ing, and above all to take my measures with prudence.
Possibly I may find Wt everything at once! I am the
only one to blame, dear sister. All lovers play their own
game, but all women are not fortunate enough to see life
as it really is."
A HUSBAND'S TRIUMPH
E. DU TILLET left Vandenesse's house some-
what comforted. Felix, on his part, went at once
to draw forty thousand francs from the Bank of
France, and then hastened to Mme. de Nucingen. He
found her at home, thanked her for the confidence she
had shown in his wife, and returned her the money. He
gave, as the reason for this mysterious loan, an excessive
almsgiving, on which he had wished to impose some limit.
"Do not trouble to explain, since Mme. de Vandenesse
has told you about it," said the Baronne de Nucingen.
"She knows all," thought Vandenesse.
The Baroness handed him his wife's guarantee and sent
for the four bills. Yandenesse, while this was going on,
scanned the Baroness with the statesman's piercing eye;
402 BALZAC'S WORKS
she flinched a little, and he judged the time had come for
"We live, madame," he said, "at a period when nothing
is stable. Thrones rise and disappear in France with a dis-
concerting rapidity. Fifteen years may see the end of a
great empire, of a monarchy, and also of a revolution. No
one can take upon himself to answer for the future. You
know my devotion to the legitimist party. Such words in
my mouth cannot surprise you. Imagine a catastrophe:
would it not be a satisfaction to you to have a friend on
the winning side?"
"Undoubtedly," she replied with a smile.
"Supposing such a case to occur, will you have in me,
unknown to the world, a grateful friend, ready to secure
for M. de Nucingen under these circumstances the peerage
to which he aspires?"
"What do you ask from me?" she said.
"Not much. Only the facts in your possession about
The Baroness repeated her conversation of the morning
with Rastignac, and said to the ex-peer of France, as she
handed him the four bills which the cashier brought her:
"Don't forget your promise."
So far was Vandenesse from forgetting this magical
promise that he dangled it before the eyes of the Baron
de Rastignac in order to extract from him further infor-
On leaving the Baron, he dictated to a scrivener the fol-
lowing letter addressed to Florine:
"If Mile. Florine wishes to know what part is awaiting
her, will she be so good as come to the approaching masked
ball, and bring M. Nathan as her escort?"
This letter posted, he went next to his man of business,
a very acute fellow, full of resource, and withal honest.
Him he begged to personate a friend, to whom the visit
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 403
of Mme. de Yandenesse should have been confided by
Schmucke, aroused to a tardy suspicion by the fourfold
repetition of the words, "I promise to pay ten thousand
francs," and who should have come to request from M.
Nathan a bill for forty thousand francs in exchange. It
was a risky game. Nathan might already have learned
how the thing had been arranged, but something had to
be dared for so great a prize. In her agitation, Marie
might easily have forgotten to ask her beloved Eaoul for
an acknowledgment for Schmucke. The man of business
went at once to Nathan's office, and returned triumphant to
the Count by five o'clock with the bill for forty thousand
francs. The very first words exchanged with Nathan had
enabled him to pass for an emissary from the Countess.
This success obliged Felix to take steps for preventing
a meeting between Raoul and his wife before the masked
ball, whither he intended to escort her, in order that she
might discover for herself the relation in which Nathan
stood to Florine. He knew the jealous pride of the Coun-
tess, and was anxious to bring her to renounce the love
affair of her own will, so that she might be spared from
humiliation before himself. He also hoped to show her
before it was too late her letters to Nathan sold by Flo-
rine, from whom he reckoned on buying them back. This
prudent plan, so swiftly conceived and in part executed,
was destined to fail through one of those chances to which
the affairs of mortals are subject. After dinner Felix turned
the conversation on the masked ball, remarking that Marie
had never been to one, and proposed to take her there the
following day by way of diversion.
"I will find some one for you to mystify."
"Ah! I should like that immensely."
"To make it really amusing, a woman ought to get hold
of a foeman worthy of her steel, some celebrity or wit, and
make mincemeat of him. What do you say to Nathan ? A
man who knows Florine could put me up to a few little
things that would drive him wild."
404 BALZAC'S WORKS
"Morine," said the Countess, "the actress?"
