Honore de Balzac
Part 9 out of 16
"Never!" said Hortense.
Lisbeth was possessed by the wish to crush the haughty attitude
assumed by all the Hulots.
"She seems to have arms that she can turn against you," she replied.
"I do not know all about it, but I shall find out. She spoke vaguely
of some history of two hundred thousand francs in which Adeline is
The Baroness fell gently backward on the sofa she was sitting on in a
fit of hysterical sobbing.
"Go there, go, my children!" she cried. "Receive the woman! Monsieur
Crevel is an infamous wretch. He deserves the worst punishment
imaginable.--Do as the woman desires you! She is a monster--she knows
After gasping out these words with tears and sobs, Madame Hulot
collected her strength to go to her room, leaning on her daughter and
"What is the meaning of all this?" cried Lisbeth, left alone with
The lawyer stood rigid, in very natural dismay, and did not hear her.
"What is the matter, my dear Victorin?"
"I am horrified!" said he, and his face scowled darkly. "Woe to
anybody who hurts my mother! I have no scruples then. I would crush
that woman like a viper if I could!--What, does she attack my mother's
life, my mother's honor?"
"She said, but do not repeat it, my dear Victorin--she said you should
all fall lower even than your father. And she scolded Crevel roundly
for not having shut your mouths with this secret that seems to be such
a terror to Adeline."
A doctor was sent for, for the Baroness was evidently worse. He gave
her a draught containing a large dose of opium, and Adeline, having
swallowed it, fell into a deep sleep; but the whole family were
Early next morning Victorin went out, and on his way to the Courts
called at the Prefecture of the Police, where he begged Vautrin, the
head of the detective department, to send him Madame de Saint-Esteve.
"We are forbidden, monsieur, to meddle in your affairs; but Madame de
Saint-Esteve is in business, and will attend to your orders," replied
this famous police officer.
On his return home, the unhappy lawyer was told that his mother's
reason was in danger. Doctor Bianchon, Doctor Larabit, and Professor
Angard had met in consultation, and were prepared to apply heroic
remedies to hinder the rush of blood to the head. At the moment when
Victorin was listening to Doctor Bianchon, who was giving him, at some
length, his reasons for hoping that the crisis might be got over, the
man-servant announced that a client, Madame de Saint-Esteve, was
waiting to see him. Victorin left Bianchon in the middle of a sentence
and flew downstairs like a madman.
"Is there any hereditary lunacy in the family?" said Bianchon,
The doctors departed, leaving a hospital attendant, instructed by
them, to watch Madame Hulot.
"A whole life of virtue!----" was the only sentence the sufferer had
spoken since the attack.
Lisbeth never left Adeline's bedside; she sat up all night, and was
much admired by the two younger women.
"Well, my dear Madame de Saint-Esteve," said Victorin, showing the
dreadful old woman into his study and carefully shutting the doors,
"how are we getting on?"
"Ah, ha! my dear friend," said she, looking at Victorin with cold
irony. "So you have thought things over?"
"Have you done anything?"
"Will you pay fifty thousand francs?"
"Yes," replied Victorin, "for we must get on. Do you know that by one
single phrase that woman has endangered my mother's life and reason?
So, I say, get on."
"We have got on!" replied the old woman.
"Well?" cried Victorin, with a gulp.
"Well, you do not cry off the expenses?"
"On the contrary."
"They run up to twenty-three thousand francs already."
Victorin looked helplessly at the woman.
"Well, could we hoodwink you, you, one of the shining lights of the
law?" said she. "For that sum we have secured a maid's conscience and
a picture by Raphael.--It is not dear."
Hulot, still bewildered, sat with wide open eyes.
"Well, then," his visitor went on, "we have purchased the honesty of
Mademoiselle Reine Tousard, a damsel from whom Madame Marneffe has no
"But if you shy, say so."
"I will play blindfold," he replied. "My mother has told me that that
couple deserve the worst torments--"
"The rack is out of date," said the old woman.
"You answer for the result?"
"Leave it all to me," said the woman; "your vengeance is simmering."
She looked at the clock; it was six.
"Your avenger is dressing; the fires are lighted at the /Rocher de
Cancale/; the horses are pawing the ground; my irons are getting hot.
--Oh, I know your Madame Marneffe by heart!--Everything is ready. And
there are some boluses in the rat-trap; I will tell you to-morrow
morning if the mouse is poisoned. I believe she will be; good evening,
"Do you know English?"
"Well, my son, thou shalt be King. That is to say, you shall come into
your inheritance," said the dreadful old witch, foreseen by
Shakespeare, and who seemed to know her Shakespeare.
She left Hulot amazed at the door of his study.
"The consultation is for to-morrow!" said she, with the gracious air
of a regular client.
She saw two persons coming, and wished to pass in their eyes a
"What impudence!" thought Hulot, bowing to his pretended client.
Baron Montes de Montejanos was a /lion/, but a lion not accounted for.
Fashionable Paris, Paris of the turf and of the town, admired the
ineffable waistcoats of this foreign gentleman, his spotless
patent-leather boots, his incomparable sticks, his much-coveted horses,
and the negro servants who rode the horses and who were entirely slaves
and most consumedly thrashed.
His fortune was well known; he had a credit account up to seven
hundred thousand francs in the great banking house of du Tillet; but
he was always seen alone. When he went to "first nights," he was in a
stall. He frequented no drawing-rooms. He had never given his arm to a
girl on the streets. His name would not be coupled with that of any
pretty woman of the world. To pass his time he played whist at the
Jockey-Club. The world was reduced to calumny, or, which it thought
funnier, to laughing at his peculiarities; he went by the name of
Bixiou, Leon de Lora, Lousteau, Florine, Mademoiselle Heloise
Brisetout, and Nathan, supping one evening with the notorious
Carabine, with a large party of /lions/ and /lionesses/, had invented
this name with an excessively burlesque explanation. Massol, as being
on the Council of State, and Claude Vignon, erewhile Professor of
Greek, had related to the ignorant damsels the famous anecdote,
preserved in Rollin's /Ancient History/, concerning Combabus, that
voluntary Abelard who was placed in charge of the wife of a King of
Assyria, Persia, Bactria, Mesopotamia, and other geographical
divisions peculiar to old Professor du Bocage, who continued the work
of d'Anville, the creator of the East of antiquity. This nickname,
which gave Carabine's guests laughter for a quarter of an hour, gave
rise to a series of over-free jests, to which the Academy could not
award the Montyon prize; but among which the name was taken up, to
rest thenceforth on the curly mane of the handsome Baron, called by
Josepha the splendid Brazilian--as one might say a splendid
Carabine, the loveliest of her tribe, whose delicate beauty and
amusing wit had snatched the sceptre of the Thirteenth Arrondissement
from the hands of Mademoiselle Turquet, better known by the name of
Malaga--Mademoiselle Seraphine Sinet (this was her real name) was to
du Tillet the banker what Josepha Mirah was to the Duc d'Herouville.
Now, on the morning of the very day when Madame de Saint-Esteve had
prophesied success to Victorin, Carabine had said to du Tillet at
about seven o'clock:
"If you want to be very nice, you will give me a dinner at the /Rocher
de Cancale/ and bring Combabus. We want to know, once for all, whether
he has a mistress.--I bet that he has, and I should like to win."
"He is still at the Hotel des Princes; I will call," replied du
Tillet. "We will have some fun. Ask all the youngsters--the youngster
Bixiou, the youngster Lora, in short, all the clan."
At half-past seven that evening, in the handsomest room of the
restaurant where all Europe has dined, a splendid silver service was
spread, made on purpose for entertainments where vanity pays the bill
in bank-notes. A flood of light fell in ripples on the chased rims;
waiters, whom a provincial might have taken for diplomatists but for
their age, stood solemnly, as knowing themselves to be overpaid.
Five guests had arrived, and were waiting for nine more. These were
first and foremost Bixiou, still flourishing in 1843, the salt of
every intellectual dish, always supplied with fresh wit--a phenomenon
as rare in Paris as virtue is; Leon de Lora, the greatest living
painter of landscape and the sea who has this great advantage over all
his rivals, that he has never fallen below his first successes. The
courtesans could never dispense with these two kings of ready wit. No
supper, no dinner, was possible without them.
Seraphine Sinet, /dite/ Carabine, as the mistress /en titre/ of the
Amphitryon, was one of the first to arrive; and the brilliant lighting
showed off her shoulders, unrivaled in Paris, her throat, as round as
if turned in a lathe, without a crease, her saucy face, and dress of
satin brocade in two shades of blue, trimmed with Honiton lace enough
to have fed a whole village for a month.
Pretty Jenny Cadine, not acting that evening, came in a dress of
incredible splendor; her portrait is too well known to need any
description. A party is always a Longchamps of evening dress for these
ladies, each anxious to win the prize for her millionaire by thus
announcing to her rivals:
"This is the price I am worth!"
A third woman, evidently at the initial stage of her career, gazed,
almost shamefaced, at the luxury of her two established and wealthy
companions. Simply dressed in white cashmere trimmed with blue, her
head had been dressed with real flowers by a coiffeur of the
old-fashioned school, whose awkward hands had unconsciously given
the charm of ineptitude to her fair hair. Still unaccustomed to any
finery, she showed the timidity--to use a hackneyed phrase
--inseparable from a first appearance. She had come from Valognes to
find in Paris some use for her distracting youthfulness, her innocence
that might have stirred the senses of a dying man, and her beauty,
worthy to hold its own with any that Normandy has ever supplied to the
theatres of the capital. The lines of that unblemished face were the
ideal of angelic purity. Her milk-white skin reflected the light like
a mirror. The delicate pink in her cheeks might have been laid on with
a brush. She was called Cydalise, and, as will be seen, she was an
important pawn in the game played by Ma'ame Nourrisson to defeat
"Your arm is not a match for your name, my child," said Jenny Cadine,
to whom Carabine had introduced this masterpiece of sixteen, having
brought her with her.
