versation, and gave the pair a broadside of her eyes, an
art acquired by Frenchwomen since the Peace, when
Englishwomen imported it into this country, together
with the shape of their silver plate, their horses and
harness, and the piles of insular ice which impart a re-
freshing coolness to the atmosphere of any room in
which a certain number of British females are gathered
together. The young men grew serious as a couple
of clerks at the end of a homily from headquarters
before the receipt of an expected bonus.
The Duchess when she lost her heart to Victurnien
had made up her mind to play the part of romantic
226 The Jealousies of a Country Town
Innocence, a role much understudied subsequently by
other women, for the misfortune of modern youth.
Her Grace of Maufrigneuse had just come out as an
angel at a moment's notice, precisely as she meant to
turn to literature and science somewhere about her
fortieth year instead of taking to devotion. She made a
point of being like nobody else. Her parts, her dresses,
her caps, opinions, toilettes, and manner of acting were
all entirely new and original. Soon after her marriage,
when she was scarcely more than a girl, she had played
the part of a knowing and almost depraved woman ; she
ventured on risky repartees with shallow people, and
betrayed her ignorance to those who knew better. As
the date of that marriage made it impossible to
abstract one little year from her age without the
knowledge of Time, and as Her Grace had reached her
twenty-sixth year, she had taken it into her head to be
immaculate. She scarcely seemed to belong to earth ;
she shook out her wide sleeves as if they had been wings.
Her eyes fled to heaven at too warm a glance, or word,
There is a madonna painted by Piola, the great
Genoese painter, who bade fair to bring out a second
edition of Rafael till his career was cut short by
jealousy and murder ; his madonna, however, you may
dimly discern through a pane of glass in a little street in
A more chaste-eyed madonna than Piola's does
not exist ; but compared with Mme. de Maufrigneuse,
that heavenly creature was a Messalina. Women
wondered among themselves how such a giddy young
thing had been transformed by a change of dress into
the fair veiled seraph who seemed (to use an expression
now in vogue) to have a soul as white as new fallen
i snow on the highest Alpine crests. How had she solved
in such short space the Jesuitical problem how to dis-
play a bosom whiter than her soul by hiding it in gauze ?
The Jealousies of a Country Town 227
How could she look so ethereal while her eyes drooped
so murderously ? Those almost wanton glances seemed
to give promise of untold languorous delight, while by.
an ascetic's sigh of aspiration after a better life the
mouth appeared to add that none of those promises
would be fulfilled. Ingenuous youths (for there were a
few to be found in the Guards of that day) privately
wondered whether, in the most intimate moments, it
were possible to speak familiarly to this White Lady,
this starry vapour slidden down from the Milky Way.
This system, which answered completely for some
years at a stretch, was turned to good account by
women of fashion, whose breasts were lined with a stout
philosophy, for they could cloak no inconsiderable
exactions with these little airs from the sacristy. Not
one of the celestial creatures but was quite well aware
of the possibilities of less ethereal love which lay in the
longing of every well-conditioned male to recall such
beings to earth. It was a fashion which permitted them
to abide in a semi-religious, semi-Ossianic empyrean ;
they could, and did, ignore all the practical details of
daily life, a short and easy method of disposing of many
questions. De Marsay, foreseeing the future develop-
ments of the system, added a last word, for he saw that
Rastignac was jealous of Victurnien.
4 My boy,' said he, c stay as you are. Our Nucingen
will make your fortune, whereas the Duchess would
ruin you. She is too expensive.'
Rastignac allowed de Marsay to go without asking
further questions. He knew Paris. He knew that the
most refined and noble and disinterested of women — a|
woman who cannot be induced to accept anything but
a bouquet — can be as dangerous an acquaintance for a/
young man as any opera girl of former days. As a
matter of fact, the opera girl is an almost mythical '
being. As things are now at the theatres, dancers and
actresses are about as amusing as a declaration of the
228 The Jealousies of a Country Town
rights of woman, they are puppets that go abroad in the
morning in the character of respected and respectable
mothers of families, and act men's parts in tight-fitting
garments at night.
