Du Bousquier, feeling convinced that a victory was
impossible, had two special messengers on the battlefield,
and speculated with the larger part of his fortune for a
fall in the funds. The first courier came with the news
that Melas was victorious ; but the second arriving four
hours afterwards, at night, brought the tidings of the
Austrian defeat. Du Bousquier cursed Kellermann and
Desaix ; the First Consul owed him millions, he dared
not curse him. But between the chance of making
millions on the one hand, and stark ruin on the other,
he lost his head. For several days he was half idiotic ;
he had undermined his constitution with excesses to
such an extent that the thunderbolt left him helpless.
He had something to hope from the settlement of his
claims upon the Government ; but in spite of bribes, he
was made to feel the weight of Napoleon's displeasure
against army contractors who speculated on his defeat.
M. de Fermon, so pleasantly nicknamed * Fermons la
1 See Une Te'nebreuse Affaire.
The Jealousies of a Country Town 23
caissej left du Bousquier without a penny. The First
Consul was even more incensed by the immorality of
his private life and his connection with Barras and Ber-
nadotte than by his speculations on the Bourse ; he
erased M. du Bousquier's name from the list of
Receivers-general, on which a last remnant of credit
had placed him for Alencon.
Of all his former wealth, nothing now remained to du
Bousquier save an income of twelve hundred francs from
the funds, an investment entirely due to chance, which
saved him from actual want. His creditors, knowing
nothing of the results of his liquidation, only left him
enough in consols to bring in a thousand francs per
annum; but their claims were paid in full after all, when
the outstanding debts had been collected, and the Hotel
de Beauseant, du Bousquier's town house, sold besides.
So, after a close shave of bankruptcy, the sometime
speculator emerged with his name intact. Preceded by
a tremendous reputation due to his relations with former
heads of government departments, his manner of life, his
brief day of authority, and final ruin through the First
Consul, the man interested the city Alencon, where
Royalism was secretly predominant. Du Bousquier,
exasperated against Bonaparte, with his tales of the
First Consul's pettiness, of Josephine's lax morals, and a
whole store of anecdotes of ten years of Revolution,
seen from within, met with a good reception.
It was about this period of his life that du Bousquier,
now well over his fortieth year, came out as a bachelor
of thirty-six. He was of medium height, fat as became
a contractor, and willing to display a pair of calves that
would have done credit to a gay and gallant attorney.
He had strongly marked features ; a flattened nose with
tufts of hair in the equine nostrils ; bushy black brows,
and eyes beneath them that looked out shrewd as M. de
Talleyrand's own, though they had lost something of their
brightness. He wore his brown hair very long, and
24 The Jealousies of a Country Town
retained the side-whiskers [nagcoires y as they were called)
of the time of the Republic. You had only to look at
his fingers, tufted at every joint, or at the blue knotted
veins that stood out upon his hands, to see the unmistak-
able signs of a very remarkable muscular development ;
and, in truth, he had the chest of the Farnese Hercules,
and shoulders fit to bear the burden of the national debt ;
you never see such shoulders nowadays. His was
a luxuriant virility admirably described by an eighteenth
century phrase which is scarcely intelligible to-day ;
the gallantry of a bygone age would have summed up
du Bousquier as a 'payer of arrears' — un vrai payeur
Yet, as in the case of the Chevalier de Valois, there
were sundry indications at variance with the ex-con-
tractor's general appearance. His vocal powers, for
instance, were not in keeping with his muscles ; not
that it was the mere thread of a voice which sometimes
issues from the throats of such two-footed seals ; on the
contrary, it was loud but husky, something like the
sound of a saw cutting through damp, soft wood ; it was,
in fact, the voice of a speculator brought to grief. For a
long while du Bousquier wore the costume in vogue in
the days of his glory : the boots with turned-down tops,
the white silk stockings, the short cloth breeches, ribbed
with cinnamon colour, the blue coat, the waistcoat a la
His hatred of the First Consul should have been a
sort of passport into the best Royalist houses of Alencon;
but the seven or eight families that made up the local
Faubourg Saint-Germain into which the Chevalier de
Valois had the entrance, held aloof. Almost from the
first, du Bousquier had aspired to marry one Mile.