And, in fact, Cydalise displayed to public admiration a fine pair of
arms, smooth and satiny, but red with healthy young blood.
"What do you want for her?" said Jenny Cadine, in an undertone to
"What are you going to do with her?"
"And what are you to get for such a job?"
"A service of plate?"
"I have three."
"I am selling them."
"A green monkey?"
"No. A picture by Raphael."
"What maggot is that in your brain?"
"Josepha makes me sick with her pictures," said Carabine. "I want some
better than hers."
Du Tillet came with the Brazilian, the hero of the feast; the Duc
d'Herouville followed with Josepha. The singer wore a plain velvet
gown, but she had on a necklace worth a hundred and twenty thousand
francs, pearls hardly distinguishable from her skin like white
camellia petals. She had stuck one scarlet camellia in her black hair
--a patch--the effect was dazzling, and she had amused herself by
putting eleven rows of pearls on each arm. As she shook hands with
Jenny Cadine, the actress said, "Lend me your mittens!"
Josepha unclasped them one by one and handed them to her friend on a
"There's style!" said Carabine. "Quite the Duchess! You have robbed
the ocean to dress the nymph, Monsieur le Duc," she added turning to
the little Duc d'Herouville.
The actress took two of the bracelets; she clasped the other twenty on
the singer's beautiful arms, which she kissed.
Lousteau, the literary cadger, la Palferine and Malaga, Massol,
Vauvinet, and Theodore Gaillard, a proprietor of one of the most
important political newspapers, completed the party. The Duc
d'Herouville, polite to everybody, as a fine gentleman knows how to
be, greeted the Comte de la Palferine with the particular nod which,
while it does not imply either esteem or intimacy, conveys to all the
world, "We are of the same race, the same blood--equals!"--And this
greeting, the shibboleth of the aristocracy, was invented to be the
despair of the upper citizen class.
Carabine placed Combabus on her left, and the Duc d'Herouville on her
right. Cydalise was next to the Brazilian, and beyond her was Bixiou.
Malaga sat by the Duke.
Oysters appeared at seven o'clock; at eight they were drinking iced
punch. Every one is familiar with the bill of fare of such a banquet.
By nine o'clock they were talking as people talk after forty-two
bottles of various wines, drunk by fourteen persons. Dessert was on
the table, the odious dessert of the month of April. Of all the party,
the only one affected by the heady atmosphere was Cydalise, who was
humming a tune. None of the party, with the exception of the poor
country girl, had lost their reason; the drinkers and the women were
the experienced /elite/ of the society that sups. Their wits were
bright, their eyes glistened, but with no loss of intelligence, though
the talk drifted into satire, anecdote, and gossip. Conversation,
hitherto confined to the inevitable circle of racing, horses,
hammerings on the Bourse, the different occupations of the /lions/
themselves, and the scandals of the town, showed a tendency to break
up into intimate /tete-a-tete/, the dialogues of two hearts.
And at this stage, at a signal from Carabine to Leon de Lora, Bixiou,
la Palferine, and du Tillet, love came under discussion.
"A doctor in good society never talks of medicine, true nobles never
speak of their ancestors, men of genius do not discuss their works,"
said Josepha; "why should we talk business? If I got the opera put off
in order to dine here, it was assuredly not to work.--So let us change
the subject, dear children."
"But we are speaking of real love, my beauty," said Malaga, "of the
love that makes a man fling all to the dogs--father, mother, wife,
children--and retire to Clichy."
"Talk away, then, 'don't know yer,'" said the singer.
The slang words, borrowed from the Street Arab, and spoken by these
women, may be a poem on their lips, helped by the expression of the
eyes and face.
"What, do not I love you, Josepha?" said the Duke in a low voice.
"You, perhaps, may love me truly," said she in his ear, and she
smiled. "But I do not love you in the way they describe, with such
love as makes the world dark in the absence of the man beloved. You
are delightful to me, useful--but not indispensable; and if you were
to throw me over to-morrow, I could have three dukes for one."
"Is true love to be found in Paris?" asked Leon de Lora. "Men have not
even time to make a fortune; how can they give themselves over to true
love, which swamps a man as water melts sugar? A man must be
enormously rich to indulge in it, for love annihilates him--for
instance, like our Brazilian friend over there. As I said long ago,
'Extremes defeat--themselves.' A true lover is like an eunuch; women
have ceased to exist for him. He is mystical; he is like the true
Christian, an anchorite of the desert!--See our noble Brazilian."
Every one at table looked at Henri Montes de Montejanos, who was shy
at finding every eye centred on him.
"He has been feeding there for an hour without discovering, any more
than an ox at pasture, that he is sitting next to--I will not say, in
such company, the loveliest--but the freshest woman in all Paris."
"Everything is fresh here, even the fish; it is what the house is
famous for," said Carabine.
Baron Montes looked good-naturedly at the painter, and said:
"Very good! I drink to your very good health," and bowing to Leon de
Lora, he lifted his glass of port wine and drank it with much dignity.
"Are you then truly in love?" asked Malaga of her neighbor, thus
interpreting his toast.
The Brazilian refilled his glass, bowed to Carabine, and drank again.
"To the lady's health then!" said the courtesan, in such a droll tone
that Lora, du Tillet, and Bixiou burst out laughing.
The Brazilian sat like a bronze statue. This impassibility provoked
Carabine. She knew perfectly well that Montes was devoted to Madame
Marneffe, but she had not expected this dogged fidelity, this
obstinate silence of conviction.
A woman is as often gauged by the attitude of her lover as a man is
judged from the tone of his mistress. The Baron was proud of his
attachment to Valerie, and of hers to him; his smile had, to these
experienced connoisseurs, a touch of irony; he was really grand to
look upon; wine had not flushed him; and his eyes, with their peculiar
lustre as of tarnished gold, kept the secrets of his soul. Even
Carabine said to herself:
"What a woman she must be! How she has sealed up that heart!"
"He is a rock!" said Bixiou in an undertone, imagining that the whole
thing was a practical joke, and never suspecting the importance to
Carabine of reducing this fortress.
While this conversation, apparently so frivolous, was going on at
Carabine's right, the discussion of love was continued on her left
between the Duc d'Herouville, Lousteau, Josepha, Jenny Cadine, and
Massol. They were wondering whether such rare phenomena were the
result of passion, obstinacy, or affection. Josepha, bored to death by
it all, tried to change the subject.
"You are talking of what you know nothing about. Is there a man among
you who ever loved a woman--a woman beneath him--enough to squander
his fortune and his children's, to sacrifice his future and blight his
past, to risk going to the hulks for robbing the Government, to kill
an uncle and a brother, to let his eye be so effectually blinded that
he did not even perceive that it was done to hinder his seeing the
abyss into which, as a crowning jest, he was being driven? Du Tillet
has a cash-box under his left breast; Leon de Lora has his wit; Bixiou
would laugh at himself for a fool if he loved any one but himself;
Massol has a minister's portfolio in the place of a heart; Lousteau
can have nothing but viscera, since he could endure to be thrown over
by Madame de Baudraye; Monsieur le Duc is too rich to prove his love
by his ruin; Vauvinet is not in it--I do not regard a bill-broker as
one of the human race; and you have never loved, nor I, nor Jenny
Cadine, nor Malaga. For my part, I never but once even saw the
phenomenon I have described. It was," and she turned to Jenny Cadine,
"that poor Baron Hulot, whom I am going to advertise for like a lost
dog, for I want to find him."
"Oh, ho!" said Carabine to herself, and looking keenly at Josepha,
"then Madame Nourrisson has two pictures by Raphael, since Josepha is
playing my hand!"
"Poor fellow," said Vauvinet, "he was a great man! Magnificent! And
what a figure, what a style, the air of Francis I.! What a volcano!
and how full of ingenious ways of getting money! He must be looking
for it now, wherever he is, and I make no doubt he extracts it even
from the walls built of bones that you may see in the suburbs of Paris
near the city gates--"
"And all that," said Bixiou, "for that little Madame Marneffe! There
is a precious hussy for you!"
"She is just going to marry my friend Crevel," said du Tillet.
"And she is madly in love with my friend Steinbock," Leon de Lora put
These three phrases were like so many pistol-shots fired point-blank
at Montes. He turned white, and the shock was so painful that he rose
"You are a set of blackguards!" cried he. "You have no right to speak
the name of an honest woman in the same breath with those fallen
creatures--above all, not to make it a mark for your slander!"
He was interrupted by unanimous bravos and applause. Bixiou, Leon de
Lora, Vauvinet, du Tillet, and Massol set the example, and there was a
"Hurrah for the Emperor!" said Bixiou.
"Crown him! crown him!" cried Vauvinet.
"Three groans for such a good dog! Hurrah for Brazil!" cried Lousteau.
"So, my copper-colored Baron, it is our Valerie that you love; and you
are not disgusted?" said Leon de Lora.
"His remark is not parliamentary, but it is grand!" observed Massol.
"But, my most delightful customer," said du Tillet, "you were
recommended to me; I am your banker; your innocence reflects on my
"Yes, tell me, you are a reasonable creature----" said the Brazilian
to the banker.
"Thanks on behalf of the company," said Bixiou with a bow.
"Tell me the real facts," Montes went on, heedless of Bixiou's
"Well, then," replied du Tillet, "I have the honor to tell you that I
am asked to the Crevel wedding."
