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  • 1838
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As the First Consul, beaten on the field of Marengo till five o’clock in the evening, by six o’clock saw the tide of battle turned by Desaix’s desperate attack and Kellermann’s terrific charge, so Chesnel in the midst of defeat saw the beginnings of victory. No one but a Chesnel, an old notary, an ex-steward of the manor, old Maitre Sorbier’s junior clerk, in the sudden flash of lucidity which comes with despair, could rise thus, high as a Napoleon, nay, higher. This was not Marengo, it was Waterloo, and the Prussians had come up; Chesnel saw this, and was determined to beat them off the field.

“Madame,” he said, “remember that I have been your man of business for twenty years; remember that if the d’Esgrignons mean the honor of the province, you represent the honor of the bourgeoisie; it rests with you, and you alone, to save the ancient house. Now, answer me; are you going to allow dishonor to fall on the shade of your dead uncle, on the d’Esgrignons, on poor Chesnel? Do you want to kill Mlle. Armande weeping yonder? Or do you wish to expiate wrongs done to others by a deed which will rejoice your ancestors, the intendants of the dukes of Alencon, and bring comfort to the soul of our dear Abbe? If he could rise from his grave, he would command you to do this thing that I beg of you upon my knees.”

“What is it?” asked Mme. du Croisier.

“Well. Here are the hundred thousand crowns,” said Chesnel, drawing the bundles of notes from his pocket. “Take them, and there will be an end of it.”

“If that is all,” she began, “and if no harm can come of it to my husband—-“

“Nothing but good,” Chesnel replied. “You are saving him from eternal punishment in hell, at the cost of a slight disappointment here below.”

“He will not be compromised, will he?” she asked, looking into Chesnel’s face.

Then Chesnel read the depths of the poor wife’s mind. Mme. du Croisier was hesitating between her two creeds; between wifely obedience to her husband as laid down by the Church, and obedience to the altar and the throne. Her husband, in her eyes, was acting wrongly, but she dared not blame him; she would fain save the d’Esgrignons, but she was loyal to her husband’s interests.

“Not in the least,” Chesnel answered; “your old notary swears it by the Holy Gospels—-“

He had nothing left to lose for the d’Esgrignons but his soul; he risked it now by this horrible perjury, but Mme. du Croisier must be deceived, there was no other choice but death. Without losing a moment, he dictated a form of receipt by which Mme. du Croisier acknowledged payment of a hundred thousand crowns five days before the fatal letter of exchange appeared; for he recollected that du Croisier was away from home, superintending improvements on his wife’s property at the time.

“Now swear to me that you will declare before the examining magistrate that you received the money on that date,” he said, when Mme. du Croisier had taken the notes and he held the receipt in his hand.

“It will be a lie, will it not?”

“Venial sin,” said Chesnel.

“I could not do it without consulting my director, M. l’Abbe Couturier.”

“Very well,” said Chesnel, “will you be guided entirely by his advice in this affair?”

“I promise that.”

“And you must not give the money to M. du Croisier until you have been before the magistrate.”

“No. Ah! God give me strength to appear in a Court of Justice and maintain a lie before men!”

Chesnel kissed Mme. du Croisier’s hand, then stood upright, and majestic as one of the prophets that Raphael painted in the Vatican.

“You uncle’s soul is thrilled with joy,” he said; “you have wiped out for ever the wrong that you did by marrying an enemy of altar and throne”–words that made a lively impression on Mme. du Croisier’s timorous mind.

Then Chesnel all at once bethought himself that he must make sure of the lady’s director, the Abbe Couturier. He knew how obstinately devout souls can work for the triumph of their views when once they come forward for their side, and wished to secure the concurrence of the Church as early as possible. So he went to the Hotel d’Esgrignon, roused up Mlle. Armande, gave her an account of that night’s work, and sped her to fetch the Bishop himself into the forefront of the battle.

“Ah, God in heaven! Thou must save the house of d’Esgrignon!” he exclaimed, as he went slowly home again. “The affair is developing now into a fight in a Court of Law. We are face to face with men that have passions and interests of their own; we can get anything out of them. This du Croisier has taken advantage of the public prosecutor’s absence; the public prosecutor is devoted to us, but since the opening of the Chambers he has gone to Paris. Now, what can they have done to get round his deputy? They have induced him to take up the charge without consulting his chief. This mystery must be looked into, and the ground surveyed to-morrow; and then, perhaps, when I have unraveled this web of theirs, I will go back to Paris to set great powers at work through Mme. de Maufrigneuse.”

So he reasoned, poor, aged, clear-sighted wrestler, before he lay down half dead with bearing the weight of so much emotion and fatigue. And yet, before he fell asleep he ran a searching eye over the list of magistrates, taking all their secret ambitions into account, casting about for ways of influencing them, calculating his chances in the coming struggle. Chesnel’s prolonged scrutiny of consciences, given in a condensed form, will perhaps serve as a picture of the judicial world in a country town.

Magistrates and officials generally are obliged to begin their career in the provinces; judicial ambition there ferments. At the outset every man looks towards Paris; they all aspire to shine in the vast theatre where great political causes come before the courts, and the higher branches of the legal profession are closely connected with the palpitating interests of society. But few are called to that paradise of the man of law, and nine-tenths of the profession are bound sooner or later to regard themselves as shelved for good in the provinces. Wherefore, every Tribunal of First Instance and every Court-Royal is sharply divided in two. The first section has given up hope, and is either torpid or content; content with the excessive respect paid to office in a country town, or torpid with tranquillity. The second section is made up of the younger sort, in whom the desire of success is untempered as yet by disappointment, and of the really clever men urged on continually by ambition as with a goad; and these two are possessed with a sort of fanatical belief in their order.

At this time the younger men were full of Royalist zeal against the enemies of the Bourbons. The most insignificant deputy official was dreaming of conducting a prosecution, and praying with all his might for one of those political cases which bring a man’s zeal into prominence, draw the attention of the higher powers, and mean advancement for King’s men. Was there a member of an official staff of prosecuting counsel who could hear of a Bonapartist conspiracy breaking out somewhere else without a feeling of envy? Where was the man that did not burn to discover a Caron, or a Berton, or a revolt of some sort? With reasons of State, and the necessity of diffusing the monarchical spirit throughout France as their basis, and a fierce ambition stirred up whenever party spirit ran high, these ardent politicians on their promotion were lucid, clear-sighted, and perspicacious. They kept up a vigorous detective system throughout the kingdom; they did the work of spies, and urged the nation along a path of obedience, from which it had no business to swerve.

Justice, thus informed with monarchical enthusiasm, atoned for the errors of the ancient parliaments, and walked, perhaps, too ostentatiously hand in hand with religion. There was more zeal than discretion shown; but justice sinned not so much in the direction of machiavelism as by giving the candid expression to its views, when those views appeared to be opposed to the general interests of a country which must be put safely out of reach of revolutions. But taken as a whole, there was still too much of the bourgeois element in the administration; it was too readily moved by petty liberal agitation; and as a result, it was inevitable that it should incline sooner or later to the Constitutional party, and join ranks with the bourgeoisie in the day of battle. In the great body of legal functionaries, as in other departments of the administration, there was not wanting a certain hypocrisy, or rather that spirit of imitation which always leads France to model herself on the Court, and, quite unintentionally, to deceive the powers that be.

Officials of both complexions were to be found in the court in which young d’Esgrignon’s fate depended. M. le President du Ronceret and an elderly judge, Blondet by name, represented the section of functionaries shelved for good, and resigned to stay where they were; while the young and ambitious party comprised the examining magistrate M. Camusot, and his deputy M. Michu, appointed through the interests of the Cinq-Cygnes, and certain of promotion to the Court of Appeal of Paris at the first opportunity.

President du Ronceret held a permanent post; it was impossible to turn him out. The aristocratic party declined to give him what he considered to be his due, socially speaking; so he declared for the bourgeoisie, glossed over his disappointment with the name of independence, and failed to realize that his opinions condemned him to remain a president of a court of the first instance for the rest of his life. Once started in this track the sequence of events led du Ronceret to place his hopes of advancement on the triumph of du Croisier and the Left. He was in no better odor at the Prefecture than at the Court-Royal. He was compelled to keep on good terms with the authorities; the Liberals distrusted him, consequently he belonged to neither party. He was obliged to resign his chances of election to du Croisier, he exercised no influence, and played a secondary part. The false position reacted on his character; he was soured and discontented; he was tired of political ambiguity, and privately had made up his mind to come forward openly as leader of the Liberal party, and so to strike ahead of du Croisier. His behavior in the d’Esgrignon affair was the first step in this direction. To begin with, he was an admirable representative of that section of the middle classes which allows its petty passions to obscure the wider interests of the country; a class of crotchety politicians, upholding the government one day and opposing it the next, compromising every cause and helping none; helpless after they have done the mischief till they set about brewing more; unwilling to face their own incompetence, thwarting authority while professing to serve it. With a compound of arrogance and humility they demand of the people more submission than kings expect, and fret their souls because those above them are not brought down to their level, as if greatness could be little, as if power existed without force.

President du Ronceret was a tall, spare man with a receding forehead and scanty, auburn hair. He was wall-eyed, his complexion was blotched, his lips thin and hard, his scarcely audible voice came out like the husky wheezings of asthma. He had for a wife a great, solemn, clumsy creature, tricked out in the most ridiculous fashion, and outrageously overdressed. Mme. la Presidente gave herself the airs of a queen; she wore vivid colors, and always appeared at balls adorned with the turban, dear to the British female, and lovingly cultivated in out-of-the-way districts in France. Each of the pair had an income of four or five thousand francs, which with the President’s salary, reached a total of some twelve thousand. In spite of a decided tendency to parsimony, vanity required that they should receive one evening in the week. Du Croisier might import modern luxury into the town, M. and Mme. de Ronceret were faithful to the old traditions. They had always lived in the old-fashioned house belonging to Mme. du Ronceret, and had made no changes in it since their marriage. The house stood between a garden and a courtyard. The gray old gable end, with one window in each story, gave upon the road. High walls enclosed the garden and the yard, but the space taken up beneath them in the garden by a walk shaded with chestnut trees was filled in the yard by a row of outbuildings. An old rust-devoured iron gate in the garden wall balanced the yard gateway, a huge, double-leaved carriage entrance with a buttress on either side, and a mighty shell on the top. The same shell was repeated over the house-door.

