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  • 1843
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Etienne Lousteau wore black trousers and beautifully-varnished boots; his coat was buttoned up to his chin; he probably meant to change his linen at Florine’s house, for his shirt collar was hidden by a velvet stock. He was trying to renovate his hat by an application of the brush.

“Let us go,” said Lucien.

“Not yet. I am waiting for a bookseller to bring me some money; I have not a farthing; there will be play, perhaps, and in any case I must have gloves.”

As he spoke, the two new friends heard a man’s step in the passage outside.

“There he is,” said Lousteau. “Now you will see, my dear fellow, the shape that Providence takes when he manifests himself to poets. You are going to behold Dauriat, the fashionable bookseller of the Quai des Augustins, the pawnbroker, the marine store dealer of the trade, the Norman ex-greengrocer.–Come along, old Tartar!” shouted Lousteau.

“Here am I,” said a voice like a cracked bell.

“Brought the money with you?”

“Money? There is no money now in the trade,” retorted the other, a young man who eyed Lucien curiously.

“_Imprimis_, you owe me fifty francs,” Lousteau continued.

“There are two copies of _Travels in Egypt_ here, a marvel, so they say, swarming with woodcuts, sure to sell. Finot has been paid for two reviews that I am to write for him. _Item_ two works, just out, by Victor Ducange, a novelist highly thought of in the Marais. _Item_ a couple of copies of a second work by Paul de Kock, a beginner in the same style. _Item_ two copies of _Yseult of Dole_, a charming provincial work. Total, one hundred francs, my little Barbet.”

Barbet made a close survey of edges and binding.

“Oh! they are in perfect condition,” cried Lousteau. “The _Travels_ are uncut, so is the Paul de Kock, so is the Ducange, so is that other thing on the chimney-piece, _Considerations on Symbolism_. I will throw that in; myths weary me to that degree that I will let you have the thing to spare myself the sight of the swarms of mites coming out of it.”

“But,” asked Lucien, “how are you going to write your reviews?”

Barbet, in profound astonishment, stared at Lucien; then he looked at Etienne and chuckled.

“One can see that the gentleman has not the misfortune to be a literary man,” said he.

“No, Barbet–no. He is a poet, a great poet; he is going to cut out Canalis, and Beranger, and Delavigne. He will go a long way if he does not throw himself into the river, and even so he will get as far as the drag-nets at Saint-Cloud.”

“If I had any advice to give the gentleman,” remarked Barbet, “it would be to give up poetry and take to prose. Poetry is not wanted on the Quais just now.”

Barbet’s shabby overcoat was fastened by a single button; his collar was greasy; he kept his hat on his head as he spoke; he wore low shoes, an open waistcoat gave glimpses of a homely shirt of coarse linen. Good-nature was not wanting in the round countenance, with its two slits of covetous eyes; but there was likewise the vague uneasiness habitual to those who have money to spend and hear constant applications for it. Yet, to all appearance, he was plain-dealing and easy-natured, his business shrewdness was so well wadded round with fat. He had been an assistant until he took a wretched little shop on the Quai des Augustins two years since, and issued thence on his rounds among journalists, authors, and printers, buying up free copies cheaply, making in such ways some ten or twenty francs daily. Now, he had money saved; he knew instinctively where every man was pressed; he had a keen eye for business. If an author was in difficulties, he would discount a bill given by a publisher at fifteen or twenty per cent; then the next day he would go to the publisher, haggle over the price of some work in demand, and pay him with his own bills instead of cash. Barbet was something of a scholar; he had had just enough education to make him careful to steer clear of modern poetry and modern romances. He had a liking for small speculations, for books of a popular kind which might be bought outright for a thousand francs and exploited at pleasure, such as the _Child’s History of France_, _Book-keeping in Twenty Lessons_, and _Botany for Young Ladies_. Two or three times already he had allowed a good book to slip through his fingers; the authors had come and gone a score of times while he hesitated, and could not make up his mind to buy the manuscript. When reproached for his pusillanimity, he was wont to produce the account of a notorious trial taken from the newspapers; it cost him nothing, and had brought him in two or three thousand francs.

Barbet was the type of bookseller that goes in fear and trembling; lives on bread and walnuts; rarely puts his name to a bill; filches little profits on invoices; makes deductions, and hawks his books about himself; heaven only knows where they go, but he sells them somehow, and gets paid for them. Barbet was the terror of printers, who could not tell what to make of him; he paid cash and took off the discount; he nibbled at their invoices whenever he thought they were pressed for money; and when he had fleeced a man once, he never went back to him–he feared to be caught in his turn.

“Well,” said Lousteau, “shall we go on with our business?”

“Eh! my boy,” returned Barbet in a familiar tone; “I have six thousand volumes of stock on hand at my place, and paper is not gold, as the old bookseller said. Trade is dull.”

“If you went into his shop, my dear Lucien,” said Etienne, turning to his friend, “you would see an oak counter from some bankrupt wine merchant’s sale, and a tallow dip, never snuffed for fear it should burn too quickly, making darkness visible. By that anomalous light you descry rows of empty shelves with some difficulty. An urchin in a blue blouse mounts guard over the emptiness, and blows his fingers, and shuffles his feet, and slaps his chest, like a cabman on the box. Just look about you! there are no more books there than I have here. Nobody could guess what kind of shop he keeps.”

“Here is a bill at three months for a hundred francs,” said Barbet, and he could not help smiling as he drew it out of his pocket; “I will take your old books off your hands. I can’t pay cash any longer, you see; sales are too slow. I thought that you would be wanting me; I had not a penny, and I made a bill simply to oblige you, for I am not fond of giving my signature.”

“So you want my thanks and esteem into the bargain, do you?”

“Bills are not met with sentiment,” responded Barbet; “but I will accept your esteem, all the same.”

“But I want gloves, and the perfumers will be base enough to decline your paper,” said Lousteau. “Stop, there is a superb engraving in the top drawer of the chest there, worth eighty francs, proof before letters and after letterpress, for I have written a pretty droll article upon it. There was something to lay hold of in _Hippocrates refusing the Presents of Artaxerxes_. A fine engraving, eh? Just the thing to suit all the doctors, who are refusing the extravagant gifts of Parisian satraps. You will find two or three dozen novels underneath it. Come, now, take the lot and give me forty francs.”

“_Forty francs_!” exclaimed the bookseller, emitting a cry like the squall of a frightened fowl. “Twenty at the very most! And then I may never see the money again,” he added.

“Where are your twenty francs?” asked Lousteau.

“My word, I don’t know that I have them,” said Barbet, fumbling in his pockets. “Here they are. You are plundering me; you have an ascendency over me—-“

“Come, let us be off,” said Lousteau, and taking up Lucien’s manuscript, he drew a line upon it in ink under the string.

“Have you anything else?” asked Barbet.

“Nothing, you young Shylock. I am going to put you in the way of a bit of very good business,” Etienne continued (“in which you shall lose a thousand crowns, to teach you to rob me in this fashion”), he added for Lucien’s ear.

“But how about your reviews?” said Lucien, as they rolled away to the Palais Royal.

“Pooh! you do not know how reviews are knocked off. As for the _Travels in Egypt_, I looked into the book here and there (without cutting the pages), and I found eleven slips in grammar. I shall say that the writer may have mastered the dicky-bird language on the flints that they call ‘obelisks’ out there in Egypt, but he cannot write in his own, as I will prove to him in a column and a half. I shall say that instead of giving us the natural history and archaeology, he ought to have interested himself in the future of Egypt, in the progress of civilization, and the best method of strengthening the bond between Egypt and France. France has won and lost Egypt, but she may yet attach the country to her interests by gaining a moral ascendency over it. Then some patriotic penny-a-lining, interlarded with diatribes on Marseilles, the Levant and our trade.”

“But suppose that he had taken that view, what would you do?”

“Oh well, I should say that instead of boring us with politics, he should have written about art, and described the picturesque aspects of the country and the local color. Then the critic bewails himself. Politics are intruded everywhere; we are weary of politics–politics on all sides. I should regret those charming books of travel that dwelt upon the difficulties of navigation, the fascination of steering between two rocks, the delights of crossing the line, and all the things that those who never will travel ought to know. Mingle this approval with scoffing at the travelers who hail the appearance of a bird or a flying-fish as a great event, who dilate upon fishing, and make transcripts from the log. Where, you ask, is that perfectly unintelligible scientific information, fascinating, like all that is profound, mysterious, and incomprehensible. The reader laughs, that is all that he wants. As for novels, Florine is the greatest novel reader alive; she gives me a synopsis, and I take her opinion and put a review together. When a novelist bores her with ‘author’s stuff,’ as she calls it, I treat the work respectfully, and ask the publisher for another copy, which he sends forthwith, delighted to have a favorable review.”

“Goodness! and what of criticism, the critic’s sacred office?” cried Lucien, remembering the ideas instilled into him by the brotherhood.

“My dear fellow,” said Lousteau, “criticism is a kind of brush which must not be used upon flimsy stuff, or it carries it all away with it. That is enough of the craft, now listen! Do you see that mark?” he continued, pointing to the manuscript of the _Marguerites_. “I have put ink on the string and paper. If Dauriat reads your manuscript, he certainly could not tie the string and leave it just as it was before. So your book is sealed, so to speak. This is not useless to you for the experiment that you propose to make. And another thing: please to observe that you are not arriving quite alone and without a sponsor in the place, like the youngsters who make the round of half-a-score of publishers before they find one that will offer them a chair.”

Lucien’s experience confirmed the truth of this particular. Lousteau paid the cabman, giving him three francs–a piece of prodigality following upon such impecuniosity astonishing Lucien more than a little. Then the two friends entered the Wooden Galleries, where fashionable literature, as it is called, used to reign in state.

PART II

The Wooden Galleries of the Palais Royal used to be one of the most famous sights of Paris. Some description of the squalid bazar will not be out of place; for there are few men of forty who will not take an interest in recollections of a state of things which will seem incredible to a younger generation.

The great dreary, spacious Galerie d’Orleans, that flowerless hothouse, as yet was not; the space upon which it now stands was covered with booths; or, to be more precise, with small, wooden dens, pervious to the weather, and dimly illuminated on the side of the court and the garden by borrowed lights styled windows by courtesy, but more like the filthiest arrangements for obscuring daylight to be found in little wineshops in the suburbs.

The Galleries, parallel passages about twelve feet in height, were formed by a triple row of shops. The centre row, giving back and front upon the Galleries, was filled with the fetid atmosphere of the place, and derived a dubious daylight through the invariably dirty windows of the roof; but so thronged were these hives, that rents were excessively high, and as much as a thousand crowns was paid for a space scarce six feet by eight. The outer rows gave respectively upon the garden and the court, and were covered on that side by a slight trellis-work painted green, to protect the crazy plastered walls from continual friction with the passers-by. In a few square feet of earth at the back of the shops, strange freaks of vegetable life unknown to science grew amid the products of various no less flourishing industries. You beheld a rosebush capped with printed paper in such a sort that the flowers of rhetoric were perfumed by the cankered blossoms of that ill-kept, ill-smelling garden. Handbills and ribbon streamers of every hue flaunted gaily among the leaves; natural flowers competed unsuccessfully for an existence with odds and ends of millinery. You discovered a knot of ribbon adorning a green tuft; the dahlia admired afar proved on a nearer view to be a satin rosette.

