A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Honore de Balzac
Part 4 out of 7
"If you are giving me the first fruits of your pen, the first love
that has sprung up in my heart shall be yours," whispered Coralie in
the brief instant that they remained alone together in the cab; then
she went up to Florine's bedroom to change her dress for a toilette
Lucien had no idea how lavishly a prosperous merchant will spend money
upon an actress or a mistress when he means to enjoy a life of
pleasure. Matifat was not nearly so rich a man as his friend Camusot,
and he had done his part rather shabbily, yet the sight of the
dining-room took Lucien by surprise. The walls were hung with green
cloth with a border of gilded nails, the whole room was artistically
decorated, lighted by handsome lamps, stands full of flowers stood in
every direction. The drawing-room was resplendent with the furniture
in fashion in those days--a Thomire chandelier, a carpet of Eastern
design, and yellow silken hangings relieved by a brown border. The
candlesticks, fire-irons, and clock were all in good taste; for
Matifat had left everything to Grindot, a rising architect, who was
building a house for him, and the young man had taken great pains with
the rooms when he knew that Florine was to occupy them.
Matifat, a tradesman to the backbone, went about carefully, afraid to
touch the new furniture; he seemed to have the totals of the bills
always before his eyes, and to look upon the splendors about him as so
much jewelry imprudently withdrawn from the case.
"And I shall be obliged to do as much for Florentine!" old Cardot's
eyes seemed to say.
Lucien at once began to understand Lousteau's indifference to the
state of his garret. Etienne was the real king of these festivals;
Etienne enjoyed the use of all these fine things. He was standing just
now on the hearthrug with his back to the fire, as if he were the
master of the house, chatting with the manager, who was congratulating
"Copy, copy!" called Finot, coming into the room. "There is nothing in
the box; the printers are setting up my article, and they will soon
"We will manage," said Etienne. "There is a fire burning in Florine's
boudoir; there is a table there; and if M. Matifat will find us paper
and ink, we will knock off the newspaper while Florine and Coralie are
Cardot, Camusot, and Matifat disappeared in search of quills,
penknives, and everything necessary. Suddenly the door was flung open,
and Tullia, one of the prettiest opera-dancers of the day, dashed into
"They agree to take the hundred copies, dear boy!" she cried,
addressing Finot; "they won't cost the management anything, for the
chorus and the orchestra and the _corps de ballet_ are to take them
whether they like it or not; but your paper is so clever that nobody
will grumble. And you are going to have your boxes. Here is the
subscription for the first quarter," she continued, holding out a
couple of banknotes; "so don't cut me up!"
"It is all over with me!" groaned Finot; "I must suppress my
abominable diatribe, and I haven't another notion in my head."
"What a happy inspiration, divine Lais!" exclaimed Blondet, who had
followed the lady upstairs and brought Nathan, Vernou and Claude
Vignon with him. "Stop to supper, there is a dear, or I will crush
thee, butterfly as thou art. There will be no professional jealousies,
as you are a dancer; and as to beauty, you have all of you too much
sense to show jealousy in public."
"Oh dear!" cried Finot, "Nathan, Blondet, du Bruel, help friends! I
want five columns."
"I can make two of the play," said Lucien.
"I have enough for one," added Lousteau.
"Very well; Nathan, Vernou, and du Bruel will make the jokes at the
end; and Blondet, good fellow, surely will vouchsafe a couple of short
columns for the first sheet. I will run round to the printer. It is
lucky that you brought your carriage, Tullia."
"Yes, but the Duke is waiting below in it, and he has a German
Minister with him."
"Ask the Duke and the Minister to come up," said Nathan.
"A German? They are the ones to drink, and they listen too; he shall
hear some astonishing things to send home to his Government," cried
"Is there any sufficiently serious personage to go down to speak to
him?" asked Finot. "Here, du Bruel, you are an official; bring up the
Duc de Rhetore and the Minister, and give your arm to Tullia. Dear me!
Tullia, how handsome you are to-night!"
"We shall be thirteen at table!" exclaimed Matifat, paling visibly.
"No, fourteen," said a voice in the doorway, and Florentine appeared.
"I have come to look after 'milord Cardot,'" she added, speaking with
a burlesque English accent.
"And besides," said Lousteau, "Claude Vignon came with Blondet."
"I brought him here to drink," returned Blondet, taking up an
inkstand. "Look here, all of you, you must use all your wit before
those fifty-six bottles of wine drive it out. And, of all things, stir
up du Bruel; he is a vaudevillist, he is capable of making bad jokes
if you get him to concert pitch."
And Lucien wrote his first newspaper article at the round table in
Florine's boudoir, by the light of the pink candles lighted by
Matifat; before such a remarkable audience he was eager to show what
he could do.
First performance of the _Alcalde in a Fix_, an imbroglio in three
acts.--First appearance of Mademoiselle Florine.--Mademoiselle
People are coming and going, walking and talking, everybody is
looking for something, nobody finds anything. General hubbub. The
Alcalde has lost his daughter and found his cap, but the cap does
not fit; it must belong to some thief. Where is the thief? People
walk and talk, and come and go more than ever. Finally the Alcalde
finds a man without his daughter, and his daughter without the
man, which is satisfactory for the magistrate, but not for the
audience. Quiet being resorted, the Alcalde tries to examine the
man. Behold a venerable Alcalde, sitting in an Alcalde's great
armchair, arranging the sleeves of his Alcalde's gown. Only in
Spain do Alcaldes cling to their enormous sleeves and wear plaited
lawn ruffles about the magisterial throat, a good half of an
Alcalde's business on the stage in Paris. This particular Alcalde,
wheezing and waddling about like an asthmatic old man, is Vignol,
on whom Potier's mantle has fallen; a young actor who personates
old age so admirably that the oldest men in the audience cannot
help laughing. With that quavering voice of his, that bald
forehead, and those spindle shanks trembling under the weight of a
senile frame, he may look forward to a long career of decrepitude.
There is something alarming about the young actor's old age; he is
so very old; you feel nervous lest senility should be infectious.
And what an admirable Alcalde he makes! What a delightful, uneasy
smile! what pompous stupidity! what wooden dignity! what judicial
hesitation! How well the man knows that black may be white, or
white black! How eminently well he is fitted to be Minister to a
constitutional monarch! The stranger answers every one of his
inquiries by a question; Vignol retorts in such a fashion, that
the person under examination elicits all the truth from the
Alcalde. This piece of pure comedy, with a breath of Moliere
throughout, puts the house in good humor. The people on the stage
all seemed to understand what they were about, but I am quite
unable to clear up the mystery, or to say wherein it lay; for the
Alcalde's daughter was there, personified by a living, breathing
Andalusian, a Spaniard with a Spaniard's eyes, a Spaniard's
complexion, a Spaniard's gait and figure, a Spaniard from top to
toe, with her poniard in her garter, love in her heart, and a
cross on the ribbon about her neck. When the act was over, and
somebody asked me how the piece was going, I answered, "She wears
scarlet stockings with green clocks to them; she has a little
foot, no larger than _that_, in her patent leather shoes, and the
prettiest pair of ankles in Andalusia!" Oh! that Alcalde's
daughter brings your heart into your mouth; she tantalizes you so
horribly, that you long to spring upon the stage and offer her
your thatched hovel and your heart, or thirty thousand livres per
annum and your pen. The Andalusian is the loveliest actress in
Paris. Coralie, for she must be called by her real name, can be a
countess or a _grisette_, and in which part she would be more
charming one cannot tell. She can be anything that she chooses;
she is born to achieve all possibilities; can more be said of a
With the second act, a Parisian Spaniard appeared upon the scene,
with her features cut like a cameo and her dangerous eyes. "Where
does she come from?" I asked in my turn, and was told that she
came from the greenroom, and that she was Mademoiselle Florine;
but, upon my word, I could not believe a syllable of it, such
spirit was there in her gestures, such frenzy in her love. She is
the rival of the Alcalde's daughter, and married to a grandee cut
out to wear an Almaviva's cloak, with stuff sufficient in it for a
hundred boulevard noblemen. Mlle. Florine wore neither scarlet
stockings with green clocks, nor patent leather shoes, but she
appeared in a mantilla, a veil which she put to admirable uses,
like the great lady that she is! She showed to admiration that the
tigress can be a cat. I began to understand, from the sparkling
talk between the two, that some drama of jealousy was going on;
and just as everything was put right, the Alcalde's stupidity
embroiled everybody again. Torchbearers, rich men, footmen,
Figaros, grandees, alcaldes, dames, and damsels--the whole company
on the stage began to eddy about, and come and go, and look for
one another. The plot thickened, again I left it to thicken; for
Florine the jealous and the happy Coralie had entangled me once
more in the folds of mantilla and basquina, and their little feet
were twinkling in my eyes.
I managed, however, to reach the third act without any mishap. The
commissary of police was not compelled to interfere, and I did
nothing to scandalize the house, wherefore I begin to believe in
the influence of that "public and religious morality," about which
the Chamber of Deputies is so anxious, that any one might think
there was no morality left in France. I even contrived to gather
that a man was in love with two women who failed to return his
affection, or else that two women were in love with a man who
loved neither of them; the man did not love the Alcalde, or the
Alcalde had no love for the man, who was nevertheless a gallant
gentleman, and in love with somebody, with himself, perhaps, or
with heaven, if the worst came to the worst, for he becomes a
monk. And if you want to know any more, you can go to the
Panorama-Dramatique. You are hereby given fair warning--you must
go once to accustom yourself to those irresistible scarlet
stockings with the green clocks, to little feet full of promises,
to eyes with a ray of sunlight shining through them, to the subtle
charm of a Parisienne disguised as an Andalusian girl, and of an
Andalusian masquerading as a Parisienne. You must go a second time
to enjoy the play, to shed tears over the love-distracted grandee,
and die of laughing at the old Alcalde. The play is twice a
success. The author, who writes it, it is said, in collaboration
with one of the great poets of the day, was called before the
curtain, and appeared with a love-distraught damsel on each arm,
and fairly brought down the excited house. The two dancers seemed
to have more wit in their legs than the author himself; but when
once the fair rivals left the stage, the dialogue seemed witty at
once, a triumphant proof of the excellence of the piece. The
applause and calls for the author caused the architect some
anxiety; but M. de Cursy, the author, being accustomed to volcanic
eruptions of the reeling Vesuvius beneath the chandelier, felt no
tremor. As for the actresses, they danced the famous bolero of
Seville, which once found favor in the sight of a council of
reverend fathers, and escaped ecclesiastical censure in spite of
its wanton dangerous grace. The bolero in itself would be enough
to attract old age while there is any lingering heat of youth in
the veins, and out of charity I warn these persons to keep the
lenses of their opera-glasses well polished.
