Honore de Balzac
Part 2 out of 3
At last nine o'clock struck; Rodolphe could get into a carriage and
say with an emotion that is very intelligible, "To the Villa
Jeanrenaud--to Prince Gandolphini's."
At last he saw Francesca, but without being seen by her. The Princess
was standing quite near the piano. Her beautiful hair, so thick and
long, was bound with a golden fillet. Her face, in the light of wax
candles, had the brilliant pallor peculiar to Italians, and which
looks its best only by artificial light. She was in full evening
dress, showing her fascinating shoulders, the figure of a girl and the
arms of an antique statue. Her sublime beauty was beyond all possible
rivalry, though there were some charming women of Geneva, and other
Italians, among them the dazzling and illustrious Princess Varese, and
the famous singer Tinti, who was at that moment singing.
Rodolphe, leaning against the door-post, looked at the Princess,
turning on her the fixed, tenacious, attracting gaze, charged with the
full, insistent will which is concentrated in the feeling called
desire, and thus assumes the nature of a vehement command. Did the
flame of that gaze reach Francesca? Was Francesca expecting each
instant to see Rodolphe? In a few minutes she stole a glance at the
door, as though magnetized by this current of love, and her eyes,
without reserve, looked deep into Rodolphe's. A slight thrill quivered
through that superb face and beautiful body; the shock to her spirit
reacted: Francesca blushed! Rodolphe felt a whole life in this
exchange of looks, so swift that it can only be compared to a
lightning flash. But to what could his happiness compare? He was
loved. The lofty Princess, in the midst of her world, in this handsome
villa, kept the pledge given by the disguised exile, the capricious
beauty of Bergmanns' lodgings. The intoxication of such a moment
enslaves a man for life! A faint smile, refined and subtle, candid and
triumphant, curled Princess Gandolphini's lips, and at a moment when
she did not feel herself observed she looked at Rodolphe with an
expression which seemed to ask his pardon for having deceived him as
to her rank.
When the song was ended Rodolphe could make his way to the Prince, who
graciously led him to his wife. Rodolphe went through the ceremonial
of a formal introduction to Princess and Prince Colonna, and to
Francesca. When this was over, the Princess had to take part in the
famous quartette, /Mi manca la voce/, which was sung by her with
Tinti, with the famous tenor Genovese, and with a well-known Italian
Prince then in exile, whose voice, if he had not been a Prince, would
have made him one of the Princes of Art.
"Take that seat," said Francesca to Rodolphe, pointing to her own
chair. "/Oime/! I think there is some mistake in my name; I have for
the last minute been Princess Rodolphini."
It was said with the artless grace which revived, in this avowal
hidden beneath a jest, the happy days at Gersau. Rodolphe reveled in
the exquisite sensation of listening to the voice of the woman he
adored, while sitting so close to her that one cheek was almost
touched by the stuff of her dress and the gauze of her scarf. But
when, at such a moment, /Mi manca la voce/ is being sung, and by the
finest voices in Italy, it is easy to understand what it was that
brought the tears to Rodolphe's eyes.
In love, as perhaps in all else, there are certain circumstances,
trivial in themselves, but the outcome of a thousand little previous
incidents, of which the importance is immense, as an epitome of the
past and as a link with the future. A hundred times already we have
felt the preciousness of the one we love; but a trifle--the perfect
touch of two souls united during a walk perhaps by a single word, by
some unlooked-for proof of affection, will carry the feeling to its
supremest pitch. In short, to express this truth by an image which has
been pre-eminently successful from the earliest ages of the world,
there are in a long chain points of attachment needed where the
cohesion is stronger than in the intermediate loops of rings. This
recognition between Rodolphe and Francesca, at this party, in the face
of the world, was one of those intense moments which join the future
to the past, and rivet a real attachment more deeply in the heart. It
was perhaps of these incidental rivets that Bossuet spoke when he
compared to them the rarity of happy moments in our lives--he who had
such a living and secret experience of love.
Next to the pleasure of admiring the woman we love, comes that of
seeing her admired by every one else. Rodolphe was enjoying both at
once. Love is a treasury of memories, and though Rodolphe's was
already full, he added to it pearls of great price; smiles shed aside
for him alone, stolen glances, tones in her singing which Francesca
addressed to him alone, but which made Tinti pale with jealousy, they
were so much applauded. All his strength of desire, the special
expression of his soul, was thrown over the beautiful Roman, who
became unchangeably the beginning and the end of all his thoughts and
actions. Rodolphe loved as every woman may dream of being loved, with
a force, a constancy, a tenacity, which made Francesca the very
substance of his heart; he felt her mingling with his blood as purer
blood, with his soul as a more perfect soul; she would henceforth
underlie the least efforts of his life as the golden sand of the
Mediterranean lies beneath the waves. In short, Rodolphe's lightest
aspiration was now a living hope.
At the end of a few days, Francesca understood this boundless love;
but it was so natural, and so perfectly shared by her, that it did not
surprise her. She was worthy of it.
"What is there that is strange?" said she to Rodolphe, as they walked
on the garden terrace, when he had been betrayed into one of those
outbursts of conceit which come so naturally to Frenchmen in the
expression of their feelings--"what is extraordinary in the fact of
your loving a young and beautiful woman, artist enough to be able to
earn her living like Tinti, and of giving you some of the pleasures of
vanity? What lout but would then become an Amadis? This is not in
question between you and me. What is needed is that we both love
faithfully, persistently; at a distance from each other for years,
with no satisfaction but that of knowing that we are loved."
"Alas!" said Rodolphe, "will you not consider my fidelity as devoid of
all merit when you see me absorbed in the efforts of devouring
ambition? Do you imagine that I can wish to see you one day exchange
the fine name of Gandolphini for that of a man who is a nobody? I want
to become one of the most remarkable men of my country, to be rich,
great--that you may be as proud of my name as of your own name of
"I should be grieved to see you without such sentiments in your
heart," she replied, with a bewitching smile. "But do not wear
yourself out too soon in your ambitious labors. Remain young. They say
that politics soon make a man old."
One of the rarest gifts in women is a certain gaiety which does not
detract from tenderness. This combination of deep feeling with the
lightness of youth added an enchanting grace at this moment to
Francesca's charms. This is the key to her character; she laughs and
she is touched; she becomes enthusiastic, and returns to arch raillery
with a readiness, a facility, which makes her the charming and
exquisite creature she is, and for which her reputation is known
outside Italy. Under the graces of a woman she conceals vast learning,
thanks to the excessively monotonous and almost monastic life she led
in the castle of the old Colonnas.
This rich heiress was at first intended for the cloister, being the
fourth child of Prince and Princess Colonna; but the death of her two
brothers, and of her elder sister, suddenly brought her out of her
retirement, and made her one of the most brilliant matches in the
Papal States. Her elder sister had been betrothed to Prince
Gandolphini, one of the richest landowners in Sicily; and Francesca
was married to him instead, so that nothing might be changed in the
position of the family. The Colonnas and Gandolphinis had always
From the age of nine till she was sixteen, Francesca, under the
direction of a Cardinal of the family, had read all through the
library of the Colonnas, to make weight against her ardent imagination
by studying science, art, and letters. But in these studies she
acquired the taste for independence and liberal ideas, which threw
her, with her husband, into the ranks of the revolution. Rodolphe had
not yet learned that, besides five living languages, Francesca knew
Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The charming creature perfectly understood
that, for a woman, the first condition of being learned is to keep it
Rodolphe spent the whole winter at Geneva. This winter passed like a
day. When spring returned, notwithstanding the infinite delights of
the society of a clever woman, wonderfully well informed, young and
lovely, the lover went through cruel sufferings, endured indeed with
courage, but which were sometimes legible in his countenance, and
betrayed themselves in his manners or speech, perhaps because he
believed that Francesca shared them. Now and again it annoyed him to
admire her calmness. Like an Englishwoman, she seemed to pride herself
on expressing nothing in her face; its serenity defied love; he longed
to see her agitated; he accused her of having no feeling, for he
believed in the tradition which ascribes to Italian women a feverish
"I am a Roman!" Francesca gravely replied one day when she took quite
seriously some banter on this subject from Rodolphe.
There was a depth of tone in her reply which gave it the appearance of
scathing irony, and which set Rodolphe's pulses throbbing. The month
of May spread before them the treasures of her fresh verdure; the sun
was sometimes as powerful as at midsummer. The two lovers happened to
be at a part of the terrace where the rock arises abruptly from the
lake, and were leaning over the stone parapet that crowns the wall
above a flight of steps leading down to a landing-stage. From the
neighboring villa, where there is a similar stairway, a boat presently
shot out like a swan, its flag flaming, its crimson awning spread over
a lovely woman comfortably reclining on red cushions, her hair
wreathed with real flowers; the boatman was a young man dressed like a
sailor, and rowing with all the more grace because he was under the
"They are happy!" exclaimed Rodolphe, with bitter emphasis. "Claire de
Bourgogne, the last survivor of the only house which can ever vie with
the royal family of France--"
"Oh! of a bastard branch, and that a female line."
"At any rate, she is Vicomtesse de Beauseant; and she did not--"
"Did not hesitate, you would say, to bury herself here with Monsieur
Gaston de Nueil, you would say," replied the daughter of the Colonnas.
"She is only a Frenchwoman; I am an Italian, my dear sir!"
Francesca turned away from the parapet, leaving Rodolphe, and went to
the further end of the terrace, whence there is a wide prospect of the
lake. Watching her as she slowly walked away, Rodolphe suspected that
he had wounded her soul, at once so simple and so wise, so proud and
so humble. It turned him cold; he followed Francesca, who signed to
him to leave her to herself. But he did not heed the warning, and
detected her wiping away her tears. Tears! in so strong a nature.
"Francesca," said he, taking her hand, "is there a single regret in
She was silent, disengaged her hand which held her embroidered
handkerchief, and again dried her eyes.
"Forgive me!" he said. And with a rush, he kissed her eyes to wipe
away the tears.
Francesca did not seem aware of his passionate impulse, she was so
violently agitated. Rodolphe, thinking she consented, grew bolder; he
put his arm round her, clasped her to his heart, and snatched a kiss.
But she freed herself by a dignified movement of offended modesty,
and, standing a yard off, she looked at him without anger, but with
"Go this evening," she said. "We meet no more till we meet at Naples."
This order was stern, but it was obeyed, for it was Francesca's will.
On his return to Paris Rodolphe found in his rooms a portrait of
Princess Gandolphini painted by Schinner, as Schinner can paint. The
artist had passed through Geneva on his way to Italy. As he had
positively refused to paint the portraits of several women, Rodolphe
did not believe that the Prince, anxious as he was for a portrait of
his wife, would be able to conquer the great painter's objections; but
Francesca, no doubt, had bewitched him, and obtained from him--which
was almost a miracle--an original portrait for Rodolphe, and a
duplicate for Emilio. She told him this in a charming and delightful
letter, in which the mind indemnified itself for the reserve required
by the worship of the proprieties. The lover replied. Thus began,
never to cease, a regular correspondence between Rodolphe and
Francesca, the only indulgence they allowed themselves.
