The Deputy of Arcis
Honore de Balzac
Part 7 out of 8
sufficient reasons to absent myself? He will, of course,
understand that I ought not to explain under any circumstances the
nature of the affair which has taken me out of the country at this
unlucky time; but I am certain it will be all-sufficient if a man
of Monsieur de l'Estorade's position and character guarantees the
necessity of my absence.
I beg you to accept, madame, etc., etc.
As Madame de Camps finished reading the letter, the sound of a
carriage entering the courtyard was heard.
"There are the gentlemen," said the countess. "Now, had I better show
this letter to my husband or not?"
"You can't avoid doing so," replied Madame de Camps. "In the first
place, Nais will chatter about it. Besides, Monsieur de Sallenauve
addresses you in a most respectful manner, and there is nothing in the
letter to feed your husband's notion."
"Who is that common-looking man I met on the stairs talking with
Nais?" said Monsieur de l'Estorade to his wife, as he entered the
As Madame de l'Estorade did not seem to understand him, he added,--
"He is pitted with the small-pox, and wears a maroon coat and shabby
"Oh!" said Madame de Camps, addressing her friend; "it must be the man
who was here just now. Nais has seized the occasion to inquire about
"But who is he?" repeated Monsieur de l'Estorade.
"I think his name is Bricheteau; he is a friend of Monsieur de
Sallenauve," replied Madame de Camps.
Seeing the cloud on her husband's brow, Madame de l'Estorade hastened
to explain the double object of the organist's visit, and she gave him
the letter of the new deputy. While he was reading it, Madame de
l'Estorade said, aside, to Monsieur de Camps,--
"He seems to me much better, don't you think so?"
"Yes; there's scarcely a trace left of what we saw this morning. He
was too wrought up about his work. Going out did him good; and yet he
met with a rather unpleasant surprise at Rastignac's."
"What was it?" asked Madame de l'Estorade, anxiously.
"It seems that the affairs of your friend Sallenauve are going wrong."
"Thanks for the commission!" said Monsieur de l'Estorade, returning
the letter to his wife. "I shall take very good care not to guarantee
his conduct in any respect."
"Have you heard anything disagreeable about him?" asked Madame de
l'Estorade, endeavoring to give a tone of indifference to her
"Yes; Rastignac has just told me of letters received from Arcis, where
they have made the most compromising discoveries."
"Well, what did I tell you?" cried Madame de l'Estorade.
"How do you mean? What _did_ you tell me?"
"I told you some time ago that the acquaintance was one that had
better be allowed to die out. I remember using that very expression."
"But _I_ didn't draw him here."
"Well, you can't say that I did; and just now, before I knew of these
discoveries you speak of, I was telling Madame de Camps of another
reason why it was desirable to put an end to the acquaintance."
"Yes," said Madame de Camps, "your wife and I were just discussing, as
you came in, the sort of frenzy Nais has taken for what she calls her
'preserver.' We agreed in thinking there might be future danger in
"From all points of view," said Monsieur de l'Estorade, "it is an
"It seems to me," said Monsieur de Camps, who was not in the secret of
these opinions, "that you go too fast. They may have made what they
call compromising discoveries about Monsieur de Sallenauve; but what
is the value of those discoveries? Don't hang him till a verdict has
"My husband can do as he likes," said Madame de l'Estorade; "but as
for me, I shall drop the acquaintance at once. I want my friends to
be, like Caesar's wife, beyond suspicion."
"Unfortunately," said Monsieur de l'Estorade, "there's that
"But, my dear," cried Madame de l'Estorade, "if a galley-slave saved
my life, must I admit him to my salon?"
"Oh! dearest," exclaimed Madame de Camps, "you are going too far."
"At any rate," said the peer of France, "there is no need to make an
open rupture; let things end quietly between us. The dear man is now
in foreign parts, and who knows if he means to return?"
"What!" exclaimed Monsieur de Camps, "has he left the country for a
"Not precisely for that reason," said Monsieur de l'Estorade; "he
found a pretext. But once out of France, you know--"
"I don't believe in that conclusion," said Madame de l'Estorade; "I
think he will return, and if so, my dear, you really must take your
courage in both hands and cut short his acquaintance."
"Is that," said Monsieur de l'Estorade, looking attentively at his
wife, "your actual desire?"
"Mine?" she replied; "if I had my way, I should write to him and say
that he would do us a favor by not reappearing in our house. As that
would be rather a difficult letter to write, let us write it together,
if you are willing."
"We will see about it," said Monsieur de l'Estorade, brightening up
under this suggestion; "there's no danger in going slow. The most
pressing thing at this moment is the flower-show; I think it closes at
four o'clock; if so, we have only an hour before us."
Madame de l'Estorade, who had dressed before the arrival of Madame de
Camps, rang for her maid to bring her a bonnet and shawl. While she
was putting them on before a mirror, her husband came up behind her
and whispered in her ear,--
"Then you really love me, Renee?"
"Are you crazy, to ask me such a question as that?" she answered,
looking at him affectionately.
"Well, then, I must make a confession: that letter, which Philippe
brought--I read it."
"Then I am not surprised at the change in your looks and manner," said
his wife. "I, too, will make you a confession: that letter to Monsieur
de Sallenauve, giving him his dismissal,--I have written it; you will
find it in my blotting-book. If you think it will do, send it."
Quite beside himself with delight at finding his proposed successor so
readily sacrificed, Monsieur de l'Estorade did not control his joy;
taking his wife in his arms, he kissed her effusively.
"Well done!" cried Monsieur de Camps, laughing; "you have improved
"This morning I was a fool," said the peer of France, hunting in the
blotting-book for the letter, which he might have had the grace to
believe in without seeing.
"Hush!" said Madame de Camps, in a low voice to her husband, to
prevent further remarks. "I'll explain this queer performance to you
by and by."
Rejuvenated by ten years at least, the peer of France offered his arm
to Madame de Camps, while the amateur iron-master offered his to the
"But Nais!" said Monsieur de l'Estorade, noticing the melancholy face
of his daughter, who was looking over the stairs at the party. "Isn't
she going too?"
"No," said the countess; "I am displeased with her."
"Ah, bah!" said the father, "I proclaim an amnesty. Get your hat," he
added, addressing his daughter.
Nais looked at her mother to obtain a ratification, which her
knowledge of the hierarchy of power in that establishment made her
judge to be necessary.
"You can come," said her mother, "if your father wishes it."
While they waited in the antechamber for the child, Monsieur de
l'Estorade noticed that Lucas was standing up beside a half-finished
"Whom are you writing to?" he said to his old servant.
"To my son," replied Lucas, "who is very impatient to get his
sergeant's stripes. I am telling him that Monsieur le comte has
promised to speak to his colonel for him."
"True, true," said the peer of France; "it slipped my memory. Remind
me of it to-morrow morning, and I'll do it the first thing after I am
"Monsieur le comte is very good--"
"And here," continued his master, feeling in his waistcoat pocket, and
producing three gold pieces, "send that to the corporal, and tell him
to drink a welcome to the stripes."
Lucas was stupefied. Never had he seen his master so expansive or so
When Nais returned, Madame de l'Estorade, who had been admiring
herself for her courage in showing displeasure to her daughter for
half an hour, embraced her as if they were meeting after an absence of
two years; after which they started for the Luxembourg, where in those
days the Horticultural Society held its exhibitions.
THE WAY TO MANAGE POLITICAL INTRIGUES
Toward the close of the audience given by the minister of Public Works
to Monsieur Octave de Camps, who was presented by the Comte de
l'Estorade, an usher entered the room, and gave the minister the card
of the attorney-general, Monsieur Vinet, and that of Monsieur Maxime
"Very good," said Rastignac; "say to those gentlemen that I will
receive them in a few moments."
Shortly after, Monsieur de l'Estorade and Monsieur de Camps rose to
take leave; and it was then that Rastignac very succinctly let the
peer know of the danger looming on the horizon of his friend
Sallenauve. Monsieur de l'Estorade exclaimed against the word
"I don't know, my dear minister," he said, "why you insist on giving
that title to a man who is, really and truly, a mere acquaintance,
and, I may add, a passing acquaintance, if the rumors you have just
mentioned to us take actual shape."
"I am glad to hear you say that," said the minister, "because the
friendly relations which I supposed you to hold towards him would have
embarrassed me a good deal in the hostilities which I foresee must
break out between him and the government."
"Most grateful, I am sure, for that sentiment," replied the peer of
France; "but be kind enough to remember that I give you _carte
blanche_. You are free to handle Monsieur de Sallenauve as your
political enemy, without a moment's fear of troubling me."
Thereupon they parted, and Messieurs Vinet and de Trailles were
The attorney-general, Vinet, was the most devoted and the most
consulted champion of the government among its various officials. In a
possible reconstitution of the ministry he was obviously the candidate
for the portfolio of justice. Being thoroughly initiated into all the
business of that position, and versed in its secret dealings, nothing
was hatched in that department on which he was not consulted, if not
actually engaged. The electoral matters of Arcis-sur-Aube had a double
claim to his interest, partly on account of his wife, a Chargeboeuf of
Brie, and a relative of the Cinq-Cygnes, but chiefly because of the
office held by his son in the local administration. So that when,
earlier in the morning, Monsieur de Trailles carried to Rastignac a
letter from Madame Beauvisage, wife of the defeated governmental
candidate, full of statements injurious to the new deputy, the
minister had replied, without listening to any explanations,--
"See Vinet about it; and tell him, from me, to come here with you."
Notified by de Trailles, who offered to fetch him in his carriage,
Vinet was ready enough to go to the minister; and now that we find the
three together in Rastignac's study, we shall be likely to obtain some
better knowledge of the sort of danger hanging over Sallenauve's head
than we gained from Jacques Bricheteau's or Monsieur de l'Estorade's
very insufficient information.