Worthy M. Chesnel, in his country notary's office,
was right ; he had foreseen one of the reefs on which
the Count might make shipwreck. Victurnien was
dazzled by the poetic aureole which Mme. de Maufri-
gneuse chose to assume ; he was chained and padlocked
from the first hour in her company, bound captive by
that girlish sash, and caught by the curls twined round
fairy fingers. Far corrupted the boy was already, but
he really believed in that farrago of maidenliness and
muslin, in sweet looks as much studied as an Act of
Parliament. And if the one man, who is in duty bound
to believe in feminine fibs, is deceived by them, is not
that enough ?
For a pair of lovers, the rest of their species are
about as much alive as figures on the tapestry. The
Duchess, flattery apart, was avowedly and admittedly
one of the ten handsomest women in society. * The
loveliest woman in Paris ' is, as you know, as often met
with in the world of love-making as l the finest book
that has appeared in this generation,' in the world of
The converse which Victurnien held with the Duchess
can be kept up at his age without too great a strain.
He was young enough and ignorant enough of life in
Paris to feel no necessity to be upon his guard, no need
to keep a watch over his lightest words and glances. The
religious sentimentalism, which finds a broadly humorous
commentary in the after-thoughts of either speaker, puts
the old-world French chat of men and women, with its
pleasant familiarity, its lively ease, quite out of the
question ; they make love in a mist nowadays.
Victurnien was just sufficient of an unsophisticated
I provincial to remain suspended in a highly appropriate
The Jealousies of a Country Town 229
and unfeigned rapture which pleased the Duchess ; for
women are no more to be deceived by the comedies
which men play than by their own. Mme. de Maufri-
gneuse calculated, not without dismay, that the young
Count's infatuation was likely to hold good for six whole
months of disinterested love. She looked so lovely in I
this dove's mood, quenching the light in her eyes by the
golden fringe of their lashes, that when the Marquise
d'Espard bade her friend good-night, she whispered,
4 Good ! very good, dear ! ' And with those farewell
words, the fair Marquise left her rival to make the tour
of the modern Pays du Tendre ; which, by the way, is
not so absurd a conception as some appear to think.
New maps of the country are engraved for each genera-
tion ; and if the names of the routes are different, they
still lead to the same capital city.
In the course of an hour's tete-a-tete, on a corner
sofa, under the eyes of the world, the Duchess brought
young d'Esgrignon as far as Scipio's Generosity, the
Devotion of Amadis, and Chivalrous Self-abnegation
(for the Middle Ages were just coming into fashion,
with their daggers, machicolations, hauberks, chain-
mail, peaked shoes, and romantic painted card-board
properties). She had an admirable turn, moreover, for
leaving things unsaid, for leaving ideas in a discreet, 1
seeming careless way, to work their way down, one by /
one, into Victurnien's heart, like needles into a cushion.
She possessed a marvellous skill in reticence ; she was 1
charming in hypocrisy, lavish of subtle promises, which
revived hope and then melted away like ice in the sun
if you looked at them closely, and most treacherous in
the desire which she felt and inspired. At the close of
this charming encounter she produced the running I
noose of an invitation to call, and flung it over him
with a dainty demureness which the printed page can
never set forth.
' You will forget me,' she said. ' You will find so
230 The Jealousies of a Country Town
many women eager to pay court to you instead of
enlightening you. . . . But you will come back to me
undeceived. Are you coming to me first ? . . . No.
As you will. — For my own part, I tell you frankly that
your visits will be a great pleasure to me. People of
soul are so rare, and I think that you are one of them.
— Come, good-bye ; people will begin to talk about us
if we talk together any longer.'
She made good her words and took flight. Victurnien
went soon afterwards, but not before others had guessed
his ecstatic condition ; his face wore the expression
peculiar to happy men, something between an Inquisi-
tor's calm discretion and the self-contained beatitude
of a devotee, fresh from the confessional and absolu-
c Mme. de Maufrigneuse went pretty briskly to the
point this evening,' said the Duchesse de Grandlieu,
when only half-a-dozen persons were left in Mile, des
Touches' little drawing-room — to wit, des Lupeaulx,
a Master of Requests, who at that time stood very well
at court, Vandenesse, the Vicomtesse de Grandlieu,
Canalis, and Mme. de Serizy.
' D'Esgrignon and Maufrigneuse are two names that
are sure to cling together,' said Mme. de Serizy, who
aspired to epigram.
4 For some days past she has been out at grass on
Platonism,' said des Lupeaulx.
' She will ruin that poor innocent,' added Charles de
i What do you mean ? ' asked Mile, des Touches.
1 Oh, morally and financially, beyond all doubt,' said
the Vicomtesse, rising.