Rodolphe, possessed by an ambition sanctified by his love, set to
work. First he longed to make his fortune, and risked his all in an
undertaking to which he devoted all his faculties as well as his
capital; but he, an inexperienced youth, had to contend against
duplicity, which won the day. Thus three years were lost in a vast
enterprise, three years of struggling and courage.
The Villele ministry fell just when Rodolphe was ruined. The valiant
lover thought he would seek in politics what commercial industry had
refused him; but before braving the storms of this career, he went,
all wounded and sick at heart, to have his bruises healed and his
courage revived at Naples, where the Prince and Princess had been
reinstated in their place and rights on the King's accession. This, in
the midst of his warfare, was a respite full of delights; he spent
three months at the Villa Gandolphini, rocked in hope.
Rodolphe then began again to construct his fortune. His talents were
already known; he was about to attain the desires of his ambition; a
high position was promised him as the reward of his zeal, his
devotion, and his past services, when the storm of July 1830 broke,
and again his bark was swamped.
She, and God! These are the only witnesses of the brave efforts, the
daring attempts of a young man gifted with fine qualities, but to
whom, so far, the protection of luck--the god of fools--has been
denied. And this indefatigable wrestler, upheld by love, comes back to
fresh struggles, lighted on his way by an always friendly eye, an ever
Lovers! Pray for him!
As she finished this narrative, Mademoiselle de Watteville's cheeks
were on fire; there was a fever in her blood. She was crying--but with
rage. This little novel, inspired by the literary style then in
fashion, was the first reading of the kind that Rosalie had ever had
the chance of devouring. Love was depicted in it, if not by a master-
hand, at any rate by a man who seemed to give his own impressions; and
truth, even if unskilled, could not fail to touch a virgin soul. Here
lay the secret of Rosalie's terrible agitation, of her fever and her
tears; she was jealous of Francesca Colonna.
She never for an instant doubted the sincerity of this poetical
flight; Albert had taken pleasure in telling the story of his passion,
while changing the names of persons and perhaps of places. Rosalie was
possessed by infernal curiosity. What woman but would, like her, have
wanted to know her rival's name--for she too loved! As she read these
pages, to her really contagious, she had said solemnly to herself, "I
love him!"--She loved Albert, and felt in her heart a gnawing desire
to fight for him, to snatch him from this unknown rival. She reflected
that she knew nothing of music, and that she was not beautiful.
"He will never love me!" thought she.
This conclusion aggravated her anxiety to know whether she might not
be mistaken, whether Albert really loved an Italian Princess, and was
loved by her. In the course of this fateful night, the power of swift
decision, which had characterized the famous Watteville, was fully
developed in his descendant. She devised those whimsical schemes,
round which hovers the imagination of most young girls when, in the
solitude to which some injudicious mothers confine them, they are
roused by some tremendous event which the system of repression to
which they are subjected could neither foresee nor prevent. She
dreamed of descending by a ladder from the kiosk into the garden of
the house occupied by Albert; of taking advantage of the lawyer's
being asleep to look through the window into his private room. She
thought of writing to him, or of bursting the fetters of Besancon
society by introducing Albert to the drawing-room of the Hotel de
Rupt. This enterprise, which to the Abbe de Grancey even would have
seemed the climax of the impossible, was a mere passing thought.
"Ah!" said she to herself, "my father has a dispute pending as to his
land at les Rouxey. I will go there! If there is no lawsuit, I will
manage to make one, and /he/ shall come into our drawing-room!" she
cried, as she sprang out of bed and to the window to look at the
fascinating gleam which shone through Albert's nights. The clock
struck one; he was still asleep.
"I shall see him when he gets up; perhaps he will come to his window."
At this instant Mademoiselle de Watteville was witness to an incident
which promised to place in her power the means of knowing Albert's
secrets. By the light of the moon she saw a pair of arms stretched out
from the kiosk to help Jerome, Albert's servant, to get across the
coping of the wall and step into the little building. In Jerome's
accomplice Rosalie at once recognized Mariette the lady's-maid.
"Mariette and Jerome!" said she to herself. "Mariette, such an ugly
girl! Certainly they must be ashamed of themselves."
Though Mariette was horribly ugly and six-and-thirty, she had
inherited several plots of land. She had been seventeen years with
Madame de Watteville, who valued her highly for her bigotry, her
honesty, and long service, and she had no doubt saved money and
invested her wages and perquisites. Hence, earning about ten louis a
year, she probably had by this time, including compound interest and
her little inheritance, not less than ten thousand francs.
In Jerome's eyes ten thousand francs could alter the laws of optics;
he saw in Mariette a neat figure; he did not perceive the pits and
seams which virulent smallpox had left on her flat, parched face; to
him the crooked mouth was straight; and ever since Savaron, by taking
him into his service, had brought him so near to the Wattevilles'
house, he had laid siege systematically to the maid, who was as prim
and sanctimonious as her mistress, and who, like every ugly old maid,
was far more exacting than the handsomest.
If the night-scene in the kiosk is thus fully accounted for to all
perspicacious readers, it was not so to Rosalie, though she derived
from it the most dangerous lesson that can be given, that of a bad
example. A mother brings her daughter up strictly, keeps her under her
wing for seventeen years, and then, in one hour, a servant girl
destroys the long and painful work, sometimes by a word, often indeed
by a gesture! Rosalie got into bed again, not without considering how
she might take advantage of her discovery.
Next morning, as she went to Mass accompanied by Mariette--her mother
was not well--Rosalie took the maid's arm, which surprised the country
wench not a little.
"Mariette," said she, "is Jerome in his master's confidence?"
"I do not know, mademoiselle."
"Do not play the innocent with me," said Mademoiselle de Watteville
drily. "You let him kiss you last night under the kiosk; I no longer
wonder that you so warmly approved of my mother's ideas for the
improvements she planned."
Rosalie could feel how Mariette was trembling by the shaking of her
"I wish you no ill," Rosalie went on. "Be quite easy; I shall not say
a word to my mother, and you can meet Jerome as often as you please."
"But, mademoiselle," said Mariette, "it is perfectly respectable;
Jerome honestly means to marry me--"
"But then," said Rosalie, "why meet at night?"
Mariette was dumfounded, and could make no reply.
"Listen, Mariette; I am in love too! In secret and without any return.
I am, after all, my father's and mother's only child. You have more to
hope for from me than from any one else in the world--"
"Certainly, mademoiselle, and you may count on us for life or death,"
exclaimed Mariette, rejoiced at the unexpected turn of affairs.
"In the first place, silence for silence," said Rosalie. "I will not
marry Monsieur de Soulas; but one thing I will have, and must have; my
help and favor are yours on one condition only."
"What is that?"
"I must see the letters which Monsieur Savaron sends to the post by
"But what for?" said Mariette in alarm.
"Oh! merely to read them, and you yourself shall post them afterwards.
It will cause a little delay; that is all."
At this moment they went into church, and each of them, instead of
reading the order of Mass, fell into her own train of thought.
"Dear, dear, how many sins are there in all that?" thought Mariette.
Rosalie, whose soul, brain, and heart were completely upset by reading
the story, by this time regarded it as history, written for her rival.
By dint of thinking of nothing else, like a child, she ended by
believing that the /Eastern Review/ was no doubt forwarded to Albert's
"Oh!" said she to herself, her head buried in her hands in the
attitude of a person lost in prayer; "oh! how can I get my father to
look through the list of people to whom the /Review/ is sent?"
After breakfast she took a turn in the garden with her father, coaxing
and cajoling him, and brought him to the kiosk.
"Do you suppose, my dear little papa, that our /Review/ is ever read
"It is but just started--"
"Well, I will wager that it is."
"It is hardly possible."
"Just go and find out, and note the names of any subscribers out of
Two hours later Monsieur de Watteville said to his daughter:
"I was right; there is not one foreign subscriber as yet. They hope to
get some at Neufchatel, at Berne, and at Geneva. One copy, is in fact,
sent to Italy, but it is not paid for--to a Milanese lady at her
country house at Belgirate, on Lago Maggiore.
"What is her name?"
"The Duchesse d'Argaiolo."
"Do you know her, papa?"
"I have heard about her. She was by birth a Princess Soderini, a
Florentine, a very great lady, and quite as rich as her husband, who
has one of the largest fortunes in Lombardy. Their villa on the Lago
Maggiore is one of the sights of Italy."
Two days after, Mariette placed the following letter in Mademoiselle
de Watteville's hand:--
Albert Savaron to Leopold Hannequin.
"Yes, 'tis so, my dear friend; I am at Besancon, while you thought
I was traveling. I would not tell you anything till success should
begin, and now it is dawning. Yes, my dear Leopold, after so many
abortive undertakings, over which I have shed the best of my
blood, have wasted so many efforts, spent so much courage, I have
made up my mind to do as you have done--to start on a beaten path,
on the highroad, as the longest but the safest. I can see you jump
with surprise in your lawyer's chair!
"But do not suppose that anything is changed in my personal life,
of which you alone in the world know the secret, and that under
the reservations /she/ insists on. I did not tell you, my friend;
but I was horribly weary of Paris. The outcome of the first
enterprise, on which I had founded all my hopes, and which came to
a bad end in consequence of the utter rascality of my two
partners, who combined to cheat and fleece me--me, though
everything was done by my energy--made me give up the pursuit of a
fortune after the loss of three years of my life. One of these
years was spent in the law courts, and perhaps I should have come
worse out of the scrape if I had not been made to study law when I
"I made up my mind to go into politics solely, to the end that I
may some day find my name on a list for promotion to the Senate
under the title of Comte Albert Savaron de Savarus, and so revive
in France a good name now extinct in Belgium--though indeed I am
neither legitimate nor legitimized."
"Ah! I knew it! He is of noble birth!" exclaimed Rosalie, dropping the
"You know how conscientiously I studied, how faithful and useful I
was as an obscure journalist, and how excellent a secretary to the
statesman who, on his part, was true to me in 1829. Flung to the
depths once more by the revolution of July just when my name was
becoming known, at the very moment when, as Master of Appeals, I
was about to find my place as a necessary wheel in the political
machine, I committed the blunder of remaining faithful to the
fallen, and fighting for them, without them. Oh! why was I but
three-and-thirty, and why did I not apply to you to make me
eligible? I concealed from you all my devotedness and my dangers.