While Lucien was writing a column which was to set a new fashion in
journalism and reveal a fresh and original gift, Lousteau indited an
article of the kind described as _moeurs_--a sketch of contemporary
manners, entitled _The Elderly Beau_.
"The buck of the Empire," he wrote, "is invariably long, slender, and
well preserved. He wears a corset and the Cross of the Legion of
Honor. His name was originally Potelet, or something very like it; but
to stand well with the Court, he conferred a _du_ upon himself, and
_du_ Potelet he is until another revolution. A baron of the Empire, a
man of two ends, as his name (_Potelet_, a post) implies, he is paying
his court to the Faubourg Saint-Germain, after a youth gloriously and
usefully spent as the agreeable trainbearer of a sister of the man
whom decency forbids me to mention by name. Du Potelet has forgotten
that he was once in waiting upon Her Imperial Highness; but he still
sings the songs composed for the benefactress who took such a tender
interest in his career," and so forth and so forth. It was a tissue of
personalities, silly enough for the most part, such as they used to
write in those days. Other papers, and notably the _Figaro_, have
brought the art to a curious perfection since. Lousteau compared the
Baron to a heron, and introduced Mme. de Bargeton, to whom he was
paying his court, as a cuttlefish bone, a burlesque absurdity which
amused readers who knew neither of the personages. A tale of the loves
of the Heron, who tried in vain to swallow the Cuttlefish bone, which
broke into three pieces when he dropped it, was irresistibly
ludicrous. Everybody remembers the sensation which the pleasantry made
in the Faubourg Saint-Germain; it was the first of a series of similar
articles, and was one of the thousand and one causes which provoked
the rigorous press legislation of Charles X.
An hour later, Blondet, Lousteau, and Lucien came back to the
drawing-room, where the other guests were chatting. The Duke was there
and the Minister, the four women, the three merchants, the manager,
and Finot. A printer's devil, with a paper cap on his head, was
waiting even then for copy.
"The men are just going off, if I have nothing to take them," he said.
"Stay a bit, here are ten francs, and tell them to wait," said Finot.
"If I give them the money, sir, they would take to tippleography, and
good-night to the newspaper."
"That boy's common-sense is appalling to me," remarked Finot; and the
Minister was in the middle of a prediction of a brilliant future for
the urchin, when the three came in. Blondet read aloud an extremely
clever article against the Romantics; Lousteau's paragraph drew
laughter, and by the Duc de Rhetore's advice an indirect eulogium of
Mme. d'Espard was slipped in, lest the whole Faubourg Saint-Germain
should take offence.
"What have _you_ written?" asked Finot, turning to Lucien.
And Lucien read, quaking for fear, but the room rang with applause
when he finished; the actresses embraced the neophyte; and the two
merchants, following suit, half choked the breath out of him. There
were tears in du Bruel's eyes as he grasped his critic's hand, and the
manager invited him to dinner.
"There are no children nowadays," said Blondet. "Since M. de
Chateaubriand called Victor Hugo a 'sublime child,' I can only tell
you quite simply that you have spirit and taste, and write like a
"He is on the newspaper," said Finot, as he thanked Etienne, and gave
him a shrewd glance.
"What jokes have you made?" inquired Lousteau, turning to Blondet and
"Here are du Bruel's," said Nathan.
*** "Now, that M. le Vicomte d'A---- is attracting so much
attention, they will perhaps let _me_ alone," M. le Vicomte
Demosthenes was heard to say yesterday.
*** An Ultra, condemning M. Pasquier's speech, said his programme
was only a continuation of Decaze's policy. "Yes," said a lady,
"but he stands on a Monarchical basis, he has just the kind of leg
for a Court suit."
"With such a beginning, I don't ask more of you," said Finot; "it will
be all right.--Run round with this," he added, turning to the boy;
"the paper is not exactly a genuine article, but it is our best number
yet," and he turned to the group of writers. Already Lucien's
colleagues were privately taking his measure.
"That fellow has brains," said Blondet.
"His article is well written," said Claude Vignon.
"Supper!" cried Matifat.
The Duke gave his arm to Florine, Coralie went across to Lucien, and
Tullia went in to supper between Emile Blondet and the German
"I cannot understand why you are making an onslaught on Mme. de
Bargeton and the Baron du Chatelet; they say that he is
prefect-designate of the Charente, and will be Master of Requests
"Mme. de Bargeton showed Lucien the door as if he had been an
imposter," said Lousteau.
"Such a fine young fellow!" exclaimed the Minister.
Supper, served with new plate, Sevres porcelain, and white damask, was
redolent of opulence. The dishes were from Chevet, the wines from a
celebrated merchant on the Quai Saint-Bernard, a personal friend of
Matifat's. For the first time Lucien beheld the luxury of Paris
displayed; he went from surprise to surprise, but he kept his
astonishment to himself, like a man who had spirit and taste and wrote
like a gentleman, as Blondet had said.
As they crossed the drawing-room, Coralie bent to Florine, "Make
Camusot so drunk that he will be compelled to stop here all night,"
"So you have hooked your journalist, have you?" returned Florine,
using the idiom of women of her class.
"No, dear; I love him," said Coralie, with an adorable little shrug of
Those words rang in Lucien's ears, borne to them by the fifth deadly
sin. Coralie was perfectly dressed. Every woman possesses some
personal charm in perfection, and Coralie's toilette brought her
characteristic beauty into prominence. Her dress, moreover, like
Florine's, was of some exquisite stuff, unknown as yet to the public,
a _mousseline de soie_, with which Camusot had been supplied a few days
before the rest of the world; for, as owner of the _Golden Cocoon_, he
was a kind of Providence in Paris to the Lyons silkweavers.
Love and toilet are like color and perfume for a woman, and Coralie in
her happiness looked lovelier than ever. A looked-for delight which
cannot elude the grasp possesses an immense charm for youth; perhaps
in their eyes the secret of the attraction of a house of pleasure lies
in the certainty of gratification; perhaps many a long fidelity is
attributable to the same cause. Love for love's sake, first love
indeed, had blent with one of the strange violent fancies which
sometimes possess these poor creatures; and love and admiration of
Lucien's great beauty taught Coralie to express the thoughts in her
"I should love you if you were ill and ugly," she whispered as they
What a saying for a poet! Camusot utterly vanished, Lucien had
forgotten his existence, he saw Coralie, and had eyes for nothing
else. How should he draw back--this creature, all sensation, all
enjoyment of life, tired of the monotony of existence in a country
town, weary of poverty, harassed by enforced continence, impatient of
the claustral life of the Rue de Cluny, of toiling without reward? The
fascination of the under world of Paris was upon him; how should he
rise and leave this brilliant gathering? Lucien stood with one foot in
Coralie's chamber and the other in the quicksands of Journalism. After
so much vain search, and climbing of so many stairs, after standing
about and waiting in the Rue de Sentier, he had found Journalism a
jolly boon companion, joyous over the wine. His wrongs had just been
avenged. There were two for whom he had vainly striven to fill the cup
of humiliation and pain which he had been made to drink to the dregs,
and now to-morrow they should receive a stab in their very hearts.
"Here is a real friend!" he thought, as he looked at Lousteau. It
never crossed his mind that Lousteau already regarded him as a
dangerous rival. He had made a blunder; he had done his very best when
a colorless article would have served him admirably well. Blondet's
remark to Finot that it would be better to come to terms with a man of
that calibre, had counteracted Lousteau's gnawing jealousy. He
reflected that it would be prudent to keep on good terms with Lucien,
and, at the same time, to arrange with Finot to exploit this
formidable newcomer--he must be kept in poverty. The decision was made
in a moment, and the bargain made in a few whispered words.
"He has talent."
"He will want the more."
"A supper among French journalists always fills me with dread," said
the German diplomatist, with serene urbanity; he looked as he spoke at
Blondet, whom he had met at the Comtesse de Montcornet's. "It is laid
upon you, gentlemen, to fulfil a prophecy of Blucher's."
"What prophecy?" asked Nathan.
"When Blucher and Sacken arrived on the heights of Montmartre in 1814
(pardon me, gentlemen, for recalling a day unfortunate for France),
Sacken (a rough brute), remarked, 'Now we will set Paris alight!'
--'Take very good care that you don't,' said Blucher. 'France will die
of _that_, nothing else can kill her,' and he waved his hand over the
glowing, seething city, that lay like a huge canker in the valley of
the Seine.--There are no journalists in our country, thank Heaven!"
continued the Minister after a pause. "I have not yet recovered from
the fright that the little fellow gave me, a boy of ten, in a paper
cap, with the sense of an old diplomatist. And to-night I feel as if I
were supping with lions and panthers, who graciously sheathe their
claws in my honor."
"It is clear," said Blondet, "that we are at liberty to inform Europe
that a serpent dropped from your Excellency's lips this evening, and
that the venomous creature failed to inoculate Mlle. Tullia, the
prettiest dancer in Paris; and to follow up the story with a
commentary on Eve, and the Scriptures, and the first and last
transgression. But have no fear, you are our guest."
"It would be funny," said Finot.
"We would begin with a scientific treatise on all the serpents found
in the human heart and human body, and so proceed to the _corps
diplomatique_," said Lousteau.
"And we could exhibit one in spirits, in a bottle of brandied
cherries," said Vernou.
"Till you yourself would end by believing in the story," added Vignon,
looking at the diplomatist.
"Gentlemen," cried the Duc de Rhetore, "let sleeping claws lie."
"The influence and power of the press is only dawning," said Finot.
"Journalism is in its infancy; it will grow. In ten years' time,
everything will be brought into publicity. The light of thought will
be turned on all subjects, and----"
"The blight of thought will be over it all," corrected Blondet.
"Here is an apothegm," cried Claude Vignon.
"Thought will make kings," said Lousteau.
"And undo monarchs," said the German.
"And therefore," said Blondet, "if the press did not exist, it would
be necessary to invent it forthwith. But here we have it, and live by
"You will die of it," returned the German diplomatist. "Can you not
see that if you enlighten the masses, and raise them in the political
scale, you make it all the harder for the individual to rise above
their level? Can you not see that if you sow the seeds of reasoning
among the working-classes, you will reap revolt, and be the first to
fall victims? What do they smash in Paris when a riot begins?"
"The street-lamps!" said Nathan; "but we are too modest to fear for
ourselves, we only run the risk of cracks."
