quelin, Moreau, and his assistants set about their work,
it is needless to speak. Ants rescuing their eggs could
not have been busier than they. Everything, kept so
neat and clean with daily care, was starched and ironed,
scrubbed, washed, and polished.
The best china saw
the light. Linen damask cloths and serviettes docketed
A B C D emerged from the depths where they lay
shrouded in triple wrappings and defended by bristling
rows of pins. The rarest shelves of that oak-bound
library were made to give account of their contents ; and
finally, mademoiselle offered up three bottles of liqueurs
to the coming guest, three bottles bearing the label of
the most famous distiller of over-sea — Mme. Amphoux,
name dear to connoisseurs.
Mile. Cormon was ready for battle, thanks to the
devotion of her lieutenants. The munitions of war,
the heavy artillery of the kitchen, the batteries of the
pantry, the victuals, provisions for the attack, and body
of reserves, had all been brought up in array. Orders
were issued to Jacquelin, Mariette, and Josette to wear
their best clothes. The garden was raked over. Made-
moiselle only regretted that she could not come to an
understanding with the nightingales in the trees, that
they might warble their sweetest songs for the occasion.
At length, at four o'clock, just as the Abbe came in, and
mademoiselle was beginning to think that she had
brought out her daintiest linen and china and made
ready the most exquisite of dinners in vain, the crack
1 1 2 The Jealousies of a Country Town
of a postillion's whip sounded outside in the Val-
1 It is he ! ' she thought, and the lash of the whip
struck her in the heart.
And indeed, heralded by all this tittle-tattle, a certain
post-chaise, with a single gentleman inside it, had made
such a prodigious sensation as it drove down the Rue
Saint-Blaise and turned into the Rue du Cours, that
several small urchins and older persons gave chase to the
vehicle, and now were standing in a group about the
gateway of the Hotel Cormon to watch the postillion
drive in. Jacquelin, feeling that his own marriage was
in the wind, had also heard the crack of the whip, and
was out in the yard to throw open the gates. The
postillion (an acquaintance) was on his mettle, he turned
the corner to admiration, and came to a stand before the
flight of steps. And, as you can understand, he did not
go until Jacquelin had duly and properly made him tipsy.
The Abbe came out to meet his guest, and in a trice
the chaise was despoiled of its occupant, robbers in a
hurry could not have done their work more nimbly ;
then the chaise was put into the coach-house, the great
door was closed, and in a few minutes there was not a
sign of M. de Troisville's arrival. Never did two
chemicals combine with a greater alacrity than that dis-
played by the house of Cormon to absorb the Vicomte
de Troisville. As for mademoiselle, if she had been a
lizard caught by a shepherd, her heart could not have
beat faster. She sat heroically in her low chair by the
fireside ; Josette threw open the door, and the Vicomte
de Troisville, followed by the Abbe de Sponde, appeared
* This is M. le Vicomte de Troisville, niece, a grand-
son of an old school-fellow of mine. — M. de Troisville,
my niece, Mile. Cormon.'
1 Dear uncle, how nicely he puts it,' thought Rose
The Jealousies of a Country Town 1 1 3
The Vicomte de Troisville, to describe him in a few
words, was a du Bousquier of noble family. Between
the two men there was just that difference which
separates the gentleman from the ordinary man. If
they had been standing side by side, even the most
furious Radical could not have denied the signs of race
about the Vicomte. There was all the distinction of
refinement about his strength, his figure had lost
nothing of its magnificent dignity. Blue-eyed, dark-
haired, and olive-skinned, he could not have been more
than six-and-forty. You might have thought him a
handsome Spaniard preserved in Russian ice. His
manner, gait, and bearing, and everything about him,
suggested a diplomate, and a diplomate that has seen
Europe. He looked like a gentleman in his travelling
M. de Troisville seemed to be tired. The Abbe rose
to conduct him to his room, and was overcome with
astonishment when Rose opened the door of the boudoir,
now transformed into a bedroom. Then uncle and
niece left the noble visitor leisure to attend to his
toilet with the help of Jacquelin, who brought him
all the luggage which he needed. While M. de
Troisville was dressing, they walked on the terrace
by the Brillante. The Abbe, by a strange chance,
was more absent-minded than usual, and Mile. Cormon
no less preoccupied, so they paced to and fro in
silence. Never in her life had Mile. Cormon seen so
attractive a man as this Olympian Vicomte. She
could not say to herself, like a German girl, 1 1 have
found my Ideal ! ' but she felt that she was in love
from head to foot. c The very thing for me,' she
thought. On a sudden she fled to Mariette, to know
whether dinner could be put back a little without
'Uncle, this M. de Troisville is very pleasant,' she
said when she came back again.