The Palais seen from the court or from the garden was a fantastic sight, a grotesque combination of walls of plaster patchwork which had once been whitewashed, of blistered paint, heterogeneous placards, and all the most unaccountable freaks of Parisian squalor; the green trellises were prodigiously the dingier for constant contact with a Parisian public. So, upon either side, the fetid, disreputable approaches might have been there for the express purpose of warning away fastidious people; but fastidious folk no more recoiled before these horrors than the prince in the fairy stories turns tail at sight of the dragon or of the other obstacles put between him and the princess by the wicked fairy.

There was a passage through the centre of the Galleries then as now; and, as at the present day, you entered them through the two peristyles begun before the Revolution, and left unfinished for lack of funds; but in place of the handsome modern arcade leading to the Theatre-Francais, you passed along a narrow, disproportionately lofty passage, so ill-roofed that the rain came through on wet days. All the roofs of the hovels indeed were in very bad repair, and covered here and again with a double thickness of tarpaulin. A famous silk mercer once brought an action against the Orleans family for damages done in the course of a night to his stock of shawls and stuffs, and gained the day and a considerable sum. It was in this last-named passage, called “The Glass Gallery” to distinguish it from the Wooden Galleries, that Chevet laid the foundations of his fortunes.

Here, in the Palais, you trod the natural soil of Paris, augmented by importations brought in upon the boots of foot passengers; here, at all seasons, you stumbled among hills and hollows of dried mud swept daily by the shopman’s besom, and only after some practice could you walk at your ease. The treacherous mud-heaps, the window-panes incrusted with deposits of dust and rain, the mean-looking hovels covered with ragged placards, the grimy unfinished walls, the general air of a compromise between a gypsy camp, the booths of a country fair, and the temporary structures that we in Paris build round about public monuments that remain unbuilt; the grotesque aspect of the mart as a whole was in keeping with the seething traffic of various kinds carried on within it; for here in this shameless, unblushing haunt, amid wild mirth and a babel of talk, an immense amount of business was transacted between the Revolution of 1789 and the Revolution of 1830.

For twenty years the Bourse stood just opposite, on the ground floor of the Palais. Public opinion was manufactured, and reputations made and ruined here, just as political and financial jobs were arranged. People made appointments to meet in the Galleries before or after ‘Change; on showery days the Palais Royal was often crowded with weather-bound capitalists and men of business. The structure which had grown up, no one knew how, about this point was strangely resonant, laughter was multiplied; if two men quarreled, the whole place rang from one end to the other with the dispute. In the daytime milliners and booksellers enjoyed a monopoly of the place; towards nightfall it was filled with women of the town. Here dwelt poetry, politics, and prose, new books and classics, the glories of ancient and modern literature side by side with political intrigue and the tricks of the bookseller’s trade. Here all the very latest and newest literature were sold to a public which resolutely decline to buy elsewhere. Sometimes several thousand copies of such and such a pamphlet by Paul-Louis Courier would be sold in a single evening; and people crowded thither to buy _Les aventures de la fille d’un Roi_–that first shot fired by the Orleanists at The Charter promulgated by Louis XVIII.

When Lucien made his first appearance in the Wooden Galleries, some few of the shops boasted proper fronts and handsome windows, but these in every case looked upon the court or the garden. As for the centre row, until the day when the whole strange colony perished under the hammer of Fontaine the architect, every shop was open back and front like a booth in a country fair, so that from within you could look out upon either side through gaps among the goods displayed or through the glass doors. As it was obviously impossible to kindle a fire, the tradesmen were fain to use charcoal chafing-dishes, and formed a sort of brigade for the prevention of fires among themselves; and, indeed, a little carelessness might have set the whole quarter blazing in fifteen minutes, for the plank-built republic, dried by the heat of the sun, and haunted by too inflammable human material, was bedizened with muslin and paper and gauze, and ventilated at times by a thorough draught.

The milliners’ windows were full of impossible hats and bonnets, displayed apparently for advertisement rather than for sale, each on a separate iron spit with a knob at the top. The galleries were decked out in all the colors of the rainbow. On what heads would those dusty bonnets end their careers?–for a score of years the problem had puzzled frequenters of the Palais. Saleswomen, usually plain-featured, but vivacious, waylaid the feminine foot passenger with cunning importunities, after the fashion of market-women, and using much the same language; a shop-girl, who made free use of her eyes and tongue, sat outside on a stool and harangued the public with “Buy a pretty bonnet, madame?–Do let me sell you something!”–varying a rich and picturesque vocabulary with inflections of the voice, with glances, and remarks upon the passers-by. Booksellers and milliners lived on terms of mutual understanding.

But it was in the passage known by the pompous title of the “Glass Gallery” that the oddest trades were carried on. Here were ventriloquists and charlatans of every sort, and sights of every description, from the kind where there is nothing to see to panoramas of the globe. One man who has since made seven or eight hundred thousand francs by traveling from fair to fair began here by hanging out a signboard, a revolving sun in a blackboard, and the inscription in red letters: “Here Man may see what God can never see. Admittance, two sous.” The showman at the door never admitted one person alone, nor more than two at a time. Once inside, you confronted a great looking-glass; and a voice, which might have terrified Hoffmann of Berlin, suddenly spoke as if some spring had been touched, “You see here, gentlemen, something that God can never see through all eternity, that is to say, your like. God has not His like.” And out you went, too shamefaced to confess to your stupidity.

Voices issued from every narrow doorway, crying up the merits of Cosmoramas, views of Constantinople, marionettes, automatic chess-players, and performing dogs who would pick you out the prettiest woman in the company. The ventriloquist Fritz-James flourished here in the Cafe Borel before he went to fight and fall at Montmartre with the young lads from the Ecole polytechnique. Here, too, there were fruit and flower shops, and a famous tailor whose gold-laced uniforms shone like the sun when the shops were lighted at night.

Of a morning the galleries were empty, dark, and deserted; the shopkeepers chatted among themselves. Towards two o’clock in the afternoon the Palais began to fill; at three, men came in from the Bourse, and Paris, generally speaking, crowded the place. Impecunious youth, hungering after literature, took the opportunity of turning over the pages of the books exposed for sale on the stalls outside the booksellers’ shops; the men in charge charitably allowed a poor student to pursue his course of free studies; and in this way a duodecimo volume of some two hundred pages, such as _Smarra_ or _Pierre Schlemihl_, or _Jean Sbogar_ or _Jocko_, might be devoured in a couple of afternoons. There was something very French in this alms given to the young, hungry, starved intellect. Circulating libraries were not as yet; if you wished to read a book, you were obliged to buy it, for which reason novels of the early part of the century were sold in numbers which now seem well-nigh fabulous to us.

But the poetry of this terrible mart appeared in all its splendor at the close of the day. Women of the town, flocking in and out from the neighboring streets, were allowed to make a promenade of the Wooden Galleries. Thither came prostitutes from every quarter of Paris to “do the Palais.” The Stone Galleries belonged to privileged houses, which paid for the right of exposing women dressed like princesses under such and such an arch, or in the corresponding space of garden; but the Wooden Galleries were the common ground of women of the streets. This was _the_ Palais, a word which used to signify the temple of prostitution. A woman might come and go, taking away her prey whithersoever seemed good to her. So great was the crowd attracted thither at night by the women, that it was impossible to move except at a slow pace, as in a procession or at a masked ball. Nobody objected to the slowness; it facilitated examination. The women dressed in a way that is never seen nowadays. The bodices cut extremely low both back and front; the fantastical head-dresses, designed to attract notice; here a cap from the Pays de Caux, and there a Spanish mantilla; the hair crimped and curled like a poodle’s, or smoothed down in bandeaux over the forehead; the close-fitting white stockings and limbs, revealed it would not be easy to say how, but always at the right moment–all this poetry of vice has fled. The license of question and reply, the public cynicism in keeping with the haunt, is now unknown even at masquerades or the famous public balls. It was an appalling, gay scene. The dazzling white flesh of the women’s necks and shoulders stood out in magnificent contrast against the men’s almost invariably sombre costumes. The murmur of voices, the hum of the crowd, could be heard even in the middle of the garden as a sort of droning bass, interspersed with _fioriture_ of shrill laughter or clamor of some rare dispute. You saw gentlemen and celebrities cheek by jowl with gallows-birds. There was something indescribably piquant about the anomalous assemblage; the most insensible of men felt its charm, so much so, that, until the very last moment, Paris came hither to walk up and down on the wooden planks laid over the cellars where men were at work on the new buildings; and when the squalid wooden erections were finally taken down, great and unanimous regret was felt.

Ladvocat the bookseller had opened a shop but a few days since in the angle formed by the central passage which crossed the galleries; and immediately opposite another bookseller, now forgotten, Dauriat, a bold and youthful pioneer, who opened up the paths in which his rival was to shine. Dauriat’s shop stood in the row which gave upon the garden; Ladvocat’s, on the opposite side, looked out upon the court. Dauriat’s establishment was divided into two parts; his shop was simply a great trade warehouse, and the second room was his private office.

Lucien, on this first visit to the Wooden Galleries, was bewildered by a sight which no novice can resist. He soon lost the guide who befriended him.

“If you were as good-looking as yonder young fellow, I would give you your money’s worth,” a woman said, pointing out Lucien to an old man.

Lucien slunk through the crowd like a blind man’s dog, following the stream in a state of stupefaction and excitement difficult to describe. Importuned by glances and white-rounded contours, dazzled by the audacious display of bared throat and bosom, he gripped his roll of manuscript tightly lest somebody should steal it–innocent that he was!

“Well, what is it, sir!” he exclaimed, thinking, when some one caught him by the arm, that his poetry had proved too great a temptation to some author’s honesty, and turning, he recognized Lousteau.

“I felt sure that you would find your way here at last,” said his friend.

The poet was standing in the doorway of a shop crowded with persons waiting for an audience with the sultan of the publishing trade. Printers, paper-dealers, and designers were catechizing Dauriat’s assistants as to present or future business.

Lousteau drew Lucien into the shop. “There! that is Finot who edits my paper,” he said; “he is talking with Felicien Vernou, who has abilities, but the little wretch is as dangerous as a hidden disease.”

“Well, old boy, there is a first night for you,” said Finot, coming up with Vernou. “I have disposed of the box.”

“Sold it to Braulard?”

