Gustave Flaubert.

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

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illusions; and, in the next place, the honeymoon made everything look
beautiful. The last two who remained behind were M. de Grémonville and
Frederick. The diplomatist was not inclined to leave. At last he
departed at midnight. Madame Dambreuse beckoned to Frederick to go with
him, and thanked him for this compliance with her wishes by giving him a
gentle pressure with her hand more delightful than anything that had
gone before.

The Maréchale uttered an exclamation of joy on seeing him again. She had
been waiting for him for the last five hours. He gave as an excuse for
the delay an indispensable step which he had to take in the interests of
Deslauriers. His face wore a look of triumph, and was surrounded by an
aureola which dazzled Rosanette.

"'Tis perhaps on account of your black coat, which fits you well; but I
have never seen you look so handsome! How handsome you are!"

In a transport of tenderness, she made a vow internally never again to
belong to any other man, no matter what might be the consequence, even
if she were to die of want.

Her pretty eyes sparkled with such intense passion that Frederick took
her upon his knees and said to himself:

"What a rascally part I am playing!" while admiring his own perversity.




CHAPTER XVII.

A STRANGE BETROTHAL.


M. Dambreuse, when Deslauriers presented himself at his house, was
thinking of reviving his great coal-mining speculation. But this fusion
of all the companies into one was looked upon unfavourably; there was an
outcry against monopolies, as if immense capital were not needed for
carrying out enterprises of this kind!

Deslauriers, who had read for the purpose the work of Gobet and the
articles of M. Chappe in the _Journal des Mines_, understood the
question perfectly. He demonstrated that the law of 1810 established for
the benefit of the grantee a privilege which could not be transferred.
Besides, a democratic colour might be given to the undertaking. To
interfere with the formation of coal-mining companies was against the
principle even of association.

M. Dambreuse intrusted to him some notes for the purpose of drawing up a
memorandum. As for the way in which he meant to pay for the work, he was
all the more profuse in his promises from the fact that they were not
very definite.

Deslauriers called again at Frederick's house, and gave him an account
of the interview. Moreover, he had caught a glimpse of Madame Dambreuse
at the bottom of the stairs, just as he was going out.

"I wish you joy - upon my soul, I do!"

Then they had a chat about the election. There was something to be
devised in order to carry it.

Three days later Deslauriers reappeared with a sheet of paper covered
with handwriting, intended for the newspapers, and which was nothing
less than a friendly letter from M. Dambreuse, expressing approval of
their friend's candidature. Supported by a Conservative and praised by a
Red, he ought to succeed. How was it that the capitalist had put his
signature to such a lucubration? The advocate had, of his own motion,
and without the least appearance of embarrassment, gone and shown it to
Madame Dambreuse, who, thinking it quite appropriate, had taken the rest
of the business on her own shoulders.

Frederick was astonished at this proceeding. Nevertheless, he approved
of it; then, as Deslauriers was to have an interview with M. Roque, his
friend explained to him how he stood with regard to Louise.

"Tell them anything you like; that my affairs are in an unsettled state,
that I am putting them in order. She is young enough to wait!"

Deslauriers set forth, and Frederick looked upon himself as a very able
man. He experienced, moreover, a feeling of gratification, a profound
satisfaction. His delight at being the possessor of a rich woman was not
spoiled by any contrast. The sentiment harmonised with the surroundings.
His life now would be full of joy in every sense.

Perhaps the most delicious sensation of all was to gaze at Madame
Dambreuse in the midst of a number of other ladies in her drawing-room.
The propriety of her manners made him dream of other attitudes. While
she was talking in a tone of coldness, he would recall to mind the
loving words which she had murmured in his ear. All the respect which he
felt for her virtue gave him a thrill of pleasure, as if it were a
homage which was reflected back on himself; and at times he felt a
longing to exclaim:

"But I know her better than you! She is mine!"

It was not long ere their relations came to be socially recognised as an
established fact. Madame Dambreuse, during the whole winter, brought
Frederick with her into fashionable society.

He nearly always arrived before her; and he watched her as she entered
the house they were visiting with her arms uncovered, a fan in her hand,
and pearls in her hair. She would pause on the threshold (the lintel of
the door formed a framework round her head), and she would open and shut
her eyes with a certain air of indecision, in order to see whether he
was there.