"Ah, ha! Combabus holds a brief for Madame Marneffe!" said Josepha,
She went round to Montes with a tragic look, patted him kindly on the
head, looked at him for a moment with comical admiration, and nodded
"Hulot was the first instance of love through fire and water," said
she; "this is the second. But it ought not to count, as it comes from
Montes had dropped into his chair again, when Josepha gently touched
his forehead, and looked at du Tillet as he said:
"If I am the victim of a Paris jest, if you only wanted to get at my
secret----" and he sent a flashing look round the table, embracing all
the guests in a flaming glance that blazed with the sun of Brazil,--"I
beg of you as a favor to tell me so," he went on, in a tone of almost
childlike entreaty; "but do not vilify the woman I love."
"Nay, indeed," said Carabine in a low voice; "but if, on the contrary,
you are shamefully betrayed, cheated, tricked by Valerie, if I should
give you the proof in an hour, in my own house, what then?"
"I cannot tell you before all these Iagos," said the Brazilian.
Carabine understood him to say /magots/ (baboons).
"Well, well, say no more!" she replied, smiling. "Do not make yourself
a laughing-stock for all the wittiest men in Paris; come to my house,
we will talk it over."
Montes was crushed. "Proofs," he stammered, "consider--"
"Only too many," replied Carabine; "and if the mere suspicion hits you
so hard, I fear for your reason."
"Is this creature obstinate, I ask you? He is worse than the late
lamented King of Holland!--I say, Lousteau, Bixiou, Massol, all the
crew of you, are you not invited to breakfast with Madame Marneffe the
day after to-morrow?" said Leon de Lora.
"/Ya/," said du Tillet; "I have the honor of assuring you, Baron, that
if you had by any chance thought of marrying Madame Marneffe, you are
thrown out like a bill in Parliament, beaten by a blackball called
Crevel. My friend, my old comrade Crevel, has eighty thousand francs a
year; and you, I suppose, did not show such a good hand, for if you
had, you, I imagine, would have been preferred."
Montes listened with a half-absent, half-smiling expression, which
struck them all with terror.
At this moment the head-waiter came to whisper to Carabine that a
lady, a relation of hers, was in the drawing-room and wished to speak
Carabine rose and went out to find Madame Nourrisson, decently veiled
with black lace.
"Well, child, am I to go to your house? Has he taken the hook?"
"Yes, mother; and the pistol is so fully loaded, that my only fear is
that it will burst," said Carabine.
About an hour later, Montes, Cydalise, and Carabine, returning from
the /Rocher de Cancale/, entered Carabine's little sitting-room in the
Rue Saint-Georges. Madame Nourrisson was sitting in an armchair by the
"Here is my worthy old aunt," said Carabine.
"Yes, child, I came in person to fetch my little allowance. You would
have forgotten me, though you are kind-hearted, and I have some bills
to pay to-morrow. Buying and selling clothes, I am always short of
cash. Who is this at your heels? The gentleman looks very much put out
The dreadful Madame Nourrisson, at this moment so completely disguised
as to look like a respectable old body, rose to embrace Carabine, one
of the hundred and odd courtesans she had launched on their horrible
career of vice.
"He is an Othello who is not to be taken in, whom I have the honor of
introducing to you--Monsieur le Baron Montes de Montejanos."
"Oh! I have heard him talked about, and know his name.--You are
nicknamed Combabus, because you love but one woman, and in Paris, that
is the same as loving no one at all. And is it by chance the object of
your affections who is fretting you? Madame Marneffe, Crevel's woman?
I tell you what, my dear sir, you may bless your stars instead of
cursing them. She is a good-for-nothing baggage, is that little woman.
I know her tricks!"
"Get along," said Carabine, into whose hand Madame Nourrisson had
slipped a note while embracing her, "you do not know your Brazilians.
They are wrong-headed creatures that insist on being impaled through
the heart. The more jealous they are, the more jealous they want to
be. Monsieur talks of dealing death all round, but he will kill nobody
because he is in love.--However, I have brought him here to give him
the proofs of his discomfiture, which I have got from that little
Montes was drunk; he listened as if the women were talking about
Carabine went to take off her velvet wrap, and read a facsimile of a
note, as follows:--
"DEAR PUSS.--He dines with Popinot this evening, and will come
to fetch me from the Opera at eleven. I shall go out at about
half-past five and count on finding you at our paradise. Order
dinner to be sent in from the /Maison d'or/. Dress, so as to be
able to take me to the Opera. We shall have four hours to ourselves.
Return this note to me; not that your Valerie doubts you--I would
give you my life, my fortune, and my honor, but I am afraid of the
tricks of chance."
"Here, Baron, this is the note sent to Count Steinbock this morning;
read the address. The original document is burnt."
Montes turned the note over and over, recognized the writing, and was
struck by a rational idea, which is sufficient evidence of the
disorder of his brain.
"And, pray," said he, looking at Carabine, "what object have you in
torturing my heart, for you must have paid very dear for the privilege
of having the note in your possession long enough to get it
"Foolish man!" said Carabine, at a nod from Madame Nourrisson, "don't
you see that poor child Cydalise--a girl of sixteen, who has been
pining for you these three months, till she has lost her appetite for
food or drink, and who is heart-broken because you have never even
glanced at her?"
Cydalise put her handkerchief to her eyes with an appearance of
emotion--"She is furious," Carabine went on, "though she looks as if
butter would not melt in her mouth, furious to see the man she adores
duped by a villainous hussy; she would kill Valerie--"
"Oh, as for that," said the Brazilian, "that is my business!"
"What, killing?" said old Nourrisson. "No, my son, we don't do that
"Oh!" said Montes, "I am not a native of this country. I live in a
parish where I can laugh at your laws; and if you give me proof--"
"Well, that note. Is that nothing?"
"No," said the Brazilian. "I do not believe in the writing. I must see
"See!" cried Carabine, taking the hint at once from a gesture of her
supposed aunt. "You shall see, my dear Tiger, all you wish to see--on
"And that is?"
"Look at Cydalise."
At a wink from Madame Nourrisson, Cydalise cast a tender look at the
"Will you be good to her? Will you make her a home?" asked Carabine.
"A girl of such beauty is well worth a house and a carriage! It would
be a monstrous shame to leave her to walk the streets. And besides
--she is in debt.--How much do you owe?" asked Carabine, nipping
"She is worth all she can get," said the old woman. "The point is that
she can find a buyer."
"Listen!" cried Montes, fully aware at last of this masterpiece of
womankind "you will show me Valerie--"
"And Count Steinbock.--Certainly!" said Madame Nourrisson.
For the past ten minutes the old woman had been watching the
Brazilian; she saw that he was an instrument tuned up to the murderous
pitch she needed; and, above all, so effectually blinded, that he
would never heed who had led him on to it, and she spoke:--
"Cydalise, my Brazilian jewel, is my niece, so her concerns are partly
mine. All this catastrophe will be the work of a few minutes, for a
friend of mine lets the furnished room to Count Steinbock where
Valerie is at this moment taking coffee--a queer sort of coffee, but
she calls it her coffee. So let us understand each other, Brazil!--I
like Brazil, it is a hot country.--What is to become of my niece?"
"You old ostrich," said Montes, the plumes in the woman's bonnet
catching his eye, "you interrupted me.--If you show me--if I see
Valerie and that artist together--"
"As you would wish to be--" said Carabine; "that is understood."
"Then I will take this girl and carry her away--"
"Where?" asked Carabine.
"To Brazil," replied the Baron. "I will make her my wife. My uncle
left me ten leagues square of entailed estate; that is how I still
have that house and home. I have a hundred negroes--nothing but
negroes and negresses and negro brats, all bought by my uncle--"
"Nephew to a nigger-driver," said Carabine, with a grimace. "That
needs some consideration.--Cydalise, child, are you fond of the
"Pooh! Carabine, no nonsense," said the old woman. "The deuce is in
it! Monsieur and I are doing business."
"If I take up another Frenchwoman, I mean to have her to myself," the
Brazilian went on. "I warn you, mademoiselle, I am king there, and not
a constitutional king. I am Czar; my subjects are mine by purchase,
and no one can escape from my kingdom, which is a hundred leagues from
any human settlement, hemmed in by savages on the interior, and
divided from the sea by a wilderness as wide as France."
"I should prefer a garret here."
"So thought I," said Montes, "since I sold all my land and possessions
at Rio to come back to Madame Marneffe."
"A man does not make such a voyage for nothing," remarked Madame
Nourrisson. "You have a right to look for love for your own sake,
particularly being so good-looking.--Oh, he is very handsome!" said
she to Carabine.
"Very handsome, handsomer than the /Postillon de Longjumeau/," replied
Cydalise took the Brazilian's hand, but he released it as politely as
"I came back for Madame Marneffe," the man went on where he had left
off, "but you do not know why I was three years thinking about it."
"No, savage!" said Carabine.
"Well, she had so repeatedly told me that she longed to live with me
alone in a desert--"
"Oh, ho! he is not a savage after all," cried Carabine, with a shout
of laughter. "He is of the highly-civilized tribe of Flats!"
"She had told me this so often," Montes went on, regardless of the
courtesan's mockery, "that I had a lovely house fitted up in the heart
of that vast estate. I came back to France to fetch Valerie, and the
first evening I saw her--"
"Saw her is very proper!" said Carabine. "I will remember it."
"She told me to wait till that wretched Marneffe was dead; and I
agreed, and forgave her for having admitted the attentions of Hulot.
Whether the devil had her in hand I don't know, but from that instant
that woman has humored my every whim, complied with all my demands
--never for one moment has she given me cause to suspect her!--"
"That is supremely clever!" said Carabine to Madame Nourrisson, who
nodded in sign of assent.
"My faith in that woman," said Montes, and he shed a tear, "was a
match for my love. Just now, I was ready to fight everybody at
"So I saw," said Carabine.
