Gustave Flaubert.

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

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on two or three managers; and the interests of art were invoked on the
subjects of the decorations of the Rope-dancers' Gymnasium and of the
actress who played the part of the heroine at the Délassements.

Frederick was passing over all these items when his eyes alighted on an
article entitled "A Lass between three Lads." It was the story of his
duel related in a lively Gallic style. He had no difficulty in
recognising himself, for he was indicated by this little joke, which
frequently recurred: "A young man from the College of Sens who has no
sense." He was even represented as a poor devil from the provinces, an
obscure booby trying to rub against persons of high rank. As for the
Vicomte, he was made to play a fascinating part, first by having forced
his way into the supper-room, then by having carried off the lady, and,
finally, by having behaved all through like a perfect gentleman.

Frederick's courage was not denied exactly, but it was pointed out that
an intermediary - the _protector_ himself - had come on the scene just in
the nick of time. The entire article concluded with this phrase,
pregnant perhaps with sinister meaning:

"What is the cause of their affection? A problem! and, as Bazile says,
who the deuce is it that is deceived here?"

This was, beyond all doubt, Hussonnet's revenge against Frederick for
having refused him five thousand francs.

What was he to do? If he demanded an explanation from him, the Bohemian
would protest that he was innocent, and nothing would be gained by doing
this. The best course was to swallow the affront in silence. Nobody,
after all, read the _Flambard_.

As he left the reading-room, he saw some people standing in front of a
picture-dealer's shop. They were staring at the portrait of a woman,
with this fine traced underneath in black letters: "Mademoiselle
Rosanette Bron, belonging to M. Frederick Moreau of Nogent."

It was indeed she - or, at least, like her - her full face displayed, her
bosom uncovered, with her hair hanging loose, and with a purse of red
velvet in her hands, while behind her a peacock leaned his beak over her
shoulder, covering the wall with his immense plumage in the shape of a
fan.

Pellerin had got up this exhibition in order to compel Frederick to pay,
persuaded that he was a celebrity, and that all Paris, roused to take
his part, would be interested in this wretched piece of work.

Was this a conspiracy? Had the painter and the journalist prepared their
attack on him at the same time?

His duel had not put a stop to anything. He had become an object of
ridicule, and everyone had been laughing at him.

Three days afterwards, at the end of June, the Northern shares having
had a rise of fifteen francs, as he had bought two thousand of them
within the past month, he found that he had made thirty thousand francs
by them. This caress of fortune gave him renewed self-confidence. He
said to himself that he wanted nobody's help, and that all his
embarrassments were the result of his timidity and indecision. He ought
to have begun his intrigue with the Maréchale with brutal directness and
refused Hussonnet the very first day. He should not have compromised
himself with Pellerin. And, in order to show that he was not a bit
embarrassed, he presented himself at one of Madame Dambreuse's ordinary
evening parties.

In the middle of the anteroom, Martinon, who had arrived at the same
time as he had, turned round:

"What! so you are visiting here?" with a look of surprise, and as if
displeased at seeing him.

"Why not?"

And, while asking himself what could be the cause of such a display of
hostility on Martinon's part, Frederick made his way into the
drawing-room.

The light was dim, in spite of the lamps placed in the corners, for the
three windows, which were wide open, made three large squares of black
shadow stand parallel with each other. Under the pictures, flower-stands
occupied, at a man's height, the spaces on the walls, and a silver
teapot with a samovar cast their reflections in a mirror on the
background. There arose a murmur of hushed voices. Pumps could be heard
creaking on the carpet. He could distinguish a number of black coats,
then a round table lighted up by a large shaded lamp, seven or eight
ladies in summer toilets, and at some little distance Madame Dambreuse
in a rocking armchair. Her dress of lilac taffeta had slashed sleeves,
from which fell muslin puffs, the charming tint of the material
harmonising with the shade of her hair; and she sat slightly thrown back
with the tip of her foot on a cushion, with the repose of an exquisitely
delicate work of art, a flower of high culture.

M. Dambreuse and an old gentleman with a white head were walking from
one end of the drawing-room to the other. Some of the guests chatted
here and there, sitting on the edges of little sofas, while the others,
standing up, formed a circle in the centre of the apartment.