The cruel words were cruelly true for young
Next morning he wrote to his aunt describing his
introduction into the high world of the Faubourg Saint-
Germain in bright colours flung by the prism of love,
The Jealousies of a Country Town 231
explaining the reception which met him everywhere in
a way which gratified his father's family pride. The
Marquis would have the whole long letter read to him
twice ; he rubbed his hands when he heard of the
Vidame des Pamiers' dinner — the Vidame was an old
acquaintance — and of the subsequent introduction to the
Duchess ; but at Blondet's name he lost himself in
conjectures. What could the younger son of a judge,
a public prosecutor during the Revolution, have been
doing there ?
There was joy that evening among the Collection of
Antiquities. They talked over the young Count's
success. So discreet were they with regard to Mme.
de Maufrigneuse, that the one man who heard the
secret was the Chevalier. There was no financial post-
script at the end of the letter, no unpleasant concluding
reference to the sinews of war, which every young man
makes in such a case. Mile. Armande showed it to
Chesnel. Chesnel was pleased and raised not a single
objection. It was clear, as the Marquis and the Cheva-
lier agreed, that a young man in favour with the
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse would shortly be a hero at
court, where in the old days women were all-powerful.
The Count had not made a bad choice. The dowagers
told over all the gallant adventures of the Maufrigneuses
from Louis xiii. to Louis xvi. — they spared to inquire
into preceding reigns — and when all was done they
were enchanted. Mme. de Maufrigneuse was much
praised for interesting herself in Victurnien. Any
writer of plays in search of a piece of pure comedy
would have found it well worth his while to listen to
the Antiquities in conclave.
Victurnien received charming letters from his father
and aunt, and also from the Chevalier. That gentleman
recalled himself to the Vidame's memory. He had been
at Spa with M. de Pamiers in 1778, after a certain
232 The Jealousies of a Country Town
journey made by a celebrated Hungarian princess.
And Chesnel also wrote. The fond flattery to which
the unhappy boy was only too well accustomed shone
out of every page ; and Mile. Armande seemed to share
half of Mme. de Maufrigneuse's happiness.
Thus happy in the approval of his family, the young
Count made a spirited beginning in the perilous and
costly ways of dandyism. He had five horses — he was
moderate — de Marsay had fourteen ! He returned the
Vidame's hospitality, even including Blondet in the
invitation, as well as de Marsay and Rastignac. The
dinner cost five hundred francs, and the noble provincial
was feted on the same scale. Victurnien played a good
deal, and, for his misfortune, at the fashionable game of
He laid out his days in busy idleness. Every day
between twelve and three o'clock he was with the
Duchess ; afterwards he went to meet her in the Bois de
Boulogne and ride beside her carriage. Sometimes the
charming couple rode together, but this was early in
fine summer mornings. Society, balls, the theatre, and
gaiety filled the Count's evening hours. Everywhere
Victurnien made a brilliant figure ; everywhere he
flung the pearls of his wit broadcast. He gave his
opinion on men, affairs, and events in profound sayings ;
he would have put you in mind of a fruit-tree putting
forth all its strength in blossom. He was leading an
enervating life, wasteful of money, and even yet more
wasteful, it may be, of a man's soul ; in that life the
fairest talents are buried out of sight, the most incorrup-
tible honesty perishes, the best-tempered springs of will
The Duchess, so white and fragile and angel-like,
felt attracted to the dissipations of bachelor life ; she
enjoyed first nights, she liked anything amusing, any-
thing improvised. Bohemian restaurants lay outside
her experience ; so d'Esgrignon got up a charming
The Jealousies of a Country Town 233
little party at the Rocher de Cancale for her benefit,
asked all the amiable scamps whom she cultivated and
sermonised, and there was a vast amount of merriment,
wit, and gaiety, and a corresponding bill to pay. That
supper party led to others. And through it all Vic-
turnien worshipped her as an angel. Mme. de Mau-
frigneuse for him was still an angel, untouched by any
taint of earth ; an angel at the Varietes, where she sat
out the half-obscene, vulgar farces, which made her
laugh ; an angel through the cross-fire of highly- 1
flavoured jests and scandalous anecdotes, which enlivened
a stolen frolic ; a languishing angel in the latticed box
at the Vaudeville ; an angel while she criticised the
postures of opera dancers with the experience of an
elderly habitue of le coin de la reine ; an angel at the
Porte Saint-Martin, at the little boulevard theatres, at
the masked balls, which she enjoyed like any schoolboy.