"And if I am cheated, if she is going to be married, if she is at this
moment in Steinbock's arms, she deserves a thousand deaths! I will
kill her as I would smash a fly--"
"And how about the gendarmes, my son?" said Madame Nourrisson, with a
smile that made your flesh creep.
"And the police agents, and the judges, and the assizes, and all the
set-out?" added Carabine.
"You are bragging, my dear fellow," said the old woman, who wanted to
know all the Brazilian's schemes of vengeance.
"I will kill her," he calmly repeated. "You called me a savage.--Do
you imagine that I am fool enough to go, like a Frenchman, and buy
poison at the chemist's shop?--During the time while we were driving
her, I thought out my means of revenge, if you should prove to be
right as concerns Valerie. One of my negroes has the most deadly of
animal poisons, and incurable anywhere but in Brazil. I will
administer it to Cydalise, who will give it to me; then by the time
when death is a certainty to Crevel and his wife, I shall be beyond
the Azores with your cousin, who will be cured, and I will marry her.
We have our own little tricks, we savages!--Cydalise," said he,
looking at the country girl, "is the animal I need.--How much does she
"A hundred thousand francs," said Cydalise.
"She says little--but to the purpose," said Carabine, in a low tone to
"I am going mad!" cried the Brazilian, in a husky voice, dropping on
to a sofa. "I shall die of this! But I must see, for it is impossible!
--A lithographed note! What is to assure me that it is not a forgery?
--Baron Hulot was in love with Valerie?" said he, recalling Josepha's
harangue. "Nay; the proof that he did not love is that she is still
alive--I will not leave her living for anybody else, if she is not
Montes was terrible to behold. He bellowed, he stormed; he broke
everything he touched; rosewood was as brittle as glass.
"How he destroys things!" said Carabine, looking at the old woman. "My
good boy," said she, giving the Brazilian a little slap, "Roland the
Furious is very fine in a poem; but in a drawing-room he is prosaic
"My son," said old Nourrisson, rising to stand in front of the
crestfallen Baron, "I am of your way of thinking. When you love in
that way, and are joined 'till death does you part,' life must answer
for love. The one who first goes, carries everything away; it is a
general wreck. You command my esteem, my admiration, my consent,
especially for your inoculation, which will make me a Friend of the
Negro.--But you love her! You will hark back?"
"I?--If she is so infamous, I--"
"Well, come now, you are talking too much, it strikes me. A man who
means to be avenged, and who says he has the ways and means of a
savage, doesn't do that.--If you want to see your 'object' in her
paradise, you must take Cydalise and walk straight in with her on your
arm, as if the servant had made a mistake. But no scandal! If you mean
to be revenged, you must eat the leek, seem to be in despair, and
allow her to bully you.--Do you see?" said Madame Nourrisson, finding
the Brazilian quite amazed by so subtle a scheme.
"All right, old ostrich," he replied. "Come along: I understand."
"Good-bye, little one!" said the old woman to Carabine.
She signed to Cydalise to go on with Montes, and remained a minute
"Now, child, I have but one fear, and that is that he will strangle
her! I should be in a very tight place; we must do everything gently.
I believe you have won your picture by Raphael; but they tell me it is
only a Mignard. Never mind, it is much prettier; all the Raphaels are
gone black, I am told, whereas this one is as bright as a Girodet."
"All I want is to crow over Josepha; and it is all the same to me
whether I have a Mignard or a Raphael!--That thief had on such pearls
this evening!--you would sell your soul for them."
Cydalise, Montes, and Madame Nourrisson got into a hackney coach that
was waiting at the door. Madame Nourrisson whispered to the driver the
address of a house in the same block as the Italian Opera House, which
they could have reached in five or six minutes from the Rue
Saint-Georges; but Madame Nourrisson desired the man to drive along
the Rue le Peletier, and to go very slowly, so as to be able to examine
the carriages in waiting.
"Brazilian," said the old woman, "look out for your angel's carriage
The Baron pointed out Valerie's carriage as they passed it.
"She has told them to come for her at ten o'clock, and she is gone in
a cab to the house where she visits Count Steinbock. She has dined
there, and will come to the Opera in half an hour.--It is well
contrived!" said Madame Nourrisson. "Thus you see how she has kept you
so long in the dark."
The Brazilian made no reply. He had become the tiger, and had
recovered the imperturbable cool ferocity that had been so striking at
dinner. He was as calm as a bankrupt the day after he has stopped
At the door of the house stood a hackney coach with two horses, of the
kind known as a /Compagnie Generale/, from the Company that runs them.
"Stay here in the box," said the old woman to Montes. "This is not an
open house like a tavern. I will send for you."
The paradise of Madame Marneffe and Wenceslas was not at all like that
of Crevel--who, finding it useless now, had just sold his to the Comte
Maxime de Trailles. This paradise, the paradise of all comers,
consisted of a room on the fourth floor opening to the landing, in a
house close to the Italian Opera. On each floor of this house there
was a room which had originally served as the kitchen to the
apartments on that floor. But the house having become a sort of inn,
let out for clandestine love affairs at an exorbitant price, the
owner, the real Madame Nourrisson, an old-clothes buyer in the Rue
Nueve Saint-Marc, had wisely appreciated the great value of these
kitchens, and had turned them into a sort of dining-rooms. Each of
these rooms, built between thick party-walls and with windows to the
street, was entirely shut in by very thick double doors on the
landing. Thus the most important secrets could be discussed over a
dinner, with no risk of being overheard. For greater security, the
windows had shutters inside and out. These rooms, in consequence of
this peculiarity, were let for twelve hundred francs a month. The
whole house, full of such paradises and mysteries was rented by Madame
Nourrisson the First for twenty-eight thousand francs of clear profit,
after paying her housekeeper, Madame Nourrisson the Second, for she
did not manage it herself.
The paradise let to Count Steinbock had been hung with chintz; the
cold, hard floor, of common tiles reddened with encaustic, was not
felt through a soft thick carpet. The furniture consisted of two
pretty chairs and a bed in an alcove, just now half hidden by a table
loaded with the remains of an elegant dinner, while two bottles with
long necks and an empty champagne-bottle in ice strewed the field of
bacchus cultivated by Venus.
There were also--the property, no doubt, of Valerie--a low easy-chair
and a man's smoking-chair, and a pretty toilet chest of drawers in
rosewood, the mirror handsomely framed /a la/ Pompadour. A lamp
hanging from the ceiling gave a subdued light, increased by wax
candles on the table and on the chimney-shelf.
This sketch will suffice to give an idea, /urbi et orbi/, of
clandestine passion in the squalid style stamped on it in Paris in
1840. How far, alas! from the adulterous love, symbolized by Vulcan's
nets, three thousand years ago.
When Montes and Cydalise came upstairs, Valerie, standing before the
fire, where a log was blazing, was allowing Wenceslas to lace her
This is a moment when a woman who is neither too fat nor too thin, but
like Valerie, elegant and slender, displays divine beauty. The rosy
skin, mostly soft, invites the sleepiest eye. The lines of her figure,
so little hidden, are so charmingly outlined by the white pleats of
the shift and the support of the stays, that she is irresistible--like
everything that must be parted from.
With a happy face smiling at the glass, a foot impatiently marking
time, a hand put up to restore order among the tumbled curls, and eyes
expressive of gratitude; with the glow of satisfaction which, like a
sunset, warms the least details of the countenance--everything makes
such a moment a mine of memories.
Any man who dares look back on the early errors of his life may,
perhaps, recall some such reminiscences, and understand, though not
excuse, the follies of Hulot and Crevel. Women are so well aware of
their power at such a moment, that they find in it what may be called
the aftermath of the meeting.
"Come, come; after two years' practice, you do not yet know how to
lace a woman's stays! You are too much a Pole!--There, it is ten
o'clock, my Wenceslas!" said Valerie, laughing at him.
At this very moment, a mischievous waiting-woman, by inserting a
knife, pushed up the hook of the double doors that formed the whole
security of Adam and Eve. She hastily pulled the door open--for the
servants of these dens have little time to waste--and discovered one
of the bewitching /tableaux de genre/ which Gavarni has so often shown
at the Salon.
"In here, madame," said the girl; and Cydalise went in, followed by
"But there is some one here.--Excuse me, madame," said the country
girl, in alarm.
"What?--Why! it is Valerie!" cried Montes, violently slamming the
Madame Marneffe, too genuinely agitated to dissemble her feelings,
dropped on to the chair by the fireplace. Two tears rose to her eyes,
and at once dried away. She looked at Montes, saw the girl, and burst
into a cackle of forced laughter. The dignity of the insulted woman
redeemed the scantiness of her attire; she walked close up to the
Brazilian, and looked at him so defiantly that her eyes glittered like
"So that," said she, standing face to face with the Baron, and
pointing to Cydalise--"that is the other side of your fidelity? You,
who have made me promises that might convert a disbeliever in love!
You, for whom I have done so much--have even committed crimes!--You
are right, monsieur, I am not to compare with a child of her age and
of such beauty!
"I know what you are going to say," she went on, looking at Wenceslas,
whose undress was proof too clear to be denied. "This is my concern.
If I could love you after such gross treachery--for you have spied
upon me, you have paid for every step up these stairs, paid the
mistress of the house, and the servant, perhaps even Reine--a noble
deed!--If I had any remnant of affection for such a mean wretch, I
could give him reasons that would renew his passion!--But I leave you,
monsieur, to your doubts, which will become remorse.--Wenceslas, my
She took her dress and put it on, looked at herself in the glass, and
finished dressing without heeding the Baron, as calmly as if she had
been alone in the room.
"Wenceslas, are you ready?--Go first."