They were talking about votes, amendments, counter-amendments, M.
Grandin's speech, and M. Benoist's reply. The third party had decidedly
gone too far. The Left Centre ought to have had a better recollection
of its origin. Serious attacks had been made on the ministry. It must be
reassuring, however, to see that it had no successor. In short, the
situation was completely analogous to that of 1834.

As these things bored Frederick, he drew near the ladies. Martinon was
beside them, standing up, with his hat under his arm, showing himself in
three-quarter profile, and looking so neat that he resembled a piece of
Sèvres porcelain. He took up a copy of the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ which
was lying on the table between an _Imitation_ and an _Almanach de
Gotha_, and spoke of a distinguished poet in a contemptuous tone, said
he was going to the "conferences of Saint-Francis," complained of his
larynx, swallowed from time to time a pellet of gummatum, and in the
meantime kept talking about music, and played the part of the elegant
trifler. Mademoiselle Cécile, M. Dambreuse's niece, who happened to be
embroidering a pair of ruffles, gazed at him with her pale blue eyes;
and Miss John, the governess, who had a flat nose, laid aside her
tapestry on his account. Both of them appeared to be exclaiming
internally:

"How handsome he is!"

Madame Dambreuse turned round towards him.

"Please give me my fan which is on that pier-table over there. You are
taking the wrong one! 'tis the other!"

She arose, and when he came across to her, they met in the middle of the
drawing-room face to face. She addressed a few sharp words to him, no
doubt of a reproachful character, judging by the haughty expression of
her face. Martinon tried to smile; then he went to join the circle in
which grave men were holding discussions. Madame Dambreuse resumed her
seat, and, bending over the arm of her chair, said to Frederick:

"I saw somebody the day before yesterday who was speaking to me about
you - Monsieur de Cisy. You know him, don't you?"

"Yes, slightly."

Suddenly Madame Dambreuse uttered an exclamation:

"Oh! Duchesse, what a pleasure to see you!"

And she advanced towards the door to meet a little old lady in a
Carmelite taffeta gown and a cap of guipure with long borders. The
daughter of a companion in exile of the Comte d'Artois, and the widow of
a marshal of the Empire; who had been created a peer of France in 1830,
she adhered to the court of a former generation as well as to the new
court, and possessed sufficient influence to procure many things. Those
who stood talking stepped aside, and then resumed their conversation.

It had now turned on pauperism, of which, according to these gentlemen,
all the descriptions that had been given were grossly exaggerated.

"However," urged Martinon, "let us confess that there is such a thing as
want! But the remedy depends neither on science nor on power. It is
purely an individual question. When the lower classes are willing to get
rid of their vices, they will free themselves from their necessities.
Let the people be more moral, and they will be less poor!"

According to M. Dambreuse, no good could be attained without a
superabundance of capital. Therefore, the only practicable method was to
intrust, "as the Saint-Simonians, however, proposed (good heavens!
there was some merit in their views - let us be just to everybody) - to
intrust, I say, the cause of progress to those who can increase the
public wealth." Imperceptibly they began to touch on great industrial
undertakings - the railways, the coal-mines. And M. Dambreuse, addressing
Frederick, said to him in a low whisper:

"You have not called about that business of ours?"

Frederick pleaded illness; but, feeling that this excuse was too absurd:

"Besides, I need my ready money."

"Is it to buy a carriage?" asked Madame Dambreuse, who was brushing past
him with a cup of tea in her hand, and for a minute she watched his face
with her head bent slightly over her shoulder.

She believed that he was Rosanette's lover - the allusion was obvious. It
seemed even to Frederick that all the ladies were staring at him from a
distance and whispering to one another.

In order to get a better idea as to what they were thinking about, he
once more approached them. On the opposite side of the table, Martinon,
seated near Mademoiselle Cécile, was turning over the leaves of an
album. It contained lithographs representing Spanish costumes. He read
the descriptive titles aloud: "A Lady of Seville," "A Valencia
Gardener," "An Andalusian Picador"; and once, when he had reached the
bottom of the page, he continued all in one breath:

"Jacques Arnoux, publisher. One of your friends, eh?"

"That is true," said Frederick, hurt by the tone he had assumed.

