Georges Ohnet.

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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



IN MEMORY OF
MRS. VIRGINIA B. SPORER



SERGE FAMINE

(SERGE CANINE)
By GEORGES OHNET

Crowned by the French Academy



With a General Introduction to the Series
by GASTON BOISSIFR, Secretaire
Perpetuel dp l'Aca< , and



Z, 01 the Frew h Academy
[From a Photograph.}




NEW YORK

Current Literature Publishing Company

1910










SERGE FAMINE

(SERGE T>ANINE)
By GEORGES OHNET




Crowned by the French Academy




With a Genera! Introduction to the Series
by GASTON BOISSIER, Secretaire
Perpetuel de 1' Academic Francaise, and
a Preface to the Novel by VICTOR
CHERBULIEZ, of the French Academy




NEW YORK

Current Literature Publishing Company

1910





COPYRIGHT 1905

BY
ROBERT ARNOT

COPYRIGHT 1910

BY
CURRENT LITERATURE PUBLISHING COMPANV



GENERAL INTRODUCTION




editor-in-chief of the Maison Mazarin
a man of letters who cherishes an en-
thusiastic yet discriminating love for the
literary and artistic glories of France
formed within the last two years the great
project of collecting and presenting to
the vast numbers of intelligent readers of
whom the New World boasts a series
of those great and undying romances which, since 1 784,
have received the crown of merit awarded by the French
Academy that coveted assurance of immortality in letters
and in art.

In the presentation of this serious enterprise for the criti-
cism and official sanction of The Academy, en stance, was
included a request that, if possible, the task of writing a
preface to the series should be undertaken by me. Official
sanction having been bestowed upon the plan, I, as the
accredited officer of the French Academy, convey to you
its hearty appreciation, endorsement, and sympathy with a
project so nobly artistic. It is also my duty, privilege, and
pleasure to point out, at the request of my brethren, the
peculiar importance and lasting value of this series to all
who would know the inner life of a people whose great-
ness no turns of fortune have been able to diminish.
[v]



GENERAL INTRODUCTION

In the last hundred years France has experienced the
most terrible vicissitudes, but, vanquished or victorious, tri-
umphant or abased, never has she lost her peculiar gift of
attracting the curiosity of the. world. She interests every
living being, and even those who do not love her desire to
know her. To this peculiar attraction which radiates from
her, artists and men of letters can well bear witness, since
it is to literature and to the arts, before all, that France
owes such living and lasting power. In every quarter of
the civilized world there are distinguished writers, painters,
and eminent musicians, but in France they exist in greater
numbers than elsewhere. Moreover, it is universally con-
ceded that French writers and artists have this particular
and praiseworthy quality: they are most accessible to peo-
ple of other countries. Without losing their national char-
acteristics, they possess the happy gift of universality. To
speak of letters alone : the books that Frenchmen write are
read, translated, dramatized, and imitated everywhere ; so
it is not strange that these books give to foreigners a desire
for a nearer and more intimate acquaintance with France.

Men preserve an almost innate habit of resorting to Paris
from almost every quarter of the globe. For many years
American visitors have been more numerous than others,
although the journey from the United States is long and
costly. But I am sure that when for the first time they see
Paris its palaces, its churches, its museums and visit
Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Chantilly, they do not regret
the travail they have undergone. Meanwhile, however, I
ask myself whether such sightseeing is all that, in coming
hither, they wish to accomplish. Intelligent travellers
and, as a rule, it is the intelligent class that feels the need
[vi]



GENERAL INTRODUCTION

of the educative influence of travel look at our beautiful
monuments, wander through the streets and squares among
the crowds that fill them, and, observing them, I ask myself
again : Do not such people desire to study at closer range
these persons who elbow them as they pass ; do they not
wish to enter the houses of which they see but the facades ;
do they not wish to know how Parisians live and speak
and act by their firesides ? But time, alas ! is lacking for
the formation of those intimate friendships which would
bring this knowledge within their grasp. French homes are
rarely open to birds of passage, and visitors leave us with
regret that they have not been able to see more than the
surface of our civilization or to recognize by experience the
note of our inner home life.