"As a nation, you have too much mental activity to allow any
government to run its course without interference. But for that, you
would make the conquest of Europe a second time, and win with the pen
all that you failed to keep with the sword."
"Journalism is an evil," said Claude Vignon. "The evil may have its
uses, but the present Government is resolved to put it down. There
will be a battle over it. Who will give way? That is the question."
"The Government will give way," said Blondet. "I keep telling people
that with all my might! Intellectual power is _the_ great power in
France; and the press has more wit than all men of intellect put
together, and the hypocrisy of Tartufe besides."
"Blondet! Blondet! you are going too far!" called Finot. "Subscribers
"You are the proprietor of one of those poison shops; you have reason
to be afraid; but I can laugh at the whole business, even if I live by
"Blondet is right," said Claude Vignon. "Journalism, so far from being
in the hands of a priesthood, came to be first a party weapon, and
then a commercial speculation, carried on without conscience or
scruple, like other commercial speculations. Every newspaper, as
Blondet says, is a shop to which people come for opinions of the right
shade. If there were a paper for hunchbacks, it would set forth
plainly, morning and evening, in its columns, the beauty, the utility,
and necessity of deformity. A newspaper is not supposed to enlighten
its readers, but to supply them with congenial opinions. Give any
newspaper time enough, and it will be base, hypocritical, shameless,
and treacherous; the periodical press will be the death of ideas,
systems, and individuals; nay, it will flourish upon their decay. It
will take the credit of all creations of the brain; the harm that it
does is done anonymously. We, for instance--I, Claude Vignon; you,
Blondet; you, Lousteau; and you, Finot--we are all Platos, Aristides,
and Catos, Plutarch's men, in short; we are all immaculate; we may
wash our hands of all iniquity. Napoleon's sublime aphorism, suggested
by his study of the Convention, 'No one individual is responsible for
a crime committed collectively,' sums up the whole significance of a
phenomenon, moral or immoral, whichever you please. However shamefully
a newspaper may behave, the disgrace attaches to no one person."
"The authorities will resort to repressive legislation," interposed du
Bruel. "A law is going to be passed, in fact."
"Pooh!" retorted Nathan. "What is the law in France against the spirit
in which it is received, the most subtle of all solvents?"
"Ideas and opinions can only be counteracted by opinions and ideas,"
Vignon continued. "By sheer terror and despotism, and by no other
means, can you extinguish the genius of the French nation; for the
language lends itself admirably to allusion and ambiguity. Epigram
breaks out the more for repressive legislation; it is like steam in an
engine without a safety-valve.--The King, for example, does right; if
a newspaper is against him, the Minister gets all the credit of the
measure, and _vice versa_. A newspaper invents a scandalous libel--it
has been misinformed. If the victim complains, the paper gets off with
an apology for taking so great a freedom. If the case is taken into
court, the editor complains that nobody asked him to rectify the
mistake; but ask for redress, and he will laugh in your face and treat
his offence as a mere trifle. The paper scoffs if the victim gains the
day; and if heavy damages are awarded, the plaintiff is held up as an
unpatriotic obscurantist and a menace to the liberties of the country.
In the course of an article purporting to explain that Monsieur
So-and-so is as honest a man as you will find in the kingdom, you are
informed that he is not better than a common thief. The sins of the
press? Pooh! mere trifles; the curtailers of its liberties are
monsters; and give him time enough, the constant reader is persuaded
to believe anything you please. Everything which does not suit the
newspaper will be unpatriotic, and the press will be infallible. One
religion will be played off against another, and the Charter against
the King. The press will hold up the magistracy to scorn for meting
out rigorous justice to the press, and applaud its action when it
serves the cause of party hatred. The most sensational fictions will
be invented to increase the circulation; Journalism will descend to
mountebanks' tricks worthy of Bobeche; Journalism would serve up its
father with the Attic salt of its own wit sooner than fail to interest
or amuse the public; Journalism will outdo the actor who put his son's
ashes into the urn to draw real tears from his eyes, or the mistress
who sacrifices everything to her lover."
"Journalism is, in fact, the People in folio form," interrupted
"The people with hypocrisy added and generosity lacking," said Vignon.
"All real ability will be driven out from the ranks of Journalism, as
Aristides was driven into exile by the Athenians. We shall see
newspapers started in the first instance by men of honor, falling
sooner or later into the hands of men of abilities even lower than the
average, but endowed with the resistance of flexibility of
india-rubber, qualities denied to noble genius; nay, perhaps the future
newspaper proprietor will be the tradesman with capital sufficient to
buy venal pens. We see such things already indeed, but in ten years'
time every little youngster that has left school will take himself for
a great man, slash his predecessors from the lofty height of a
newspaper column, drag them down by the feet, and take their place.
"Napoleon did wisely when he muzzled the press. I would wager that the
Opposition papers would batter down a government of their own setting
up, just as they are battering the present government, if any demand
was refused. The more they have, the more they will want in the way of
concessions. The _parvenu_ journalist will be succeeded by the
starveling hack. There is no salve for this sore. It is a kind of
corruption which grows more and more obtrusive and malignant; the
wider it spreads, the more patiently it will be endured, until the day
comes when newspapers shall so increase and multiply in the earth that
confusion will be the result--a second Babel. We, all of us, such as
we are, have reason to know that crowned kings are less ungrateful
than kings of our profession; that the most sordid man of business is
not so mercenary nor so keen in speculation; that our brains are
consumed to furnish their daily supply of poisonous trash. And yet we,
all of us, shall continue to write, like men who work in quicksilver
mines, knowing that they are doomed to die of their trade.
"Look there," he continued, "at that young man sitting beside Coralie
--what is his name? Lucien! He has a beautiful face; he is a poet; and
what is more, he is witty--so much the better for him. Well, he will
cross the threshold of one of those dens where a man's intellect is
prostituted; he will put all his best and finest thought into his
work; he will blunt his intellect and sully his soul; he will be
guilty of anonymous meannesses which take the place of stratagem,
pillage, and ratting to the enemy in the warfare of _condottieri_. And
when, like hundreds more, he has squandered his genius in the service
of others who find the capital and do no work, those dealers in
poisons will leave him to starve if he is thirsty, and to die of
thirst if he is starving."
"Thanks," said Finot.
"But, dear me," continued Claude Vignon, "_I_ knew all this, yet here
am I in the galleys, and the arrival of another convict gives me
pleasure. We are cleverer, Blondet and I, than Messieurs This and
That, who speculate in our abilities, yet nevertheless we are always
exploited by them. We have a heart somewhere beneath the intellect; we
have NOT the grim qualities of the man who makes others work for him.
We are indolent, we like to look on at the game, we are meditative,
and we are fastidious; they will sweat our brains and blame us for
"I thought you would be more amusing than this!" said Florine.
"Florine is right," said Blondet; "let us leave the cure of public
evils to those quacks the statesmen. As Charlet says, 'Quarrel with my
own bread and butter? _Never_!'"
"Do you know what Vignon puts me in mind of?" said Lousteau. "Of one
of those fat women in the Rue du Pelican telling a schoolboy, 'My boy,
you are too young to come here.'"
A burst of laughter followed the sally, but it pleased Coralie. The
merchants meanwhile ate and drank and listened.
"What a nation this is! You see so much good in it and so much evil,"
said the Minister, addressing the Duc de Rhetore.--"You are prodigals
who cannot ruin yourselves, gentlemen."
And so, by the blessing of chance, Lucien, standing on the brink of
the precipice over which he was destined to fall, heard warnings on
all sides. D'Arthez had set him on the right road, had shown him the
noble method of work, and aroused in him the spirit before which all
obstacles disappear. Lousteau himself (partly from selfish motives)
had tried to warn him away by describing Journalism and Literature in
their practical aspects. Lucien had refused to believe that there
could be so much hidden corruption; but now he had heard the
journalists themselves crying woe for their hurt, he had seen them at
their work, had watched them tearing their foster-mother's heart to
read auguries of the future.
That evening he had seen things as they are. He beheld the very
heart's core of corruption of that Paris which Blucher so aptly
described; and so far from shuddering at the sight, he was intoxicated
with enjoyment of the intellectually stimulating society in which he
These extraordinary men, clad in armor damascened by their vices,
these intellects environed by cold and brilliant analysis, seemed so
far greater in his eyes than the grave and earnest members of the
brotherhood. And besides all this, he was reveling in his first taste
of luxury; he had fallen under the spell. His capricious instincts
awoke; for the first time in his life he drank exquisite wines, this
was his first experience of cookery carried to the pitch of a fine
art. A minister, a duke, and an opera-dancer had joined the party of
journalists, and wondered at their sinister power. Lucien felt a
horrible craving to reign over these kings, and he thought that he had
power to win his kingdom. Finally, there was this Coralie, made happy
by a few words of his. By the bright light of the wax-candles, through
the steam of the dishes and the fumes of wine, she looked sublimely
beautiful to his eyes, so fair had she grown with love. She was the
loveliest, the most beautiful actress in Paris. The brotherhood, the
heaven of noble thoughts, faded away before a temptation that appealed
to every fibre of his nature. How could it have been otherwise?
Lucien's author's vanity had just been gratified by the praises of
those who know; by the appreciation of his future rivals; the success
of his articles and his conquest of Coralie might have turned an older
head than his.
During the discussion, moreover, every one at table had made a
remarkably good supper, and such wines are not met with every day.
Lousteau, sitting beside Camusot, furtively poured cherry-brandy
several times into his neighbor's wineglass, and challenged him to
drink. And Camusot drank, all unsuspicious, for he thought himself, in
his own way, a match for a journalist. The jokes became more personal
when dessert appeared and the wine began to circulate. The German
Minister, a keen-witted man of the world, made a sign to the Duke and
Tullia, and the three disappeared with the first symptoms of
vociferous nonsense which precede the grotesque scenes of an orgy in
its final stage. Coralie and Lucien had been behaving like children
all the evening; as soon as the wine was uppermost in Camusot's head,
they made good their escape down the staircase and sprang into a cab.
Camusot subsided under the table; Matifat, looking round for him,
thought that he had gone home with Coralie, left his guests to smoke,
laugh, and argue, and followed Florine to her room. Daylight surprised
the party, or more accurately, the first dawn of light discovered one
man still able to speak, and Blondet, that intrepid champion, was
proposing to the assembled sleepers a health to Aurora the
Lucien was unaccustomed to orgies of this kind. His head was very
tolerably clear as he came down the staircase, but the fresh air was
too much for him; he was horribly drunk. When they reached the
handsome house in the Rue de Vendome, where the actress lived, Coralie
and her waiting-woman were obliged to assist the poet to climb to the
first floor. Lucien was ignominiously sick, and very nearly fainted on
"Quick, Berenice, some tea! Make some tea," cried Coralie.
