Gustave Flaubert.

Sentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 online

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"Yes, that's true; 'tis time! I'm going."

And Regimbart stepped upon the platform; then, pointing towards the
Spaniard, who had followed him:

"Allow me, citizens, to present to you a patriot from Barcelona!"

The patriot made a low bow, rolled his gleaming eyes about, and with his
hand on his heart:

"Ciudadanos! mucho aprecio el honor that you have bestowed on me!
however great may be vuestra bondad, mayor vuestra atención!"

"I claim the right to speak!" cried Frederick.

"Desde que se proclamo la constitutión de Cadiz, ese pacto fundamental
of las libertades Españolas, hasta la ultima revolución, nuestra patria
cuenta numerosos y heroicos mártires."

Frederick once more made an effort to obtain a hearing:

"But, citizens! - - "

The Spaniard went on: "El martes proximo tendra lugar en la iglesia de
la Magdelena un servicio fúnebre."

"In fact, this is ridiculous! Nobody understands him!"

This observation exasperated the audience.

"Turn him out! Turn him out!"

"Who? I?" asked Frederick.

"Yourself!" said Sénécal, majestically. "Out with you!"

He rose to leave, and the voice of the Iberian pursued him:

"Y todos los Españoles descarien ver alli reunidas las disputaciónes de
los clubs y de la milicia nacional. An oración fúnebre en honour of the
libertad Española y del mundo entero will be prononciado por un miembro
del clero of Paris en la sala Bonne Nouvelle. Honour al pueblo frances
que llamaria yo el primero pueblo del mundo, sino fuese ciudadano de
otra nación!"

"Aristo!" screamed one blackguard, shaking his fist at Frederick, as the
latter, boiling with indignation, rushed out into the yard adjoining the
place where the meeting was held.

He reproached himself for his devotedness, without reflecting that,
after all, the accusations brought against him were just.

What fatal idea was this candidature! But what asses! what idiots! He
drew comparisons between himself and these men, and soothed his wounded
pride with the thought of their stupidity.

Then he felt the need of seeing Rosanette. After such an exhibition of
ugly traits, and so much magniloquence, her dainty person would be a
source of relaxation. She was aware that he had intended to present
himself at a club that evening. However, she did not even ask him a
single question when he came in. She was sitting near the fire, ripping
open the lining of a dress. He was surprised to find her thus occupied.

"Hallo! what are you doing?"

"You can see for yourself," said she, dryly. "I am mending my clothes!
So much for this Republic of yours!"

"Why do you call it mine?"

"Perhaps you want to make out that it's mine!"

And she began to upbraid him for everything that had happened in France
for the last two months, accusing him of having brought about the
Revolution and with having ruined her prospects by making everybody that
had money leave Paris, and that she would by-and-by be dying in a
hospital.

"It is easy for you to talk lightly about it, with your yearly income!
However, at the rate at which things are going on, you won't have your
yearly income long."

"That may be," said Frederick. "The most devoted are always
misunderstood, and if one were not sustained by one's conscience, the
brutes that you mix yourself up with would make you feel disgusted with
your own self-denial!"

Rosanette gazed at him with knitted brows.

"Eh? What? What self-denial? Monsieur has not succeeded, it would seem?
So much the better! It will teach you to make patriotic donations. Oh,
don't lie! I know you have given them three hundred francs, for this
Republic of yours has to be kept. Well, amuse yourself with it, my good
man!"

Under this avalanche of abuse, Frederick passed from his former
disappointment to a more painful disillusion.

He withdrew to the lower end of the apartment. She came up to him.

"Look here! Think it out a bit! In a country as in a house, there must
be a master, otherwise, everyone pockets something out of the money
spent. At first, everybody knows that Ledru-Rollin is head over ears in
debt. As for Lamartine, how can you expect a poet to understand
politics? Ah! 'tis all very well for you to shake your head and to
presume that you have more brains than others; all the same, what I say
is true! But you are always cavilling; a person can't get in a word with
you! For instance, there's Fournier-Fontaine, who had stores at
Saint-Roch! do you know how much he failed for? Eight hundred thousand
francs! And Gomer, the packer opposite to him - another Republican, that
one - he smashed the tongs on his wife's head, and he drank so much
absinthe that he is going to be put into a private asylum. That's the
way with the whole of them - the Republicans! A Republic at twenty-five
percent. Ah! yes! plume yourself upon it!"