The whole place was gloomy, close, and airless. The row of iron-gated openings in the opposite wall, as you entered, reminded you of prison windows. Every passer-by could look in through the railings to see how the garden grew; the flowers in the little square borders never seemed to thrive there.

The drawing-room on the ground floor was lighted by a single window on the side of the street, and a French window above a flight of steps, which gave upon the garden. The dining-room on the other side of the great ante-chamber, with its windows also looking out into the garden, was exactly the same size as the drawing-room, and all three apartments were in harmony with the general air of gloom. It wearied your eyes to look at the ceilings all divided up by huge painted crossbeams and adorned with a feeble lozenge pattern or a rosette in the middle. The paint was old, startling in tint, and begrimed with smoke. The sun had faded the heavy silk curtains in the drawing-room; the old-fashioned Beauvais tapestry which covered the white-painted furniture had lost all its color with wear. A Louis Quinze clock on the chimney-piece stood between two extravagant, branched sconces filled with yellow wax candles, which the Presidente only lighted on occasions when the old-fashioned rock-crystal chandelier emerged from its green wrapper. Three card-tables, covered with threadbare baize, and a backgammon box, sufficed for the recreations of the company; and Mme. du Ronceret treated them to such refreshments as cider, chestnuts, pastry puffs, glasses of eau sucree, and home-made orgeat. For some time past she had made a practice of giving a party once a fortnight, when tea and some pitiable attempts at pastry appeared to grace the occasion.

Once a quarter the du Roncerets gave a grand three-course dinner, which made a great sensation in the town, a dinner served up in execrable ware, but prepared with the science for which the provincial cook is remarkable. It was a Gargantuan repast, which lasted for six whole hours, and by abundance the President tried to vie with du Croisier’s elegance.

And so du Ronceret’s life and its accessories were just what might have been expected from his character and his false position. He felt dissatisfied at home without precisely knowing what was the matter; but he dared not go to any expense to change existing conditions, and was only too glad to put by seven or eight thousand francs every year, so as to leave his son Fabien a handsome private fortune. Fabien du Ronceret had no mind for the magistracy, the bar, or the civil service, and his pronounced turn for doing nothing drove his parent to despair.

On this head there was rivalry between the President and the Vice-President, old M. Blondet. M. Blondet, for a long time past, had been sedulously cultivating an acquaintance between his son and the Blandureau family. The Blandureaus were well-to-do linen manufacturers, with an only daughter, and it was on this daughter that the President had fixed his choice of a wife for Fabien. Now, Joseph Blondet’s marriage with Mlle. Blandureau depended on his nomination to the post which his father, old Blondet, hoped to obtain for him when he himself should retire. But President du Ronceret, in underhand ways, was thwarting the old man’s plans, and working indirectly upon the Blandureaus. Indeed, if it had not been for this affair of young d’Esgrignon’s, the astute President might have cut them out, father and son, for their rivals were very much richer.

M. Blondet, the victim of the machiavelian President’s intrigues, was one of the curious figures which lie buried away in the provinces like old coins in a crypt. He was at that time a man of sixty-seven or thereabouts, but he carried his years well; he was very tall, and in build reminded you of the canons of the good old times. The smallpox had riddled his face with numberless dints, and spoilt the shape of his nose by imparting to it a gimlet-like twist; it was a countenance by no means lacking in character, very evenly tinted with a diffused red, lighted up by a pair of bright little eyes, with a sardonic look in them, while a certain sarcastic twitch of the purpled lips gave expression to that feature.

Before the Revolution broke out, Blondet senior had been a barrister; afterwards he became the public accuser, and one of the mildest of those formidable functionaries. Goodman Blondet, as they used to call him, deadened the force of the new doctrines by acquiescing in them all, and putting none of them in practice. He had been obliged to send one or two nobles to prison; but his further proceedings were marked with such deliberation, that he brought them through to the 9th Thermidor with a dexterity which won respect for him on all sides. As a matter of fact, Goodman Blondet ought to have been President of the Tribunal, but when the courts of law were reorganized he had been set aside; Napoleon’s aversion for Republicans was apt to reappear in the smallest appointments under his government. The qualification of ex-public accuser, written in the margin of the list against Blondet’s name, set the Emperor inquiring of Cambaceres whether there might not be some scion of an ancient parliamentary stock to appoint instead. The consequence was that du Ronceret, whose father had been a councillor of parliament, was nominated to the presidency; but, the Emperor’s repugnance notwithstanding, Cambaceres allowed Blondet to remain on the bench, saying that the old barrister was one of the best jurisconsults in France.

Blondet’s talents, his knowledge of the old law of the land and subsequent legislation, should by rights have brought him far in his profession; but he had this much in common with some few great spirits: he entertained a prodigious contempt for his own special knowledge, and reserved all his pretentions, leisure, and capacity for a second pursuit unconnected with the law. To this pursuit he gave his almost exclusive attention. The good man was passionately fond of gardening. He was in correspondence with some of the most celebrated amateurs; it was his ambition to create new species; he took an interest in botanical discoveries, and lived, in short, in the world of flowers. Like all florists, he had a predilection for one particular plant; the pelargonium was his especial favorite. The court, the cases that came before it, and his outward life were as nothing to him compared with the inward life of fancies and abundant emotions which the old man led. He fell more and more in love with his flower-seraglio; and the pains which he bestowed on his garden, the sweet round of the labors of the months, held Goodman Blondet fast in his greenhouse. But for that hobby he would have been a deputy under the Empire, and shone conspicuous beyond a doubt in the Corps Legislatif.

His marriage was the second cause of his obscurity. As a man of forty, he was rash enough to marry a girl of eighteen, by whom he had a son named Joseph in the first year of their marriage. Three years afterwards Mme. Blondet, then the prettiest woman in the town, inspired in the prefect of the department a passion which ended only with her death. The prefect was the father of her second son Emile; the whole town knew this, old Blondet himself knew it. The wife who might have roused her husband’s ambition, who might have won him away from his flowers, positively encouraged the judge in his botanical tastes. She no more cared to leave the place than the prefect cared to leave his prefecture so long as his mistress lived.

Blondet felt himself unequal at his age to a contest with a young wife. He sought consolation in his greenhouse, and engaged a very pretty servant-maid to assist him to tend his ever-changing bevy of beauties. So while the judge potted, pricked out, watered, layered, slipped, blended, and induced his flowers to break, Mme. Blondet spent his substance on the dress and finery in which she shone at the prefecture. One interest alone had power to draw her away from the tender care of a romantic affection which the town came to admire in the end; and this interest was Emile’s education. The child of love was a bright and pretty boy, while Joseph was no less heavy and plain-featured. The old judge, blinded by paternal affection loved Joseph as his wife loved Emile.

For a dozen years M. Blondet bore his lot with perfect resignation. He shut his eyes to his wife’s intrigue with a dignified, well-bred composure, quite in the style of an eighteenth century grand seigneur; but, like all men with a taste for a quiet life, he could cherish a profound dislike, and he hated his younger son. When his wife died, therefore, in 1818, he turned the intruder out of the house, and packed him off to Paris to study law on an allowance of twelve hundred francs for all resource, nor could any cry of distress extract another penny from his purse. Emile Blondet would have gone under if it had not been for his real father.

M. Blondet’s house was one of the prettiest in the town. It stood almost opposite the prefecture, with a neat little court in front. A row of old-fashioned iron railings between two brick-work piers enclosed it from the street; and a low wall, also of brick, with a second row of railings along the top, connected the piers with the neighboring house. The little court, a space about ten fathoms in width by twenty in length, was cut in two by a brick pathway which ran from the gate to the house door between a border on either side. Those borders were always renewed; at every season of the year they exhibited a successful show of blossom, to the admiration of the public. All along the back of the gardenbeds a quantity of climbing plants grew up and covered the walls of the neighboring houses with a magnificent mantle; the brick-work piers were hidden in clusters of honeysuckle; and, to crown all, in a couple of terra-cotta vases at the summit, a pair of acclimatized cactuses displayed to the astonished eyes of the ignorant those thick leaves bristling with spiny defences which seem to be due to some plant disease.

It was a plain-looking house, built of brick, with brick-work arches above the windows, and bright green Venetian shutters to make it gay. Through the glass door you could look straight across the house to the opposite glass door, at the end of a long passage, and down the central alley in the garden beyond; while through the windows of the dining-room and drawing-room, which extended, like the passage from back to front of the house, you could often catch further glimpses of the flower-beds in a garden of about two acres in extent. Seen from the road, the brick-work harmonized with the fresh flowers and shrubs, for two centuries had overlaid it with mosses and green and russet tints. No one could pass through the town without falling in love with a house with such charming surroundings, so covered with flowers and mosses to the roof-ridge, where two pigeons of glazed crockery ware were perched by way of ornament.

M. Blondet possessed an income of about four thousand livres derived from land, besides the old house in the town. He meant to avenge his wrongs legitimately enough. He would leave his house, his lands, his seat on the bench to his son Joseph, and the whole town knew what he meant to do. He had made a will in that son’s favor; he had gone as far as the Code will permit a man to go in the way of disinheriting one child to benefit another; and what was more, he had been putting by money for the past fifteen years to enable his lout of a son to buy back from Emile that portion of his father’s estate which could not legally be taken away from him.

Emile Blondet thus turned adrift had contrived to gain distinction in Paris, but so far it was rather a name than a practical result. Emile’s indolence, recklessness, and happy-go-lucky ways drove his real father to despair; and when that father died, a half-ruined man, turned out of office by one of the political reactions so frequent under the Restoration, it was with a mind uneasy as to the future of a man endowed with the most brilliant qualities.