What would you have? I was full of faith. We should not have
"Ten months ago, when you saw me so gay and contented, writing my
political articles, I was in despair; I foresaw my fate, at the
age of thirty-seven, with two thousand francs for my whole
fortune, without the smallest fame, just having failed in a noble
undertaking, the founding, namely, of a daily paper answering only
to a need of the future instead of appealing to the passions of
the moment. I did not know which way to turn, and I felt my own
value! I wandered about, gloomy and hurt, through the lonely
places of Paris--Paris which had slipped through my fingers--
thinking of my crushed ambitions, but never giving them up. Oh,
what frantic letters I wrote at that time to /her/, my second
conscience, my other self! Sometimes I would say to myself, 'Why
did I sketch so vast a programme of life? Why demand everything?
Why not wait for happiness while devoting myself to some
"I then looked about me for some modest appointment by which I
might live. I was about to get the editorship of a paper under a
manager who did not know much about it, a man of wealth and
ambition, when I took fright. 'Would /she/ ever accept as her
husband a man who had stooped so low?' I wondered.
"This reflection made me two-and-twenty again. But, oh, my dear
Leopold, how the soul is worn by these perplexities! What must not
the caged eagles suffer, and imprisoned lions!--They suffer what
Napoleon suffered, not at Saint Helena, but on the Quay of the
Tuileries, on the 10th of August, when he saw Louis XVI. defending
himself so badly while he could have quelled the insurrection; as
he actually did, on the same spot, a little later, in Vendemiaire.
Well, my life has been a torment of that kind, extending over four
years. How many a speech to the Chamber have I not delivered in
the deserted alleys of the Bois de Boulogne! These wasted
harangues have at any rate sharpened my tongue and accustomed my
mind to formulate its ideas in words. And while I was undergoing
this secret torture, you were getting married, you had paid for
your business, you were made law-clerk to the Maire of your
district, after gaining a cross for a wound at Saint-Merri.
"Now, listen. When I was a small boy and tortured cock-chafers,
the poor insects had one form of struggle which used almost to put
me in a fever. It was when I saw them making repeated efforts to
fly but without getting away, though they could spread their
wings. We used to say, 'They are marking time.' Now was this
sympathy? Was it a vision of my own future?--Oh! to spread my
wings and yet be unable to fly! That has been my predicament since
that fine undertaking by which I was disgusted, but which has now
made four families rich.
"At last, seven months ago, I determined to make myself a name at
the Paris Bar, seeing how many vacancies had been left by the
promotion of several lawyers to eminent positions. But when I
remembered the rivalry I had seen among men of the press, and how
difficult it is to achieve anything of any kind in Paris, the
arena where so many champions meet, I came to a determination
painful to myself, but certain in its results, and perhaps quicker
than any other. In the course of our conversations you had given
me a picture of the society of Besancon, of the impossibility for
a stranger to get on there, to produce the smallest effect, to get
into society, or to succeed in any way whatever. It was there that
I determined to set up my flag, thinking, and rightly, that I
should meet with no opposition, but find myself alone to canvass
for the election. The people of the Comte will not meet the
outsider? The outsider will meet them! They refuse to admit him to
their drawing-rooms, he will never go there! He never shows
himself anywhere, not even in the streets! But there is one class
that elects the deputies--the commercial class. I am going
especially to study commercial questions, with which I am already
familiar; I will gain their lawsuits, I will effect compromises, I
will be the greatest pleader in Besancon. By and by I will start a
/Review/, in which I will defend the interests of the country,
will create them, or preserve them, or resuscitate them. When I
shall have won a sufficient number of votes, my name will come out
of the urn. For a long time the unknown barrister will be treated
with contempt, but some circumstance will arise to bring him to
the front--some unpaid defence, or a case which no other pleader
"Well, my dear Leopold, I packed up my books in eleven cases, I
bought such law-books as might prove useful, and I sent everything
off, furniture and all, by carrier to Besancon. I collected my
diplomas, and I went to bid you good-bye. The mail coach dropped
me at Besancon, where, in three days' time, I chose a little set
of rooms looking out over some gardens. I sumptuously arranged the
mysterious private room where I spend my nights and days, and
where the portrait of my divinity reigns--of her to whom my life
is dedicate, who fills it wholly, who is the mainspring of my
efforts, the secret of my courage, the cause of my talents. Then,
as soon as the furniture and books had come, I engaged an
intelligent man-servant, and there I sat for five months like a
"My name had, however, been entered on the list of lawyers in the
town. At last I was called one day to defend an unhappy wretch at
the Assizes, no doubt in order to hear me speak for once! One of
the most influential merchants of Besancon was on the jury; he had
a difficult task to fulfil; I did my utmost for the man, and my
success was absolute and complete. My client was innocent; I very
dramatically secured the arrest of the real criminals, who had
come forward as witnesses. In short, the Court and the public were
united in their admiration. I managed to save the examining
magistrate's pride by pointing out the impossibility of detecting
a plot so skilfully planned.
"Then I had to fight a case for my merchant, and won his suit. The
Cathedral Chapter next chose me to defend a tremendous action
against the town, which had been going on for four years; I won
that. Thus, after three trials, I had become the most famous
advocate of Franche-Comte.
"But I bury my life in the deepest mystery, and so hide my aims. I
have adopted habits which prevent my accepting any invitations. I
am only to be consulted between six and eight in the morning; I go
to bed after my dinner, and work at night. The Vicar-General, a
man of parts, and very influential, who placed the Chapter's case
in my hands after they had lost it in the lower Court, of course
professed their gratitude. 'Monsieur,' said I, 'I will win your
suit, but I want no fee; I want more' (start of alarm on the
Abbe's part). 'You must know that I am a great loser by putting
myself forward in antagonism to the town. I came here only to
leave the place as deputy. I mean to engage only in commercial
cases, because commercial men return the members; they will
distrust me if I defend "the priests"--for to them you are simply
priests. If I undertake your defence, it is because I was, in
1828, private secretary to such a Minister' (again a start of
surprise on the part of my Abbe), 'and Master of Appeals, under
the name of Albert de Savarus' (another start). 'I have remained
faithful to monarchical opinions; but, as you have not the
majority of votes in Besancon, I must gain votes among the
citizens. So the fee I ask of you is the votes you may be able
secretly to secure for me at the opportune moment. Let us each
keep our own counsel, and I will defend, for nothing, every case
to which a priest of this diocese may be a party. Not a word about
my previous life, and we will be true to each other.'
"When he came to thank me afterwards, he gave me a note for five
hundred francs, and said in my ear, 'The votes are a bargain all
the same.'--I have in the course of five interviews made a friend,
I think, of this Vicar-General.
"Now I am overwhelmed with business, and I undertake no cases but
those brought to me by merchants, saying that commercial questions
are my specialty. This line of conduct attaches business men to
me, and allows me to make friends with influential persons. So all
goes well. Within a few months I shall have found a house to
purchase in Besancon, so as to secure a qualification. I count on
your lending me the necessary capital for this investment. If I
should die, if I should fail, the loss would be too small to be
any consideration between you and me. You will get the interest
out of the rental, and I shall take good care to look out for
something cheap, so that you may lose nothing by this mortgage,
which is indispensable.
"Oh! my dear Leopold, no gambler with the last remains of his
fortune in his pocket, bent on staking it at the Cercle des
Etrangers for the last time one night, when he must come away rich
or ruined, ever felt such a perpetual ringing in his ears, such a
nervous moisture on his palms, such a fevered tumult in his brain,
such inward qualms in his body as I go through every day now that
I am playing my last card in the game of ambition. Alas! my dear
and only friend, for nearly ten years now I have been struggling.
This battle with men and things, in which I have unceasingly
poured out my strength and energy, and so constantly worn the
springs of desire, has, so to speak, undermined my vitality. With
all the appearance of a strong man of good health, I feel myself a
wreck. Every day carries with it a shred of my inmost life. At
every fresh effort I feel that I should never be able to begin
again. I have no power, no vigor left but for happiness; and if it
should never come to crown my head with roses, the /me/ that is
really me would cease to exist, I should be a ruined thing. I
should wish for nothing more in the world. I should want to cease
from living. You know that power and fame, the vast moral empire
that I crave, is but secondary; it is to me only a means to
happiness, the pedestal for my idol.
"To reach the goal and die, like the runner of antiquity! To see
fortune and death stand on the threshold hand in hand! To win the
beloved woman just when love is extinct! To lose the faculty of
enjoyment after earning the right to be happy!--Of how many men
has this been the fate!
"But there surely is a moment when Tantalus rebels, crosses his
arms, and defies hell, throwing up his part of the eternal dupe.
That is what I shall come to if anything should thwart my plan;
if, after stooping to the dust of provincial life, prowling like a
starving tiger round these tradesmen, these electors, to secure
their votes; if, after wrangling in these squalid cases, and
giving them my time--the time I might have spent on Lago Maggiore,
seeing the waters she sees, basking in her gaze, hearing her voice
--if, after all, I failed to scale the tribune and conquer the
glory that should surround the name that is to succeed to that of
Argaiolo! Nay, more than this, Leopold; there are days when I feel
a heady languor; deep disgust surges up from the depths of my
soul, especially when, abandoned to long day-dreams, I have lost
myself in anticipation of the joys of blissful love! May it not be
that our desire has only a certain modicum of power, and that it
perishes, perhaps, of a too lavish effusion of its essence? For,
after all, at this present, my life is fair, illuminated by faith,
work, and love.
"Farewell, my friend; I send love to your children, and beg you to
remember me to your excellent wife.--Yours,
Rosalie read this letter twice through, and its general purport was
stamped on her heart. She suddenly saw the whole of Albert's previous
existence, for her quick intelligence threw light on all the details,
and enabled her to take it all in. By adding this information to the
little novel published in the /Review/, she now fully understood
Albert. Of course, she exaggerated the greatness, remarkable as it
was, of this lofty soul and potent will, and her love for Albert
thenceforth became a passion, its violence enhanced by all the
strength of her youth, the weariness of her solitude, and the unspent
energy of her character. Love is in a young girl the effect of a
natural law; but when her craving for affection is centered in an
exceptional man, it is mingled with the enthusiasm which overflows in
a youthful heart. Thus Mademoiselle de Watteville had in a few days
reached a morbid and very dangerous stage of enamored infatuation. The
Baroness was much pleased with her daughter, who, being under the
spell of her absorbing thoughts, never resisted her will, seemed to be
devoted to feminine occupations, and realized her mother's ideal of a
The lawyer was now engaged in Court two or three times a week. Though
he was overwhelmed with business, he found time to attend the trials,
call on the litigious merchants, and conduct the /Review/; keeping up
his personal mystery, from the conviction that the more covert and
hidden was his influence, the more real it would be. But he neglected
no means of success, reading up the list of electors of Besancon, and
finding out their interests, their characters, their various
friendships and antipathies. Did ever a Cardinal hoping to be made
Pope give himself more trouble?
One evening Mariette, on coming to dress Rosalie for an evening party,
handed to her, not without many groans over this treachery, a letter
of which the address made Mademoiselle de Watteville shiver and redden
and turn pale again as she read the address:
To Madame la Duchesse d'Argaiolo
(nee Princesse Soderini)
Lago Maggiore, Italy.