Marie had already heard this name from the lips of Quil-
let the office attendant; a thought flashed through her like
"Well, yes, his mistress," replied the Count. "What is
there surprising in that ? ' '
"I should have thought M. Nathan was too busy for such
things. How can literary men find time for love?' '
"I say nothing about love, my dear, but they have to lodge
somewhere, like other people; and when they have no home,
and the bloodhounds of the law are after them, they lodge
with their mistresses, which may seem a little strong to you,
but which is infinitely preferable to lodging in prison."
The fire was less red than the cheeks of the Countess.
"Would you like him for your victim ? You could easily
give him a fright," the Count went on, paying no attention to
his wife's looks. "I can give you proofs by which you can
show him that he has been a mere child in the hands of your
brother-in-law du Tillet. The wretch wanted to clap him
in prison in order to disqualify him for opposing his candi-
dature in Nucingen's constituency. I have learned from a
friend of Florine's the amount produced by the sale of her
furniture, the whole of which she gave to Nathan for start-
ing his paper, and I know what portion was sent to him of
the harvest which she reaped this year in the provinces and
Belgium; money which, in the long run, all goes into the
pockets of du Tillet, Nucingen, and Massol. These three
have sold the paper in advance to the Government, so con-
fident are they of dispossessing the great man. ' '
"M. Nathan would never take money from an actress."
"You don't know these people, my dear," said the
Count; "he won't deny the fact."
"I shall certainly go to the ball," said the Countess.
"You will have some fun," replied Vandenesse.
"Armed with such weapons, you will read a sharp les-
son to Nathan's vanity, and it will be a kindness to him.
You will watch the ebb and flow of his rage, and his writh-
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 405
ings under your stinging epigrams. Your badinage will be
quite enough to show a clever man like him the danger in
which he stands, and you will have the satisfaction of get-
ting a good trouncing for the juste milieu team within their
own stables. . . . You are not listening, my child."
"Yes, indeed, 1 am only too much interested," she an-
swered. "I will tell you later why I am so anxious to be
certain about all this."
"Certain?" replied Vandenesse. "If you keep on
your mask, I will take you to supper with Florine and
Nathan. It will be sport for a great lady like you to take
in an actress after having kept a famous man on the stretch,
manoeuvring round his most precious secrets; you can har-
ness them both to the same mystification. I shall put my-
self on the track of Nathan's infidelities. If I can lay hold
of the details of any recent affair, you will be able to in-
dulge yourself in the spectacle of a courtesan's rage, which
is worth seeing. The fury of Florine will seethe like an
Alpine torrent. She adores Nathan; he is everything to
her, precious as the marrow of her bones, dear as her cubs
to a lioness. I remember in my youth having seen a cele-
brated actress, whose writing was like a kitchen-maid's,
come to demand back her letters from one of my friends.
I have never seen anything like it since; that quiet fury,
that impudent dignity, that barbaric pose. . . . Are you
"No! only the fire is so hot."
The Countess went to fling herself down on a sofa. All
at once an incalculable impulse, inspired by the consuming
ache of jealousy, drove her to her feet. Trembling in every
limb, she crossed her arms, and advanced slowly toward her
"How much do you know?" she asked. "It is not like
you to torture me. Even were I guilty, you would give me
an easy death."
"What should I know, Marie?"
406 BALZAC'S WORKS
"You believe you love him," he replied, "but you love
only a phantom made of words."
"Then you do know ?"
"Everything," he said.
The word fell like a blow on Marie's head.
"If you wish," he continued, "it shall be as though I
knew nothing. My child, you have fallen into an ab} T ss,
and I must save you; already I have done something.
He drew from his pocket her guarantee and Schmucke's
four bills, which the Countess recognized, and threw them
into the fire.
"What would have become of you, poor Marie, in three
months from now? You would have been dragged into
Court by bailiffs. Don't hang your head, don't be ashamed;
you have been betrayed by the noblest of feelings ; you have
trifled, not with a man, but with your own imagination.
There is not a woman not one, do you hear, Marie ? who
would not have been fascinated in your place. It would be
absurd that men, who, in the course of twenty years, have
committed a thousand acts of folly, should insist that a
woman is not to lose her head once in a lifetime. Pray
Heaven I may never triumph over you or burden you with
a pity such as you repudiated with scorn the other day!