“Well, and if I did, what then? You will get a seat. What do you want with Dauriat? Oh, it is agreed that we are to push Paul de Kock, Dauriat has taken two hundred copies, and Victor Ducange is refusing to give him his next. Dauriat wants to set up another man in the same line, he says. You must rate Paul de Kock above Ducange.”

“But I have a piece on with Ducange at the Gaite,” said Lousteau.

“Very well, tell him that I wrote the article. It can be supposed that I wrote a slashing review, and you toned it down; and he will owe you thanks.”

“Couldn’t you get Dauriat’s cashier to discount this bit of a bill for a hundred francs?” asked Etienne Lousteau. “We are celebrating Florine’s house-warming with a supper to-night, you know.”

“Ah! yes, you are treating us all,” said Finot, with an apparent effort of memory. “Here, Gabusson,” he added, handing Barbet’s bill to the cashier, “let me have ninety francs for this individual.–Fill in your name, old man.”

Lousteau signed his name while the cashier counted out the money; and Lucien, all eyes and ears, lost not a syllable of the conversation.

“That is not all, my friend,” Etienne continued; “I don’t thank you, we have sworn an eternal friendship. I have taken it upon myself to introduce this gentleman to Dauriat, and you must incline his ear to listen to us.”

“What is on foot?” asked Finot.

“A volume of poetry,” said Lucien.

“Oh!” said Finot, with a shrug of the shoulders.

“Your acquaintance cannot have had much to do with publishers, or he would have hidden his manuscript in the loneliest spot in his dwelling,” remarked Vernou, looking at Lucien as he spoke.

Just at that moment a good-looking young man came into the shop, gave a hand to Finot and Lousteau, and nodded slightly to Vernou. The newcomer was Emile Blondet, who had made his first appearance in the _Journal des Debats_, with articles revealing capacities of the very highest order.

“Come and have supper with us at midnight, at Florine’s,” said Lousteau.

“Very good,” said the newcomer. “But who is going to be there?”

“Oh, Florine and Matifat the druggist,” said Lousteau, “and du Bruel, the author who gave Florine the part in which she is to make her first appearance, a little old fogy named Cardot, and his son-in-law Camusot, and Finot, and—-“

“Does your druggist do things properly?”

“He will not give us doctored wine,” said Lucien.

“You are very witty, monsieur,” Blondet returned gravely. “Is he coming, Lousteau?”

“Yes.”

“Then we shall have some fun.”

Lucien had flushed red to the tips of his ears. Blondet tapped on the window above Dauriat’s desk.

“Is your business likely to keep you long, Dauriat?”

“I am at your service, my friend.”

“That’s right,” said Lousteau, addressing his protege. “That young fellow is hardly any older than you are, and he is on the _Debats_! He is one of the princes of criticism. They are afraid of him, Dauriat will fawn upon him, and then we can put in a word about our business with the pasha of vignettes and type. Otherwise we might have waited till eleven o’clock, and our turn would not have come. The crowd of people waiting to speak with Dauriat is growing bigger every moment.”

Lucien and Lousteau followed Blondet, Finot, and Vernou, and stood in a knot at the back of the shop.

“What is he doing?” asked Blondet of the head-clerk, who rose to bid him good-evening.

“He is buying a weekly newspaper. He wants to put new life into it, and set up a rival to the _Minerve_ and the _Conservateur_; Eymery has rather too much of his own way in the _Minerve_, and the _Conservateur_ is too blindly Romantic.”

“Is he going to pay well?”

“Only too much–as usual,” said the cashier.

Just as he spoke another young man entered; this was the writer of a magnificent novel which had sold very rapidly and met with the greatest possible success. Dauriat was bringing out a second edition. The appearance of this odd and extraordinary looking being, so unmistakably an artist, made a deep impression on Lucien’s mind.

“That is Nathan,” Lousteau said in his ear.

Nathan, then in the prime of his youth, came up to the group of journalists, hat in hand; and in spite of his look of fierce pride he was almost humble to Blondet, whom as yet he only knew by sight. Blondet did not remove his hat, neither did Finot.

“Monsieur, I am delighted to avail myself of an opportunity yielded by chance—-“

(“He is so nervous that he is committing a pleonasm,” said Felicien in an aside to Lousteau.)

“—-to give expression to my gratitude for the splendid review which you were so good as to give me in the _Journal des Debats_. Half the success of my book is owing to you.”

“No, my dear fellow, no,” said Blondet, with an air of patronage scarcely masked by good-nature. “You have talent, the deuce you have, and I’m delighted to make your acquaintance.”

“Now that your review has appeared, I shall not seem to be courting power; we can feel at ease. Will you do me the honor and the pleasure of dining with me to-morrow? Finot is coming.–Lousteau, old man, you will not refuse me, will you?” added Nathan, shaking Etienne by the hand.–“Ah, you are on the way to a great future, monsieur,” he added, turning again to Blondet; “you will carry on the line of Dussaults, Fievees, and Geoffrois! Hoffmann was talking about you to a friend of mine, Claude Vignon, his pupil; he said that he could die in peace, the _Journal des Debats_ would live forever. They ought to pay you tremendously well.”

“A hundred francs a column,” said Blondet. “Poor pay when one is obliged to read the books, and read a hundred before you find one worth interesting yourself in, like yours. Your work gave me pleasure, upon my word.”

“And brought him in fifteen hundred francs,” said Lousteau for Lucien’s benefit.

“But you write political articles, don’t you?” asked Nathan.

“Yes; now and again.”

Lucien felt like an embryo among these men; he had admired Nathan’s book, he had reverenced the author as an immortal; Nathan’s abject attitude before this critic, whose name and importance were both unknown to him, stupefied Lucien.

“How if I should come to behave as he does?” he thought. “Is a man obliged to part with his self-respect?–Pray put on your hat again, Nathan; you have written a great book, and the critic has only written a review of it.”

These thoughts set the blood tingling in his veins. Scarce a minute passed but some young author, poverty-stricken and shy, came in, asked to speak with Dauriat, looked round the crowded shop despairingly, and went out saying, “I will come back again.” Two or three politicians were chatting over the convocation of the Chambers and public business with a group of well-known public men. The weekly newspaper for which Dauriat was in treaty was licensed to treat of matters political, and the number of newspapers suffered to exist was growing smaller and smaller, till a paper was a piece of property as much in demand as a theatre. One of the largest shareholders in the _Constitutionnel_ was standing in the midst of the knot of political celebrities. Lousteau performed the part of cicerone to admiration; with every sentence he uttered Dauriat rose higher in Lucien’s opinion. Politics and literature seemed to converge in Dauriat’s shop. He had seen a great poet prostituting his muse to journalism, humiliating Art, as woman was humiliated and prostituted in those shameless galleries without, and the provincial took a terrible lesson to heart. Money! That was the key to every enigma. Lucien realized the fact that he was unknown and alone, and that the fragile clue of an uncertain friendship was his sole guide to success and fortune. He blamed the kind and loyal little circle for painting the world for him in false colors, for preventing him from plunging into the arena, pen in hand. “I should be a Blondet at this moment!” he exclaimed within himself.

Only a little while ago they had sat looking out over Paris from the Gardens of the Luxembourg, and Lousteau had uttered the cry of a wounded eagle; then Lousteau had been a great man in Lucien’s eyes, and now he had shrunk to scarce visible proportions. The really important man for him at this moment was the fashionable bookseller, by whom all these men lived; and the poet, manuscript in hand, felt a nervous tremor that was almost like fear. He noticed a group of busts mounted on wooden pedestals, painted to resemble marble; Byron stood there, and Goethe and M. de Canalis. Dauriat was hoping to publish a volume by the last-named poet, who might see, on his entrance into the shop, the estimation in which he was held by the trade. Unconsciously Lucien’s own self-esteem began to shrink, and his courage ebbed. He began to see how large a part this Dauriat would play in his destinies, and waited impatiently for him to appear.

“Well, children,” said a voice, and a short, stout man appeared, with a puffy face that suggested a Roman pro-consul’s visage, mellowed by an air of good-nature which deceived superficial observers. “Well, children, here am I, the proprietor of the only weekly paper in the market, a paper with two thousand subscribers!”

“Old joker! The registered number is seven hundred, and that is over the mark,” said Blondet.

“Twelve thousand, on my sacred word of honor–I said two thousand for the benefit of the printers and paper-dealers yonder,” he added, lowering his voice, then raising it again. “I thought you had more tact, my boy,” he added.

“Are you going to take any partners?” inquired Finot.

“That depends,” said Dauriat. “Will you take a third at forty thousand francs?”

“It’s a bargain, if you will take Emile Blondet here on the staff, and Claude Vignon, Scribe, Theodore Leclercq, Felicien Vernou, Jay, Jouy, Lousteau, and—-“

“And why not Lucien de Rubempre?” the provincial poet put in boldly.

“—-and Nathan,” concluded Finot.

“Why not the people out there in the street?” asked Dauriat, scowling at the author of the _Marguerites_.–“To whom have I the honor of speaking?” he added, with an insolent glance.

“One moment, Dauriat,” said Lousteau. “I have brought this gentleman to you. Listen to me, while Finot is thinking over your proposals.”

Lucien watched this Dauriat, who addressed Finot with the familiar tu, which even Finot did not permit himself to use in reply; who called the redoubtable Blondet “my boy,” and extended a hand royally to Nathan with a friendly nod. The provincial poet felt his shirt wet with perspiration when the formidable sultan looked indifferent and ill pleased.

“Another piece of business, my boy!” exclaimed Dauriat. “Why, I have eleven hundred manuscripts on hand, as you know! Yes, gentlemen, I have eleven hundred manuscripts submitted to me at this moment; ask Gabusson. I shall soon be obliged to start a department to keep account of the stock of manuscripts, and a special office for reading them, and a committee to vote on their merits, with numbered counters for those who attend, and a permanent secretary to draw up the minutes for me. It will be a kind of local branch of the Academie, and the Academicians will be better paid in the Wooden Galleries than at the Institut.”

“‘Tis an idea,” said Blondet.

“A bad idea,” returned Dauriat. “It is not my business to take stock of the lucubrations of those among you who take to literature because they cannot be capitalists, and there is no opening for them as bootmakers, nor corporals, nor domestic servants, nor officials, nor bailiffs. Nobody comes here until he has made a name for himself! Make a name for yourself, and you will find gold in torrents. I have made three great men in the last two years; and lo and behold three examples of ingratitude! Here is Nathan talking of six thousand francs for the second edition of his book, which cost me three thousand francs in reviews, and has not brought in a thousand yet. I paid a thousand francs for Blondet’s two articles, besides a dinner, which cost me five hundred—-“

“But if all booksellers talked as you do, sir, how could a man publish his first book at all?” asked Lucien. Blondet had gone down tremendously in his opinion since he had heard the amount given by Dauriat for the articles in the _Debats_.