In her eyes this direction blazed as the words /Mene/, /Tekel/,
/Upharsin/, did in the eyes of Belshazzar. After concealing the
letter, Rosalie went downstairs to accompany her mother to Madame de
Chavoncourt's; and as long as the endless evening lasted, she was
tormented by remorse and scruples. She had already felt shame at
having violated the secrecy of Albert's letter to Leopold; she had
several times asked herself whether, if he knew of her crime, infamous
inasmuch as it necessarily goes unpunished, the high-minded Albert
could esteem her. Her conscience answered an uncompromising "No."
She had expiated her sin by self-imposed penances; she fasted, she
mortified herself by remaining on her knees, her arms outstretched for
hours, and repeating prayers all the time. She had compelled Mariette
to similar sets of repentance; her passion was mingled with genuine
asceticism, and was all the more dangerous.
"Shall I read that letter, shall I not?" she asked herself, while
listening to the Chavoncourt girls. One was sixteen, the other
seventeen and a half. Rosalie looked upon her two friends as mere
children because they were not secretly in love.--"If I read it," she
finally decided, after hesitating for an hour between Yes and No, "it
shall, at any rate, be the last. Since I have gone so far as to see
what he wrote to his friend, why should I not know what he says to
/her/? If it is a horrible crime, is it not a proof of love? Oh,
Albert! am I not your wife?"
When Rosalie was in bed she opened the letter, dated from day to day,
so as to give the Duchess a faithful picture of Albert's life and
"My dear Soul, all is well. To my other conquests I have just
added an invaluable one: I have done a service to one of the most
influential men who work the elections. Like the critics, who make
other men's reputations but can never make their own, he makes
deputies though he never can become one. The worthy man wanted to
show his gratitude without loosening his purse-strings by saying
to me, 'Would you care to sit in the Chamber? I can get you
returned as deputy.'
" 'If I ever make up my mind to enter on a political career,'
replied I hypocritically, 'it would be to devote myself to the
Comte, which I love, and where I am appreciated.'
" 'Well,' he said, 'we will persuade you, and through you we shall
have weight in the Chamber, for you will distinguish yourself
"And so, my beloved angel, say what you will, my perseverance will
be rewarded. Ere long I shall, from the high place of the French
Tribune, come before my country, before Europe. My name will be
flung to you by the hundred voices of the French press.
"Yes, as you tell me, I was old when I came to Besancon, and
Besancon has aged me more; but, like Sixtus V., I shall be young
again the day after my election. I shall enter on my true life, my
own sphere. Shall we not then stand in the same line? Count
Savaron de Savarus, Ambassador I know not where, may surely marry
a Princess Soderini, the widow of the Duc d'Argaiolo! Triumph
restores the youth of men who have been preserved by incessant
struggles. Oh, my Life! with what gladness did I fly from my
library to my private room, to tell your portrait of this progress
before writing to you! Yes, the votes I can command, those of the
Vicar-General, of the persons I can oblige, and of this client,
make my election already sure.
"We have entered on the twelfth year since that blest evening
when, by a look, the beautiful Duchess sealed the promises made by
the exile Francesca. You, dear, are thirty-two, I am thirty-five;
the dear Duke is seventy-seven--that is to say, ten years more
than yours and mine put together, and he still keeps well! My
patience is almost as great as my love, and indeed I need a few
years yet to rise to the level of your name. As you see, I am in
good spirits to-day, I can laugh; that is the effect of hope.
Sadness or gladness, it all comes to me through you. The hope of
success always carries me back to the day following that one on
which I saw you for the first time, when my life became one with
yours as the earth turns to the light. /Qual pianto/ are these
eleven years, for this is the 26th of December, the anniversary of
my arrival at your villa on the Lake of Geneva. For eleven years
have I been crying to you, while you shine like a star set too
high for man to reach it.
"No, dearest, do not go to Milan; stay at Belgirate. Milan
terrifies me. I do not like that odious Milanese fashion of
chatting at the Scala every evening with a dozen persons, among
whom it is hard if no one says something sweet. To me solitude is
like the lump of amber in whose heart an insect lives for ever in
unchanging beauty. Thus the heart and soul of a woman remains pure
and unaltered in the form of their first youth. Is it the
/Tedeschi/ that you regret?
"Is your statue never to be finished? I should wish to have you in
marble, in painting, in miniature, in every possible form, to
beguile my impatience. I still am waiting for the view of
Belgirate from the south, and that of the balcony; these are all
that I now lack. I am so extremely busy that to-day I can only
write you nothing--but that nothing is everything. Was it not of
nothing that God made the world? That nothing is a word, God's
word: I love you!
"Ah! I have received your journal. Thanks for your punctuality.--
So you found great pleasure in seeing all the details of our first
acquaintance thus set down? Alas! even while disguising them I was
sorely afraid of offending you. We had no stories, and a /Review/
without stories is a beauty without hair. Not being inventive by
nature, and in sheer despair, I took the only poetry in my soul,
the only adventure in my memory, and pitched it in the key in
which it would bear telling; nor did I ever cease to think of you
while writing the only literary production that will ever come
from my heart, I cannot say from my pen. Did not the
transformation of your fierce Sormano into Gina make you laugh?
"You ask after my health. Well, it is better than in Paris. Though
I work enormously, the peacefulness of the surroundings has its
effect on the mind. What really tries and ages me, dear angel, is
the anguish of mortified vanity, the perpetual friction of Paris
life, the struggle of rival ambitions. This peace is a balm.
"If you could imagine the pleasure your letter gives me!--the
long, kind letter in which you tell me the most trivial incidents
of your life. No! you women can never know to what a degree a true
lover is interested in these trifles. It was an immense pleasure
to see the pattern of your new dress. Can it be a matter of
indifference to me to know what you wear? If your lofty brow is
knit? If our writers amuse you? If Canalis' songs delight you? I
read the books you read. Even to your boating on the lake every
incident touched me. Your letter is as lovely, as sweet as your
soul! Oh! flower of heaven, perpetually adored, could I have lived
without those dear letters, which for eleven years have upheld me
in my difficult path like a light, like a perfume, like a steady
chant, like some divine nourishment, like everything which can
soothe and comfort life.
"Do not fail me! If you knew what anxiety I suffer the day before
they are due, or the pain a day's delay can give me! Is she ill?
Is /he/? I am midway between hell and paradise.
"/O mia cara diva/, keep up your music, exercise your voice,
practise. I am enchanted with the coincidence of employments and
hours by which, though separated by the Alps, we live by precisely
the same rule. The thought charms me and gives me courage. The
first time I undertook to plead here--I forget to tell you this--I
fancied that you were listening to me, and I suddenly felt the
flash of inspiration which lifts the poet above mankind. If I am
returned to the Chamber--oh! you must come to Paris to be present
at my first appearance there!
"Good heavens, how I love you! Alas! I have intrusted too much to
my love and my hopes. An accident which should sink that
overloaded bark would end my life. For three years now I have not
seen you, and at the thought of going to Belgirate my heart beats
so wildly that I am forced to stop.--To see you, to hear that
girlish caressing voice! To embrace in my gaze that ivory skin,
glistening under the candlelight, and through which I can read
your noble mind! To admire your fingers playing on the keys, to
drink in your whole soul in a look, in the tone of an /Oime/ or an
/Alberto/! To walk by the blossoming orange-trees, to live a few
months in the bosom of that glorious scenery!--That is life. What
folly it is to run after power, a name, fortune! But at Belgirate
there is everything; there is poetry, there is glory! I ought to
have made myself your steward, or, as that dear tyrant whom we
cannot hate proposed to me, live there as /cavaliere servente/,
only our passion was too fierce to allow of it.
"Farewell, my angel, forgive me my next fit of sadness in
consideration of this cheerful mood; it has come as a beam of
light from the torch of Hope, which has hitherto seemed to me a
"How he loves her!" cried Rosalie, dropping the letter, which seemed
heavy in her hand. "After eleven years to write like this!"
"Mariette," said Mademoiselle de Watteville to her maid next morning,
"go and post this letter. Tell Jerome that I know all I wish to know,
and that he is to serve Monsieur Albert faithfully. We will confess
our sins, you and I, without saying to whom the letters belonged, nor
to whom they were going. I was in the wrong; I alone am guilty."
"Mademoiselle has been crying?" said Mariette.
"Yes, but I do not want that my mother should perceive it; give me
some very cold water."
In the midst of the storms of her passion Rosalie often listened to
the voice of conscience. Touched by the beautiful fidelity of these
two hearts, she had just said her prayers, telling herself that there
was nothing left to her but to be resigned, and to respect the
happiness of two beings worthy of each other, submissive to fate,
looking to God for everything, without allowing themselves any
criminal acts or wishes. She felt a better woman, and had a certain
sense of satisfaction after coming to this resolution, inspired by the
natural rectitude of youth. And she was confirmed in it by a girl's
idea: She was sacrificing herself for /him/.
"She does not know how to love," thought she. "Ah! if it were I--I
would give up everything to a man who loved me so.--To be loved!--
When, by whom shall I be loved? That little Monsieur de Soulas only
loves my money; if I were poor, he would not even look at me."
"Rosalie, my child, what are you thinking about? You are working
beyond the outline," said the Baroness to her daughter, who was making
worsted-work slippers for the Baron.
Rosalie spent the winter of 1834-35 torn by secret tumults; but in the
spring, in the month of April, when she reached the age of nineteen,
she sometimes thought that it would be a fine thing to triumph over a
Duchesse d'Argaiolo. In silence and solitude the prospect of this
struggle had fanned her passion and her evil thoughts. She encouraged
her romantic daring by making plan after plan. Although such
characters are an exception, there are, unfortunately, too many
Rosalies in the world, and this story contains a moral that ought to
serve them as a warning.
In the course of this winter Albert de Savarus had quietly made
considerable progress in Besancon. Confident of success, he now
impatiently awaited the dissolution of the Chamber. Among the men of
the moderate party he had won the suffrages of one of the makers of
Besancon, a rich contractor, who had very wide influence.
Wherever they settled the Romans took immense pains, and spent
enormous sums to have an unlimited supply of good water in every town
of their empire. At Besancon they drank the water from Arcier, a hill
at some considerable distance from Besancon. The town stands in a
horseshoe circumscribed by the river Doubs. Thus, to restore an
aqueduct in order to drink the same water that the Romans drank, in a
town watered by the Doubs, is one of those absurdities which only
succeed in a country place where the most exemplary gravity prevails.
If this whim could be brought home to the hearts of the citizens, it
would lead to considerable outlay; and this expenditure would benefit
the influential contractor.