"It is nothing; it is the air," Lucien got out, "and I have never
taken so much before in my life."
"Poor boy! He is as innocent as a lamb," said Berenice, a stalwart
Norman peasant woman as ugly as Coralie was pretty. Lucien, half
unconscious, was laid at last in bed. Coralie, with Berenice's
assistance, undressed the poet with all a mother's tender care.
"It is nothing," he murmured again and again. "It is the air. Thank
"How charmingly he says 'mamma,'" cried Coralie, putting a kiss on
"What happiness to love such an angel, mademoiselle! Where did you
pick him up? I did not think a man could be as beautiful as you are,"
said Berenice, when Lucien lay in bed. He was very drowsy; he knew
nothing and saw nothing; Coralie made him swallow several cups of tea,
and left him to sleep.
"Did the porter see us? Was there anyone else about?" she asked.
"No; I was sitting up for you."
"Does Victoire know anything?"
"Rather not!" returned Berenice.
Ten hours later Lucien awoke to meet Coralie's eyes. She had watched
by him as he slept; he knew it, poet that he was. It was almost noon,
but she still wore the delicate dress, abominably stained, which she
meant to lay up as a relic. Lucien understood all the self-sacrifice
and delicacy of love, fain of its reward. He looked into Coralie's
eyes. In a moment she had flung off her clothing and slipped like a
serpent to Lucien's side.
At five o'clock in the afternoon Lucien was still sleeping, cradled in
this voluptuous paradise. He had caught glimpses of Coralie's chamber,
an exquisite creation of luxury, a world of rose-color and white. He
had admired Florine's apartments, but this surpassed them in its
Coralie had already risen; for if she was to play her part as the
Andalusian, she must be at the theatre by seven o'clock. Yet she had
returned to gaze at the unconscious poet, lulled to sleep in bliss;
she could not drink too deeply of this love that rose to rapture,
drawing close the bond between the heart and the senses, to steep both
in ecstasy. For in that apotheosis of human passion, which of those
that were twain on earth that they might know bliss to the full
creates one soul to rise to love in heaven, lay Coralie's
justification. Who, moreover, would not have found excuse in Lucien's
more than human beauty? To the actress kneeling by the bedside, happy
in love within her, it seemed that she had received love's
consecration. Berenice broke in upon Coralie's rapture.
"Here comes Camusot!" cried the maid. "And he knows that you are
Lucien sprang up at once. Innate generosity suggested that he was
doing Coralie an injury. Berenice drew aside a curtain, and he fled
into a dainty dressing-room, whither Coralie and the maid brought his
clothes with magical speed.
Camusot appeared, and only then did Coralie's eyes alight on Lucien's
boots, warming in the fender. Berenice had privately varnished them,
and put them before the fire to dry; and both mistress and maid alike
forgot that tell-tale witness. Berenice left the room with a scared
glance at Coralie. Coralie flung herself into the depths of a settee,
and bade Camusot seat himself in the _gondole_, a round-backed chair
that stood opposite. But Coralie's adorer, honest soul, dared not look
his mistress in the face; he could not take his eyes off the pair of
"Ought I to make a scene and leave Coralie?" he pondered. "Is it worth
while to make a fuss about a trifle? There is a pair of boots wherever
you go. These would be more in place in a shop window or taking a walk
on the boulevard on somebody's feet; here, however, without a pair of
feet in them, they tell a pretty plain tale. I am fifty years old, and
that is the truth; I ought to be as blind as Cupid himself."
There was no excuse for this mean-spirited monologue. The boots were
not the high-lows at present in vogue, which an unobservant man may be
allowed to disregard up to a certain point. They were the
unmistakable, uncompromising hessians then prescribed by fashion, a
pair of extremely elegant betasseled boots, which shone in glistening
contrast against tight-fitting trousers invariably of some light
color, and reflected their surroundings like a mirror. The boots
stared the honest silk-mercer out of countenance, and, it must be
added, they pained his heart.
"What is it?" asked Coralie.
"Ring the bell," said Coralie, smiling to herself at Camusot's want of
spirit.--"Berenice," she said, when the Norman handmaid appeared,
"just bring me a button-hook, for I must put on these confounded boots
again. Don't forget to bring them to my dressing-room to-night."
"What? . . . _your_ boots?" . . . faltered out Camusot, breathing more
"And whose should they be?" she demanded haughtily. "Were you
beginning to believe?--great stupid! Oh! and he would believe it too,"
she went on, addressing Berenice.--"I have a man's part in
What's-his-name's piece, and I have never worn a man's clothes in my
life before. The bootmaker for the theatre brought me these things to
try if I could walk in them, until a pair can be made to measure. He
put them on, but they hurt me so much that I have taken them off, and
after all I must wear them."
"Don't put them on again if they are uncomfortable," said Camusot.
(The boots had made him feel so very uncomfortable himself.)
"Mademoiselle would do better to have a pair made of very thin
morocco, sir, instead of torturing herself as she did just now; but
the management is so stingy. She was crying, sir; if I was a man and
loved a woman, I wouldn't let her shed a tear, I know. You ought to
order a pair for her----"
"Yes, yes," said Camusot. "Are you just getting up, Coralie?"
"Just this moment; I only came in at six o'clock after looking for you
everywhere. I was obliged to keep the cab for seven hours. So much for
your care of me; you forget me for a wine-bottle. I ought to take care
of myself now when I am to play every night so long as the _Alcalde_
draws. I don't want to fall off after that young man's notice of me."
"That is a handsome boy," said Camusot.
"Do you think so? I don't admire men of that sort; they are too much
like women; and they do not understand how to love like you stupid old
business men. You are so bored with your own society."
"Is monsieur dining with madame?" inquired Berenice.
"No, my mouth is clammy."
"You were nicely screwed yesterday. Ah! Papa Camusot, I don't like men
who drink, I tell you at once----"
"You will give that young man a present, I suppose?" interrupted
"Oh! yes. I would rather do that than pay as Florine does. There, go
away with you, good-for-nothing that one loves; or give me a carriage
to save time in future."
"You shall go in your own carriage to-morrow to your manager's dinner
at the _Rocher de Cancale_. The new piece will not be given next
"Come, I am just going to dine," said Coralie, hurrying Camusot out of
An hour later Berenice came to release Lucien. Berenice, Coralie's
companion since her childhood, had a keen and subtle brain in her
"Stay here," she said. "Coralie is coming back alone; she even talked
of getting rid of Camusot if he is in your way; but you are too much
of an angel to ruin her, her heart's darling as you are. She wants to
clear out of this, she says; to leave this paradise and go and live in
your garret. Oh! there are those that are jealous and envious of you,
and they have told her that you haven't a brass farthing, and live in
the Latin Quarter; and I should go, too, you see, to do the
house-work.--But I have just been comforting her, poor child! I have
been telling her that you were too clever to do anything so silly. I
was right, wasn't I, sir? Oh! you will see that you are her darling, her
love, the god to whom she gives her soul; yonder old fool has nothing
but the body.--If you only knew how nice she is when I hear her say
her part over! My Coralie, my little pet, she is! She deserved that
God in heaven should send her one of His angels. She was sick of the
life.--She was so unhappy with her mother that used to beat her, and
sold her. Yes, sir, sold her own child! If I had a daughter, I would
wait on her hand and foot as I wait on Coralie; she is like my own
child to me.--These are the first good times she has seen since I have
been with her; the first time that she has been really applauded. You
have written something, it seems, and they have got up a famous _claque_
for the second performance. Braulard has been going through the play
with her while you were asleep."
"Who? Braulard?" asked Lucien; it seemed to him that he had heard the
"He is the head of the _claqueurs_, and she was arranging with him the
places where she wished him to look after her. Florine might try to
play her some shabby trick, and take all for herself, for all she
calls herself her friend. There is such a talk about your article on
the Boulevards.--Isn't it a bed fit for a prince," she said, smoothing
the lace bed-spread.
She lighted the wax-candles, and to Lucien's bewildered fancy, the
house seemed to be some palace in the _Cabinet des Fees_. Camusot had
chosen the richest stuffs from the _Golden Cocoon_ for the hangings and
window-curtains. A carpet fit for a king's palace was spread upon the
floor. The carving of the rosewood furniture caught and imprisoned the
light that rippled over its surface. Priceless trifles gleamed from
the white marble chimney-piece. The rug beside the bed was of swan's
skins bordered with sable. A pair of little, black velvet slippers
lined with purple silk told of happiness awaiting the poet of _The
Marguerites_. A dainty lamp hung from the ceiling draped with silk. The
room was full of flowering plants, delicate white heaths and scentless
camellias, in stands marvelously wrought. Everything called up
associations of innocence. How was it possible in these rooms to see
the life that Coralie led in its true colors? Berenice noticed
Lucien's bewildered expression.
"Isn't it nice?" she said coaxingly. "You would be more comfortable
here, wouldn't you, than in a garret?--You won't let her do anything
rash?" she continued, setting a costly stand before him, covered with
dishes abstracted from her mistress' dinner-table, lest the cook
should suspect that her mistress had a lover in the house.
Lucien made a good dinner. Berenice waiting on him, the dishes were of
wrought silver, the painted porcelain plates had cost a louis d'or
apiece. The luxury was producing exactly the same effect upon him that
the sight of a girl walking the pavement, with her bare flaunting
throat and neat ankles, produces upon a schoolboy.
"How lucky Camusot is!" cried he.
"Lucky?" repeated Berenice. "He would willingly give all that he is
worth to be in your place; he would be glad to barter his gray hair
for your golden head."
She gave Lucien the richest wine that Bordeaux keeps for the
wealthiest English purchaser, and persuaded Lucien to go to bed to
take a preliminary nap; and Lucien, in truth, was quite willing to
sleep on the couch that he had been admiring. Berenice had read his
wish, and felt glad for her mistress.
At half-past ten that night Lucien awoke to look into eyes brimming
over with love. There stood Coralie in most luxurious night attire.
Lucien had been sleeping; Lucien was intoxicated with love, and not
with wine. Berenice left the room with the inquiry, "What time
"At eleven o'clock. We will have breakfast in bed. I am not at home to
anybody before two o'clock."