She had been watching Montes in the glass and out of the corner of her
eye, and fancied she could see in his pallor an indication of the
weakness which delivers a strong man over to a woman's fascinations;
she now took his hand, going so close to him that he could not help
inhaling the terrible perfumes which men love, and by which they
intoxicate themselves; then, feeling his pulses beat high, she looked
at him reproachfully.
"You have my full permission to go and tell your history to Monsieur
Crevel; he will never believe you. I have a perfect right to marry
him, and he becomes my husband the day after to-morrow.--I shall make
him very happy.--Good-bye; try to forget me."
"Oh! Valerie," cried Henri Montes, clasping her in his arms, "that is
impossible!--Come to Brazil!"
Valerie looked in his face, and saw him her slave.
"Well, if you still love me, Henri, two years hence I will be your
wife; but your expression at this moment strikes me as very
"I swear to you that they made me drink, that false friends threw this
girl on my hands, and that the whole thing is the outcome of chance!"
"Then I am to forgive you?" she asked, with a smile.
"But you will marry, all the same?" asked the Baron, in an agony of
"Eighty thousand francs a year!" said she, with almost comical
enthusiasm. "And Crevel loves me so much that he will die of it!"
"Ah! I understand," said Montes.
"Well, then, in a few days we will come to an understanding," said
And she departed triumphant.
"I have no scruples," thought the Baron, standing transfixed for a few
minutes. "What! That woman believes she can make use of his passion to
be quit of that dolt, as she counted on Marneffe's decease!--I shall
be the instrument of divine wrath."
Two days later those of du Tillet's guests who had demolished Madame
Marneffe tooth and nail, were seated round her table an hour after she
has shed her skin and changed her name for the illustrious name of a
Paris mayor. This verbal treason is one of the commonest forms of
Valerie had had the satisfaction of seeing the Brazilian in the
church; for Crevel, now so entirely the husband, had invited him out
of bravado. And the Baron's presence at the breakfast astonished no
one. All these men of wit and of the world were familiar with the
meanness of passion, the compromises of pleasure.
Steinbock's deep melancholy--for he was beginning to despise the woman
whom he had adored as an angel--was considered to be in excellent
taste. The Pole thus seemed to convey that all was at an end between
Valerie and himself. Lisbeth came to embrace her dear Madame Crevel,
and to excuse herself for not staying to the breakfast on the score of
Adeline's sad state of health.
"Be quite easy," said she to Valerie, "they will call on you, and you
will call on them. Simply hearing the words /two hundred thousand
francs/ has brought the Baroness to death's door. Oh, you have them
all hard and fast by that tale!--But you must tell it to me."
Within a month of her marriage, Valerie was at her tenth quarrel with
Steinbock; he insisted on explanations as to Henri Montes, reminding
her of the words spoken in their paradise; and, not content with
speaking to her in terms of scorn, he watched her so closely that she
never had a moment of liberty, so much was she fettered by his
jealousy on one side and Crevel's devotion on the other.
Bereft now of Lisbeth, whose advice had always been so valuable she
flew into such a rage as to reproach Wenceslas for the money she had
lent him. This so effectually roused Steinbock's pride, that he came
no more to the Crevels' house. So Valerie had gained her point, which
was to be rid of him for a time, and enjoy some freedom. She waited
till Crevel should make a little journey into the country to see Comte
Popinot, with a view to arranging for her introduction to the
Countess, and was then able to make an appointment to meet the Baron,
whom she wanted to have at her command for a whole day to give him
those "reasons" which were to make him love her more than ever.
On the morning of that day, Reine, who estimated the magnitude of her
crime by that of the bribe she received, tried to warn her mistress,
in whom she naturally took more interest than in strangers. Still, as
she had been threatened with madness, and ending her days in the
Salpetriere in case of indiscretion, she was cautious.
"Madame, you are so well off now," said she. "Why take on again with
that Brazilian?--I do not trust him at all."
"You are very right, Reine, and I mean to be rid of him."
"Oh, madame, I am glad to hear it; he frightens me, does that big
Moor! I believe him to be capable of anything."
"Silly child! you have more reason to be afraid for him when he is
At this moment Lisbeth came in.
"My dear little pet Nanny, what an age since we met!" cried Valerie.
"I am so unhappy! Crevel bores me to death; and Wenceslas is gone--we
"I know," said Lisbeth, "and that is what brings me here. Victorin met
him at about five in the afternoon going into an eating-house at
five-and-twenty sous, and he brought him home, hungry, by working on
his feelings, to the Rue Louis-le-Grand.--Hortense, seeing Wenceslas
lean and ill and badly dressed, held out her hand. This is how you
throw me over--"
"Monsieur Henri, madame," the man-servant announced in a low voice to
"Leave me now, Lisbeth; I will explain it all to-morrow." But, as will
be seen, Valerie was ere long not in a state to explain anything to
Towards the end of May, Baron Hulot's pension was released by
Victorin's regular payment to Baron Nucingen. As everybody knows,
pensions are paid half-yearly, and only on the presentation of a
certificate that the recipient is alive: and as Hulot's residence was
unknown, the arrears unpaid on Vauvinet's demand remained to his
credit in the Treasury. Vauvinet now signed his renunciation of any
further claims, and it was still indispensable to find the pensioner
before the arrears could be drawn.
Thanks to Bianchon's care, the Baroness had recovered her health; and
to this Josepha's good heart had contributed by a letter, of which the
orthography betrayed the collaboration of the Duc d'Herouville. This
was what the singer wrote to the Baroness, after twenty days of
"MADAME LA BARONNE,--Monsieur Hulot was living, two months since,
in the Rue des Bernardins, with Elodie Chardin, a lace-mender, for
whom he had left Mademoiselle Bijou; but he went away without a
word, leaving everything behind him, and no one knows where he
went. I am not without hope, however, and I have put a man on this
track who believes he has already seen him in the Boulevard
"The poor Jewess means to keep the promise she made to the
Christian. Will the angel pray for the devil? That must sometimes
happen in heaven.--I remain, with the deepest respect, always your
The lawyer, Maitre Hulot d'Ervy, hearing no more of the dreadful
Madame Nourrisson, seeing his father-in-law married, having brought
back his brother-in-law to the family fold, suffering from no
importunity on the part of his new stepmother, and seeing his mother's
health improve daily, gave himself up to his political and judicial
duties, swept along by the tide of Paris life, in which the hours
count for days.
One night, towards the end of the session, having occasion to write up
a report to the Chamber of Deputies, he was obliged to sit at work
till late at night. He had gone into his study at nine o'clock, and,
while waiting till the man-servant should bring in the candles with
green shades, his thoughts turned to his father. He was blaming
himself for leaving the inquiry so much to the singer, and had
resolved to see Monsieur Chapuzot himself on the morrow, when he saw
in the twilight, outside the window, a handsome old head, bald and
yellow, with a fringe of white hair.
"Would you please to give orders, sir, that a poor hermit is to be
admitted, just come from the Desert, and who is instructed to beg for
contributions towards rebuilding a holy house."
This apparition, which suddenly reminded the lawyer of a prophecy
uttered by the terrible Nourrisson, gave him a shock.
"Let in that old man," said he to the servant.
"He will poison the place, sir," replied the man. "He has on a brown
gown which he has never changed since he left Syria, and he has no
"Show him in," repeated the master.
The old man came in. Victorin's keen eye examined this so-called
pilgrim hermit, and he saw a fine specimen of the Neapolitan friars,
whose frocks are akin to the rags of the /lazzaroni/, whose sandals
are tatters of leather, as the friars are tatters of humanity. The
get-up was so perfect that the lawyer, though still on his guard, was
vexed with himself for having believed it to be one of Madame
"How much to you want of me?"
"Whatever you feel that you ought to give me."
Victorin took a five-franc piece from a little pile on his table, and
handed it to the stranger.
"That is not much on account of fifty thousand francs," said the
pilgrim of the desert.
This speech removed all Victorin's doubts.
"And has Heaven kept its word?" he said, with a frown.
"The question is an offence, my son," said the hermit. "If you do not
choose to pay till after the funeral, you are in your rights. I will
return in a week's time."
"The funeral!" cried the lawyer, starting up.
"The world moves on," said the old man, as he withdrew, "and the dead
move quickly in Paris!"
When Hulot, who stood looking down, was about to reply, the stalwart
old man had vanished.
"I don't understand one word of all this," said Victorin to himself.
"But at the end of the week I will ask him again about my father, if
we have not yet found him. Where does Madame Nourrisson--yes, that was
her name--pick up such actors?"
On the following day, Doctor Bianchon allowed the Baroness to go down
into the garden, after examining Lisbeth, who had been obliged to keep
to her room for a month by a slight bronchial attack. The learned
doctor, who dared not pronounce a definite opinion on Lisbeth's case
till he had seen some decisive symptoms, went into the garden with
Adeline to observe the effect of the fresh air on her nervous
trembling after two months of seclusion. He was interested and allured
by the hope of curing this nervous complaint. On seeing the great
physician sitting with them and sparing them a few minutes, the
Baroness and her family conversed with him on general subjects.
"You life is a very full and a very sad one," said Madame Hulot. "I
know what it is to spend one's days in seeing poverty and physical
"I know, madame," replied the doctor, "all the scenes of which charity
compels you to be a spectator; but you will get used to it in time, as
we all do. It is the law of existence. The confessor, the magistrate,
the lawyer would find life unendurable if the spirit of the State did
not assert itself above the feelings of the individual. Could we live
at all but for that? Is not the soldier in time of war brought face to
face with spectacles even more dreadful than those we see? And every
soldier that has been under fire is kind-hearted. We medical men have
the pleasure now and again of a successful cure, as you have that of
saving a family from the horrors of hunger, depravity, or misery, and
of restoring it to social respectability. But what comfort can the
magistrate find, the police agent, or the attorney, who spend their
lives in investigating the basest schemes of self-interest, the social
monster whose only regret is when it fails, but on whom repentance
"One-half of society spends its life in watching the other half. A
very old friend of mine is an attorney, now retired, who told me that
for fifteen years past notaries and lawyers have distrusted their
clients quite as much as their adversaries. Your son is a pleader; has
he never found himself compromised by the client for whom he held a
"Very often," said Victorin, with a smile.
