Gustave Flaubert.

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

. (page 19 of 21)
Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 19 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

arms, calling him most tender names, covered him with kisses, broke into
sobs, turned herself from one side to the other in a state of
distraction, tore her hair, uttered a number of shrieks, and then let
herself sink on the edge of the divan, where she lay with her mouth open
and a flood of tears rushing from her wildly-glaring eyes.

Then a torpor fell upon her, and all became still in the apartment. The
furniture was overturned. Two or three napkins were lying on the floor.
It struck six. The night-light had gone out.

Frederick, as he gazed at the scene, could almost believe that he was
dreaming. His heart was oppressed with anguish. It seemed to him that
this death was only a beginning, and that behind it was a worse
calamity, which was just about to come on.

Suddenly, Rosanette said in an appealing tone:

"We'll preserve the body - shall we not?"

She wished to have the dead child embalmed. There were many objections
to this. The principal one, in Frederick's opinion, was that the thing
was impracticable in the case of children so young. A portrait would be
better. She adopted this idea. He wrote a line to Pellerin, and Delphine
hastened to deliver it.

Pellerin arrived speedily, anxious by this display of zeal to efface
all recollection of his former conduct. The first thing he said was:

"Poor little angel! Ah, my God, what a misfortune!"

But gradually (the artist in him getting the upper hand) he declared
that nothing could be made out of those yellowish eyes, that livid face,
that it was a real case of still-life, and would, therefore, require
very great talent to treat it effectively; and so he murmured:

"Oh, 'tisn't easy - 'tisn't easy!"

"No matter, as long as it is life-like," urged Rosanette.

"Pooh! what do I care about a thing being life-like? Down with Realism!
'Tis the spirit that must be portrayed by the painter! Let me alone! I
am going to try to conjure up what it ought to be!"

He reflected, with his left hand clasping his brow, and with his right
hand clutching his elbow; then, all of a sudden:

"Ha, I have an idea! a pastel! With coloured mezzotints, almost spread
out flat, a lovely model could be obtained with the outer surface

He sent the chambermaid to look for his box of colours; then, having a
chair under his feet and another by his side, he began to throw out
great touches with as much complacency as if he had drawn them in
accordance with the bust. He praised the little Saint John of Correggio,
the Infanta Rosa of Velasquez, the milk-white flesh-tints of Reynolds,
the distinction of Lawrence, and especially the child with long hair
that sits in Lady Gower's lap.

"Besides, could you find anything more charming than these little toads?
The type of the sublime (Raphael has proved it by his Madonnas) is
probably a mother with her child?"

Rosanette, who felt herself stifling, went away; and presently Pellerin

"Well, about Arnoux; you know what has happened?"

"No! What?"

"However, it was bound to end that way!"

"What has happened, might I ask?"

"Perhaps by this time he is - - Excuse me!"

The artist got up in order to raise the head of the little corpse

"You were saying - - " Frederick resumed.

And Pellerin, half-closing his eyes, in order to take his dimensions

"I was saying that our friend Arnoux is perhaps by this time locked up!"

Then, in a tone of satisfaction:

"Just give a little glance at it. Is that the thing?"

"Yes, 'tis quite right. But about Arnoux?"

Pellerin laid down his pencil.

"As far as I could understand, he was sued by one Mignot, an intimate
friend of Regimbart - a long-headed fellow that, eh? What an idiot! Just
imagine! one day - - "

"What! it's not Regimbart that's in question, is it?"

"It is, indeed! Well, yesterday evening, Arnoux had to produce twelve
thousand francs; if not, he was a ruined man."

"Oh! this perhaps is exaggerated," said Frederick.

"Not a bit. It looked to me a very serious business, very serious!"

At that moment Rosanette reappeared, with red spots under her eyes,
which glowed like dabs of paint. She sat down near the drawing and
gazed at it. Pellerin made a sign to the other to hold his tongue on
account of her. But Frederick, without minding her:

"Nevertheless, I can't believe - - "

"I tell you I met him yesterday," said the artist, "at seven o'clock in
the evening, in the Rue Jacob. He had even taken the precaution to have
his passport with him; and he spoke about embarking from Havre, he and
his whole camp."

"What! with his wife?"