"You say, my dear friends," said the minister, "that we can win a game
against that puritan, who seemed to me, when I met him at l'Estorade's
last evening, to be an out-and-out enemy to the government?"
Admitted to this interview without official character, Maxime de
Trailles knew life too well to take upon himself to answer this query.
The attorney-general, on the contrary, having a most exalted sense of
his own political importance, did not miss the opportunity to put
"When Monsieur de Trailles communicated to me this morning a letter
from Madame Beauvisage," he hastened to say, "I had just received one
from my son, conveying to me very much the same information. I am of
Monsieur de Trailles' opinion, that the affair may become very serious
for our adversary, provided, however, that it is well managed."
"I know, as yet, very little about the affair," remarked the minister.
"As I wished for your opinion in the first place, my dear Vinet, I
requested Monsieur de Trailles to postpone his explanation of its
details until you could be present at the discussion."
This time Maxime was plainly authorized and even required to speak,
but again Vinet stole the opportunity.
"Here is what my son Olivier writes me, and it is confirmed by the
letter of Madame Beauvisage, in whom, be it said in passing, my dear
minister, you have lost a most excellent deputy. It appears that on
the last market-day Maitre Achille Pigoult, who is left in charge of
the affairs of the new deputy, received a visit from a peasant-woman
of Romilly, a large village in the neighborhood of Arcis. The
mysterious father of the deputy, the so-called Marquis de Sallenauve,
declared himself to be the last remaining scion of the family; but it
seems that this woman produced papers in due form, which show her to
be a Sallenauve in the direct line, and within the degree of parentage
required to constitute her an heir."
"Was she as ignorant of the existence of the Marquis de Sallenauve as
the marquis seems to have been of hers?" asked Rastignac.
"That does not clearly appear from what she says," replied the
attorney-general; "but it might so happen among relations so curiously
"Go on, if you please," said Rastignac; "before we draw conclusions we
must know the facts, which, as you are aware, is not always done in
the Chamber of deputies."
"Fortunately, sometimes, for the ministers," remarked Maxime,
"Monsieur is right," said Vinet; "hail to the man who can muddle
questions. But to return to our peasant-woman. Not being satisfied,
naturally, with Maitre Pigoult's reception of her news, she went into
the market-square, and there by the help of a legal practitioner from
her village, who seems to have accompanied her, she spread about
reports which are very damaging to my worthy colleague in the Chamber.
She said, for instance, that it was not true that the Marquis de
Sallenauve was his father; that it was not even true that the Marquis
de Sallenauve was still living; and moreover that the spurious
Sallenauve was a man of no heart, who had repudiated his real parents,
--adding that she could, by the help of the able man who accompanied
her, compel him to disgorge the Sallenauve property and 'clear out' of
"I have no objection to that," said Rastignac; "but this woman must,
of course, have papers to prove her allegations?"
"That is the weak point of the matter," replied Vinet. "But let me go
on with my story. The government has at Arcis a most intelligent and
devoted functionary in the commissary of police. Circulating among the
groups, as he usually does on market days, he heard these statements
of the peasant-woman, and reported them at once, not to the mayor, who
might not have heeded them, but to Madame Beauvisage."
"_Ah ca_!" said Rastignac, addressing Maxime; "was the candidate you
gave us such a dolt as that?"
"Just the man you needed," replied Maxime,--"silly to the last degree,
and capable of being wound round anybody's finger. I'll go any lengths
to repair that loss."
"Madame Beauvisage," continued Vinet, "wished to speak with the woman
herself, and she ordered Groslier--that's the commissary of police--to
fetch her with a threatening air to the mayor's office, so as to give
her an idea that the authorities disapproved of her conduct."
"Did Madame Beauvisage concoct that plan?" asked Rastignac.
"Yes," replied Maxime, "she is a very clever woman."
"Questioned closely by the mayoress," continued Vinet, "who took care
to have the mayor present, the peasant-woman was far from categorical.
Her grounds for asserting that the new deputy could not be the son of
the marquis, and the assurance with which she stated that the latter
had long been dead were not, as it appears, very clearly established;
vague rumors and the deductions drawn by the village practitioner seem
to be all there was to them."
"Then," said Rastignac, "what does all this lead to?"
"Absolutely nothing from a legal point of view," replied the
attorney-general; "for supposing the woman were able to establish the
fact that this recognition of the said Dorlange was a mere pretence, she
has no status on which to proceed farther. By Article 339 of the Civil
Code direct heirship alone has the right to attack the recognition of
"Your balloon is collapsing fast," said the minister.
"So that the woman," continued Vinet, "has no object in proceeding,
for she can't inherit; it belongs to the government to pursue the case
of supposition of person; she can do no more than denounce the fact."
"From which you conclude?" said Rastignac, with that curtness of
speech which to a prolix speaker is a warning to be concise.
"From which I conclude, judicially speaking, that the Romilly
peasant-woman, so far as she is concerned, will have her trouble for
her pains; but, speaking politically, the thing takes quite another
"Let us see the political side," said the minister; "up to this point,
I see nothing."
"In the first place," replied the attorney-general, "you will admit
that it is always possible to bring a bad case?"
"And I don't suppose it would signify much to you if the woman did
embark in a matter in which she can lose nothing but her costs?"
"No, I assure you I am wholly indifferent."
"In any case, I should have advised you to let things take their
course. The Beauvisage husband and wife have engaged to pay the costs
and also the expense of keeping the peasant-woman and her counsel in
Paris during the inquiry."
"Then," said Rastignac, still pressing for a conclusion, "the case is
really begun. What will be the result?"
"What will be the result?" cried the attorney-general, getting
excited; "why, anything you please if, _before the case comes for
trial_, your newspapers comment upon it, and your friends spread
reports and insinuations. What will result? why, an immense fall in
public estimation for our adversary suspected of stealing a name which
does not belong to him! What will result? why, the opportunity for a
fierce challenge in the Chamber."
"Which you will take upon yourself to make?" asked Rastignac.
"Ah! I don't know about that. The matter would have to be rather more
studied, and the turn the case might take more certain, if I had
anything to do with it."
"So, for the present," remarked the minister, "the whole thing amounts
to an application of Basile's famous theory about calumny: 'good to
set a-going, because some of it will always stick.'"
"Calumny!" exclaimed Vinet, "that remains to be seen. Perhaps a good
round of gossip is all that can be made of it. Monsieur de Trailles,
here, knows better than I do the state of things down there. He can
tell you that the disappearance of the father immediately after the
recognition had a bad effect upon people's minds; and every one in
Arcis has a vague impression of secret plotting in this affair of the
election. You don't know, my dear minister, all that can be made in
the provinces of a judicial affair when adroitly manipulated,--cooked,
as I may say. In my long and laborious career at the bar I saw plenty
of that kind of miracle. But a parliamentary debate is another thing.
In that there's no need of proof; one can kill one's man with
probabilities and assertions, if hotly maintained."
"But, to come to the point," said Rastignac, "how do you think the
affair ought to be managed?"
"In the first place," replied Vinet, "I should leave the Beauvisage
people to pay all costs of whatever kind, inasmuch as they propose to
"Do I oppose that?" said the minister. "Have I the right or the means
to do so?"
"The affair," continued Vinet, "should be placed in the hands of some
capable and wily solicitor, like Desroches, for example, Monsieur de
Trailles' lawyer. He'll know how to put flesh on the bones of a case
you justly consider rather thin."
"Well, it is certainly not my place to say to Monsieur de Trailles or
any other man, 'I forbid you to employ whom you will as your
"Then we need some pleader who can talk in a moving way about that
sacred thing the Family, and put himself into a state of indignation
about these surreptitious and furtive ways of entering its honored
"Desroches can point out some such person to you. The government
cannot prevent a man from saying what he pleases."
"But," interposed Maxime, who was forced out of his passive role by
the minister's coldness, "is _not preventing_ all the help we are to
expect in this affair from the government?"
"You don't expect us, I hope, to take this matter upon ourselves?"
"No, of course not; but we have certainly supposed that you would take
some interest in the matter."
"But how?--in what way?"
"Well, as Monsieur le procureur said just now, by giving a hint to the
subsidized newspapers, by stirring up your friends to spread the news,
by using a certain influence which power always exerts on the minds of
"Thank you, no!" replied Rastignac. "When you want the government for
an accomplice, my dear Maxime, you must provide a better-laid plot
than that. From your manner this morning I supposed there was really
something in all this, and so I ventured to disturb our excellent
attorney-general, who knows how I value his advice. But really, your
scheme seems to me too transparent and also too narrow not to be
doomed to inevitable defeat. If I were not married, and could pretend
to the hand of Mademoiselle Beauvisage, perhaps I should feel
differently; of course you will do as you think best. I do not say
that the government will not wish you well in your attempt, but it
certainly cannot descend to make it with you."
"But see," said Vinet, interposing to cut off Maxime's reply, which
would doubtless have been bitter; "suppose we send the affair to the
criminal courts, and the peasant-woman, instigated by the Beauvisage
couple, should denounce the man who had sworn before a notary, and
offered himself for election falsely, as a Sallenauve: the question is
one for the court of assizes."
"But proofs? I return to that, you must have proof," said Rastignac.
"Have you even a shadow of it?"
"You said yourself, just now," remarked Maxime, "that it was always
possible to bring a bad case."
"A civil case, yes; but to fail in a criminal case is a far more
serious matter. It would be a pretty thing if you were shown not to
have a leg to stand on, and the case ended in a decision of
_non-lieu_. You couldn't find a better way to put our enemy on a
pedestal as high as the column of July."
"So," said Maxime, "you see absolutely nothing that can be done?"