"And what is the cause of this deep-seated evil?" asked the Baroness.
"The decay of religion," said Bianchon, "and the pre-eminence of
finance, which is simply solidified selfishness. Money used not to be
everything; there were some kinds of superiority that ranked above it
--nobility, genius, service done to the State. But nowadays the law
takes wealth as the universal standard, and regards it as the measure
of public capacity. Certain magistrates are ineligible to the Chamber;
Jean-Jacques Rousseau would be ineligible! The perpetual subdivision
of estate compels every man to take care of himself from the age of
"Well, then, between the necessity for making a fortune and the
depravity of speculation there is no check or hindrance; for the
religious sense is wholly lacking in France, in spite of the laudable
endeavors of those who are working for a Catholic revival. And this is
the opinion of every man who, like me, studies society at the core."
"And you have few pleasures?" said Hortense.
"The true physician, madame, is in love with his science," replied the
doctor. "He is sustained by that passion as much as by the sense of
his usefulness to society.
"At this very time you see in me a sort of scientific rapture, and
many superficial judges would regard me as a man devoid of feeling. I
have to announce a discovery to-morrow to the College of Medicine, for
I am studying a disease that had disappeared--a mortal disease for
which no cure is known in temperate climates, though it is curable in
the West Indies--a malady known here in the Middle Ages. A noble fight
is that of the physician against such a disease. For the last ten days
I have thought of nothing but these cases--for there are two, a
husband and wife.--Are they not connections of yours? For you, madame,
are surely Monsieur Crevel's daughter?" said he, addressing Celestine.
"What, is my father your patient?" asked Celestine. "Living in the Rue
"Precisely so," said Bianchon.
"And the disease is inevitably fatal?" said Victorin in dismay.
"I will go to see him," said Celestine, rising.
"I positively forbid it, madame," Bianchon quietly said. "The disease
"But you go there, monsieur," replied the young woman. "Do you think
that a daughter's duty is less binding than a doctor's?"
"Madame, a physician knows how to protect himself against infection,
and the rashness of your devotion proves to me that you would probably
be less prudent than I."
Celestine, however, got up and went to her room, where she dressed to
"Monsieur," said Victorin to Bianchon, "have you any hope of saving
Monsieur and Madame Crevel?"
"I hope, but I do not believe that I may," said Bianchon. "The case is
to me quite inexplicable. The disease is peculiar to negroes and the
American tribes, whose skin is differently constituted to that of the
white races. Now I can trace no connection with the copper-colored
tribes, with negroes or half-castes, in Monsieur or Madame Crevel.
"And though it is a very interesting disease to us, it is a terrible
thing for the sufferers. The poor woman, who is said to have been very
pretty, is punished for her sins, for she is now squalidly hideous if
she is still anything at all. She is losing her hair and teeth, her
skin is like a leper's, she is a horror to herself; her hands are
horrible, covered with greenish pustules, her nails are loose, and the
flesh is eaten away by the poisoned humors."
"And the cause of such a disease?" asked the lawyer.
"Oh!" said the doctor, "the cause lies in a form of rapid
blood-poisoning; it degenerates with terrific rapidity. I hope to act
on the blood; I am having it analyzed; and I am now going home to
ascertain the result of the labors of my friend Professor Duval, the
famous chemist, with a view to trying one of those desperate measures
by which we sometimes attempt to defeat death."
"The hand of God is there!" said Adeline, in a voice husky with
emotion. "Though that woman has brought sorrows on me which have led
me in moments of madness to invoke the vengeance of Heaven, I hope
--God knows I hope--you may succeed, doctor."
Victorin felt dizzy. He looked at his mother, his sister, and the
physician by turns, quaking lest they should read his thoughts. He
felt himself a murderer.
Hortense, for her part, thought God was just.
Celestine came back to beg her husband to accompany her.
"If you insist on going, madame, and you too, monsieur, keep at least
a foot between you and the bed of the sufferer, that is the chief
precaution. Neither you nor your wife must dream of kissing the dying
man. And, indeed, you ought to go with your wife, Monsieur Hulot, to
hinder her from disobeying my injunctions."
Adeline and Hortense, when they were left alone, went to sit with
Lisbeth. Hortense had such a virulent hatred of Valerie that she could
not contain the expression of it.
"Cousin Lisbeth," she exclaimed, "my mother and I are avenged! that
venomous snake is herself bitten--she is rotting in her bed!"
"Hortense, at this moment you are not a Christian. You ought to pray
to God to vouchsafe repentance to this wretched woman."
"What are you talking about?" said Betty, rising from her couch. "Are
you speaking of Valerie?"
"Yes," replied Adeline; "she is past hope--dying of some horrible
disease of which the mere description makes one shudder----"
Lisbeth's teeth chattered, a cold sweat broke out all over her; the
violence of the shock showed how passionate her attachment to Valerie
"I must go there," said she.
"But the doctor forbids your going out."
"I do not care--I must go!--Poor Crevel! what a state he must be in;
for he loves that woman."
"He is dying too," replied Countess Steinbock. "Ah! all our enemies
are in the devil's clutches--"
"In God's hands, my child--"
Lisbeth dressed in the famous yellow Indian shawl and her black velvet
bonnet, and put on her boots; in spite of her relations'
remonstrances, she set out as if driven by some irresistible power.
She arrived in the Rue Barbet a few minutes after Monsieur and Madame
Hulot, and found seven physicians there, brought by Bianchon to study
this unique case; he had just joined them. The physicians, assembled
in the drawing-room, were discussing the disease; now one and now
another went into Valerie's room or Crevel's to take a note, and
returned with an opinion based on this rapid study.
These princes of science were divided in their opinions. One, who
stood alone in his views, considered it a case of poisoning, of
private revenge, and denied its identity with the disease known in the
Middle Ages. Three others regarded it as a specific deterioration of
the blood and the humors. The rest, agreeing with Bianchon, maintained
that the blood was poisoned by some hitherto unknown morbid infection.
Bianchon produced Professor Duval's analysis of the blood. The
remedies to be applied, though absolutely empirical and without hope,
depended on the verdict in this medical dilemma.
Lisbeth stood as if petrified three yards away from the bed where
Valerie lay dying, as she saw a priest from Saint-Thomas d'Aquin
standing by her friend's pillow, and a sister of charity in
attendance. Religion could find a soul to save in a mass of rottenness
which, of the five senses of man, had now only that of sight. The
sister of charity who alone had been found to nurse Valerie stood
apart. Thus the Catholic religion, that divine institution, always
actuated by the spirit of self-sacrifice, under its twofold aspect of
the Spirit and the Flesh, was tending this horrible and atrocious
creature, soothing her death-bed by its infinite benevolence and
inexhaustible stores of mercy.
The servants, in horror, refused to go into the room of either their
master or mistress; they thought only of themselves, and judged their
betters as righteously stricken. The smell was so foul that in spite
of open windows and strong perfumes, no one could remain long in
Valerie's room. Religion alone kept guard there.
How could a woman so clever as Valerie fail to ask herself to what end
these two representatives of the Church remained with her? The dying
woman had listened to the words of the priest. Repentance had risen on
her darkened soul as the devouring malady had consumed her beauty. The
fragile Valerie had been less able to resist the inroads of the
disease than Crevel; she would be the first to succumb, and, indeed,
had been the first attacked.
"If I had not been ill myself, I would have come to nurse you," said
Lisbeth at last, after a glance at her friend's sunken eyes. "I have
kept my room this fortnight or three weeks; but when I heard of your
state from the doctor, I came at once."
"Poor Lisbeth, you at least love me still, I see!" said Valerie.
"Listen. I have only a day or two left to think, for I cannot say to
live. You see, there is nothing left of me--I am a heap of mud! They
will not let me see myself in a glass.--Well, it is no more than I
deserve. Oh, if I might only win mercy, I would gladly undo all the
mischief I have done."
"Oh!" said Lisbeth, "if you can talk like that, you are indeed a dead
"Do not hinder this woman's repentance, leave her in her Christian
mind," said the priest.
"There is nothing left!" said Lisbeth in consternation. "I cannot
recognize her eyes or her mouth! Not a feature of her is there! And
her wit has deserted her! Oh, it is awful!"
"You don't know," said Valerie, "what death is; what it is to be
obliged to think of the morrow of your last day on earth, and of what
is to be found in the grave.--Worms for the body--and for the soul,
what?--Lisbeth, I know there is another life! And I am given over to
terrors which prevent my feeling the pangs of my decomposing body.--I,
who could laugh at a saint, and say to Crevel that the vengeance of
God took every form of disaster.--Well, I was a true prophet.--Do not
trifle with sacred things, Lisbeth; if you love me, repent as I do."
"I!" said Lisbeth. "I see vengeance wherever I turn in nature; insects
even die to satisfy the craving for revenge when they are attacked.
And do not these gentlemen tell us"--and she looked at the priest
--"that God is revenged, and that His vengeance lasts through all
The priest looked mildly at Lisbeth and said:
"You, madame, are an atheist!"
"But look what I have come to," said Valerie.
"And where did you get this gangrene?" asked the old maid, unmoved
from her peasant incredulity.
"I had a letter from Henri which leaves me in no doubt as to my fate.
He has murdered me. And--just when I meant to live honestly--to die an
object of disgust!
