Gustave Flaubert.

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

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She said to him, in an unctuous tone, while she drew forth from her
purse three square slips of paper:

"You will take these from me?"

They were three tickets for Delmar's benefit performance.

"What! for him?"

"Certainly."

Mademoiselle Vatnaz, without giving a further explanation, added that
she adored him more than ever. If she were to be believed, the comedian
was now definitely classed amongst "the leading celebrities of the age."
And it was not such or such a personage that he represented, but the
very genius of France, the People. He had "the humanitarian spirit; he
understood the priesthood of Art." Frederick, in order to put an end to
these eulogies, gave her the money for the three seats.

"You need not say a word about this over the way. How late it is, good
heavens! I must leave you. Ah! I was forgetting the address - 'tis the
Rue Grange-Batelier, number 14."

And, at the door:

"Good-bye, beloved man!"

"Beloved by whom?" asked Frederick. "What a strange woman!"

And he remembered that Dussardier had said to him one day, when talking
about her:

"Oh, she's not much!" as if alluding to stories of a by no means
edifying character.

Next morning he repaired to the Maréchale's abode. She lived in a new
house, the spring-roller blinds of which projected into the street. At
the head of each flight of stairs there was a mirror against the wall;
before each window there was a flower-stand, and all over the steps
extended a carpet of oil-cloth; and when one got inside the door, the
coolness of the staircase was refreshing.

It was a man-servant who came to open the door, a footman in a red
waistcoat. On a bench in the anteroom a woman and two men, tradespeople,
no doubt, were waiting as if in a minister's vestibule. At the left,
the door of the dining-room, slightly ajar, afforded a glimpse of empty
bottles on the sideboards, and napkins on the backs of chairs; and
parallel with it ran a corridor in which gold-coloured sticks supported
an espalier of roses. In the courtyard below, two boys with bare arms
were scrubbing a landau. Their voices rose to Frederick's ears, mingled
with the intermittent sounds made by a currycomb knocking against a
stone.

The man-servant returned. "Madame will receive Monsieur," and he led
Frederick through a second anteroom, and then into a large drawing-room
hung with yellow brocatel with twisted fringes at the corners which were
joined at the ceiling, and which seemed to be continued by flowerings of
lustre resembling cables. No doubt there had been an entertainment there
the night before. Some cigar-ashes had been allowed to remain on the
pier-tables.

At last he found his way into a kind of boudoir with stained-glass
windows, through which the sun shed a dim light. Trefoils of carved wood
adorned the upper portions of the doors. Behind a balustrade, three
purple mattresses formed a divan; and the stem of a narghileh made of
platinum lay on top of it. Instead of a mirror, there was on the
mantelpiece a pyramid-shaped whatnot, displaying on its shelves an
entire collection of curiosities, old silver trumpets, Bohemian horns,
jewelled clasps, jade studs, enamels, grotesque figures in china, and a
little Byzantine virgin with a vermilion ape; and all this was mingled
in a golden twilight with the bluish shade of the carpet, the
mother-of-pearl reflections of the foot-stools, and the tawny hue of the
walls covered with maroon leather. In the corners, on little pedestals,
there were bronze vases containing clusters of flowers, which made the
atmosphere heavy.

Rosanette presented herself, attired in a pink satin vest with white
cashmere trousers, a necklace of piasters, and a red cap encircled with
a branch of jasmine.

Frederick started back in surprise, then said he had brought the thing
she had been speaking about, and he handed her the bank-note. She gazed
at him in astonishment; and, as he still kept the note in his hand,
without knowing where to put it:

"Pray take it!"

She seized it; then, as she flung it on the divan:

"You are very kind."

She wanted it to meet the rent of a piece of ground at Bellevue, which
she paid in this way every year. Her unceremoniousness wounded
Frederick's sensibility. However, so much the better! this would avenge
him for the past.

"Sit down," said she. "There - closer." And in a grave tone: "In the
first place, I have to thank you, my dear friend, for having risked your
life."

"Oh! that's nothing!"

"What! Why, 'tis a very noble act!" - and the Maréchale exhibited an
embarrassing sense of gratitude; for it must have been impressed upon
her mind that the duel was entirely on account of Arnoux, as the latter,
who believed it himself, was not likely to have resisted the temptation
of telling her so.

"She is laughing at me, perhaps," thought Frederick.