Albert Savaron de Savarus opined that the water of the river was good
for nothing but to flow under the suspension bridge, and that the only
drinkable water was that from Arcier. Articles were printed in the
/Review/ which merely expressed the views of the commercial interest
of Besancon. The nobility and the citizens, the moderates and the
legitimists, the government party and the opposition, everybody, in
short, was agreed that they must drink the same water as the Romans,
and boast of a suspension bridge. The question of the Arcier water was
the order of the day at Besancon. At Besancon--as in the matter of the
two railways to Versailles--as for every standing abuse--there were
private interests unconfessed which gave vital force to this idea. The
reasonable folk in opposition to this scheme, who were indeed but few,
were regarded as old women. No one talked of anything but of Savaron's
two projects. And thus, after eighteen months of underground labor,
the ambitious lawyer had succeeded in stirring to its depths the most
stagnant town in France, the most unyielding to foreign influence, in
finding the length of its foot, to use a vulgar phrase, and exerting a
preponderant influence without stirring from his own room. He had
solved the singular problem of how to be powerful without being
In the course of this winter he won seven lawsuits for various priests
of Besancon. At moments he could breathe freely at the thought of his
coming triumph. This intense desire, which made him work so many
interests and devise so many springs, absorbed the last strength of
his terribly overstrung soul. His disinterestedness was lauded, and he
took his clients' fees without comment. But this disinterestedness
was, in truth, moral usury; he counted on a reward far greater to him
than all the gold in the world.
In the month of October 1834 he had brought, ostensibly to serve a
merchant who was in difficulties, with money lent him by Leopold
Hannequin, a house which gave him a qualification for election. He had
not seemed to seek or desire this advantageous bargain.
"You are really a remarkable man," said the Abbe de Grancey, who, of
course, had watched and understood the lawyer. The Vicar-General had
come to introduce to him a Canon who needed his professional advice.
"You are a priest who has taken the wrong turning." This observation
Rosalie, on her part, had made up her mind, in her strong girl's head,
to get Monsieur de Savarus into the drawing-room and acquainted with
the society of the Hotel de Rupt. So far she had limited her desires
to seeing and hearing Albert. She had compounded, so to speak, and a
composition is often no more than a truce.
Les Rouxey, the inherited estate of the Wattevilles, was worth just
ten thousand francs a year; but in other hands it would have yielded a
great deal more. The Baron in his indifference--for his wife was to
have, and in fact had, forty thousand francs a year--left the
management of les Rouxey to a sort of factotum, an old servant of the
Wattevilles named Modinier. Nevertheless, whenever the Baron and his
wife wished to go out of the town, they went to les Rouxey, which is
very picturesquely situated. The chateau and the park were, in fact,
created by the famous Watteville, who in his active old age was
passionately attached to this magnificent spot.
Between two precipitous hills--little peaks with bare summits known as
the great and the little Rouxey--in the heart of a ravine where the
torrents from the heights, with the Dent de Vilard at their head, come
tumbling to join the lovely upper waters of the Doubs, Watteville had
a huge dam constructed, leaving two cuttings for the overflow. Above
this dam he made a beautiful lake, and below it two cascades; and
these, uniting a few yards below the falls, formed a lovely little
river to irrigate the barren, uncultivated valley, and these two hills
he enclosed in a ring fence, and built himself a retreat on the dam,
which he widened to two acres by accumulating above it all the soil
which had to be removed to make a channel for the river and the
When the Baron de Watteville thus obtained the lake above his dam he
was owner of the two hills, but not of the upper valley thus flooded,
through which there had been at all times a right-of-way to where it
ends in a horseshoe under the Dent de Vilard. But this ferocious old
man was so widely dreaded, that so long as he lived no claim was urged
by the inhabitants of Riceys, the little village on the further side
of the Dent de Vilard. When the Baron died, he left the slopes of the
two Rouxey hills joined by a strong wall, to protect from inundation
the two lateral valleys opening into the valley of Rouxey, to the
right and left at the foot of the Dent de Vilard. Thus he died the
master of the Dent de Vilard.
His heirs asserted their protectorate of the village of Riceys, and so
maintained the usurpation. The old assassin, the old renegade, the old
Abbe Watteville, ended his career by planting trees and making a fine
road over the shoulder of one of the Rouxey hills to join the
highroad. The estate belonging to this park and house was extensive,
but badly cultivated; there were chalets on both hills and neglected
forests of timber. It was all wild and deserted, left to the care of
nature, abandoned to chance growths, but full of sublime and
unexpected beauty. You may now imagine les Rouxey.
It is unnecessary to complicate this story by relating all the
prodigious trouble and the inventiveness stamped with genius, by which
Rosalie achieved her end without allowing it to be suspected. It is
enough to say that it was in obedience to her mother that she left
Besancon in the month of May 1835, in an antique traveling carriage
drawn by a pair of sturdy hired horses, and accompanied her father to
To a young girl love lurks in everything. When she rose, the morning
after her arrival, Mademoiselle de Watteville saw from her bedroom
window the fine expanse of water, from which the light mists rose like
smoke, and were caught in the firs and larches, rolling up and along
the hills till they reached the heights, and she gave a cry of
"They loved by the lakes! /She/ lives by a lake! A lake is certainly
full of love!" she thought.
A lake fed by snows has opalescent colors and a translucency that
makes it one huge diamond; but when it is shut in like that of les
Rouxey, between two granite masses covered with pines, when silence
broods over it like that of the Savannas or the Steppes, then every
one must exclaim as Rosalie did.
"We owe that," said her father, "to the notorious Watteville."
"On my word," said the girl, "he did his best to earn forgiveness. Let
us go in a boat to the further end; it will give us an appetite for
The Baron called two gardener lads who knew how to row, and took with
him his prime minister Modinier. The lake was about six acres in
breadth, in some places ten or twelve, and four hundred in length.
Rosalie soon found herself at the upper end shut in by the Dent de
Vilard, the Jungfrau of that little Switzerland.
"Here we are, Monsieur le Baron," said Modinier, signing to the
gardeners to tie up the boat; "will you come and look?"
"Look at what?" asked Rosalie.
"Oh, nothing!" exclaimed the Baron. "But you are a sensible girl; we
have some little secrets between us, and I may tell you what ruffles
my mind. Some difficulties have arisen since 1830 between the village
authorities of Riceys and me, on account of this very Dent de Vilard,
and I want to settle the matter without your mother's knowing anything
about it, for she is stubborn; she is capable of flinging fire and
flames broadcast, particularly if she should hear that the Mayor of
Riceys, a republican, got up this action as a sop to his people."
Rosalie had presence of mind enough to disguise her delight, so as to
work more effectually on her father.
"What action?" said she.
"Mademoiselle, the people of Riceys," said Modinier, "have long
enjoyed the right of grazing and cutting fodder on their side of the
Dent de Vilard. Now Monsieur Chantonnit, the Maire since 1830,
declares that the whole Dent belongs to his district, and maintains
that a hundred years ago, or more, there was a way through our
grounds. You understand that in that case we should no longer have
them to ourselves. Then this barbarian would end by saying, what the
old men in the village say, that the ground occupied by the lake was
appropriated by the Abbe de Watteville. That would be the end of les
Rouxey; what next?"
"Indeed, my child, between ourselves, it is the truth," said Monsieur
de Watteville simply. "The land is an usurpation, with no title-deed
but lapse of time. And, therefore, to avoid all worry, I should wish
to come to a friendly understanding as to my border line on this side
of the Dent de Vilard, and I will then raise a wall."
"If you give way to the municipality, it will swallow you up. You
ought to have threatened Riceys."
"That is just what I told the master last evening," said Modinier.
"But in confirmation of that view I proposed that he should come to
see whether, on this side of the Dent or on the other, there may not
be, high or low, some traces of an enclosure."
For a century the Dent de Vilard had been used by both parties without
coming to extremities; it stood as a sort of party wall between the
communes of Riceys and les Rouxey, yielding little profit. Indeed, the
object in dispute, being covered with snow for six months in the year,
was of a nature to cool their ardor. Thus it required all the hot
blast by which the revolution of 1830 inflamed the advocates of the
people, to stir up this matter, by which Monsieur Chantonnit, the
Maire of Riceys, hoped to give a dramatic turn to his career on the
peaceful frontier of Switzerland, and to immortalize his term of
office. Chantonnit, as his name shows, was a native of Neuchatel.
"My dear father," said Rosalie, as they got into the boat again, "I
agree with Modinier. If you wish to secure the joint possession of the
Dent de Vilard, you must act with decision, and get a legal opinion
which will protect you against this enterprising Chantonnit. Why
should you be afraid? Get the famous lawyer Savaron--engage him at
once, lest Chantonnit should place the interests of the village in his
hands. The man who won the case for the Chapter against the town can
certainly win that of Watteville /versus/ Riceys! Besides," she added,
"les Rouxey will some day be mine--not for a long time yet, I trust.--
Well, then do not leave me with a lawsuit on my hands. I like this
place, I shall often live here, and add to it as much as possible. On
those banks," and she pointed to the feet of the two hills, "I shall
cut flowerbeds and make the loveliest English gardens. Let us go to
Besancon and bring back with us the Abbe de Grancey, Monsieur Savaron,
and my mother, if she cares to come. You can then make up your mind;
but in your place I should have done so already. Your name is
Watteville, and you are afraid of a fight! If you should lose your
case--well, I will never reproach you by a word!"
"Oh, if that is the way you take it," said the Baron, "I am quite
ready; I will see the lawyer."
"Besides a lawsuit is really great fun. It brings some interest into
life, with coming and going and raging over it. You will have a great
deal to do before you can get hold of the judges.--We did not see the
Abbe de Grancey for three weeks, he was so busy!"
"But the very existence of the Chapter was involved," said Monsieur de
Watteville; "and then the Archbishop's pride, his conscience,
everything that makes up the life of the priesthood, was at stake.
That Savaron does not know what he did for the Chapter! He saved it!"
"Listen to me," said his daughter in his ear, "if you secure Monsieur
de Savaron, you will gain your suit, won't you? Well, then, let me
advise you. You cannot get at Monsieur Savaron excepting through
Monsieur de Grancey. Take my word for it, and let us together talk to
the dear Abbe without my mother's presence at the interview, for I
know a way of persuading him to bring the lawyer to us."
"It will be very difficult to avoid mentioning it to your mother!"
"The Abbe de Grancey will settle that afterwards. But just make up
your mind to promise your vote to Monsieur Savaron at the next
election, and you will see!"
"Go to the election! take the oath?" cried the Baron de Watteville.
"What then!" said she.
"And what will your mother say?"
"She may even desire you to do it," replied Rosalie, knowing as she
did from Albert's letter to Leopold how deeply the Vicar-General had
Four days after, the Abbe de Grancey called very early one morning on
Albert de Savarus, having announced his visit the day before. The old
priest had come to win over the great lawyer to the house of the
Wattevilles, a proceeding which shows how much tact and subtlety
Rosalie must have employed in an underhand way.
"What can I do for you, Monsieur le Vicaire-General?" asked Savarus.
The Abbe, who told his story with admirable frankness, was coldly
heard by Albert.