"No doubt. He is too much of a family man to live by himself."

"And are you sure of this?"

"Certain, faith! Where do you expect him to find twelve thousand

Frederick took two or three turns round the room. He panted for breath,
bit his lips, and then snatched up his hat.

"Where are you going now?" said Rosanette.

He made no reply, and the next moment he had disappeared.



Twelve thousand francs should be procured, or, if not, he would see
Madame Arnoux no more; and until now there had lingered in his breast an
unconquerable hope. Did she not, as it were, constitute the very
substance of his heart, the very basis of his life? For some minutes he
went staggering along the footpath, his mind tortured with anxiety, and
nevertheless gladdened by the thought that he was no longer by the
other's side.

Where was he to get the money? Frederick was well aware from his own
experience how hard it was to obtain it immediately, no matter at what
cost. There was only one person who could help him in the matter - Madame
Dambreuse. She always kept a good supply of bank-notes in her
escritoire. He called at her house; and in an unblushing fashion:

"Have you twelve thousand francs to lend me?"

"What for?"

That was another person's secret. She wanted to know who this person
was. He would not give way on this point. They were equally determined
not to yield. Finally, she declared that she would give nothing until
she knew for what purpose it was wanted.

Frederick's face became very flushed; and he stated that one of his
comrades had committed a theft. It was necessary to replace the sum this
very day.

"Let me know his name? His name? Come! what's his name?"


And he threw himself on his knees, imploring of her to say nothing about

"What idea have you got into your head about me?" Madame Dambreuse
replied. "One would imagine that you were the guilty party yourself.
Pray, have done with your tragic airs! Hold on! here's the money! and
much good may it do him!"

He hurried off to see Arnoux. That worthy merchant was not in his shop.
But he was still residing in the Rue de Paradis, for he had two

In the Rue de Paradis, the porter said that M. Arnoux had been away
since the evening before. As for Madame, he ventured to say nothing; and
Frederick, having rushed like an arrow up the stairs, laid his ear
against the keyhole. At length, the door was opened. Madame had gone out
with Monsieur. The servant could not say when they would be back; her
wages had been paid, and she was leaving herself.

Suddenly he heard the door creaking.

"But is there anyone in the room?"

"Oh, no, Monsieur! it is the wind."

Thereupon he withdrew. There was something inexplicable in such a rapid

Regimbart, being Mignot's intimate friend, could perhaps enlighten him?
And Frederick got himself driven to that gentleman's house at
Montmartre in the Rue l'Empereur.

Attached to the house there was a small garden shut in by a grating
which was stopped up with iron plates. Three steps before the hall-door
set off the white front; and a person passing along the footpath could
see the two rooms on the ground-floor, the first of which was a parlour
with ladies' dresses lying on the furniture on every side, and the
second the workshop in which Madame Regimbart's female assistants were
accustomed to sit.

They were all convinced that Monsieur had important occupations,
distinguished connections, that he was a man altogether beyond
comparison. When he was passing through the lobby with his hat cocked up
at the sides, his long grave face, and his green frock-coat, the girls
stopped in the midst of their work. Besides, he never failed to address
to them a few words of encouragement, some observation which showed his
ceremonious courtesy; and, afterwards, in their own homes they felt
unhappy at not having been able to preserve him as their ideal.

No one, however, was so devoted to him as Madame Regimbart, an
intelligent little woman, who maintained him by her handicraft.

As soon as M. Moreau had given his name, she came out quickly to meet
him, knowing through the servants what his relations were with Madame
Dambreuse. Her husband would be back in a moment; and Frederick, while
he followed her, admired the appearance of the house and the profusion
of oil-cloth that was displayed in it. Then he waited a few minutes in a
kind of office, into which the Citizen was in the habit of retiring, in
order to be alone with his thoughts.

When they met, Regimbart's manner was less cranky than usual.