114 The Jealousies of a Country Town
c Why, my girl, he has not said a word as yet,'
returned the Abbe, laughing.
i But one can tell by his general appearance. Is he a
bachelor ? '
'I know nothing about it,' replied her uncle, his
thoughts full of that afternoon's discussion with the
Abbe Couturier on Divine Grace. c M. de Troisville
said in his letter that he wanted to buy a house here. —
If he were married, he would not have come alone,' he
added carelessly. It never entered his head that his
niece could think of marriage for herself.
4 Is he rich ? '
' He is the younger son of a younger branch. His
grandfather held a major's commission, but this young
man's father made a foolish marriage.'
' Young man ! ' repeated his niece. ' Why, he is
quite five-and-forty, uncle, it seems to me.' She felt an
uncontrollable desire to compare his age with hers.
' Yes,' said the Abbe. ' But to a poor priest at seventy,
a man of forty seems young, Rose.'
By this time all Alencon knew that M. le Vicomte
de Troisville had arrived at the Hotel Cormon.
The visitor very soon rejoined his host and hostess
and began to admire the view of the Brillante, the
garden, and the house
' Monsieur l'Abbe,' he said, l to find such a place as
this would be the height of my ambition.'
The old maid wished to read a declaration in the
speech. She lowered her eyes.
c You must be very fond of it, mademoiselle,' con-
tinued the Vicomte.
* How could I help being fond of it ? It has been in
our family since 1574, when one of our ancestors, an
Intendant of the Duchy of Alencon, bought the ground
and built the house. It is laid on piles.'
Jacquelin having announced that dinner was ready,
M. de Troisville offered his arm. The radiant spinster
The Jealousies of a Country Town 115
tried not to lean too heavily upon him ; she was still
afraid that he might think her forward.
' Everything is quite in harmony here,' remarked the
Vicomte as they sat down to table.
c Yes, the trees in our garden are full of birds that
give us music for nothing. Nobody molests them ; the
nightingales sing there every night,' said Mile. Cormon.
' 1 am speaking of the inside of the house,' remarked
the Vicomte ; he had not troubled himself to study his
hostess particularly, and was quite unaware of her
vacuity. — ' Yes, everything contributes to the general
effect ; the tones of colour, the furniture, the character
of the house,' added he, addressing Mile. Cormon.
' It costs a great deal, though,' replied that excellent
spinster, ' the rates are something enormous.' The
word 'contribute' had impressed itself on her mind.
4 Ah ! then are the rates high here ? ' asked the
Vicomte, too full of his own ideas to notice the absurd
c I do not know,' said the Abbe. c My niece manages
her own property and mine.'
4 The rates are a mere trifle if people are well to do,'
struck in Mile. Cormon, anxious not to appear stingy.
* As to the furniture, I leave things as they are. I shall
never make any changes here ; at least I shall not,
unless I marry, and in that case everything in the house
must be arranged to suit the master's taste.'
1 You are for great principles, mademoiselle,' smiled
the Vicomte ; 'somebody will be a lucky man.'
1 Nobody ever made me such a pretty speech before,
thought Mile. Cormon.
The Vicomte complimented his hostess upon the
appointments of the table and the housekeeping, admit-
ting that he had thought that the provinces were
behind the times, and found himself in most delectable
c Delectable^ good Lord ! what does it mean ? ' thought
1 1 6 The Jealousies of a Country Town
she. c Where is the Chevalier de Valois to reply to
him? De-lect-able ? Is it made up of several words ?
There ! courage; perhaps it is Russian, and if so I am
not obliged to say anything,' — Then she added aloud,
her tongue unloosed by an eloquence which almost
every human creature can find in a great crisis — ' We
have the most brilliant society here, Monsieur le Vicomte.
You will be able to judge for yourself, for it assembles in
this very house ; on some of our acquaintances we can
always count ; they will have heard of my return no
doubt, and will be sure to come to see me. There is
the Chevalier de Valois, a gentleman of the old court, a
man of infinite wit and taste ; then there is M. le Marquis
d'Esgrignon and Mile. Armande, his sister" — she bit
her lip and changed her mind — -"a — a remarkable
woman in her way. She refused all offers of marriage
so as to leave her fortune to her brother and his son.'
c Ah ! yes ; the d'Esgrignons, I remember them,' said
' Alencon is very gay,' pursued mademoiselle, now
that she had fairly started off. 'There is so much
going on ; the Receiver-General gives dances ; the
Prefect is a very pleasant man ; his lordship the Bishop
occasionally honours us with a visit '
'Come!' said the Vicomte, smiling as he spoke, ' 1
have done well, it seems, to come creeping back like a
hare (un lievre) to die in my form.'
