Gustave Flaubert.

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

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the same way. Louise and Frederick walked in front of them. She had
caught hold of his arm; and, when she was some distance away from the
others she said:

"Ah! at last! at last! I've had enough to bear all the evening! How
nasty those women were! What haughty airs they had!"

He made an effort to defend them.

"First of all, you might certainly have spoken to me the moment you came
in, after being away a whole year!"

"It was not a year," said Frederick, glad to be able to give some sort
of rejoinder on this point in order to avoid the other questions.

"Be it so; the time appeared very long to me, that's all. But, during
this horrid dinner, one would think you felt ashamed of me. Ah! I
understand - I don't possess what is needed in order to please as they
do."

"You are mistaken," said Frederick.

"Really! Swear to me that you don't love anyone!"

He did swear.

"You love nobody but me alone?"

"I assure you, I do not."

This assurance filled her with delight. She would have liked to lose her
way in the streets, so that they might walk about together the whole
night.

"I have been so much tormented down there! Nothing was talked about but
barricades. I imagined I saw you falling on your back covered with
blood! Your mother was confined to her bed with rheumatism. She knew
nothing about what was happening. I had to hold my tongue. I could stand
it no longer, so I took Catherine with me."

And she related to him all about her departure, her journey, and the lie
she told her father.

"He's bringing me back in two days. Come to-morrow evening, as if you
were merely paying a casual visit, and take advantage of the opportunity
to ask for my hand in marriage."

Never had Frederick been further from the idea of marriage. Besides,
Mademoiselle Roque appeared to him a rather absurd young person. How
different she was from a woman like Madame Dambreuse! A very different
future was in store for him. He had found reason to-day to feel
perfectly certain on that point; and, therefore, this was not the time
to involve himself, from mere sentimental motives, in a step of such
momentous importance. It was necessary now to be decisive - and then he
had seen Madame Arnoux once more. Nevertheless he was rather embarrassed
by Louise's candour.

He said in reply to her last words:

"Have you considered this matter?"

"How is that?" she exclaimed, frozen with astonishment and indignation.

He said that to marry at such a time as this would be a piece of folly.

"So you don't want to have me?"

"Nay, you don't understand me!"

And he plunged into a confused mass of verbiage in order to impress upon
her that he was kept back by more serious considerations; that he had
business on hand which it would take a long time to dispose of; that
even his inheritance had been placed in jeopardy (Louise cut all this
explanation short with one plain word); that, last of all, the present
political situation made the thing undesirable. So, then, the most
reasonable course was to wait patiently for some time. Matters would, no
doubt, right themselves - at least, he hoped so; and, as he could think
of no further grounds to go upon just at that moment, he pretended to
have been suddenly reminded that he should have been with Dussardier two
hours ago.

Then, bowing to the others, he darted down the Rue Hauteville, took a
turn round the Gymnase, returned to the boulevard, and quickly rushed up
Rosanette's four flights of stairs.

M. and Madame Arnoux left Pére Roque and his daughter at the entrance of
the Rue Saint-Denis. Husband and wife returned home without exchanging a
word, as he was unable to continue chattering any longer, feeling quite
worn out. She even leaned against his shoulder. He was the only man who
had displayed any honourable sentiments during the evening. She
entertained towards him feelings of the utmost indulgence. Meanwhile, he
cherished a certain degree of spite against Frederick.

"Did you notice his face when a question was asked about the portrait?
When I told you that he was her lover, you did not wish to believe what
I said!"

"Oh! yes, I was wrong!"

Arnoux, gratified with his triumph, pressed the matter even further.

"I'd even make a bet that when he left us, a little while ago, he went
to see her again. He's with her at this moment, you may be sure! He's
finishing the evening with her!"

Madame Arnoux had pulled down her hat very low.

"Why, you're shaking all over!"

"That's because I feel cold!" was her reply.

As soon as her father was asleep, Louise made her way into Catherine's
room, and, catching her by the shoulders, shook her.

"Get up - quick! as quick as ever you can! and go and fetch a cab for
me!"

Catherine replied that there was not one to be had at such an hour.

"Will you come with me yourself there, then?"

"Where, might I ask?"

"To Frederick's house!"

"Impossible! What do you want to go there for?"

It was in order to have a talk with him. She could not wait. She must
see him immediately.