"For us, no. For you, my dear Maxime, who have no official character,
and who, if need be, can support the attack on Monsieur de Sallenauve
pistol in hand, as it were, nothing hinders you from proceeding in the
"Oh, yes!" said Maxime, bitterly, "I'm a sort of free lance."
"Not at all; you are a man intuitively convinced of facts impossible
to prove legally, and you do not give way before the judgment of God
Monsieur de Trailles rose angrily. Vinet rose also, and, shaking hands
with Rastignac as he took leave of him, he said,--
"I don't deny that your course is a prudent one, and I don't say that
in your place I should not do the same thing."
"Adieu, Maxime; without bitterness, I hope," said Rastignac to
Monsieur de Trailles, who bowed coldly and with dignity.
When the two conspirators were alone in the antechamber, Maxime turned
to his companion.
"Do you understand such squeamishness?" he asked.
"Perfectly," replied Vinet, "and I wonder to see a clever man like you
"Yes, duped to make you lose your time and I mine by coming here to
listen to a lecture on virtue!"
"That's not it; but I do think you guileless to be taken in by that
refusal to co-operate."
"What! do you think--"
"I think that this affair is risky; if it succeeds, the government,
arms folded, will reap the benefit. But if on the contrary we fail, it
will not take a share in the defeat. But you may be sure of this, for
I know Rastignac well: without seeming to know anything, and without
compromising himself in any way, he will help us, and perhaps more
usefully than by open connivance. Think! did he say a single word on
the morality of the affair? Didn't he say, again and again, 'I don't
oppose--I have no right to prevent'? And as to the venom of the case,
the only fault he found was that it wasn't sure to kill. But in truth,
my dear monsieur, this is going to be a hard pull, and we shall want
all the cleverness of that fellow Desroches to get us through."
"Then you think I had better see him?"
"Better see him! why, my good friend, you ought to go to him at once."
"Wouldn't it be better if he talked with you?"
"Oh! no, no!" exclaimed Vinet. "I may be the man to put the question
in the Chamber; and if Desroches were seen with me, I should lose my
So saying, he took leave of Maxime with some haste, on the ground that
he ought then to be at the Chamber.
"But I," said Maxime, running after him,--"suppose I want to consult
you in the matter?"
"I leave to-night for my district, to get things into order before the
opening of the new session."
"But about bringing up the question which you say may devolve on you?"
"I or another. I will hasten back as soon as I can; but you
understand, I must put my department in order for a six months'
"A good journey to you, then, Monsieur le procureur-general," replied
Left to himself, Monsieur de Trailles had a period of discouragement,
resulting from the discovery that these two political Bertrands meant
that his paw should pull the chestnuts from the fire. Rastignac's
behavior particularly galled him. His mind went back to their first
interview at Madame Restaud's, twenty years earlier, when he himself
held the sceptre of fashion, and Rastignac, a poor student, neither
knew how to come into a room nor how to leave it. [See "Pere Goriot."]
And now Rastignac was peer of France and minister, while he, Maxime,
become his agent, was obliged with folded arms to hear himself told
that his plot was weak and he must carry it out alone, if at all.
But this discouragement did not last.
"Yes!" he cried to himself, "I _will_ carry it out; my instinct tells
me there is something in it. What nonsense!--a Dorlange, a nobody, to
attempt to checkmate Maxime de Trailles and make a stepping-stone of
my defeat! To my solicitor's," he said to the coachman, opening the
door of the carriage himself.
Desroches was at home; and Monsieur de Trailles was immediately
admitted into his study.
Desroches was a lawyer who had had, like Raffaelle, several manners.
First, possessor of a practice without clients, he had made fish of
every case that came into his net; and he felt himself, in
consequence, little respected by the court. But he was a hard worker,
well versed in all the ins and outs of chicanery, a keen observer, and
an intelligent reader of the movements of the human heart.
Consequently he had made for himself, in course of time, a very good
practice; he had married a rich woman, and the moment that he thought
himself able to do without crooked ways he had seriously renounced
them. In 1839 Desroches had become an honest and skilful solicitor:
that is to say, he assumed the interests of his clients with warmth
and ability; he never counselled an openly dishonorable proceeding,
still less would he have lent a hand to it. As to that fine flower of
delicacy to be met with in Derville and some others like him, besides
the sad fact that it is difficult to keep its fragrance from
evaporating in this business world of which Monsieur de Talleyrand
says, "Business means getting the property of others," it is certain
that it can never be added to any second state of existence. The loss
of that bloom of the soul, like that of other virginities, is
irreparable. Desroches had not aspired to restore it to himself. He no
longer risked anything ignoble or dishonest, but the good tricks
admitted the code of procedure, the good traps, the good treacheries
which could be legitimately played off upon an adversary, he was very
ready to undertake.
Desroches was moreover a man of parts and witty; loving the pleasures
of the table, and like all men perpetually the slaves of imperious
toil, he felt the need of vigorous amusement, taken on the wing and
highly spiced. While purifying after a fashion his judicial life, he
still continued the legal adviser of artists, men of letters,
actresses, courtesans, and elegant bohemians like Maxime de Trailles,
because he liked to live their life; they were sympathetic to him as
he to them. Their witty _argot_, their easy morals, their rather loose
adventures, their expedients, their brave and honorable toil, in a
word, their greatness and their weakness,--he understood it all
marvellously well; and, like an ever-indulgent providence, he lent
them his aid whenever they asked for it. But in order to conceal from
his dignified and more valuable clients whatever might be compromising
in the _clientele_ he really preferred, Desroches had his days of
domesticity when he was husband and father, especially on Sundays. He
appeared in the Bois de Boulogne in a modest caleche beside his wife
(whose ugliness revealed the size of her _dot_), with three children
on the front seat, who were luckless enough to resemble their mother.
This family picture, these virtuous Dominical habits, recalled so
little the week-day Desroches, dining in cafes with all the male and
female _viveurs_ of renown, that one of them, Malaga, a circus-rider,
famous for her wit and vim, remarked that lawyers ought not to be
allowed to masquerade in that way and deceive the public with
fictitious family joys.
It was to this relative integrity that de Trailles now went for
counsel, as he never failed to do in all the many difficulties he
encountered in life. Following a good habit, Desroches listened,
without interrupting, to the long explanation of the case submitted to
him. As Maxime hid nothing from this species of confessor, he gave his
reasons for wishing to injure Sallenauve, representing him, in all
good faith, as having usurped the name under which he was elected to
the Chamber,--his hatred making him take the possibility for positive
In his heart, Desroches did not want to take charge of an affair in
which he saw not the slightest chance of success; but he showed his
lax integrity by talking over the affair with his client as if it were
an ordinary case of legal practice, instead of telling him frankly his
opinion that this pretended "case" was a mere intrigue. The number of
things done in the domain of evil by connivance in speech, without
proceeding to the actual collusion of action, are incalculable.
"In the first place," said Desroches, when the matter was all
explained, "a civil suit is not to be thought of. Your Romilly
peasant-woman might have her hands full of proofs, but she has no
ground herself to stand upon; she has no legal interest in contesting
the rights of this recognized natural son."
"Yes, that is what Vinet said just now."
"As for the criminal case, you could, no doubt, compel it by giving
information to the police authorities of this alleged imposture--"
"Vinet," interrupted Maxime, "inclined to the criminal proceeding."
"Yes, but there are a great many objections to it. In the first place,
in order that the complaint be received at all, you must produce a
certain amount of proof; then, supposing it is received, and the
authorities are determined to pursue the case, you must have more
evidence of criminality than you have now; and, moreover, supposing
that you can show that the so-called Marquis de Sallenauve committed a
fraud, how will you prove that the so-called son was privy to it? He
might have been the dupe of some political schemer."
"But what interest could such a schemer have in giving Dorlange the
many advantages he has derived from the recognition?"
"Ah! my dear fellow, in political manners all queer proceedings are
possible; there is no such fertile source for compilers of _causes
celebres_ and novelists. In the eyes of the law, you must remember,
the counterfeiting of a person is not always a crime."
"How so?" asked Maxime.
"Here," said Desroches, taking up the Five Codes; "do me the favor to
read Article 5 of the Penal Code, the only one which gives an opening
to the case you have in mind."
Maxime read aloud the article, which was as follows:--
"'Any functionary or public officer who, in the exercise of his
function, shall commit forgery--either by false signatures, by
alterations of deeds, writings, or signatures, or by counterfeiting
persons--' There, you see," said Maxime, interrupting himself,--"'by
"Go on," insisted Desroches.
"'--by counterfeiting persons,'" resumed de Trailles, "'either by
writings made or intercalated in the public records or other
documents, shall be punished by imprisonment at hard labor for life.'"
Maxime lingered lovingly over the last words, which gave his revenge a
foretaste of the fate that awaited Sallenauve.
"My dear count," said Desroches, "you do as the barristers do; they
read to the jury only so much of a legal document as suits their point
of view. You pay no attention to the fact that the only persons
affected by this article are _functionaries_ or _public officers_."
Maxime re-read the article, and convinced himself of the truth of that
"But," he objected, "there must be something elsewhere about such a
crime when committed by private individuals."
"No, there is not; you can trust my knowledge of jurisprudence,--the
Code is absolutely silent in that direction."
"Then the crime we wish to denounce can be committed with impunity?"
"Its repression is always doubtful," replied Desroches. "Judges do
sometimes make up for the deficiency of the Code in this respect.
Here," he added, turning over the leaves of a book of reference,
--"here are two decisions of the court of assizes, reported in
Carnot's Commentary on the Penal Code: one of July 7, 1814, the other
April 24, 1818,--both confirmed by the court of appeals, which condemn
for forgery, by 'counterfeiting persons,' individuals who were neither
functionaries nor public officers: but these decisions, unique in law,
rest on the authority of an article in which the crime they punish is
not even mentioned; and it is only by elaborate reasoning that they
contrived to make this irregular application of it. You can
understand, therefore, how very doubtful the issue of such a case
would be, because in the absence of a positive rule you can never tell
how the magistrates might decide."