"Monsieur l'Abbe," said he, "it is out of the question that I should
defend the interests of the Wattevilles, and you shall understand why.
My part in this town is to remain perfectly neutral. I will display no
colors; I must remain a mystery till the eve of my election. Now, to
plead for the Wattevilles would mean nothing in Paris, but here!--
Here, where everything is discussed, I should be supposed by every one
to be an ally of your Faubourg Saint-Germain."
"What! do you suppose that you can remain unknown on the day of the
election, when the candidates must oppose each other? It must then
become known that your name is Savaron de Savarus, that you have held
the appointment of Master of Appeals, that you are a man of the
"On the day of the election," said Savarus, "I will be all I am
expected to be; and I intend to speak at the preliminary meetings."
"If you have the support of Monsieur de Watteville and his party, you
will get a hundred votes in a mass, and far more to be trusted than
those on which you rely. It is always possible to produce division of
interests; convictions are inseparable."
"The deuce is in it!" said Savarus. "I am attached to you, and I could
do a great deal for you, Father! Perhaps we may compound with the
Devil. Whatever Monsieur de Watteville's business may be, by engaging
Girardet, and prompting him, it will be possible to drag the
proceedings out till the elections are over. I will not undertake to
plead till the day after I am returned."
"Do this one thing," said the Abbe. "Come to the Hotel de Rupt: there
is a young person of nineteen there who, one of these days, will have
a hundred thousand francs a year, and you can seem to be paying your
court to her--"
"Ah! the young lady I sometimes see in the kiosk?"
"Yes, Mademoiselle Rosalie," replied the Abbe de Grancey. "You are
ambitious. If she takes a fancy to you, you may be everything an
ambitious man can wish--who knows? A Minister perhaps. A man can
always be a Minister who adds a hundred thousand francs a year to your
"Monsieur l'Abbe, if Mademoiselle de Watteville had three times her
fortune, and adored me into the bargain, it would be impossible that I
should marry her--"
"You are married?" exclaimed the Abbe.
"Not in church nor before the Maire, but morally speaking," said
"That is even worse when a man cares about it as you seem to care,"
replied the Abbe. "Everything that is not done, can be undone. Do not
stake your fortune and your prospects on a woman's liking, any more
than a wise man counts on a dead man's shoes before starting on his
"Let us say no more about Mademoiselle de Watteville," said Albert
gravely, "and agree as to the facts. At your desire--for I have a
regard and respect for you--I will appear for Monsieur de Watteville,
but after the elections. Until then Girardet must conduct the case
under my instructions. That is the most I can do."
"But there are questions involved which can only be settled after
inspection of the localities," said the Vicar-General.
"Girardet can go," said Savarus. "I cannot allow myself, in the face
of a town I know so well, to take any step which might compromise the
supreme interests that lie beyond my election."
The Abbe left Savarus after giving him a keen look, in which he seemed
to be laughing at the young athlete's uncompromising politics, while
admiring his firmness.
"Ah! I would have dragged my father into a lawsuit--I would have done
anything to get him here!" cried Rosalie to herself, standing in the
kiosk and looking at the lawyer in his room, the day after Albert's
interview with the Abbe, who had reported the result to her father. "I
would have committed any mortal sin, and you will not enter the
Wattevilles' drawing-room; I may not hear your fine voice! You make
conditions when your help is required by the Wattevilles and the
Rupts!--Well, God knows, I meant to be content with these small joys;
with seeing you, hearing you speak, going with you to les Rouxey, that
your presence might to me make the place sacred. That was all I asked.
But now--now I mean to be your wife.--Yes, yes; look at /her/
portrait, at /her/ drawing-room, /her/ bedroom, at the four sides of
/her/ villa, the points of view from /her/ gardens. You expect her
statue? I will make her marble herself towards you!--After all, the
woman does not love. Art, science, books, singing, music, have
absorbed half her senses and her intelligence. She is old, too; she is
past thirty; my Albert will not be happy!"
"What is the matter that you stay here, Rosalie?" asked her mother,
interrupting her reflections. "Monsieur de Soulas is in the drawing-
room, and he observed your attitude, which certainly betrays more
thoughtfulness than is due at your age."
"Then, is Monsieur de Soulas a foe to thought?" asked Rosalie.
"Then you were thinking?" said Madame de Watteville.
"Why, yes, mamma."
"Why, no! you were not thinking. You were staring at that lawyer's
window with an attention that is neither becoming, nor decent, and
which Monsieur de Soulas, of all men, ought never to have observed."
"Why?" said Rosalie.
"It is time," said the Baroness, "that you should know what our
intentions are. Amedee likes you, and you will not be unhappy as
Comtesse de Soulas."
Rosalie, as white as a lily, made no reply, so completely was she
stupefied by contending feelings. And yet in the presence of the man
she had this instant begun to hate vehemently, she forced the kind of
smile which a ballet-dancer puts on for the public. Nay, she could
even laugh; she had the strength to conceal her rage, which presently
subsided, for she was determined to make use of this fat simpleton to
further her designs.
"Monsieur Amedee," said she, at the moment when her mother was walking
ahead of them in the garden, affecting to leave the young people
together, "were you not aware that Monsieur Albert Savaron de Savarus
is a Legitimist?"
"Until 1830 he was Master of Appeals to the Council of State, attached
to the supreme Ministerial Council, and in favor with the Dauphin and
Dauphiness. It would be very good of you to say nothing against him,
but it would be better still if you would attend the election this
year, carry the day, and hinder that poor Monsieur de Chavoncourt from
representing the town of Besancon."
"What sudden interest have you in this Savaron?"
"Monsieur Albert Savaron de Savarus, the natural son of the Comte de
Savarus--pray keep the secret of my indiscretion--if he is returned
deputy, will be our advocate in the suit about les Rouxey. Les Rouxey,
my father tells me, will be my property; I intend to live there, it is
a lovely place! I should be broken-hearted at seeing that fine piece
of the great de Watteville's work destroyed."
"The devil!" thought Amedee, as he left the house. "The heiress is not
such a fool as her mother thinks her."
Monsieur de Chavoncourt is a Royalist, of the famous 221. Hence, from
the day after the revolution of July, he always preached the salutary
doctrine of taking the oaths and resisting the present order of
things, after the pattern of the Tories against the Whigs in England.
This doctrine was not acceptable to the Legitimists, who, in their
defeat, had the wit to divide in their opinions, and to trust to the
force of inertia and to Providence. Monsieur de Chavoncourt was not
wholly trusted by his own party, but seemed to the Moderates the best
man to choose; they preferred the triumph of his half-hearted opinions
to the acclamation of a Republican who should combine the votes of the
enthusiasts and the patriots. Monsieur de Chavoncourt, highly
respected in Besancon, was the representative of an old parliamentary
family; his fortune, of about fifteen thousand francs a year, was not
an offence to anybody, especially as he had a son and three daughters.
With such a family, fifteen thousand francs a year are a mere nothing.
Now when, under these circumstances, the father of the family is above
bribery, it would be hard if the electors did not esteem him. Electors
wax enthusiastic over a /beau ideal/ of parliamentary virtue, just as
the audience in the pit do at the representation of the generous
sentiments they so little practise.
Madame de Chavoncourt, at this time a woman of forty, was one of the
beauties of Besancon. While the Chamber was sitting, she lived
meagrely in one of their country places to recoup herself by economy
for Monsieur de Chavoncourt's expenses in Paris. In the winter she
received very creditably once a week, on Tuesdays, understanding her
business as mistress of the house. Young Chavoncourt, a youth of two-
and-twenty, and another young gentleman, named Monsieur de Vauchelles,
no richer than Amedee and his school-friend, were his intimate allies.
They made excursions together to Granvelle, and sometimes went out
shooting; they were so well known to be inseparable that they were
invited to the country together.
Rosalie, who was intimate with the Chavoncourt girls, knew that the
three young men had no secrets from each other. She reflected that if
Monsieur de Soulas should repeat her words, it would be to his two
companions. Now, Monsieur de Vauchelles had his matrimonial plans, as
Amedee had his; he wished to marry Victoire, the eldest of the
Chavoncourts, on whom an old aunt was to settle an estate worth seven
thousand francs a year, and a hundred thousand francs in hard cash,
when the contract was to be signed. Victoire was this aunt's god-
daughter and favorite niece. Consequently, young Chavoncourt and his
friend Vauchelles would be sure to warn Monsieur de Chavoncourt of the
danger he was in from Albert's candidature.
But this did not satisfy Rosalie. She sent the Prefet of the
department a letter written with her left hand, signed "/A friend to
Louis Philippe/," in which she informed him of the secret intentions
of Monsieur Albert de Savarus, pointing out the serious support a
Royalist orator might give to Berryer, and revealing to him the deeply
artful course pursued by the lawyer during his two years' residence at
Besancon. The Prefet was a capable man, a personal enemy of the
Royalist party, devoted by conviction to the Government of July--in
short, one of those men of whom, in the Rue de Grenelle, the Minister
of the Interior could say, "We have a capital Prefet at Besancon."--
The Prefet read the letter, and, in obedience to its instructions, he
Rosalie aimed at preventing Albert's election, so as to keep him five
years longer at Besancon.
At that time an election was a fight between parties, and in order to
win, the Ministry chose its ground by choosing the moment when it
would give battle. The elections were therefore not to take place for
three months yet. When a man's whole life depends on an election, the
period that elapses between the issuing of the writs for convening the
electoral bodies, and the day fixed for their meetings, is an interval
during which ordinary vitality is suspended. Rosalie fully understood
how much latitude Albert's absorbed state would leave her during these
three months. By promising Mariette--as she afterwards confessed--to
take both her and Jerome into her service, she induced the maid to
bring her all the letters Albert might sent to Italy, and those
addressed to him from that country. And all the time she was pondering
these machinations, the extraordinary girl was working slippers for
her father with the most innocent air in the world. She even made a
greater display than ever of candor and simplicity, quite
understanding how valuable that candor and innocence would be to her
"My daughter grows quite charming!" said Madame de Watteville.
Two months before the election a meeting was held at the house of
Monsieur Boucher senior, composed of the contractor who expected to
get the work for the aqueduct for the Arcier waters; of Monsieur
Boucher's father-in-law; of Monsieur Granet, the influential man to
whom Savarus had done a service, and who was to nominate him as a
candidate; of Girardet the lawyer; of the printer of the /Eastern
Review/; and of the President of the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, the
assembly consisted of twenty-seven persons in all, men who in the
provinces are regarded as bigwigs. Each man represented on an average
six votes, but in estimating their values they said ten, for men
always begin by exaggerating their own influence. Among these twenty-
seven was one who was wholly devoted to the Prefet, one false brother
who secretly looked for some favor from the Ministry, either for
himself or for some one belonging to him.