At two o'clock in the afternoon Coralie and her lover were sitting
together. The poet to all appearance had come to pay a call. Lucien
had been bathed and combed and dressed. Coralie had sent to
Colliau's for a dozen fine shirts, a dozen cravats and a dozen
pocket-handkerchiefs for him, as well as twelve pairs of gloves in
a cedar-wood box. When a carriage stopped at the door, they both
rushed to the window, and watched Camusot alight from a handsome
"I would not have believed that one could so hate a man and
"I am too poor to allow you to ruin yourself for me," he replied. And
thus Lucien passed under the Caudine Forks.
"Poor pet," said Coralie, holding him tightly to her, "do you love me
so much?--I persuaded this gentleman to call on me this morning," she
continued, indicating Lucien to Camusot, who entered the room. "I
thought that we might take a drive in the Champs Elysees to try the
"Go without me," said Camusot in a melancholy voice; "I shall not dine
with you. It is my wife's birthday, I had forgotten that."
"Poor Musot, how badly bored you will be!" she said, putting her arms
about his neck.
She was wild with joy at the thought that she and Lucien would handsel
this gift together; she would drive with him in the new carriage; and
in her happiness, she seemed to love Camusot, she lavished caresses
"If only I could give you a carriage every day!" said the poor fellow.
"Now, sir, it is two o'clock," she said, turning to Lucien, who stood
in distress and confusion, but she comforted him with an adorable
Down the stairs she went, several steps at a time, drawing Lucien
after her; the elderly merchant following in their wake like a seal on
land, and quite unable to catch them up.
Lucien enjoyed the most intoxicating of pleasures; happiness had
increased Coralie's loveliness to the highest possible degree; she
appeared before all eyes an exquisite vision in her dainty toilette.
All Paris in the Champs Elysees beheld the lovers.
In an avenue of the Bois de Boulogne they met a caleche; Mme. d'Espard
and Mme. de Bargeton looked in surprise at Lucien, and met a scornful
glance from the poet. He saw glimpses of a great future before him,
and was about to make his power felt. He could fling them back in a
glance some of the revengeful thoughts which had gnawed his heart ever
since they planted them there. That moment was one of the sweetest in
his life, and perhaps decided his fate. Once again the Furies seized
on Lucien at the bidding of Pride. He would reappear in the world of
Paris; he would take a signal revenge; all the social pettiness
hitherto trodden under foot by the worker, the member of the
brotherhood, sprang up again afresh in his soul.
Now he understood all that Lousteau's attack had meant. Lousteau had
served his passions; while the brotherhood, that collective mentor,
had seemed to mortify them in the interests of tiresome virtues and
work which began to look useless and hopeless in Lucien's eyes. Work!
What is it but death to an eager pleasure-loving nature? And how easy
it is for the man of letters to slide into a _far niente_ existence of
self-indulgence, into the luxurious ways of actresses and women of
easy virtues! Lucien felt an overmastering desire to continue the
reckless life of the last two days.
The dinner at the _Rocher de Cancale_ was exquisite. All Florine's
supper guests were there except the Minister, the Duke, and the
dancer; Camusot, too, was absent; but these gaps were filled by two
famous actors and Hector Merlin and his mistress. This charming woman,
who chose to be known as Mme. du Val-Noble, was the handsomest and
most fashionable of the class of women now euphemistically styled
Lucien had spent the forty-eight hours since the success of his
article in paradise. He was feted and envied; he gained
self-possession; his talk sparkled; he was the brilliant Lucien de
Rubempre who shone for a few months in the world of letters and art.
Finot, with his infallible instinct for discovering ability, scenting
it afar as an ogre might scent human flesh, cajoled Lucien, and did
his best to secure a recruit for the squadron under his command. And
Coralie watched the manoeuvres of this purveyor of brains, saw that
Lucien was nibbling at the bait, and tried to put him on his guard.
"Don't make any engagement, dear boy; wait. They want to exploit you;
we will talk of it to-night."
"Pshaw!" said Lucien. "I am sure I am quite as sharp and shrewd as
they can be."
Finot and Hector Merlin evidently had not fallen out over that affair
of the white lines and spaces in the columns, for it was Finot who
introduced Lucien to the journalist. Coralie and Mme. du Val-Noble
were overwhelmingly amiable and polite to each other, and Mme. du
Val-Noble asked Lucien and Coralie to dine with her.
Hector Merlin, short and thin, with lips always tightly compressed,
was the most dangerous journalist present. Unbounded ambition and
jealousy smouldered within him; he took pleasure in the pain of
others, and fomented strife to turn it to his own account. His
abilities were but slender, and he had little force of character, but
the natural instinct which draws the upstart towards money and power
served him as well as fixity of purpose. Lucien and Merlin at once
took a dislike to one another, for reasons not far to seek. Merlin,
unfortunately, proclaimed aloud the thoughts that Lucien kept to
himself. By the time the dessert was put on the table, the most
touching friendship appeared to prevail among the men, each one of
whom in his heart thought himself a cleverer fellow than the rest; and
Lucien as the newcomer was made much of by them all. They chatted
frankly and unrestrainedly. Hector Merlin, alone, did not join in the
laughter. Lucien asked the reason of his reserve.
"You are just entering the world of letters, I can see," he said. "You
are a journalist with all your illusions left. You believe in
friendship. Here we are friends or foes, as it happens; we strike down
a friend with the weapon which by rights should only be turned against
an enemy. You will find out, before very long, that fine sentiments
will do nothing for you. If you are naturally kindly, learn to be
ill-natured, to be consistently spiteful. If you have never heard this
golden rule before, I give it you now in confidence, and it is no
small secret. If you have a mind to be loved, never leave your
mistress until you have made her shed a tear or two; and if you mean
to make your way in literature, let other people continually feel your
teeth; make no exception even of your friends; wound their
susceptibilities, and everybody will fawn upon you."
Hector Merlin watched Lucien as he spoke, saw that his words went to
the neophyte's heart like a stab, and Hector Merlin was glad. Play
followed, Lucien lost all his money, and Coralie brought him away; and
he forgot for a while, in the delights of love, the fierce excitement
of the gambler, which was to gain so strong a hold upon him.
When he left Coralie in the morning and returned to the Latin Quarter,
he took out his purse and found the money he had lost. At first he
felt miserable over the discovery, and thought of going back at once
to return a gift which humiliated him; but--he had already come as far
as the Rue de la Harpe; he would not return now that he had almost
reached the Hotel de Cluny. He pondered over Coralie's forethought as
he went, till he saw in it a proof of the maternal love which is
blended with passion in women of her stamp. For Coralie and her like,
passion includes every human affection. Lucien went from thought to
thought, and argued himself into accepting the gift. "I love her," he
said; "we shall live together as husband and wife; I will never
What mortal, short of a Diogenes, could fail to understand Lucien's
feelings as he climbed the dirty, fetid staircase to his lodging,
turned the key that grated in the lock, and entered and looked round
at the unswept brick floor, at the cheerless grate, at the ugly
poverty and bareness of the room.
A package of manuscript was lying on the table. It was his novel; a
note from Daniel d'Arthez lay beside it:--
"Our friends are almost satisfied with your work, dear poet,"
d'Arthez wrote. "You will be able to present it with more
confidence now, they say, to friends and enemies. We saw your
charming article on the Panorama-Dramatique; you are sure to
excite as much jealousy in the profession as regret among your
friends here. DANIEL."
"Regrets! What does he mean?" exclaimed Lucien. The polite tone of the
note astonished him. Was he to be henceforth a stranger to the
brotherhood? He had learned to set a higher value on the good opinion
and the friendship of the circle in the Rue des Quatre-Vents since he
had tasted of the delicious fruits offered to him by the Eve of the
theatrical underworld. For some moments he stood in deep thought; he
saw his present in the garret, and foresaw his future in Coralie's
rooms. Honorable resolution struggled with temptation and swayed him
now this way, now that. He sat down and began to look through his
manuscript, to see in what condition his friends had returned it to
him. What was his amazement, as he read chapter after chapter, to find
his poverty transmuted into riches by the cunning of the pen, and the
devotion of the unknown great men, his friends of the brotherhood.
Dialogue, closely packed, nervous, pregnant, terse, and full of the
spirit of the age, replaced his conversations, which seemed poor and
pointless prattle in comparison. His characters, a little uncertain in
the drawing, now stood out in vigorous contrast of color and relief;
physiological observations, due no doubt to Horace Bianchon, supplied
links of interpretations between human character and the curious
phenomena of human life--subtle touches which made his men and women
live. His wordy passages of description were condensed and vivid. The
misshapen, ill-clad child of his brain had returned to him as a lovely
maiden, with white robes and rosy-hued girdle and scarf--an entrancing
creation. Night fell and took him by surprise, reading through rising
tears, stricken to earth by such greatness of soul, feeling the worth
of such a lesson, admiring the alterations, which taught him more of
literature and art than all his four years' apprenticeship of study
and reading and comparison. A master's correction of a line made upon
the study always teaches more than all the theories and criticisms in
"What friends are these! What hearts! How fortunate I am!" he cried,
grasping his manuscript tightly.
With the quick impulsiveness of a poetic and mobile temperament, he
rushed off to Daniel's lodging. As he climbed the stairs, and thought
of these friends, who refused to leave the path of honor, he felt
conscious that he was less worthy of them than before. A voice spoke
within him, telling him that if d'Arthez had loved Coralie, he would
have had her break with Camusot. And, besides this, he knew that the
brotherhood held journalism in utter abhorrence, and that he himself
was already, to some small extent, a journalist. All of them, except
Meyraux, who had just gone out, were in d'Arthez's room when he
entered it, and saw that all their faces were full of sorrow and
"What is it?" he cried.
"We have just heard news of a dreadful catastrophe; the greatest
thinker of the age, our most loved friend, who was like a light among
us for two years----"
"Has fallen a victim to catalepsy. There is no hope for him," said
"He will die, his soul wandering in the skies, his body unconscious on
earth," said Michel Chrestien solemnly.
"He will die as he lived," said d'Arthez.
"Love fell like a firebrand in the vast empire of his brain and burned
him away," said Leon Giraud.
"Yes," said Joseph Bridau, "he has reached a height that we cannot so
much as see."
"_We_ are to be pitied, not Louis," said Fulgence Ridal.
"Perhaps he will recover," exclaimed Lucien.
"From what Meyraux has been telling us, recovery seems impossible,"
answered Bianchon. "Medicine has no power over the change that is
working in his brain."
"Yet there are physical means," said d'Arthez.
"Yes," said Bianchon; "we might produce imbecility instead of
"Is there no way of offering another head to the spirit of evil? I
would give mine to save him!" cried Michel Chrestien.