She was an angel who asked him for the love that lives '
by self-abnegation and heroism and self-sacrifice; an (
angel who would have her lover live like an English
lord, with an income of a million francs. D'Esgrignon
once exchanged a horse because the animal's coat did
not satisfy her notions. At play she was an angel, and
certainly no bourgeoise that ever lived could have bidden
d'Esgrignon 'Stake for me!' in such an angelic way.
She was so divinely reckless in her folly, that a man
might well have sold his soul to the devil lest this angel
should lose her taste for earthly pleasures.
The first winter went by. The Count had drawn on
M. Cardot for the trifling sum of thirty thousand francs
over and above Chesnel's remittance. As Cardot very
carefully refrained from using his right of remonstrance,
Victurnien now learned for the first time that he had
overdrawn his account. He was the more offended by
an extremely polite refusal to make any further advance,
since it so happened that he had just lost six thousand
234 The Jealousies of a Country Town
francs at play at the club, and he could not very well
show himself there until they were paid.
After growing indignant with Maitre Cardot, who
had trusted him with thirty thousand francs (Cardot had
written to Chesnel, but to the fair Duchess's favourite
he made the most of his so-called confidence in him),
after all this, d'Esgrignon was obliged to ask the
lawyer to tell him how to set about raising the money,
since debts of honour were in question.
I Draw bills on your father's banker, and take them to
his correspondent ; he, no doubt, will discount them for
you. Then write to your family, and tell them to
remit the amount to the banker.'
An inner voice seemed to suggest du Croisier's
name in this predicament. He had seen du Croisier on
his knees to the aristocracy, and of the man's real dis-
position he was entirely ignorant. So to du Croisier he
wrote a very ofFhand letter, informing him that he had
drawn a bill of exchange on him for ten thousand
francs, adding that the amount would be repaid on
receipt of the letter either by M. Chesnel or by Mile.
Armande d'Esgrignon. Then he indited two touching
epistles — one to Chesnel, another to his aunt. In the
matter of going headlong to ruin, a young man often
shows singular ingenuity and ability, and fortune
favours him. In the morning Victurnien happened
on the name of the Paris bankers in correspondence
with du Croisier, and de Marsay furnished him with
the Kellers' address. De Marsay knew everything in
Paris. The Kellers took the bill and gave him the
sum without a word, after deducting the discount. The
balance of the account was in du Croisier's favour.
But the gaming debt was as nothing in comparison
with the state of things at home. Invoices showered in
I I say ! Do you trouble yourself about that sort of
thing?' Rastignac said, laughing. 'Are you putting
The Jealousies of a Country Town 235
them in order, my dear boy ? I did not think you were
' My dear fellow, it is quite time I thought about it ;
there are twenty odd thousand francs there.'
De Marsay, coming in to look up d'Esgrignon for a
steeple-chase, produced a dainty little pocket-book, took
out twenty thousand francs, and handed them to him.
1 It is the best way of keeping the money safe,' said
he ; i I am twice enchanted to have won it yesterday
from my honoured father, Milord Dudley.'
Such French grace completely fascinated d'Esgrignon ;
he took it for friendship ; and as to the money, punc-
tually forgot to pay his debts with it, and spent it on his
pleasures. The fact was that de Marsay was looking on
with an unspeakable pleasure while young d'Esgrignon
'got out of his depth,' in dandy's idiom; it pleased
de Marsay in all sorts of fondling ways to lay an arm on
the lad's shoulder ; by and by he should feel its weight,
and disappear the sooner. For de Marsay was jealous ;
the Duchess flaunted her love affair ; she was not at
home to other visitors when d'Esgrignon was with her.
And besides, de Marsay was one of those savage
humourists who delight in mischief, as Turkish women
in the bath. So, when he had carried off the prize, and
bets were settled at the tavern where they breakfasted,
and a bottle or two of good wine had appeared, de
Marsay turned to d'Esgrignon with a laugh —
4 Those bills that you are worrying over are not yours,
I am sure.'
c Eh ! if they weren't, why should he worry himself? '
1 And whose should they be ? ' d'Esgrignon inquired.
' Then you do not know the Duchess's position r '
queried de Marsay, as he sprang into the saddle.
c No,' said d'Esgrignon, his curiosity aroused.