"Lisbeth, give up all notions of revenge. Be kind to that family to
whom I have left by my will everything I can dispose of. Go, child,
though you are the only creature who, at this hour, does not avoid me
with horror--go, I beseech you, and leave me.--I have only time to
make my peace with God!"
"She is wandering in her wits," said Lisbeth to herself, as she left
The strongest affection known, that of a woman for a woman, had not
such heroic constancy as the Church. Lisbeth, stifled by the miasma,
went away. She found the physicians still in consultation. But
Bianchon's opinion carried the day, and the only question now was how
to try the remedies.
"At any rate, we shall have a splendid /post-mortem/," said one of his
opponents, "and there will be two cases to enable us to make
Lisbeth went in again with Bianchon, who went up to the sick woman
without seeming aware of the malodorous atmosphere.
"Madame," said he, "we intend to try a powerful remedy which may save
"And if you save my life," said she, "shall I be as good-looking as
"Possibly," said the judicious physician.
"I know your /possibly/," said Valerie. "I shall look like a woman who
has fallen into the fire! No, leave me to the Church. I can please no
one now but God. I will try to be reconciled to Him, and that will be
my last flirtation; yes, I must try to come round God!"
"That is my poor Valerie's last jest; that is all herself!" said
Lisbeth in tears.
Lisbeth thought it her duty to go into Crevel's room, where she found
Victorin and his wife sitting about a yard away from the stricken
"Lisbeth," said he, "they will not tell me what state my wife is in;
you have just seen her--how is she?"
"She is better; she says she is saved," replied Lisbeth, allowing
herself this play on the word to soothe Crevel's mind.
"That is well," said the Mayor. "I feared lest I had been the cause of
her illness. A man is not a traveler in perfumery for nothing; I had
blamed myself.--If I should lose her, what would become of me? On my
honor, my children, I worship that woman."
He sat up in bed and tried to assume his favorite position.
"Oh, Papa!" cried Celestine, "if only you could be well again, I would
make friends with my stepmother--I make a vow!"
"Poor little Celestine!" said Crevel, "come and kiss me."
Victorin held back his wife, who was rushing forward.
"You do not know, perhaps," said the lawyer gently, "that your disease
is contagious, monsieur."
"To be sure," replied Crevel. "And the doctors are quite proud of
having rediscovered in me some long lost plague of the Middle Ages,
which the Faculty has had cried like lost property--it is very funny!"
"Papa," said Celestine, "be brave, and you will get the better of this
"Be quite easy, my children; Death thinks twice of it before carrying
off a Mayor of Paris," said he, with monstrous composure. "And if,
after all, my district is so unfortunate as to lose a man it has twice
honored with its suffrages--you see, what a flow of words I have!
--Well, I shall know how to pack up and go. I have been a commercial
traveler; I am experienced in such matters. Ah! my children, I am a
man of strong mind."
"Papa, promise me to admit the Church--"
"Never," replied Crevel. "What is to be said? I drank the milk of
Revolution; I have not Baron Holbach's wit, but I have his strength of
mind. I am more /Regence/ than ever, more Musketeer, Abbe Dubois, and
Marechal de Richelieu! By the Holy Poker!--My wife, who is wandering
in her head, has just sent me a man in a gown--to me! the admirer of
Beranger, the friend of Lisette, the son of Voltaire and Rousseau.
--The doctor, to feel my pulse, as it were, and see if sickness had
subdued me--'You saw Monsieur l'Abbe?' said he.--Well, I imitated the
great Montesquieu. Yes, I looked at the doctor--see, like this," and
he turned to show three-quarters face, like his portrait, and extended
his hand authoritatively--"and I said:
"The slave was here,
He showed his order, but he nothing gained.
"/His order/ is a pretty jest, showing that even in death Monsieur le
President de Montesquieu preserved his elegant wit, for they had sent
him a Jesuit. I admire that passage--I cannot say of his life, but of
his death--the passage--another joke!--The passage from life to death
--the Passage Montesquieu!"
Victorin gazed sadly at his father-in-law, wondering whether folly and
vanity were not forces on a par with true greatness of soul. The
causes that act on the springs of the soul seem to be quite
independent of the results. Can it be that the fortitude which upholds
a great criminal is the same as that which a Champcenetz so proudly
walks to the scaffold?
By the end of the week Madame Crevel was buried, after dreadful
sufferings; and Crevel followed her within two days. Thus the
marriage-contract was annulled. Crevel was heir to Valerie.
On the very day after the funeral, the friar called again on the
lawyer, who received him in perfect silence. The monk held out his
hand without a word, and without a word Victorin Hulot gave him eighty
thousand-franc notes, taken from a sum of money found in Crevel's
Young Madame Hulot inherited the estate of Presles and thirty thousand
francs a year.
Madame Crevel had bequeathed a sum of three hundred thousand francs to
Baron Hulot. Her scrofulous boy Stanislas was to inherit, at his
majority, the Hotel Crevel and eighty thousand francs a year.
Among the many noble associations founded in Paris by Catholic
charity, there is one, originated by Madame de la Chanterie, for
promoting civil and religious marriages between persons who have
formed a voluntary but illicit union. Legislators, who draw large
revenues from the registration fees, and the Bourgeois dynasty, which
benefits by the notary's profits, affect to overlook the fact that
three-fourths of the poorer class cannot afford fifteen francs for the
marriage-contract. The pleaders, a sufficiently vilified body,
gratuitously defend the cases of the indigent, while the notaries have
not as yet agreed to charge nothing for the marriage-contract of the
poor. As to the revenue collectors, the whole machinery of Government
would have to be dislocated to induce the authorities to relax their
demands. The registrar's office is deaf and dumb.
Then the Church, too, receives a duty on marriages. In France the
Church depends largely on such revenues; even in the House of God it
traffics in chairs and kneeling stools in a way that offends
foreigners; though it cannot have forgotten the anger of the Saviour
who drove the money-changers out of the Temple. If the Church is so
loath to relinquish its dues, it must be supposed that these dues,
known as Vestry dues, are one of its sources of maintenance, and then
the fault of the Church is the fault of the State.
The co-operation of these conditions, at a time when charity is too
greatly concerned with the negroes and the petty offenders discharged
from prison to trouble itself about honest folks in difficulties,
results in the existence of a number of decent couples who have never
been legally married for lack of thirty francs, the lowest figure for
which the Notary, the Registrar, the Mayor and the Church will unite
two citizens of Paris. Madame de la Chanterie's fund, founded to
restore poor households to their religious and legal status, hunts up
such couples, and with all the more success because it helps them in
their poverty before attacking their unlawful union.
As soon as Madame Hulot had recovered, she returned to her
occupations. And then it was that the admirable Madame de la Chanterie
came to beg that Adeline would add the legalization of these voluntary
unions to the other good works of which she was the instrument.
One of the Baroness' first efforts in this cause was made in the
ominous-looking district, formerly known as la Petite Pologne--Little
Poland--bounded by the Rue du Rocher, Rue de la Pepiniere, and Rue de
Miromenil. There exists there a sort of offshoot of the Faubourg
Saint-Marceau. To give an idea of this part of the town, it is enough
to say that the landlords of some of the houses tenanted by working
men without work, by dangerous characters, and by the very poor
employed in unhealthy toil, dare not demand their rents, and can find
no bailiffs bold enough to evict insolvent lodgers. At the present
time speculating builders, who are fast changing the aspect of this
corner of Paris, and covering the waste ground lying between the Rue
d'Amsterdam and the Rue Faubourg-du-Roule, will no doubt alter the
character of the inhabitants; for the trowel is a more civilizing
agent than is generally supposed. By erecting substantial and handsome
houses, with porters at the doors, by bordering the streets with
footwalks and shops, speculation, while raising the rents, disperses
the squalid class, families bereft of furniture, and lodgers that
cannot pay. And so these districts are cleared of such objectionable
residents, and the dens vanish into which the police never venture but
under the sanction of the law.
In June 1844, the purlieus of the Place de Laborde were still far from
inviting. The genteel pedestrian, who by chance should turn out of the
Rue de la Pepiniere into one of those dreadful side-streets, would
have been dismayed to see how vile a bohemia dwelt cheek by jowl with
the aristocracy. In such places as these, haunted by ignorant poverty
and misery driven to bay, flourish the last public letter-writers who
are to be found in Paris. Wherever you see the two words "Ecrivain
Public" written in a fine copy hand on a sheet of letter-paper stuck
to the window pane of some low entresol or mud-splashed ground-floor
room, you may safely conclude that the neighborhood is the lurking
place of many unlettered folks, and of much vice and crime, the
outcome of misery; for ignorance is the mother of all sorts of crime.
A crime is, in the first instance, a defect of reasoning powers.
While the Baroness had been ill, this quarter, to which she was a
minor Providence, had seen the advent of a public writer who settled
in the Passage du Soleil--Sun Alley--a spot of which the name is one
of the antitheses dear to the Parisian, for the passage is especially
dark. This writer, supposed to be a German, was named Vyder, and he
lived on matrimonial terms with a young creature of whom he was so
jealous that he never allowed her to go anywhere excepting to some
honest stove and flue-fitters, in the Rue Saint-Lazare, Italians, as
such fitters always are, but long since established in Paris. These
people had been saved from a bankruptcy, which would have reduced them
to misery, by the Baroness, acting in behalf of Madame de la
Chanterie. In a few months comfort had taken the place of poverty, and
Religion had found a home in hearts which once had cursed Heaven with
the energy peculiar to Italian stove-fitters. So one of Madame Hulot's
first visits was to this family.
She was pleased at the scene that presented itself to her eyes at the
back of the house where these worthy folks lived in the Rue
Saint-Lazare, not far from the Rue du Rocher. High above the stores
and workshops, now well filled, where toiled a swarm of apprentices and
workmen--all Italians from the valley of Domo d'Ossola--the master's
family occupied a set of rooms, which hard work had blessed with
abundance. The Baroness was hailed like the Virgin Mary in person.