How, then, shall this void be filled ? Speaking in the
first person, the simplest means appears to be to study those
whose profession it is to describe the society of the time,
and primarily, therefore, the works of dramatic writers, who
are supposed to draw a faithful picture of it. So we go to
the theatre, and usually derive keen pleasure therefrom. But
is pleasure all that we expect to find ? What we should look
for above everything in a comedy or a drama is a representa-
tion, exact as possible, of the manners and characters of the
dramatis persona of the play ; and perhaps the conditions
under which the play was written do not allow such repre-
sentation. The exact and studied portrayal of a character
demands from the author long preparation, and cannot be
accomplished in a few hours. From the first scene to
the last, each fble must be posed in the author's mind
exactly as it will be proved to be at the end. It is the
author's aim and mission to place completely before his
[viij



GENERAL INTRODUCTION

audience the souls of the " agonists " laying bare the com-
plications of motive, and throwing into relief the delicate
shades of motive that sway them. Often, too, the play is
produced before a numerous audience an audience often
distrait, always pressed for time, and impatient of the least
delay. Again, the public in general require that they shall
be able to understand without difficulty, and at first thought,
the characters the author seeks to present, making it neces-
sary that these characters be depicted from their most salient
sides which are too often vulgar and unattractive.

In our comedies and dramas it is not the individual that
is drawn, but the type. Where the individual alone is real,
the type is a myth of the imagination a pure invention.
And invention is the mainspring of the theatre, which rests
purely upon illusion, and does not please us unless it begins
by deceiving us.

I believe, then, that if one seeks to know the world ex-
actly as it is, the theatre does not furnish the means whereby
one can pursue the study. A far better opportunity for
knowing the private life of a people is available through the
medium of its great novels. The novelist deals with each
person as an individual. He speaks to his reader at an
hour when the mind is disengaged from worldly affairs,
and he can add without restraint every detail that seems
needful to him to complete the rounding of his story. He
can return at will, should he choose, to the source of the
plot he is unfolding, in order that his reader may better
understand him; he can emphasize and dwell upon those
details which an audience in a theatre will not allow.

The reader, being at leisure, feels no impatience, for he
knows that he can at any time lay down or take up the
[viiij



GENERAL INTRODUCTION

book. It is the consciousness of this privilege that gives
him patience, should he encounter a dull page here or
there. He may hasten or delay his reading, according to
die interest he takes in his romance nay, more, he can
return to the earlier pages, should he need to do so, for a
better comprehension of some obscure point. In propor-
tion as he is attracted and interested by the romance, and
also in the degree of concentration with which he reads it,
does he grasp better the subtleties of the narrative. No shade
of character drawing escapes him. He realizes, with keener
appreciation, the most delicate of human moods, and the
novelist is not compelled to introduce the characters to him,
one by one, distinguishing them only by the most general
characteristics, but can describe each of those little individual
idiosyncrasies that contribute to the sum total of a living
personality.

When I add that the dramatic author is always to a cer-
tain extent a slave to- the public, and must ever seek to
please the passing taste of his time, it will be recognized
that he is often, alas! compelled to sacrifice his artistic
leanings to popular caprice that is, if he has the natural
desire that his generation should applaud him.

As a rule, with the theatre-going masses, one person fol-
lows the fads or fancies of others, and individual judgments
are too apt to be irresistibly swayed by current opinion.
But the novelist, entirely independent of his reader, is not
compelled to conform himself to the opinion of any person,
or to submit to his caprices. He is absolutely free to pic-
ture society as he sees it, and we therefore can have more
confidence in his descriptions of the customs and characters
of the day.



GENERAL INTRODUCTION

It is precisely this view of the case that the editor of
the series has taken, and herein is the raison d'etre of
this collection of great French romances. The choice was
not easy to make. That form of literature called the
romance abounds with us. France has always loved it,
for French writers exhibit a curiosity and I may say an
indiscretion that is almost charming in the study of cus-
toms and morals at large ; a quality that induces them to
talk freely of themselves and of their neighbors, and to set
forth fearlessly both the good and the bad in human nature.
In this fascinating phase of literature, France never has
produced greater examples than of late years.

In the collection here presented to American readers will
be found those works especially which reveal the intimate
side of French social life works in which are discussed
the moral problems that affect most potently the life of the
world at large. If inquiring spirits seek to learn the cus-
toms and manners of the France of any age, they must look
for it among her crowned romances. They need go back
no farther than Ludovic Halevy, who may be said to open
the modern epoch. In the romantic school, on its historic
side, Alfred de Vigny must be looked upon as supreme.
De Mussel and Anatole France may be taken as revealing
authoritatively the moral philosophy of nineteenth-century
thought. I must not omit to mention the Jacqueline of
Th. Bentzon, and the "Attic " Philosopher of Emile
Souvestre, nor the great names of Loti, Claretie, Coppe"e,
Bazin, Bourget, Malot, Droz, De Massa, and last, but not
least, our French Dickens, Alphonse Daudet. I need not
add more ; the very names of these " Immortals " suffice to
commend the series to readers in all countries.



