Gustave Flaubert.

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

. (page 18 of 21)
Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 18 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


increased the rate of expenditure there. Then he went in for keeping a
groom, took a new habitation, and got a fresh supply of furniture. These
displays of extravagance were useful for the purpose of making his
alliance appear less out of proportion with his pecuniary position. The
result was that his means were soon terribly reduced - and Rosanette was
entirely ignorant of the fact!

One of the lower middle-class, who had lost caste, she adored a domestic
life, a quiet little home. However, it gave her pleasure to have "an at
home day." In referring to persons of her own class, she called them
"Those women!" She wished to be a society lady, and believed herself to
be one. She begged of him not to smoke in the drawing-room any more, and
for the sake of good form tried to make herself look thin.

She played her part badly, after all; for she grew serious, and even
before going to bed always exhibited a little melancholy, just as there
are cypress trees at the door of a tavern.

He found out the cause of it; she was dreaming of marriage - she, too!
Frederick was exasperated at this. Besides, he recalled to mind her
appearance at Madame Arnoux's house, and then he cherished a certain
spite against her for having held out against him so long.

He made enquiries none the less as to who her lovers had been. She
denied having had any relations with any of the persons he mentioned. A
sort of jealous feeling took possession of him. He irritated her by
asking questions about presents that had been made to her, and were
still being made to her; and in proportion to the exciting effect which
the lower portion of her nature produced upon him, he was drawn towards
her by momentary illusions which ended in hate.

Her words, her voice, her smile, all had an unpleasant effect on him,
and especially her glances with that woman's eye forever limpid and
foolish. Sometimes he felt so tired of her that he would have seen her
die without being moved at it. But how could he get into a passion with
her? She was so mild that there was no hope of picking a quarrel with
her.

Deslauriers reappeared, and explained his sojourn at Nogent by saying
that he was making arrangements to buy a lawyer's office. Frederick was
glad to see him again. It was somebody! and as a third person in the
house, he helped to break the monotony.

The advocate dined with them from time to time, and whenever any little
disputes arose, always took Rosanette's part, so that Frederick, on one
occasion, said to him:

"Ah! you can have with her, if it amuses you!" so much did he long for
some chance of getting rid of her.

About the middle of the month of June, she was served with an order made
by the law courts by which Maître Athanase Gautherot, sheriff's officer,
called on her to pay him four thousand francs due to Mademoiselle
Clemence Vatnaz; if not, he would come to make a seizure on her.

In fact, of the four bills which she had at various times signed, only
one had been paid; the money which she happened to get since then having
been spent on other things that she required.

She rushed off at once to see Arnoux. He lived now in the Faubourg
Saint-Germain, and the porter was unable to tell her the name of the
street. She made her way next to the houses of several friends of hers,
could not find one of them at home, and came back in a state of utter
despair.

She did not wish to tell Frederick anything about it, fearing lest this
new occurrence might prejudice the chance of a marriage between them.

On the following morning, M. Athanase Gautherot presented himself with
two assistants close behind him, one of them sallow with a mean-looking
face and an expression of devouring envy in his glance, the other
wearing a collar and straps drawn very tightly, with a sort of thimble
of black taffeta on his index-finger - and both ignobly dirty, with
greasy necks, and the sleeves of their coats too short.

Their employer, a very good-looking man, on the contrary, began by
apologising for the disagreeable duty he had to perform, while at the
same time he threw a look round the room, "full of pretty things, upon
my word of honour!" He added, "Not to speak of the things that can't be
seized." At a gesture the two bailiff's men disappeared.

Then he became twice as polite as before. Could anyone believe that a
lady so charming would not have a genuine friend! A sale of her goods
under an order of the courts would be a real misfortune. One never gets
over a thing like that. He tried to excite her fears; then, seeing that
she was very much agitated, suddenly assumed a paternal tone. He knew
the world. He had been brought into business relations with all these
ladies - and as he mentioned their names, he examined the frames of the
pictures on the walls. They were old pictures of the worthy Arnoux,
sketches by Sombary, water-colours by Burieu, and three landscapes by
Dittmer. It was evident that Rosanette was ignorant of their value,
Maître Gautherot turned round to her:

"Look here! to show that I am a decent fellow, do one thing: give me up
those Dittmers here - and I am ready to pay all. Do you agree?"