After a quarter of an hour's questioning, Adeline, having to wait for
the father to inquire how his business was prospering, pursued her
saintly calling as a spy by asking whether they knew of any families
"Ah, dear lady, you who could save the damned from hell!" said the
Italian wife, "there is a girl quite near here to be saved from
"A girl well known to you?" asked the Baroness.
"She is the granddaughter of a master my husband formerly worked for,
who came to France in 1798, after the Revolution, by name Judici. Old
Judici, in Napoleon's time, was one of the principal stove-fitters in
Paris; he died in 1819, leaving his son a fine fortune. But the
younger Judici wasted all his money on bad women; till, at last, he
married one who was sharper than the rest, and she had this poor
little girl, who is just turned fifteen."
"And what is wrong with her?" asked Adeline, struck by the resemblance
between this Judici and her husband.
"Well, madame, this child, named Atala, ran away from her father, and
came to live close by here with an old German of eighty at least,
named Vyder, who does odd jobs for people who cannot read and write.
Now, if this old sinner, who bought the child of her mother, they say
for fifteen hundred francs, would but marry her, as he certainly has
not long to live, and as he is said to have some few thousand of
francs a year--well, the poor thing, who is a sweet little angel,
would be out of mischief, and above want, which must be the ruin of
"Thank you very much for the information. I may do some good, but I
must act with caution.--Who is the old man?"
"Oh! madame, he is a good old fellow; he makes the child very happy,
and he has some sense too, for he left the part of town where the
Judicis live, as I believe, to snatch the child from her mother's
clutches. The mother was jealous of her, and I dare say she thought
she could make money out of her beauty and make a /mademoiselle/ of
"Atala remembered us, and advised her gentleman to settle near us; and
as the good man sees how decent we are, he allows her to come here.
But get them married, madame, and you will do an action worthy of you.
Once married, the child will be independent and free from her mother,
who keeps an eye on her, and who, if she could make money by her,
would like to see her on the stage, or successful in the wicked life
she meant her to lead."
"Why doesn't the old man marry her?"
"There was no necessity for it, you see," said the Italian. "And
though old Vyder is not a bad old fellow, I fancy he is sharp enough
to wish to remain the master, while if he once got married--why, the
poor man is afraid of the stone that hangs round every old man's
"Could you send for the girl to come here?" said Madame Hulot. "I
should see her quietly, and find out what could be done--"
The stove-fitter's wife signed to her eldest girl, who ran off. Ten
minutes later she returned, leading by the hand a child of fifteen and
a half, a beauty of the Italian type. Mademoiselle Judici inherited
from her father that ivory skin which, rather yellow by day, is by
artificial light of lily-whiteness; eyes of Oriental beauty, form, and
brilliancy, close curling lashes like black feathers, hair of ebony
hue, and that native dignity of the Lombard race which makes the
foreigner, as he walks through Milan on a Sunday, fancy that every
porter's daughter is a princess.
Atala, told by the stove-fitter's daughter that she was to meet the
great lady of whom she had heard so much, had hastily dressed in a
black silk gown, a smart little cape, and neat boots. A cap with a
cherry-colored bow added to the brilliant effect of her coloring. The
child stood in an attitude of artless curiosity, studying the Baroness
out of the corner of her eye, for her palsied trembling puzzled her
Adeline sighed deeply as she saw this jewel of womanhood in the mire
of prostitution, and determined to rescue her to virtue.
"What is your name, my dear?"
"And can you read and write?"
"No, madame; but that does not matter, as monsieur can."
"Did your parents ever take you to church? Have you been to your first
Communion? Do you know your Catechism?"
"Madame, papa wanted to make me do something of the kind you speak of,
but mamma would not have it--"
"Your mother?" exclaimed the Baroness. "Is she bad to you, then?"
"She was always beating me. I don't know why, but I was always being
quarreled over by my father and mother--"
"Did you ever hear of God?" cried the Baroness.
The girl looked up wide-eyed.
"Oh, yes, papa and mamma often said 'Good God,' and 'In God's name,'
and 'God's thunder,'" said she, with perfect simplicity.
"Then you never saw a church? Did you never think of going into one?"
"A church?--Notre-Dame, the Pantheon?--I have seen them from a
distance, when papa took me into town; but that was not very often.
There are no churches like those in the Faubourg."
"Which Faubourg did you live in?"
"In the Faubourg."
"Yes, but which?"
"In the Rue de Charonne, madame."
The inhabitants of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine never call that
notorious district other than /the/ Faubourg. To them it is the one
and only Faubourg; and manufacturers generally understand the words as
meaning the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
"Did no one ever tell you what was right or wrong?"
"Mamma used to beat me when I did not do what pleased her."
"But did you not know that it was very wicked to run away from your
father and mother to go to live with an old man?"
Atala Judici gazed at the Baroness with a haughty stare, but made no
"She is a perfect little savage," murmured Adeline.
"There are a great many like her in the Faubourg, madame," said the
"But she knows nothing--not even what is wrong. Good Heavens!--Why do
you not answer me?" said Madame Hulot, putting out her hand to take
Atala indignantly withdrew a step.
"You are an old fool!" said she. "Why, my father and mother had had
nothing to eat for a week. My mother wanted me to do much worse than
that, I think, for my father thrashed her and called her a thief!
However, Monsieur Vyder paid all their debts, and gave them some money
--oh, a bagful! And he brought me away, and poor papa was crying. But
we had to part!--Was it wicked?" she asked.
"And are you very fond of Monsieur Vyder?"
"Fond of him?" said she. "I should think so! He tells me beautiful
stories, madame, every evening; and he has given me nice gowns, and
linen, and a shawl. Why, I am figged out like a princess, and I never
wear sabots now. And then, I have not known what it is to be hungry
these two months past. And I don't live on potatoes now. He brings me
bonbons and burnt almonds, and chocolate almonds.--Aren't they good?
--I do anything he pleases for a bag of chocolate.--Then my old Daddy
is very kind; he takes such care of me, and is so nice; I know now what
my mother ought to have been.--He is going to get an old woman to help
me, for he doesn't like me to dirty my hands with cooking. For the
past month, too, he has been making a little money, and he gives me
three francs every evening that I put into a money-box. Only he will
never let me out except to come here--and he calls me his little
kitten! Mamma never called me anything but bad names--and thief, and
"Well, then, my child, why should not Daddy Vyder be your husband?"
"But he is, madame," said the girl, looking at Adeline with calm
pride, without a blush, her brow smooth, her eyes steady. "He told me
that I was his little wife; but it is a horrid bore to be a man's wife
--if it were not for the burnt almonds!"
"Good Heaven!" said the Baroness to herself, "what monster can have
had the heart to betray such perfect, such holy innocence? To restore
this child to the ways of virtue would surely atone for many sins.--I
knew what I was doing." thought she, remembering the scene with
Crevel. "But she--she knows nothing."
"Do you know Monsieur Samanon?" asked Atala, with an insinuating look.
"No, my child; but why do you ask?"
"Really and truly?" said the artless girl.
"You have nothing to fear from this lady," said the Italian woman.
"She is an angel."
"It is because my good old boy is afraid of being caught by Samanon.
He is hiding, and I wish he could be free--"
"On! then he would take me to Bobino, perhaps to the Ambigu."
"What a delightful creature!" said the Baroness, kissing the girl.
"Are you rich?" asked Atala, who was fingering the Baroness' lace
"Yes, and No," replied Madame Hulot. "I am rich for dear little girls
like you when they are willing to be taught their duties as Christians
by a priest, and to walk in the right way."
"What way is that?" said Atala; "I walk on my two feet."
"The way of virtue."
Atala looked at the Baroness with a crafty smile.
"Look at madame," said the Baroness, pointing to the stove-fitter's
wife, "she has been quite happy because she was received into the
bosom of the Church. You married like the beasts that perish."
"I?" said Atala. "Why, if you will give me as much as Daddy Vyder
gives me, I shall be quite happy unmarried again. It is a grind.--Do
you know what it is to--?"
"But when once you are united to a man as you are," the Baroness put
in, "virtue requires you to remain faithful to him."
"Till he dies," said Atala, with a knowing flash. "I shall not have to
wait long. If you only knew how Daddy Vyder coughs and blows.--Poof,
poof," and she imitated the old man.
"Virtue and morality require that the Church, representing God, and
the Mayor, representing the law, should consecrate your marriage,"
Madame Hulot went on. "Look at madame; she is legally married--"
"Will it make it more amusing?" asked the girl.
"You will be happier," said the Baroness, "for no one could then blame
you. You would satisfy God! Ask her if she was married without the
sacrament of marriage!"
Atala looked at the Italian.
"How is she any better than I am?" she asked. "I am prettier than she
"Yes, but I am an honest woman," said the wife, "and you may be called
by a bad name."
"How can you expect God to protect you if you trample every law, human
and divine, under foot?" said the Baroness. "Don't you know that God
has Paradise in store for those who obey the injunctions of His
"What is there in Paradise? Are there playhouses?"
"Paradise!" said Adeline, "is every joy you can conceive of. It is
full of angels with white wings. You see God in all His glory, you
share His power, you are happy for every minute of eternity!"
Atala listened to the lady as she might have listened to music; but
Adeline, seeing that she was incapable of understanding her, thought
she had better take another line of action and speak to the old man.
"Go home, then, my child, and I will go to see Monsieur Vyder. Is he a
"He is an Alsatian, madame. But he will be quite rich soon. If you
would pay what he owes to that vile Samanon, he would give you back
your money, for in a few months he will be getting six thousand francs
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