'It is the same with me,' replied mademoiselle; 'I
am like a creeper [le lierre), I must cling to something
The Vicomte took the saying thus twisted for a joke,
' Ah ! ' thought his hostess, ' that is all right, he under-
The conversation was kept up upon generalities.
Under pressure of a strong desire to please, the strange,
mysterious, indefinable workings of consciousness
The Jealousies of a Country Town 117
brought all the Chevalier de Valois's tricks of speech
uppermost in Mile. Cormon's brain. It fell out, as it
sometimes does in a duel, when the Devil himself seems
to take aim ; and never did duellist hit his man more
fairly and squarely than the old maid. The Vicomte
de Troisville was too well mannered to praise the
excellent dinner, but his silence was panegyric in itself!
As he drank the delicious wines with which Jacquelin
plied him, he seemed to be meeting old friends with the
liveliest pleasure ; for your true amateur does not
applaud, he enjoys. He informed himself curiously of
the prices of land, houses, and sites ; he drew from
mademoiselle a long description of the property between
the Brillante and the Sarthe. He was amazed that the
town and the river lay so far apart, and showed the
greatest interest in local topography. The Abbe sat
silent, leaving all the conversation to his niece. And, in
truth, mademoiselle considered that she interested M.
de Troisville ; he smiled graciously at her, he made far
more progress with her in the course of a single dinner
than the most ardent of her former wooers in a whole
fortnight. For which reasons, you may be certain that
never was guest so cosseted, so lapped about with small
attentions and observances. He might have been a
much loved lover, new come home to the house of which
he was the delight.
Mademoiselle forestalled his wants. She saw when
he needed bread, her eyes brooded over him ; if he
turned his head, she adroitly supplemented his portion of
any dish which he seemed to like ; if he had been a
glutton, she would have killed him. What a delicious
earnest of all that she counted upon doing for her lover !
She made no silly blunders of self-depreciation this time !
She went gallantly forward, full sail, and all flags flying ;
posed as the queen of Alen^on, and vaunted her preserves.
Indeed, she fished for compliments, talking about herself
as if her trumpeter were dead. And she saw that she
1 1 8 The Jealousies of a Country Town
pleased the Vicomte, for her wish to please had so trans-
formed her, that she grew almost feminine. It was not
without inward exultation that she heard footsteps while
they sat at dessert ; sounds of going and coming in the
ante-chamber and noises in the salon ; and knew that
the usual company was arriving. She called the attention
of her uncle and M. de Troisville to this fact as a proof
of the affection in which she was held, whereas it really
was a symptom of the paroxysm of curiosity which con-
vulsed the whole town. Impatient to show herself in
her glory, she ordered coffee and the liqueurs to be taken
to the salon, whither Jacquelin went to display to the
elite of Alencon the splendours of a Dresden china ser-
vice, which only left the cupboard twice in a twelve-
month. All these circumstances were noted by people
disposed to criticise under their breath.
' Egad ! ' cried du Bousquier, c nothing but Mme.
Amphoux's liqueurs, which only come out on the four
great festival days ! '
' Decidedly, this match must have been arranged by
correspondence for a year past,' said M. le President du
Ronceret. c The postmaster here has been receiving
letters with an Odessa postmark for the last twelve
Mme. Granson shuddered. M. le Chevalier deValois
had eaten a heavy dinner, but he felt the pallor spreading
over his left cheek ; felt, too, that he was betraying his
secret, and said, c It is cold to-day, do you not think ?
I am freezing.'