Madame Dambreuse again interposed:

"In fact, you came here one morning - about a house, I believe - a house
belonging to his wife." (This meant: "She is your mistress.")

He reddened up to his ears; and M. Dambreuse, who joined them at the
same moment, made this additional remark:

"You appear even to be deeply interested in them."

These last words had the effect of putting Frederick out of countenance.
His confusion, which, he could not help feeling, was evident to them,
was on the point of confirming their suspicions, when M. Dambreuse drew
close to him, and, in a tone of great seriousness, said:

"I suppose you don't do business together?"

He protested by repeated shakes of the head, without realising the exact
meaning of the capitalist, who wished to give him advice.

He felt a desire to leave. The fear of appearing faint-hearted
restrained him. A servant carried away the teacups. Madame Dambreuse was
talking to a diplomatist in a blue coat. Two young girls, drawing their
foreheads close together, showed each other their jewellery. The others,
seated in a semicircle on armchairs, kept gently moving their white
faces crowned with black or fair hair. Nobody, in fact, minded them.
Frederick turned on his heels; and, by a succession of long zigzags, he
had almost reached the door, when, passing close to a bracket, he
remarked, on the top of it, between a china vase and the wainscoting, a
journal folded up in two. He drew it out a little, and read these
words - _The Flambard_.

Who had brought it there? Cisy. Manifestly no one else. What did it
matter, however? They would believe - already, perhaps, everyone
believed - in the article. What was the cause of this rancour? He wrapped
himself up in ironical silence. He felt like one lost in a desert. But
suddenly he heard Martinon's voice:

"Talking of Arnoux, I saw in the newspapers, amongst the names of those
accused of preparing incendiary bombs, that of one of his _employés_,
Sénécal. Is that our Sénécal?"

"The very same!"

Martinon repeated several times in a very loud tone:

"What? our Sénécal! our Sénécal!"

Then questions were asked him about the conspiracy. It was assumed that
his connection with the prosecutor's office ought to furnish him with
some information on the subject.

He declared that he had none. However, he knew very little about this
individual, having seen him only two or three times. He positively
regarded him as a very ill-conditioned fellow. Frederick exclaimed
indignantly:

"Not at all! he is a very honest fellow."

"All the same, Monsieur," said a landowner, "no conspirator can be an
honest man."

Most of the men assembled there had served at least four governments;
and they would have sold France or the human race in order to preserve
their own incomes, to save themselves from any discomfort or
embarrassment, or even through sheer baseness, through worship of force.
They all maintained that political crimes were inexcusable. It would be
more desirable to pardon those which were provoked by want. And they did
not fail to put forward the eternal illustration of the father of a
family stealing the eternal loaf of bread from the eternal baker.

A gentleman occupying an administrative office even went so far as to
exclaim:

"For my part, Monsieur, if I were told that my brother were a
conspirator I would denounce him!"

Frederick invoked the right of resistance, and recalling to mind some
phrases that Deslauriers had used in their conversations, he referred to
Delosmes, Blackstone, the English Bill of Rights, and Article 2 of the
Constitution of '91. It was even by virtue of this law that the fall of
Napoléon had been proclaimed. It had been recognised in 1830, and
inscribed at the head of the Charter. Besides, when the sovereign fails
to fulfil the contract, justice requires that he should be overthrown.

"Why, this is abominable!" exclaimed a prefect's wife.

All the rest remained silent, filled with vague terror, as if they had
heard the noise of bullets. Madame Dambreuse rocked herself in her
chair, and smiled as she listened to him.

A manufacturer, who had formerly been a member of the Carbonari, tried
to show that the Orléans family possessed good qualities. No doubt there
were some abuses.

"Well, what then?"

"But we should not talk about them, my dear Monsieur! If you knew how
all these clamourings of the Opposition injure business!"

"What do I care about business?" said Frederick.

He was exasperated by the rottenness of these old men; and, carried away
by the recklessness which sometimes takes possession of even the most
timid, he attacked the financiers, the deputies, the government, the
king, took up the defence of the Arabs, and gave vent to a great deal of
abusive language. A few of those around him encouraged him in a spirit
of irony:

"Go on, pray! continue!" whilst others muttered: "The deuce! what
enthusiasm!" At last he thought the right thing to do was to retire;
and, as he was going away, M. Dambreuse said to him, alluding to the
post of secretary:

"No definite arrangement has been yet arrived at; but make haste!"