Frederick took himself off. He was disgusted at the foolishness of this
girl, which revealed itself all at once in the language of the populace.
He felt himself even becoming a little patriotic once more.

The ill-temper of Rosanette only increased. Mademoiselle Vatnaz
irritated him with her enthusiasm. Believing that she had a mission,
she felt a furious desire to make speeches, to carry on disputes,
and - sharper than Rosanette in matters of this sort - overwhelmed her
with arguments.

One day she made her appearance burning with indignation against
Hussonnet, who had just indulged in some blackguard remarks at the
Woman's Club. Rosanette approved of this conduct, declaring even that
she would take men's clothes to go and "give them a bit of her mind, the
entire lot of them, and to whip them."

Frederick entered at the same moment.

"You'll accompany me - won't you?"

And, in spite of his presence, a bickering match took place between
them, one of them playing the part of a citizen's wife and the other of
a female philosopher.

According to Rosanette, women were born exclusively for love, or in
order to bring up children, to be housekeepers.

According to Mademoiselle Vatnaz, women ought to have a position in the
Government. In former times, the Gaulish women, and also the Anglo-Saxon
women, took part in the legislation; the squaws of the Hurons formed a
portion of the Council. The work of civilisation was common to both. It
was necessary that all should contribute towards it, and that fraternity
should be substituted for egoism, association for individualism, and
cultivation on a large scale for minute subdivision of land.

"Come, that is good! you know a great deal about culture just now!"

"Why not? Besides, it is a question of humanity, of its future!"

"Mind your own business!"

"This is my business!"

They got into a passion. Frederick interposed. The Vatnaz became very
heated, and went so far as to uphold Communism.

"What nonsense!" said Rosanette. "How could such a thing ever come to
pass?"

The other brought forward in support of her theory the examples of the
Essenes, the Moravian Brethren, the Jesuits of Paraguay, the family of
the Pingons near Thiers in Auvergne; and, as she gesticulated a great
deal, her gold chain got entangled in her bundle of trinkets, to which
was attached a gold ornament in the form of a sheep.

Suddenly, Rosanette turned exceedingly pale.

Mademoiselle Vatnaz continued extricating her trinkets.

"Don't give yourself so much trouble," said Rosanette. "Now, I know your
political opinions."

"What?" replied the Vatnaz, with a blush on her face like that of a
virgin.

"Oh! oh! you understand me."

Frederick did not understand. There had evidently been something taking
place between them of a more important and intimate character than
Socialism.

"And even though it should be so," said the Vatnaz in reply, rising up
unflinchingly. "'Tis a loan, my dear - set off one debt against the
other."

"Faith, I don't deny my own debts. I owe some thousands of francs - a
nice sum. I borrow, at least; I don't rob anyone."

Mademoiselle Vatnaz made an effort to laugh.

"Oh! I would put my hand in the fire for him."

"Take care! it is dry enough to burn."

The spinster held out her right hand to her, and keeping it raised in
front of her:

"But there are friends of yours who find it convenient for them."

"Andalusians, I suppose? as castanets?"

"You beggar!"

The Maréchale made her a low bow.

"There's nobody so charming!"

Mademoiselle Vatnaz made no reply. Beads of perspiration appeared on her
temples. Her eyes fixed themselves on the carpet. She panted for breath.
At last she reached the door, and slamming it vigorously: "Good night!
You'll hear from me!"

"Much I care!" said Rosanette. The effort of self-suppression had
shattered her nerves. She sank down on the divan, shaking all over,
stammering forth words of abuse, shedding tears. Was it this threat on
the part of the Vatnaz that had caused so much agitation in her mind?
Oh, no! what did she care, indeed, about that one? It was the golden
sheep, a present, and in the midst of her tears the name of Delmar
escaped her lips. So, then, she was in love with the mummer?

"In that case, why did she take on with me?" Frederick asked himself.
"How is it that he has come back again? Who compels her to keep me?
Where is the sense of this sort of thing?"

Rosanette was still sobbing. She remained all the time stretched at the
edge of the divan, with her right cheek resting on her two hands, and
she seemed a being so dainty, so free from self-consciousness, and so
sorely troubled, that he drew closer to her and softly kissed her on the
forehead.