She drove him back in her carriage; the rain lashed the carriage-blinds.
The passers-by seemed merely shadows wavering in the mire of the street;
and, pressed close to each other, they observed all these things vaguely
with a calm disdain. Under various pretexts, he would linger in her room
for an entire additional hour.

It was chiefly through a feeling of ennui that Madame Dambreuse had
yielded. But this latest experience was not to be wasted. She desired to
give herself up to an absorbing passion; and so she began to heap on
his head adulations and caresses.

She sent him flowers; she had an upholstered chair made for him. She
made presents to him of a cigar-holder, an inkstand, a thousand little
things for daily use, so that every act of his life should recall her to
his memory. These kind attentions charmed him at first, and in a little
while appeared to him very simple.

She would step into a cab, get rid of it at the opening into a by-way,
and come out at the other end; and then, gliding along by the walls,
with a double veil on her face, she would reach the street where
Frederick, who had been keeping watch, would take her arm quickly to
lead her towards his house. His two men-servants would have gone out for
a walk, and the doorkeeper would have been sent on some errand. She
would throw a glance around her - nothing to fear! - and she would breathe
forth the sigh of an exile who beholds his country once more. Their good
fortune emboldened them. Their appointments became more frequent. One
evening, she even presented herself, all of a sudden, in full
ball-dress. These surprises might have perilous consequences. He
reproached her for her lack of prudence. Nevertheless, he was not taken
with her appearance. The low body of her dress exposed her thinness too
freely.

It was then that he discovered what had hitherto been hidden from
him - the disillusion of his senses. None the less did he make
professions of ardent love; but in order to call up such emotions he
found it necessary to evoke the images of Rosanette and Madame Arnoux.

This sentimental atrophy left his intellect entirely untrammelled; and
he was more ambitious than ever of attaining a high position in society.
Inasmuch as he had such a stepping-stone, the very least he could do was
to make use of it.

One morning, about the middle of January, Sénécal entered his study, and
in response to his exclamation of astonishment, announced that he was
Deslauriers' secretary. He even brought Frederick a letter. It contained
good news, and yet it took him to task for his negligence; he would have
to come down to the scene of action at once. The future deputy said he
would set out on his way there in two days' time.

Sénécal gave no opinion on the other's merits as a candidate. He spoke
about his own concerns and about the affairs of the country.

Miserable as the state of things happened to be, it gave him pleasure,
for they were advancing in the direction of Communism. In the first
place, the Administration led towards it of its own accord, since every
day a greater number of things were controlled by the Government. As for
Property, the Constitution of '48, in spite of its weaknesses, had not
spared it. The State might, in the name of public utility, henceforth
take whatever it thought would suit it. Sénécal declared himself in
favour of authority; and Frederick noticed in his remarks the
exaggeration which characterised what he had said himself to
Deslauriers. The Republican even inveighed against the masses for their
inadequacy.

"Robespierre, by upholding the right of the minority, had brought Louis
XVI. to acknowledge the National Convention, and saved the people.
Things were rendered legitimate by the end towards which they were
directed. A dictatorship is sometimes indispensable. Long live tyranny,
provided that the tyrant promotes the public welfare!"

Their discussion lasted a long time; and, as he was taking his
departure, Sénécal confessed (perhaps it was the real object of his
visit) that Deslauriers was getting very impatient at M. Dambreuse's
silence.

But M. Dambreuse was ill. Frederick saw him every day, his character of
an intimate friend enabling him to obtain admission to the invalid's
bedside.

General Changarnier's recall had powerfully affected the capitalist's
mind. He was, on the evening of the occurrence, seized with a burning
sensation in his chest, together with an oppression that prevented him
from lying down. The application of leeches gave him immediate relief.
The dry cough disappeared; the respiration became more easy; and, eight
days later, he said, while swallowing some broth:

"Ah! I'm better now - but I was near going on the last long journey!"

"Not without me!" exclaimed Madame Dambreuse, intending by this remark
to convey that she would not be able to outlive him.