“That is not my affair,” said Dauriat, looking daggers at this handsome young fellow, who was smiling pleasantly at him. “I do not publish books for amusement, nor risk two thousand francs for the sake of seeing my money back again. I speculate in literature, and publish forty volumes of ten thousand copies each, just as Panckouke does and the Baudoins. With my influence and the articles which I secure, I can push a business of a hundred thousand crowns, instead of a single volume involving a couple of thousand francs. It is just as much trouble to bring out a new name and to induce the public to take up an author and his book, as to make a success with the _Theatres etrangers_, _Victoires et Conquetes_, or _Memoires sur la Revolution_, books that bring in a fortune. I am not here as a stepping-stone to future fame, but to make money, and to find it for men with distinguished names. The manuscripts for which I give a hundred thousand francs pay me better than work by an unknown author who asks six hundred. If I am not exactly a Maecenas, I deserve the gratitude of literature; I have doubled the prices of manuscripts. I am giving you this explanation because you are a friend of Lousteau’s my boy,” added Dauriat, clapping Lucien on the shoulder with odious familiarity. “If I were to talk to all the authors who have a mind that I should be their publisher, I should have to shut up shop; I should pass my time very agreeably no doubt, but the conversations would cost too much. I am not rich enough yet to listen to all the monologues of self-conceit. Nobody does, except in classical tragedies on the stage.”

The terrible Dauriat’s gorgeous raiment seemed in the provincial poet’s eyes to add force to the man’s remorseless logic.

“What is it about?” he continued, addressing Lucien’s protector.

“It is a volume of magnificent poetry.”

At that word, Dauriat turned to Gabusson with a gesture worthy of Talma.

“Gabusson, my friend,” he said, “from this day forward, when anybody begins to talk of works in manuscript here–Do you hear that, all of you?” he broke in upon himself; and three assistants at once emerged from among the piles of books at the sound of their employer’s wrathful voice. “If anybody comes here with manuscripts,” he continued, looking at the finger-nails of a well-kept hand, “ask him whether it is poetry or prose; and if he says poetry, show him the door at once. Verses mean reverses in the booktrade.”

“Bravo! well put, Dauriat,” cried the chorus of journalists.

“It is true!” cried the bookseller, striding about his shop with Lucien’s manuscript in his hand. “You have no idea, gentlemen, of the amount of harm that Byron, Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Casimir Delavigne, Canalis, and Beranger have done by their success. The fame of them has brought down an invasion of barbarians upon us. I know _this_: there are a thousand volumes of manuscript poetry going the round of the publishers at this moment, things that nobody can make head nor tail of, stories in verse that begin in the middle, like _The Corsair_ and _Lara_. They set up to be original, forsooth, and indulge in stanzas that nobody can understand, and descriptive poetry after the pattern of the younger men who discovered Delille, and imagine that they are doing something new. Poets have been swarming like cockchafers for two years past. I have lost twenty thousand francs through poetry in the last twelvemonth. You ask Gabusson! There may be immortal poets somewhere in the world; I know of some that are blooming and rosy, and have no beards on their chins as yet,” he continued, looking at Lucien; “but in the trade, young man, there are only four poets –Beranger, Casimir Delavigne, Lamartine, and Victor Hugo; as for Canalis–he is a poet made by sheer force of writing him up.”

Lucien felt that he lacked the courage to hold up his head and show his spirit before all these influential persons, who were laughing with all their might. He knew very well that he should look hopelessly ridiculous, and yet he felt consumed by a fierce desire to catch the bookseller by the throat, to ruffle the insolent composure of his cravat, to break the gold chain that glittered on the man’s chest, trample his watch under his feet, and tear him in pieces. Mortified vanity opened the door to thoughts of vengeance, and inwardly he swore eternal enmity to that bookseller. But he smiled amiably.

“Poetry is like the sun,” said Blondet, “giving life alike to primeval forests and to ants and gnats and mosquitoes. There is no virtue but has a vice to match, and literature breeds the publisher.”

“And the journalist,” said Lousteau.

Dauriat burst out laughing.

“What is this after all?” he asked, holding up the manuscript.

“A volume of sonnets that will put Petrarch to the blush,” said Lousteau.

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I say,” answered Lousteau, seeing the knowing smile that went round the group. Lucien could not take offence but he chafed inwardly.

“Very well, I will read them,” said Dauriat, with a regal gesture that marked the full extent of the concession. “If these sonnets of yours are up to the level of the nineteenth century, I will make a great poet of you, my boy.”

“If he has brains to equal his good looks, you will run no great risks,” remarked one of the greatest public speakers of the day, a deputy who was chatting with the editor of the _Minerve_, and a writer for the _Constitutionnel_.

“Fame means twelve thousand francs in reviews, and a thousand more for dinners, General,” said Dauriat. “If M. Benjamin de Constant means to write a paper on this young poet, it will not be long before I make a bargain with him.”

At the title of General, and the distinguished name of Benjamin Constant, the bookseller’s shop took the proportions of Olympus for the provincial great man.

“Lousteau, I want a word with you,” said Finot; “but I shall see you again later, at the theatre.–Dauriat, I will take your offer, but on conditions. Let us step into your office.”

“Come in, my boy,” answered Dauriat, allowing Finot to pass before him. Then, intimating to some ten persons still waiting for him that he was engaged, he likewise was about to disappear when Lucien impatiently stopped him.

“You are keeping my manuscript. When shall I have an answer?”

“Oh, come back in three or four days, my little poet, and we will see.”

Lousteau hurried Lucien away; he had not time to take leave of Vernou and Blondet and Raoul Nathan, nor to salute General Foy nor Benjamin Constant, whose book on the Hundred Days was just about to appear. Lucien scarcely caught a glimpse of fair hair, a refined oval-shaped face, keen eyes, and the pleasant-looking mouth belonging to the man who had played the part of a Potemkin to Mme. de Stael for twenty years, and now was at war with the Bourbons, as he had been at war with Napoleon. He was destined to win his cause and to die stricken to earth by his victory.

“What a shop!” exclaimed Lucien, as he took his place in the cab beside Lousteau.

“To the Panorama-Dramatique; look sharp, and you shall have thirty sous,” Etienne Lousteau called to the cabman.–“Dauriat is a rascal who sells books to the amount of fifteen or sixteen hundred thousand francs every year. He is a kind of Minister of Literature,” Lousteau continued. His self-conceit had been pleasantly tickled, and he was showing off before Lucien. “Dauriat is just as grasping as Barbet, but it is on a wholesale scale. Dauriat can be civil, and he is generous, but he has a great opinion of himself; as for his wit, it consists in a faculty for picking up all that he hears, and his shop is a capital place to frequent. You meet all the best men at Dauriat’s. A young fellow learns more there in an hour than by poring over books for half-a-score of years. People talk about articles and concoct subjects; you make the acquaintance of great or influential people who may be useful to you. You must know people if you mean to get on nowadays.–It is all luck, you see. And as for sitting by yourself in a corner alone with your intellect, it is the most dangerous thing of all.”

“But what insolence!” said Lucien.

“Pshaw! we all of us laugh at Dauriat,” said Etienne. “If you are in need of him, he tramples upon you; if he has need of the _Journal des Debats_, Emile Blondet sets him spinning like a top. Oh, if you take to literature, you will see a good many queer things. Well, what was I telling you, eh?”

“Yes, you were right,” said Lucien. “My experience in that shop was even more painful than I expected, after your programme.”

“Why do you choose to suffer? You find your subject, you wear out your wits over it with toiling at night, you throw your very life into it: and after all your journeyings in the fields of thought, the monument reared with your life-blood is simply a good or a bad speculation for a publisher. Your work will sell or it will not sell; and therein, for them, lies the whole question. A book means so much capital to risk, and the better the book, the less likely it is to sell. A man of talent rises above the level of ordinary heads; his success varies in direct ratio with the time required for his work to be appreciated. And no publisher wants to wait. To-day’s book must be sold by to-morrow. Acting on this system, publishers and booksellers do not care to take real literature, books that call for the high praise that comes slowly.”

“D’Arthez was right,” exclaimed Lucien.

“Do you know d’Arthez?” asked Lousteau. “I know of no more dangerous company than solitary spirits like that fellow yonder, who fancy that they can draw the world after them. All of us begin by thinking that we are capable of great things; and when once a youthful imagination is heated by this superstition, the candidate for posthumous honors makes no attempt to move the world while such moving of the world is both possible and profitable; he lets the time go by. I am for Mahomet’s system–if the mountain does not come to me, I am for going to the mountain.”

The common-sense so trenchantly put in this sally left Lucien halting between the resignation preached by the brotherhood and Lousteau’s militant doctrine. He said not a word till they reached the Boulevard du Temple.

The Panorama-Dramatique no longer exists. A dwelling-house stands on the site of the once charming theatre in the Boulevard du Temple, where two successive managements collapsed without making a single hit; and yet Vignol, who has since fallen heir to some of Potier’s popularity, made his _debut_ there; and Florine, five years later a celebrated actress, made her first appearance in the theatre opposite the Rue Charlot. Play-houses, like men, have their vicissitudes. The Panorama-Dramatique suffered from competition. The machinations of its rivals, the Ambigu, the Gaite, the Porte Saint-Martin, and the Vaudeville, together with a plethora of restrictions and a scarcity of good plays, combined to bring about the downfall of the house. No dramatic author cared to quarrel with a prosperous theatre for the sake of the Panorama-Dramatique, whose existence was, to say the least, problematical. The management at this moment, however, was counting on the success of a new melodramatic comedy by M. du Bruel, a young author who, after working in collaboration with divers celebrities, had now produced a piece professedly entirely his own. It had been specially composed for the leading lady, a young actress who began her stage career as a supernumerary at the Gaite, and had been promoted to small parts for the last twelvemonth. But though Mlle. Florine’s acting had attracted some attention, she obtained no engagement, and the Panorama accordingly had carried her off. Coralie, another actress, was to make her _debut_ at the same time.

Lucien was amazed at the power wielded by the press. “This gentleman is with me,” said Etienne Lousteau, and the box-office clerks bowed before him as one man.

“You will find it no easy matter to get seats,” said the head-clerk. “There is nothing left now but the stage box.”

A certain amount of time was wasted in controversies with the box-keepers in the lobbies, when Etienne said, “Let us go behind the scenes; we will speak to the manager, he will take us into the stage-box; and besides, I will introduce you to Florine, the heroine of the evening.”