"And what would become of European federation?" asked d'Arthez.
"Ah! true," replied Michel Chrestien. "Our duty to Humanity comes
first; to one man afterwards."
"I came here with a heart full of gratitude to you all," said Lucien.
"You have changed my alloy into golden coin."
"Gratitude! For what do you take us?" asked Bianchon.
"We had the pleasure," added Fulgence.
"Well, so you are a journalist, are you?" asked Leon Giraud. "The fame
of your first appearance has reached even the Latin Quarter."
"I am not a journalist yet," returned Lucien.
"Aha! So much the better," said Michel Chrestien.
"I told you so!" said d'Arthez. "Lucien knows the value of a clean
conscience. When you can say to yourself as you lay your head on the
pillow at night, 'I have not sat in judgment on another man's work; I
have given pain to no one; I have not used the edge of my wit to deal
a stab to some harmless soul; I have sacrificed no one's success to a
jest; I have not even troubled the happiness of imbecility; I have not
added to the burdens of genius; I have scorned the easy triumphs of
epigram; in short, I have not acted against my convictions,' is not
this a viaticum that gives one daily strength?"
"But one can say all this, surely, and yet work on a newspaper," said
Lucien. "If I had absolutely no other way of earning a living, I
should certainly come to this."
"Oh! oh! oh!" cried Fulgence, his voice rising a note each time; "we
are capitulating, are we?"
"He will turn journalist," Leon Giraud said gravely. "Oh, Lucien, if
you would only stay and work with us! We are about to bring out a
periodical in which justice and truth shall never be violated; we will
spread doctrines that, perhaps, will be of real service to
"You will not have a single subscriber," Lucien broke in with
"There will be five hundred of them," asserted Michel Chrestien, "but
they will be worth five hundred thousand."
"You will need a lot of capital," continued Lucien.
"No, only devotion," said d'Arthez.
"Anybody might take him for a perfumer's assistant," burst out Michel
Chrestien, looking at Lucien's head, and sniffing comically. "You were
seen driving about in a very smart turnout with a pair of
thoroughbreds, and a mistress for a prince, Coralie herself."
"Well, and is there any harm in it?"
"You would not say that if you thought that there was no harm in it,"
"I could have wished Lucien a Beatrice," said d'Arthez, "a noble
woman, who would have been a help to him in life----"
"But, Daniel," asked Lucien, "love is love wherever you find it, is it
"Ah!" said the republican member, "on that one point I am an
aristocrat. I could not bring myself to love a woman who must rub
shoulders with all sorts of people in the green-room; whom an actor
kisses on stage; she must lower herself before the public, smile on
every one, lift her skirts as she dances, and dress like a man, that
all the world may see what none should see save I alone. Or if I loved
such a woman, she should leave the stage, and my love should cleanse
her from the stain of it."
"And if she would not leave the stage?"
"I should die of mortification, jealousy, and all sorts of pain. You
cannot pluck love out of your heart as you draw a tooth."
Lucien's face grew dark and thoughtful.
"When they find out that I am tolerating Camusot, how they will
despise me," he thought.
"Look here," said the fierce republican, with humorous fierceness,
"you can be a great writer, but a little play-actor you shall never
be," and he took up his hat and went out.
"He is hard, is Michel Chrestien," commented Lucien.
"Hard and salutary, like the dentist's pincers," said Bianchon.
"Michel foresees your future; perhaps in the street, at this moment,
he is thinking of you with tears in his eyes."
D'Arthez was kind, and talked comfortingly, and tried to cheer Lucien.
The poet spent an hour with his friends, then he went, but his
conscience treated him hardly, crying to him, "You will be a
journalist--a journalist!" as the witch cried to Macbeth that he
should be king hereafter!
Out in the street, he looked up at d'Arthez's windows, and saw a faint
light shining in them, and his heart sank. A dim foreboding told him
that he had bidden his friends good-bye for the last time.
As he turned out of the Place de la Sorbonne into the Rue de Cluny, he
saw a carriage at the door of his lodging. Coralie had driven all the
way from the Boulevard du Temple for the sake of a moment with her
lover and a "good-night." Lucien found her sobbing in his garret. She
would be as wretchedly poor as her poet, she wept, as she arranged his
shirts and gloves and handkerchiefs in the crazy chest of drawers. Her
distress was so real and so great, that Lucien, but even now chidden
for his connection with an actress, saw Coralie as a saint ready to
assume the hair-shirt of poverty. The adorable girl's excuse for her
visit was an announcement that the firm of Camusot, Coralie, and
Lucien meant to invite Matifat, Florine, and Lousteau (the second
trio) to supper; had Lucien any invitations to issue to people who
might be useful to him? Lucien said that he would take counsel of
A few moments were spent together, and Coralie hurried away. She
spared Lucien the knowledge that Camusot was waiting for her below.
Next morning, at eight o'clock, Lucien went to Etienne Lousteau's
room, found it empty, and hurried away to Florine. Lousteau and
Florine, settled into possession of their new quarters like a married
couple, received their friend in the pretty bedroom, and all three
breakfasted sumptuously together.
"Why, I should advise you, my boy, to come with me to see Felicien
Vernou," said Lousteau, when they sat at table, and Lucien had
mentioned Coralie's projected supper; "ask him to be of the party, and
keep well with him, if you can keep well with such a rascal. Felicien
Vernou does a _feuilleton_ for a political paper; he might perhaps
introduce you, and you could blossom out into leaders in it at your
ease. It is a Liberal paper, like ours; you will be a Liberal, that is
the popular party; and besides, if you mean to go over to the
Ministerialists, you would do better for yourself if they had reason
to be afraid of you. Then there is Hector Merlin and his Mme. du
Val-Noble; you meet great people at their house--dukes and dandies and
millionaires; didn't they ask you and Coralie to dine with them?"
"Yes," replied Lucien; "you are going too, and so is Florine." Lucien
and Etienne were now on familiar terms after Friday's debauch and the
dinner at the _Rocher de Cancale_.
"Very well, Merlin is on the paper; we shall come across him pretty
often; he is the chap to follow close on Finot's heels. You would do
well to pay him attention; ask him and Mme. du Val-Noble to supper. He
may be useful to you before long; for rancorous people are always in
need of others, and he may do you a good turn if he can reckon on your
"Your beginning has made enough sensation to smooth your way," said
Florine; "take advantage of it at once, or you will soon be
"The bargain, the great business, is concluded," Lousteau continued.
"That Finot, without a spark of talent in him, is to be editor of
Dauriat's weekly paper, with a salary of six hundred francs per month,
and owner of a sixth share, for which he has not paid one penny. And
I, my dear fellow, am now editor of our little paper. Everything went
off as I expected; Florine managed superbly, she could give points to
"We have a hold on men through their pleasures," said Florine, "while
a diplomatist only works on their self-love. A diplomatist sees a man
made up for the occasion; we know him in his moments of folly, so our
power is greater."
"And when the thing was settled, Matifat made the first and last joke
of his whole druggist's career," put in Lousteau. "He said, 'This
affair is quite in my line; I am supplying drugs to the public.'"
"I suspect that Florine put him up to it," cried Lucien.
"And by these means, my little dear, your foot is in the stirrup,"
"You were born with a silver spoon in your mouth," remarked Florine.
"What lots of young fellows wait for years, wait till they are sick of
waiting, for a chance to get an article into a paper! You will do like
Emile Blondet. In six months' time you will be giving yourself high
and mighty airs," she added, with a mocking smile, in the language of
"Haven't I been in Paris for three years?" said Lousteau, "and only
yesterday Finot began to pay me a fixed monthly salary of three
hundred francs, and a hundred francs per sheet for his paper."
"Well; you are saying nothing!" exclaimed Florine, with her eyes
turned on Lucien.
"We shall see," said Lucien.
"My dear boy, if you had been my brother, I could not have done more
for you," retorted Lousteau, somewhat nettled, "but I won't answer for
Finot. Scores of sharp fellows will besiege Finot for the next two
days with offers to work for low pay. I have promised for you, but you
can draw back if you like.--You little know how lucky you are," he
added after a pause. "All those in our set combine to attack an enemy
in various papers, and lend each other a helping hand all round."
"Let us go in the first place to Felicien Vernou," said Lucien. He was
eager to conclude an alliance with such formidable birds of prey.
Lousteau sent for a cab, and the pair of friends drove to Vernou's
house on the second floor up an alley in the Rue Mandar. To Lucien's
great astonishment, the harsh, fastidious, and severe critic's
surroundings were vulgar to the last degree. A marbled paper, cheap
and shabby, with a meaningless pattern repeated at regular intervals,
covered the walls, and a series of aqua tints in gilt frames decorated
the apartment, where Vernou sat at table with a woman so plain that
she could only be the legitimate mistress of the house, and two very
small children perched on high chairs with a bar in front to prevent
the infants from tumbling out. Felicien Vernou, in a cotton
dressing-gown contrived out of the remains of one of his wife's
dresses, was not over well pleased by this invasion.
"Have you breakfasted, Lousteau?" he asked, placing a chair for
"We have just left Florine; we have been breakfasting with her."
Lucien could not take his eyes off Mme. Vernou. She looked like a
stout, homely cook, with a tolerably fair complexion, but commonplace
to the last degree. The lady wore a bandana tied over her night-cap,
the strings of the latter article of dress being tied so tightly under
the chin that her puffy cheeks stood out on either side. A shapeless,
beltless garment, fastened by a single button at the throat, enveloped
her from head to foot in such a fashion that a comparison to a
milestone at once suggested itself. Her health left no room for hope;
her cheeks were almost purple; her fingers looked like sausages. In a
moment it dawned upon Lucien how it was that Vernou was always so ill
at ease in society; here was the living explanation of his
misanthropy. Sick of his marriage, unable to bring himself to abandon
his wife and family, he had yet sufficient of the artistic temper to
suffer continually from their presence; Vernou was an actor by nature
bound never to pardon the success of another, condemned to chronic
discontent because he was never content with himself. Lucien began to
understand the sour look which seemed to add to the bleak expression
of envy on Vernou's face; the acerbity of the epigrams with which his
conversation was sown, the journalist's pungent phrases, keen and
elaborately wrought as a stiletto, were at once explained.
"Let us go into my study," Vernou said, rising from the table; "you
have come on business, no doubt."
"Yes and no," replied Etienne Lousteau. "It is a supper, old chap."