Possibly this wretched man was sincere when he wrote to
you, sincere in trying to put an end to himself, sincere in
returning that very evening to Florine. A man is a poor
creature compared to a woman. I am speaking now for
you, not for myself. I am tolerant, but society is not; it
shuns the woman who makes a scandal; it will allow none
to be rich at once in its regard and in the indulgence of pas-
sion. Whether this is just or not, I cannot say. Enough
that the world is cruel. It may be that, taken in the mass,
it is harsher than are the individuals separately. A thief,
sitting in the pit, will applaud the triumph of innocence, and
filch its jewels as he goes out. Society has no balm for the
ills it creates; it honors clever roguery, and leaves unre-
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 407
warded silent devotion. All this I see and know; but if
I cannot reform the world, at least I can protect you from
yourself. We have here to do with, a man who brings you
nothing but trouble, not with a saintly and pious love, such
as sometimes commands self-effacement and brings its own
excuse with it. Perhaps I have been to blame in not bring-
ing more variety into your peaceful life ; I ought to have
enlivened our calm routine with the stir and excitement of
travel and change. I can see also an explanation of the at-
traction which drew you to a man of note, in the envy you
roused in certain women. Lady Dudley, Mine. d'Espard,
Mme. de Manerville, and my sister-in-law Emilie count for
something in all this. These women, whom I warned you
against, have no doubt worked on your curiosity, more with
the object of annoying me than in order to precipitate you
among storms which, I trust, may have only threatened with-
out breaking over you. ' '
The Countess, as she listened to these generous words,
was tossed about by a host of conflicting feelings, but lively
admiration for Felix dominated the tempest. A noble and
high-spirited soul quickly responds to gentle handling. This
sensitiveness is the counterpart of physical grace. Marie ap-
preciated a magnanimity which sought in self -depreciation
a screen for the blushes of an erring woman. She made a
frantic motion to leave the room, then turned back, fearing
lest her husband should misunderstand and take alarm.
"Wait!" she said, as she vanished.
Felix had artfully prepared her defence, and he was soon
recompensed for his adroitness; for his wife returned with
the whole of Nathan's letters in her hand, and held them
out to him.
"Be my judge," she said, kneeling before him.
"How can a man judge where he loves ?" he replied.
He took the letters and threw them on the fire; later, the
thought that he had read them might have stood between
him and his wife. Marie, her head upon his knees, burst
408 BALZAC'S WORKS
"Mv child, where are jours?" he said, raising her head.
At this question, the Countess no longer felt the intoler-
able burning of her cheeks, a cold chill went through her.
"That you may not suspect your husband of slandering
the man whom you have thought worthy of you, I will have
those letters restored to you by Florine herself."
"Oh! surely he would give them back if I asked him."
"And supposing he refused?"
The Countess hung her head.
"The world is horrid," she said; "I will not go into it
any more; I will live alone with you, if you forgive me."
' ' You might weary again. Besides, what would the world
say if you left it abruptly ? When spring comes, we will
travel, we will go to Italy, we will wander about Europe,
until another child comes to need your care. We must not
give up the ball to-morrow, for it is the only way to get hold
of your letters without compromising Ourselves; and when
Florine brings them to you, will not that be the measure of
her power ? ' '
"And I must see that?" said the terrified Countess.
Toward midnight next evening Nathan was pacing the
promenade at the masked ball, giving his arm to a domino
with a very fair imitation of the conjugal manner. After
two or three turns two masked women came up to them.
"Fool! you have done for yourself; Marie is here and
sees you," said Vandenesse, in the disguise of a woman, to
Nathan, while the Countess, all trembling, addressed Florine:
"If you will listen, I will tell you secrets which Nathan
has kept from you, and which will show you the dangers
that threaten your love for him. ' '
Nathan had abruptly dropped Florine' s arm in order to
follow the Count, who escaped him in the crowd. Florine
went to take a seat beside the Countess, who had drawn her
away to a form by the side of Vandenesse, now returned to
look after his wife.
"Speak out, my dear," said Florine, "and don't suppose
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 409
you can keep me long on the tenter-hooks. Not a creature
in the world can get Raoul from me, I can tell you. He is
bound to me by habit, which is better than love any day."
"In the first place, are you Florine?" said Felix, resum-
ing his natural voice.
"A pretty question indeed! If you don't know who I
am, why should I believe you, pray ?"