He had nothing further to detain him, and, pleading that he had an
appointment, he rose.

"Oh! no, stay!"

He resumed his seat, and presently complimented her on her costume.

She replied, with an air of dejection:

"'Tis the Prince who likes me to dress in this fashion! And one must
smoke such machines as that, too!" Rosanette added, pointing towards the
narghileh. "Suppose we try the taste of it? Have you any objection?"

She procured a light, and, finding it hard to set fire to the tobacco,
she began to stamp impatiently with her foot. Then a feeling of languor
took possession of her; and she remained motionless on the divan, with a
cushion under her arm and her body twisted a little on one side, one
knee bent and the other leg straight out.

The long serpent of red morocco, which formed rings on the floor, rolled
itself over her arm. She rested the amber mouthpiece on her lips, and
gazed at Frederick while she blinked her eyes in the midst of the cloud
of smoke that enveloped her. A gurgling sound came from her throat as
she inhaled the fumes, and from time to time she murmured:

"The poor darling! the poor pet!"

He tried to find something of an agreeable nature to talk about. The
thought of Vatnaz recurred to his memory.

He remarked that she appeared to him very lady-like.

"Yes, upon my word," replied the Maréchale. "She is very lucky in having
me, that same lady!" - without adding another word, so much reserve was
there in their conversation.

Each of them felt a sense of constraint, something that formed a barrier
to confidential relations between them. In fact, Rosanette's vanity had
been flattered by the duel, of which she believed herself to be the
occasion. Then, she was very much astonished that he did not hasten to
take advantage of his achievement; and, in order to compel him to return
to her, she had invented this story that she wanted five hundred francs.
How was it that Frederick did not ask for a little love from her in
return? This was a piece of refinement that filled her with amazement,
and, with a gush of emotion, she said to him:

"Will you come with us to the sea-baths?"

"What does 'us' mean?"

"Myself and my bird. I'll make you pass for a cousin of mine, as in the
old comedies."

"A thousand thanks!"

"Well, then, you will take lodgings near ours."

The idea of hiding himself from a rich man humiliated him.

"No! that is impossible."

"Just as you please!"

Rosanette turned away with tears in her eyes. Frederick noticed this,
and in order to testify the interest which he took in her, he said that
he was delighted to see her at last in a comfortable position.

She shrugged her shoulders. What, then, was troubling her? Was it,
perchance, that she was not loved.

"Oh! as for me, I have always people to love me!"

She added:

"It remains to be seen in what way."

Complaining that she was "suffocating with the heat," the Maréchale
unfastened her vest; and, without any other garment round her body, save
her silk chemise, she leaned her head on his shoulder so as to awaken
his tenderness.

A man of less introspective egoism would not have bestowed a thought at
such a moment on the possibility of the Vicomte, M. de Comaing, or
anyone else appearing on the scene. But Frederick had been too many
times the dupe of these very glances to compromise himself by a fresh
humiliation.

She wished to know all about his relationships and his amusements. She
even enquired about his financial affairs, and offered to lend him money
if he wanted it. Frederick, unable to stand it any longer, took up his
hat.

"I'm off, my pet! I hope you'll enjoy yourself thoroughly down there.
_Au revoir!_"

She opened her eyes wide; then, in a dry tone:

"_Au revoir!_"

He made his way out through the yellow drawing-room, and through the
second anteroom. There was on the table, between a vase full of
visiting-cards and an inkstand, a chased silver chest. It was Madame
Arnoux's. Then he experienced a feeling of tenderness, and, at the same
time, as it were, the scandal of a profanation. He felt a longing to
raise his hands towards it, and to open it. He was afraid of being seen,
and went away.

Frederick was virtuous. He did not go back to the Arnouxs' house. He
sent his man-servant to buy the two negroes, having given him all the
necessary directions; and the case containing them set forth the same
evening for Nogent. Next morning, as he was repairing to Deslauriers'
lodgings, at the turn where the Rue Vivienne opened out on the
boulevard, Madame Arnoux presented herself before him face to face.

The first movement of each of them was to draw back; then the same smile
came to the lips of both, and they advanced to meet each other. For a
minute, neither of them uttered a single word.

