Gustave Flaubert.

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

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make signs to them to rise, to kneel, or to resume their seats. The
organ and the two double-basses could be heard alternately with the
voices. In the intervals of silence, the only sounds that reached the
ear were the mumblings of the priest at the altar; then the music and
the chanting went on again.

The light of day shone dimly through the three cupolas, but the open
door let in, as it were, a stream of white radiance, which, entering in
a horizontal direction, fell on every uncovered head; and in the air,
half-way towards the ceiling of the church, floated a shadow, which was
penetrated by the reflection of the gildings that decorated the ribbing
of the pendentives and the foliage of the capitals.

Frederick, in order to distract his attention, listened to the _Dies
iræ_. He gazed at those around him, or tried to catch a glimpse of the
pictures hanging too far above his head, wherein the life of the
Magdalen was represented. Luckily, Pellerin came to sit down beside him,
and immediately plunged into a long dissertation on the subject of
frescoes. The bell began to toll. They left the church.

The hearse, adorned with hanging draperies and tall plumes, set out for
Père-Lachaise drawn by four black horses, with their manes plaited,
their heads decked with tufts of feathers, and with large trappings
embroidered with silver flowing down to their shoes. The driver of the
vehicle, in Hessian boots, wore a three-cornered hat with a long piece
of crape falling down from it. The cords were held by four personages: a
questor of the Chamber of Deputies, a member of the General Council of
the Aube, a delegate from the coal-mining company, and Fumichon, as a
friend. The carriage of the deceased and a dozen mourning-coaches
followed. The persons attending at the funeral came in the rear, filling
up the middle of the boulevard.

The passers-by stopped to look at the mournful procession. Women, with
their brats in their arms, got up on chairs, and people, who had been
drinking glasses of beer in the cafés, presented themselves at the
windows with billiard-cues in their hands.

The way was long, and, as at formal meals at which people are at first
reserved and then expansive, the general deportment speedily relaxed.
They talked of nothing but the refusal of an allowance by the Chamber to
the President. M. Piscatory had shown himself harsh; Montalembert had
been "magnificent, as usual," and MM. Chamballe, Pidoux, Creton, in
short, the entire committee would be compelled perhaps to follow the
advice of MM. Quentin-Bauchard and Dufour.

This conversation was continued as they passed through the Rue de la
Roquette, with shops on each side, in which could be seen only chains of
coloured glass and black circular tablets covered with drawings and
letters of gold - which made them resemble grottoes full of stalactites
and crockery-ware shops. But, when they had reached the cemetery-gate,
everyone instantaneously ceased speaking.

The tombs among the trees: broken columns, pyramids, temples, dolmens,
obelisks, and Etruscan vaults with doors of bronze. In some of them
might be seen funereal boudoirs, so to speak, with rustic armchairs and
folding-stools. Spiders' webs hung like rags from the little chains of
the urns; and the bouquets of satin ribbons and the crucifixes were
covered with dust. Everywhere, between the balusters on the tombstones,
may be observed crowns of immortelles and chandeliers, vases, flowers,
black discs set off with gold letters, and plaster statuettes - little
boys or little girls or little angels sustained in the air by brass
wires; several of them have even a roof of zinc overhead. Huge cables
made of glass strung together, black, white, or azure, descend from the
tops of the monuments to the ends of the flagstones with long folds,
like boas. The rays of the sun, striking on them, made them scintillate
in the midst of the black wooden crosses. The hearse advanced along the
broad paths, which are paved like the streets of a city. From time to
time the axletrees cracked. Women, kneeling down, with their dresses
trailing in the grass, addressed the dead in tones of tenderness. Little
white fumes arose from the green leaves of the yew trees. These came
from offerings that had been left behind, waste material that had been
burnt.

M. Dambreuse's grave was close to the graves of Manuel and Benjamin
Constant. The soil in this place slopes with an abrupt decline. One has
under his feet there the tops of green trees, further down the chimneys
of steam-pumps, then the entire great city.

Frederick found an opportunity of admiring the scene while the various
addresses were being delivered.