Armande, whose brother was one of the most esteemed
nobles of the town ; he thought to make this brother
play a great part in his own schemes, for he was dream-
ing of a brilliant return match in politics. He met with
The jealousies of a Country Town 25
a refusal, for which he consoled himself with such com-
pensation as he might find among some half-score of
retired manufacturers of Point cV Alencon, owners of
grass lands or cattle, or wholesale linen merchants,
thinking that among these chance might put a good
match in his way. Indeed, the old bachelor had centred
all his hopes on a prospective fortunate marriage, which
a man, eligible in so many ways, might fairly expect to
make. For he was not without a certain financial
acumen, of which not a few availed themselves. He
pointed out business speculations as a ruined gambler
gives hints to new hands ; and he was expert at dis-
covering the resources, chances, and management of a
concern. People looked upon him as a good adminis-
trator. It was an often-discussed question whether he
should not be mayor of Alencon, but the recollection of
his Republican jobberies spoiled his chances, and he was
never received at the prefecture.
Every successive government, even the government
of the Hundred Days, declined to give him the coveted
appointment, which would have assured his marriage
with an elderly spinster whom he now had in his mind.
It was his detestation of the Imperial Government that
drove him into the Royalist camp, where he stayed in
spite of insults there received ; but when the Bourbons
returned, and still he was excluded from the prefecture,
that final rebuff filled him with a hatred deep as the
profound secrecy in which he wrapped it. Outwardly,
he remained patiently faithful to his opinions ; secretly,
he became the leader of the Liberal party in Alencon,
the invisible controller of elections; and, by his cunningly
devised manoeuvres and underhand methods, he worked
no little harm to the restored Monarchy.
When a man is reduced to live through his intellect
alone, his hatred is something as quiet as a little stream •
insignificant to all appearance, but unfailing. This
was the case with du Bousquier. His hatred was like a
i6 The jealousies of a Country Town
negro's, so placid, so patient, that it deceives the enemy.
For fifteen years he brooded over a revenge which no
victory, not even the Three Days of July 1830, could
When the Chevalier sent Suzanne to du Bousquier,
he had his own reasons for so doing. The Liberal and
the Royalist divined each other, in spite of the skilful
dissimulation which hid their common aim from the rest
of the town.
The two old bachelors were rivals. Both of them had
planned to marry the Demoiselle Cormon, whose name
came up in the course of the Chevalier's conversation
with Suzanne. Both of them, engrossed by their idea,
and masquerading in indifference, were waiting for the
moment when some chance should deliver the old maid
to one or other of them. And the fact that they were
rivals in this way would have been enough to make
enemies of the pair even if each had not been the living
embodiment of a political system.
Men take their colour from their time. This pair of
rivals is a case in point ; the historic tinge of their char-
acters stood out in strong contrast in their talk, their ideas,
their costume. The one, blunt and energetic, with his
burly abrupt ways, curt speech, dark looks, dark hair, and
dark complexion, alarming in appearance, but impotent
in reality as insurrection, was the Republic personified ;
the other, bland and polished, elegant and fastidious,
gaining his ends slowly but surely by diplomacy, and
never unmindful of good taste, was the typical old-world
courtier. They met on the same ground almost every
evening. It was a rivalry always courteous and urbane
on the part of the Chevalier, less ceremonious on du
Bousquier's, though he kept within the limits pre-
scribed by Alencon, for he had no wish to be driven
ignominiously from the field. The two men understood
each other well ; but no one else saw what was going
on. In spite of the minute and curious interest which
The Jealousies of a Country Town 27
provincials take in the small details of which their lives
are made up, no one so much as suspected that the two
men were rivals.
M. le Chevalier's position was somewhat the stronger;
he had never proposed for Mile. Cormon, whereas du
Bousquier had declared himself after a rebuff from one
of the noblest families, and had met with a second
refusal. Still, the Chevalier thought so well of his
rival's chances, that he considered it worth while to deal
him a coup de Jarnac^ a treacherous thrust from a weapon
as finely tempered as Suzanne. He had fathomed du
Bousquier ; and, as will shortly be seen, he was not
mistaken in any of his conjectures.
Suzanne tripped away down the Rue du Cours, along
the Rue de la Porte de Seez and the Rue du Bercail to
the Rue du Cygne, where du Bousquier, five years ago,
had bought a small countrified house built of the grey
stone of the district, which is used like granite in
Normandy, or Breton schist in the West. The some-
time forage-contractor had established himself there
in more comfort than any other house in the town
could boast, for he had brought with him some relics of
past days of splendour ; but provincial manners and
customs were slowly darkening the glory of the fallen
Sardanapalus. The vestiges of past luxury looked about
as much out of place in the house as a chandelier in a
barn. Harmony, which links the works of man or of
God together, was lacking in all things large or small.