The sunlight fell round her, and her oval face, her long eyelashes, her
black lace shawl, which showed the outline of her shoulders, her gown of
shot silk, the bouquet of violets at the corner of her bonnet; all
seemed to him to possess extraordinary magnificence. An infinite
softness poured itself out of her beautiful eyes; and in a faltering
voice, uttering at random the first words that came to his lips:

"How is Arnoux?"

"Well, I thank you!"

"And your children?"

"They are very well!"

"Ah! ah! What fine weather we are getting, are we not?"

"Splendid, indeed!"

"You're going out shopping?"

And, with a slow inclination of the head:

"Good-bye!"

She put out her hand, without having spoken one word of an affectionate
description, and did not even invite him to dinner at her house. No
matter! He would not have given this interview for the most delightful
of adventures; and he pondered over its sweetness as he proceeded on his
way.

Deslauriers, surprised at seeing him, dissembled his spite; for he
cherished still through obstinacy some hope with regard to Madame
Arnoux; and he had written to Frederick to prolong his stay in the
country in order to be free in his manoeuvres.

He informed Frederick, however, that he had presented himself at her
house in order to ascertain if their contract stipulated for a community
of property between husband and wife: in that case, proceedings might be
taken against the wife; "and she put on a queer face when I told her
about your marriage."

"Now, then! What an invention!"

"It was necessary in order to show that you wanted your own capital! A
person who was indifferent would not have been attacked with the species
of fainting fit that she had."

"Really?" exclaimed Frederick.

"Ha! my fine fellow, you are betraying yourself! Come! be honest!"

A feeling of nervous weakness stole over Madame Arnoux's lover.

"Why, no! I assure you! upon my word of honour!"

These feeble denials ended by convincing Deslauriers. He congratulated
his friend, and asked him for some details. Frederick gave him none, and
even resisted a secret yearning to concoct a few. As for the mortgage,
he told the other to do nothing about it, but to wait. Deslauriers
thought he was wrong on this point, and remonstrated with him in rather
a churlish fashion.

He was, besides, more gloomy, malignant, and irascible than ever. In a
year, if fortune did not change, he would embark for America or blow out
his brains. Indeed, he appeared to be in such a rage against everything,
and so uncompromising in his radicalism, that Frederick could not keep
from saying to him:

"Here you are going on in the same way as Sénécal!"

Deslauriers, at this remark, informed him that that individual to whom
he alluded had been discharged from Sainte-Pelagie, the magisterial
investigation having failed to supply sufficient evidence, no doubt, to
justify his being sent for trial.

Dussardier was so much overjoyed at the release of Sénécal, that he
wanted to invite his friends to come and take punch with him, and begged
of Frederick to be one of the party, giving the latter, at the same
time, to understand that he would be found in the company of Hussonnet,
who had proved himself a very good friend to Sénécal.

In fact, the _Flambard_ had just become associated with a business
establishment whose prospectus contained the following references:
"Vineyard Agency. Office of Publicity. Debt Recovery and Intelligence
Office, etc." But the Bohemian was afraid that his connection with trade
might be prejudicial to his literary reputation, and he had accordingly
taken the mathematician to keep the accounts. Although the situation was
a poor one, Sénécal would but for it have died of starvation. Not
wishing to mortify the worthy shopman, Frederick accepted his
invitation.

Dussardier, three days beforehand, had himself waxed the red floor of
his garret, beaten the armchair, and knocked off the dust from the
chimney-piece, on which might be seen under a globe an alabaster
timepiece between a stalactite and a cocoanut. As his two chandeliers
and his chamber candlestick were not sufficient, he had borrowed two
more candlesticks from the doorkeeper; and these five lights shone on
the top of the chest of drawers, which was covered with three napkins in
order that it might be fit to have placed on it in such a way as to look
attractive some macaroons, biscuits, a fancy cake, and a dozen bottles
of beer. At the opposite side, close to the wall, which was hung with
yellow paper, there was a little mahogany bookcase containing the
_Fables of Lachambeaudie_, the _Mysteries of Paris_, and Norvins'
_Napoléon_ - and, in the middle of the alcove, the face of Béranger was
smiling in a rosewood frame.

The guests (in addition to Deslauriers and Sénécal) were an apothecary
who had just been admitted, but who had not enough capital to start in
business for himself, a young man of his own house, a town-traveller in
wines, an architect, and a gentleman employed in an insurance office.
Regimbart had not been able to come. Regret was expressed at his
absence.