Emile Blondet found support in a friendship with a Mlle. de Troisville, whom he had known before her marriage with the Comte de Montcornet. His mother was living when the Troisvilles came back after the emigration; she was related to the family, distantly it is true, but the connection was close enough to allow her to introduce Emile to the house. She, poor woman, foresaw the future. She knew that when she died her son would lose both mother and father, a thought which made death doubly bitter, so she tried to interest others in him. She encouraged the liking that sprang up between Emile and the eldest daughter of the house of Troisville; but while the liking was exceedingly strong on the young lady’s part, a marriage was out of the question. It was a romance on the pattern of Paul et Virginie. Mme. Blondet did what she could to teach her son to look to the Troisvilles, to found a lasting attachment on a children’s game of “make-believe” love, which was bound to end as boy-and-girl romances usually do. When Mlle. de Troisville’s marriage with General Montcornet was announced, Mme. Blondet, a dying woman, went to the bride and solemnly implored her never to abandon Emile, and to use her influence for him in society in Paris, whither the General’s fortune summoned her to shine.

Luckily for Emile, he was able to make his own way. He made his appearance, at the age of twenty, as one of the masters of modern literature; and met with no less success in the society into which he was launched by the father who at first could afford to bear the expense of the young man’s extravagance. Perhaps Emile’s precocious celebrity and the good figure that he made strengthened the bonds of his friendship with the Countess. Perhaps Mme. de Montcornet, with the Russian blood in her veins (her mother was the daughter of the Princess Scherbelloff), might have cast off the friend of her childhood if he had been a poor man struggling with all his might among the difficulties which beset a man of letters in Paris; but by the time that the real strain of Emile’s adventurous life began, their attachment was unalterable on either side. He was looked upon as one of the leading lights of journalism when young d’Esgrignon met him at his first supper party in Paris; his acknowledged position in the world of letters was very high, and he towered above his reputation. Goodman Blondet had not the faintest conception of the power which the Constitutional Government had given to the press; nobody ventured to talk in his presence of the son of whom he refused to hear. And so it came to pass that he knew nothing of Emile whom he had cursed and Emile’s greatness.

Old Blondet’s integrity was as deeply rooted in him as his passion for flowers; he knew nothing but law and botany. He would have interviews with litigants, listen to them, chat with them, and show them his flowers; he would accept rare seeds from them; but once on the bench, no judge on earth was more impartial. Indeed, his manner of proceeding was so well known, that litigants never went near him except to hand over some document which might enlighten him in the performance of his duty, and nobody tried to throw dust in his eyes. With his learning, his lights, and his way of holding his real talents cheap, he was so indispensable to President du Ronceret, that, matrimonial schemes apart, that functionary would have done all that he could, in an underhand way, to prevent the vice-president from retiring in favor of his son. If the learned old man left the bench, the President would be utterly unable to do without him.

Goodman Blondet did not know that it was in Emile’s power to fulfil all his wishes in a few hours. The simplicity of his life was worthy of one of Plutarch’s men. In the evening he looked over his cases; next morning he worked among his flowers; and all day long he gave decisions on the bench. The pretty maid-servant, now of ripe age, and wrinkled like an Easter pippin, looked after the house, and they lived according to the established customs of the strictest parsimony. Mlle. Cadot always carried the keys of her cupboards and fruit-loft about with her. She was indefatigable. She went to market herself, she cooked and dusted and swept, and never missed mass of a morning. To give some idea of the domestic life of the household, it will be enough to remark that the father and son never ate fruit till it was beginning to spoil, because Mlle. Cadot always brought out anything that would not keep. No one in the house ever tasted the luxury of new bread, and all the fast days in the calendar were punctually observed. The gardener was put on rations like a soldier; the elderly Valideh always kept an eye upon him. And she, for her part, was so deferentially treated, that she took her meals with the family, and in consequence was continually trotting to and fro between the kitchen and the parlor at breakfast and dinner time.

Mlle. Blandureau’s parents had consented to her marriage with Joseph Blondet upon one condition–the penniless and briefless barrister must be an assistant judge. So, with the desire of fitting his son to fill the position, old M. Blondet racked his brains to hammer the law into his son’s head by dint of lessons, so as to make a cut-and-dried lawyer of him. As for Blondet junior, he spent almost every evening at the Blandureaus’ house, to which also young Fabien du Ronceret had been admitted since his return, without raising the slightest suspicion in the minds of father or son.

Everything in this life of theirs was measured with an accuracy worthy of Gerard Dow’s Money Changer; not a grain of salt too much, not a single profit foregone; but the economical principles by which it was regulated were relaxed in favor of the greenhouse and garden. “The garden was the master’s craze,” Mlle. Cadot used to say. The master’s blind fondness for Joseph was not a craze in her eyes; she shared the father’s predilection; she pampered Joseph; she darned his stockings; and would have been better pleased if the money spent on the garden had been put by for Joseph’s benefit.

That garden was kept in marvelous order by a single man; the paths, covered with river-sand, continually turned over with the rake, meandered among the borders full of the rarest flowers. Here were all kinds of color and scent, here were lizards on the walls, legions of little flower-pots standing out in the sun, regiments of forks and hoes, and a host of innocent things, a combination of pleasant results to justify the gardener’s charming hobby.

At the end of the greenhouse the judge had set up a grandstand, an amphitheatre of benches to hold some five or six thousand pelargoniums in pots–a splendid and famous show. People came to see his geraniums in flower, not only from the neighborhood, but even from the departments round about. The Empress Marie Louise, passing through the town, had honored the curiously kept greenhouse with a visit; so much was she impressed with the sight, that she spoke of it to Napoleon, and the old judge received the Cross of the Legion of Honor. But as the learned gardener never mingled in society at all, and went nowhere except to the Blandureaus, he had no suspicion of the President’s underhand manoeuvres; and others who could see the President’s intentions were far too much afraid of him to interfere or to warn the inoffensive Blondets.

As for Michu, that young man with his powerful connections gave much more thought to making himself agreeable to the women in the upper social circles to which he was introduced by the Cinq-Cygnes, than to the extremely simple business of a provincial Tribunal. With his independent means (he had an income of twelve thousand livres), he was courted by mothers of daughters, and led a frivolous life. He did just enough at the Tribunal to satisfy his conscience, much as a schoolboy does his exercises, saying ditto on all occasions, with a “Yes, dear President.” But underneath the appearance of indifference lurked the unusual powers of the Paris law student who had distinguished himself as one of the staff of prosecuting counsel before he came to the provinces. He was accustomed to taking broad views of things; he could do rapidly what the President and Blondet could only do after much thinking, and very often solved knotty points for them. In delicate conjunctures the President and Vice-President took counsel with their junior, confided thorny questions to him, and never failed to wonder at the readiness with which he brought back a task in which old Blondet found nothing to criticise. Michu was sure of the influence of the most crabbed aristocrats, and he was young and rich; he lived, therefore, above the level of departmental intrigues and pettinesses. He was an indispensable man at picnics, he frisked with young ladies and paid court to their mothers, he danced at balls, he gambled like a capitalist. In short, he played his part of young lawyer of fashion to admiration; without, at the same time, compromising his dignity, which he knew how to assert at the right moment like a man of spirit. He won golden opinions by the manner in which he threw himself into provincial ways, without criticising them; and for these reasons, every one endeavored to make his time of exile endurable.

The public prosecutor was a lawyer of the highest ability; he had taken the plunge into political life, and was one of the most distinguished speakers on the ministerialist benches. The President stood in awe of him; if he had not been away in Paris at the time, no steps would have been taken against Victurnien; his dexterity, his experience of business, would have prevented the whole affair. At that moment, however, he was in the Chamber of Deputies, and the President and du Croisier had taken advantage of his absence to weave their plot, calculating, with a certain ingenuity, that if once the law stepped in, and the matter was noised abroad, things would have gone too far to be remedied.

As a matter of fact, no staff of prosecuting counsel in any Tribunal, at that particular time, would have taken up a charge of forgery against the eldest son of one of the noblest houses in France without going into the case at great length, and a special reference, in all probability, to the Attorney-General. In such a case as this, the authorities and the Government would have tried endless ways of compromising and hushing up an affair which might send an imprudent young man to the hulks. They would very likely have done the same for a Liberal family in a prominent position, so long as the Liberals were not too openly hostile to the throne and the altar. So du Croisier’s charge and the young Count’s arrest had not been very easy to manage. The President and du Croisier had compassed their ends in the following manner.

M. Sauvager, a young Royalist barrister, had reached the position of deputy public prosecutor by dint of subservience to the Ministry. In the absence of his chief he was head of the staff of counsel for prosecution, and, consequently, it fell to him to take up the charge made by du Croisier. Sauvager was a self-made man; he had nothing but his stipend; and for that reason the authorities reckoned upon some one who had everything to gain by devotion. The President now exploited the position. No sooner was the document with the alleged forgery in du Croisier’s hands, than Mme. la Presidente du Ronceret, prompted by her spouse, had a long conversation with M. Sauvager. In the course of it she pointed out the uncertainties of a career in the magistrature debout compared with the magistrature assise, and the advantages of the bench over the bar; she showed how a freak on the part of some official, or a single false step, might ruin a man’s career.

“If you are conscientious and give your conclusions against the powers that be, you are lost,” continued she. “Now, at this moment, you might turn your position to account to make a fine match that would put you above unlucky chances for the rest of your life; you may marry a wife with fortune sufficient to land you on the bench, in the magistrature assise. There is a fine chance for you. M. du Croisier will never have any children; everybody knows why. His money, and his wife’s as well, will go to his niece, Mlle. Duval. M. Duval is an ironmaster, his purse is tolerably filled, to begin with, and his father is still alive, and has a little property besides. The father and son have a million of francs between them; they will double it with du Croisier’s help, for du Croisier has business connections among great capitalists and manufacturers in Paris. M. and Mme. Duval the younger would be certain to give their daughter to a suitor brought forward by du Croisier, for he is sure to leave two fortunes to his niece; and, in all probability, he will settle the reversion of his wife’s property upon Mlle. Duval in the marriage contract, for Mme. du Croisier has no kin. You know how du Croisier hates the d’Esgrignons. Do him a service, be his man, take up this charge of forgery which he is going to make against young d’Esgrignon, and follow up the proceedings at once without consulting the public prosecutor at Paris. And, then, pray Heaven that the Ministry dismisses you for doing your office impartially, in spite of the powers that be; for if they do, your fortune is made! You will have a charming wife and thirty thousand francs a year with her, to say nothing of four millions expectations in ten years’ time.”