A ewer with a metal lid, such as you only see on the
outskirts of Brittany, stood on a handsome chest of
drawers ; and while the bedroom floor was covered with
a fine carpet, the window-curtains displayed a flower
pattern only known to cheap printed cottons. The stone
mantelpiece, daubed over with paint, was out of all
keeping with a handsome clock disgraced by a shabby
pair of candlesticks. Local talent had made an un-
28 The Jealousies of a Country Town
successful attempt to paint the doors in vivid contrasts of
startling colours ; while the staircase, ascended by all and
sundry in muddy boots, had not been painted at all. In
short, du Bousquier's house, like the time which he
represented, was a confused mixture of grandeur and
Du Bousquier was regarded as well-to-do, but he led
the parasitical life of the Chevalier de Valois, and he
is always rich enough that spends less than his
income. His one servant was a country bumpkin, a
dull-witted youth enough ; but he had been trained, by
slow degrees, to suit du Bousquier's requirements, until
he had learned, much as an ourang-outang might learn,
to scour floors, black boots, brush clothes, and to come
for his master of an evening with a lantern if it was
dark, and a pair of sabots if it rained. On great occasions,
du Bousquier made him discard the blue-checked cotton
blouse with loose sagging pockets behind, which always
bulged with a handkerchief, a clasp knife, apples, or
' stickjaw.' Arrayed in a regulation suit of clothes, he
accompanied his master to wait at table, and over-ate
himself afterwards with the other servants. Like many
other mortals, Rene had only stuff" enough in him for one
vice, and his was gluttony. Du Bousquier made a reward
of this service, and in return his Breton factotum was
* What, have you come our way, miss ? ' Rene asked
when he saw Suzanne in the doorway. i It is not
your day ; we have not got any linen for Mme.
4 Big stupid ! ' laughed the fair Suzanne, as she went
up the stairs, leaving Rene to finish a porringer full of
buckwheat bannocks boiled in milk.
Du Bousquier was still in bed, ruminating his plans
for fortune. To him, as to all who have squeezed the
orange of pleasure, there was nothing left but ambition.
Ambition, like gambling, is inexhaustible. And, more-
The Jealousies of a Country Town 29
over, given a good constitution, the passions of the brain
will always outlive the heart's passions.
' Here I am ! ' said Suzanne, sitting down on the bed ;
the curtain-rings grated along the rods as she swept
them sharply back with an imperious gesture.
' £)uesaco, my charmer? ' asked du Bousquier, sitting
c Monsieur,' Suzanne began, with much gravity, 'you
must be surprised to see me come in this way ; but,
under the circumstances, it is no use my minding what
people will say.'
4 What is all this about ? ' asked du Bousquier, folding
1 Why, do you not understand ? ' returned Suzanne.
' I know ' (with an engaging little pout), 'I know how
ridiculous it is when a poor girl comes to bother a man
about things that you think mere trifles. But if you
really knew me, monsieur, if you only knew all that I
would do for a man, if he cared about me as I could care
about you, you would never repent of marrying me. It
is not that I could be of so much use to you here^ by the
way j but if we went to Paris, you should see how far
I could bring a man of spirit with such brains as yours,
and especially just now, when they are re-making the
Government from top to bottom, and the foreigners are
the masters. Between ourselves, does this thing in
question really matter after all ? Is it not a piece of
good fortune for which you would be glad to pay a good
deal one of these days ? For whom are you going to
think and work ? '
.' For myself, to be sure ! ' du Bousquier answered
4 Old monster ! you shall never be a father ! ' said
Suzanne, with a ring in her voice which turned the
words to a prophecy and a curse.
c Come, Suzanne, no nonsense ; I am dreaming still,
30 The Jealousies of a Country Town
i What more do you want in the way of reality ? '
cried Suzanne, rising to her feet. Du Bousquier
scrubbed his head with his cotton nightcap, which he
twisted round and round with a fidgety energy that
told plainly of prodigious mental ferment.
' He actually believes it ! ' Suzanne said within herself.