The first was in the name of the Chamber of Deputies, the second in the
name of the General Council of the Aube, the third in the name of the
coal-mining company of Saone-et-Loire, the fourth in the name of the
Agricultural Society of the Yonne, and there was another in the name of
a Philanthropic Society. Finally, just as everyone was going away, a
stranger began reading a sixth address, in the name of the Amiens
Society of Antiquaries.

And thereupon they all took advantage of the occasion to denounce
Socialism, of which M. Dambreuse had died a victim. It was the effect
produced on his mind by the exhibitions of anarchic violence, together
with his devotion to order, that had shortened his days. They praised
his intellectual powers, his integrity, his generosity, and even his
silence as a representative of the people, "for, if he was not an
orator, he possessed instead those solid qualities a thousand times more
useful," etc., with all the requisite phrases - "Premature end; eternal
regrets; the better land; farewell, or rather no, _au revoir!_"

The clay, mingled with stones, fell on the coffin, and he would never
again be a subject for discussion in society.

However, there were a few allusions to him as the persons who had
followed his remains left the cemetery. Hussonnet, who would have to
give an account of the interment in the newspapers, took up all the
addresses in a chaffing style, for, in truth, the worthy Dambreuse had
been one of the most notable _pots-de-vin_[K] of the last reign. Then
the citizens were driven in the mourning-coaches to their various places
of business; the ceremony had not lasted very long; they congratulated
themselves on the circumstance.

Frederick returned to his own abode quite worn out.


[K] The reader will excuse this barbarism on account of its convenience.
_Pot-de-vin_ means a gratuity or something paid to a person who has not
earned it. - TRANSLATOR.


When he presented himself next day at Madame Dambreuse's residence, he
was informed that she was busy below stairs in the room where M.
Dambreuse had kept his papers.

The cardboard receptacles and the different drawers had been opened
confusedly, and the account-books had been flung about right and left. A
roll of papers on which were endorsed the words "Repayment hopeless" lay
on the ground. He was near falling over it, and picked it up. Madame
Dambreuse had sunk back in the armchair, so that he did not see her.

"Well? where are you? What is the matter!"

She sprang to her feet with a bound.

"What is the matter? I am ruined, ruined! do you understand?"

M. Adolphe Langlois, the notary, had sent her a message to call at his
office, and had informed her about the contents of a will made by her
husband before their marriage. He had bequeathed everything to Cécile;
and the other will was lost. Frederick turned very pale. No doubt she
had not made sufficient search.

"Well, then, look yourself!" said Madame Dambreuse, pointing at the
objects contained in the room.

The two strong-boxes were gaping wide, having been broken open with
blows of a cleaver, and she had turned up the desk, rummaged in the
cupboards, and shaken the straw-mattings, when, all of a sudden,
uttering a piercing cry, she dashed into corner where she had just
noticed a little box with a brass lock. She opened it - nothing!

"Ah! the wretch! I, who took such devoted care of him!"

Then she burst into sobs.

"Perhaps it is somewhere else?" said Frederick.

"Oh! no! it was there! in that strong-box, I saw it there lately. 'Tis
burned! I'm certain of it!"

One day, in the early stage of his illness, M. Dambreuse had gone down
to this room to sign some documents.

"'Tis then he must have done the trick!"

And she fell back on a chair, crushed. A mother grieving beside an empty
cradle was not more woeful than Madame Dambreuse was at the sight of the
open strong-boxes. Indeed, her sorrow, in spite of the baseness of the
motive which inspired it, appeared so deep that he tried to console her
by reminding her that, after all, she was not reduced to sheer want.

"It is want, when I am not in a position to offer you a large fortune!"

She had not more than thirty thousand livres a year, without taking into
account the mansion, which was worth from eighteen to twenty thousand,
perhaps.

Although to Frederick this would have been opulence, he felt, none the
less, a certain amount of disappointment. Farewell to his dreams and to
all the splendid existence on which he had intended to enter! Honour
compelled him to marry Madame Dambreuse. For a minute he reflected;
then, in a tone of tenderness:

"I'll always have yourself!"

She threw herself into his arms, and he clasped her to his breast with
an emotion in which there was a slight element of admiration for
himself.

Madame Dambreuse, whose tears had ceased to flow, raised her face,
beaming all over with happiness, and seizing his hand:

"Ah! I never doubted you! I knew I could count on you!"