At a sign from Etienne Lousteau, the doorkeeper of the orchestra took out a little key and unlocked a door in the thickness of the wall. Lucien, following his friend, went suddenly out of the lighted corridor into the black darkness of the passage between the house and the wings. A short flight of damp steps surmounted, one of the strangest of all spectacles opened out before the provincial poet’s eyes. The height of the roof, the slenderness of the props, the ladders hung with Argand lamps, the atrocious ugliness of scenery beheld at close quarters, the thick paint on the actors’ faces, and their outlandish costumes, made of such coarse materials, the stage carpenters in greasy jackets, the firemen, the stage manager strutting about with his hat on his head, the supernumeraries sitting among the hanging back-scenes, the ropes and pulleys, the heterogeneous collection of absurdities, shabby, dirty, hideous, and gaudy, was something so altogether different from the stage seen over the footlights, that Lucien’s astonishment knew no bounds. The curtain was just about to fall on a good old-fashioned melodrama entitled _Bertram_, a play adapted from a tragedy by Maturin which Charles Nodier, together with Byron and Sir Walter Scott, held in the highest esteem, though the play was a failure on the stage in Paris.

“Keep a tight hold of my arm, unless you have a mind to fall through a trap-door, or bring down a forest on your head; you will pull down a palace, or carry off a cottage, if you are not careful,” said Etienne. –“Is Florine in her dressing-room, my pet?” he added, addressing an actress who stood waiting for her cue.

“Yes, love. Thank you for the things you said about me. You are so much nicer since Florine has come here.”

“Come, don’t spoil your entry, little one. Quick with you, look sharp, and say, ‘Stop, wretched man!’ nicely, for there are two thousand francs of takings.”

Lucien was struck with amazement when the girl’s whole face suddenly changed, and she shrieked, “Stop, wretched man!” a cry that froze the blood in your veins. She was no longer the same creature.

“So this is the stage,” he said to Lousteau.

“It is like the bookseller’s shop in the Wooden Galleries, or a literary paper,” said Etienne Lousteau; “it is a kitchen, neither more nor less.”

Nathan appeared at this moment.

“What brings you here?” inquired Lousteau.

“Why, I am doing the minor theatres for the _Gazette_ until something better turns up.”

“Oh! come to supper with us this evening; speak well of Florine, and I will do as much for you.”

“Very much at your service,” returned Nathan.

“You know; she is living in the Rue du Bondy now.”

“Lousteau, dear boy, who is the handsome young man that you have brought with you?” asked the actress, now returned to the wings.

“A great poet, dear, that will have a famous name one of these days. –M. Nathan, I must introduce M. Lucien de Rubempre to you, as you are to meet again at supper.”

“You have a good name, monsieur,” said Nathan.

“Lucien, M. Raoul Nathan,” continued Etienne.

“I read your book two days ago; and, upon my word, I cannot understand how you, who have written such a book, and such poetry, can be so humble to a journalist.”

“Wait till your first book comes out,” said Nathan, and a shrewd smile flitted over his face.

“I say! I say! here are Ultras and Liberals actually shaking hands!” cried Vernou, spying the trio.

“In the morning I hold the views of my paper,” said Nathan, “in the evening I think as I please; all journalists see double at night.”

Felicien Vernou turned to Lousteau.

“Finot is looking for you, Etienne; he came with me, and–here he is!”

“Ah, by the by, there is not a place in the house, is there?” asked Finot.

“You will always find a place in our hearts,” said the actress, with the sweetest smile imaginable.

“I say, my little Florville, are you cured already of your fancy? They told me that a Russian prince had carried you off.”

“Who carries off women in these days” said Florville (she who had cried, “Stop, wretched man!”). “We stayed at Saint-Mande for ten days, and my prince got off with paying the forfeit money to the management. The manager will go down on his knees to pray for some more Russian princes,” Florville continued, laughing; “the forfeit money was so much clear gain.”

“And as for you, child,” said Finot, turning to a pretty girl in a peasant’s costume, “where did you steal these diamond ear-drops? Have you hooked an Indian prince?”

“No, a blacking manufacturer, an Englishman, who has gone off already. It is not everybody who can find millionaire shopkeepers, tired of domestic life, whenever they like, as Florine does and Coralie. Aren’t they just lucky?”

“Florville, you will make a bad entry,” said Lousteau; “the blacking has gone to your head!”

“If you want a success,” said Nathan, “instead of screaming, ‘He is saved!’ like a Fury, walk on quite quietly, go to the staircase, and say, ‘He is saved,’ in a chest voice, like Pasta’s ‘_O patria_,’ in _Tancreda_.–There, go along!” and he pushed her towards the stage.

“It is too late,” said Vernou, “the effect has hung fire.”

“What did she do? the house is applauding like mad,” asked Lousteau.

“Went down on her knees and showed her bosom; that is her great resource,” said the blacking-maker’s widow.

“The manager is giving up the stage box to us; you will find me there when you come,” said Finot, as Lousteau walked off with Lucien.

At the back of the stage, through a labyrinth of scenery and corridors, the pair climbed several flights of stairs and reached a little room on a third floor, Nathan and Felicien Vernou following them.

“Good-day or good-night, gentlemen,” said Florine. Then, turning to a short, stout man standing in a corner, “These gentlemen are the rulers of my destiny,” she said, my future is in their hands; but they will be under our table to-morrow morning, I hope, if M. Lousteau has forgotten nothing—-“

“Forgotten! You are going to have Blondet of the _Debats_,” said Etienne, “the genuine Blondet, the very Blondet–Blondet himself, in short.”

“Oh! Lousteau, you dear boy! stop, I must give you a kiss,” and she flung her arms about the journalist’s neck. Matifat, the stout person in the corner, looked serious at this.

Florine was thin; her beauty, like a bud, gave promise of the flower to come; the girl of sixteen could only delight the eyes of artists who prefer the sketch to the picture. All the quick subtlety of her character was visible in the features of the charming actress, who at that time might have sat for Goethe’s Mignon. Matifat, a wealthy druggist of the Rue des Lombards, had imagined that a little Boulevard actress would have no very expensive tastes, but in eleven months Florine had cost him sixty thousand francs. Nothing seemed more extraordinary to Lucien than the sight of an honest and worthy merchant standing like a statue of the god Terminus in the actress’ narrow dressing-room, a tiny place some ten feet square, hung with a pretty wall-paper, and adorned with a full-length mirror, a sofa, and two chairs. There was a fireplace in the dressing-closet, a carpet on the floor, and cupboards all round the room. A dresser was putting the finishing touches to a Spanish costume; for Florine was to take the part of a countess in an imbroglio.

“That girl will be the handsomest actress in Paris in five years’ time,” said Nathan, turning to Felicien Vernou.

“By the by, darlings, you will take care of me to-morrow, won’t you?” said Florine, turning to the three journalists. “I have engaged cabs for to-night, for I am going to send you home as tipsy as Shrove Tuesday. Matifat has sent in wines–oh! wines worthy of Louis XVIII., and engaged the Prussian ambassador’s cook.”

“We expect something enormous from the look of the gentleman,” remarked Nathan.

“And he is quite aware that he is treating the most dangerous men in Paris,” added Florine.

Matifat was looking uneasily at Lucien; he felt jealous of the young man’s good looks.

“But here is some one that I do not know,” Florine continued, confronting Lucien. “Which of you has imported the Apollo Belvedere from Florence? He is as charming as one of Girodet’s figures.”

“He is a poet, mademoiselle, from the provinces. I forgot to present him to you; you are so beautiful to-night that you put the _Complete Guide to Etiquette_ out of a man’s head—-“

“Is he so rich that he can afford to write poetry?” asked Florine.

“Poor as Job,” said Lucien.

“It is a great temptation for some of us,” said the actress.

Just then the author of the play suddenly entered, and Lucien beheld M. du Bruel, a short, attenuated young man in an overcoat, a composite human blend of the jack-in-office, the owner of house-property, and the stockbroker.

“Florine, child,” said this personage, “are you sure of your part, eh? No slips of memory, you know. And mind that scene in the second act, make the irony tell, bring out that subtle touch; say, ‘I do not love you,’ just as we agreed.”

“Why do you take parts in which you have to say such things?” asked Matifat.

The druggist’s remark was received with a general shout of laughter.

“What does it matter to you,” said Florine, “so long as I don’t say such things to you, great stupid?–Oh! his stupidity is the pleasure of my life,” she continued, glancing at the journalist. “Upon my word, I would pay him so much for every blunder, if it would not be the ruin of me.”

“Yes, but you will look at me when you say it, as you do when you are rehearsing, and it gives me a turn,” remonstrated the druggist.

“Very well, then, I will look at my friend Lousteau here.”

A bell rang outside in the passage.

“Go out, all of you!” cried Florine; “let me read my part over again and try to understand it.”

Lucien and Lousteau were the last to go. Lousteau set a kiss on Florine’s shoulder, and Lucien heard her say, “Not to-night. Impossible. That stupid old animal told his wife that he was going out into the country.”

“Isn’t she charming?” said Etienne, as they came away.

“But–but that Matifat, my dear fellow—-“

“Oh! you know nothing of Parisian life, my boy. Some things cannot be helped. Suppose that you fell in love with a married woman, it comes to the same thing. It all depends on the way that you look at it.”

Etienne and Lucien entered the stage-box, and found the manager there with Finot. Matifat was in the ground-floor box exactly opposite with a friend of his, a silk-mercer named Camusot (Coralie’s protector), and a worthy little old soul, his father-in-law. All three of these city men were polishing their opera-glasses, and anxiously scanning the house; certain symptoms in the pit appeared to disturb them. The usual heterogeneous first-night elements filled the boxes–journalists and their mistresses, _lorettes_ and their lovers, a sprinkling of the determined playgoers who never miss a first night if they can help it, and a very few people of fashion who care for this sort of sensation. The first box was occupied by the head of a department, to whom du Bruel, maker of vaudevilles, owed a snug little sinecure in the Treasury.

Lucien had gone from surprise to surprise since the dinner at Flicoteaux’s. For two months Literature had meant a life of poverty and want; in Lousteau’s room he had seen it at its cynical worst; in the Wooden Galleries he had met Literature abject and Literature insolent. The sharp contrasts of heights and depths; of compromise with conscience; of supreme power and want of principle; of treachery and pleasure; of mental elevation and bondage–all this made his head swim, he seemed to be watching some strange unheard-of drama.

Finot was talking with the manager. “Do you think du Bruel’s piece will pay?” he asked.

“Du Bruel has tried to do something in Beaumarchais’ style. Boulevard audiences don’t care for that kind of thing; they like harrowing sensations; wit is not much appreciated here. Everything depends on Florine and Coralie to-night; they are bewitchingly pretty and graceful, wear very short skirts, and dance a Spanish dance, and possibly they may carry off the piece with the public. The whole affair is a gambling speculation. A few clever notices in the papers, and I may make a hundred thousand crowns, if the play takes.”

“Oh! come, it will only be a moderate success, I can see,” said Finot.

“Three of the theatres have got up a plot,” continued the manager; “they will even hiss the piece, but I have made arrangements to defeat their kind intentions. I have squared the men in their pay; they will make a muddle of it. A couple of city men yonder have taken a hundred tickets apiece to secure a triumph for Florine and Coralie, and given them to acquaintances able and ready to act as chuckers out. The fellows, having been paid twice, will go quietly, and a scene of that sort always makes a good impression on the house.”