At this preliminary meeting, it was agreed that Savaron the lawyer
should be named as candidate, a motion received with such enthusiasm
as no one looked for from Besancon. Albert, waiting at home for Alfred
Boucher to fetch him, was chatting with the Abbe de Grancey, who was
interested in this absorbing ambition. Albert had appreciated the
priest's vast political capacities; and the priest, touched by the
young man's entreaties, had been willing to become his guide and
adviser in this culminating struggle. The Chapter did not love
Monsieur de Chavoncourt, for it was his wife's brother-in-law, as
President of the Tribunal, who had lost the famous suit for them in
the lower Court.
"You are betrayed, my dear fellow," said the shrewd and worthy Abbe,
in that gentle, calm voice which old priests acquire.
"Betrayed!" cried the lover, struck to the heart.
"By whom I know not at all," the priest replied. "But at the
Prefecture your plans are known, and your hand read like a book. At
this moment I have no advice to give you. Such affairs need
consideration. As for this evening, take the bull by the horns,
anticipate the blow. Tell them all your previous life, and thus you
will mitigate the effect of the discovery on the good folks of
"Oh, I was prepared for it," said Albert in a broken voice.
"You would not benefit by my advice; you had the opportunity of making
an impression at the Hotel de Rupt; you do not know the advantage you
would have gained--"
"The unanimous support of the Royalists, an immediate readiness to go
to the election--in short, above a hundred votes. Adding to these
what, among ourselves, we call the ecclesiastical vote, though you
were not yet nominated, you were master of the votes by ballot. Under
such circumstances, a man may temporize, may make his way--"
Alfred Boucher when he came in, full of enthusiasm, to announce the
decision of the preliminary meeting, found the Vicar-General and the
lawyer cold, calm, and grave.
"Good-night, Monsieur l'Abbe," said Albert. "We will talk of your
business at greater length when the elections are over."
And he took Alfred's arm, after pressing Monsieur de Grancey's hand
with meaning. The priest looked at the ambitious man, whose face at
that moment wore the lofty expression which a general may have when he
hears the first gun fired for a battle. He raised his eyes to heaven,
and left the room, saying to himself, "What a priest he would make!"
Eloquence is not at the Bar. The pleader rarely puts forth the real
powers of his soul; if he did, he would die of it in a few years.
Eloquence is, nowadays, rarely in the pulpit; but it is found on
certain occasions in the Chamber of Deputies, when an ambitious man
stakes all to win all, or, stung by a myriad darts, at a given moment
bursts into speech. But it is still more certainly found in some
privileged beings, at the inevitable hour when their claims must
either triumph or be wrecked, and when they are forced to speak. Thus
at this meeting, Albert Savarus, feeling the necessity of winning
himself some supporters, displayed all the faculties of his soul and
the resources of his intellect. He entered the room well, without
awkwardness or arrogance, without weakness, without cowardice, quite
gravely, and was not dismayed at finding himself among twenty or
thirty men. The news of the meeting and of its determination had
already brought a few docile sheep to follow the bell.
Before listening to Monsieur Boucher, who was about to deluge him with
a speech announcing the decision of the Boucher Committee, Albert
begged for silence, and, as he shook hands with Monsieur Boucher,
tried to warn him, by a sign, of an unexpected danger.
"My young friend, Alfred Boucher, has just announced to me the honor
you have done me. But before that decision is irrevocable," said the
lawyer, "I think that I ought to explain to you who and what your
candidate is, so as to leave you free to take back your word if my
declaration should disturb your conscience!"
This exordium was followed by profound silence. Some of the men
thought it showed a noble impulse.
Albert gave a sketch of his previous career, telling them his real
name, his action under the Restoration, and revealing himself as a new
man since his arrival at Besancon, while pledging himself for the
future. This address held his hearers breathless, it was said. These
men, all with different interests, were spellbound by the brilliant
eloquence that flowed at boiling heat from the heart and soul of this
ambitious spirit. Admiration silenced reflection. Only one thing was
clear--the thing which Albert wished to get into their heads:
Was it not far better for the town to have one of those men who are
born to govern society at large than a mere voting-machine? A
statesman carries power with him. A commonplace deputy, however
incorruptible, is but a conscience. What a glory for Provence to have
found a Mirabeau, to return the only statesman since 1830 that the
revolution of July had produced!
Under the pressure of this eloquence, all the audience believed it
great enough to become a splendid political instrument in the hands of
their representative. They all saw in Albert Savaron, Savarus the
great Minister. And, reading the secret calculations of his
constituents, the clever candidate gave them to understand that they
would be the first to enjoy the right of profiting by his influence.
This confession of faith, this ambitious programme, this retrospect of
his life and character was, according to the only man present who was
capable of judging of Savarus (he has since become one of the leading
men of Besancon), a masterpiece of skill and of feeling, of fervor,
interest, and fascination. This whirlwind carried away the electors.
Never had any man had such a triumph. But, unfortunately, speech, a
weapon only for close warfare, has only an immediate effect.
Reflection kills the word when the word ceases to overpower
reflection. If the votes had then been taken, Albert's name would
undoubtedly have come out of the ballot-box. At the moment, he was
conqueror. But he must conquer every day for two months.
Albert went home quivering. The townsfolk had applauded him, and he
had achieved the great point of silencing beforehand the malignant
talk to which his early career might give rise. The commercial
interest of Besancon had nominated the lawyer, Albert Savaron de
Savarus, as its candidate.
Alfred Boucher's enthusiasm, at first infectious, presently became
The Prefet, alarmed by this success, set to work to count the
Ministerial votes, and contrived to have a secret interview with
Monsieur de Chavoncourt, so as to effect a coalition in their common
interests. Every day, without Albert's being able to discover how, the
voters in the Boucher committee diminished in number.
Nothing could resist the slow grinding of the Prefecture. Three of
four clever men would say to Albert's clients, "Will the deputy defend
you and win your lawsuits? Will he give you advice, draw up your
contracts, arrange your compromises?--He will be your slave for five
years longer, if, instead of returning him to the Chamber, you only
hold out the hope of his going there five years hence."
This calculation did Savarus all the more mischief, because the wives
of some of the merchants had already made it. The parties interested
in the matter of the bridge and that of the water from Arcier could
not hold out against a talking-to from a clever Ministerialist, who
proved to them that their safety lay at the Prefecture, and not in the
hands of an ambitious man. Each day was a check for Savarus, though
each day the battle was led by him and fought by his lieutenants--a
battle of words, speeches, and proceedings. He dared not go to the
Vicar-General, and the Vicar-General never showed himself. Albert rose
and went to bed in a fever, his brain on fire.
At last the day dawned of the first struggle, practically the show of
hands; the votes are counted, the candidates estimate their chances,
and clever men can prophesy their failure or success. It is a decent
hustings, without the mob, but formidable; agitation, though it is not
allowed any physical display, as it is in England, is not the less
profound. The English fight these battles with their fists, the French
with hard words. Our neighbors have a scrimmage, the French try their
fate by cold combinations calmly worked out. This particular political
business is carried out in opposition to the character of the two
The Radical party named their candidate; Monsieur de Chavoncourt came
forward; then Albert appeared, and was accused by the Chavoncourt
committee and the Radicals of being an uncompromising man of the
Right, a second Berryer. The Ministry had their candidate, a stalking-
horse, useful only to receive the purely Ministerial votes. The votes,
thus divided, gave no result. The Republican candidate had twenty, the
Ministry got fifty, Albert had seventy, Monsieur de Chavoncourt
obtained sixty-seven. But the Prefet's party had perfidiously made
thirty of its most devoted adherents vote for Albert, so as to deceive
the enemy. The votes for Monsieur de Chavoncourt, added to the eighty
votes--the real number--at the disposal of the Prefecture, would carry
the election, if only the Prefet could succeed in gaining over a few
of the Radicals. A hundred and sixty votes were not recorded: those of
Monsieur de Grancey's following and the Legitimists.
The show of hands at an election, like a dress rehearsal at a theatre,
is the most deceptive thing in the world. Albert Savarus came home,
putting a brave face on the matter, but half dead. He had had the wit,
the genius, or the good luck to gain, within the last fortnight, two
staunch supporters--Girardet's father-in-law and a very shrewd old
merchant to whom Monsieur de Grancey had sent him. These two worthy
men, his self-appointed spies, affected to be Albert's most ardent
opponents in the hostile camp. Towards the end of the show of hands
they informed Savarus, through the medium of Monsieur Boucher, that
thirty voters, unknown, were working against him in his party, playing
the same trick that they were playing for his benefit on the other
A criminal marching to execution could not suffer as Albert suffered
as he went home from the hall where his fate was at stake. The
despairing lover could endure no companionship. He walked through the
streets alone, between eleven o'clock and midnight. At one in the
morning, Albert, to whom sleep had been unknown for the past three
days, was sitting in his library in a deep armchair, his face as pale
as if he were dying, his hands hanging limp, in a forlorn attitude
worthy of the Magdalen. Tears hung on his long lashes, tears that dim
the eyes, but do not fall; fierce thought drinks them up, the fire of
the soul consumes them. Alone, he might weep. And then, under the
kiosk, he saw a white figure, which reminded him of Francesca.
"And for three months I have had no letter from her! What has become
of her? I have not written for two months, but I warned her. Is she
ill? Oh, my love! My life! Will you ever know what I have gone
through? What a wretched constitution is mine! Have I an aneurism?" he
asked himself, feeling his heart beat so violently that its pulses
seemed audible in the silence like little grains of sand dropping on a
At this moment three distinct taps sounded on his door; Albert
hastened to open it, and almost fainted with joy at seeing the Vicar-
General's cheerful and triumphant mien. Without a word, he threw his
arms round the Abbe de Grancey, held him fast, and clasped him
closely, letting his head fall on the old man's shoulder. He was a
child again; he cried as he had cried on hearing that Francesca
Soderini was a married woman. He betrayed his weakness to no one but
to this priest, on whose face shone the light of hope. The priest had
been sublime, and as shrewd as he was sublime.
"Forgive me, dear Abbe, but you come at one of those moments when the
man vanishes, for you are not to think me vulgarly ambitious."
"Oh! I know," replied the Abbe. "You wrote '/Ambition for love's
sake/!'--Ah! my son, it was love in despair that made me a priest in
1786, at the age of two-and-twenty. In 1788 I was in charge of a
parish. I know life.--I have refused three bishoprics already; I mean
to die at Besancon."
"Come and see her!" cried Savarus, seizing a candle, and leading the
Abbe into the handsome room where hung the portrait of the Duchesse
d'Argaiolo, which he lighted up.
"She is one of those women who are born to reign!" said the Vicar-
General, understanding how great an affection Albert showed him by
this mark of confidence. "But there is pride on that brow; it is
implacable; she would never forgive an insult! It is the Archangel
Michael, the angel of Execution, the inexorable angel--'All or
nothing' is the motto of this type of angel. There is something
divinely pitiless in that head."