The young man did not like this tone of anticipated certainty with
regard to what he was pluming himself on as a noble action.

Then she brought him into her own apartment, and they began to arrange
their plans for the future. Frederick should now consider the best way
of advancing himself in life. She even gave him excellent advice with
reference to his candidature.

The first point was to be acquainted with two or three phrases borrowed
from political economy. It was necessary to take up a specialty, such as
the stud system, for example; to write a number of notes on questions of
local interest, to have always at his disposal post-offices or
tobacconists' shops, and to do a heap of little services. In this
respect M. Dambreuse had shown himself a true model. Thus, on one
occasion, in the country, he had drawn up his wagonette, full of friends
of his, in front of a cobbler's stall, and had bought a dozen pairs of
shoes for his guests, and for himself a dreadful pair of boots, which he
had not even the courage to wear for an entire fortnight. This anecdote
put them into a good humour. She related others, and that with a renewal
of grace, youthfulness, and wit.

She approved of his notion of taking a trip immediately to Nogent. Their
parting was an affectionate one; then, on the threshold, she murmured
once more:

"You love me - do you not?"

"Eternally," was his reply.

A messenger was waiting for him at his own house with a line written in
lead-pencil informing him that Rosanette was about to be confined. He
had been so much preoccupied for the past few days that he had not
bestowed a thought upon the matter.

She had been placed in a special establishment at Chaillot.

Frederick took a cab and set out for this institution.

At the corner of the Rue de Marbeuf he read on a board in big letters:
"Private Lying-in-Hospital, kept by Madame Alessandri, first-class
midwife, ex-pupil of the Maternity, author of various works, etc." Then,
in the centre of the street, over the door - a little side-door - there
was another signboard: "Private Hospital of Madame Alessandri," with
all her titles.

Frederick gave a knock. A chambermaid, with the figure of an Abigail,
introduced him into the reception-room, which was adorned with a
mahogany table and armchairs of garnet velvet, and with a clock under a
globe.

Almost immediately Madame appeared. She was a tall brunette of forty,
with a slender waist, fine eyes, and the manners of good society. She
apprised Frederick of the mother's happy delivery, and brought him up to
her apartment.

Rosanette broke into a smile of unutterable bliss, and, as if drowned in
the floods of love that were suffocating her, she said in a low tone:

"A boy - there, there!" pointing towards a cradle close to her bed.

He flung open the curtains, and saw, wrapped up in linen, a
yellowish-red object, exceedingly shrivelled-looking, which had a bad
smell, and which was bawling lustily.

"Embrace him!"

He replied, in order to hide his repugnance:

"But I am afraid of hurting him."

"No! no!"

Then, with the tips of his lips, he kissed his child.

"How like you he is!"

And with her two weak arms, she clung to his neck with an outburst of
feeling which he had never witnessed on her part before.

The remembrance of Madame Dambreuse came back to him. He reproached
himself as a monster for having deceived this poor creature, who loved
and suffered with all the sincerity of her nature. For several days he
remained with her till night.

She felt happy in this quiet place; the window-shutters in front of it
remained always closed. Her room, hung with bright chintz, looked out on
a large garden. Madame Alessandri, whose only shortcoming was that she
liked to talk about her intimate acquaintanceship with eminent
physicians, showed her the utmost attention. Her associates, nearly all
provincial young ladies, were exceedingly bored, as they had nobody to
come to see them. Rosanette saw that they regarded her with envy, and
told this to Frederick with pride. It was desirable to speak low,
nevertheless. The partitions were thin, and everyone stood listening at
hiding-places, in spite of the constant thrumming of the pianos.

At last, he was about to take his departure for Nogent, when he got a
letter from Deslauriers. Two fresh candidates had offered themselves,
the one a Conservative, the other a Red; a third, whatever he might be,
would have no chance. It was all Frederick's fault; he had let the lucky
moment pass by; he should have come sooner and stirred himself.

"You have not even been seen at the agricultural assembly!" The advocate
blamed him for not having any newspaper connection.

"Ah! if you had followed my advice long ago! If we had only a public
print of our own!"