' It is the neighbourhood of Russia,' suggested du
Bousquier. And the Chevalier looked at his rival as
who should say, c Well put in ! '
Mile. Cormon was so radiant, so triumphant, that she
looked positively handsome, it was thought. Nor was
this unwonted brilliancy wholly due to sentiment ; ever
since the morning the blood had been surging through
her veins ; the presentiments of a great crisis at hand
The Jealousies of a Country Town 119
affected her nerves. It needed a combination of circum-
stances to make her so little like herself. With what
joy did she not solemnly introduce the Vicomte to the
Chevalier, and the Chevalier to the Vicomte ; all
Alen^on was presented to M. de Troisville, and M. de
Troisville made the acquaintance of all Alencon. It
fell out, naturally enough, that the Vicomte and the
Chevalier, two born aristocrats, were in sympathy at
once j they recognised each other for inhabitants of the
same social sphere. They began to chat as they stood
by the fire. A circle formed about them listening
devoutly to their conversation, though it was carried on
sotto voce. Fully to realise the scene, imagine Mile.
Cormon standing with her back to the chimney-piece,
busy preparing coffee for her supposed suitor.
M. de Valois. c So M. le Vicomte is coming to
settle here, people say.'
M. de Troisville. c Yes, monsieur. I have come
to look for a house.' [Mile. Cormon turns, cup in hand.)
4 And I must have a large one ' — [Mile. Cormon offers the
cup of coffee) — ' to hold my family.' ( The room grows
dark before the old maid^s eyes.)
M. de Valois. ' Are you married ? '
M. de Troisville. 'Yes, I have been married for
sixteen years. My wife is the daughter of the Princess
Mile. Cormon dropped like one thunderstruck. Du
Bousquier, seeing her reel, sprang forward, and caught
her in his arms. Somebody opened the door to let him
pass out with his enormous burden. The mettled
Republican, counselled by Josette, summoned up his
strength, bore the old maid to her room, and deposited
her upon the bed. Josette, armed with a pair of
scissors, cut the stay-laces, drawn outrageously tight.
Du Bousquier, rough and ready, dashed cold water over
Mile. Cormon's face and the bust, which broke from its
bounds like Loire in flood. The patient opened her
120 The Jealousies of a Country Town
eyes, saw du Bousquier, and gave a cry of alarmed
modesty. Du Bousquier withdrew, leaving half-a-dozen
women in possession, with Mme. Granson at their head,
Mme. Granson beaming with joy.
What had the Chevalier de Valois done ? True to
his system, he had been covering the retreat.
'Poor Mile. Cormon!' he said, addressing M. de
Troisville, but looking round the room, quelling the
beginnings of an outbreak of laughter with his haughty
eyes. 'She is dreadfully troubled with heated blood.
She would not be bled before going to the Prebaudet
(her country house), and this is the result of the spring
4 She drove over in the rain this morning,' said the
Abbe de Sponde. * She may have taken a little cold,
and so caused the slight derangement of the system to
which she is subject. But she will soon get over it.'
'She was telling me the day before yesterday that she
had not had a recurrence of it for three months ; she
added at the time that it was sure to play her a bad turn,'
added the Chevalier.
'Ah! so you are married!' thought Jacquelin,
watching M. de Troisville, who was sipping his coffee.
The faithful man-servant made his mistress's dis-
appointment his own. He guessed her feelings. He
took away the liqueurs brought out for a bachelor, and
not for a Russian woman's husband. All these little
things were noticed with amusement.
The Abbe de Sponde had known all along why M. de
Troisville had come to Alencon, but in his absent-
mindedness he had said nothing about it ; it had never
entered his mind that his niece could take the slightest
interest in that gentleman. As for the Vicomte, he was
engrossed by the object of his journey ; like many other
married men, he was in no great hurry to introduce his
wife into the conversation ; he had had no opportunity
of saying that he was married ; and besides, he thought
that Mile. Cormon knew his history. Du Bousquier
The Jealousies of a Country Town 121
reappeared, and was questioned without mercy. One
of the six women came down, and reported that Mile.
Cormon was feeling much better, and that her doctor
had come ; but she was to stay in bed, and it appeared
that she ought to be bled at once. The salon soon filled.
In Mile. Cormon's absence, the ladies were free to
discuss the tragi-comic scene which had just taken
place ; and duly they enlarged, annotated, embellished, '
coloured, adorned, embroidered, and bedizened the tale
which was to set all Alencon thinking of the old maid
on the morrow.
Meanwhile, Josette upstairs was saying to her mis-
tress, 'That good M. du Bousquier ! How he carried
you upstairs ! What a fist ! Really, your illness made
him quite pale. He loves you still.'
And with this final phrase, the solemn and terrible
day came to a close.