In two evenings Sauvager was talked over. Both he and the President kept the affair a secret from old Blondet, from Michu, and from the second member of the staff of prosecuting counsel. Feeling sure of Blondet’s impartiality on a question of fact, the President made certain of a majority without counting Camusot. And now Camusot’s unexpected defection had thrown everything out. What the President wanted was a committal for trial before the public prosecutor got warning. How if Camusot or the second counsel for the prosecution should send word to Paris?

And here some portion of Camusot’s private history may perhaps explain how it came to pass that Chesnel took it for granted that the examining magistrate would be on the d’Esgrignons’ side, and how he had the boldness to tamper in the open street with that representative of justice.

Camusot’s father, a well-known silk mercer in the Rue des Bourdonnais, was ambitious for the only son of his first marriage, and brought him up to the law. When Camusot junior took a wife, he gained with her the influence of an usher of the Royal cabinet, backstairs influence, it is true, but still sufficient, since it had brought him his first appointment as justice of the peace, and the second as examining magistrate. At the time of his marriage, his father only settled an income of six thousand francs upon him (the amount of his mother’s fortune, which he could legally claim), and as Mlle. Thirion brought him no more than twenty thousand francs as her portion, the young couple knew the hardships of hidden poverty. The salary of a provincial justice of the peace does not exceed fifteen hundred francs, while an examining magistrate’s stipend is augmented by something like a thousand francs, because his position entails expenses and extra work. The post, therefore, is much coveted, though it is not permanent, and the work is heavy, and that was why Mme. Camusot had just scolded her husband for allowing the President to read his thoughts.

Marie Cecile Amelie Thirion, after three years of marriage, perceived the blessing of Heaven upon it in the regularity of two auspicious events–the births of a girl and a boy; but she prayed to be less blessed in the future. A few more of such blessings would turn straitened means into distress. M. Camusot’s father’s money was not likely to come to them for a long time; and, rich as he was, he would scarcely leave more than eight or ten thousand francs a year to each of his children, four in number, for he had been married twice. And besides, by the time that all “expectations,” as matchmakers call them, were realized, would not the magistrate have children of his own to settle in life? Any one can imagine the situation for a little woman with plenty of sense and determination, and Mme. Camusot was such a woman. She did not refrain from meddling in matters judicial. She had far too strong a sense of the gravity of a false step in her husband’s career.

She was the only child of an old servant of Louis XVIII., a valet who had followed his master in his wanderings in Italy, Courland, and England, till after the Restoration the King awarded him with the one place that he could fill at Court, and made him usher by rotation to the royal cabinet. So in Amelie’s home there had been, as it were, a sort of reflection of the Court. Thirion used to tell her about the lords, and ministers, and great men whom he announced and introduced and saw passing to and fro. The girl, brought up at the gates of the Tuileries, had caught some tincture of the maxims practised there, and adopted the dogma of passive obedience to authority. She had sagely judged that her husband, by ranging himself on the side of the d’Esgrignons, would find favor with Mme. la Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, and with two powerful families on whose influence with the King the Sieur Thirion could depend at an opportune moment. Camusot might get an appointment at the first opportunity within the jurisdiction of Paris, and afterwards at Paris itself. That promotion, dreamed of and longed for at every moment, was certain to have a salary of six thousand francs attached to it, as well as the alleviation of living in her own father’s house, or under the Camusots’ roof, and all the advantages of a father’s fortune on either side. If the adage, “Out of sight is out of mind,” holds good of most women, it is particularly true where family feeling or royal or ministerial patronage is concerned. The personal attendants of kings prosper at all times; you take an interest in a man, be it only a man in livery, if you see him every day.

Mme. Camusot, regarding herself as a bird of passage, had taken a little house in the Rue du Cygne. Furnished lodgings there were none; the town was not enough of a thoroughfare, and the Camusots could not afford to live at an inn like M. Michu. So the fair Parisian had no choice for it but to take such furniture as she could find; and as she paid a very moderate rent, the house was remarkably ugly, albeit a certain quaintness of detail was not wanting. It was built against a neighboring house in such a fashion that the side with only one window in each story, gave upon the street, and the front looked out upon a yard where rose-bushes and buckhorn were growing along the wall on either side. On the farther side, opposite the house, stood a shed, a roof over two brick arches. A little wicket-gate gave entrance into the gloomy place (made gloomier still by the great walnut-tree which grew in the yard), but a double flight of steps, with an elaborately-wrought but rust-eaten handrail, led to the house door. Inside the house there were two rooms on each floor. The dining-room occupied that part of the ground floor nearest the street, and the kitchen lay on the other side of a narrow passage almost wholly taken up by the wooden staircase. Of the two first-floor rooms, one did duty as the magistrate’s study, the other as a bedroom, while the nursery and the servants’ bedroom stood above in the attics. There were no ceilings in the house; the cross-beams were simply white-washed and the spaces plastered over. Both rooms on the first floor and the dining-room below were wainscoted and adorned with the labyrinthine designs which taxed the patience of the eighteenth century joiner; but the carving had been painted a dingy gray most depressing to behold.

The magistrate’s study looked as though it belonged to a provincial lawyer; it contained a big bureau, a mahogany armchair, a law student’s books, and shabby belongings transported from Paris. Mme. Camusot’s room was more of a native product; it boasted a blue-and-white scheme of decoration, a carpet, and that anomalous kind of furniture which appears to be in the fashion, while it is simply some style that has failed in Paris. As to the dining-room, it was nothing but an ordinary provincial dining-room, bare and chilly, with a damp, faded paper on the walls.

In this shabby room, with nothing to see but the walnut-tree, the dark leaves growing against the walls, and the almost deserted road beyond them, a somewhat lively and frivolous woman, accustomed to the amusements and stir of Paris, used to sit all day long, day after day, and for the most part of the time alone, though she received tiresome and inane visits which led her to think her loneliness preferable to empty tittle-tattle. If she permitted herself the slightest gleam of intelligence, it gave rise to interminable comment and embittered her condition. She occupied herself a great deal with her children, not so much from taste as for the sake of an interest in her almost solitary life, and exercised her mind on the only subjects which she could find –to wit, the intrigues which went on around her, the ways of provincials, and the ambitions shut in by their narrow horizons. So she very soon fathomed mysteries of which her husband had no idea. As she sat at her window with a piece of intermittent embroidery work in her fingers, she did not see her woodshed full of faggots nor the servant busy at the wash tub; she was looking out upon Paris, Paris where everything is pleasure, everything is full of life. She dreamed of Paris gaieties, and shed tears because she must abide in this dull prison of a country town. She was disconsolate because she lived in a peaceful district, where no conspiracy, no great affair would ever occur. She saw herself doomed to sit under the shadow of the walnut-tree for some time to come.

Mme. Camusot was a little, plump, fresh, fair-haired woman, with a very prominent forehead, a mouth which receded, and a turned-up chin, a type of countenance which is passable in youth, but looks old before the time. Her bright, quick eyes expressed her innocent desire to get on in the world, and the envy born of her present inferior position, with rather too much candor; but still they lighted up her commonplace face and set it off with a certain energy of feeling, which success was certain to extinguish in later life. At that time she used to give a good deal of time and thought to her dresses, inventing trimmings and embroidering them; she planned out her costumes with the maid whom she had brought with her from Paris, and so maintained the reputation of Parisiennes in the provinces. Her caustic tongue was dreaded; she was not loved. In that keen, investigating spirit peculiar to unoccupied women who are driven to find some occupation for empty days, she had pondered the President’s private opinions, until at length she discovered what he meant to do, and for some time past she had advised Camusot to declare war. The young Count’s affair was an excellent opportunity. Was it not obviously Camusot’s part to make a stepping-stone of this criminal case by favoring the d’Esgrignons, a family with power of a very different kind from the power of the du Croisier party?

“Sauvager will never marry Mlle. Duval. They are dangling her before him, but he will be the dupe of those Machiavels in the Val-Noble to whom he is going to sacrifice his position. Camusot, this affair, so unfortunate as it is for the d’Esgrignons, so insidiously brought on by the President for du Croisier’s benefit, will turn out well for nobody but /you/,” she had said, as they went in.

The shrewd Parisienne had likewise guessed the President’s underhand manoeuvres with the Blandureaus, and his object in baffling old Blondet’s efforts, but she saw nothing to be gained by opening the eyes of father or son to the perils of the situation; she was enjoying the beginning of the comedy; she knew about the proposals made by Chesnel’s successor on behalf of Fabien du Ronceret, but she did not suspect how important that secret might be to her. If she or her husband were threatened by the President, Mme. Camusot could threaten too, in her turn, to call the amateur gardener’s attention to a scheme for carrying off the flower which he meant to transplant into his house.

Chesnel had not penetrated, like Mme. Camusot, into the means by which Sauvager had been won over; but by dint of looking into the various lives and interests of the men grouped about the Lilies of the Tribunal, he knew that he could count upon the public prosecutor, upon Camusot, and M. Michu. Two judges for the d’Esgrignons would paralyze the rest. And, finally, Chesnel knew old Blondet well enough to feel sure that if he ever swerved from impartiality, it would be for the sake of the work of his whole lifetime,–to secure his son’s appointment. So Chesnel slept, full of confidence, on the resolve to go to M. Blondet and offer to realize his so long cherished hopes, while he opened his eyes to President du Ronceret’s treachery. Blondet won over, he would take a peremptory tone with the examining magistrate, to whom he hoped to prove that if Victurnien was not blameless, he had been merely imprudent; the whole thing should be shown in the light of a boy’s thoughtless escapade.

But Chesnel slept neither soundly nor for long. Before dawn he was awakened by his housekeeper. The most bewitching person in this history, the most adorable youth on the face of the globe, Mme. la Duchesse de Maufrigneuse herself, in man’s attire, had driven alone from Paris in a caleche, and was waiting to see him.