At that moment Frederick, who had been informed about the matter by
Delphine in the anteroom, and who had just seen the two assistants, came
in with his hat on his head, in a rude fashion. Maître Gautherot resumed
his dignity; and, as the door had been left open:

"Come on, gentlemen - write down! In the second room, let us say - an oak
table with its two leaves, two sideboards - - "

Frederick here stopped him, asking whether there was not some way of
preventing the seizure.

"Oh! certainly! Who paid for the furniture?"

"I did."

"Well, draw up a claim - you have still time to do it."

Maître Gautherot did not take long in writing out his official report,
wherein he directed that Mademoiselle Bron should attend at an enquiry
in chambers with reference to the ownership of the furniture, and having
done this he withdrew.

Frederick uttered no reproach. He gazed at the traces of mud left on the
floor by the bailiff's shoes, and, speaking to himself:

"It will soon be necessary to look about for money!"

"Ah! my God, how stupid I am!" said the Maréchale.

She ransacked a drawer, took out a letter, and made her way rapidly to
the Languedoc Gas Lighting Company, in order to get the transfer of her
shares.

She came back an hour later. The interest in the shares had been sold to
another. The clerk had said, in answer to her demand, while examining
the sheet of paper containing Arnoux's written promise to her: "This
document in no way constitutes you the proprietor of the shares. The
company has no cognisance of the matter." In short, he sent her away
unceremoniously, while she choked with rage; and Frederick would have to
go to Arnoux's house at once to have the matter cleared up.

But Arnoux would perhaps imagine that he had come to recover in an
indirect fashion the fifteen thousand francs due on the mortgage which
he had lost; and then this claim from a man who had been his mistress's
lover seemed to him a piece of baseness.

Selecting a middle course, he went to the Dambreuse mansion to get
Madame Regimbart's address, sent a messenger to her residence, and in
this way ascertained the name of the café which the Citizen now haunted.

It was the little café on the Place de la Bastille, in which he sat all
day in the corner to the right at the lower end of the establishment,
never moving any more than if he were a portion of the building.

After having gone successively through the half-cup of coffee, the glass
of grog, the "bishop," the glass of mulled wine, and even the red wine
and water, he fell back on beer, and every half hour he let fall this
word, "Bock!" having reduced his language to what was actually
indispensable. Frederick asked him if he saw Arnoux occasionally.

"No!"

"Look here - why?"

"An imbecile!"

Politics, perhaps, kept them apart, and so Frederick thought it a
judicious thing to enquire about Compain.

"What a brute!" said Regimbart.

"How is that?"

"His calf's head!"

"Ha! explain to me what the calf's head is!"

Regimbart's face wore a contemptuous smile.

"Some tomfoolery!"

After a long interval of silence, Frederick went on to ask:

"So, then, he has changed his address?"

"Who?"

"Arnoux!"

"Yes - Rue de Fleurus!"

"What number?"

"Do I associate with the Jesuits?"

"What, Jesuits!"

The Citizen replied angrily:

"With the money of a patriot whom I introduced to him, this pig has set
up as a dealer in beads!"

"It isn't possible!"

"Go there, and see for yourself!"

It was perfectly true; Arnoux, enfeebled by a fit of sickness, had
turned religious; besides, he had always had a stock of religion in his
composition, and (with that mixture of commercialism and ingenuity which
was natural to him), in order to gain salvation and fortune both
together, he had begun to traffick in religious objects.

Frederick had no difficulty in discovering his establishment,
on whose signboard appeared these words: "_Emporium of Gothic
Art_ - Restoration of articles used in ecclesiastical ceremonies - Church
ornaments - Polychromatic sculpture - Frankincense of the Magi, Kings,
&c., &c."

At the two corners of the shop-window rose two wooden statues, streaked
with gold, cinnabar, and azure, a Saint John the Baptist with his
sheepskin, and a Saint Genevieve with roses in her apron and a distaff
under her arm; next, groups in plaster, a good sister teaching a little
girl, a mother on her knees beside a little bed, and three collegians
before the holy table. The prettiest object there was a kind of châlet
representing the interior of a crib with the ass, the ox, and the child
Jesus stretched on straw - real straw. From the top to the bottom of the
shelves could be seen medals by the dozen, every sort of beads,
holy-water basins in the form of shells, and portraits of ecclesiastical
dignitaries, amongst whom Monsignor Affre and our Holy Father shone
forth with smiles on their faces.