"I have brought a message from Coralie," said Lucien (Mme. Vernou
looked up at once at the name), "to ask you to supper to-night at her
house to meet the same company as before at Florine's, and a few more
besides--Hector Merlin and Mme. du Val-Noble and some others. There
will be play afterwards."
"But we are engaged to Mme. Mahoudeau this evening, dear," put in the
"What does that matter?" returned Vernou.
"She will take offence if we don't go; and you are very glad of her
when you have a bill to discount."
"This wife of mine, my dear boy, can never be made to understand that
a supper engagement for twelve o'clock does not prevent you from going
to an evening party that comes to an end at eleven. She is always with
me while I work," he added.
"You have so much imagination!" said Lucien, and thereby made a mortal
enemy of Vernou.
"Well," continued Lousteau, "you are coming; but that is not all. M.
de Rubempre is about to be one of us, so you must push him in your
paper. Give him out for a chap that will make a name for himself in
literature, so that he can put in at least a couple of articles every
"Yes, if he means to be one of us, and will attack our enemies, as we
will attack his, I will say a word for him at the Opera to-night,"
"Very well--good-bye till to-morrow, my boy," said Lousteau, shaking
hands with every sign of cordiality. "When is your book coming out?"
"That depends on Dauriat; it is ready," said Vernou _pater-familias_.
"Are you satisfied?"
"Yes and no----"
"We will get up a success," said Lousteau, and he rose with a bow to
his colleague's wife.
The abrupt departure was necessary indeed; for the two infants,
engaged in a noisy quarrel, were fighting with their spoons, and
flinging the pap in each other's faces.
"That, my boy, is a woman who all unconsciously will work great havoc
in contemporary literature," said Etienne, when they came away. "Poor
Vernou cannot forgive us for his wife. He ought to be relieved of her
in the interests of the public; and a deluge of blood-thirsty reviews
and stinging sarcasms against successful men of every sort would be
averted. What is to become of a man with such a wife and that pair of
abominable brats? Have you seen Rigaudin in Picard's _La Maison en
Loterie_? You have? Well, like Rigaudin, Vernou will not fight himself,
but he will set others fighting; he would give an eye to put out both
eyes in the head of the best friend he has. You will see him using the
bodies of the slain for a stepping-stone, rejoicing over every one's
misfortunes, attacking princes, dukes, marquises, and nobles, because
he himself is a commoner; reviling the work of unmarried men because
he forsooth has a wife; and everlastingly preaching morality, the joys
of domestic life, and the duties of the citizen. In short, this very
moral critic will spare no one, not even infants of tender age. He
lives in the Rue Mandar with a wife who might be the _Mamamouchi_ of the
_Bourgeois gentilhomme_ and a couple of little Vernous as ugly as sin.
He tries to sneer at the Faubourg Saint-Germain, where he will never
set foot, and makes his duchesses talk like his wife. That is the sort
of man to raise a howl at the Jesuits, insult the Court, and credit
the Court party with the design of restoring feudal rights and the
right of primogeniture--just the one to preach a crusade for Equality,
he that thinks himself the equal of no one. If he were a bachelor, he
would go into society; if he were in a fair way to be a Royalist poet
with a pension and the Cross of the Legion of Honor, he would be an
optimist, and journalism offers starting-points by the hundred.
Journalism is the giant catapult set in motion by pigmy hatreds. Have
you any wish to marry after this? Vernou has none of the milk of human
kindness in him, it is all turned to gall; and he is emphatically the
Journalist, a tiger with two hands that tears everything to pieces, as
if his pen had the hydrophobia."
"It is a case of gunophobia," said Lucien. "Has he ability?"
"He is witty, he is a writer of articles. He incubates articles; he
does that all his life and nothing else. The most dogged industry
would fail to graft a book on his prose. Felicien is incapable of
conceiving a work on a large scale, of broad effects, of fitting
characters harmoniously in a plot which develops till it reaches a
climax. He has ideas, but he has no knowledge of facts; his heroes are
utopian creatures, philosophical or Liberal notions masquerading. He
is at pains to write an original style, but his inflated periods would
collapse at a pin-prick from a critic; and therefore he goes in terror
of reviews, like every one else who can only keep his head above water
with the bladders of newspaper puffs."
"What an article you are making out of him!"
"That particular kind, my boy, must be spoken, and never written."
"You are turning editor," said Lucien.
"Where shall I put you down?"
"Ah! we are infatuated," said Lousteau. "What a mistake! Do as I do
with Florine, let Coralie be your housekeeper, and take your fling."
"You would send a saint to perdition," laughed Lucien.
"Well, there is no damning a devil," retorted Lousteau.
The flippant tone, the brilliant talk of this new friend, his views of
life, his paradoxes, the axioms of Parisian Machiavelism,--all these
things impressed Lucien unawares. Theoretically the poet knew that
such thoughts were perilous; but he believed them practically useful.
Arrived in the Boulevard du Temple, the friends agreed to meet at the
office between four and five o'clock. Hector Merlin would doubtless be
there. Lousteau was right. The infatuation of desire was upon Lucien;
for the courtesan who loves knows how to grapple her lover to her by
every weakness in his nature, fashioning herself with incredible
flexibility to his every wish, encouraging the soft, effeminate habits
which strengthen her hold. Lucien was thirsting already for enjoyment;
he was in love with the easy, luxurious, and expensive life which the
He found Coralie and Camusot intoxicated with joy. The Gymnase offered
Coralie an engagement after Easter on terms for which she had never
dared to hope.
"And this great success is owing to you," said Camusot.
"Yes, surely. _The Alcalde_ would have fallen flat but for him," cried
Coralie; "if there had been no article, I should have been in for
another six years of the Boulevard theatres."
She danced up to Lucien and flung her arms round him, putting an
indescribable silken softness and sweetness into her enthusiasm. Love
had come to Coralie. And Camusot? his eyes fell. Looking down after
the wont of mankind in moments of sharp pain, he saw the seam of
Lucien's boots, a deep yellow thread used by the best bootmakers of
that time, in strong contrast with the glistening leather. The color
of that seam had tinged his thoughts during a previous conversation
with himself, as he sought to explain the presence of a mysterious
pair of hessians in Coralie's fender. He remembered now that he had
seen the name of "Gay, Rue de la Michodiere," printed in black letters
on the soft white kid lining.
"You have a handsome pair of boots, sir," he said.
"Like everything else about him," said Coralie.
"I should be very glad of your bootmaker's address."
"Oh, how like the Rue des Bourdonnais to ask for a tradesman's
address," cried Coralie. "Do _you_ intend to patronize a young man's
bootmaker? A nice young man you would make! Do keep to your own
top-boots; they are the kind for a steady-going man with a wife and
family and a mistress."
"Indeed, if you would take off one of your boots, sir, I should be
very much obliged," persisted Camusot.
"I could not get it on again without a button-hook," said Lucien,
"Berenice will fetch you one; we can do with some here," jeered
"Papa Camusot!" said Coralie, looking at him with cruel scorn, "have
the courage of your pitiful baseness. Come, speak out! You think that
this gentleman's boots are very like mine, do you not?--I forbid you
to take off your boots," she added, turning to Lucien.--"Yes, M.
Camusot. Yes, you saw some boots lying about in the fender here the
other day, and that is the identical pair, and this gentleman was
hiding in my dressing-room at the time, waiting for them; and he had
passed the night here. That was what you were thinking, _hein_? Think
so; I would rather you did. It is the simple truth. I am deceiving
you. And if I am? I do it to please myself."
She sat down. There was no anger in her face, no embarrassment; she
looked from Camusot to Lucien. The two men avoided each other's eyes.
"I will believe nothing that you do not wish me to believe," said
Camusot. "Don't play with me, Coralie; I was wrong----"
"I am either a shameless baggage that has taken a sudden fancy; or a
poor, unhappy girl who feels what love really is for the first time,
the love that all women long for. And whichever way it is, you must
leave me or take me as I am," she said, with a queenly gesture that
"Is it really true?" he asked, seeing from their faces that this was
no jest, yet begging to be deceived.
"I love mademoiselle," Lucien faltered out.
At that word, Coralie sprang to her poet and held him tightly to her;
then, with her arms still about him, she turned to the silk-mercer, as
if to bid him see the beautiful picture made by two young lovers.
"Poor Musot, take all that you gave to me back again; I do not want to
keep anything of yours; for I love this boy here madly, not for his
intellect, but for his beauty. I would rather starve with him than
have millions with you."
Camusot sank into a low chair, hid his face in his hands, and said not
"Would you like us to go away?" she asked. There was a note of
ferocity in her voice which no words can describe.
Cold chills ran down Lucien's spine; he beheld himself burdened with a
woman, an actress, and a household.
"Stay here, Coralie; keep it all," the old tradesman said at last, in
a faint, unsteady voice that came from his heart; "I don't want
anything back. There is the worth of sixty thousand francs here in the
furniture; but I could not bear to think of my Coralie in want. And
yet, it will not be long before you come to want. However great this
gentleman's talent may be, he can't afford to keep you. We old fellows
must expect this sort of thing. Coralie, let me come and see you
sometimes; I may be of use to you. And--I confess it; I cannot live
The poor man's gentleness, stripped as he was of his happiness just as
happiness had reached its height, touched Lucien deeply. Coralie was
quite unsoftened by it.
"Come as often as you wish, poor Musot," she said; "I shall like you
all the better when I don't pretend to love you."
Camusot seemed to be resigned to his fate so long as he was not driven
out of the earthly paradise, in which his life could not have been all
joy; he trusted to the chances of life in Paris and to the temptations
that would beset Lucien's path; he would wait a while, and all that
had been his should be his again. Sooner or later, thought the wily
tradesman, this handsome young fellow would be unfaithful; he would
keep a watch on him; and the better to do this and use his opportunity
with Coralie, he would be their friend. The persistent passion that
could consent to such humiliation terrified Lucien. Camusot's proposal
of a dinner at Very's in the Palais Royal was accepted.
"What joy!" cried Coralie, as soon as Camusot had departed. "You will
not go back now to your garret in the Latin Quarter; you will live
here. We shall always be together. You can take a room in the Rue
Charlot for the sake of appearances, and _vogue le galere_!"
She began to dance her Spanish dance, with an excited eagerness that
revealed the strength of the passion in her heart.
"If I work hard I may make five hundred francs a month," Lucien said.
"And I shall make as much again at the theatre, without counting
extras. Camusot will pay for my dresses as before. He is fond of me!
We can live like Croesus on fifteen hundred francs a month."
"And the horses? and the coachman? and the footman?" inquired
"I will get into debt," said Coralie. And she began to dance with
"I must close with Finot after this," Lucien exclaimed.