Thereupon she gave him assurances of her affection for him; the Prince
had just left her, they would be free. But she was for the time being
short of money. "You saw yourself that this was so, the other day, when
I was trying to turn my old linings to use." No more equipages now! And
this was not all; the upholsterer was threatening to resume possession
of the bedroom and the large drawing-room furniture. She did not know
what to do.

Frederick had a mind to answer:

"Don't annoy yourself about it. I will pay."

But the lady knew how to lie. Experience had enlightened her. He
confined himself to mere expressions of sympathy.

Rosanette's fears were not vain. It was necessary to give up the
furniture and to quit the handsome apartment in the Rue Drouot. She took
another on the Boulevard Poissonnière, on the fourth floor.

The curiosities of her old boudoir were quite sufficient to give to the
three rooms a coquettish air. There were Chinese blinds, a tent on the
terrace, and in the drawing-room a second-hand carpet still perfectly
new, with ottomans covered with pink silk. Frederick had contributed
largely to these purchases. He had felt the joy of a newly-married man
who possesses at last a house of his own, a wife of his own - and, being
much pleased with the place, he used to sleep there nearly every
evening.

One morning, as he was passing out through the anteroom, he saw, on the
third floor, on the staircase, the shako of a National Guard who was
ascending it. Where in the world was he going?

Frederick waited. The man continued his progress up the stairs, with his
head slightly bent down. He raised his eyes. It was my lord Arnoux!

The situation was clear. They both reddened simultaneously, overcome by
a feeling of embarrassment common to both.

Arnoux was the first to find a way out of the difficulty.

"She is better - isn't that so?" as if Rosanette were ill, and he had
come to learn how she was.

Frederick took advantage of this opening.

"Yes, certainly! at least, so I was told by her maid," wishing to convey
that he had not been allowed to see her.

Then they stood facing each other, both undecided as to what they would
do next, and eyeing one another intently. The question now was, which of
the two was going to remain. Arnoux once more solved the problem.

"Pshaw! I'll come back by-and-by. Where are you going? I go with you!"

And, when they were in the street, he chatted as naturally as usual.
Unquestionably he was not a man of jealous disposition, or else he was
too good-natured to get angry. Besides, his time was devoted to serving
his country. He never left off his uniform now. On the twenty-ninth of
March he had defended the offices of the _Presse_. When the Chamber was
invaded, he distinguished himself by his courage, and he was at the
banquet given to the National Guard at Amiens.

Hussonnet, who was still on duty with him, availed himself of his flask
and his cigars; but, irreverent by nature, he delighted in contradicting
him, disparaging the somewhat inaccurate style of the decrees; and
decrying the conferences at the Luxembourg, the women known as the
"Vésuviennes," the political section bearing the name of "Tyroliens";
everything, in fact, down to the Car of Agriculture, drawn by horses to
the ox-market, and escorted by ill-favoured young girls. Arnoux, on the
other hand, was the upholder of authority, and dreamed of uniting the
different parties. However, his own affairs had taken an unfavourable
turn, and he was more or less anxious about them.

He was not much troubled about Frederick's relations with the Maréchale;
for this discovery made him feel justified (in his conscience) in
withdrawing the allowance which he had renewed since the Prince had left
her. He pleaded by way of excuse for this step the embarrassed condition
in which he found himself, uttered many lamentations - and Rosanette was
generous. The result was that M. Arnoux regarded himself as the lover
who appealed entirely to the heart, an idea that raised him in his own
estimation and made him feel young again. Having no doubt that Frederick
was paying the Maréchale, he fancied that he was "playing a nice trick"
on the young man, even called at the house in such a stealthy fashion as
to keep the other in ignorance of the fact, and when they happened to
meet, left the coast clear for him.

Frederick was not pleased with this partnership, and his rival's
politeness seemed only an elaborate piece of sarcasm. But by taking
offence at it, he would have removed from his path every opportunity of
ever finding his way back to Madame Arnoux; and then, this was the only
means whereby he could hear about her movements. The earthenware-dealer,
in accordance with his usual practice, or perhaps with some cunning
design, recalled her readily in the course of conversation, and asked
him why he no longer came to see her.