And Madame Dambreuse:

"You'll call again soon, will you not?"

Frederick considered their parting salutation a last mockery. He had
resolved never to come back to this house, or to visit any of these
people again. He imagined that he had offended them, not realising what
vast funds of indifference society possesses. These women especially
excited his indignation. Not a single one of them had backed him up even
with a look of sympathy. He felt angry with them for not having been
moved by his words. As for Madame Dambreuse, he found in her something
at the same time languid and cold, which prevented him from defining her
character by a formula. Had she a lover? and, if so, who was her lover?
Was it the diplomatist or some other? Perhaps it was Martinon?
Impossible! Nevertheless, he experienced a sort of jealousy against
Martinon, and an unaccountable ill-will against her.

Dussardier, having called this evening as usual, was awaiting him.
Frederick's heart was swelling with bitterness; he unburdened it, and
his grievances, though vague and hard to understand, saddened the
honest shop-assistant. He even complained of his isolation. Dussardier,
after a little hesitation, suggested that they ought to call on
Deslauriers.

Frederick, at the mention of the advocate's name, was seized with a
longing to see him once more. He was now living in the midst of profound
intellectual solitude, and found Dussardier's company quite
insufficient. In reply to the latter's question, Frederick told him to
arrange matters any way he liked.

Deslauriers had likewise, since their quarrel, felt a void in his life.
He yielded without much reluctance to the cordial advances which were
made to him. The pair embraced each other, then began chatting about
matters of no consequence.

Frederick's heart was touched by Deslauriers' display of reserve, and in
order to make him a sort of reparation, he told the other next day how
he had lost the fifteen thousand francs without mentioning that these
fifteen thousand francs had been originally intended for him. The
advocate, nevertheless, had a shrewd suspicion of the truth; and this
misadventure, which justified, in his own mind, his prejudices against
Arnoux, entirely disarmed his rancour; and he did not again refer to the
promise made by his friend on a former occasion.

Frederick, misled by his silence, thought he had forgotten all about it.
A few days afterwards, he asked Deslauriers whether there was any way in
which he could get back his money.

They might raise the point that the prior mortgage was fraudulent, and
might take proceedings against the wife personally.

"No! no! not against her!" exclaimed Frederick, and, yielding to the
ex-law-clerk's questions, he confessed the truth. Deslauriers was
convinced that Frederick had not told him the entire truth, no doubt
through a feeling of delicacy. He was hurt by this want of confidence.

They were, however, on the same intimate terms as before, and they even
found so much pleasure in each other's society that Dussardier's
presence was an obstacle to their free intercourse. Under the pretence
that they had appointments, they managed gradually to get rid of him.

There are some men whose only mission amongst their fellow-men is to
serve as go-betweens; people use them in the same way as if they were
bridges, by stepping over them and going on further.

Frederick concealed nothing from his old friend. He told him about the
coal-mine speculation and M. Dambreuse's proposal. The advocate grew
thoughtful.

"That's queer! For such a post a man with a good knowledge of law would
be required!"

"But you could assist me," returned Frederick.

"Yes! - hold on! faith, yes! certainly."

During the same week Frederick showed Dussardier a letter from his
mother.

Madame Moreau accused herself of having misjudged M. Roque, who had
given a satisfactory explanation of his conduct. Then she spoke of his
means, and of the possibility, later, of a marriage with Louise.

"That would not be a bad match," said Deslauriers.

Frederick said it was entirely out of the question. Besides, Père Roque
was an old trickster. That in no way affected the matter, in the
advocate's opinion.

At the end of July, an unaccountable diminution in value made the
Northern shares fall. Frederick had not sold his. He lost sixty thousand
francs in one day. His income was considerably reduced. He would have to
curtail his expenditure, or take up some calling, or make a brilliant
catch in the matrimonial market.

Then Deslauriers spoke to him about Mademoiselle Roque. There was
nothing to prevent him from going to get some idea of things by seeing
for himself. Frederick was rather tired of city life. Provincial
existence and the maternal roof would be a sort of recreation for him.