“Two hundred tickets! What invaluable men!” exclaimed Finot.

“Yes. With two more actresses as handsomely kept as Florine and Coralie, I should make something out of the business.”

For the past two hours the word money had been sounding in Lucien’s ears as the solution of every difficulty. In the theatre as in the publishing trade, and in the publishing trade as in the newspaper-office–it was everywhere the same; there was not a word of art or of glory. The steady beat of the great pendulum, Money, seemed to fall like hammer-strokes on his heart and brain. And yet while the orchestra played the overture, while the pit was full of noisy tumult of applause and hisses, unconsciously he drew a comparison between this scene and others that came up in his mind. Visions arose before him of David and the printing-office, of the poetry that he came to know in that atmosphere of pure peace, when together they beheld the wonders of Art, the high successes of genius, and visions of glory borne on stainless wings. He thought of the evenings spent with d’Arthez and his friends, and tears glittered in his eyes.

“What is the matter with you?” asked Etienne Lousteau.

“I see poetry fallen into the mire.”

“Ah! you have still some illusions left, my dear fellow.”

“Is there nothing for it but to cringe and submit to thickheads like Matifat and Camusot, as actresses bow down to journalists, and we ourselves to the booksellers?”

“My boy, do you see that dull-brained fellow?” said Etienne, lowering his voice, and glancing at Finot. “He has neither genius nor cleverness, but he is covetous; he means to make a fortune at all costs, and he is a keen man of business. Didn’t you see how he made forty per cent out of me at Dauriat’s, and talked as if he were doing me a favor?–Well, he gets letters from not a few unknown men of genius who go down on their knees to him for a hundred francs.”

The words recalled the pen-and-ink sketch that lay on the table in the editor’s office and the words, “Finot, my hundred francs!” Lucien’s inmost soul shrank from the man in disgust.

“I would sooner die,” he said.

“Sooner live,” retorted Etienne.

The curtain rose, and the stage-manager went off to the wings to give orders. Finot turned to Etienne.

“My dear fellow, Dauriat has passed his word; I am proprietor of one-third of his weekly paper. I have agreed to give thirty thousand francs in cash, on condition that I am to be editor and director. ‘Tis a splendid thing. Blondet told me that the Government intends to take restrictive measures against the press; there will be no new papers allowed; in six months’ time it will cost a million francs to start a new journal, so I struck a bargain though I have only ten thousand francs in hand. Listen to me. If you can sell one-half of my share, that is one-sixth of the paper, to Matifat for thirty thousand francs, you shall be editor of my little paper with a salary of two hundred and fifty francs per month. I want in any case to have the control of my old paper, and to keep my hold upon it; but nobody need know that, and your name will appear as editor. You will be paid at the rate of five francs per column; you need not pay contributors more than three francs, and you keep the difference. That means another four hundred and fifty francs per month. But, at the same time, I reserve the right to use the paper to attack or defend men or causes, as I please; and you may indulge your own likes and dislikes so long as you do not interfere with my schemes. Perhaps I may be a Ministerialist, perhaps Ultra, I do not know yet; but I mean to keep up my connections with the Liberal party (below the surface). I can speak out with you; you are a good fellow. I might, perhaps, give you the Chambers to do for another paper on which I work; I am afraid I can scarcely keep on with it now. So let Florine do this bit of jockeying; tell her to put the screw on her druggist. If I can’t find the money within forty-eight hours, I must cry off my bargain. Dauriat sold another third to his printer and paper-dealer for thirty thousand francs; so he has his own third _gratis_, and ten thousand francs to the good, for he only gave fifty thousand for the whole affair. And in another year’s time the magazine will be worth two hundred thousand francs, if the Court buys it up; if the Court has the good sense to suppress newspapers, as they say.”

“You are lucky,” said Lousteau.

“If you had gone through all that I have endured, you would not say that of me. I had my fill of misery in those days, you see, and there was no help for it. My father is a hatter; he still keeps a shop in the Rue du Coq. Nothing but millions of money or a social cataclysm can open out the way to my goal; and of the two alternatives, I don’t know now that the revolution is not the easier. If I bore your friend’s name, I should have a chance to get on. Hush, here comes the manager. Good-bye,” and Finot rose to his feet, “I am going to the Opera. I shall very likely have a duel on my hands to-morrow, for I have put my initials to a terrific attack on a couple of dancers under the protection of two Generals. I am giving it them hot and strong at the Opera.”

“Aha?” said the manager.

“Yes. They are stingy with me,” returned Finot, “now cutting off a box, and now declining to take fifty subscriptions. I have sent in my _ultimatum_; I mean to have a hundred subscriptions out of them and a box four times a month. If they take my terms, I shall have eight hundred readers and a thousand paying subscribers, so we shall have twelve hundred with the New Year.”

“You will end by ruining us,” said the manager.

“_You_ are not much hurt with your ten subscriptions. I had two good notices put into the _Constitutionnel_.”

“Oh! I am not complaining of you,” cried the manager.

“Good-bye till to-morrow evening, Lousteau,” said Finot. “You can give me your answer at the Francais; there is a new piece on there; and as I shall not be able to write the notice, you can take my box. I will give you preference; you have worked yourself to death for me, and I am grateful. Felicien Vernou offered twenty thousand francs for a third share of my little paper, and to work without a salary for a twelvemonth; but I want to be absolute master. Good-bye.”

“He is not named Finot” (_finaud_, slyboots) “for nothing,” said Lucien.

“He is a gallows-bird that will get on in the world,” said Etienne, careless whether the wily schemer overheard the remark or not, as he shut the door of the box.

“_He_!” said the manager. “He will be a millionaire; he will enjoy the respect of all who know him; he may perhaps have friends some day—-“

“Good heavens! what a den!” said Lucien. “And are you going to drag that excellent creature into such a business?” he continued, looking at Florine, who gave them side glances from the stage.

“She will carry it through too. You do not know the devotion and the wiles of these beloved beings,” said Lousteau.

“They redeem their failings and expiate all their sins by boundless love, when they love,” said the manager. “A great love is all the grander in an actress by reason of its violent contrast with her surroundings.”

“And he who finds it, finds a diamond worthy of the proudest crown lying in the mud,” returned Lousteau.

“But Coralie is not attending to her part,” remarked the manager. “Coralie is smitten with our friend here, all unsuspicious of his conquest, and Coralie will make a fiasco; she is missing her cues, this is the second time she had not heard the prompter. Pray, go into the corner, monsieur,” he continued. “If Coralie is smitten with you, I will go and tell her that you have left the house.”

“No! no!” cried Lousteau; “tell Coralie that this gentleman is coming to supper, and that she can do as she likes with him, and she will play like Mlle. Mars.”

The manager went, and Lucien turned to Etienne. “What! do you mean to say that you will ask that druggist, through Mlle. Florine, to pay thirty thousand francs for one-half a share, when Finot gave no more for the whole of it? And ask without the slightest scruple?—-“

Lousteau interrupted Lucien before he had time to finish his expostulation. “My dear boy, what country can you come from? The druggist is not a man; he is a strong box delivered into our hands by his fancy for an actress.”

“How about your conscience?”

“Conscience, my dear fellow, is a stick which every one takes up to beat his neighbor and not for application to his own back. Come, now! who the devil are you angry with? In one day chance has worked a miracle for you, a miracle for which I have been waiting these two years, and you must needs amuse yourself by finding fault with the means? What! you appear to me to possess intelligence; you seem to be in a fair way to reach that freedom from prejudice which is a first necessity to intellectual adventurers in the world we live in; and are you wallowing in scruples worthy of a nun who accuses herself of eating an egg with concupiscence? . . . If Florine succeeds, I shall be editor of a newspaper with a fixed salary of two hundred and fifty francs per month; I shall take the important plays and leave the vaudevilles to Vernou, and you can take my place and do the Boulevard theatres, and so get a foot in the stirrup. You will make three francs per column and write a column a day–thirty columns a month means ninety francs; you will have some sixty francs worth of books to sell to Barbet; and lastly, you can demand ten tickets a month of each of your theatres–that is, forty tickets in all–and sell them for forty francs to a Barbet who deals in them (I will introduce you to the man), so you will have two hundred francs coming in every month. Then if you make yourself useful to Finot, you might get a hundred francs for an article in this new weekly review of his, in which case you would show uncommon talent, for all the articles are signed, and you cannot put in slip-shod work as you can on a small paper. In that case you would be making a hundred crowns a month. Now, my dear boy, there are men of ability, like that poor d’Arthez, who dines at Flicoteaux’s every day, who may wait for ten years before they will make a hundred crowns; and you will be making four thousand francs a year by your pen, to say nothing of the books you will write for the trade, if you do work of that kind.

“Now, a sub-prefect’s salary only amounts to a thousand crowns, and there he stops in his arrondissement, wearing away time like the rung of a chair. I say nothing of the pleasure of going to the theatre without paying for your seat, for that is a delight which quickly palls; but you can go behind the scenes in four theatres. Be hard and sarcastic for a month or two, and you will be simply overwhelmed with invitations from actresses, and their adorers will pay court to you; you will only dine at Flicoteaux’s when you happen to have less than thirty sous in your pocket and no dinner engagement. At the Luxembourg, at five o’clock, you did not know which way to turn; now, you are on the eve of entering a privileged class, you will be one of the hundred persons who tell France what to think. In three days’ time, if all goes well, you can, if you choose, make a man’s life a curse to him by putting thirty jokes at his expense in print at the rate of three a day; you can, if you choose, draw a revenue of pleasure from the actresses at your theatres; you can wreck a good play and send all Paris running after a bad one. If Dauriat declines to pay you for your _Marguerites_, you can make him come to you, and meekly and humbly implore you to take two thousand francs for them. If you have the ability, and knock off two or three articles that threaten to spoil some of Dauriat’s speculations, or to ruin a book on which he counts, you will see him come climbing up your stairs like a clematis, and always at the door of your dwelling. As for your novel, the booksellers who would show you more or less politely to the door at this moment will be standing outside your attic in a string, and the value of the manuscript, which old Doguereau valued at four hundred francs will rise to four thousand. These are the advantages of the journalist’s profession. So let us do our best to keep all newcomers out of it. It needs an immense amount of brains to make your way, and a still greater amount of luck. And here are you quibbling over your good fortune! If we had not met to-day, you see, at Flicoteaux’s, you might have danced attendance on the booksellers for another three years, or starved like d’Arthez in a garret. By the time that d’Arthez is as learned as Bayle and as great a writer of prose as Rousseau, we shall have made our fortunes, you and I, and we shall hold his in our hands–wealth and fame to give or to hold. Finot will be a deputy and proprietor of a great newspaper, and we shall be whatever we meant to be–peers of France, or prisoner for debt in Sainte-Pelagie.”