Frederick, having exhausted every excuse he could frame, assured him
that he had called several times to see Madame Arnoux, but without
success. Arnoux was convinced that this was so, for he had often
referred in an eager tone at home to the absence of their friend, and
she had invariably replied that she was out when he called, so that
these two lies, in place of contradicting, corroborated each other.

The young man's gentle ways and the pleasure of finding a dupe in him
made Arnoux like him all the better. He carried familiarity to its
extreme limits, not through disdain, but through assurance. One day he
wrote saying that very urgent business compelled him to be away in the
country for twenty-four hours. He begged of the young man to mount guard
in his stead. Frederick dared not refuse, so he repaired to the
guard-house in the Place du Carrousel.

He had to submit to the society of the National Guards, and, with the
exception of a sugar-refiner, a witty fellow who drank to an inordinate
extent, they all appeared to him more stupid than their cartridge-boxes.
The principal subject of conversation amongst them was the substitution
of sashes for belts. Others declaimed against the national workshops.

One man said:

"Where are we going?"

The man to whom the words had been addressed opened his eyes as if he
were standing on the verge of an abyss.

"Where are we going?"

Then, one who was more daring than the rest exclaimed:

"It cannot last! It must come to an end!"

And as the same kind of talk went on till night, Frederick was bored to
death.

Great was his surprise when, at eleven o'clock, he suddenly beheld
Arnoux, who immediately explained that he had hurried back to set him at
liberty, having disposed of his own business.

The fact was that he had no business to transact. The whole thing was an
invention to enable him to spend twenty-four hours alone with Rosanette.
But the worthy Arnoux had placed too much confidence in his own powers,
so that, now in the state of lassitude which was the result, he was
seized with remorse. He had come to thank Frederick, and to invite him
to have some supper.

"A thousand thanks! I'm not hungry. All I want is to go to bed."

"A reason the more for having a snack together. How flabby you are! One
does not go home at such an hour as this. It is too late! It would be
dangerous!"

Frederick once more yielded. Arnoux was quite a favorite with his
brethren-in-arms, who had not expected to see him - and he was a
particular crony of the refiner. They were all fond of him, and he was
such a good fellow that he was sorry Hussonnet was not there. But he
wanted to shut his eyes for one minute, no longer.

"Sit down beside me!" said he to Frederick, stretching himself on the
camp-bed without taking off his belt and straps. Through fear of an
alarm, in spite of the regulation, he even kept his gun in his hand,
then stammered out some words:

"My darling! my little angel!" and ere long was fast asleep.

Those who had been talking to each other became silent; and gradually
there was a deep silence in the guard-house. Frederick tormented by the
fleas, kept staring about him. The wall, painted yellow, had, half-way
up, a long shelf, on which the knapsacks formed a succession of little
humps, while underneath, the muskets, which had the colour of lead, rose
up side by side; and there could be heard a succession of snores,
produced by the National Guards, whose stomachs were outlined through
the darkness in a confused fashion. On the top of the stove stood an
empty bottle and some plates. Three straw chairs were drawn around the
table, on which a pack of cards was displayed. A drum, in the middle of
the bench, let its strap hang down.

A warm breath of air making its way through the door caused the lamp to
smoke. Arnoux slept with his two arms wide apart; and, as his gun was
placed in a slightly crooked position, with the butt-end downward, the
mouth of the barrel came up right under his arm. Frederick noticed this,
and was alarmed.

"But, no, I'm wrong, there's nothing to be afraid of! And yet, suppose
he met his death!"

And immediately pictures unrolled themselves before his mind in endless
succession.

He saw himself with her at night in a post-chaise, then on a river's
bank on a summer's evening, and under the reflection of a lamp at home
in their own house. He even fixed his attention on household expenses
and domestic arrangements, contemplating, feeling already his happiness
between his hands; and in order to realise it, all that was needed was
that the cock of the gun should rise. The end of it could be pushed
with one's toe, the gun would go off - it would be a mere
accident - nothing more!

Frederick brooded over this idea like a playwright in the agonies of
composition. Suddenly it seemed to him that it was not far from being
carried into practical operation, and that he was going to contribute to
that result - that, in fact, he was yearning for it; and then a feeling
of absolute terror took possession of him. In the midst of this mental
distress he experienced a sense of pleasure, and he allowed himself to
sink deeper and deeper into it, with a dreadful consciousness all the
time that his scruples were vanishing. In the wildness of his reverie
the rest of the world became effaced, and he could only realise that he
was still alive from the intolerable oppression on his chest.