"Consequently, your opinion, like Rastignac's, is that we had better
send our peasant-woman back to Romilly and drop the whole matter?"
"There is always something to be done if one knows how to set about
it," replied Desroches. "There is a point that neither you nor
Rastignac nor Vinet seems to have thought of; and that is, to proceed
in a criminal case against a member of the national representation,
except for flagrant crime, requires the consent and authority of the
"True," said Maxime, "but I don't see how a new difficulty is going to
"You wouldn't be sorry to send your adversary with the galleys," said
"A villain," added Maxime, "who may make me lose a rich marriage; a
fellow who poses for stern virtue, and then proceeds to trickery of
"Well, you must resign yourself to a less glorious result; but you can
make a pretty scandal, and destroy the reputation of your man; and
that ought, it seems to me, to serve your ends."
"Of course,--better that than nothing."
"Well, then, here's what I advise. Don't let your peasant-woman lodge
her complaint before the criminal court, but make her place in the
hands of the president of the Chamber of deputies a simple request for
permission to proceed. Probably the permission will not be granted,
and the affair will have to stop at that stage; but the matter being
once made known will circulate through the Chambers, the newspapers
will get hold of it and make a stir, and the ministry, _sub rosa_, can
envenom the vague accusation through its friends."
"_Parbleu_! my dear fellow," cried Maxime, delighted to find a way
open to his hatred, "you've a strong head,--stronger than that of
these so-called statesmen. But this request for permission addressed
to the president of the Chamber, who is to draw it up?"
"Oh! not I," said Desroches, who did not wish to mix himself up any
farther in this low intrigue. "It isn't legal assistance that you
want; this is simply firing your first gun, and I don't undertake that
business. But you can find plenty of briefless barristers always ready
to put their finger in the political pie. Massol, for instance, can
draw it up admirably. But you must not tell him that the idea came
"Oh! as for that," said Maxime, "I'll take it all on my own shoulders.
Perhaps in this form Rastignac may come round to the project."
"Yes, but take care you don't make an enemy of Vinet, who will think
you very impertinent to have an idea which ought, naturally, to have
come into the head of so great a parliamentary tactician as himself."
"Well, before long," said Maxime, rising, "I hope to bring the Vinets
and Rastignacs, and others like them, to heel. Where do you dine this
evening?" he added.
"In a cave," replied Desroches, "with a band."
"I suppose, in the course of your erotic existence, you have had
recourse to the good offices of a certain Madame de Saint-Esteve?"
"No," replied Maxime, "I have always done my own business in that
"True," said Desroches, "you conquer in the upper ranks, where, as a
general thing, they don't use go-betweens. But, at any rate, you have
heard of Madame de Saint-Esteve?"
"Of course; her establishment is in the rue Neuve-Saint-Marc, and it
was she who got that pot of money out of Nucingen for La Torpille.
Isn't she some relation to the chief of detective police, who bears
the same name, and used to be one of the same kind as herself?"
"I don't know about that," said Desroches, "but what I can tell you is
that in her business as procuress--as it was called in days less
decorous than our own--the worthy woman has made a fortune, and now,
without any serious change of occupation, she lives magnificently in
the rue de Provence, where she carries on the business of a
"Is that where you are going to dine?" asked Maxime.
"Yes, with the director of the London opera-house, Emile Blondet,
Finot, Lousteau, Felicien Vernon, Theodore Gaillard, Hector Merlin,
and Bixiou, who was commissioned to invite me, as it seems they are in
want of my _experience_ and _capacity for business_!"
"_Ah ca_! then there's some financial object in this dinner?"
"No; it merely concerns a theatrical venture,--the engagement of a
prima donna; and they want to submit the terms of the contract to my
judgment. You understand that the rest of the guests are invited to
trumpet the affair as soon as the papers are signed."
"Who is the object of all this preparation?"
"Oh! a _star_,--destined, they say, to European success; an Italian,
discovered by a Swedish nobleman, Comte Halphertius, through the
medium of Madame de Saint-Esteve. The illustrious manager of the
London opera-house is negotiating this treaty in order that she shall
make her first appearance at his theatre."
"Well, adieu, my dear fellow; a pleasant dinner," said Maxime,
preparing to depart. "If your star shines in London, it will probably
appear in our firmament next winter. As for me, I must go and attend
to the sunrise in Arcis. By the bye, where does Massol live?"
"Faith! I couldn't tell you that. I never myself trust him with a
case, for I will not employ barristers who dabble in politics. But you
can get his address from the 'Gazette des Tribuneaux'; he is one of
Maxime went to the office of that newspaper; but, probably on account
of creditors, the office servant had express orders not to give the
barrister's address, so that, in spite of his arrogant, imperious
manner, Monsieur de Trailles obtained no information. Happily, he
bethought him that he frequently saw Massol at the Opera, and he
resolved to seek him there that evening. Before going to dinner, he
went to the lodgings in the rue Montmartre, where he had installed the
Romilly peasant-woman and her counsel, whom Madame Beauvisage had
already sent to Paris. He found them at dinner, making the most of the
Beauvisage funds, and he gave them an order to come to his apartment
the next day at half-past eleven without breakfasting.
In the evening he found Massol, as he expected, at the opera-house.
Going up to the lawyer with the slightly insolent manner which was
natural to him, he said,--
"Monsieur, I have an affair, half legal, half political, which I
desire to talk over with you. If it did not demand a certain amount of
secrecy, I would go to your office, but I think we could talk with
more safety in my own apartment; where, moreover, I shall be able to
put you in communication with other persons concerned in the affair.
May I hope that to-morrow morning, at eleven o'clock, you will do me
the favor to take a cup of tea with me?"
If Massol had had an office, he might possibly not have consented, for
the sake of his legal dignity, to reverse the usual order of things;
but as he perched rather than lodged in any particular place, he was
glad of an arrangement which left his abode, if he had any, incognito.
"I shall have the honor to be with you at the hour named," he replied
"Rue Pigalle," said Maxime, "No. 6."
"Yes, I know," returned Massol,--"a few steps from the corner of the
rue de la Rochefoucauld."
SOME OLD ACQUAINTANCES
A few evenings after the one on which Sallenauve and Marie-Gaston had
taken Jacques Bricheteau to Saint-Sulpice to hear the Signora Luigia's
voice, the church was the scene of a curious little incident that
passed by almost wholly unperceived. A young man entered hastily by a
side-door; he seemed agitated, and so absorbed in some anxiety that he
forgot to remove his hat. The beadle caught him by the arm, and his
face became livid, but, turning round, he saw at once that his fears
"Is your hat glued on your head, young man?" said the beadle,
"Oh, pardon me, monsieur," he replied, snatching it off; "I forgot
Then he slipped into the thickest of the crowd and disappeared.
A few seconds after the irruption of this youth the same door gave
access to a man around whose powerful, seamed face was the collar of a
white beard, which, combined with a thick shock of hair, also white
but slightly reddish in tone and falling almost to his shoulders, gave
him very much the air of an old Conventional, or a Bernardin de
Saint-Pierre who had had the small-pox. His face and his hair placed
him in the sixties, but his robust figure, the energetic decision of
his movements, and, above all, the piercing keenness of the glance
which he cast about him on entering the church, showed a powerful
organization on which the passage of years had made little or no
impression. No doubt, he was in search of the young fellow who had
preceded him; but he did not commit the mistake of entering the crowd,
where he knew of course that the youth had lost himself. Like a
practised hunter, he saw that pursuit was useless, and he was just
about to leave the church when, after a short organ prelude, the
contralto of the signora delivering its solemn notes gave forth that
glorious harmony to which is sung the Litany of the Virgin. The beauty
of the voice, the beauty of the chant, the beauty of the words of the
sacred hymn, which the fine method of the singer brought out
distinctly, made a singular impression on the stalwart stranger.
Instead of leaving the church, he put himself in the shadow of a
column, against which he leaned as he stood; but as the last notes of
the divine canticle died away among the arches of the church, he knelt
on the pavement, and whoever had chanced to look that way would have
seen two heavy tears rolling slowly down his cheeks. The benediction
given, and the crowd dispersing, he rose, wiped his eyes, and,
muttering, "What a fool I am!" left the church. Then he went to the
Place Saint-Sulpice, and, beckoning to a coach on the stand, he said
to the driver,--
"Rue de Provence, my man, quick! there's fat in it."
Reaching the house, he went rapidly up the stairway, and rang at the
door of an apartment on the first floor.
"Is my aunt at home?" he inquired of the Negro who opened it. Then he
followed the man, and was presently ushered into a salon where the
"Monsieur de Saint-Esteve."
The salon which the famous chief of the detective police now entered
was remarkable for the luxury, but still more for the horribly bad
taste, of its appointments. Three women of advanced age were seated
round a card-table earnestly employed in a game of dominoes. Three
glasses and an empty silver bowl which gave forth a vinous odor showed
that the worship of double-sixes was not without its due libations.
"Good evening, mesdames," said the chief of police, sitting down; "for
I have something to say to each of you."
"We'll listen presently," said his aunt; "you can't interrupt the
game. It won't be long; I play for four."
"White all round!" said one of the hags.
"Domino!" cried the Saint-Esteve. "I win; you have four points between
you two, and the whites are all out. Well, my dear, what is it?" she
said, turning to her nephew, after a rather stormy reckoning among the
witches was over.