“I have come to save him or to die with him,” said she, addressing the notary, who thought that he was dreaming. “I have brought a hundred thousand francs, given me by His Majesty out of his private purse, to buy Victurnien’s innocence, if his adversary can be bribed. If we fail utterly, I have brought poison to snatch him away before anything takes place, before even the indictment is drawn up. But we shall not fail. I have sent word to the public prosecutor; he is on the road behind me; he could not travel in my caleche, because he wished to take the instructions of the Keeper of the Seals.”

Chesnel rose to the occasion and played up to the Duchess; he wrapped himself in his dressing-gown, fell at her feet, and kissed them, not without asking her pardon for forgetting himself in his joy.

“We are saved!” cried he; and gave orders to Brigitte to see that Mme. la Duchesse had all that she needed after traveling post all night. He appealed to the fair Diane’s spirit, by making her see that it was absolutely necessary that she should visit the examining magistrate before daylight, lest any one should discover the secret, or so much as imagine that the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse had come.

“And have I not a passport in due form?” quoth she, displaying a sheet of paper, wherein she was described as M. le Vicomte Felix de Vandeness, Master of Requests, and His Majesty’s private secretary. “And do I not play my man’s part well?” she added, running her fingers through her wig a la Titus, and twirling her riding switch.

“O! Mme. la Duchesse, you are an angel!” cried Chesnel, with tears in his eyes. (She was destined always to be an angel, even in man’s attire.) “Button up your greatcoat, muffle yourself up to the eyes in your traveling cloak, take my arm, and let us go as quickly as possible to Camusot’s house before anybody can meet us.”

“Then am I going to see a man called Camusot?” she asked.

“With a nose to match his name,”[*] assented Chesnel.

[*] Camus, flat-nosed

The old notary felt his heart dead within him, but he thought it none the less necessary to humor the Duchess, to laugh when she laughed, and shed tears when she wept; groaning in spirit, all the same, over the feminine frivolity which could find matter for a jest while setting about a matter so serious. What would he not have done to save the Count? While Chesnel dressed; Mme. de Maufrigneuse sipped the cup of coffee and cream which Brigitte brought her, and agreed with herself that provincial women cooks are superior to Parisian chefs, who despise the little details which make all the difference to an epicure. Thanks to Chesnel’s taste for delicate fare, Brigitte was found prepared to set an excellent meal before the Duchess.

Chesnel and his charming companion set out for M. and Mme. Camusot’s house.

“Ah! so there is a Mme. Camusot?” said the Duchess. “Then the affair may be managed.”

“And so much the more readily, because the lady is visibly tired enough of living among us provincials; she comes from Paris,” said Chesnel.

“Then we must have no secrets from her?”

“You will judge how much to tell or to conceal,” Chesnel replied humbly. “I am sure that she will be greatly flattered to be the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse’s hostess; you will be obliged to stay in her house until nightfall, I expect, unless you find it inconvenient to remain.”

“Is this Mme. Camusot a good-looking woman?” asked the Duchess, with a coxcomb’s air.

“She is a bit of a queen in her own house.”

“Then she is sure to meddle in court-house affairs,” returned the Duchess. “Nowhere but in France, my dear M. Chesnel, do you see women so much wedded to their husbands that they are wedded to their husband’s professions, work, or business as well. In Italy, England, and Germany, women make it a point of honor to leave men to fight their own battles; they shut their eyes to their husbands’ work as perseveringly as our French citizens’ wives do all that in them lies to understand the position of their joint-stock partnership; is not that what you call it in your legal language? Frenchwomen are so incredibly jealous in the conduct of their married life, that they insist on knowing everything; and that is how, in the least difficulty, you feel the wife’s hand in the business; the Frenchwoman advises, guides, and warns her husband. And, truth to tell, the man is none the worse off. In England, if a married man is put in prison for debt for twenty-four hours, his wife will be jealous and make a scene when he comes back.”

“Here we are, without meeting a soul on the way,” said Chesnel. “You are the more sure of complete ascendency here, Mme. la Duchesse, since Mme. Camusot’s father is one Thirion, usher of the royal cabinet.”

“And the King never thought of that!” exclaimed the Duchess. “He thinks of nothing! Thirion introduced us, the Prince de Cadignan, M. de Vandeness, and me! We shall have it all our own way in this house. Settle everything with M. Camusot while I talk to his wife.”

The maid, who was washing and dressing the children, showed the visitors into the little fireless dining-room.

“Take that card to your mistress,” said the Duchess, lowering her voice for the woman’s ear; “nobody else is to see it. If you are discreet, child, you shall not lose by it.”

At the sound of a woman’s voice, and the sight of the handsome young man’s face, the maid looked thunderstruck.

“Wake M. Camusot,” said Chesnel, “and tell him, that I am waiting to see him on important business,” and she departed upstairs forthwith.

A few minutes later Mme. Camusot, in her dressing-gown, sprang downstairs and brought the handsome stranger into her room. She had pushed Camusot out of bed and into his study with all his clothes, bidding him dress himself at once and wait there. The transformation scene had been brought about by a bit of pasteboard with the words MADAME LA DUCHESSE DE MAUFRIGNEUSE engraved upon it. A daughter of the usher of the royal cabinet took in the whole situation at once.

“Well!” exclaimed the maid-servant, left with Chesnel in the dining-room, “Would not any one think that a thunderbolt had dropped in among us? The master is dressing in his study; you can go upstairs.”

“Not a word of all this, mind,” said Chesnel.

Now that he was conscious of the support of a great lady who had the King’s consent (by word of mouth) to the measures about to be taken for rescuing the Comte d’Esgrignon, he spoke with an air of authority, which served his cause much better with Camusot than the humility with which he would otherwise have approached him.

“Sir,” said he, “the words let fall last evening may have surprised you, but they are serious. The house of d’Esgrignon counts upon you for the proper conduct of investigations from which it must issue without a spot.”

“I shall pass over anything in your remarks, sir, which must be offensive to me personally, and obnoxious to justice; for your position with regard to the d’Esgrignons excuses you up to a certain point, but—-“

“Pardon me, sir, if I interrupt you,” said Chesnel. “I have just spoken aloud the things which your superiors are thinking and dare not avow; though what those things are any intelligent man can guess, and you are an intelligent man.–Grant that the young man had acted imprudently, can you suppose that the sight of a d’Esgrignon dragged into an Assize Court can be gratifying to the King, the Court, or the Ministry? Is it to the interest of the kingdom, or of the country, that historic houses should fall? Is not the existence of a great aristocracy, consecrated by time, a guarantee of that Equality which is the catchword of the Opposition at this moment? Well and good; now not only has there not been the slightest imprudence, but we are innocent victims caught in a trap.”

“I am curious to know how,” said the examining magistrate.

“For the last two years, the Sieur du Croisier has regularly allowed M. le Comte d’Esgrignon to draw upon him for very large sums,” said Chesnel. “We are going to produce drafts for more than a hundred thousand crowns, which he continually met; the amounts being remitted by me–bear that well in mind–either before or after the bills fell due. M. le Comte d’Esgrignon is in a position to produce a receipt for the sum paid by him, before this bill, this alleged forgery was drawn. Can you fail to see in that case that this charge is a piece of spite and party feeling? And a charge brought against the heir of a great house by one of the most dangerous enemies of the Throne and Altar, what is it but an odious slander? There has been no more forgery in this affair than there has been in my office. Summon Mme. du Croisier, who knows nothing as yet of the charge of forgery; she will declare to you that I brought the money and paid it over to her, so that in her husband’s absence she might remit the amount for which he has not asked her. Examine du Croisier on the point; he will tell you that he knows nothing of my payment to Mme. du Croisier.

“You may make such assertions as these, sir, in M. d’Esgrignon’s salon, or in any other house where people know nothing of business, and they may be believed; but no examining magistrate, unless he is a driveling idiot, can imagine that a woman like Mme. du Croisier, so submissive as she is to her husband, has a hundred thousand crowns lying in her desk at this moment, without saying a word to him; nor yet that an old notary would not have advised M. du Croisier of the deposit on his return to town.”

“The old notary, sir, had gone to Paris to put a stop to the young man’s extravagance.”

“I have not yet examined the Comte d’Esgrignon,” Camusot began; “his answers will point out my duty.”

“Is he in close custody?”


“Sir,” said Chesnel, seeing danger ahead, “the examination can be made in our interests or against them. But there are two courses open to you: you can establish the fact on Mme. du Croisier’s deposition that the amount was deposited with her before the bill was drawn; or you can examine the unfortunate young man implicated in this affair, and he in his confusion may remember nothing and commit himself. You will decide which is the more credible–a slip of memory on the part of a woman in her ignorance of business, or a forgery committed by a d’Esgrignon.”

“All this is beside the point,” began Camusot; “the question is, whether M. le Comte d’Esgrignon has or has not used the lower half of a letter addressed to him by du Croisier as a bill of exchange.”

“Eh! and so he might,” a voice cried suddenly, as Mme. Camusot broke in, followed by the handsome stranger, “so he might when M. Chesnel had advanced the money to meet the bill—-“

She leant over her husband.

“You will have the first vacant appointment as assistant judge at Paris, you are serving the King himself in this affair; I have proof of it; you will not be forgotten,” she said, lowering her voice in his ear. “This young man that you see here is the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse; you must never have seen her, and do all that you can for the young Count boldly.”

“Gentlemen,” said Camusot, “even if the preliminary examination is conducted to prove the young Count’s innocence, can I answer for the view the court may take? M. Chesnel, and you also, my sweet, know what M. le President wants.”

“Tut, tut, tut!” said Mme. Camusot, “go yourself to M. Michu this morning, and tell him that the Count has been arrested; you will be two against two in that case, I will be bound. /Michu/ comes from Paris, and you know he is devoted to the noblesse. Good blood cannot lie.”

At that very moment Mlle. Cadot’s voice was heard in the doorway. She had brought a note, and was waiting for an answer. Camusot went out, and came back again to read the note aloud:

“M. le Vice-President begs M. Camusot to sit in audience to-day and for the next few days, so that there may be a quorum during M. le President’s absence.”