They welcomed Frederick with a great display of sympathy, as they all
knew through Dussardier what he had said at M. Dambreuse's house.
Sénécal contented himself with putting out his hand in a dignified
manner.

He remained standing near the chimney-piece. The others seated, with
their pipes in their mouths, listened to him, while he held forth on
universal suffrage, from which he predicted as a result the triumph of
Democracy and the practical application of the principles of the Gospel.
However, the hour was at hand. The banquets of the party of reform were
becoming more numerous in the provinces. Piedmont, Naples, Tuscany - -

"'Tis true," said Deslauriers, interrupting him abruptly. "This cannot
last longer!"

And he began to draw a picture of the situation. We had sacrificed
Holland to obtain from England the recognition of Louis Philippe; and
this precious English alliance was lost, owing to the Spanish marriages.
In Switzerland, M. Guizot, in tow with the Austrian, maintained the
treaties of 1815. Prussia, with her Zollverein, was preparing
embarrassments for us. The Eastern question was still pending.

"The fact that the Grand Duke Constantine sends presents to M. d'Aumale
is no reason for placing confidence in Russia. As for home affairs,
never have so many blunders, such stupidity, been witnessed. The
Government no longer even keeps up its majority. Everywhere, indeed,
according to the well-known expression, it is naught! naught! naught!
And in the teeth of such public scandals," continued the advocate, with
his arms akimbo, "they declare themselves satisfied!"

The allusion to a notorious vote called forth applause. Dussardier
uncorked a bottle of beer; the froth splashed on the curtains. He did
not mind it. He filled the pipes, cut the cake, offered each of them a
slice of it, and several times went downstairs to see whether the punch
was coming up; and ere long they lashed themselves up into a state of
excitement, as they all felt equally exasperated against Power. Their
rage was of a violent character for no other reason save that they hated
injustice, and they mixed up with legitimate grievances the most idiotic
complaints.

The apothecary groaned over the pitiable condition of our fleet. The
insurance agent could not tolerate Marshal Soult's two sentinels.
Deslauriers denounced the Jesuits, who had just installed themselves
publicly at Lille. Sénécal execrated M. Cousin much more for
eclecticism, by teaching that certitude can be deduced from reason,
developed selfishness and destroyed solidarity. The traveller in wines,
knowing very little about these matters, remarked in a very loud tone
that he had forgotten many infamies:

"The royal carriage on the Northern line must have cost eighty thousand
francs. Who'll pay the amount?"

"Aye, who'll pay the amount?" repeated the clerk, as angrily as if this
amount had been drawn out of his own pocket.

Then followed recriminations against the lynxes of the Bourse and the
corruption of officials. According to Sénécal they ought to go higher
up, and lay the blame, first of all, on the princes who had revived the
morals of the Regency period.

"Have you not lately seen the Duc de Montpensier's friends coming back
from Vincennes, no doubt in a state of intoxication, and disturbing with
their songs the workmen of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine?"

"There was even a cry of 'Down with the thieves!'" said the apothecary.
"I was there, and I joined in the cry!"

"So much the better! The people are at last waking up since the
Teste-Cubières case."[D]

"For my part, that case caused me some pain," said Dussardier, "because
it imputed dishonour to an old soldier!"

"Do you know," Sénécal went on, "what they have discovered at the
Duchesse de Praslin's house - - ?"

But here the door was sent flying open with a kick. Hussonnet entered.


[D] This refers to a charge of corruption made in 1843 against a general
who was a member of the Ministry. - TRANSLATOR.


"Hail, messeigneurs," said he, as he seated himself on the bed.

No allusion was made to his article, which he was sorry, however, for
having written, as the Maréchale had sharply reprimanded him on account
of it.

He had just seen at the Théâtre de Dumas the _Chevalier de
Maison-Rouge_, and declared that it seemed to him a stupid play.

Such a criticism surprised the democrats, as this drama, by its
tendency, or rather by its scenery, flattered their passions. They
protested. Sénécal, in order to bring this discussion to a close, asked
whether the play served the cause of Democracy.

"Yes, perhaps; but it is written in a style - - "

"Well, then, 'tis a good play. What is style? 'Tis the idea!"

And, without allowing Frederick to say a word:

"Now, I was pointing out that in the Praslin case - - "

Hussonnet interrupted him:

"Ha! here's another worn-out trick! I'm disgusted at it!"