GENERAL INTRODUCTION

One word in conclusion : America may rest assured that
her students of international literature will find in this series
of ouvrages couronnes all that they may wish to know of
France at her own fireside a knowledge that too often
escapes them, knowledge that embraces not only a faithful
picture of contemporary life in the French provinces, but a
living and exact description of French society in modern
times. They may feel certain that when they have read
these romances, they will have sounded the depths and
penetrated into the hidden intimacies of France, not only
as she is, but as she would be known.



SECRETAIRE PERPETUEL DE

L'ACADEMIE FRANCAISE





GEORGES OHNET

[E only French novelist whose books
have a circulation approaching the
works of Daudet and of Zola is
Georges Ohnet, a writer whose popu-
larity is as interesting as his stories, be-
cause it explains, though it does not
excuse, the contempt the Goncourts
had for the favor of the great French
public, and also because it shows how the highest form
of Romanticism still ferments beneath the varnish of
Naturalism in what is called genius among the great
masses of readers.

Georges Ohnet was born in Paris, April 3, 1848, the
son of an architect. He was destined for the Bar, but
was early attracted by journalism and literature. Being
a lawyer it was not difficult for him to join the editorial
staff of Le Pays, and later Le Constitutional. This was
soon after the Franco-German War. His romances,
since collected under the title Batailles de la. Vie, ap-
peared first in Le Figaro, L' Illustration, and Revue des
Deux Mondes, and have been exceedingly well received
by the public. This relates also to his dramas, some of
his works meeting with a popular success rarely ex-
tended to any author. For some time Georges Ohnet
did not find the same favor with the critics, who often
attacked him with a passionate violence and unusual
[xiii]



PREFACE

severity. True, a high philosophical flow of thoughts
cannot be detected in his writings, but nevertheless it
is certain that the characters and the subjects of which
he treats are brilliantly sketched and clearly developed.
They are likewise of perfect morality and honesty.

There was expected of him, however, an idea which
was not quite realized. Appearing upon the literary
stage at a period when Naturalism was triumphant, it
was for a moment believed that he would restore Ideal-
ism in the manner of George Sand.

In any case the hostile critics have lost. For years
public opinion has exalted him, and the reaction is the
more significant when compared with the tremendous
criticism launched against his early romances and
novels.

A list of his works follows: Serge Panine (1881),
crowned by the French Academy, has since gone
through one hundred and fifty French editions; Le
MaUre des Forges (1882), a prodigious success, two
hundred and fifty editions being printed (1900); La
Comtesse Sarah (1882), Lise Fleuron (1884); La Grande
Marnier e (1886); Les Dames de Croix-Mort (1886);
Volontt (1888); Le Docteur Rameau (1889); Dernier
Amour (1889); LeCure de Favieres (1890); Dette de
Haine (1891); Nemrod et Cie. (1892); Le Lendemain
des Amours (1893); Le Droit de I'Enjant (1894); Les
Vielles Rancunes (1894); La Dame en Gris (1895);
La Fille du Depute (1896); Le Roi de Paris (1898); Au
Fond du Gouffre (1899); Gens de la Noce (1900); La
Tenebreuse (1900); Le Crasseur d j Affaires (1901);
Le Cripuscule (1901) ; Le Marche a V Amour (1902).
[xiv]



PREFACE

Ohnet's novels are collected under the titles, Noir et
Rose (1887) and L'Ame de Pierre (1890).

The dramatic writings of Georges Ohnet, mostly
taken from his novels, have greatly contributed to his
reputation. Le Matire des Forges was played for a full
year (Gymnase, 1883) ; it was followed by Serge Panine
(1884); La Comtesse Sarah (1887). La Grande Mar-
nier e (1888), met also with a decided and prolonged
success; Dernier Amour (Gymnase, 1890); Colonel
Roquebrune (Porte St. Martin, 1897). Before that he
had already written the plays Regina Sarpi (1875) and
Marthe (1877), which yet hold a prominent place upon
the French stage.