He related Arnoux's recent history. The ex-manufacturer of earthenware
had excited the vanity of Mignot, a patriot who owned a hundred shares
in the _Siècle_, by professing to show that it would be necessary from
the democratic standpoint to change the management and the editorship of
the newspaper; and under the pretext of making his views prevail in the
next meeting of shareholders, he had given the other fifty shares,
telling him that he could pass them on to reliable friends who would
back up his vote. Mignot would have no personal responsibility, and need
not annoy himself about anyone; then, when he had achieved success, he
would be able to secure a good place in the administration of at least
from five to six thousand francs. The shares had been delivered. But
Arnoux had at once sold them, and with the money had entered into
partnership with a dealer in religious articles. Thereupon came
complaints from Mignot, to which Arnoux sent evasive answers. At last
the patriot had threatened to bring against him a charge of cheating if
he did not restore his share-certificates or pay an equivalent
sum - fifty thousand francs.

Frederick's face wore a look of despondency.

"That is not the whole of it," said the Citizen. "Mignot, who is an
honest fellow, has reduced his claim to one fourth. New promises on the
part of the other, and, of course, new dodges. In short, on the morning
of the day before yesterday Mignot sent him a written application to pay
up, within twenty-four hours, twelve thousand francs, without prejudice
to the balance."

"But I have the amount!" said Frederick.

The Citizen slowly turned round:


"Excuse me! I have the money in my pocket. I brought it with me."

"How you do go at it! By Jove, you do! However, 'tis too late now - the
complaint has been lodged, and Arnoux is gone."


"No! along with his wife. They were seen at the Havre terminus."

Frederick grew exceedingly pale. Madame Regimbart thought he was going
to faint. He regained his self-possession with an effort, and had even
sufficient presence of mind to ask two or three questions about the
occurrence. Regimbart was grieved at the affair, considering that it
would injure the cause of Democracy. Arnoux had always been lax in his
conduct and disorderly in his life.

"A regular hare-brained fellow! He burned the candle at both ends! The
petticoat has ruined him! 'Tis not himself that I pity, but his poor
wife!" For the Citizen admired virtuous women, and had a great esteem
for Madame Arnoux.

"She must have suffered a nice lot!"

Frederick felt grateful to him for his sympathy; and, as if Regimbart
had done him a service, pressed his hand effusively.

"Have you done all that's necessary in the matter?" was Rosanette's
greeting to him when she saw him again.

He had not been able to pluck up courage to do it, he answered, and
walked about the streets at random to divert his thoughts.

At eight o'clock, they passed into the dining-room; but they remained
seated face to face in silence, gave vent each to a deep sigh every now
and then, and pushed away their plates.

Frederick drank some brandy. He felt quite shattered, crushed,
annihilated, no longer conscious of anything save a sensation of extreme

She went to look at the portrait. The red, the yellow, the green, and
the indigo made glaring stains that jarred with each other, so that it
looked a hideous thing - almost ridiculous.

Besides, the dead child was now unrecognisable. The purple hue of his
lips made the whiteness of his skin more remarkable. His nostrils were
more drawn than before, his eyes more hollow; and his head rested on a
pillow of blue taffeta, surrounded by petals of camelias, autumn roses,
and violets. This was an idea suggested by the chambermaid, and both of
them had thus with pious care arranged the little corpse. The
mantelpiece, covered with a cloth of guipure, supported silver-gilt
candlesticks with bunches of consecrated box in the spaces between them.
At the corners there were a pair of vases in which pastilles were
burning. All these things, taken in conjunction with the cradle,
presented the aspect of an altar; and Frederick recalled to mind the
night when he had watched beside M. Dambreuse's death-bed.

Nearly every quarter of an hour Rosanette drew aside the curtains in
order to take a look at her child. She saw him in imagination, a few
months hence, beginning to walk; then at college, in the middle of the
recreation-ground, playing a game of base; then at twenty years a
full-grown young man; and all these pictures conjured up by her brain
created for her, as it were, the son she would have lost, had he only
lived, the excess of her grief intensifying in her the maternal

Frederick, sitting motionless in another armchair, was thinking of
Madame Arnoux.

No doubt she was at that moment in a train, with her face leaning
against a carriage window, while she watched the country disappearing
behind her in the direction of Paris, or else on the deck of a
steamboat, as on the occasion when they first met; but this vessel
carried her away into distant countries, from which she would never
return. He next saw her in a room at an inn, with trunks covering the
floor, the wall-paper hanging in shreds, and the door shaking in the
wind. And after that - to what would she be compelled to turn? Would she
have to become a school-mistress or a lady's companion, or perhaps a
chambermaid? She was exposed to all the vicissitudes of poverty. His
utter ignorance as to what her fate might be tortured his mind. He ought
either to have opposed her departure or to have followed her. Was he not
her real husband? And as the thought impressed itself on his
consciousness that he would never meet her again, that it was all over
forever, that she was lost to him beyond recall, he felt, so to speak, a
rending of his entire being, and the tears that had been gathering since
morning in his heart overflowed.