Next day, all morning long, the news of the comedy,
with full details, circulated over Alencon, raising laughter
everywhere, to the shame of the town be it said. Next
day, Mile. Cormon, very much the better for the blood-
letting, would have seemed sublime to the most hardened
of those who jeered at her, if they could but have seen
her noble dignity and the Christian resignation in her
soul, as she gave her hand to the unconscious perpetrator
of the hoax, and went in to breakfast. Ah ! heartless
wags, who were laughing at her expense, why could you
not hear her say to the Vicomte —
'Mme. de Troisville will have some difficulty in
finding a house to suit her. Do me the favour of using
my house, monsieur, until you have made all your
1 But I have two girls and two boys, mademoiselle.
We should put you to a great deal of inconvenience.'
4 Do not refuse me,' said she, her eyes full of appre-
hension and regret.
'I made the offer, however you might decide, in my
122 The Jealousies of a Country Town
letter ; but you did not take it,' remarked the
' What, uncle ! did you know ? '
Poor thing, she broke off. Josette heaved a sigh,
and neither M. de Troisville nor the uncle noticed
After breakfast, the Abbe de Sponde, carrying out the
plan agreed upon over night, took the Vicomte to see
houses for sale and suitable sites for building. Mile.
Cormon was left alone in the salon.
* I am the talk of the town, child, by this time,' she
said, looking piteously at Josette.
c Well, mademoiselle, get married.'
' But, my girl, I am not at all prepared to make a
'Bah ! I should take M. du Bousquier if I were you.'
' M. de Valois says that he is such a Republican,
' Your gentlemen don't know what they are talking
about ; they say that he robbed the Republic, so he can't
have been at all fond of it,' said Josette, and with that
'That girl is amazingly shrewd,' thought Mile.
Cormon, left alone to her gnawing perplexity.
She saw that the only way of silencing talk was to
marry at once. This last so patently humiliating check
was enough to drive her to extreme measures ; and it
takes a great deal to force a feeble-minded human being
out of a groove, be it good or bad. Both the old
bachelors understood the position of affairs, both made
up their minds to call in the morning to make inquiries,
and (in their own language) to press the point.
M. de Valois considered that the occasion demanded
a scrupulous toilet ; he took a bath, he groomed himself
with unusual care, and for the first time and the last
Cesarine saw him applying * a suspicion of rouge ' with
The Jealousies of a Country Town 123
Du Bousquier, rough and ready Republican that
he was, inspired by dogged purpose, paid no attention
to his appearance, he hurried round, and came in
first. The fate of men, like the destinies of empires,
hangs on small things. History records all such
principal causes of great failure or success — a Keller-
mann's charge at Marengo, a Bliicher coming up at the
battle of Waterloo, a Prince Eugene slighted by
Louis xiv., a cure on the battlefield of Denain ; but
nobody profits by the lesson to be diligently attentive
to the little trifles of his own life. Behold the results.
— The Duchesse de Langeais in U Histoire des Treize
entering a convent for want of ten minutes' patience ;
Judge Popinot in U Interdiction putting ofF his inquiries
as to the Marquis d'Espard till to-morrow ; Charles
Grandet coming home by way of Bordeaux instead of
Nantes — and these things are said to happen by accident
and mere chance ! The few moments spent in putting
on that suspicion of rouge wrecked M. de Valois's hopes.
Only in such a way could the Chevalier have succumbed.
He had lived for the Graces, he was foredoomed to die
through them. Even as he gave a last look in the
mirror, the burly du Bousquier was entering the dis-
consolate old maid's drawing-room. His entrance
coincided with a gleam of favour in the lady's mind,
though in the course of her deliberations the Chevalier
had decidedlv had the advantage.
' It is God's will,' she said to herself when du Bous-
' Mademoiselle, I trust you will not take my impor-
tunity in bad part ; I did not like to trust that great
stupid of a Rene' to make inquiries, and came myself.'
'I am perfectly well,' she said nervously ; then, after a
pause, and in a very emphatic tone, * Thank you, M. du
Bousquier, for the trouble that you took and that I gave
you yesterday '
She recollected how she had lain in du Bousquier's
124 The Jealousies of a Country Town
arms, and the accident seemed to her to be a direct
order from heaven. For the first time in her life a man
had seen her with her belt wrenched apart, her stay-
laces cut, the jewel shaken violently out of its case.
' 1 was so heartily glad to carry you, that I thought
you a light weight,' said he.
At this Mile. Cormon looked at du Bousquier as she
never looked at any man in the world before ; and thus
encouraged, the ex-contractor for forage flung a side
glance that went straight to the old maid's heart.
' It is a pity,' added he, ' that this has not given me