"You, Madame Fontaine," said the chief of police, addressing one of
the venerable beings, whose head was covered with disorderly gray hair
and a battered green bonnet,--"you neglect your duty; you have sent me
no report, and, on the contrary, I get many complaints of you. The
prefect has a great mind to close your establishment. I protect you on
account of the services you are supposed to render us; but if you
don't render them, I warn you, without claiming any gifts of
prediction, that your fate-shop will be shut up."
"There now!" replied the pythoness, "you prevented me from hiring
Mademoiselle Lenormand's apartment in the rue de Tournon, and how can
you expect me to make reports about the cooks and clerks and workmen
and grisettes who are all I get where I am? If you had let me work
among the great folks, I'd make you reports and plenty of them."
"I don't see how you can say that, Madame Fontaine," said Madame de
Saint-Esteve. "I am sure I send you all my clients. It was only the
other day," continued the matrimonial agent, "I sent you that Italian
singer, living with a deputy who is against the government; why didn't
you report about that?"
"There's another thing," said the chief of police, "which appears in
several of the complaints that I received about you,--that nasty
"What, Astaroth?" said Madame Fontaine.
"Yes, that batrachian, that toad, to come down to his right name. It
seems he nearly killed a woman who was pregnant--"
"Well, well," interrupted the sorceress, "if I am to tell fortunes
alone, you might as well guillotine me at once. Because a fool of a
woman lay-in with a dead child, must toads be suppressed in nature?
Why did God make them?"
"My dear woman," said the chief, "did you never hear that in 1617 a
learned man was put to death for having a toad in a bottle?"
"Yes, I know that; but we are not in those light ages," replied Madame
"As for you, Madame Nourrisson, the complaint is that you gather your
fruit unripe. You ought to know by this time the laws and regulations,
and I warn you that everything under twenty-one years of age is
forbidden. I wonder I have to remind you of it. Now, aunt, what I have
to say to you is confidential."
Thus dismissed, two of the Fates departed.
Since the days when Jacques Collin had abdicated his former kingship
and had made himself, as they say, a new skin in the police force,
Jacqueline Collin, though she had never put herself within reach of
the law, had certainly never donned the robe of innocence. But having
attained, like her nephew, to what might fairly be called opulence,
she kept at a safe and respectful distance from the Penal Code, and
under cover of an agency that was fairly avowable, she sheltered
practices more or less shady, on which she continued to bestow an
intelligence and an activity that were really infernal.
"Aunt," said Vautrin, "I have so many things to say to you that I
don't know where to begin."
"I should think so! It is a week since I've seen you."
"In the first place, I must tell you that I have just missed a
"What sort of chance?" asked Jacqueline.
"In the line of my odious calling. But this time the capture was worth
making. Do you remember that little Prussian engraver about whom I
sent you to Berlin?"
"The one who forged those Vienna bank bills in that wonderful way?"
"Yes. I just missed arresting him near Saint-Sulpice. But I followed
him into the church, where I heard your Signora Luigia."
"Ah!" said Jacqueline, "she has made up her mind at last, and has left
that imbecile of a sculptor."
"It is about her that I have come to talk to you," said Vautrin. "Here
are the facts. The Italian opera season in London has begun badly,
--their prima donna is taken ill. Sir Francis Drake, the impresario,
arrived in Paris yesterday, at the Hotel des Princes, rue de
Richelieu, in search of a prima donna, at any rate _pro tem_. I have
been to see him in the interests of the signora. Sir Francis Drake is
an Englishman, very bald, with a red nose, and long yellow teeth. He
received me with cold politeness, and asked in very good French what
my business was."
"Did you propose to him Luigia?"
"That was what I went for,--in the character, be it understood, of a
Swedish nobleman. He asked if her talent was known. 'Absolutely
unknown,' I replied. 'It is risky,' said Sir Francis; 'nevertheless
arrange to let me hear her.' I told him that she was staying with her
friend Madame de Saint-Esteve, at whose house I could take the liberty
to invite him to dinner."
"When?" asked Jacqueline.
"To-day is the 19th; I said the 21st. Order the dinner from Chevet for
fifteen persons, and send for your client Bixiou to make you out the
list. Tell him you want the chief men of the press, a lawyer to settle
the terms of the contract, and a pianist to accompany the signora. Let
her know what hangs upon it. Sir Francis Drake and I will make up the
number. Useless to tell you that I am your friend Comte Halphertius,
who, having no house in Paris, gives this dinner at yours. Mind that
everything is done in the best taste."
In designating Bixiou to his aunt as the recruiting-officer of the
dinner, Vautrin knew that through the universality of his relations
with writing, singing, designing, eating, living, and squirming Paris,
no one was as capable as he of spreading the news of the dinner
At seven o'clock precisely all the guests named by Desroches to
Maxime, plus Desroches himself, were assembled in the salon of the rue
de Provence, when the Negro footman opened the door and announced Sir
Francis Drake and his Excellency the Comte Halphertius. The dress of
the Swedish nobleman was correct to the last degree,--black coat,
white cravat, and white waistcoat, on which glowed the ribbon of an
order hanging from his neck; the rest of his decorations were fastened
to his coat by chainlets. At the first glance which he cast upon the
company, Vautrin had the annoyance of beholding that Jacqueline's
habits and instincts had been more potent than his express order,--for
a species of green and yellow turban surmounted her head in a manner
which he felt to be ridiculous; but thanks to the admirable manner in
which the rest of his programme had been carried out, the luckless
coiffure was forgiven.
As for Signora Luigia, dressed in black, which was customary with her,
and having had the good sense to reject the services of a _coiffeur_,
she was royally beautiful. An air of melancholy gravity, expressed by
her whole person, inspired a sentiment of respect which surprised the
men who on Bixiou's invitation were there to judge of her. The only
special presentation that was made among the guests was that of
Desroches to Vautrin, which Bixiou made in the following lively
"Maitre Desroches, the most intelligent solicitor of modern times
--Comte Halphertius of Sweden."
As for Sir Francis Drake, he seemed at first inclined to disdain the
influence of the dramatic newspapers, whose representatives were there
assembled; but presently recognizing Felicien Vernou and Lousteau, two
noted men of that secondary press, he greeted them heartily and shook
them by the hand.
Before dinner was announced, Comte Halphertius judged it advisable to
make a little speech.
"Dear madame," he said to his aunt, "you are really a fairy godmother.
This is the first time I have ever been in a Parisian salon, and here
you have assembled to meet me all that literature, the arts, and the
legal profession can offer of their best. I, who am only a northern
barbarian,--though our country, too, can boast of its celebrities,
--Linnaeus, Berzelius, Thorwaldsen, Tegner, Franzen, Geier, and the
charming novelist Frederika Bremer,--I find myself a cipher in such
"But in Bernadotte France and Sweden clasped hands," replied Madame de
Saint-Esteve, whose historical erudition went as far as that.
"It is very certain," said Vautrin, "that our beloved sovereign,
The announcement of dinner by a majordomo, who threw open the double
doors of the salon, put an end to this remark. Jacqueline took
Vautrin's arm, saying in a whisper as they walked along,--
"Have I done things all right?"
"Yes," replied Vautrin, "it is all in good style, except that devil of
a turban of yours, which makes you look like a poll-parrot."
"Why, no," said Jacqueline, "not at all; with my Javanese face" (she
was born on the island of Java), "oriental things set me off."
Madame de Saint-Esteve placed Sir Francis Drake upon her right, and
Desroches on her left; Vautrin sat opposite, flanked on either side by
Emile Blondet, of the "Debats," and the Signoria Luigia; the rest of
the company placed themselves as they pleased. The dinner, on the
whole, was dull; Bixiou, at Madame de Saint-Esteve's request, had
warned the party to risk nothing that might offend the chaste ears of
the pious Italian. Forced to mind their morals, as a celebrated critic
once observed, these men of wit and audacity lost their spirit; and,
taking refuge in the menu, which was excellent, they either talked
together in a low voice, or let the conversation drag itself along in
bourgeois commonplaces. They ate and they drank, but they did not
dine. Bixiou, incapable of bearing this state of things during a whole
dinner, determined to create a reaction. The appearance of this
Swedish magnate, evidently on intimate terms with the Saint-Esteve,
puzzled him. He noticed a certain insufficiency in Vautrin, and
thought to himself that if he were really a great nobleman, he would
be more equal to the occasion, and give a tone to the feast. He
determined, therefore, to test him, and thus provide amusement, at any
rate, for himself. So, at the end of the second course, he suddenly
said from his end of the table,--
"Monsieur le comte, you are too young, of course, to have known
Gustavus III., whom Scribe and Auber have set in opera, while the rest
of us glorify him in a _galop_."
"I beg your pardon," replied Vautrin, jumping at the chance thus given
him, "I am nearly sixty years of age, which makes me thirteen in 1792,
when our beloved sovereign was killed by the assassin Ankarstroem, so
that I can well remember that period."
Thus, by means of a little volume entitled "Characters and Anecdotes
of the Court of Sweden," printed in 1808, and bought on the quays in
the interests of his Swedish incarnation, the chief of the detective
police evaded the trap. He did better. The faucet being open, he
poured forth such an abundance of erudition and detailed
circumstances, he related so many curious and secret anecdotes,
especially relating to the _coup d'etat_ by which, in 1772, Gustavus
III. had freed his crown,--in short, he was so precise and so
interesting that as they left the table Emile Blondet said to
"I thought, as you did, that a foreign count in the hands of a
marriage agent was a very suspicious character; but he knows the court
of Sweden in a way that it was quite impossible to get out of books.
He is evidently a man well born; one might make some interesting
articles out of the stories he has just told."
"Yes," said Bixiou, "and I mean to cultivate his acquaintance; I could
make a good deal out of him in the Charivari."
"You have better find out first," said Desroches, "whether he has
enough French humor to like being caricatured."