“So Finot will sell his paper to the highest bidder among the Ministers, just as he sells favorable notices to Mme. Bastienne and runs down Mlle. Virginie, saying that Mme. Bastienne’s bonnets are superior to the millinery which they praised at first!” said Lucien, recollecting that scene in the office.

“My dear fellow, you are a simpleton,” Lousteau remarked drily. “Three years ago Finot was walking on the uppers of his boots, dining for eighteen sous at Tabar’s, and knocking off a tradesman’s prospectus (when he could get it) for ten francs. His clothes hung together by some miracle as mysterious as the Immaculate Conception. _Now_, Finot has a paper of his own, worth about a hundred thousand francs. What with subscribers who pay and take no copies, genuine subscriptions, and indirect taxes levied by his uncle, he is making twenty thousand francs a year. He dines most sumptuously every day; he has set up a cabriolet within the last month; and now, at last, behold him the editor of a weekly review with a sixth share, for which he will not pay a penny, a salary of five hundred francs per month, and another thousand francs for supplying matter which costs him nothing, and for which the firm pays. You yourself, to begin with, if Finot consents to pay you fifty francs per sheet, will be only too glad to let him have two or three articles for nothing. When you are in his position, you can judge Finot; a man can only be tried by his peers. And for you, is there not an immense future opening out before you, if you will blindly minister to his enmity, attack at Finot’s bidding, and praise when he gives the word? Suppose that you yourself wish to be revenged upon somebody, you can break a foe or friend on the wheel. You have only to say to me, ‘Lousteau, let us put an end to So-and-so,’ and we will kill him by a phrase put in the paper morning by morning; and afterwards you can slay the slain with a solemn article in Finot’s weekly. Indeed, if it is a matter of capital importance to you, Finot would allow you to bludgeon your man in a big paper with ten or twelve thousand subscribers, _if_ you make yourself indispensable to Finot.”

“Then are you sure that Florine can bring her druggist to make the bargain?” asked Lucien, dazzled by these prospects.

“Quite sure. Now comes the interval, I will go and tell her everything at once in a word or two; it will be settled to-night. If Florine once has her lesson by heart, she will have all my wit and her own besides.”

“And there sits that honest tradesman, gaping with open-mouthed admiration at Florine, little suspecting that you are about to get thirty thousand francs out of him!—-“

“More twaddle! Anybody might think that the man was going to be robbed!” cried Lousteau. “Why, my dear boy, if the minister buys the newspaper, the druggist may make twenty thousand francs in six months on an investment of thirty thousand. Matifat is not looking at the newspaper, but at Florine’s prospects. As soon as it is known that Matifat and Camusot–(for they will go shares)–that Matifat and Camusot are proprietors of a review, the newspapers will be full of friendly notices of Florine and Coralie. Florine’s name will be made; she will perhaps obtain an engagement in another theatre with a salary of twelve thousand francs. In fact, Matifat will save a thousand francs every month in dinners and presents to journalists. You know nothing of men, nor of the way things are managed.”

“Poor man!” said Lucien, “he is looking forward to an evening’s pleasure.”

“And he will be sawn in two with arguments until Florine sees Finot’s receipt for a sixth share of the paper. And to-morrow I shall be editor of Finot’s paper, and making a thousand francs a month. The end of my troubles is in sight!” cried Florine’s lover.

Lousteau went out, and Lucien sat like one bewildered, lost in the infinite of thought, soaring above this everyday world. In the Wooden Galleries he had seen the wires by which the trade in books is moved; he has seen something of the kitchen where great reputations are made; he had been behind the scenes; he had seen the seamy side of life, the consciences of men involved in the machinery of Paris, the mechanism of it all. As he watched Florine on the stage he almost envied Lousteau his good fortune; already, for a few moments he had forgotten Matifat in the background. He was not left alone for long, perhaps for not more than five minutes, but those minutes seemed an eternity.

Thoughts rose within him that set his soul on fire, as the spectacle on the stage had heated his senses. He looked at the women with their wanton eyes, all the brighter for the red paint on their cheeks, at the gleaming bare necks, the luxuriant forms outlined by the lascivious folds of the basquina, the very short skirts, that displayed as much as possible of limbs encased in scarlet stockings with green clocks to them–a disquieting vision for the pit.

A double process of corruption was working within him in parallel lines, like two channels that will spread sooner or later in flood time and make one. That corruption was eating into Lucien’s soul, as he leaned back in his corner, staring vacantly at the curtain, one arm resting on the crimson velvet cushion, and his hand drooping over the edge. He felt the fascination of the life that was offered to him, of the gleams of light among its clouds; and this so much the more keenly because it shone out like a blaze of fireworks against the blank darkness of his own obscure, monotonous days of toil.

Suddenly his listless eyes became aware of a burning glance that reached him through a rent in the curtain, and roused him from his lethargy. Those were Coralie’s eyes that glowed upon him. He lowered his head and looked across at Camusot, who just then entered the opposite box.

That amateur was a worthy silk-mercer of the Rue des Bourdonnais, stout and substantial, a judge in the commercial court, a father of four children, and the husband of a second wife. At the age of fifty-six, with a cap of gray hair on his head, he had the smug appearance of a man who has his eighty thousand francs of income; and having been forced to put up with a good deal that he did not like in the way of business, has fully made up his mind to enjoy the rest of his life, and not to quit this earth until he has had his share of cakes and ale. A brow the color of fresh butter and florid cheeks like a monk’s jowl seemed scarcely big enough to contain his exuberant jubilation. Camusot had left his wife at home, and they were applauding Coralie to the skies. All the rich man’s citizen vanity was summed up and gratified in Coralie; in Coralie’s lodging he gave himself the airs of a great lord of a bygone day; now, at this moment, he felt that half of her success was his; the knowledge that he had paid for it confirmed him in this idea. Camusot’s conduct was sanctioned by the presence of his father-in-law, a little old fogy with powdered hair and leering eyes, highly respected nevertheless.

Again Lucien felt disgust rising within him. He thought of the year when he loved Mme. de Bargeton with an exalted and disinterested love; and at that thought love, as a poet understands it, spread its white wings about him; countless memories drew a circle of distant blue horizon about the great man of Angouleme, and again he fell to dreaming.

Up went the curtain, and there stood Coralie and Florine upon the stage.

“He is thinking about as much of you as of the Grand Turk, my dear girl,” Florine said in an aside while Coralie was finishing her speech.

Lucien could not help laughing. He looked at Coralie. She was one of the most charming and captivating actresses in Paris, rivaling Mme. Perrin and Mlle. Fleuriet, and destined likewise to share their fate. Coralie was a woman of a type that exerts at will a power of fascination over men. With an oval face of deep ivory tint, a mouth red as a pomegranate, and a chin subtly delicate in its contour as the edge of a porcelain cup, Coralie was a Jewess of the sublime type. The jet black eyes behind their curving lashes seemed to scorch her eyelids; you could guess how soft they might grow, or how sparks of the heat of the desert might flash from them in response to a summons from within. The circles of olive shadow about them were bounded by thick arching lines of eyebrow. Magnificent mental power, well-nigh amounting to genius, seemed to dwell in the swarthy forehead beneath the double curve of ebony hair that lay upon it like a crown, and gleamed in the light like a varnished surface; but like many another actress, Coralie had little wit in spite of her aptness at greenroom repartee, and scarcely any education in spite of her boudoir experience. Her brain was prompted by her senses, her kindness was the impulsive warm-heartedness of girls of her class. But who could trouble over Coralie’s psychology when his eyes were dazzled by those smooth, round arms of hers, the spindle-shaped fingers, the fair white shoulders, and breast celebrated in the Song of Songs, the flexible curving lines of throat, the graciously moulded outlines beneath the scarlet silk stockings? And this beauty, worthy of an Eastern poet, was brought into relief by the conventional Spanish costume of the stage. Coralie was the delight of the pit; all eyes dwelt on the outlines moulded by the clinging folds of her bodice, and lingered over the Andalusian contour of the hips from which her skirt hung, fluttering wantonly with every movement. To Lucien, watching this creature, who played for him alone, caring no more for Camusot than a street-boy in the gallery cares for an apple-paring, there came a moment when he set desire above love, and enjoyment above desire, and the demon of Lust stirred strange thoughts in him.

“I know nothing of the love that wallows in luxury and wine and sensual pleasure,” he said within himself. “I have lived more with ideas than with realities. You must pass through all experience if you mean to render all experience. This will be my first great supper, my first orgy in a new and strange world; why should I not know, for once, the delights which the great lords of the eighteenth century sought so eagerly of wantons of the Opera? Must one not first learn of courtesans and actresses the delights, the perfections, the transports, the resources, the subtleties of love, if only to translate them afterwards into the regions of a higher love than this? And what is all this, after all, but the poetry of the senses? Two months ago these women seemed to me to be goddesses guarded by dragons that no one dared approach; I was envying Lousteau just now, but here is another handsomer than Florine; why should I not profit by her fancy, when the greatest nobles buy a night with such women with their richest treasures? When ambassadors set foot in these depths, they fling aside all thought of yesterday or to-morrow. I should be a fool to be more squeamish than princes, especially as I love no one as yet.”

Lucien had quite forgotten Camusot. To Lousteau he had expressed the utmost disgust for this most hateful of all partitions, and now he himself had sunk to the same level, and, carried away by the casuistry of his vehement desire, had given the reins to his fancy.

“Coralie is raving about you,” said Lousteau as he came in. “Your countenance, worthy of the greatest Greek sculptors, has worked unutterable havoc behind the scenes. You are in luck my dear boy. Coralie is eighteen years old, and in a few days’ time she may be making sixty thousand francs a year by her beauty. She is an honest girl still. Since her mother sold her three years ago for sixty thousand francs, she has tried to find happiness, and found nothing but annoyance. She took to the stage in a desperate mood; she has a horror of her first purchaser, de Marsay; and when she came out of the galleys, for the king of dandies soon dropped her, she picked up old Camusot. She does not care much about him, but he is like a father to her, and she endures him and his love. Several times already she has refused the handsomest proposals; she is faithful to Camusot, who lets her live in peace. So you are her first love. The first sight of you went to her heart like a pistol-shot, Florine has gone to her dressing-room to bring the girl to reason. She is crying over your cruelty; she has forgotten her part, the play will go to pieces, and good-day to the engagement at the Gymnase which Camusot had planned for her.”

“Pooh! . . . Poor thing!” said Lucien. Every instinct of vanity was tickled by the words; he felt his heart swell high with self-conceit. “More adventures have befallen me in this one evening, my dear fellow, than in all the first eighteen years of my life.” And Lucien related the history of his love affairs with Mme. de Bargeton, and of the cordial hatred he bore the Baron du Chatelet.