Instead of replying, he cast upon her and upon her lover a singular
smile, in which there was at the same time resignation, indulgence,
irony, and even, as it were, a touch of humour, a sort of secret
satisfaction almost amounting to actual joy.

Frederick wished to start for Nogent. Madame Dambreuse objected to this;
and he unpacked and re-packed his luggage by turns according to the
changes in the invalid's condition.

Suddenly M. Dambreuse spat forth considerable blood. The "princes of
medical science," on being consulted, could not think of any fresh
remedy. His legs swelled, and his weakness increased. He had several
times evinced a desire to see Cécile, who was at the other end of France
with her husband, now a collector of taxes, a position to which he had
been appointed a month ago. M. Dambreuse gave express orders to send for
her. Madame Dambreuse wrote three letters, which she showed him.

Without trusting him even to the care of the nun, she did not leave him
for one second, and no longer went to bed. The ladies who had their
names entered at the door-lodge made enquiries about her with feelings
of admiration, and the passers-by were filled with respect on seeing the
quantity of straw which was placed in the street under the windows.

On the 12th of February, at five o'clock, a frightful hæmoptysis came
on. The doctor who had charge of him pointed out that the case had
assumed a dangerous aspect. They sent in hot haste for a priest.

While M. Dambreuse was making his confession, Madame kept gazing
curiously at him some distance away. After this, the young doctor
applied a blister, and awaited the result.

The flame of the lamps, obscured by some of the furniture, lighted up
the apartment in an irregular fashion. Frederick and Madame Dambreuse,
at the foot of the bed, watched the dying man. In the recess of a window
the priest and the doctor chatted in low tones. The good sister on her
knees kept mumbling prayers.

At last came a rattling in the throat. The hands grew cold; the face
began to turn white. Now and then he drew a deep breath all of a
sudden; but gradually this became rarer and rarer. Two or three confused
words escaped him. He turned his eyes upward, and at the same moment his
respiration became so feeble that it was almost imperceptible. Then his
head sank on one side on the pillow.

For a minute, all present remained motionless.

Madame Dambreuse advanced towards the dead body of her husband, and,
without an effort - with the unaffectedness of one discharging a
duty - she drew down the eyelids. Then she spread out her two arms, her
figure writhing as if in a spasm of repressed despair, and quitted the
room, supported by the physician and the nun.

A quarter of an hour afterwards, Frederick made his way up to her
apartment.

There was in it an indefinable odour, emanating from some delicate
substances with which it was filled. In the middle of the bed lay a
black dress, which formed a glaring contrast with the pink coverlet.

Madame Dambreuse was standing at the corner of the mantelpiece. Without
attributing to her any passionate regret, he thought she looked a little
sad; and, in a mournful voice, he said:

"You are enduring pain?"

"I? No - not at all."

As she turned around, her eyes fell on the dress, which she inspected.
Then she told him not to stand on ceremony.

"Smoke, if you like! You can make yourself at home with me!"

And, with a great sigh:

"Ah! Blessed Virgin! - what a riddance!"

Frederick was astonished at this exclamation. He replied, as he kissed
her hand:

"All the same, you were free!"

This allusion to the facility with which the intrigue between them had
been carried on hurt Madame Dambreuse.

"Ah! you don't know the services that I did for him, or the misery in
which I lived!"

"What!"

"Why, certainly! Was it a safe thing to have always near him that
bastard, a daughter, whom he introduced into the house at the end of
five years of married life, and who, were it not for me, might have led
him into some act of folly?"

Then she explained how her affairs stood. The arrangement on the
occasion of her marriage was that the property of each party should be
separate.[I] The amount of her inheritance was three hundred thousand
francs. M. Dambreuse had guaranteed by the marriage contract that in the
event of her surviving him, she should have an income of fifteen
thousand francs a year, together with the ownership of the mansion. But
a short time afterwards he had made a will by which he gave her all he
possessed, and this she estimated, so far as it was possible to
ascertain just at present, at over three millions.

Frederick opened his eyes widely.


[I] A marriage may take place in France under the _régime de
communauté_, by which the husband has the enjoyment and the right of
disposing of the property both of himself and his wife; the _régime
dotal_, by which he can only dispose of the income; and the _régime de
séparation de biens_, by which husband and wife enjoy and exercise
control over their respective estates separately. - TRANSLATOR.