“Then there is an end of the preliminary examination!” cried Mme. Camusot. “Did I not tell you, dear, that they would play you some ugly trick? The President has gone off to slander you to the public prosecutor and the President of the Court-Royal. You will be changed before you can make the examination. Is that clear?”

“You will stay, monsieur,” said the Duchess. “The public prosecutor is coming, I hope, in time.”

“When the public prosecutor arrives,” little Mme. Camusot said, with some heat, “he must find all over.–Yes, my dear, yes,” she added, looking full at her amazed husband.–“Ah! old hypocrite of a President, you are setting your wits against us; you shall remember it! You have a mind to help us to a dish of your own making, you shall have two served up to you by your humble servant Cecile Amelie Thirion!–Poor old Blondet! It is lucky for him that the President has taken this journey to turn us out, for now that great oaf of a Joseph Blondet will marry Mlle. Blandureau. I will let Father Blondet have some seeds in return.–As for you, Camusot, go to M. Michu’s, while Mme. la Duchesse and I will go to find old Blondet. You must expect to hear it said all over the town to-morrow that I took a walk with a lover this morning.”

Mme. Camusot took the Duchess’ arm, and they went through the town by deserted streets to avoid any unpleasant adventure on the way to the old Vice-President’s house. Chesnel meanwhile conferred with the young Count in prison; Camusot had arranged a stolen interview. Cook-maids, servants, and the other early risers of a country town, seeing Mme. Camusot and the Duchess taking their way through the back streets, took the young gentleman for an adorer from Paris. That evening, as Cecile Amelie had said, the news of her behavior was circulated about the town, and more than one scandalous rumor was occasioned thereby. Mme. Camusot and her supposed lover found old Blondet in his greenhouse. He greeted his colleague’s wife and her companion, and gave the charming young man a keen, uneasy glance.

“I have the honor to introduce one of my husband’s cousins,” said Mme. Camusot, bringing forward the Duchess; “he is one of the most distinguished horticulturists in Paris; and as he cannot spend more than one day with us, on his way back from Brittany, and has heard of your flowers and plants, I have taken the liberty of coming early.”

“Oh, the gentleman is a horticulturist, is he?” said the old Blondet.

The Duchess bowed.

“This is my coffee-plant,” said Blondet, “and here is a tea-plant.”

“What can have taken M. le President away from home?” put in Mme. Camusot. “I will wager that his absence concerns M. Camusot.”

“Exactly.–This, monsieur, is the queerest of all cactuses,” he continued, producing a flower-pot which appeared to contain a piece of mildewed rattan; “it comes from Australia. You are very young, sir, to be a horticulturist.”

“Dear M. Blondet, never mind your flowers,” said Mme. Camusot. “/You/ are concerned, you and your hopes, and your son’s marriage with Mlle. Blandureau. You are duped by the President.”

“Bah!” said old Blondet, with an incredulous air.

“Yes,” retorted she. “If you cultivated people a little more and your flowers a little less, you would know that the dowry and the hopes you have sown, and watered, and tilled, and weeded are on the point of being gathered now by cunning hands.”


“Oh, nobody in the town will have the courage to fly in the President’s face and warn you. I, however, do not belong to the town, and, thanks to this obliging young man, I shall soon be going back to Paris; so I can inform you that Chesnel’s successor has made formal proposals for Mlle. Claire Blandureau’s hand on behalf of young du Ronceret, who is to have fifty thousand crowns from his parents. As for Fabien, he has made up his mind to receive a call to the bar, so as to gain an appointment as judge.”

Old Blondet dropped the flower-pot which he had brought out for the Duchess to see.

“Oh, my cactus! Oh, my son! and Mlle. Blandureau! . . . Look here! the cactus flower is broken to pieces.”

“No,” Mme. Camusot answered, laughing; “everything can be put right. If you have a mind to see your son a judge in another month, we will tell you how you must set to work—-“

“Step this way, sir, and you will see my pelargoniums, an enchanting sight while they are in flower—-” Then he added to Mme. Camusot, “Why did you speak of these matters while your cousin was present.”

“All depends upon him,” riposted Mme. Camusot. “Your son’s appointment is lost for ever if you let fall a word about this young man.”


“The young man is a flower—-“


“He is the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, sent here by His Majesty to save young d’Esgrignon, whom they arrested yesterday on a charge of forgery brought against him by du Croisier. Mme. la Duchesse has authority from the Keeper of the Seals; he will ratify any promises that she makes to us—-“

“My cactus is all right!” exclaimed Blondet, peering at his precious plant.–“Go on, I am listening.”

“Take counsel with Camusot and Michu to hush up the affair as soon as possible, and your son will get the appointment. It will come in time enough to baffle du Ronceret’s underhand dealings with the Blandureaus. Your son will be something better than assistant judge; he will have M. Camusot’s post within the year. The public prosecutor will be here to-day. M. Sauvager will be obliged to resign, I expect, after his conduct in this affair. At the court my husband will show you documents which completely exonerate the Count and prove that the forgery was a trap of du Croisier’s own setting.”

Old Blondet went into the Olympic circus where his six thousand pelargoniums stood, and made his bow to the Duchess.

“Monsieur,” said he, “if your wishes do not exceed the law, this thing may be done.”

“Monsieur,” returned the Duchess, “send in your resignation to M. Chesnel to-morrow, and I will promise you that your son shall be appointed within the week; but you must not resign until you have had confirmation of my promise from the public prosecutor. You men of law will come to a better understanding among yourselves. Only let him know that the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse had pledged her word to you. And not a word as to my journey hither,” she added.

The old judge kissed her hand and began recklessly to gather his best flowers for her.

“Can you think of it? Give them to madame,” said the Duchess. “A young man should not have flowers about him when he has a pretty woman on his arm.”

“Before you go down to the court,” added Mme. Camusot, “ask Chesnel’s successor about those proposals that he made in the name of M. and Mme. du Ronceret.”

Old Blondet, quite overcome by this revelation of the President’s duplicity, stood planted on his feet by the wicket gate, looking after the two women as they hurried away through by-streets home again. The edifice raised so painfully during ten years for his beloved son was crumbling visibly before his eyes. Was it possible? He suspected some trick, and hurried away to Chesnel’s successor.

At half-past nine, before the court was sitting, Vice-President Blondet, Camusot, and Michu met with remarkable punctuality in the council chamber. Blondet locked the door with some precautions when Camusot and Michu came in together.

“Well, Mr. Vice-President,” began Michu, “M. Sauvager, without consulting the public prosecutor, has issued a warrant for the apprehension of one Comte d’Esgrignon, in order to serve a grudge borne against him by one du Croisier, an enemy of the King’s government. It is a regular topsy-turvy affair. The President, for his part, goes away, and thereby puts a stop to the preliminary examination! And we know nothing of the matter. Do they, by any chance, mean to force our hand?”

“This is the first word I have heard of it,” said the Vice-President. He was furious with the President for stealing a march on him with the Blandureaus. Chesnel’s successor, the du Roncerets’ man, had just fallen into a snare set by the old judge; the truth was out, he knew the secret.

“It is lucky that we spoke to you about the matter, my dear master,” said Camusot, “or you might have given up all hope of seating your son on the bench or of marrying him to Mlle. Blandureau.”

“But it is no question of my son, nor of his marriage,” said the Vice-President; “we are talking of young Comte d’Esgrignon. Is he or is he not guilty?”

“It seems that Chesnel deposited the amount to meet the bill with Mme. du Croisier,” said Michu, “and a crime has been made of a mere irregularity. According to the charge, the Count made use of the lower half of a letter bearing du Croisier’s signature as a draft which he cashed at the Kellers’.”

“An imprudent thing to do,” was Camusot’s comment.

“But why is du Croisier proceeding against him if the amount was paid in beforehand?” asked Vice-President Blondet.

“He does not know that the money was deposited with his wife; or he pretends that he does not know,” said Camusot.

“It is a piece of provincial spite,” said Michu.

“Still it looks like a forgery to me,” said old Blondet. No passion could obscure judicial clear-sightedness in him.

“Do you think so?” returned Camusot. “But, at the outset, supposing that the Count had no business to draw upon du Croisier, there would still be no forgery of the signature; and the Count believed that he had a right to draw on Croisier when Chesnel advised him that the money had been placed to his credit.”

“Well, then, where is the forgery?” asked Blondet. “It is the intent to defraud which constitutes forgery in a civil action.”

“Oh, it is clear, if you take du Croisier’s version for truth, that the signature was diverted from its purpose to obtain a sum of money in spite of du Croisier’s contrary injunction to his bankers,” Camusot answered.

“Gentlemen,” said Blondet, “this seems to me to be a mere triffle, a quibble.–Suppose you had the money, I ought perhaps to have waited until I had your authorization; but I, Comte d’Esgrignon, was pressed for money, so I—- Come, come, your prosecution is a piece of revengeful spite. Forgery is defined by the law as an attempt to obtain any advantage which rightfully belongs to another. There is no forgery here, according to the letter of the Roman law, nor according to the spirit of modern jurisprudence (always from the point of a civil action, for we are not here concerned with the falsification of public or authentic documents). Between private individuals the essence of a forgery is the intent to defraud; where is it in this case? In what times are we living, gentlemen? Here is the President going away to balk a preliminary examination which ought to be over by this time! Until to-day I did not know M. le President, but he shall have the benefit of arrears; from this time forth he shall draft his decisions himself. You must set about this affair with all possible speed, M. Camusot.”

“Yes,” said Michu. “In my opinion, instead of letting the young man out on bail, we ought to pull him out of this mess at once. Everything turns on the examination of du Croisier and his wife. You might summons them to appear while the court is sitting, M. Camusot; take down their depositions before four o’clock, send in your report to-night, and we will give our decision in the morning before the court sits.”

“We will settle what course to pursue while the barristers are pleading,” said Vice-President Blondet, addressing Camusot.

And with that the three judges put on their robes and went into court.