"You have guessed well," cried Savarus. "But, my dear Abbe, for more
than twelve years now she had reigned over my life, and I have not a
thought for which to blame myself--"
"Ah! if you could only say the same of God!" said the priest with
simplicity. "Now, to talk of your affairs. For ten days I have been at
work for you. If you are a real politician, this time you will follow
my advice. You would not be where you are now if you would have gone
to the Wattevilles when I first told you. But you must go there
to-morrow; I will take you in the evening. The Rouxey estates are in
danger; the case must be defended within three days. The election will
not be over in three days. They will take good care not to appoint
examiners the first day. There will be several voting days, and you
will be elected by ballot--"
"How can that be?" asked Savarus.
"By winning the Rouxey lawsuit you will gain eighty Legitimist votes;
add them to the thirty I can command, and you have a hundred and ten.
Then, as twenty remain to you of the Boucher committee, you will have
a hundred and thirty in all."
"Well," said Albert, "we must get seventy-five more."
"Yes," said the priest, "since all the rest are Ministerial. But, my
son, you have two hundred votes, and the Prefecture no more than a
hundred and eighty."
"I have two hundred votes?" said Albert, standing stupid with
amazement, after starting to his feet as if shot up by a spring.
"You have those of Monsieur de Chavoncourt," said the Abbe.
"How?" said Albert.
"You will marry Mademoiselle Sidonie de Chavoncourt."
"You will marry Mademoiselle Sidonie de Chavoncourt," the priest
"But you see--she is inexorable," said Albert, pointing to Francesca.
"You will marry Mademoiselle Sidonie de Chavoncourt," said the Abbe
calmly for the third time.
This time Albert understood. The Vicar-General would not be implicated
in a scheme which at last smiled on the despairing politician. A word
more would have compromised the priest's dignity and honor.
"To-morrow evening at the Hotel de Rupt you will meet Madame de
Chavoncourt and her second daughter. You can thank her beforehand for
what she is going to do for you, and tell her that your gratitude is
unbounded, that you are hers body and soul, that henceforth your
future is that of her family. You are quite disinterested, for you
have so much confidence in yourself that you regard the nomination as
deputy as a sufficient fortune.
"You will have a struggle with Madame de Chavoncourt; she will want
you to pledge your word. All your future life, my son, lies in that
evening. But, understand clearly, I have nothing to do with it. I am
answerable only for Legitimist voters; I have secured Madame de
Watteville, and that means all the aristocracy of Besancon. Amedee de
Soulas and Vauchelles, who will both vote for you, have won over the
young men; Madame de Watteville will get the old ones. As to my
electors, they are infallible."
"And who on earth has gained over Madame de Chavoncourt?" asked
"Ask me no questions," replied the Abbe. "Monsieur de Chavoncourt, who
has three daughters to marry, is not capable of increasing his wealth.
Though Vauchelles marries the eldest without anything from her father,
because her old aunt is to settle something on her, what is to become
of the two others? Sidonie is sixteen, and your ambition is as good as
a gold mine. Some one has told Madame de Chavoncourt that she will do
better by getting her daughter married than by sending her husband to
waste his money in Paris. That some one manages Madame de Chavoncourt,
and Madame de Chavoncourt manages her husband."
"That is enough, my dear Abbe. I understand. When once I am returned
as deputy, I have somebody's fortune to make, and by making it large
enough I shall be released from my promise. In me you have a son, a
man who will owe his happiness to you. Great heavens! what have I done
to deserve so true a friend?"
"You won a triumph for the Chapter," said the Vicar-General, smiling.
"Now, as to all this, be as secret as the tomb. We are nothing, we
have done nothing. If we were known to have meddled in election
matters, we should be eaten up alive by the Puritans of the Left--who
do worse--and blamed by some of our own party, who want everything.
Madame de Chavoncourt has no suspicion of my share in all this. I have
confided in no one but Madame de Watteville, whom we may trust as we
"I will bring the Duchess to you to be blessed!" cried Savarus.
After seeing out the old priest, Albert went to bed in the swaddling
clothes of power.
Next evening, as may well be supposed, by nine o'clock Madame la
Baronne de Watteville's rooms were crowded by the aristocracy of
Besancon in convocation extraordinary. They were discussing the
exceptional step of going to the poll, to oblige the daughter of the
Rupts. It was known that the former Master of Appeals, the secretary
of one of the most faithful ministers under the Elder Branch, was to
be presented that evening. Madame de Chavoncourt was there with her
second daughter Sidonie, exquisitely dressed, while her elder sister,
secure of her lover, had not indulged in any of the arts of the
toilet. In country towns these little things are remarked. The Abbe de
Grancey's fine and clever head was to be seen moving from group to
group, listening to everything, seeming to be apart from it all, but
uttering those incisive phrases which sum up a question and direct the
"If the Elder Branch were to return," said he to an old statesman of
seventy, "what politicians would they find?"--"Berryer, alone on his
bench, does not know which way to turn; if he had sixty votes, he
would often scotch the wheels of the Government and upset Ministries!"
--"The Duc de Fitz-James is to be nominated at Toulouse."--"You will
enable Monsieur de Watteville to win his lawsuit."--"If you vote for
Monsieur Savarus, the Republicans will vote with you rather than with
the Moderates!" etc., etc.
At nine o'clock Albert had not arrived. Madame de Watteville was
disposed to regard such delay as an impertinence.
"My dear Baroness," said Madame de Chavoncourt, "do not let such
serious issues turn on such a trifle. The varnish on his boots is not
dry--or a consultation, perhaps, detains Monsieur de Savarus."
Rosalie shot a side glance at Madame de Chavoncourt.
"She is very lenient to Monsieur de Savarus," she whispered to her
"You see," said the Baroness with a smile, "there is a question of a
marriage between Sidonie and Monsieur de Savarus."
Mademoiselle de Watteville hastily went to a window looking out over
At ten o'clock Albert de Savarus had not yet appeared. The storm that
threatened now burst. Some of the gentlemen sat down to cards, finding
the thing intolerable. The Abbe de Grancey, who did not know what to
think, went to the window where Rosalie was hidden, and exclaimed
aloud in his amazement, "He must be dead!"
The Vicar-General stepped out into the garden, followed by Monsieur de
Watteville and his daughter, and they all three went up to the kiosk.
In Albert's rooms all was dark; not a light was to be seen.
"Jerome!" cried Rosalie, seeing the servant in the yard below. The
Abbe looked at her with astonishment. "Where in the world is your
master?" she asked the man, who came to the foot of the wall.
"Gone--in a post-chaise, mademoiselle."
"He is ruined!" exclaimed the Abbe de Grancey, "or he is happy!"
The joy of triumph was not so effectually concealed on Rosalie's face
that the Vicar-General could not detect it. He affected to see
"What can this girl have had to do with this business?" he asked
They all three returned to the drawing-room, where Monsieur de
Watteville announced the strange, the extraordinary, the prodigious
news of the lawyer's departure, without any reason assigned for his
evasion. By half-past eleven only fifteen persons remained, among them
Madame de Chavoncourt and the Abbe de Godenars, another Vicar-General,
a man of about forty, who hoped for a bishopric, the two Chavoncourt
girls, and Monsieur de Vauchelles, the Abbe de Grancey, Rosalie,
Amedee de Soulas, and a retired magistrate, one of the most
influential members of the upper circle of Besancon, who had been very
eager for Albert's election. The Abbe de Grancey sat down by the
Baroness in such a position as to watch Rosalie, whose face, usually
pale, wore a feverish flush.
"What can have happened to Monsieur de Savarus?" said Madame de
At this moment a servant in livery brought in a letter for the Abbe de
Grancey on a silver tray.
"Pray read it," said the Baroness.
The Vicar-General read the letter; he saw Rosalie suddenly turn as
white as her kerchief.
"She recognizes the writing," said he to himself, after glancing at
the girl over his spectacles. He folded up the letter, and calmly put
it in his pocket without a word. In three minutes he had met three
looks from Rosalie which were enough to make him guess everything.
"She is in love with Albert Savarus!" thought the Vicar-General.
He rose and took leave. He was going towards the door when, in the
next room, he was overtaken by Rosalie, who said:
"Monsieur de Grancey, it was from Albert!"
"How do you know that it was his writing, to recognize it from so
The girl's reply, caught as she was in the toils of her impatience and
rage, seemed to the Abbe sublime.
"I love him!--What is the matter?" she said after a pause.
"He gives up the election."
Rosalie put her finger to her lip.
"I ask you to be as secret as if it were a confession," said she
before returning to the drawing-room. "If there is an end of the
election, there is an end of the marriage with Sidonie."
In the morning, on her way to Mass, Mademoiselle de Watteville heard
from Mariette some of the circumstances which had prompted Albert's
disappearance at the most critical moment of his life.
"Mademoiselle, an old gentleman from Paris arrived yesterday morning
at the Hotel National; he came in his own carriage with four horses,
and a courier in front, and a servant. Indeed, Jerome, who saw the
carriage returning, declares he could only be a prince or a /milord/."
"Was there a coronet on the carriage?" asked Rosalie.
"I do not know," said Mariette. "Just as two was striking he came to
call on Monsieur Savarus, and sent in his card; and when he saw it,
Jerome says Monsieur turned as pale as a sheet, and said he was to be
shown in. As he himself locked the door, it is impossible to tell what
the old gentleman and the lawyer said to each other; but they were
together above an hour, and then the old gentleman, with the lawyer,
called up his servant. Jerome saw the servant go out again with an
immense package, four feet long, which looked like a great painting on
canvas. The old gentleman had in his hand a large parcel of papers.
Monsieur Savaron was paler than death, and he, so proud, so dignified,
was in a state to be pitied. But he treated the old gentleman so
respectfully that he could not have been politer to the King himself.
Jerome and Monsieur Albert Savaron escorted the gentleman to his
carriage, which was standing with the horses in. The courier started
on the stroke of three.
"Monsieur Savaron went straight to the Prefecture, and from that to
Monsieur Gentillet, who sold him the old traveling carriage that used
to belong to Madame de Saint-Vier before she died; then he ordered
post horses for six o'clock. He went home to pack; no doubt he wrote a
lot of letters; finally, he settled everything with Monsieur Girardet,
who went to him and stayed till seven. Jerome carried a note to
Monsieur Boucher, with whom his master was to have dined; and then, at
half-past seven, the lawyer set out, leaving Jerome with three months'
wages, and telling him to find another place.
"He left his keys with Monsieur Girardet, whom he took home, and at
his house, Jerome says, he took a plate of soup, for at half-past
seven Monsieur Girardet had not yet dined. When Monsieur Savaron got
into the carriage he looked like death. Jerome, who, of course, saw
his master off, heard him tell the postilion 'The Geneva Road!' "
"Did Jerome ask the name of the stranger at the Hotel National?"
"As the old gentleman did not mean to stay, he was not asked for it.
The servant, by his orders no doubt, pretended not to speak French."
"And the letter which came so late to Abbe de Grancey?" said Rosalie.
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