"It was worth the trouble, wasn't it? However, I contributed to it! It
was my own property I was protecting; Cécile would have unjustly robbed
me of it."

"Why did she not come to see her father?"

As he asked her this question Madame Dambreuse eyed him attentively;
then, in a dry tone:

"I haven't the least idea! Want of heart, probably! Oh! I know what she
is! And for that reason she won't get a farthing from me!"

She had not been very troublesome, he pointed out; at any rate, since
her marriage.

"Ha! her marriage!" said Madame Dambreuse, with a sneer. And she grudged
having treated only too well this stupid creature, who was jealous,
self-interested, and hypocritical. "All the faults of her father!" She
disparaged him more and more. There was never a person with such
profound duplicity, and with such a merciless disposition into the
bargain, as hard as a stone - "a bad man, a bad man!"

Even the wisest people fall into errors. Madame Dambreuse had just made
a serious one through this overflow of hatred on her part. Frederick,
sitting opposite her in an easy chair, was reflecting deeply,
scandalised by the language she had used.

She arose and knelt down beside him.

"To be with you is the only real pleasure! You are the only one I love!"

While she gazed at him her heart softened, a nervous reaction brought
tears into her eyes, and she murmured:

"Will you marry me?"

At first he thought he had not understood what she meant. He was stunned
by this wealth.

She repeated in a louder tone:

"Will you marry me?"

At last he said with a smile:

"Have you any doubt about it?"

Then the thought forced itself on his mind that his conduct was
infamous, and in order to make a kind of reparation to the dead man, he
offered to watch by his side himself. But, feeling ashamed of this pious
sentiment, he added, in a flippant tone:

"It would be perhaps more seemly."

"Perhaps so, indeed," she said, "on account of the servants."

The bed had been drawn completely out of the alcove. The nun was near
the foot of it, and at the head of it sat a priest, a different one, a
tall, spare man, with the look of a fanatical Spaniard. On the
night-table, covered with a white cloth, three wax-tapers were burning.

Frederick took a chair, and gazed at the corpse.

The face was as yellow as straw. At the corners of the mouth there were
traces of blood-stained foam. A silk handkerchief was tied around the
skull, and on the breast, covered with a knitted waistcoat, lay a silver
crucifix between the two crossed hands.

It was over, this life full of anxieties! How many journeys had he not
made to various places? How many rows of figures had he not piled
together? How many speculations had he not hatched? How many reports had
he not heard read? What quackeries, what smiles and curvets! For he had
acclaimed Napoléon, the Cossacks, Louis XVIII., 1830, the working-men,
every _régime_, loving power so dearly that he would have paid in order
to have the opportunity of selling himself.

But he had left behind him the estate of La Fortelle, three factories in
Picardy, the woods of Crancé in the Yonne, a farm near Orléans, and a
great deal of personal property in the form of bills and papers.

Frederick thus made an estimate of her fortune; and it would soon,
nevertheless, belong to him! First of all, he thought of "what people
would say"; then he asked himself what present he ought to make to his
mother, and he was concerned about his future equipages, and about
employing an old coachman belonging to his own family as the doorkeeper.
Of course, the livery would not be the same. He would convert the large
reception-room into his own study. There was nothing to prevent him by
knocking down three walls from setting up a picture-gallery on the
second-floor. Perhaps there might be an opportunity for introducing into
the lower portion of the house a hall for Turkish baths. As for M.
Dambreuse's office, a disagreeable spot, what use could he make of it?

These reflections were from time to time rudely interrupted by the
sounds made by the priest in blowing his nose, or by the good sister in
settling the fire.

But the actual facts showed that his thoughts rested on a solid
foundation. The corpse was there. The eyelids had reopened, and the
pupils, although steeped in clammy gloom, had an enigmatic, intolerable
expression.

Frederick fancied that he saw there a judgment directed against himself,
and he felt almost a sort of remorse, for he had never any complaint to
make against this man, who, on the contrary - -

"Come, now! an old wretch!" and he looked at the dead man more closely
in order to strengthen his mind, mentally addressing him thus:

"Well, what? Have I killed you?"