"Just think of what you're about to do! To present yourself this way at
a house in the middle of the night! Besides, he's asleep by this time!"

"I'll wake him up!"

"But this is not a proper thing for a young girl to do!"

"I am not a young girl - I'm his wife! I love him! Come - put on your
shawl!"

Catherine, standing at the side of the bed, was trying to make up her
mind how to act. She said at last:

"No! I won't go!"

"Well, stay behind then! I'll go there by myself!"

Louise glided like an adder towards the staircase. Catherine rushed
after her, and came up with her on the footpath outside the house. Her
remonstrances were fruitless; and she followed the girl, fastening her
undervest as she hurried along in the rear. The walk appeared to her
exceedingly tedious. She complained that her legs were getting weak from
age.

"I'll go on after you - faith, I haven't the same thing to drive me on
that you have!"

Then she grew softened.

"Poor soul! You haven't anyone now but your Catau, don't you see?"

From time to time scruples took hold of her mind.

"Ah, this is a nice thing you're making me do! Suppose your father
happened to wake and miss you! Lord God, let us hope no misfortune will
happen!"

In front of the Théâtre des Variétés, a patrol of National Guards
stopped them.

Louise immediately explained that she was going with her servant to look
for a doctor in the Rue Rumfort. The patrol allowed them to pass on.

At the corner of the Madeleine they came across a second patrol, and,
Louise having given the same explanation, one of the National Guards
asked in return:

"Is it for a nine months' ailment, ducky?"

"Oh, damn it!" exclaimed the captain, "no blackguardisms in the ranks!
Pass on, ladies!"

In spite of the captain's orders, they still kept cracking jokes.

"I wish you much joy!"

"My respects to the doctor!"

"Mind the wolf!"

"They like laughing," Catherine remarked in a loud tone. "That's the way
it is to be young."

At length they reached Frederick's abode.

Louise gave the bell a vigorous pull, which she repeated several times.
The door opened a little, and, in answer to her inquiry, the porter
said:

"No!"

"But he must be in bed!"

"I tell you he's not. Why, for nearly three months he has not slept at
home!"

And the little pane of the lodge fell down sharply, like the blade of a
guillotine.

They remained in the darkness under the archway.

An angry voice cried out to them:

"Be off!"

The door was again opened; they went away.

Louise had to sit down on a boundary-stone; and clasping her face with
her hands, she wept copious tears welling up from her full heart. The
day was breaking, and carts were making their way into the city.

Catherine led her back home, holding her up, kissing her, and offering
her every sort of consolation that she could extract from her own
experience. She need not give herself so much trouble about a lover. If
this one failed her, she could find others.




CHAPTER XVI.

UNPLEASANT NEWS FROM ROSANETTE.


When Rosanette's enthusiasm for the Gardes Mobiles had calmed down, she
became more charming than ever, and Frederick insensibly glided into the
habit of living with her.

The best portion of the day was the morning on the terrace. In a light
cambric dress, and with her stockingless feet thrust into slippers, she
kept moving about him - went and cleaned her canaries' cage, gave her
gold-fishes some water, and with a fire-shovel did a little amateur
gardening in the box filled with clay, from which arose a trellis of
nasturtiums, giving an attractive look to the wall. Then, resting, with
their elbows on the balcony, they stood side by side, gazing at the
vehicles and the passers-by; and they warmed themselves in the sunlight,
and made plans for spending the evening. He absented himself only for
two hours at most, and, after that, they would go to some theatre, where
they would get seats in front of the stage; and Rosanette, with a large
bouquet of flowers in her hand, would listen to the instruments, while
Frederick, leaning close to her ear, would tell her comic or amatory
stories. At other times they took an open carriage to drive to the Bois
de Boulogne. They kept walking about slowly until the middle of the
night. At last they made their way home through the Arc de Triomphe and
the grand avenue, inhaling the breeze, with the stars above their heads,
and with all the gas-lamps ranged in the background of the perspective
like a double string of luminous pearls.

Frederick always waited for her when they were going out together. She
was a very long time fastening the two ribbons of her bonnet; and she
smiled at herself in the mirror set in the wardrobe; then she would draw
her arm over his, and, making him look at himself in the glass beside
her:

"We produce a good effect in this way, the two of us side by side. Ah!
my poor darling, I could eat you!"