At noon Mlle. Armande and the Bishop reached the Hotel d’Esgrignon; Chesnel and M. Couturier were there to meet them. There was a sufficiently short conference between the prelate and Mme. du Croisier’s director, and the latter set out at once to visit his charge.

At eleven o’clock that morning du Croisier received a summons to appear in the examining magistrate’s office between one and two in the afternoon. Thither he betook himself, consumed by well-founded suspicions. It was impossible that the President should have foreseen the arrival of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse upon the scene, the return of the public prosecutor, and the hasty confabulation of his learned brethren; so he had omitted to trace out a plan for du Croisier’s guidance in the event of the preliminary examination taking place. Neither of the pair imagined that the proceedings would be hurried on in this way. Du Croisier obeyed the summons at once; he wanted to know how M. Camusot was disposed to act. So he was compelled to answer the questions put to him. Camusot addressed him in summary fashion with the six following inquiries:–

“Was the signature on the bill alleged to be a forgery in your handwriting?–Had you previously done business with M. le Comte d’Esgrignon?–Was not M. le Comte d’Esgrignon in the habit of drawing upon you, with or without advice?–Did you not write a letter authorizing M. d’Esgrignon to rely upon you at any time?– Had not Chesnel squared the account not once, but many times already?– Were you not away from home when this took place?”

All these questions the banker answered in the affirmative. In spite of wordy explanations, the magistrate always brought him back to a “Yes” or “No.” When the questions and answers alike had been resumed in the proces-verbal, the examining magistrate brought out a final thunderbolt.

“Was du Croisier aware that the money destined to meet the bill had been deposited with him, du Croisier, according to Chesnel’s declaration, and a letter of advice sent by the said Chesnel to the Comte d’Esgrignon, five days before the date of the bill?”

That last question frightened du Croisier. He asked what was meant by it, and whether he was supposed to be the defendant and M. le Comte d’Esgrignon the plaintiff? He called the magistrate’s attention to the fact that if the money had been deposited with him, there was no ground for the action.

“Justice is seeking information,” said the magistrate, as he dismissed the witness, but not before he had taken down du Croisier’s last observation.

“But the money, sir—-“

“The money is at your house.”

Chesnel, likewise summoned, came forward to explain the matter. The truth of his assertions was borne out by Mme. du Croisier’s deposition. The Count had already been examined. Prompted by Chesnel, he produced du Croisier’s first letter, in which he begged the Count to draw upon him without the insulting formality of depositing the amount beforehand. The Comte d’Esgrignon next brought out a letter in Chesnel’s handwriting, by which the notary advised him of the deposit of a hundred thousand crowns with M. du Croisier. With such primary facts as these to bring forward as evidence, the young Count’s innocence was bound to emerge triumphantly from a court of law.

Du Croisier went home from the court, his face white with rage, and the foam of repressed fury on his lips. His wife was sitting by the fireside in the drawing-room at work upon a pair of slippers for him. She trembled when she looked into his face, but her mind was made up.

“Madame,” he stammered out, “what deposition is this that you made before the magistrate? You have dishonored, ruined, and betrayed me!”

“I have saved you, monsieur,” answered she. “If some day you will have the honor of connecting yourself with the d’Esgrignons by marrying your niece to the Count, it will be entirely owing to my conduct to-day.”

“A miracle!” cried he. “Balaam’s ass has spoken. Nothing will astonish me after this. And where are the hundred thousand crowns which (so M. Camusot tells me) are here in my house?”

“Here they are,” said she, pulling out a bundle of banknotes from beneath the cushions of her settee. “I have not committed mortal sin by declaring that M. Chesnel gave them into my keeping.”

“While I was away?”

“You were not here.”

“Will you swear that to me on your salvation?”

“I swear it,” she said composedly.

“Then why did you say nothing to me about it?” demanded he.

“I was wrong there,” said his wife, “but my mistake was all for your good. Your niece will be Marquise d’Esgrignon some of these days, and you will perhaps be a deputy, if you behave well in this deplorable business. You have gone too far; you must find out how to get back again.”

Du Croisier, under stress of painful agitation, strode up and down his drawing-room; while his wife, in no less agitation, awaited the result of this exercise. Du Croisier at length rang the bell.

“I am not at home to any one to-night,” he said, when the man appeared; “shut the gates; and if any one calls, tell them that your mistress and I have gone into the country. We shall start directly after dinner, and dinner must be half an hour earlier than usual.”

The great news was discussed that evening in every drawing-room; little shopkeepers, working folk, beggars, the noblesse, the merchant class–the whole town, in short, was talking of the Comte d’Esgrignon’s arrest on a charge of forgery. The Comte d’Esgrignon would be tried in the Assize Court; he would be condemned and branded. Most of those who cared for the honor of the family denied the fact. At nightfall Chesnel went to Mme. Camusot and escorted the stranger to the Hotel d’Esgrignon. Poor Mlle. Armande was expecting him; she led the fair Duchess to her own room, which she had given up to her, for his lordship the Bishop occupied Victurnien’s chamber; and, left alone with her guest, the noble woman glanced at the Duchess with most piteous eyes.

“You owed help, indeed, madame, to the poor boy who ruined himself for your sake,” she said, “the boy to whom we are all of us sacrificing ourselves.”

The Duchess had already made a woman’s survey of Mlle. d’Esgrignon’s room; the cold, bare, comfortless chamber, that might have been a nun’s cell, was like a picture of the life of the heroic woman before her. The Duchess saw it all–past, present, and future–with rising emotion, felt the incongruity of her presence, and could not keep back the falling tears that made answer for her.

But in Mlle. Armande the Christian overcame Victurnien’s aunt. “Ah, I was wrong; forgive me, Mme. la Duchesse; you did not know how poor we were, and my nephew was incapable of the admission. And besides, now that I see you, I can understand all–even the crime!”

And Mlle. Armande, withered and thin and white, but beautiful as those tall austere slender figures which German art alone can paint, had tears too in her eyes.

“Do not fear, dear angel,” the Duchess said at last; “he is safe.”

“Yes, but honor?–and his career? Chesnel told me; the King knows the truth.”

“We will think of a way of repairing the evil,” said the Duchess.

Mlle. Armande went downstairs to the salon, and found the Collection of Antiquities complete to a man. Every one of them had come, partly to do honor to the Bishop, partly to rally round the Marquis; but Chesnel, posted in the antechamber, warned each new arrival to say no word of the affair, that the aged Marquis might never know that such a thing had been. The loyal Frank was quite capable of killing his son or du Croisier; for either the one or the other must have been guilty of death in his eyes. It chanced, strangely enough, that he talked more of Victurnien than usual; he was glad that his son had gone back to Paris. The King would give Victurnien a place before very long; the King was interesting himself at last in the d’Esgrignons. And his friends, their hearts dead within them, praised Victurnien’s conduct to the skies. Mlle. Armande prepared the way for her nephew’s sudden appearance among them by remarking to her brother that Victurnien would be sure to come to see them, and that he must be even then on his way.

“Bah!” said the Marquis, standing with his back to the hearth, “if he is doing well where he is, he ought to stay there, and not be thinking of the joy it would give his old father to see him again. The King’s service has the first claim.”

Scarcely one of those present heard the words without a shudder. Justice might give over a d’Esgrignon to the executioner’s branding iron. There was a dreadful pause. The old Marquise de Casteran could not keep back a tear that stole down over her rouge, and turned her head away to hide it.

Next day at noon, in the sunny weather, a whole excited population was dispersed in groups along the high street, which ran through the heart of the town, and nothing was talked of but the great affair. Was the Count in prison or was he not?–All at once the Comte d’Esgrignon’s well-known tilbury was seen driving down the Rue Saint-Blaise; it had evidently come from the Prefecture, the Count himself was on the box seat, and by his side sat a charming young man, whom nobody recognized. The pair were laughing and talking and in great spirits. They wore Bengal roses in their button-holes. Altogether, it was a theatrical surprise which words fail to describe.

At ten o’clock the court had decided to dismiss the charge, stating their very sufficient reasons for setting the Count at liberty, in a document which contained a thunderbolt for du Croisier, in the shape of an /inasmuch/ that gave the Count the right to institute proceedings for libel. Old Chesnel was walking up the Grand Rue, as if by accident, telling all who cared to hear him that du Croisier had set the most shameful of snares for the d’Esgrignons’ honor, and that it was entirely owing to the forbearance and magnanimity of the family that he was not prosecuted for slander.

On the evening of that famous day, after the Marquis d’Esgrignon had gone to bed, the Count, Mlle. Armande, and the Chevalier were left with the handsome young page, now about to return to Paris. The charming cavalier’s sex could not be hidden from the Chevalier, and he alone, besides the three officials and Mme. Camusot, knew that the Duchess had been among them.

“The house is saved,” began Chesnel, “but after this shock it will take a hundred years to rise again. The debts must be paid now; you must marry an heiress, M. le Comte, there is nothing left for you to do.”

“And take her where you may find her,” said the Duchess.

“A second mesalliance!” exclaimed Mlle. Armande.

The Duchess began to laugh.

“It is better to marry than to die,” she said. As she spoke she drew from her waistcoat pocket a tiny crystal phial that came from the court apothecary.

Mlle. Armande shrank away in horror. Old Chesnel took the fair Maufrigneuse’s hand, and kissed it without permission.

“Are you all out of your minds here?” continued the Duchess. “Do you really expect to live in the fifteenth century when the rest of the world has reached the nineteenth? My dear children, there is no noblesse nowadays; there is no aristocracy left! Napoleon’s Code Civil made an end of the parchments, exactly as cannon made an end of feudal castles. When you have some money, you will be very much more of nobles than you are now. Marry anybody you please, Victurnien, you will raise your wife to your rank; that is the most substantial privilege left to the French noblesse. Did not M. de Talleyrand marry Mme. Grandt without compromising his position? Remember that Louis XIV. took the Widow Scarron for his wife.”

“He did not marry her for her money,” interposed Mlle. Armande.

“If the Comtesse d’Esgrignon were one du Croisier’s niece, for instance, would you receive her?” asked Chesnel.