"There!" said Coralie, "I will dress and take you to your office. I
will wait outside in the boulevard for you with the carriage."
Lucien sat down on the sofa and made some very sober reflections as he
watched Coralie at her toilet. It would have been wiser to leave
Coralie free than to start all at once with such an establishment; but
Coralie was there before his eyes, and Coralie was so lovely, so
graceful, so bewitching, that the more picturesque aspects of bohemia
were in evidence; and he flung down the gauntlet to fortune.
Berenice was ordered to superintend Lucien's removal and installation;
and Coralie, triumphant, radiant, and happy, carried off her love, her
poet, and must needs go all over Paris on the way to the Rue
Saint-Fiacre. Lucien sprang lightly up the staircase, and entered the
office with an air of being quite at home. Coloquinte was there with
the stamped paper still on his head; and old Giroudeau told him again,
hypocritically enough, that no one had yet come in.
"But the editor and contributors _must_ meet somewhere or other to
arrange about the journal," said Lucien.
"Very likely; but I have nothing to do with the writing of the paper,"
said the Emperor's captain, resuming his occupation of checking off
wrappers with his eternal broum! broum!
Was it lucky or unlucky? Finot chanced to come in at that very moment
to announce his sham abdication and to bid Giroudeau watch over his
"No shilly-shally with this gentleman; he is on the staff," Finot
added for his uncle's benefit, as he grasped Lucien by the hand.
"Oh! is he on the paper?" exclaimed Giroudeau, much surprised at this
friendliness. "Well, sir, you came on without much difficulty."
"I want to make things snug for you here, lest Etienne should
bamboozle you," continued Finot, looking knowingly at Lucien. "This
gentleman will be paid three francs per column all round, including
"You have never taken any one on such terms before," said Giroudeau,
opening his eyes.
"And he will take the four Boulevard theatres. See that nobody sneaks
his boxes, and that he gets his share of tickets.--I should advise
you, nevertheless, to have them sent to your address," he added,
turning to Lucien.--"And he agrees to write besides ten miscellaneous
articles of two columns each, for fifty francs per month, for one
year. Does that suit you?"
"Yes," said Lucien. Circumstances had forced his hand.
"Draw up the agreement, uncle, and we will sign it when we come
"Who is the gentleman?" inquired Giroudeau, rising and taking off his
black silk skull-cap.
"M. Lucien de Rubempre, who wrote the article on _The Alcalde_."
"Young man, you have a gold mine _there_," said the old soldier, tapping
Lucien on the forehead. "I am not literary myself, but I read that
article of yours, and I liked it. That is the kind of thing! There's
gaiety for you! 'That will bring us new subscribers,' says I to
myself. And so it did. We sold fifty more numbers."
"Is my agreement with Lousteau made out in duplicate and ready to
sign?" asked Finot, speaking aside.
"Then ante-date this gentleman's agreement by one day, so that
Lousteau will be bound by the previous contract."
Finot took his new contributor's arm with a friendliness that charmed
Lucien, and drew him out on the landing to say:--
"Your position is made for you. I will introduce you to _my_ staff
myself, and to-night Lousteau will go round with you to the theatres.
You can make a hundred and fifty francs per month on this little paper
of ours with Lousteau as its editor, so try to keep well with him. The
rogue bears a grudge against me as it is, for tying his hands so far
as you are concerned; but you have ability, and I don't choose that
you shall be subjected to the whims of the editor. You might let me
have a couple of sheets every month for my review, and I will pay you
two hundred francs. This is between ourselves, don't mention it to
anybody else; I should be laid open to the spite of every one whose
vanity is mortified by your good fortune. Write four articles, fill
your two sheets, sign two with your own name, and two with a
pseudonym, so that you may not seem to be taking the bread out of
anybody else's mouth. You owe your position to Blondet and Vignon;
they think that you have a future before you. So keep out of scrapes,
and, above all things, be on your guard against your friends. As for
me, we shall always get on well together, you and I. Help me, and I
will help you. You have forty francs' worth of boxes and tickets to
sell, and sixty francs' worth of books to convert into cash. With that
and your work on the paper, you will be making four hundred and fifty
francs every month. If you use your wits, you will find ways of making
another two hundred francs at least among the publishers; they will
pay you for reviews and prospectuses. But you are mine, are you not? I
can count upon you."
Lucien squeezed Finot's hand in transports of joy which no words can
"Don't let any one see that anything has passed between us," said
Finot in his ear, and he flung open a door of a room in the roof at
the end of a long passage on the fifth floor.
A table covered with a green cloth was drawn up to a blazing fire, and
seated in various chairs and lounges Lucien discovered Lousteau,
Felicien Vernou, Hector Merlin, and two others unknown to him, all
laughing or smoking. A real inkstand, full of ink this time, stood on
the table among a great litter of papers; while a collection of pens,
the worse for wear, but still serviceable for journalists, told the
new contributor very plainly that the mighty enterprise was carried on
in this apartment.
"Gentlemen," said Finot, "the object of this gathering is the
installation of our friend Lousteau in my place as editor of the
newspaper which I am compelled to relinquish. But although my opinions
will necessarily undergo a transformation when I accept the editorship
of a review of which the politics are known to you, my _convictions_
remain the same, and we shall be friends as before. I am quite at your
service, and you likewise will be ready to do anything for me.
Circumstances change; principles are fixed. Principles are the pivot
on which the hands of the political barometer turn."
There was an instant shout of laughter.
"Who put that into your mouth?" asked Lousteau.
"Blondet!" said Finot.
"Windy, showery, stormy, settled fair," said Merlin; "we will all row
in the same boat."
"In short," continued Finot, "not to muddle our wits with metaphors,
any one who has an article or two for me will always find Finot.--This
gentleman," turning to Lucien, "will be one of you.--I have arranged
with him, Lousteau."
Every one congratulated Finot on his advance and new prospects.
"So there you are, mounted on our shoulders," said a contributor
whom Lucien did not know. "You will be the Janus of Journal----"
"So long as he isn't the Janot," put in Vernou.
"Are you going to allow us to make attacks on our _betes noires_?"
"Any one you like."
"Ah, yes!" said Lousteau; "but the paper must keep on its lines. M.
Chatelet is very wroth; we shall not let him off for a week yet."
"What has happened?" asked Lucien.
"He came here to ask for an explanation," said Vernou. "The Imperial
buck found old Giroudeau at home; and old Giroudeau told him, with all
the coolness in the world, that Philippe Bridau wrote the article.
Philippe asked the Baron to mention the time and the weapons, and
there it ended. We are engaged at this moment in offering excuses to
the Baron in to-morrow's issue. Every phrase is a stab for him."
"Keep your teeth in him and he will come round to me," said Finot;
"and it will look as if I were obliging him by appeasing you. He can
say a word to the Ministry, and we can get something or other out of
him--an assistant schoolmaster's place, or a tobacconist's license. It
is a lucky thing for us that we flicked him on the raw. Does anybody
here care to take a serious article on Nathan for my new paper?"
"Give it to Lucien," said Lousteau. "Hector and Vernou will write
articles in their papers at the same time."
"Good-day, gentlemen; we shall meet each other face to face at
Barbin's," said Finot, laughing.
Lucien received some congratulations on his admission to the mighty
army of journalists, and Lousteau explained that they could be sure of
him. "Lucien wants you all to sup in a body at the house of the fair
"Coralie is going on at the Gymnase," said Lucien.
"Very well, gentlemen; it is understood that we push Coralie, eh? Put
a few lines about her new engagement in your papers, and say something
about her talent. Credit the management of the Gymnase with tack and
discernment; will it do to say intelligence?"
"Yes, say intelligence," said Merlin; "Frederic has something of
"Oh! Well, then, the manager of the Gymnase is the most perspicacious
and far-sighted of men of business," said Vernou.
"Look here! don't write your articles on Nathan until we have come to
an understanding; you shall hear why," said Etienne Lousteau. "We
ought to do something for our new comrade. Lucien here has two books
to bring out--a volume of sonnets and a novel. The power of the
paragraph should make him a great poet due in three months; and we
will make use of his sonnets (_Marguerites_ is the title) to run down
odes, ballads, and reveries, and all the Romantic poetry."
"It would be a droll thing if the sonnets were no good after all,"
said Vernou.--"What do you yourself think of your sonnets, Lucien?"
"Yes, what do you think of them?" asked one of the two whom Lucien did
"They are all right, gentlemen; I give you my word," said Lousteau.
"Very well, that will do for me," said Vernou; "I will heave your book
at the poets of the sacristy; I am tired of them."
"If Dauriat declines to take the _Marguerites_ this evening, we will
attack him by pitching into Nathan."
"But what will Nathan say?" cried Lucien.
His five colleagues burst out laughing.
"Oh! he will be delighted," said Vernou. "You will see how we manage
"So he is one of us?" said one of the two journalists.
"Yes, yes, Frederic; no tricks.--We are all working for you, Lucien,
you see; you must stand by us when your turn comes. We are all friends
of Nathan's, and we are attacking him. Now, let us divide Alexander's
empire.--Frederic, will you take the Francais and the Odeon?"
"If these gentlemen are willing," returned the person addressed as
Frederic. The others nodded assent, but Lucien saw a gleam of jealousy
here and there.
"I am keeping the Opera, the Italiens, and the Opera-Comique," put in
"And how about me? Am I to have no theatres at all?" asked the second
"Oh well, Hector can let you have the Varietes, and Lucien can spare
you the Porte Saint-Martin.--Let him have the Porte Saint-Martin,
Lucien, he is wild about Fanny Beaupre; and you can take the
Cirque-Olympique in exchange. I shall have Bobino and the Funambules
and Madame Saqui. Now, what have we for to-morrow?"
"Gentlemen, be brilliant for my first number. The Baron du Chatelet
and his cuttlefish bone will not last for a week, and the writer of _Le
Solitaire_ is worn out."
"And 'Sosthenes-Demosthenes' is stale too," said Vernou; "everybody
has taken it up."
"The fact is, we want a new set of ninepins," said Frederic.
"Suppose that we take the virtuous representatives of the Right?"
suggested Lousteau. "We might say that M. de Bonald has sweaty feet."
"Let us begin a series of sketches of Ministerialist orators,"
suggested Hector Merlin.
"You do that, youngster; you know them; they are your own party," said
Lousteau; "you could indulge any little private grudges of your own.
Pitch into Beugnot and Syrieys de Mayrinhac and the rest. You might
have the sketches ready in advance, and we shall have something to
Back to Full Books