He was now her chattel, her property. She wore on her face a continuous
radiance, while at the same time she appeared more languishing in
manner, more rounded in figure; and, without being able to explain in
what way, he found her altered, nevertheless.

One day she informed him, as if it were a very important bit of news,
that my lord Arnoux had lately set up a linen-draper's shop for a woman
who was formerly employed in his pottery-works. He used to go there
every evening - "he spent a great deal on it no later than a week ago; he
had even given her a set of rosewood furniture."

"How do you know that?" said Frederick.

"Oh! I'm sure of it."

Delphine, while carrying out some orders for her, had made enquiries
about the matter, She must, then, be much attached to Arnoux to take
such a deep interest in his movements. He contented himself with saying
to her in reply:

"What does this signify to you?"

Rosanette looked surprised at this question.

"Why, the rascal owes me money. Isn't it atrocious to see him keeping
beggars?"

Then, with an expression of triumphant hate in her face:

"Besides, she is having a nice laugh at him. She has three others on
hand. So much the better; and I'll be glad if she eats him up, even to
the last farthing!"

Arnoux had, in fact, let himself be made use of by the girl from
Bordeaux with the indulgence which characterises senile attachments. His
manufactory was no longer going on. The entire state of his affairs was
pitiable; so that, in order to set them afloat again, he was at first
projecting the establishment of a _café chantant_, at which only
patriotic pieces would be sung. With a grant from the Minister, this
establishment would become at the same time a focus for the purpose of
propagandism and a source of profit. Now that power had been directed
into a different channel, the thing was impossible.

His next idea was a big military hat-making business. He lacked capital,
however, to give it a start.

He was not more fortunate in his domestic life. Madame Arnoux was less
agreeable in manner towards him, sometimes even a little rude. Berthe
always took her father's part. This increased the discord, and the house
was becoming intolerable. He often set forth in the morning, passed his
day in making long excursions out of the city, in order to divert his
thoughts, then dined at a rustic tavern, abandoning himself to his
reflections.

The prolonged absence of Frederick disturbed his habits. Then he
presented himself one afternoon, begged of him to come and see him as in
former days, and obtained from him a promise to do so.

Frederick did not feel sufficient courage within him to go back to
Madame Arnoux's house. It seemed to him as if he had betrayed her. But
this conduct was very pusillanimous. There was no excuse for it. There
was only one way of ending the matter, and so, one evening, he set out
on his way.

As the rain was falling, he had just turned up the Passage Jouffroy,
when, under the light shed from the shop-windows, a fat little man
accosted him. Frederick had no difficulty in recognising Compain, that
orator whose motion had excited so much laughter at the club. He was
leaning on the arm of an individual whose head was muffled in a zouave's
red cap, with a very long upper lip, a complexion as yellow as an
orange, a tuft of beard under his jaw, and big staring eyes listening
with wonder.

Compain was, no doubt, proud of him, for he said:

"Let me introduce you to this jolly dog! He is a bootmaker whom I
include amongst my friends. Come and let us take something!"

Frederick having thanked him, he immediately thundered against Rateau's
motion, which he described as a manoeuvre of the aristocrats. In order
to put an end to it, it would be necessary to begin '93 over again! Then
he enquired about Regimbart and some others, who were also well known,
such as Masselin, Sanson, Lecornu, Maréchal, and a certain Deslauriers,
who had been implicated in the case of the carbines lately intercepted
at Troyes.

All this was new to Frederick. Compain knew nothing more about the
subject. He quitted the young man with these words:

"You'll come soon, will you not? for you belong to it."

"To what?"

"The calf's head!"

"What calf's head?"

"Ha, you rogue!" returned Compain, giving him a tap on the stomach.

And the two terrorists plunged into a café.

Ten minutes later Frederick was no longer thinking of Deslauriers. He
was on the footpath of the Rue de Paradis in front of a house; and he
was staring at the light which came from a lamp in the second floor
behind a curtain.

At length he ascended the stairs.

"Is Arnoux there?"

The chambermaid answered:

"No; but come in all the same."

And, abruptly opening a door:

"Madame, it is Monsieur Moreau!"

She arose, whiter than the collar round her neck.

"To what do I owe the honour - of a visit - so unexpected?"

"Nothing. The pleasure of seeing old friends once more."