Rosanette noticed the tears in his eyes.

"Ah! you are crying just like me! You are grieving, too?"

"Yes! yes! I am - - "

He pressed her to his heart, and they both sobbed, locked in each
other's arms.

Madame Dambreuse was weeping too, as she lay, face downwards, on her
bed, with her hands clasped over her head.

Olympe Regimbart having come that evening to try on her first coloured
gown after mourning, had told her about Frederick's visit, and even
about the twelve thousand francs which he had ready to transfer to M.

So, then, this money, the very money which he had got from her, was
intended to be used simply for the purpose of preventing the other from
leaving Paris - for the purpose, in fact, of preserving a mistress!

At first, she broke into a violent rage, and determined to drive him
from her door, as she would have driven a lackey. A copious flow of
tears produced a soothing effect upon her. It was better to keep it all
to herself, and say nothing about it.

Frederick brought her back the twelve thousand francs on the following

She begged of him to keep the money lest he might require it for his
friend, and she asked a number of questions about this gentleman. Who,
then, had tempted him to such a breach of trust? A woman, no doubt!
Women drag you into every kind of crime.

This bantering tone put Frederick out of countenance. He felt deep
remorse for the calumny he had invented. He was reassured by the
reflection that Madame Dambreuse could not be aware of the facts. All
the same, she was very persistent about the subject; for, two days
later, she again made enquiries about his young friend, and, after that,
about another - Deslauriers.

"Is this young man trustworthy and intelligent?"

Frederick spoke highly of him.

"Ask him to call on me one of these mornings; I want to consult him
about a matter of business."

She had found a roll of old papers in which there were some bills of
Arnoux, which had been duly protested, and which had been signed by
Madame Arnoux. It was about these very bills Frederick had called on M.
Dambreuse on one occasion while the latter was at breakfast; and,
although the capitalist had not sought to enforce repayment of this
outstanding debt, he had not only got judgment on foot of them from the
Tribunal of Commerce against Arnoux, but also against his wife, who knew
nothing about the matter, as her husband had not thought fit to give her
any information on the point.

Here was a weapon placed in Madame Dambreuse's hands - she had no doubt
about it. But her notary would advise her to take no step in the affair.
She would have preferred to act through some obscure person, and she
thought of that big fellow with such an impudent expression of face, who
had offered her his services.

Frederick ingenuously performed this commission for her.

The advocate was enchanted at the idea of having business relations with
such an aristocratic lady.

He hurried to Madame Dambreuse's house.

She informed him that the inheritance belonged to her niece, a further
reason for liquidating those debts which she should repay, her object
being to overwhelm Martinon's wife by a display of greater attention to
the deceased's affairs.

Deslauriers guessed that there was some hidden design underlying all
this. He reflected while he was examining the bills. Madame Arnoux's
name, traced by her own hand, brought once more before his eyes her
entire person, and the insult which he had received at her hands. Since
vengeance was offered to him, why should he not snatch at it?

He accordingly advised Madame Dambreuse to have the bad debts which went
with the inheritance sold by auction. A man of straw, whose name would
not be divulged, would buy them up, and would exercise the legal rights
thus given him to realise them. He would take it on himself to provide a
man to discharge this function.

Towards the end of the month of November, Frederick, happening to pass
through the street in which Madame Arnoux had lived, raised his eyes
towards the windows of her house, and saw posted on the door a placard
on which was printed in large letters:

"Sale of valuable furniture, consisting of kitchen utensils, body and
table linen, shirts and chemises, lace, petticoats, trousers, French and
Indian cashmeres, an Erard piano, two Renaissance oak chests, Venetian
mirrors, Chinese and Japanese pottery."

"'Tis their furniture!" said Frederick to himself, and his suspicions
were confirmed by the doorkeeper.