* Well, dear fellow, it is like this,' returned de Marsay —
' thirty thousand francs to Victorine, eighteen thousand
236 The Jealousies of a Country Town
francs to Houbigaut, lesser amounts to Herbault,
Nattier, Nourtier, and those Latour people, — altogether
a hundred thousand francs.'
c An angel ! ' cried d'Esgrignon, with eyes uplifted to
'This is the bill for her wings, 1 Rastignac cried face-
'She owes all that, my dear boy,' continued de
Marsay, c precisely because she is an angel. But we
have all seen angels in this position,' he added, glancing
at Rastignac ; ' there is this about women that is
sublime, they understand nothing of money ; they do
not meddle with it, it is no affair of theirs ; they are
invited guests at the " banquet of life," as some
poet or other said that came to an end in the work-
c How do you know this when I do not ? ' d'Esgrignon
4 You are sure to be the last to know it, just as she
is sure to be the last to hear that you are in debt.'
C I thought she had a hundred thousand livres a year,'
' Her husband,' replied de Marsay, ' lives apart from
her. He stays with his regiment and practises economy,
for he has one or two little debts of his own as well, has
our dear Duke. Where do you come from ? Just
learn to do as we do and keep our friends' accounts for
them. Mile. Diane (I fell in love with her for the
name's sake), Mile. Diane d'Uxelles brought her hus-
band sixty thousand livres of income; for the last eight
years she has lived as if she had two hundred thousand.
It is perfectly plain that at this moment her lands are
mortgaged up to their full value ; some fine morning
the crash must come, and the angel will be put to flight
by — must it be said ? — by sheriff's officers that have the
effrontery to lay hands on an angel just as they might
take hold of one of us.'
The Jealousies of a Country Town 237
1 Poor angel ! '
'Lord ! it costs a great deal to dwell in a Parisian
heaven ; you must whiten your wings and your com-
plexion every morning,' said Rastignac.
Now as the thought of confessing his debts to his
beloved Diane had passed through d'Esgrignon's mind,
something like a shudder ran through him when he
remembered that he still owed sixty thousand francs, to
say nothing of bills to come for another ten thousand.
He went back melancholy enough. His friends re-
marked his ill-disguised preoccupation, and spoke of it
among themselves at dinner.
1 Young d'Esgrignon is getting out of his depth. He
is not up to Paris. He will blow his brains out. A
little fool ! ' and so on and so on.
D'Esgrignon, however, promptly took comfort. His
servant brought him two letters. The first was from
Chesnel. A letter from Chesnel smacked of the stale
grumbling faithfulness of honesty and its consecrated
formulas. With all respect he put it aside till the even-
ing. But the second letter he read with unspeakable
pleasure. In Ciceronian phrases, du Croisier grovelled
before him, like a Sganarelle before a Geronte, begging
the young Count in future to spare him the affront of
first depositing the amount of the bills which he should
condescend to draw. The concluding phrase seemed
meant to convey the idea that here was an open cash-
box full of coin at the service of the noble d'Esgrignon
family. So strong was the impression that Victurnien,
like Sganarelle or Mascarille in the play, like everybody
else who feels a twinge of conscience at his finger-tips,
made an involuntary gesture.
Now that he was sure of unlimited credit with the
Kellers, he opened Chesnel's letter gaily. He had
expected four full pages, full of expostulation to the
brim ; he glanced down the sheet for the familiar words
* prudence,' * honour,' * determination to do right,' and
238 The Jealousies of a Country Town
the like, and saw something else instead which made
his head swim.
Monsieur le Comte, — Of all my fortune I have
now but two hundred thousand francs left. I beg of
you not to exceed that amount, if you should do one of
the most devoted servants of your family the honour of
talcing it. I present my respects to you. Chesnel.
c He is one of Plutarch's men,' Victurnien said to him-
self, as he tossed the letter on the table. He felt
chagrined ; such magnanimity made him feel very
c There ! one must reform,' he thought ; and instead
of going to a restaurant and spending fifty or sixty
francs over his dinner, he retrenched by dining with the
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, and told her about the letter.
1 1 should like to see that man,' she said, letting her
eyes shine like two fixed stars.
* What would you do ? '
'Why, he should manage my affairs for me.'
Diane de Maufrigneuse was divinely dressed ; she
meant her toilet to do honour to Victurnien. The