Presently the first notes of the piano gave notice that the Signora
Luigia was about to mount the breach. She first sang the romance in
"Saul" with a depth of expression which moved the whole company, even
though that areopagus of judges were digesting a good dinner, as to
which they had not restrained themselves. Emile Blondet, who was more
of a political thinker than a man of imagination, was completely
carried away by his enthusiasm. As the song ended, Felicien Vernou and
Lousteau went up to Sir Francis Drake and reproached him for wishing
to take such a treasure from France, at the same time flattering him
for his cleverness as an impresario.
La Luigia then sang an air from the "Nina" of Paesiello; and in
that--the part being very dramatic--she showed a talent for comedy
second only to her vocal gift. It was received with truly genuine
applause; but what assured and completed her success with these trained
judges was her modesty and the sort of ignorance in which she still
remained of her amazing talent,--in the midst, too, of praises which
might have turned her head. Accustomed to frenzied self-love and the
insolent pretensions of the veriest sparrow of the opera, these
journalists were amazed and touched by the humility, the simplicity of
this empress, who seemed quite astonished at the effect she produced.
The success of the trial passed all expectation. There was but one
voice as to the desirability of immediately engaging her; and Sir
Francis Drake, Vautrin, and Desroches presently passed into an
adjoining room to draw up the terms of the contract. As soon as that
was done, Vautrin returned to the salon for _la diva_, requesting her
to hear the contract read and to affix her signature. Her departure
for London without further delay was fixed for the following day in
company with Sir Francis Drake.
A few days later the packet-boat from Boulogne conveyed to England
another personage of this history. Jacques Bricheteau, having obtained
Sallenauve's present address from Madame de l'Estorade, and
considering the danger which threatened the new deputy extremely
urgent, decided not to write, but to go himself to England and confer
with him in person. When he reached London, he was surprised to learn
that Hanwell was the most celebrated insane asylum in Great Britain.
Had he reflected on the mental condition of Marie-Gaston, he might
have guessed the truth. As it was, he felt completely bewildered; but
not committing the blunder of losing his time in useless conjectures,
he went on without a moment's delay to Hanwell, which establishment is
only about nine miles from London, pleasantly situated at the foot of
a hill on the borders of Middlesex and Surrey.
After a long detention in the waiting-room, he was at last enabled to
see his friend at a moment when Marie-Gaston's insanity, which for
several days had been in the stages of mania, was yielding to the care
of the doctor, and showed some symptoms of a probable recovery. As
soon as Sallenauve was alone with the organist, he inquired the reason
that led him to follow him; and he heard, with some emotion, the news
of the intrigues which Maxime de Trailles had apparently organized
against him. Returning to his original suspicions, he said to Jacques
"Are you really sure that that person who declared himself my father
was the Marquis de Sallenauve, and that I am truly his son?"
"Mother Marie-des-Anges and Achille Pigoult, by whom I was warned of
this plot, have no more doubt than I have of the existence of the
Marquis de Sallenauve; this gossip with which they threaten you has,
in my judgment, but one dangerous aspect. I mean that by your absence
you are giving a free field to your adversaries."
"But," replied the deputy, "the Chamber will not condemn me without a
hearing. I wrote to the president and asked for leave of absence, and
I took the precaution to request de l'Estorade, who knows the reason
of my absence, to be kind enough to guarantee me, should my absence be
called in question."
"I think you also wrote to Madame de l'Estorade, didn't you?"
"I wrote only to her," replied Sallenauve. "I wanted to tell her about
the great misfortune of our mutual friend, and, at the same time, I
asked her to explain to her husband the kind service I requested him
to do for me."
"If that is so," said Bricheteau, "you need not count for one moment
on the l'Estorades. A knowledge of this trick which is being organized
against you has reached their ears and affected their minds, I am very
He then related the reception he had met with from Madame de
l'Estorade, and the uncivil remarks she had made about Sallenauve,
from which he concluded that in the struggle about to take place no
assistance could be relied on from that direction.
"I have every reason to be surprised," said Sallenauve, "after the
warm assurances Madame de l'Estorade has given me of an unfailing
good-will. However," he added, philosophically, "everything is
possible in this world; and calumny has often undermined friendship."
"You understand, therefore," said Bricheteau, "that it is
all-important to start for Paris, without a moment's delay. Your stay
here, all things considered, is only relatively necessary."
"On the contrary," said Sallenauve, "the doctor considers that my
presence here may be of the utmost utility. He has not yet let me see
the patient, because he expects to produce some great result when I do
"That is problematical," returned Jacques Bricheteau; "whereas by
staying here you are compromising your political future and your
reputation in the most positive manner. Such a sacrifice no friendship
has the right to demand of you."
"Let us talk of it with the doctor," said Sallenauve, unable to deny
the truth of what Bricheteau said.
On being questioned, the doctor replied that he had just seen symptoms
in the patient which threatened another paroxysm.
"But," cried Sallenauve, eagerly, "you are not losing hope of a cure,
are you, doctor?"
"Far from that. I have perfect faith in the ultimate termination of
the case; but I see more delay in reaching it than at first I
expected," replied the doctor.
"I have recently been elected to our Chamber of deputies," said
Sallenauve, "and I ought to be in my seat at the opening of the
session; in fact, my interests are seriously concerned, and my friend
Monsieur Bricheteau has come over to fetch me. If therefore I can be
sure that my presence here is not essential--"
"By all means go," said the doctor. "It may be a long time before I
could allow you to see the patient; therefore you can leave without
the slightest self-reproach. In fact, you can really do nothing here
at present. Trust him to Lord Lewin and me; I assure you that I shall
make his recovery, of which I have no doubt, a matter of personal
pride and self-love."
Sallenauve pressed the doctor's hand gratefully, and started for
London without delay. Arriving there at five o'clock, the travellers
were unable to leave before midnight; meantime their eyes were struck
at every turn by those enormous posters which English _puffism_ alone
is able to produce, announcing the second appearance in Her Majesty's
theatre of the Signora Luigia. The name alone was enough to attract
the attention of both travellers; but the newspapers to which they had
recourse for further information furnished, as is customary in
England, so many circumstantial details about the prima donna that
Sallenauve could no longer doubt the transformation of his late
housekeeper into an operatic star of the first magnitude.
Going to the box-office, which he found closed, every seat having been
sold before mid-day, Sallenauve considered himself lucky to obtain two
seats from a speculator, at the enormous cost of five pounds apiece.
The opera was "La Pazza d'Amore" of Paesiello. When the curtain rose,
Sallenauve, who had spent the last two weeks at Hanwell, among the
insane, could all the more appreciate the remarkable dramatic talent
his late housekeeper displayed in the part of Nina. Even Bricheteau,
though annoyed at Sallenauve's determination to be present, was so
carried away by the power of the singer that he said to his companion
"Politics have no triumphs as that. Art alone is deity--"
"And Luigia is its prophet!" added Sallenauve.
Never, perhaps, had the Italian opera-house in London presented a more
brilliant sight; the whole audience was in a transport of enthusiasm,
and bouquets fairly rained upon the stage.
As they left the theatre, Bricheteau looked at his watch; it was a
quarter to eleven; they had thus ample time to take the steamer
leaving, as the tide served, at midnight. But when the organist turned
to make this remark to Sallenauve, who was behind him, he saw nothing
of his man; the deputy had vanished!
Ten minutes later the maid of the Signora Luigia entered her
mistress's dressing-room, which was filled with distinguished
Englishmen presented by Sir Francis Drake to the new star, and gave
her a card. On reading the name the prima donna turned pale and
whispered a few words to the waiting-woman; then she seemed so anxious
to be rid of the crowd who were pressing round her that her budding
adorers were inclined to be angry. But a great singer has rare
privileges, and the fatigue of the part into which the _diva_ had just
put so much soul seemed so good an excuse for her sulkiness that her
court dispersed without much murmuring.
Left alone, the signora rapidly resumed her usual dress, and the
directors' carriage took her back to the hotel where she had stayed
since arriving in London. On entering her salon she found Sallenauve,
who had preceded her.
"You in London, monsieur!" she said; "it is like a dream!"
"Especially to me," replied Sallenauve, "who find you here, after
searching hopelessly for you in Paris--"
"Did you take that pains?--why?"
"You left me in so strange a manner, and your nature is so rash, you
knew so little of Paris, and so many dangers might threaten your
inexperience, that I feared for you."
"Suppose harm did happen to me; I was neither your wife, nor your
sister, nor your mistress; I was only your--"
"I thought," said Sallenauve, hastily, "that you were my friend."
"I was--under obligation to you," she replied. "I saw that I was
becoming an embarrassment in your new situation. What else could I do
but release you from it?"
"Who told you that you were an embarrassment to me? Have I ever said
or intimated anything of the kind? Could I not speak to you, as I did,
about your professional life without wounding so deeply your
"People feel things as they feel them," replied Luigia. "I had the
inward consciousness that you would rather I were out of your house
than in it. My future you had already given me the means to secure;
you see for yourself it is opening in a manner that ought to reassure
"It seems to me so brilliant that I hope you will not think me
indiscreet if I ask whose hand, more fortunate than mine, has produced
this happy result."
"That of a great Swedish nobleman," replied Luigia, without
hesitation. "Or rather, I should say, as the friend of a lady who took
an interest in me, he procured me an engagement at Her Majesty's
Theatre; the kind encouragement of the public has done the rest."
"Say, rather, your own talent; I was present at the performance this
Making him a coquettish courtesy, Luigia said,--
"I hope you were satisfied with your humble servant."
"Your musical powers did not surprise me, for those I knew already;
but those transports of dramatic passion, your powerful acting, so
sure of itself, did certainly astonish me."