The aspect of the streets of Nogent, as he passed through them in the
moonlight, brought back old memories to his mind; and he experienced a
kind of pang, like persons who have just returned home after a long
period of travel.

At his mother's house, all the country visitors had assembled as in
former days - MM. Gamblin, Heudras, and Chambrion, the Lebrun family,
"those young ladies, the Augers," and, in addition, Père Roque, and,
sitting opposite to Madame Moreau at a card-table, Mademoiselle Louise.
She was now a woman. She sprang to her feet with a cry of delight. They
were all in a flutter of excitement. She remained standing motionless,
and the paleness of her face was intensified by the light issuing from
four silver candlesticks.

When she resumed play, her hand was trembling. This emotion was
exceedingly flattering to Frederick, whose pride had been sorely wounded
of late. He said to himself: "You, at any rate, will love me!" and, as
if he were thus taking his revenge for the humiliations he had endured
in the capital, he began to affect the Parisian lion, retailed all the
theatrical gossip, told anecdotes as to the doings of society, which he
had borrowed from the columns of the cheap newspapers, and, in short,
dazzled his fellow-townspeople.

Next morning, Madame Moreau expatiated on Louise's fine qualities; then
she enumerated the woods and farms of which she would be the owner. Père
Roque's wealth was considerable.

He had acquired it while making investments for M. Dambreuse; for he had
lent money to persons who were able to give good security in the shape
of mortgages, whereby he was enabled to demand additional sums or
commissions. The capital, owing to his energetic vigilance, was in no
danger of being lost. Besides, Père Roque never had any hesitation in
making a seizure. Then he bought up the mortgaged property at a low
price, and M. Dambreuse, having got back his money, found his affairs in
very good order.

But this manipulation of business matters in a way which was not
strictly legal compromised him with his agent. He could refuse Père
Roque nothing, and it was owing to the latter's solicitations that M.
Dambreuse had received Frederick so cordially.

The truth was that in the depths of his soul Père Roque cherished a
deep-rooted ambition. He wished his daughter to be a countess; and for
the purpose of gaining this object, without imperilling the happiness of
his child, he knew no other young man so well adapted as Frederick.

Through the influence of M. Dambreuse, he could obtain the title of his
maternal grandfather, Madame Moreau being the daughter of a Comte de
Fouvens, and besides being connected with the oldest families in
Champagne, the Lavernades and the D'Etrignys. As for the Moreaus, a
Gothic inscription near the mills of Villeneuve-l'Archevèque referred to
one Jacob Moreau, who had rebuilt them in 1596; and the tomb of his own
son, Pierre Moreau, first esquire of the king under Louis XIV., was to
be seen in the chapel of Saint-Nicholas.

So much family distinction fascinated M. Roque, the son of an old
servant. If the coronet of a count did not come, he would console
himself with something else; for Frederick might get a deputyship when
M. Dambreuse had been raised to the peerage, and might then be able to
assist him in his commercial pursuits, and to obtain for him supplies
and grants. He liked the young man personally. In short, he desired to
have Frederick for a son-in-law, because for a long time past he had
been smitten with this notion, which only grew all the stronger day by
day. Now he went to religious services, and he had won Madame Moreau
over to his views, especially by holding before her the prospect of a
title.

So it was that, eight days later, without any formal engagement,
Frederick was regarded as Mademoiselle Roque's "intended," and Père
Roque, who was not troubled with many scruples, often left them
together.




CHAPTER XII.

LITTLE LOUISE GROWS UP.


Deslauriers had carried away from Frederick's house the copy of the deed
of subrogation, with a power of attorney in proper form, giving him full
authority to act; but, when he had reascended his own five flights of
stairs and found himself alone in the midst of his dismal room, in his
armchair upholstered in sheep-leather, the sight of the stamped paper
disgusted him.

He was tired of these things, and of restaurants at thirty-two sous, of
travelling in omnibuses, of enduring want and making futile efforts. He
took up the papers again; there were others near them. They were
prospectuses of the coal-mining company, with a list of the mines and
the particulars as to their contents, Frederick having left all these
matters in his hands in order to have his opinion about them.

An idea occurred to him - that of presenting himself at M. Dambreuse's
house and applying for the post of secretary. This post, it was


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 3 of 21)