He laid special stress on this point. However, many persons who would
have voted for him out of consideration for M. Dambreuse, abandoned him
now. Deslauriers was one of the number. Not having anything more to
expect from the capitalist, he had thrown over his _protégé_.

Frederick took the letter to show it to Madame Dambreuse.

"You have not been to Nogent, then?" said she.

"Why do you ask?"

"Because I saw Deslauriers three days ago."

Having learned that her husband was dead, the advocate had come to make
a report about the coal-mines, and to offer his services to her as a man
of business. This seemed strange to Frederick; and what was his friend
doing down there?

Madame Dambreuse wanted to know how he had spent his time since they had
parted.

"I have been ill," he replied.

"You ought at least to have told me about it."

"Oh! it wasn't worth while;" besides, he had to settle a heap of things,
to keep appointments and to pay visits.

From that time forth he led a double life, sleeping religiously at the
Maréchale's abode and passing the afternoon with Madame Dambreuse, so
that there was scarcely a single hour of freedom left to him in the
middle of the day.

The infant was in the country at Andilly. They went to see it once a
week.

The wet-nurse's house was on rising ground in the village, at the end of
a little yard as dark as a pit, with straw on the ground, hens here and
there, and a vegetable-cart under the shed.

Rosanette would begin by frantically kissing her baby, and, seized with
a kind of delirium, would keep moving to and fro, trying to milk the
she-goat, eating big pieces of bread, and inhaling the odour of manure;
she even wanted to put a little of it into her handkerchief.

Then they took long walks, in the course of which she went into the
nurseries, tore off branches from the lilac-trees which hung down over
the walls, and exclaimed, "Gee ho, donkey!" to the asses that were
drawing cars along, and stopped to gaze through the gate into the
interior of one of the lovely gardens; or else the wet-nurse would take
the child and place it under the shade of a walnut-tree; and for hours
the two women would keep talking the most tiresome nonsense.

Frederick, not far away from them, gazed at the beds of vines on the
slopes, with here and there a clump of trees; at the dusty paths
resembling strips of grey ribbon; at the houses, which showed white and
red spots in the midst of the greenery; and sometimes the smoke of a
locomotive stretched out horizontally to the bases of the hills, covered
with foliage, like a gigantic ostrich's feather, the thin end of which
was disappearing from view.

Then his eyes once more rested on his son. He imagined the child grown
into a young man; he would make a companion of him; but perhaps he would
be a blockhead, a wretched creature, in any event. He was always
oppressed by the illegality of the infant's birth; it would have been
better if he had never been born! And Frederick would murmur, "Poor
child!" his heart swelling with feelings of unutterable sadness.

They often missed the last train. Then Madame Dambreuse would scold him
for his want of punctuality. He would invent some falsehood.

It was necessary to invent some explanations, too, to satisfy Rosanette.
She could not understand how he spent all his evenings; and when she
sent a messenger to his house, he was never there! One day, when he
chanced to be at home, the two women made their appearance almost at the
same time. He got the Maréchale to go away, and concealed Madame
Dambreuse, pretending that his mother was coming up to Paris.

Ere long, he found these lies amusing. He would repeat to one the oath
which he had just uttered to the other, send them bouquets of the same
sort, write to them at the same time, and then would institute a
comparison between them. There was a third always present in his
thoughts. The impossibility of possessing her seemed to him a
justification of his perfidies, which were intensified by the fact that
he had to practise them alternately; and the more he deceived, no matter
which of the two, the fonder of him she grew, as if the love of one of
them added heat to that of the other, and, as if by a sort of emulation,
each of them were seeking to make him forget the other.

"Admire my confidence in you!" said Madame Dambreuse one day to him,
opening a sheet of paper, in which she was informed that M. Moreau and a
certain Rose Bron were living together as husband and wife.

"Can it be that this is the lady of the races?"

"What an absurdity!" he returned. "Let me have a look at it!"

The letter, written in Roman characters, had no signature. Madame
Dambreuse, in the beginning, had tolerated this mistress, who furnished
a cloak for their adultery. But, as her passion became stronger, she had
insisted on a rupture - a thing which had been effected long since,
according to Frederick's account; and when he had ceased to protest, she
replied, half closing her eyes, in which shone a look like the point of
a stiletto under a muslin robe:

"Well - and the other?"