Arnoux sat asleep at his counter with his head down. He had aged
terribly. He had even round his temples a wreath of rosebuds, and the
reflection of the gold crosses touched by the rays of the sun fell over
him.

Frederick was filled with sadness at this spectacle of decay. Through
devotion to the Maréchale he, however, submitted to the ordeal, and
stepped forward. At the end of the shop Madame Arnoux showed herself;
thereupon, he turned on his heel.

"I couldn't see him," he said, when he came back to Rosanette.

And in vain he went on to promise that he would write at once to his
notary at Havre for some money - she flew into a rage. She had never seen
a man so weak, so flabby. While she was enduring a thousand privations,
other people were enjoying themselves.

Frederick was thinking about poor Madame Arnoux, and picturing to
himself the heart-rending impoverishment of her surroundings. He had
seated himself before the writing-desk; and, as Rosanette's voice still
kept up its bitter railing:

"Ah! in the name of Heaven, hold your tongue!"

"Perhaps you are going to defend them?"

"Well, yes!" he exclaimed; "for what's the cause of this display of
fury?"

"But why is it that you don't want to make them pay up? 'Tis for fear of
vexing your old flame - confess it!"

He felt an inclination to smash her head with the timepiece. Words
failed him. He relapsed into silence.

Rosanette, as she walked up and down the room, continued:

"I am going to hurl a writ at this Arnoux of yours. Oh! I don't want
your assistance. I'll get legal advice."

Three days later, Delphine rushed abruptly into the room where her
mistress sat.

"Madame! madame! there's a man here with a pot of paste who has given me
a fright!"

Rosanette made her way down to the kitchen, and saw there a vagabond
whose face was pitted with smallpox. Moreover, one of his arms was
paralysed, and he was three fourths drunk, and hiccoughed every time he
attempted to speak.

This was Maître Gautherot's bill-sticker. The objections raised against
the seizure having been overruled, the sale followed as a matter of
course.

For his trouble in getting up the stairs he demanded, in the first
place, a half-glass of brandy; then he wanted another favour, namely,
tickets for the theatre, on the assumption that the lady of the house
was an actress. After this he indulged for some minutes in winks, whose
import was perfectly incomprehensible. Finally, he declared that for
forty sous he would tear off the corners of the poster which he had
already affixed to the door below stairs. Rosanette found herself
referred to by name in it - a piece of exceptional harshness which showed
the spite of the Vatnaz.

She had at one time exhibited sensibility, and had even, while suffering
from the effects of a heartache, written to Béranger for his advice. But
under the ravages of life's storms, her spirit had become soured, for
she had been forced, in turn, to give lessons on the piano, to act as
manageress of a _table d'hôte_, to assist others in writing for the
fashion journals, to sublet apartments, and to traffic in lace in the
world of light women, her relations with whom enabled her to make
herself useful to many persons, and amongst others to Arnoux. She had
formerly been employed in a commercial establishment.

There it was one of her functions to pay the workwomen; and for each of
them there were two livres, one of which always remained in her hands.
Dussardier, who, through kindness, kept the amount payable to a girl
named Hortense Baslin, presented himself one day at the cash-office at
the moment when Mademoiselle Vatnaz was presenting this girl's account,
1,682 francs, which the cashier paid her. Now, on the very day before
this, Dussardier had entered down the sum as 1,082 in the girl Baslin's
book. He asked to have it given back to him on some pretext; then,
anxious to bury out of sight the story of this theft, he stated that he
had lost it. The workwoman ingenuously repeated this falsehood to
Mademoiselle Vatnaz, and the latter, in order to satisfy her mind about
the matter, came with a show of indifference to talk to the shopman on
the subject. He contented himself with the answer: "I have burned
it!" - that was all. A little while afterwards she quitted the house,
without believing that the book had been really destroyed, and filled
with the idea that Dussardier had preserved it.