I have shown in this rapid sketch that a man of the
stamp of Georges Ohnet must have immortal qualities
in himself, even though flayed and roasted alive by the
critics. He is most assuredly an artist in form, is
endowed with a brilliant style, and has been named
" L'Historiographe de la bourgeoise contemporaine."
Indeed, antagonism to plutocracy and hatred of aris-
tocracy are the fundamental theses in almost every one
of his books.

His exposition, I repeat, is startlingly neat, the de-
velopment of his plots absolutely logical, and the world
has acclaimed his ingenuity in dramatic construction.
He is truly, and in all senses, of the Ages.




de I'Acaddmie Frangaise
[xv]



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

FADE

THE HOUSE OF DESVARENNES i

CHAPTER II
THE GALLEY-SLAVE OF PLEASURE 20

CHAPTER III
PIERRE RETURNS 35

CHAPTER IV
THE RIVALS 51

CHAPTER V
A CRITICAL INTERVIEW .64

CHAPTER VI
A SIGNIFICANT MEETING 74

CHAPTER VII
JEANNE'S SECRET , .90

CHAPTER VIII
A PLEASANT UNDERSTANDING ......... 102

CHAPTER IX
THE DOUBLE MARRIAGE ..... t ,,.. 116

CHAPTER X
CAYROL'S DISAPPOINTMENT ....,,.,..134



CONTENTS

CHAPTER XI

PAGE

CONFESSION 145

CHAPTER XH
THE FfirE iS4

CHAPTER Xin
THE FIRST BREAK 161

CHAPTER XIV
A SUDDEN JOURNEY 183

CHAPTER XV
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER 200

CHAPTER XVI
THE TELLTALE Kiss 215

CHAPTER XVH
CAYROL is BLIND 227

CHAPTER XVni
THE UNIVERSAL CREDIT COMPANY 239

CHAPTER XIX
SIN GROWS BOLDER 263

CHAPTER XX
THE CRISIS 281

CHAPTER XXI
"WmtN ROGUES FALL OUT" 289

CHAPTER XXII
THE MOTHER'S REVENGE t . 303

[ xviii ]



SERGE PANINE

CHAPTER I

THE HOUSE OF DESVARENNES

[E firm of Desvarennes has been in
an ancient mansion in the Rue Saint-
Dominique since 1875; it is one of
the best known and most important
in French industry. The counting-
houses are in the wings of the building
looking upon the courtyard, which
were occupied by the servants when
the family whose coat-of-arms has been effaced from
above the gate-way were still owners of the estate.
Madame Desvarennes inhabits the mansion which she
has had magnificently renovated. A formidable rival
of the Darblays, the great millers of France, the firm of
Desvarennes is a commercial and political power. In-
quire in Paris about its solvency, and you will be told
that you may safely advance twenty millions of francs
on the signature of the head of the firm. And this head
is a woman.

This woman is remarkable. Gifted with keen under-
standing and a firm will, she had in former times vowed
to make a large fortune, and she has kept her word.




GEORGES OHNET

She was the daughter of a humble packer of the Rue
Neuve-Coquenard. Toward 1848 she married Michel
Desvarennes, who was then a journeyman baker in a
large shop in the Chaussee d'Antin. With the thousand
francs which the packer managed to give his daughter
by way of dowry, the young couple boldly took a shop
and started a little bakery business. The husband
kneaded and baked the bread, and the young wife,
seated at the counter, kept watch over the till. Neither
on Sundays nor on holidays was the shop shut.

Through the window, between two pyramids of pink
and blue packets of biscuits, one could always catch
sight of the serious-looking Madame Desvarennes, knit-
ting woollen stockings for her husband while waiting
for customers. With her prominent forehead, and her
eyes always bent on her work, this woman appeared the
living image of perseverance.

At the end of five years of incessant work, and pos-
sessing twenty thousand francs, saved sou by sou, the
Desvarennes left the slopes of Montmartre, and moved
to the centre of Paris. They were ambitious and full of
confidence. They set up in the Rue Vivienne, in a shop
resplendent with gilding and ornamented with looking-
glasses. The ceiling was painted in panels with bright
hued pictures that caught the eyes of the passers-by.
The window-shelves were of white marble, and the
counter, where Madame Desvarennes was still en-
throned, was of a width worthy of the receipts that
were taken every day. Business increased daily; the
Desvarennes continued to be hard and systematic work-
ers. The class of customers alone had changed ; they
[2]



SERGE PANINE

were more numerous and richer. The house had a
specialty for making small rolls for the restaurants.
Michel had learned from the Viennese bakers how to
make those golden balls which tempt the most rebel-
lious appetite, and which, when in an artistically folded
damask napkin, set off a dinner-table.