1 And his vanity is tickled. Good Lord, how easy it is
to take them in ! '
c Suzanne ! What the deuce do you want me to do ?
It is so extraordinary ... I that thought The
fact is. . . . But no, no, it can't be '
' Do you mean that you cannot marry me ? '
1 Oh, as to that, no. I am not free.'
c Is it Mile. Armande or Mile. Cormon, who have
both refused you already ? Look here, M. du Bousquier,
it is not as if I was obliged to get gendarmes to drag
you to the registrar's office to save my character.
There are plenty that would marry me, but I have
no intention whatever of taking a man that does not
know my value. You may be sorry some of these
days that you behaved like this ; for if you will not take
your chance to-day, not for gold, nor silver, nor any-
thing in this world will I give it you again.'
' But, Suzanne — are you sure ? '
1 Sir, for what do you take me ? ' asked the girl, drap-
ing herself in her virtue. ' I am not going to put you
in mind of the promises you made, promises that have
been the ruin of a poor girl, when all her fault was that
she looked too high and loved too much.'
But joy, suspicion, self-interest, and a host of con-
tending emotions had taken possession of du Bousquier.
For a long time past he had made up his mind that he
would marry Mile. Cormon ; for after long ruminations
over the Charter, he saw that it opened up magnificent
prospects to his ambition through the channels of a
representative government. His marriage with that
mature spinster would raise his social position very
The Jealousies of a Country Town 31
much ; he would acquire great influence in Alencon.
And here this wily Suzanne had conjured up a storm,
which put him in a most awkward dilemma. But for
that private hope of his, he would have married Suzanne
out of hand, and put himself openly at the head of the
Liberal party in the town. Such a marriage meant the
final renunciation of the best society, and a drop into
the ranks of the wealthy tradesmen, shopkeepers, rich
manufacturers, and graziers who, beyond a doubt, would
carry him as their candidate in triumph. Already du
Bousquier caught a glimpse of the Opposition benches.
He did not attempt to hide his solemn deliberations ; he
rubbed his hand over his head, made a wisp of the cotton
nightcap, and a damaging confession of the nudity
beneath it. As for Suzanne, after the wont of those
who succeed beyond their utmost hopes, she sat dumb-
founded. To hide her amazement at his behaviour, she
drooped like a hapless victim before her seducer, while
within herself she laughed like a grisette on a frolic.
' My dear child, I will have nothing to do with
hanky-panky of this sort.'
This brief formula was the result of his cogitations.
The ex-contractor to the Government prided himself
upon belonging to that particular school of cynic philo-
sophers which declines to be ' taken in ' by women, and
includes the whole sex in one category as suspicious
characters. Strong-minded men of this stamp, weaklings
are they for the most part, have a catechism of their
own in the matter of womankind. Every woman,
according to them, from the Queen of France to the
milliner, is at heart a rake, a hussy, a dangerous
creature, not to say a bit of a rascal, a liar in grain, a
being incapable of a serious thought. For du Bousquier
and his like, woman is a maleficent bayadere that must
be left to dance, and sing, and laugh. They see
nothing holy, nothing great in woman ; for them she
represents, not the poetry of the senses, but gross sensu-
32 The Jealousies of a Country Town
alky. They are like gluttons who should mistake the
kitchen for the dining-room. On this showing, a man
must be a consistent tyrant, unless he means to be
enslaved. And in this respect, again, du Bousquier and
the Chevalier de Valois stood at opposite poles.
As he delivered himself of the above remark, he flung
his nightcap to the foot of the bed, much as Gregory
the Great might have flung down the candle while he
launched the thunders of an excommunication ; and
Suzanne learned that the old bachelor wore a false front.
£ Bear in mind, M. du Bousquier, that by coming
here I have done my duty,' she remarked majestically.
* Remember that I was bound to offer you my hand and
to ask for yours; but, at the same time, remember that
I have behaved with the dignity of a self-respecting
woman ; I did not lower myself so far as to cry like a
fool ; I did not insist ; I have not worried you at all.
Now you know my position. You know that I cannot
stay in Alencon. If I do, my mother will beat me ;
and Mme. Lardot is as high and mighty over principles
as if she washed and ironed with them. She will turn
me away. And where am I to go, poor work-girl that
I am ? To the hospital ? Am I to beg for bread ?