"It comes from having suffered much," replied Luigia; "suffering is a
"Suffered? Yes, I know you did, in Italy. But I have liked to feel
that after your arrival in France--"
"Always; I have always suffered," she said in a voice of emotion. "I
was not born under a happy star."
"That 'always' seems like a reproach to me," said Sallenauve, "and yet
I do not know what wrong I can have done you."
"You have done me no wrong; the harm was there!" she cried, striking
her breast,--"within me!"
"Probably some foolish fancy, such as that of leaving my house
suddenly, because your mistaken sense of honor made you think yourself
in my way."
"Not mistaken," she replied. "I know what was in your thoughts. If
only on account of what you had done for me, I knew I could never
aspire to your esteem."
"But, my dear Luigia, I call such ideas absurd. Have I ever shown you
any want of consideration? How could I? Your conduct has always been
"Yes, I tried to do everything that would give you a good opinion of
me; but I was none the less the widow of Benedetto."
"What! can you suppose that that misfortune, the result of a just
"Ah! no, it is not the death of that man that lowered me in your eyes;
on the contrary. But I had been the wife of a buffoon, of a
police-spy, of a base man, ready to sell me to any one who would give
"As long as that situation lasted, I thought you deeply to be pitied;
but despised, never!"
"And," continued the Italian, more excitedly, "we had lived two years
under the same roof, you and I alone."
"Yes, and I found my comfort in it."
"Did you think me ugly?"
"You know better than that, for I made my finest statue from you."
"No one was ever foolish who could act such a part as you did
"Then you must see that you despised me."
Sallenauve seemed wholly surprised by this deduction; he thought
himself very clever in replying,--
"It seems to me that if I had behaved to you in any other manner you
would have the right to say that I despised you."
But he had to do with a woman who in everything, in her friendships,
her hatreds, her actions, as in her words, went straight to her point.
As if she feared not to be fully understood, she went on:--
"To-day, monsieur, I can tell you all, for I speak of the past; the
future has opened before me, as you see. From the day you were good to
me and by your generous protection I escaped an infamous outrage, my
heart has been wholly yours."
Sallenauve, who had never suspected that feeling, and, above all, was
unable to understand how so artlessly crude an avowal of it could be
made, knew not what to answer.
"I am not ignorant," continued the strange woman, "that I should have
difficulty in rising from the degradation in which I appeared to you
at our first meeting. If, at the time you consented to take me with
you to Paris, I had seen you incline to treat me with gallantry, had
you shown any sign of turning to your profit the dangerous situation
in which I had placed myself, my heart would instantly have retired;
you would have seemed to me an ordinary man--"
"So," remarked Sallenauve, "to love you would have been insulting; not
to love you was cruel! What sort of woman are you, that either way you
"You ought not to have loved me," she replied, "while the mud was
still on my skirts and you scarcely knew me; because then your love
would have been the love of the eyes and not of the soul. But when,
after two years passed beside you, you had seen by my conduct that I
was an honorable woman; when, without ever accepting a pleasure, I
devoted myself to the care of the house and your comfort without other
relaxation than the study of my art; and when, above all, I sacrificed
to you that modesty you had seen me defend with such energy,--then you
were cruel not to comprehend, and never, never will your imagination
tell you what I have suffered, and all the tears you have made me
"But, my dear Luigia, I was your host, and even had I suspected what
you now reveal to me, my duty as an honorable man would have commanded
me to see nothing of it, and to take no advantage of you."
"Ah! that is not the reason; it is simpler than that. You saw nothing
because your fancy turned elsewhere."
"Well, and if it were so?"
"It ought not to be so," replied Luigia, vehemently. "That woman is
not free; she has a husband and children, and though you did make a
saint of her, I presume to say, ridiculous as it may seem, that she is
not worth me!"
Sallenauve could not help smiling, but he answered very seriously,--
"You are totally mistaken as to your rival. Madame de l'Estorade was
never anything to me but a model, without other value than the fact
that she resembled another woman. That one I knew in Rome before I
knew you. She had beauty, youth, and a glorious inclination for art.
To-day she is confined in a convent; like you, she has paid her
tribute to sorrow; therefore, you see--"
"What, three hearts devoted to you," cried Luigia, "and not one
accepted? A strange star is yours! No doubt I suffer from its fatal
influence, and therefore I must pardon you."
"You are good to be merciful; will you now let me ask you a question?
Just now you spoke of your future, and I see it with my own eyes. Who
are the friends who have suddenly advanced you so far and so
splendidly in your career? Have you made any compact with the devil?"
"Perhaps," said Luigia, laughing.
"Don't laugh," said Sallenauve; "you chose to rush alone and
unprotected into that hell called Paris, and I dread lest you have
made some fatal acquaintance. I know the immense difficulties and the
immense dangers that a woman placed as you are now must meet. Who is
this lady that you spoke of? and how did you ever meet her while
living under my roof?"
"She is a pious and charitable woman, who came to see me during your
absence at Arcis. She had noticed my voice at Saint-Sulpice, during
the services of the Month of Mary, and she tried to entice me away to
her own parish church of Notre-Dame de Lorette,--it was for that she
came to see me."
"Tell me her name."
"Madame de Saint-Esteve."
Though far from penetrating the many mysteries that surrounded
Jacqueline Collin, Sallenauve knew Madame de Saint-Esteve to be a
woman of doubtful character and a matrimonial agent, having at times
heard Bixiou tell tales of her.
"But that woman," he said, "has a shocking notoriety in Paris. She is
an adventuress of the worst kind."
"I suspected it," said Luigia. "But what of that?"
"And the man to whom she introduced you?"
"He an adventurer? No, I think not. At any rate, he did me a great
"But he may have designs upon you."
"Yes, people may have designs upon me," replied Luigia, with dignity,
"but they cannot execute them: between those designs and me, there is
"But your reputation?"
"That was lost before I left your house. I was said to be your
mistress; you had yourself to contradict that charge before the
electoral college; you contradicted it, but you could not stop it."
"And my esteem, for which you profess to care?"
"I no longer want it. You did not love me when I wished for it; you
shall not love me now that I no longer wish it."
"Who knows?" exclaimed Sallenauve.
"There are two reasons why it cannot be," said the singer. "In the
first place, it is too late; and in the second, we are no longer on
the same path."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I am an artist and you have ceased to be one. I rise; you fall."
"Do you call it falling to rise, perhaps, to the highest dignities of
"To whatever height you rise," said Luigia, passionately, "you will
ever be below your past and the noble future that was once before you
--Ah! stay; I think that I have lied to you; had you remained a
sculptor, I believe I should have borne still longer your coldness and
your disdain; I should have waited until I entered my vocation, until
the halo round a singer's head might have shown you, at last, that I
was there beside you. But on the day that you apostatized I would no
longer continue my humiliating sacrifice. There is no future possible
"Do you mean," said Sallenauve, holding out his hand, which she did
not take, "that we cannot even be friends?"
"No," she replied; "all is over--past and gone. We shall hear of each
other; and from afar, as we pass in life, we can wave our hands in
recognition, but nothing further."
"So," said Sallenauve, sadly, "this is how it all ends!"
La Luigia looked at him a moment, her eyes shining with tears.
"Listen," she said in a resolute and sincere tone: "this is possible.
I have loved you, and after you, no one can enter the heart you have
despised. You will hear that I have lovers; believe it not; you will
not believe it, remembering the woman that I am. But who knows? Later
your life may be swept clean of the other sentiments that have stood
in my way; the freedom, the strangeness of the avowal I have just made
to you will remain in your memory, and then it is not impossible that
after this long rejection you may end by desiring me. If that should
happen,--if at the end of many sad deceptions you should return, in
sheer remorse, to the religion of art,--then, then, supposing that
long years have not made love ridiculous between us, remember this
evening. Now, let us part; it is already too late for a
So saying, she took a light and passed into an inner room, leaving
Sallenauve in a state of mind we can readily imagine after the various
shocks and surprises of this interview.
On returning to his hotel he found Jacques Bricheteau awaiting him.
"Where the devil have you been?" cried the organist, impatiently. "It
is too late now to take the steamboat."
"Well," said Sallenauve, carelessly, "then I shall have a few hours
longer to play truant."
"But during that time your enemies are tunnelling their mine."
"I don't care. In that cave called political life one has to be ready
"I thought as much!" exclaimed Bricheteau. "You have been to see
Luigia; her success has turned your head, and the deputy is thinking
of his statues."
"How often have I heard you say yourself that Art alone is great?"
"But an orator," replied Bricheteau, "is also an artist, and the
greatest of all. Others speak to the heart and the mind, but he to the
conscience and the will of others. At any rate, this is no time to
look back; you are engaged in a duel with your adversaries. Are you an
honest man, or a scoundrel who has stolen a name? There is the
question which may, in consequence of your absence, be answered
against you in the Chamber."
"I begin to feel that you have led me into a mistaken path; I had in
my hands a treasure, and I have flung it away!"
"Happily," said the organist, "that's only an evening mist which the
night will dissipate. To-morrow you will remember the engagement you
are under to your father, and the great future which is before you."
IN THE CHAMBER
The king had opened the Chamber, but Sallenauve was not present, and
his absence was causing a certain sensation in the democratic ranks.
The "National" was particularly disturbed. As a stockholder of the
paper, coming frequently to its office before the election, and even
consenting to write articles for it, how strange that on the eve of
the opening of the session the newly elected deputy should not come
"Now that he is elected," said some of the editorial staff, remarking
on the total disappearance of the man whom they considered they had
done their part to elect, "does monsieur think he can treat us
scurvily? It is getting too much the habit of these lordly deputies to
be very obsequious as long as they are candidates, and throw us away,
after they have climbed the tree, like an old coat."
