that the individual is compelled to act in self-defence. There is no question of laws now, their place has been taken by custom, which is to say grimacings, and forms must always be observed.”

Lucien started with surprise.

“Ah, my child!” said the priest, afraid that he had shocked Lucien’s innocence; “did you expect to find the Angel Gabriel in an Abbe loaded with all the iniquities of the diplomacy and counter-diplomacy of two kings? I am an agent between Ferdinand VII. and Louis XVIII., two–kings who owe their crowns to profound–er–combinations, let us say. I believe in God, but I have a still greater belief in our Order, and our Order has no belief save in temporal power. In order to strengthen and consolidate the temporal power, our Order upholds the Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church, which is to say, the doctrines which dispose the world at large to obedience. We are the Templars of modern times; we have a doctrine of our own. Like the Templars, we have been dispersed, and for the same reasons; we are almost a match for the world. If you will enlist as a soldier, I will be your captain. Obey me as a wife obeys her husband, as a child obeys his mother, and I will guarantee that you shall be Marquis de Rubempre in less than six months; you shall marry into one of the proudest houses in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and some day you shall sit on a bench with peers of France. What would you have been at this moment if I had not amused you by my conversation?–An undiscovered corpse in a deep bed of mud. Well and good, now for an effort of imagination—-“

Lucien looked curiously at his protector.

“Here, in this caleche beside the Abbe Carlos Herrera, canon of Toledo, secret envoy from His Majesty Ferdinand VII. to his Majesty the King of France, bearer of a despatch thus worded it may be–‘When you have delivered me, hang all those whom I favor at this moment, more especially the bearer of this despatch, for then he can tell no tales’–well, beside this envoy sits a young man who has nothing in common with that poet recently deceased. I have fished you out of the water, I have brought you to life again, you belong to me as the creature belongs to the creator, as the efrits of fairytales belong to