On hearing that he had been wounded, she rushed to his abode, with the
object of getting it back. Then, having discovered nothing, in spite of
the closest searches, she was seized with respect, and presently with
love, for this youth, so loyal, so gentle, so heroic and so strong! At
her age such good fortune in an affair of the heart was a thing that one
would not expect. She threw herself into it with the appetite of an
ogress; and she had given up literature, Socialism, "the consoling
doctrines and the generous Utopias," the course of lectures which she
had projected on the "Desubalternization of Woman" - everything, even
Delmar himself; finally she offered to unite herself to Dussardier in
marriage.

Although she was his mistress, he was not at all in love with her.
Besides, he had not forgotten her theft. Then she was too wealthy for
him. He refused her offer. Thereupon, with tears in her eyes, she told
him about what she had dreamed - it was to have for both of them a
confectioner's shop. She possessed the capital that was required
beforehand for the purpose, and next week this would be increased to the
extent of four thousand francs. By way of explanation, she referred to
the proceedings she had taken against the Maréchale.

Dussardier was annoyed at this on account of his friend. He recalled to
mind the cigar-holder that had been presented to him at the guard-house,
the evenings spent in the Quai Napoléon, the many pleasant chats, the
books lent to him, the thousand acts of kindness which Frederick had
done in his behalf. He begged of the Vatnaz to abandon the proceedings.

She rallied him on his good nature, while exhibiting an antipathy
against Rosanette which he could not understand. She longed only for
wealth, in fact, in order to crush her, by-and-by, with her four-wheeled
carriage.

Dussardier was terrified by these black abysses of hate, and when he had
ascertained what was the exact day fixed for the sale, he hurried out.
On the following morning he made his appearance at Frederick's house
with an embarrassed countenance.

"I owe you an apology."

"For what, pray?"

"You must take me for an ingrate, I, whom she is the - - " He faltered.

"Oh! I'll see no more of her. I am not going to be her accomplice!" And
as the other was gazing at him in astonishment:

"Isn't your mistress's furniture to be sold in three days' time?"

"Who told you that?"

"Herself - the Vatnaz! But I am afraid of giving you offence - - "

"Impossible, my dear friend!"

"Ah! that is true - you are so good!"

And he held out to him, in a cautious fashion, a hand in which he
clasped a little pocket-book made of sheep-leather.

It contained four thousand francs - all his savings.

"What! Oh! no! no! - - "

"I knew well I would wound your feelings," returned Dussardier, with a
tear in the corner of his eye.

Frederick pressed his hand, and the honest fellow went on in a piteous
tone:

"Take the money! Give me that much pleasure! I am in such a state of
despair. Can it be, furthermore, that all is over? I thought we should
be happy when the Revolution had come. Do you remember what a beautiful
thing it was? how freely we breathed! But here we are flung back into a
worse condition of things than ever.

"Now, they are killing our Republic, just as they killed the other
one - the Roman! ay, and poor Venice! poor Poland! poor Hungary! What
abominable deeds! First of all, they knocked down the trees of Liberty,
then they restricted the right to vote, shut up the clubs,
re-established the censorship and surrendered to the priests the power
of teaching, so that we might look out for the Inquisition. Why not? The
Conservatives want to give us a taste of the stick. The newspapers are
fined merely for pronouncing an opinion in favour of abolishing the
death-penalty. Paris is overflowing with bayonets; sixteen departments
are in a state of siege; and then the demand for amnesty is again
rejected!"

He placed both hands on his forehead, then, spreading out his arms as if
his mind were in a distracted state:

"If, however, we only made the effort! if we were only sincere, we might
understand each other. But no! The workmen are no better than the
capitalists, you see! At Elboeuf recently they refused to help at a
fire! There are wretches who profess to regard Barbès as an aristocrat!
In order to make the people ridiculous, they want to get nominated for
the presidency Nadaud, a mason - just imagine! And there is no way out of
it - no remedy! Everybody is against us! For my part, I have never done
any harm; and yet this is like a weight pressing down on my stomach. If
this state of things continues, I'll go mad. I have a mind to do away
with myself. I tell you I want no money for myself! You'll pay it back
to me, deuce take it! I am lending it to you."

Frederick, who felt himself constrained by necessity, ended by taking
the four thousand francs from him. And so they had no more disquietude
so far as the Vatnaz was concerned.

But it was not long ere Rosanette was defeated in her action against
Arnoux; and through sheer obstinacy she wished to appeal.