"And others as well as you," returned Deslauriers.

"It has only got five papers taken. Listen while I read this paragraph."

And drawing his note-book out of his pocket, he read:

"'We have, since the establishment of the best of republics, been
subjected to twelve hundred and twenty-nine press prosecutions, from
which the results to the writers have been imprisonment extending over a
period of three thousand one hundred and forty-one years, and the light
sum of seven million one hundred and ten thousand five hundred francs
by way of fine.' That's charming, eh?"

They all sneered bitterly.

Frederick, incensed against the others, broke in:

"_The Democratie Pacifique_ has had proceedings taken against it on
account of its feuilleton, a novel entitled _The Woman's Share_."

"Come! that's good," said Hussonnet. "Suppose they prevented us from
having our share of the women!"

"But what is it that's not prohibited?" exclaimed Deslauriers. "To smoke
in the Luxembourg is prohibited; to sing the Hymn to Pius IX. is
prohibited!"

"And the typographers' banquet has been interdicted," a voice cried,
with a thick articulation.

It was that of an architect, who had sat concealed in the shade of the
alcove, and who had remained silent up to that moment. He added that,
the week before, a man named Rouget had been convicted of offering
insults to the king.

"That gurnet[E] is fried," said Hussonnet.

This joke appeared so improper to Sénécal, that he reproached Hussonnet
for defending the Juggler of the Hôtel de Ville, the friend of the
traitor Dumouriez.

"I? quite the contrary!"

He considered Louis Philippe commonplace, one of the National Guard
types of men, all that savoured most of the provision-shop and the
cotton night-cap! And laying his hand on his heart, the Bohemian gave
utterance to the rhetorical phrases:

"It is always with a new pleasure.... Polish nationality will not
perish.... Our great works will be pursued.... Give me some money for
my little family...."


[E] _Rouget_ means a gurnet. - TRANSLATOR.


They all laughed hugely, declaring that he was a delightful fellow, full
of wit. Their delight was redoubled at the sight of the bowl of punch
which was brought in by the keeper of a café.

The flames of the alcohol and those of the wax-candles soon heated the
apartment, and the light from the garret, passing across the courtyard,
illuminated the side of an opposite roof with the flue of a chimney,
whose black outlines could be traced through the darkness of night. They
talked in very loud tones all at the same time. They had taken off their
coats; they gave blows to the furniture; they touched glasses.

Hussonnet exclaimed:

"Send up some great ladies, in order that this may be more Tour de
Nesles, have more local colouring, and be more Rembrandtesque,
gadzooks!"

And the apothecary, who kept stirring about the punch indefinitely,
began to sing with expanded chest:

"I've two big oxen in my stable,
Two big white oxen - - "

Sénécal laid his hand on the apothecary's mouth; he did not like
disorderly conduct; and the lodgers pressed their faces against the
window-panes, surprised at the unwonted uproar that was taking place in
Dussardier's room.

The honest fellow was happy, and said that this recalled to his mind
their little parties on the Quai Napoléon in days gone by; however, they
missed many who used to be present at these reunions, "Pellerin, for
instance."

"We can do without him," observed Frederick.

And Deslauriers enquired about Martinon.

"What has become of that interesting gentleman?"

Frederick, immediately giving vent to the ill-will which he bore to
Martinon, attacked his mental capacity, his character, his false
elegance, his entire personality. He was a perfect specimen of an
upstart peasant! The new aristocracy, the mercantile class, was not as
good as the old - the nobility. He maintained this, and the democrats
expressed their approval, as if he were a member of the one class, and
they were in the habit of visiting the other. They were charmed with
him. The apothecary compared him to M. d'Alton Shée, who, though a peer
of France, defended the cause of the people.

The time had come for taking their departure. They all separated with
great handshakings. Dussardier, in a spirit of affectionate solicitude,
saw Frederick and Deslauriers home. As soon as they were in the street,
the advocate assumed a thoughtful air, and, after a moment's silence:

"You have a great grudge, then, against Pellerin?"

Frederick did not hide his rancour.

The painter, in the meantime, had withdrawn the notorious picture from
the show-window. A person should not let himself be put out by trifles.
What was the good of making an enemy for himself?

"He has given way to a burst of ill-temper, excusable in a man who
hasn't a sou. You, of course, can't understand that!"


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 5 of 21)