"What other?"

"The earthenware-dealer's wife!"

He shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. She did not press the matter.

But, a month later, while they were talking about honour and loyalty,
and he was boasting about his own (in a casual sort of way, for the sake
of precaution), she said to him:

"It is true - you are acting uprightly - you don't go back there any
more?"

Frederick, who was at the moment thinking of the Maréchale, stammered:

"Where, pray?"

"To Madame Arnoux's."

He implored her to tell him from whom she got the information. It was
through her second dressmaker, Madame Regimbart.

So, she knew all about his life, and he knew nothing about hers!

In the meantime, he had found in her dressing-room the miniature of a
gentleman with long moustaches - was this the same person about whose
suicide a vague story had been told him at one time? But there was no
way of learning any more about it! However, what was the use of it? The
hearts of women are like little pieces of furniture wherein things are
secreted, full of drawers fitted into each other; one hurts himself,
breaks his nails in opening them, and then finds within only some
withered flower, a few grains of dust - or emptiness! And then perhaps he
felt afraid of learning too much about the matter.

She made him refuse invitations where she was unable to accompany him,
stuck to his side, was afraid of losing him; and, in spite of this union
which was every day becoming stronger, all of a sudden, abysses
disclosed themselves between the pair about the most trifling
questions - an estimate of an individual or a work of art.

She had a style of playing on the piano which was correct and hard. Her
spiritualism (Madame Dambreuse believed in the transmigration of souls
into the stars) did not prevent her from taking the utmost care of her
cash-box. She was haughty towards her servants; her eyes remained dry at
the sight of the rags of the poor. In the expressions of which she
habitually made use a candid egoism manifested itself: "What concern is
that of mine? I should be very silly! What need have I?" and a thousand
little acts incapable of analysis revealed hateful qualities in her. She
would have listened behind doors; she could not help lying to her
confessor. Through a spirit of despotism, she insisted on Frederick
going to the church with her on Sunday. He obeyed, and carried her
prayer-book.

The loss of the property she had expected to inherit had changed her
considerably. These marks of grief, which people attributed to the death
of M. Dambreuse, rendered her interesting, and, as in former times, she
had a great number of visitors. Since Frederick's defeat at the
election, she was ambitious of obtaining for both of them an embassy in
Germany; therefore, the first thing they should do was to submit to the
reigning ideas.

Some persons were in favour of the Empire, others of the Orléans family,
and others of the Comte de Chambord; but they were all of one opinion as
to the urgency of decentralisation, and several expedients were proposed
with that view, such as to cut up Paris into many large streets in order
to establish villages there, to transfer the seat of government to
Versailles, to have the schools set up at Bourges, to suppress the
libraries, and to entrust everything to the generals of division; and
they glorified a rustic existence on the assumption that the uneducated
man had naturally more sense than other men! Hatreds increased - hatred
of primary teachers and wine-merchants, of the classes of philosophy, of
the courses of lectures on history, of novels, red waistcoats, long
beards, of independence in any shape, or any manifestation of
individuality, for it was necessary "to restore the principle of
authority" - let it be exercised in the name of no matter whom; let it
come from no matter where, as long as it was Force, Authority! The
Conservatives now talked in the very same way as Sénécal. Frederick was
no longer able to understand their drift, and once more he found at the
house of his former mistress the same remarks uttered by the same men.

The salons of the unmarried women (it was from this period that their
importance dates) were a sort of neutral ground where reactionaries of
different kinds met. Hussonnet, who gave himself up to the depreciation
of contemporary glories (a good thing for the restoration of Order),
inspired Rosanette with a longing to have evening parties like any
other. He undertook to publish accounts of them, and first of all he
brought a man of grave deportment, Fumichon; then came Nonancourt, M. de
Grémonville, the Sieur de Larsilloix, ex-prefect, and Cisy, who was now
an agriculturist in Lower Brittany, and more Christian than ever.

In addition, men who had at one time been the Maréchale's lovers, such
as the Baron de Comaing, the Comte de Jumillac, and others, presented
themselves; and Frederick was annoyed by their free-and-easy behaviour.

In order that he might assume the attitude of master in the house, he


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 17 of 21)