And as he took a seat:

"How is the worthy Arnoux going on?"

"Very well. He has gone out."

"Ah, I understand! still following his old nightly practices. A little
distraction!"

"And why not? After a day spent in making calculations, the head needs a
rest."

She even praised her husband as a hard-working man. Frederick was
irritated at hearing this eulogy; and pointing towards a piece of black
cloth with a narrow blue braid which lay on her lap:

"What is it you are doing there?"

"A jacket which I am trimming for my daughter."

"Now that you remind me of it, I have not seen her. Where is she, pray?"

"At a boarding-school," was Madame Arnoux's reply.

Tears came into her eyes. She held them back, while she rapidly plied
her needle. To keep himself in countenance, he took up a number of
_L'Illustration_ which had been lying on the table close to where she
sat.

"These caricatures of Cham are very funny, are they not?"

"Yes."

Then they relapsed into silence once more.

All of a sudden, a fierce gust of wind shook the window-panes.

"What weather!" said Frederick.

"It was very good of you, indeed, to come here in the midst of this
dreadful rain."

"Oh! what do I care about that? I'm not like those whom it prevents, no
doubt, from going to keep their appointments."

"What appointments?" she asked with an ingenuous air.

"Don't you remember?"

A shudder ran through her frame and she hung down her head.

He gently laid his hand on her arm.

"I assure you that you have given me great pain."

She replied, with a sort of wail in her voice:

"But I was frightened about my child."

She told him about Eugène's illness, and all the tortures which she had
endured on that day.

"Thanks! thanks! I doubt you no longer. I love you as much as ever."

"Ah! no; it is not true!"

"Why so?"

She glanced at him coldly.

"You forget the other! the one you took with you to the races! the woman
whose portrait you have - your mistress!"

"Well, yes!" exclaimed Frederick, "I don't deny anything! I am a wretch!
Just listen to me!"

If he had done this, it was through despair, as one commits suicide.
However, he had made her very unhappy in order to avenge himself on her
with his own shame.

"What mental anguish! Do you not realise what it means?"

Madame Arnoux turned away her beautiful face while she held out her hand
to him; and they closed their eyes, absorbed in a kind of intoxication
that was like a sweet, ceaseless rocking. Then they stood face to face,
gazing at one another.

"Could you believe it possible that I no longer loved you?"

She replied in a low voice, full of caressing tenderness:

"No! in spite of everything, I felt at the bottom of my heart that it
was impossible, and that one day the obstacle between us two would
disappear!"

"So did I; and I was dying to see you again."

"I once passed close to you in the Palais-Royal!"

"Did you really?"

And he spoke to her of the happiness he experienced at coming across her
again at the Dambreuses' house.

"But how I hated you that evening as I was leaving the place!"

"Poor boy!"

"My life is so sad!"

"And mine, too! If it were only the vexations, the anxieties, the
humiliations, all that I endure as wife and as mother, seeing that one
must die, I would not complain; the frightful part of it is my solitude,
without anyone."

"But you have me here with you!"

"Oh! yes!"

A sob of deep emotion made her bosom swell. She spread out her arms, and
they strained one another, while their lips met in a long kiss.

A creaking sound on the floor not far from them reached their ears.
There was a woman standing close to them; it was Rosanette. Madame
Arnoux had recognised her. Her eyes, opened to their widest, scanned
this woman, full of astonishment and indignation. At length Rosanette
said to her:

"I have come to see Monsieur Arnoux about a matter of business."

"You see he is not here."

"Ah! that's true," returned the Maréchale. "Your nurse is right! A
thousand apologies!"

And turning towards Frederick:

"So here you are - you?"

The familiar tone in which she addressed him, and in her own presence,
too, made Madame Arnoux flush as if she had received a slap right across
the face.

"I tell you again, he is not here!"

Then the Maréchale, who was looking this way and that, said quietly:

"Let us go back together! I have a cab waiting below."

He pretended not to hear.

"Come! let us go!"

"Ah! yes! this is a good opportunity! Go! go!" said Madame Arnoux.

They went off together, and she stooped over the head of the stairs in
order to see them once more, and a laugh - piercing, heart-rending,
reached them from the place where she stood. Frederick pushed Rosanette
into the cab, sat down opposite her, and during the entire drive did not
utter a word.