"Go and ask Nathan, who is hunting now for the mistress
of whom I speak, where he spent the night three days ago !
He tried to stifle himself with charcoal, my dear, unknown
to you, because he was ruined. That's all you know about
the affairs of the man whom you profess to love ; you leave
him penniless, and he kills himself, or rather he doesn't, he
tries to and fails. Suicide when it doesn't come off is much
on a par with a bloodless duel."
"It is a lie," said Florine. "He dined with me that day,
but not till after sunset. The bailiffs were after him, poor
boy. He was in hiding, that's all."
"Well, you can go and ask at the Hotel du Mail, Kue du
Mail, whether he was not brought there at the point of death
by a beautiful lady, with whom he has had intimate relations
for a year; the letters of your rival are hidden in your house,
under your very nose. If you care to catch Nathan out, we
can go all three to your house ; there I shall give you ocular
proof that you can get him clear of his difficulties very shortly
if you like to be good-natured."
"That's not good enough for Florine, thank you, my
friend. I know very well that Nathan can't have a love
"Because, I suppose, he has redoubled his attentions to
you of late, as if that were not the very proof that he is
tremendously in love "
" With a society woman ? Nathan ? ' ' said Florine. ' 4 Oh 1
I don't trouble about a trifle like that."
"Very well, would you like him to come and tell you
himself that he won't take you home this evening?"
"If you get him to say that," answered Florine, "I will
Vol. A. BALZAC 18
410 BALZAC'S WORKS
let you come with me, and we can hunt together for those
letters, which I shall believe in when I see them."
"Stay here," said Felix, "and watch."
He took his wife's arm and waited within a few steps of
Florine. Before long Nathan, who was walking up and
down the promenade, searching in all directions for his
mask like a dog who has lost its master, returned to the
spot where the mysterious warning had been spoken. See-
ing evident marks of disturbance on Raoul's brow, Florine
planted herself firmly in front of him and said in a command-
ing voice: "You must not leave me; I have a reason for
"Marie!" whispered the Countess, by her husband's in-
structions, in Kaoul's ear. -Then she added, "Who is that
woman ? Leave her immediately, go outside, and wait for
me at the foot of the staircase,"
In this terrible strait, Raoul shook off roughly the arm
of Florine, who was quite unprepared for such violence,
and, though clinging to him forcibly, was obliged to let go.
Nathan at once lost himself in the crowd.
"What did I tell you?" cried Felix in the ear of the
stupefied Florine, to whom he offered his arm.
"Come," she said, "let us go, whoever you are. Have
you a carriage ? ' '
Vandenesse's only reply was to hurry Florine out and
hasten to rejoin his wife at a spot agreed upon under the
colonnade. In a few minutes the three dominoes, briskly
conveyed by Vandenesse's coachman, arrived at the house
of the actress, who took off her mask. Mme. de Yandenesse
could not repress a thrill of surprise at the sight of the actress,
boiling with rage, magnificent in her wrath and jealousy.
"There is," said Vandenesse, "a certain writing-case, the
key of which has never been in your hands; the letters must
be in it."
"You have me there; you know something, at any rate,
which has been bothering me for some days, ' ' said Florine,
dashing into the study to fetch the writing-case.
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 411
Vandenesse saw his wife grow pale under her mask.
Florine's room told more of Nathan's intimacy with the
actress than was altogether pleasant for a romantic lady-
love. A woman's eye is quick to seize the truth in such
matters, and the Countess read in the promiscuous house-
hold arrangements a confirmation of what Vandenesse had
Florine returned with the case.
"How shall we open it?" she said.
Then she sent for a large kitchen knife, and when her
maid brought it, brandished it with a mocking air, exclaim-
ing: "This is the way to cut off the pretty dears' heads!" '
The Countess shuddered. She realized now, even more
than her husband's words had enabled her to do the evening
before, the depths from which she had so narrowly escaped.
"What a fool I am!" cried Florine. "His razor would
She went to fetch the razor, which had just served Nathan
for shaving, and cut the edges of the morocco. They fell
apart, and Marie's letters appeared. Florine took up one at
"Sure enough, this is some fine lady's work! Only see
how she can spell!"
Vandenesse took the letters and handed them to his wife,
who carried them to a table in order to see if they were all
"Will you give them up for this?" said Vandenesse,
holding out to Florine the bill for forty thousand francs.