As for the person who had given instructions for the sale, he could get
no information on that head. But perhaps the auctioneer, Maître
Berthelmot, might be able to throw light on the subject.

The functionary did not at first want to tell what creditor was having
the sale carried out. Frederick pressed him on the point. It was a
gentleman named Sénécal, an agent; and Maître Berthelmot even carried
his politeness so far as to lend his newspaper - the _Petites
Affiches_ - to Frederick.

The latter, on reaching Rosanette's house, flung down this paper on the
table spread wide open.

"Read that!"

"Well, what?" said she with a face so calm that it roused up in him a
feeling of revolt.

"Ah! keep up that air of innocence!"

"I don't understand what you mean."

"'Tis you who are selling out Madame Arnoux yourself!"

She read over the announcement again.

"Where is her name?"

"Oh! 'tis her furniture. You know that as well as I do."

"What does that signify to me?" said Rosanette, shrugging her shoulders.

"What does it signify to you? But you are taking your revenge, that's
all. This is the consequence of your persecutions. Haven't you outraged
her so far as to call at her house? - you, a worthless creature! and this
to the most saintly, the most charming, the best woman that ever lived!
Why do you set your heart on ruining her?"

"I assure you, you are mistaken!"

"Come now! As if you had not put Sénécal forward to do this!"

"What nonsense!"

Then he was carried away with rage.

"You lie! you lie! you wretch! You are jealous of her! You have got a
judgment against her husband! Sénécal is already mixed up in your
affairs. He detests Arnoux; and your two hatreds have entered into a
combination with one another. I saw how delighted he was when you won
that action of yours about the kaolin shares. Are you going to deny

"I give you my word - - "

"Oh, I know what that's worth - your word!"

And Frederick reminded her of her lovers, giving their names and
circumstantial details. Rosanette drew back, all the colour fading from
her face.

"You are astonished at this. You thought I was blind because I shut my
eyes. Now I have had enough of it. We do not die through the treacheries
of a woman of your sort. When they become too monstrous we get out of
the way. To inflict punishment on account of them would be only to
degrade oneself."

She twisted her arms about.

"My God, who can it be that has changed him?"

"Nobody but yourself."

"And all this for Madame Arnoux!" exclaimed Rosanette, weeping.

He replied coldly:

"I have never loved any woman but her!"

At this insult her tears ceased to flow.

"That shows your good taste! A woman of mature years, with a complexion
like liquorice, a thick waist, big eyes like the ventholes of a cellar,
and just as empty! As you like her so much, go and join her!"

"This is just what I expected. Thank you!"

Rosanette remained motionless, stupefied by this extraordinary

She even allowed the door to be shut; then, with a bound, she pulled him
back into the anteroom, and flinging her arms around him:

"Why, you are mad! you are mad! this is absurd! I love you!" Then she
changed her tone to one of entreaty:

"Good heavens! for the sake of our dead infant!"

"Confess that it was you who did this trick!" said Frederick.

She still protested that she was innocent.

"You will not acknowledge it?"


"Well, then, farewell! and forever!"

"Listen to me!"

Frederick turned round:

"If you understood me better, you would know that my decision is

"Oh! oh! you will come back to me again!"

"Never as long as I live!"

And he slammed the door behind him violently.

Rosanette wrote to Deslauriers saying that she wanted to see him at

He called one evening, about five days later; and, when she told him
about the rupture:

"That's all! A nice piece of bad luck!"

She thought at first that he would have been able to bring back
Frederick; but now all was lost. She ascertained through the doorkeeper
that he was about to be married to Madame Dambreuse.

Deslauriers gave her a lecture, and showed himself an exceedingly gay
fellow, quite a jolly dog; and, as it was very late, asked permission to
pass the night in an armchair.

Then, next morning, he set out again for Nogent, informing her that he
was unable to say when they would meet once more. In a little while,
there would perhaps be a great change in his life.

Two hours after his return, the town was in a state of revolution. The
news went round that M. Frederick was going to marry Madame Dambreuse.
At length the three Mesdemoiselles Auger, unable to stand it any longer,
made their way to the house of Madame Moreau, who with an air of pride
confirmed this intelligence. Père Roque became quite ill when he heard

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21

Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 19 of 21)