"Let us take a drop of white wine!" said the refiner, as he awoke.

Arnoux sprang to his feet, and, as soon as the white wine was swallowed,
he wanted to relieve Frederick of his sentry duty.

Then he brought him to have breakfast in the Rue de Chartres, at
Parly's, and as he required to recuperate his energies, he ordered two
dishes of meat, a lobster, an omelet with rum, a salad, etc., and
finished this off with a brand of Sauterne of 1819 and one of '42
Romanée, not to speak of the champagne at dessert and the liqueurs.

Frederick did not in any way gainsay him. He was disturbed in mind as if
by the thought that the other might somehow trace on his countenance the
idea that had lately flitted before his imagination. With both elbows on
the table and his head bent forward, so that he annoyed Frederick by his
fixed stare, he confided some of his hobbies to the young man.

He wanted to take for farming purposes all the embankments on the
Northern line, in order to plant potatoes there, or else to organise on
the boulevards a monster cavalcade in which the celebrities of the
period would figure. He would let all the windows, which would, at the
rate of three francs for each person, produce a handsome profit. In
short, he dreamed of a great stroke of fortune by means of a monopoly.
He assumed a moral tone, nevertheless, found fault with excesses and all
sorts of misconduct, spoke about his "poor father," and every evening,
as he said, made an examination of his conscience before offering his
soul to God.

"A little curaçao, eh?"

"Just as you please."

As for the Republic, things would right themselves; in fact, he looked
on himself as the happiest man on earth; and forgetting himself, he
exalted Rosanette's attractive qualities, and even compared her with his
wife. It was quite a different thing. You could not imagine a lovelier
person!

"Your health!"

Frederick touched glasses with him. He had, out of complaisance, drunk a
little too much. Besides, the strong sunlight dazzled him; and when they
went up the Rue Vivienne together again, their shoulders touched each
other in a fraternal fashion.

When he got home, Frederick slept till seven o'clock. After that he
called on the Maréchale. She had gone out with somebody - with Arnoux,
perhaps! Not knowing what to do with himself, he continued his promenade
along the boulevard, but could not get past the Porte Saint-Martin,
owing to the great crowd that blocked the way.

Want had abandoned to their own resources a considerable number of
workmen, and they used to come there every evening, no doubt for the
purpose of holding a review and awaiting a signal.

In spite of the law against riotous assemblies, these clubs of despair
increased to a frightful extent, and many citizens repaired every day to
the spot through bravado, and because it was the fashion.

All of a sudden Frederick caught a glimpse, three paces away, of M.
Dambreuse along with Martinon. He turned his head away, for M. Dambreuse
having got himself nominated as a representative of the people, he
cherished a secret spite against him. But the capitalist stopped him.

"One word, my dear monsieur! I have some explanations to make to you."

"I am not asking you for any."

"Pray listen to me!"

It was not his fault in any way. Appeals had been made to him; pressure
had, to a certain extent, been placed on him. Martinon immediately
endorsed all that he had said. Some of the electors of Nogent had
presented themselves in a deputation at his house.

"Besides, I expected to be free as soon as - - "

A crush of people on the footpath forced M. Dambreuse to get out of the
way. A minute after he reappeared, saying to Martinon:

"This is a genuine service, really, and you won't have any reason to
regret - - "

All three stood with their backs resting against a shop in order to be
able to chat more at their ease.

From time to time there was a cry of, "Long live Napoléon! Long live
Barbès! Down with Marie!"

The countless throng kept talking in very loud tones; and all these
voices, echoing through the houses, made, so to speak, the continuous
ripple of waves in a harbour. At intervals they ceased; and then could
be heard voices singing the "Marseillaise."

Under the court-gates, men of mysterious aspect offered sword-sticks to
those who passed. Sometimes two individuals, one of whom preceded the
other, would wink, and then quickly hurry away. The footpaths were
filled with groups of staring idlers. A dense crowd swayed to and fro on
the pavement. Entire bands of police-officers, emerging from the alleys,
had scarcely made their way into the midst of the multitude when they
were swallowed up in the mass of people. Little red flags here and there


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 10 of 21)