Meanwhile, the priest read his breviary; the nun, who sat motionless,
had fallen asleep. The wicks of the three wax-tapers had grown longer.

For two hours could be heard the heavy rolling of carts making their way
to the markets. The window-panes began to admit streaks of white. A cab
passed; then a group of donkeys went trotting over the pavement. Then
came strokes of hammers, cries of itinerant vendors of wood and blasts
of horns. Already every other sound was blended with the great voice of
awakening Paris.

Frederick went out to perform the duties assigned to him. He first
repaired to the Mayor's office to make the necessary declaration; then,
when the medical officer had given him a certificate of death, he called
a second time at the municipal buildings in order to name the cemetery
which the family had selected, and to make arrangements for the funeral
ceremonies.

The clerk in the office showed him a plan which indicated the mode of
interment adopted for the various classes, and a programme giving full
particulars with regard to the spectacular portion of the funeral. Would
he like to have an open funeral-car or a hearse with plumes, plaits on
the horses, and aigrettes on the footmen, initials or a coat-of-arms,
funeral-lamps, a man to display the family distinctions? and what number
of carriages would he require?

Frederick did not economise in the slightest degree. Madame Dambreuse
was determined to spare no expense.

After this he made his way to the church.

The curate who had charge of burials found fault with the waste of money
on funeral pomps. For instance, the officer for the display of armorial
distinctions was really useless. It would be far better to have a goodly
display of wax-tapers. A low mass accompanied by music would be
appropriate.

Frederick gave written directions to have everything that was agreed
upon carried out, with a joint undertaking to defray all the expenses.

He went next to the Hôtel de Ville to purchase a piece of ground. A
grant of a piece which was two metres in length and one in breadth[J]
cost five hundred francs. Did he want a grant for fifty years or
forever?

"Oh, forever!" said Frederick.

He took the whole thing seriously and got into a state of intense
anxiety about it. In the courtyard of the mansion a marble-cutter was
waiting to show him estimates and plans of Greek, Egyptian, and Moorish
tombs; but the family architect had already been in consultation with
Madame; and on the table in the vestibule there were all sorts of
prospectuses with reference to the cleaning of mattresses, the
disinfection of rooms, and the various processes of embalming.

After dining, he went back to the tailor's shop to order mourning for
the servants; and he had still to discharge another function, for the
gloves that he had ordered were of beaver, whereas the right kind for a
funeral were floss-silk.

When he arrived next morning, at ten o'clock, the large reception-room
was filled with people, and nearly everyone said, on encountering the
others, in a melancholy tone:

"It is only a month ago since I saw him! Good heavens! it will be the
same way with us all!"


[J] A metre is about 3-1/4 feet - TRANSLATOR.


"Yes; but let us try to keep it as far away from us as possible!"

Then there were little smiles of satisfaction; and they even engaged in
conversations entirely unsuited to the occasion. At length, the master
of the ceremonies, in a black coat in the French fashion and short
breeches, with a cloak, cambric mourning-bands, a long sword by his
side, and a three-cornered hat under his arm, gave utterance, with a
bow, to the customary words:

"Messieurs, when it shall be your pleasure."

The funeral started. It was the market-day for flowers on the Place de
la Madeleine. It was a fine day with brilliant sunshine; and the breeze,
which shook the canvas tents, a little swelled at the edges the enormous
black cloth which was hung over the church-gate. The escutcheon of M.
Dambreuse, which covered a square piece of velvet, was repeated there
three times. It was: _Sable, with an arm sinister or and a clenched hand
with a glove argent_; with the coronet of a count, and this device: _By
every path_.

The bearers lifted the heavy coffin to the top of the staircase, and
they entered the building. The six chapels, the hemicycles, and the
seats were hung with black. The catafalque at the end of the choir
formed, with its large wax-tapers, a single focus of yellow lights. At
the two corners, over the candelabra, flames of spirits of wine were
burning.

The persons of highest rank took up their position in the sanctuary, and
the rest in the nave; and then the Office for the Dead began.

With the exception of a few, the religious ignorance of all was so
profound that the master of the ceremonies had, from time to time, to


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