Less excitable, the editor-in-chief calmed this first ebullition, but
Sallenauve's absence from the royal session seemed to him very
The next day, when the bureaus are constituted, presidents and
secretaries appointed, and committees named, Sallenauve's absence was
still more marked. In the bureau for which his name was drawn, it
happened that the election of its president depended on one vote;
through the absence of the deputy of Arcis, the ministry gained that
advantage and the Opposition lost it. Much discontent was expressed by
the newspapers of the latter party; they did not, as yet, openly
attack the conduct of the defaulter, but they declared that they could
not account for it.
Maxime de Trailles, on the other hand, fully prepared and on the
watch, was waiting only until the routine business of the bureaus and
the appointment of the committees was disposed of to send in the
petition of the Romilly peasant-woman, which had been carefully drawn
up by Massol, under whose clever pen the facts he was employed to make
the most of assumed that degree of probability which barristers
contrive to communicate to their sayings and affirmations. But when
Maxime had the joy of seeing that Sallenauve's absence in itself was
creating a prejudice against him, he went again to Rastignac and asked
him if he did not think it better to hasten the moment of attack,
since everything seemed so favorable.
This time Rastignac was much more explicit: Sallenauve's absence
abroad seemed to him the conduct of a man who feared exposure and had
lost his head. He therefore advised de Trailles to have the petition
sent in at once, and he made no difficulty about promising his
assistance to a conspiracy which appeared to be taking color, the
result of which must be, in any case, a very pretty scandal. The next
day the first trace of his subterranean influence was visible. The
order of the day in the Chamber was the verification of powers,--that
is, the admission of newly elected members. The deputy appointed to
report on the elections in the department of the Aube was a strong
partisan of the ministry, and, in consequence of a confidential
communication made to him that morning, the following paragraph
appeared in his report:--
The action of the electoral college of Arcis was regular. Monsieur
de Sallenauve produced in proper time all the necessary papers
proving his eligibility; his admission therefore would seem to
present no difficulty. But rumors of a singular nature have been
current since the election as to the name and identity of the new
deputy; and, in support of these rumors, a petition to authorize a
criminal prosecution has been laid before the president of the
Chamber. This petition states an extremely serious fact, namely:
that Monsieur de Sallenauve has usurped the name he bears; and
this usurpation, being made by means of an official document,
assumes the character of forgery committed by substitution of
person. A most regrettable circumstance,
continued the report,
is the absence of Monsieur de Sallenauve, who instead of instantly
contradicting the accusation made against him, has not appeared
since the opening of the Chamber at any of its sessions, and it is
not even known where he is. Under these circumstances, his
admission, the committee think, cannot be granted; and they feel
it therefore their duty to refer the matter to the Chamber.
Daniel d'Arthez, a deputy of the legitimist opposition, who had been
favorable to the election of Sallenauve, hastened, after the reading
of this report, to ask for the floor, and entreated the Chamber to
remark that its adoption would be wholly unjustifiable.
"The point for the committee to decide," he said, "was the regularity
of the election. The report distinctly states that this is not called
in question. The Chamber can, therefore, do only one thing; namely,
admit by an immediate vote the validity of an election about which no
irregularity is alleged. To bring in the question of authorizing a
criminal investigation would be an abuse of power; because by not
allowing discussion or defence, and by dispensing with the usual forms
of procedure which guarantee certain rights to a party implicated, the
Chamber would be virtually rejecting the action of the electors in the
exercise of their sovereign functions. Every one can see, moreover,"
added the orator, "that to grant the right of criminal investigation
in this connection is to prejudge the merits of the case; the
presumption of innocence, which is the right of every man, is ignored
--whereas in this case the person concerned is a man whose integrity
has never been doubted, and who has just been openly honored by the
suffrages of his fellow citizens."
The discussion was prolonged for some time, the ministerial orators,
of course, taking the other side, until an unfortunate event occurred.
The senior deputy, acting as president (for the Chamber was not yet
constituted), was a worn-out old man, very absent-minded, and wholly
unaccustomed to the functions which his age devolved upon him. He had
duly received Monsieur de Sallenauve's letter requesting leave of
absence; and had he recollected to communicate it, as in duty bound,
to the Chamber at the proper time, the discussion would probably have
been nipped in the bud. But parliamentary matters are apt to go
haphazard; when, reminded of the letter by the discussion, he produced
it, and when the Chamber learned that the request for leave of absence
was made for an indefinite period and for the vague purpose of "urgent
affairs," the effect was lamentable.
"It is plain," said all the ministerial party, "that he has gone to
England to escape an investigation; he feared the result; he feels
This view, setting aside political prejudices, was shared by the
sterner minds of all parties, who refused to conceive of a man not
hastening to defend himself from such a blasting accusation. In short,
after a very keen and able argument from the attorney-general, Vinet,
who had taken heart on finding that the accused was likely to be
condemned by default, the question of adjournment was put to the vote
and passed, but by a very small majority; eight days being granted to
the said deputy to appear and defend himself.
The day after the vote was passed Maxime de Trailles wrote to Madame
Beauvisage as follows:--
Madame,--The enemy received a severe check yesterday. In the
opinion of my friend Rastignac, a very intelligent and experienced
judge in parliamentary matters, Dorlange can never recover from
the blow, no matter what may happen later. If we cannot succeed in
producing positive proof to support the statement of our good
peasant-woman, it is possible that this rascal, supposing always
that he ventures to return to France, may be admitted to the
Chamber. But if he is, he can only drag on a despised and
miserable existence; he will be driven to resign, and then the
election of Monsieur Beauvisage is beyond all doubt; for the
electors, ashamed to have forsaken him for such a rascal, will be
only too glad to reinstate themselves in public opinion by the
choice of an honorable man--who was, in fact, their first choice.
It is to your rare sagacity, madame, that this result is due; for
without that species of second sight which showed you the chances
hidden in the revelation of that woman, we should have missed our
best weapon. I must tell you though you may think this vanity,
that neither Rastignac nor the attorney-general, in spite of their
great political acumen, perceived the true value of your
discovery; and I myself, if I had not had the good fortune of your
acquaintance, and thus been enabled to judge of the great value of
all ideas emanating from you, even I might have shared the
indifference of the two statesmen to the admirable weapon which
you have placed in our hands. I have now succeeded in proving to
Rastignac the shrewdness and perspicacity you have shown in this
matter, and he sincerely admires you for them. Therefore, madame,
when I have the happiness of belonging to you by the tie we
proposed, I shall not have to initiate you into politics, for you
have already found your way there.
Nothing further can take place for a week, which is the period of
delay granted by the Chamber. If the defaulter does not then
appear, I am confident his election will be annulled. You can
easily believe that between now and then all my efforts will be
given to increase the feeling in the Chamber against him, both by
arguments in the press and by private conversations. Rastignac has
also given orders among the ministerial adherents to that effect.
We may feel confident, therefore, that by the end of another week
our enemy will find public opinion solidly against him.
Will you permit me, madame, to recall myself to the memory of
Mademoiselle Cecile, and accept yourself, together with Monsieur
Beauvisage, the assurance of my most respectful sentiments.
A hint from certain quarters given to the ministerial journals now
began to surround Sallenauve's name with an atmosphere of disrespect
and ridicule; insulting insinuations colored his absence with an
appearance of escaping the charges. The effect of these attacks was
all the greater because Sallenauve was very weakly defended by his
political co-religionists, which was scarcely surprising. Not knowing
how to explain his conduct, the Opposition papers were afraid to
commit themselves in favor of a man whose future was daily becoming
On the evening before the day on which the time granted for an
explanation would expire, Sallenauve being still absent, a ministerial
paper published, under the heading of "A Lost Deputy," a very witty
and insolent article, which was read by every one and created a great
sensation. During that evening Madame de l'Estorade went to see Madame
de Camps, whom she found alone with her husband. She was greatly
agitated, and said, as soon as she entered the room,--
"Have you read that infamous article?"
"No," replied Madame Octave, "but Monsieur de Camps was just telling
me about it. It is really shameful that the ministry should not only
countenance, but instigate such villanies."
"I am half crazy," said Madame de l'Estorade; "the whole blame rests
"That is saying too much," said Madame Octave.
"No," said her husband, "I agree with madame; all the venom of this
affair could have been destroyed by one action of de l'Estorade's, and
in refusing to make it he is, if not the author, at least the
accomplice of this slander."
"Your wife has told you--" began Madame de l'Estorade in a reproachful
"Yes," said Madame de Camps; "it was necessary to explain to my
husband the sort of madness that seemed to have taken possession of M.
de l'Estorade; but what I said to him was not unfaithful to any secret
that concerned you personally."
"Ah! you are such a united pair," said Madame de l'Estorade, with a
heavy sigh. "I don't regret that you have told all that to your
husband; in fact, two heads are better than one to advise me in the
cruel position in which I am placed."
"What has happened?" asked Madame de Camps.
"My husband is losing his head," replied the countess. "I don't see a
trace of his old moral sense left in him. Far from understanding that
he is, as Monsieur de Camps said just now, the accomplice of the
shameful attack which is going on, and that he has not, like those who
started it, the excuse of ignorance, he actually seems to take delight
in this wickedness. Just now he brought me that vile paper
triumphantly, and I could scarcely prevent his being very angry with
me for not agreeing with his opinion that it was infinitely witty and
"That letter of Monsieur Gaston's was a terrible shock to him," said
Madame de Camps,--"a shock not only to his heart but to his body."
"I admit that," said her husband; "but, hang it! a man is a man, and
he ought to take the words of a maniac for what they are worth."
"It is certainly very singular that Monsieur de Sallenauve does not
return," said Madame Octave; "for that Joseph Bricheteau, to whom you
gave his address, must have written to him."
"Oh!" cried the countess, "there's fatality in the whole thing.
To-morrow the question of confirming the election or not comes up in
Back to Full Books