“Stay though! the newspaper wants a _bete noire_; we will take him up. The Baron is a buck of the Empire and a Ministerialist; he is the man for us; I have seen him many a time at the Opera. I can see your great lady as I sit here; she is often in the Marquise d’Espard’s box. The Baron is paying court to your lady love, a cuttlefish bone that she is. Wait! Finot has just sent a special messenger round to say that they are short of copy at the office. Young Hector Merlin has left them in the lurch because they did not pay for white lines. Finot, in despair, is knocking off an article against the Opera. Well now, my dear fellow, you can do this play; listen to it and think it over, and I will go to the manager’s office and think out three columns about your man and your disdainful fair one. They will be in no pleasant predicament to-morrow.”

“So this is how a newspaper is written?” said Lucien.

“It is always like this,” answered Lousteau. “These ten months that I have been a journalist, they have always run short of copy at eight o’clock in the evening.”

Manuscript sent to the printer is spoken of as “copy,” doubtless because the writers are supposed to send in a fair copy of their work; or possibly the word is ironically derived from the Latin word _copia_, for copy is invariably scarce.

“We always mean to have a few numbers ready in advance, a grand idea that will never be realized,” continued Lousteau. “It is ten o’clock, you see, and not a line has been written. I shall ask Vernou and Nathan for a score of epigrams on deputies, or on ‘Chancellor Cruzoe,’ or on the Ministry, or on friends of ours if it needs must be. A man in this pass would slaughter his parent, just as a privateer will load his guns with silver pieces taken out of the booty sooner than perish. Write a brilliant article, and you will make brilliant progress in Finot’s estimation; for Finot has a lively sense of benefits to come, and that sort of gratitude is better than any kind of pledge, pawntickets always excepted, for they invariably represent something solid.”

“What kind of men can journalists be? Are you to sit down at a table and be witty to order?”

“Just exactly as a lamp begins to burn when you apply a match–so long as there is any oil in it.”

Lousteau’s hand was on the lock when du Bruel came in with the manager.

“Permit me, monsieur, to take a message to Coralie; allow me to tell her that you will go home with her after supper, or my play will be ruined. The wretched girl does not know what she is doing or saying; she will cry when she ought to laugh and laugh when she ought to cry. She has been hissed once already. You can still save the piece, and, after all, pleasure is not a misfortune.”

“I am not accustomed to rivals, sir,” Lucien answered.

“Pray don’t tell her that!” cried the manager. “Coralie is just the girl to fling Camusot overboard and ruin herself in good earnest. The proprietor of the _Golden Cocoon_, worthy man, allows her two thousand francs a month, and pays for all her dresses and _claqueurs_.”

“As your promise pledges me to nothing, save your play,” said Lucien, with a sultan’s airs.

“But don’t look as if you meant to snub that charming creature,” pleaded du Bruel.

“Dear me! am I to write the notice of your play and smile on your heroine as well?” exclaimed the poet.

The author vanished with a signal to Coralie, who began to act forthwith in a marvelous way. Vignol, who played the part of the alcalde, and revealed for the first time his genius as an actor of old men, came forward amid a storm of applause to make an announcement to the house.

“The piece which we have the honor of playing for you this evening, gentlemen, is the work of MM. Raoul and de Cursy.”

“Why, Nathan is partly responsible,” said Lousteau. “I don’t wonder that he looked in.”

“Coralie_! Coralie_!” shouted the enraptured house. “Florine, too!” roared a voice of thunder from the opposite box, and other voices took up the cry, “Florine and Coralie!”

The curtain rose, Vignol reappeared between the two actresses; Matifat and Camusot flung wreaths on the stage, and Coralie stooped for her flowers and held them out to Lucien.

For him those two hours spent in the theatre seemed to be a dream. The spell that held him had begun to work when he went behind the scenes; and, in spite of its horrors, the atmosphere of the place, its sensuality and dissolute morals had affected the poet’s still untainted nature. A sort of malaria that infects the soul seems to lurk among those dark, filthy passages filled with machinery, and lit with smoky, greasy lamps. The solemnity and reality of life disappear, the most sacred things are matter for a jest, the most impossible things seem to be true. Lucien felt as if he had taken some narcotic, and Coralie had completed the work. He plunged into this joyous intoxication.

The lights in the great chandelier were extinguished; there was no one left in the house except the boxkeepers, busy taking away footstools and shutting doors, the noises echoing strangely through the empty theatre. The footlights, blown out as one candle, sent up a fetid reek of smoke. The curtain rose again, a lantern was lowered from the ceiling, and firemen and stage carpenters departed on their rounds. The fairy scenes of the stage, the rows of fair faces in the boxes, the dazzling lights, the magical illusion of new scenery and costume had all disappeared, and dismal darkness, emptiness, and cold reigned in their stead. It was hideous. Lucien sat on in bewilderment.

“Well! are you coming, my boy?” Lousteau’s voice called from the stage. “Jump down.”

Lucien sprang over. He scarcely recognized Florine and Coralie in their ordinary quilted paletots and cloaks, with their faces hidden by hats and thick black veils. Two butterflies returned to the chrysalis stage could not be more completely transformed.

“Will you honor me by giving me your arm?” Coralie asked tremulously.

“With pleasure,” said Lucien. He could feel the beating of her heart throbbing against his like some snared bird as she nestled closely to his side, with something of the delight of a cat that rubs herself against her master with eager silken caresses.

“So we are supping together!” she said.

The party of four found two cabs waiting for them at the door in the Rue des Fosses-du-Temple. Coralie drew Lucien to one of the two, in which Camusot and his father-in-law old Cardot were seated already. She offered du Bruel a fifth place, and the manager drove off with Florine, Matifat, and Lousteau.

“These hackney cabs are abominable things,” said Coralie.

“Why don’t you have a carriage?” returned du Bruel.

“_Why_?” she asked pettishly. “I do not like to tell you before M. Cardot’s face; for he trained his son-in-law, no doubt. Would you believe it, little and old as he is, M. Cardot only gives Florine five hundred francs a month, just about enough to pay for her rent and her grub and her clothes. The old Marquis de Rochegude offered me a brougham two months ago, and he has six hundred thousand francs a year, but I am an artist and not a common hussy.”

“You shall have a carriage the day after to-morrow, miss,” said Camusot benignly; “you never asked me for one.”

“As if one _asked_ for such a thing as that? What! you love a woman and let her paddle about in the mud at the risk of breaking her legs? Nobody but a knight of the yardstick likes to see a draggled skirt hem.”

As she uttered the sharp words that cut Camusot to the quick, she groped for Lucien’s knee, and pressed it against her own, and clasped her fingers upon his hand. She was silent. All her power to feel seemed to be concentrated upon the ineffable joy of a moment which brings compensation for the whole wretched past of a life such as these poor creatures lead, and develops within their souls a poetry of which other women, happily ignorant of these violent revulsions, know nothing.

“You played like Mlle. Mars herself towards the end,” said du Bruel.

“Yes,” said Camusot, “something put her out at the beginning; but from the middle of the second act to the very end, she was enough to drive you wild with admiration. Half of the success of your play was due to her.”

“And half of her success is due to me,” said du Bruel.

“This is all much ado about nothing,” said Coralie in an unfamiliar voice. And, seizing an opportunity in the darkness, she carried Lucien’s hand to her lips and kissed it and drenched it with tears. Lucien felt thrilled through and through by that touch, for in the humility of the courtesan’s love there is a magnificence which might set an example to angels.

“Are you writing the dramatic criticism, monsieur?” said du Bruel, addressing Lucien; “you can write a charming paragraph about our dear Coralie.”

“Oh! do us that little service!” pleaded Camusot, down on his knees, metaphorically speaking, before the critic. “You will always find me ready to do you a good turn at any time.”

“Do leave him his independence,” Coralie exclaimed angrily; “he will write what he pleases. Papa Camusot, buy carriages for me instead of praises.”

“You shall have them on very easy terms,” Lucien answered politely. “I have never written for newspapers before, so I am not accustomed to their ways, my maiden pen is at your disposal—-“

“That is funny,” said du Bruel.

“Here we are in the Rue de Bondy,” said Cardot. Coralie’s sally had quite crushed the little old man.

“If you are giving me the first fruits of your pen, the first love that has sprung up in my heart shall be yours,” whispered Coralie in the brief instant that they remained alone together in the cab; then she went up to Florine’s bedroom to change her dress for a toilette previously sent.

Lucien had no idea how lavishly a prosperous merchant will spend money upon an actress or a mistress when he means to enjoy a life of pleasure. Matifat was not nearly so rich a man as his friend Camusot, and he had done his part rather shabbily, yet the sight of the dining-room took Lucien by surprise. The walls were hung with green cloth with a border of gilded nails, the whole room was artistically decorated, lighted by handsome lamps, stands full of flowers stood in every direction. The drawing-room was resplendent with the furniture in fashion in those days–a Thomire chandelier, a carpet of Eastern design, and yellow silken hangings relieved by a brown border. The candlesticks, fire-irons, and clock were all in good taste; for Matifat had left everything to Grindot, a rising architect, who was building a house for him, and the young man had taken great pains with the rooms when he knew that Florine was to occupy them.

Matifat, a tradesman to the backbone, went about carefully, afraid to touch the new furniture; he seemed to have the totals of the bills always before his eyes, and to look upon the splendors about him as so much jewelry imprudently withdrawn from the case.

“And I shall be obliged to do as much for Florentine!” old Cardot’s eyes seemed to say.

Lucien at once began to understand Lousteau’s indifference to the state of his garret. Etienne was the real king of these festivals; Etienne enjoyed the use of all these fine things. He was standing just now on the hearthrug with his back to the fire, as if he were the master of the house, chatting with the manager, who was congratulating du Bruel.

“Copy, copy!” called Finot, coming into the room. “There is nothing in the box; the printers are setting up my article, and they will soon have finished.”

“We will manage,” said Etienne. “There is a fire burning in Florine’s boudoir; there is a table there; and if M. Matifat will find us paper and ink, we will knock off the newspaper while Florine and Coralie are dressing.”

Cardot, Camusot, and Matifat disappeared in search of quills, penknives, and everything necessary. Suddenly the door was flung open, and Tullia, one of the prettiest opera-dancers of the day, dashed into the room.

“They agree to take the hundred copies, dear boy!” she cried, addressing Finot; “they won’t cost the management anything, for the chorus and the orchestra and the _corps de ballet_ are to take them whether they like it or not; but your paper is so clever that nobody will grumble. And you are going to have your boxes. Here is the subscription for the first quarter,” she continued, holding out a couple of banknotes; “so don’t cut me up!”

“It is all over with me!” groaned Finot; “I must suppress my abominable diatribe, and I haven’t another notion in my head.”

“What a happy inspiration, divine Lais!” exclaimed Blondet, who had followed the lady upstairs and brought Nathan, Vernou and Claude Vignon with him. “Stop to supper, there is a dear, or I will crush thee, butterfly as thou art. There will be no professional jealousies, as you are a dancer; and as to beauty, you have all of you too much sense to show jealousy in public.”