Not I. I would sooner fling myself into the Brillante
or the Sarthe. Now, would it not be simpler for me to
go to Paris ? Mother might find some excuse for send-
ing me, an uncle wants me to come, or an aunt is going
to die, or some lady takes an interest in me. It is just
a question of money for the travelling expenses and —
you know what '
This news was immeasurably more important to du
Bousquier than to the Chevalier de Valois, for reasons
which no one knew as yet but the two rivals, though
they will appear in the course of the story. At this
point, suffice it to say that Suzanne's fib had thrown the
sometime forage-contractor's ideas into such confusion
that he was incapable of thinking seriously. But
The Jealousies of a Country Town 33
for that bewilderment, but for the secret joy in his
heart (for a man's own vanity is a swindler that never
lacks a dupe), it must have struck him that any honest
girl, with a heart still unspoiled, would have died a
hundred deaths rather than enter upon such a discussion,
or make a demand for money. He must have seen the
look in the girl's eyes, seen the gambler's ruthless
meanness that would take a life to gain money for a
c Would you really go to Paris ? ' he asked.
The words brought a twinkle to Suzanne's grey eyes,
but it was lost upon du Bousquier's self-satisfaction.
' I would indeed, sir.'
But at this du Bousquier broke out into a singular
lament. He had just paid the balance of the purchase-
money for his house ; and there was the painter, and the
glazier, and the bricklayer, and the carpenter. Suzanne
let him talk ; she was waiting for the figures. Du
Bousquier at last proposed three hundred francs, and at
this Suzanne got up as if to go.
' Eh, what ! Where are you going ? ' du Bousquier
cried uneasily. — c A fine thing to be a bachelor,' he said
to himself. ' I '11 be hanged if I remember doing more
than rumple the girl's collar ; and hey presto ! on the
strength of a joke she takes upon herself to draw a bill
upon you, point blank ! '
Suzanne meanwhile began to cry. ' Monsieur,' she
said, * I am going to Mme. Granson, the treasurer of
the Maternity Fund ; she pulled one poor girl in the
same straits out of the water (as you may say) to my
c Mme. Granson ? '
c Yes. She is related to Mile. Cormon, the lady
patroness of the society. Asking your pardon, some
ladies in the town have started a society that will keep
many a poor creature from making away with her child,
like that pretty Faustine of Argentan did ; and paid
34 The Jealousies of a Country Town
for it with her life at Mortagne just three years
' Here, Suzanne,' returned du Bousquier, holding out
a key, c open the desk yourself. There is a bag that has
been opened, with six hundred francs still left in it. It
is all I have.'
Du Bousquier's chopfallen expression plainly showed
how little goodwill went with his compliance.
'An old thief! ' said Suzanne to herself. C I will tell
tales about his false hair ! ' Mentally she compared
him with that delightful old Chevalier de Valois ; he
had given her nothing, but he understood her, he had
advised her, he had the welfare of his grisettes at heart.
c If you are deceiving me, Suzanne,' exclaimed the
object of this unflattering comparison, as he watched
her hand in the drawer, ' you shall '
4 So, monsieur, you would not give me the money if
I asked you for it ? ' interrupted she with queenly
Once recalled to the ground of gallantry, recollections
of his prime came back to the ex-contractor. He
grunted assent. Suzanne took the bag and departed,
first submitting her forehead to a kiss which he gave,
but in a manner which seemed to say, ' This is an
expensive privilege ; but it is better than being brow-
beaten by counsel in a court of law as the seducer of a
young woman accused of child murder.'
Suzanne slipped the bag into a pouch-shaped basket
on her arm, execrating du Bousquier's stinginess as she
did so, for she wanted a thousand francs. If a girl is
once possessed by a desire, and has taken the first step
in trickery and deceit, she will go to great lengths. As
the fair clear-starcher took her way along the Rue de
Bercail, it suddenly occurred to her that the Maternity
Fund under Mile. Cormon's presidency would probably
make up the sum which she regarded as sufficient for a
start, a very large amount in the eyes of an Alencon
The Jealousies of a Country Town 35
grisette. And besides, she hated du Bousquier, and du
Bousquier seemed frightened when she talked of con-
fessing her so-called strait to Mme. Granson. Where-
fore Suzanne determined that whether or no she made
a farthing out of the Maternity Fund, she would
entangle du Bousquier in the inextricable undergrowth
of the gossip of a country town. There is something