“Perhaps,” replied the Duchess; “but the King, beyond all doubt, would be very glad to see her.–So you do not know what is going on in the world?” continued she, seeing the amazement in their faces. “Victurnien has been in Paris; he knows how things go there. We had more influence under Napoleon. Marry Mlle. Duval, Victurnien; she will be just as much Marquise d’Esgrignon as I am Duchesse de Maufrigneuse.”

“All is lost–even honor!” said the Chevalier, with a wave of the hand.

“Good-bye, Victurnien,” said the Duchess, kissing her lover on the forehead; “we shall not see each other again. Live on your lands; that is the best thing for you to do; the air of Paris is not at all good for you.”

“Diane!” the young Count cried despairingly.

“Monsieur, you forget yourself strangely,” the Duchess retorted coolly, as she laid aside her role of man and mistress, and became not merely an angel again, but a duchess, and not only a duchess, but Moliere’s Celimene.

The Duchesse de Maufrigneuse made a stately bow to these four personages, and drew from the Chevalier his last tear of admiration at the service of le beau sexe.

“How like she is to the Princess Goritza!” he exclaimed in a low voice.

Diane had disappeared. The crack of the postilion’s whip told Victurnien that the fair romance of his first love was over. While peril lasted, Diane could still see her lover in the young Count; but out of danger, she despised him for the weakling that he was.

Six months afterwards, Camusot received the appointment of assistant judge at Paris, and later he became an examining magistrate. Goodman Blondet was made a councillor to the Royal-Court; he held the post just long enough to secure a retiring pension, and then went back to live in his pretty little house. Joseph Blondet sat in his father’s seat at the court till the end of his days; there was not the faintest chance of promotion for him, but he became Mlle. Blandereau’s husband; and she, no doubt, is leading to-day, in the little flower-covered brick house, as dull a life as any carp in a marble basin. Michu and Camusot also received the Cross of the Legion of Honor, while Blondet became an Officer. As for M. Sauvager, deputy public prosecutor, he was sent to Corsica, to du Croisier’s great relief; he had decidedly no mind to bestow his niece upon that functionary.

Du Croisier himself, urged by President du Ronceret, appealed from the finding of the Tribunal to the Court-Royal, and lost his cause. The Liberals throughout the department held that little d’Esgrignon was guilty; while the Royalists, on the other hand, told frightful stories of plots woven by “that abominable du Croisier” to compass his revenge. A duel was fought indeed; the hazard of arms favored du Croisier, the young Count was dangerously wounded, and his antagonist maintained his words. This affair embittered the strife between the two parties; the Liberals brought it forward on all occasions. Meanwhile du Croisier never could carry his election, and saw no hope of marrying his niece to the Count, especially after the duel.

A month after the decision of the Tribunal was confirmed in the Court-Royal, Chesnel died, exhausted by the dreadful strain, which had weakened and shaken him mentally and physically. He died in the hour of victory, like some old faithful hound that has brought the boar to bay, and gets his death on the tusks. He died as happily as might be, seeing that he left the great House all but ruined, and the heir in penury, bored to death by an idle life, and without a hope of establishing himself. That bitter thought and his own exhaustion, no doubt, hastened the old man’s end. One great comfort came to him as he lay amid the wreck of so many hopes, sinking under the burden of so many cares–the old Marquis, at his sister’s entreaty, gave him back all the old friendship. The great lord came to the little house in the Rue du Bercail, and sat by his old servant’s bedside, all unaware how much that servant had done and sacrificed for him. Chesnel sat upright, and repeated Simeon’s cry.–The Marquis allowed them to bury Chesnel in the castle chapel; they laid him crosswise at the foot of the tomb which was waiting for the Marquis himself, the last, in a sense, of the d’Esgrignons.

And so died one of the last representatives of that great and beautiful thing, Service; giving to that often discredited word its original meaning, the relation between feudal lord and servitor. That relation, only to be found in some out-of-the-way province, or among a few old servants of the King, did honor alike to a noblesse that could call forth such affection, and to a bourgeoisie that could conceive it. Such noble and magnificent devotion is no longer possible among us. Noble houses have no servitors left; even as France has no longer a King, nor an hereditary peerage, nor lands that are bound irrevocably to an historic house, that the glorious names of the nation may be perpetuated. Chesnel was not merely one of the obscure great men of private life; he was something more–he was a great fact. In his sustained self-devotion is there not something indefinably solemn and sublime, something that rises above the one beneficent deed, or the heroic height which is reached by a moment’s supreme effort? Chesnel’s virtues belong essentially to the classes which stand between the poverty of the people on the one hand, and the greatness of the aristocracy on the other; for these can combine homely burgher virtues with the heroic ideals of the noble, enlightening both by a solid education.

Victurnien was not well looked upon at Court; there was no more chance of a great match for him, nor a place. His Majesty steadily refused to raise the d’Esgrignons to the peerage, the one royal favor which could rescue Victurnien from his wretched position. It was impossible that he should marry a bourgeoise heiress in his father’s lifetime, so he was bound to live on shabbily under the paternal roof with memories of his two years of splendor in Paris, and the lost love of a great lady to bear him company. He grew moody and depressed, vegetating at home with a careworn aunt and a half heart-broken father, who attributed his son’s condition to a wasting malady. Chesnel was no longer there.

The Marquis died in 1830. The great d’Esgrignon, with a following of all the less infirm noblesse from the Collection of Antiquities, went to wait upon Charles X. at Nonancourt; he paid his respects to his sovereign, and swelled the meagre train of the fallen king. It was an act of courage which seems simple enough to-day, but, in that time of enthusiastic revolt, it was heroism.

“The Gaul has conquered!” These were the Marquis’ last words.

By that time du Croisier’s victory was complete. The new Marquis d’Esgrignon accepted Mlle. Duval as his wife a week after his old father’s death. His bride brought him three millions of francs for du Croisier and his wife settled the reversion of their fortunes upon her in the marriage-contract. Du Croisier took occasion to say during the ceremony that the d’Esgrignon family was the most honorable of all the ancient houses in France.

Some day the present Marquis d’Esgrignon will have an income of more than a hundred thousand crowns. You may see him in Paris, for he comes to town every winter and leads a jolly bachelor life, while he treats his wife with something more than the indifference of the grand seigneur of olden times; he takes no thought whatever for her.

“As for Mlle. d’Esgrignon,” said Emile Blondet, to whom all the detail of the story is due, “if she is no longer like the divinely fair woman whom I saw by glimpses in my childhood, she is decidedly, at the age of sixty-seven, the most pathetic and interesting figure in the Collection of Antiquities. She queens it among them still. I saw her when I made my last journey to my native place in search of the necessary papers for my marriage. When my father knew who it was that I had married, he was struck dumb with amazement; he had not a word to say until I told him that I was a prefect.

“‘You were born to it,’ he said, with a smile.

“As I took a walk around the town, I met Mlle. Armande. She looked taller than ever. I looked at her, and thought of Marius among the ruins of Carthage. Had she not outlived her creed, and the beliefs that had been destroyed? She is a sad and silent woman, with nothing of her old beauty left except the eyes, that shine with an unearthly light. I watched her on her way to mass, with her book in her hand, and could not help thinking that she prayed to God to take her out of the world.”

LES JARDIES, July 1837.


The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Note: The Old Maid is a companion piece to The Collection of Antiquities. In other Addendum appearances they are combined under the title of The Jealousies of a Country Town.

Blondet (Judge)

Blondet, Emile
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
Modeste Mignon
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Firm of Nucingen
The Peasantry

Blondet, Virginie
The Secrets of a Princess
The Peasantry
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Another Study of Woman
The Member for Arcis
A Daughter of Eve

Bousquier, Du (or Du Croisier or Du Bourguier) The Old Maid
The Middle Classes

Bousquier, Madame du (or du Croisier) The Old Maid

Camusot de Marville
Cousin Pons
The Commission in Lunacy
Scenes from a Cuortesan’s Life

Camusot de Marville, Madame
The Vendetta
Cesar Birotteau
Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
Cousin Pons

Cardot (Parisian notary)
The Muse of the Department
A Man of Business
Pierre Grassou
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Casteran, De
The Chouans
The Seamy Side of History
The Old Maid
The Peasantry

Chesnel (or Choisnel)
The Seamy Side of History
The Old Maid

Coudrai, Du
The Old Maid

Esgrignon, Charles-Marie-Victor-Ange-Carol, Marquis d’ (or Des Grignons) The Chouans
The Old Maid

Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d’) Letters of Two Brides
A Man of Business
The Secrets of a Princess
Cousin Betty

Esgrignon, Marie-Armande-Claire d’
The Old Maid

Herouville, Duc d’
The Hated Son
Modeste Mignon
Cousin Betty

Lenoncourt, Duc de
The Lily of the Valley
Cesar Birotteau
The Old Maid
The Gondreville Mystery

Leroi, Pierre
The Chouans
The Seamy Side of History

Marsay, Henri de
The Thirteen
The Unconscious Humorists
Another Study of Woman
The Lily of the Valley
Father Goriot
Ursule Mirouet
A Marriage Settlement
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Letters of Two Brides
The Ball at Sceaux
Modest Mignon
The Secrets of a Princess
The Gondreville Mystery
A Daughter of Eve

Maufrigneuse, Duchesse de
The Secrets of a Princess
Modeste Mignon
The Muse of the Department
Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
Letters of Two Brides
Another Study of Woman
The Gondreville Mystery
The Member for Arcis

Michu, Francois
The Gondreville Mystery
The Member for Arcis

Pamiers, Vidame de
The Thirteen

Ronceret, Du
The Old Maid

Ronceret, Madame du
The Old Maid

Ronceret, Fabien-Felicien du (or Duronceret) Beatrix
Gaudissart II

Scherbelloff, Princesse (or Scherbellof or Sherbelloff) The Peasantry

The Vendetta
Cesar Birotteau

Troisville, Guibelin, Vicomte de
The Seamy Side of History
The Chouans
The Old Maid
The Peasantry

Valois, Chevalier de
The Chouans
The Old Maid

Verneuil, Duc de
The Chouans
The Old Maid