About this time Madame Desvarennes, while calcu-
lating how much the millers must gain on the flour they
sell to the bakers, resolved, in order to lessen expenses,
to do without middlemen and grind her own corn.
Michel, naturally timid, was frightened when his wife
disclosed to him the simple project which she had formed.
Accustomed to submit to the will of her whom he re-
spectfully called "the mistress," and of whom he was
but the head clerk, he dared not oppose her. But, a red-
tapist by nature, and hating innovations, owing to weak-
ness of mind, he trembled inwardly and cried in agony:

"Wife, you'll ruin us."

The mistress calmed the poor man's alarm; she
tried to impart to him some of her confidence, to ani-
mate him with her hope, but without success, so she
went on without him. A mill was for sale at Jouy, on
the banks of the Oise ; she paid ready money for it, and
a few weeks later the bakery in the Rue Vivienne was
independent of every one. She ground her own flour,
and from that time business increased considerably.
Feeling capable of carrying out large undertakings, and,
moreover, desirous of giving up the meannesses of re-
tail trade, Madame Desvarennes, one fine day, sent in
a tender for supplying bread to the military hospitals.
It was accepted, and from that time the house ranked



GEORGES OHNET

among the most important. On seeing the Desvarennes
take their daring flight, the leading men in the trade
had said:

"They have system and activity, and if they do not
upset on the way, they will attain a high position."

But the mistress seemed to have the gift of divina-
tion. She worked surely if she struck out one way
you might be certain that success was there. In all her
enterprises, "good luck" stood close by her; she scented
failures from afar, and the firm never made a bad debt.
Still Michel continued to tremble. The first mill had
been followed by many more; then the old system ap-
peared insufficient to Madame Desvarennes. As she
wished to keep up with the increase of business she had
steam-mills built, which are now grinding three hun-
dred million francs' worth of corn every year.

Fortune had favored the house immensely, but Michel
continued to tremble. From time to time when the
mistress launched out a new business, he timidly vent-
ured on his usual saying:

"Wife, you're going to ruin us."

But one felt it was only for form's sake, and that he
himself no longer meant what he said. Madame Des-
varennes received this plaintive remonstrance with a
calm smile, and answered, maternally, as to a child:

"There, there, don't be frightened."

Then she would set to work again, and direct with
irresistible vigor the army of clerks who peopled her
counting-houses.

In fifteen years' time, by prodigious efforts of will
and energy, Madame Desvarennes had made her way
[41



SERGE PANINE

from the lonely and muddy Rue Neuve-Coquenard to
the mansion in the Rue Saint-Dominique. Of the bak-
e"y there was no longer question. It was some time
since the business in the Rue Vivienne had been trans-
ferred to the foreman of the shop. The flour trade
alone occupied Madame Desvarennes's attention. She
ruled the prices in the market; and great bankers came
to her office and did business with her on a footing of
equality. She did not become any prouder for it, she
knew too well the strength and weakness of life to have
pride; her former plain dealing had not stiffened into
self-sufficiency. Such as one had known her when
beginning business, such one found her in the zenith of
her fortune. Instead of a woollen gown she wore a silk
one, but the color was still black ; her language had not
become refined; she retained the same blunt familiar
accent, and at the end of five minutes' conversation
with any one of importance she could not resist calling
him "my dear," to come morally near him. Her com-
mands had more fulness. In giving her orders, she had
the manner of a commander-in-chief , and it was useless
to haggle when she had spoken. The best thing to do
was to obey, as well and as promptly as possible.

Placed in a political sphere, this marvellously gifted
woman would have been a Madame Roland; born to
the throne, she would have been a Catherine II. ; there
was genius in her. Sprung from the lower ranks, her su-
periority had given her wealth; had she come from the
higher, the great mind might have governed the world.

Still she was not happy ; she had been married fifteen
years, and her fireside was devoid of a cradle. During

is]



GEORGES OHNET

the first years she had rejoiced at not having a child.
Where could she have found time to occupy herself
with a baby? Business engrossed her attention; she
had no leisure to amuse herself with trifles. Maternity
seemed to her a luxury for rich women; she had her


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