"What a donkey he is to sign such things! . . 'Bond
for bills, '" cried Florine, reading the document "Ah! yes,
you shall have your fill of Countesses! And I, who worked
myself to death, body and soul, raising money in the prov-
inces for him I, who slaved like a broker to save him!
That's a man all over; go to the devil for him, and he'll
1 In the French, "powfefe," which means "love-letters" as well as
412 BALZAC'S WORKS
trample you underfoot! I shall have it out with him for
Mme. de Vandenesse had fled with the letters.
"Hi, there! pretty domino! leave me one, if you please,
just to throw in his face."
"That is impossible now," said Vandenesse.
"And why, pray?"
"The other domino is your late rival."
"You don't say so! Well, she might have said 'Thank
you!' " cried Florine.
"And what then do you call the forty thousand francs ?"
said Yandenesse, with a polite bow.
It very seldom happens that a young fellow who has once
attempted suicide cares to taste for a second time its discom-
forts. When suicide does not cure a man of life altogether,
it cures him of a self -sought death. Thus Raoul no longer
thought of making away with himself even after Florine's
possession of Schmucke's guarantee plainly through the
intervention of Vandenesse had reduced him to a still worse
plight than that from which he had tried to escape. He
made an attempt to see the Countess again in order to explain
to her the nature of the love which burned brighter than ever
in his breast. But the first time they met in society, the
Countess fixed Raoul with that stony, scornful glance which
makes an impassable barrier between a man and a woman.
With all his audacity, Nathan made no further attempt dur-
ing the winter to approach or address the Countess.
He unburdened his soul, however, to Blondet, discoursing
to him of Laura and Beatrice, whenever the name of Mme.
de Vandenesse occurred. He paraphrased that beautiful
passage of one of the greatest poets of his day "Dream of
the soul, blue flower with golden heart, whose spreading
roots, finer a thousand-fold than fairies' silken tresses, pierce
to the inmost being and draw their life from all that is purest
there: flower sweet and bitter! To uproot thee is to draw
the heart's blood, oozing in ruddy drops from thy broken
stem I Ah ! cursed flower, how thou hast thriven on my soul I ' '
A DAUGHTER OF EVE 413
"You're drivelling, old boy," said Blondet. "I grant
you there was a pretty enough flower, only it has nothing
to do with the soul ; and instead of crooning like a blind man
before an empty shrine, you had better be thinking how to
get out of this scrape, so as to put yourself straight with the
authorities and settle down. You are too much of the artist
to make a politician. You have been played on by men who
are your inferiors. (TO and get yourself played on some
"Marie can't prevent my loving her," said Nathan. "She
shal] be my Beatrice. ' '
"My dear fellow, Beatrice was a child of twelve, whom
Dante never saw again; otherwise, would she have been
Beatrice ? If we are to make a divinity of a woman, we must
not see her to-day in a mantle, to-morrow in a low-necked
dress, the day after on the Boulevards, cheapening toys for
her last baby. While there is Florine handy to play by
turns a comedy duchess, a tragedy middle-class wife, a
negress, a marchioness, a colonel, a Swiss peasant girl,
a Peruvian virgin of the sun (the only virginity she knows
much about), 1 don't know why one should bother about
Du Tillet, by means of a forced sale, compelled the penni-
less Nathan to surrender his share in the paper. The great
man received only five votes in the constituency which elected
When the Comtesse de Vandenesse, after a long and
delightful time of travel in Italy, returned in the following
winter to Paris, Nathan had exactly carried out the forecast
of Felix. Following Blondet's advice, he was negotiating
with the party in power. His personal affairs were so em-
barrassed that, one day in the Champs-Elyse'es, the Comtesse
Marie saw her ancient adorer walking in the sorriest plight,
with Florine on his arm. In the eyes of a woman, the man
to whom she is indifferent is always more or less ugly ; but
the man whom she has ceased to love is a monster, especially
if he is of the type to which Nathan belonged. Mme. de
414 BALZAC'S WORKS
Vandenesse felt a pang of shame as she remembered her
fancy for Kaoul. Had she not been cured before of any un-
lawful passion, the contrast which this man, already declining
in popular estimation, then offered to her husband, would
have sufficed to give the latter precedence over an angel.
At the present day this ambitious author, of ready pen