Deslauriers exhausted his energies in trying to make her understand that
Arnoux's promise constituted neither a gift nor a regular transfer. She
did not even pay the slightest attention to him, her notion being that
the law was unjust - it was because she was a woman; men backed up each
other amongst themselves. In the end, however, she followed his advice.

He made himself so much at home in the house, that on several occasions
he brought Sénécal to dine there. Frederick, who had advanced him money,
and even got his own tailor to supply him with clothes, did not like
this unceremoniousness; and the advocate gave his old clothes to the
Socialist, whose means of existence were now of an exceedingly uncertain
character.

He was, however, anxious to be of service to Rosanette. One day, when
she showed him a dozen shares in the Kaolin Company (that enterprise
which led to Arnoux being cast in damages to the extent of thirty
thousand francs), he said to her:

"But this is a shady transaction, and you have now a grand chance!"

She had the right to call on him to pay her debts. In the first place,
she could prove that he was jointly bound to pay all the company's
liabilities, since he had certified personal debts as collective
debts - in short, he had embezzled sums which were payable only to the
company.

"All this renders him guilty of fraudulent bankruptcy under articles 586
and 587 of the Commercial Code, and you may be sure, my pet, we'll send
him packing."

Rosanette threw herself on his neck. He entrusted her case next day to
his former master, not having time to devote attention to it himself,
as he had business at Nogent. In case of any urgency, Sénécal could
write to him.

His negotiations for the purchase of an office were a mere pretext. He
spent his time at M. Roque's house, where he had begun not only by
sounding the praises of their friend, but by imitating his manners and
language as much as possible; and in this way he had gained Louise's
confidence, while he won over that of her father by making an attack on
Ledru-Rollin.

If Frederick did not return, it was because he mingled in aristocratic
society, and gradually Deslauriers gave them to understand that he was
in love with somebody, that he had a child, and that he was keeping a
fallen creature.

The despair of Louise was intense. The indignation of Madame Moreau was
not less strong. She saw her son whirling towards the bottom of a gulf
the depth of which could not be determined, was wounded in her religious
ideas as to propriety, and as it were, experienced a sense of personal
dishonour; then all of a sudden her physiognomy underwent a change. To
the questions which people put to her with regard to Frederick, she
replied in a sly fashion:

"He is well, quite well."'

She was aware that he was about to be married to Madame Dambreuse.

The date of the event had been fixed, and he was even trying to think of
some way of making Rosanette swallow the thing.

About the middle of autumn she won her action with reference to the
kaolin shares. Frederick was informed about it by Sénécal, whom he met
at his own door, on his way back from the courts.

It had been held that M. Arnoux was privy to all the frauds, and the
ex-tutor had such an air of making merry over it that Frederick
prevented him from coming further, assuring Sénécal that he would convey
the intelligence to Rosanette. He presented himself before her with a
look of irritation on his face.

"Well, now you are satisfied!"

But, without minding what he had said:

"Look here!"

And she pointed towards her child, which was lying in a cradle close to
the fire. She had found it so sick at the house of the wet-nurse that
morning that she had brought it back with her to Paris.

All the infant's limbs were exceedingly thin, and the lips were covered
with white specks, which in the interior of the mouth became, so to
speak, clots of blood-stained milk.

"What did the doctor say?"

"Oh! the doctor! He pretends that the journey has increased his - I don't
know what it is, some name in 'ite' - in short, that he has the
thrush.[L] Do you know what that is?"

Frederick replied without hesitation: "Certainly," adding that it was
nothing.

But in the evening he was alarmed by the child's debilitated look and by
the progress of these whitish spots, resembling mould, as if life,
already abandoning this little frame, had left now nothing but matter
from which vegetation was sprouting. His hands were cold; he was no
longer able to drink anything; and the nurse, another woman, whom the
porter had gone and taken on chance at an office, kept repeating:

"It seems to me he's very low, very low!"


[L] This disease, consisting of ulceration of the tongue and palate, is
also called _aphthæ_ - TRANSLATOR.


Rosanette was up all night with the child.

In the morning she went to look for Frederick.

"Just come and look at him. He doesn't move any longer."

In fact, he was dead. She took him up, shook him, clasped him in her


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21

Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 18 of 21)