The infamy, which it outraged him to see once more flowing back on him,
had been brought about by himself alone. He experienced at the same time
the dishonour of a crushing humiliation and the regret caused by the
loss of his new-found happiness. Just when, at last, he had it in his
grasp, it had for ever more become impossible, and that through the
fault of this girl of the town, this harlot. He would have liked to
strangle her. He was choking with rage. When they had got into the house
he flung his hat on a piece of furniture and tore off his cravat.

"Ha! you have just done a nice thing - confess it!"

She planted herself boldly in front of him.

"Ah! well, what of that? Where's the harm?"

"What! You are playing the spy on me?"

"Is that my fault? Why do you go to amuse yourself with virtuous
women?"

"Never mind! I don't wish you to insult them."

"How have I insulted them?"

He had no answer to make to this, and in a more spiteful tone:

"But on the other occasion, at the Champ de Mars - - "

"Ah! you bore us to death with your old women!"

"Wretch!"

He raised his fist.

"Don't kill me! I'm pregnant!"

Frederick staggered back.

"You are lying!"

"Why, just look at me!"

She seized a candlestick, and pointing at her face:

"Don't you recognise the fact there?"

Little yellow spots dotted her skin, which was strangely swollen.
Frederick did not deny the evidence. He went to the window, and opened
it, took a few steps up and down the room, and then sank into an
armchair.

This event was a calamity which, in the first place, put off their
rupture, and, in the next place, upset all his plans. The notion of
being a father, moreover, appeared to him grotesque, inadmissible. But
why? If, in place of the Maréchale - - And his reverie became so deep
that he had a kind of hallucination. He saw there, on the carpet, in
front of the chimney-piece, a little girl. She resembled Madame Arnoux
and himself a little - dark, and yet fair, with two black eyes, very
large eyebrows, and a red ribbon in her curling hair. (Oh, how he would
have loved her!) And he seemed to hear her voice saying: "Papa! papa!"

Rosanette, who had just undressed herself, came across to him, and
noticing a tear in his eyelids, kissed him gravely on the forehead.

He arose, saying:

"By Jove, we mustn't kill this little one!"

Then she talked a lot of nonsense. To be sure, it would be a boy, and
its name would be Frederick. It would be necessary for her to begin
making its clothes; and, seeing her so happy, a feeling of pity for her
took possession of him. As he no longer cherished any anger against her,
he desired to know the explanation of the step she had recently taken.
She said it was because Mademoiselle Vatnaz had sent her that day a bill
which had been protested for some time past; and so she hastened to
Arnoux to get the money from him.

"I'd have given it to you!" said Frederick.

"It is a simpler course for me to get over there what belongs to me, and
to pay back to the other one her thousand francs."

"Is this really all you owe her?"

She answered:

"Certainly!"

On the following day, at nine o'clock in the evening (the hour specified
by the doorkeeper), Frederick repaired to Mademoiselle Vatnaz's
residence.

In the anteroom, he jostled against the furniture, which was heaped
together. But the sound of voices and of music guided him. He opened a
door, and tumbled into the middle of a rout. Standing up before a piano,
which a young lady in spectacles was fingering, Delmar, as serious as a
pontiff, was declaiming a humanitarian poem on prostitution; and his
hollow voice rolled to the accompaniment of the metallic chords. A row
of women sat close to the wall, attired, as a rule, in dark colours
without neck-bands or sleeves. Five or six men, all people of culture,
occupied seats here and there. In an armchair was seated a former writer
of fables, a mere wreck now; and the pungent odour of the two lamps was
intermingled with the aroma of the chocolate which filled a number of
bowls placed on the card-table.

Mademoiselle Vatnaz, with an Oriental shawl thrown over her shoulders,
sat at one side of the chimney-piece. Dussardier sat facing her at the
other side. He seemed to feel himself in an embarrassing position.
Besides, he was rather intimidated by his artistic surroundings. Had the
Vatnaz, then, broken off with Delmar? Perhaps not. However, she seemed
jealous of the worthy shopman; and Frederick, having asked to let him
exchange a word with her, she made a sign to him to go with them into
her own apartment. When the thousand francs were paid down before her,
she asked, in addition, for interest.

"'Tisn't worth while," said Dussardier.

"Pray hold your tongue!"

This want of moral courage on the part of so brave a man was agreeable


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