were put in simply to give them places, without any regard
for the office. We are old friends "
"Yes," the Baron put in; "and it is in order not to
impair our old and valued friendship that I "
"Well, well," said the departmental manager, seeing
Hulot's face clouded with embarrassment, "I will take my-
self off, old fellow. But I warn you! you have enemies
that is to say, men who covet your splendid appointment,
and you have but one anchor out. Now if, like me, you
were a Deputy, you would have nothing to fear; so mind
what you are about."
This speech, in the most friendly spirit, made a deep
impression on the Councillor of State.
"But, after all, Roger, what is it that is wrong? Do
not make any mysteries with me."
The individual addressed as Roger looked at Hulot, took
his hand, and pressed it.
"We are such old friends, that I am bound to give you
warning. If you want to keep your place, you must make
a bed for yourself, and instead of asking the Marshal to give
Coquet's place to Marneffe, in your place I would beg him
to use his influence to reserve a seat for me on the Greneral
Council of State; there you may die in peace, and, like the
beaver, abandon all else to the pursuers."
"What, do you think the Marshal would forget ?"
"The Marshal has already taken your part so warmly at
a General Meeting of the Ministers, that you will not now
be turned out; but it was seriously discussed! So give
COUSIN BETTY 317
them no excuse. I can say no more. At this moment you.
may make your own terms ; you may sit on the Council of
State and be made a Peer of the Chamber. If you delay
too long, if you give any one a hold against you, I can
answer for nothing. Now, am I to go?"
"Wait a little. I will see the Marshal," replied Hulot,
"and I will send my brother to see which way the wind
blows at headquarters."
The humor in which the Baron came back to Madame
Marneffe's may be imagined; he had almost forgotten his
fatherhood, for Roger had taken the part of a true and kind
friend in explaining the position. At the same time, Va-
lerie's influence was so great that, by the middle of dinner,
the Baron was tuned up to the pitch, and was all the more
cheerful for having unwonted anxieties to conceal ; but the
hapless man was not yet aware that in the course of that
evening he would find himself in a cleft stick, between his
happiness and the danger pointed out by his friend com-
pelled, in short, to choose between Madame Marneffe and
his official position.
At eleven o'clock, when the evening was at its gayest,
for the room was full of company, Valerie drew Hector into
a corner of her sofa.
"My dear old boy," said she, "your daughter is so an-
noyed at knowing that Wenceslas comes here that she has
left him 'planted.' Hortense is wrong-headed. Ask Wences-
las to show you the letter the little fool has written to him.
"This division of two lovers, of which I am reputed to
be the cause, may do me the greatest harm, for this is how
virtuous women undermine each other. It is disgraceful
to pose as a victim in order to cast the blame on a woman
whose only crime is that she keeps a pleasant house. If
318 BALZAC'S WORKS
you love me, you will clear my character by reconciling
the sweet turtle-doves.
"I do not in the least care about your son-in-law's visits;
you brought him here take him away again! If you have
any authority in your family, it seems to me that you may
very well insist on your wife's patching up this squabble.
Tell the worthy old lady from me, that if I am unjustly
charged with having caused a young couple to quarrel, with
upsetting the unity of a family, and annexing both the
father and the son-in-law, I will deserve my reputation ( by
annoying them in my own way! Why, here is Lisbeth talk-
ing of throwing me over! She prefers to stick to her
family, and I cannot blame her for it. She will throw
me over, says she, unless the young people make friends
again. A pretty state of things! Our expenses here will
"Oh, as for that!" said the Baron, on hearing of his
daughter's strong measures, "I will have no nonsense of
"Very well," said Valerie. "And now for the next
thing. What about Coquet's place?"
"That," said Hector, looking away, "is more difficult,
not to say impossible."
"Impossible, my dear Hector?" said Madame Marneffe
in the Baron's ear. "But you do not know to what lengths
Marneffe will go. I am completely in his power; he is
immoral for his own gratification, like most men, but he is
excessively vindictive, like all weak and impotent natures.
In the position to which you have reduced me, I am in his
power. I am bound to be on terms with him for a few
days, and he is quite capable of refusing to leave my room
Hulot started with horror.
"He would leave me alone on condition of being head-
clerk. It is abominable but logical."
"Valerie, do you love me?"
"In the state in which I am, my dear, the question is
the meanest insult."
"Well, then if I were to attempt, merely to attempt,
to ask the Prince for a place for Marneffe, I should be done
for, and Marneffe would be turned out."
"I thought that you and the Prince were such intimate
"We are, and he has amply proved it; but, my child,
there is authority above the Marshal's for instance, the
whole Council of Ministers. With time and a little tack-
ing, we shall get there. But, to succeed, I must, wait till
the moment when some service is required of me. Then I
can say one good turn deserves another ' '
"If I tell Marneffe this tale, my poor Hector, he will
play us some mean trick. You must tell him yourself that
he has to wait. I will not undertake to do so. Oh ! I know
what my fate would be. He knows how to punish me! He
will henceforth share my room
"Do not forget to settle the twelve hundred francs a year
on the little one!"
Hulot, seeing his pleasures in danger, took Monsieur
Marneffe aside, and for the first time derogated from the
haughty tone he had always assumed toward him, so greatly
was he horrified by the thought of that half -dead creature
in his pretty young wife's bedroom.
"Marneffe, my dear fellow," said he, "I have been talk-
ing of you to-day. But you cannot be promoted to the
first-class just yet. We must have time."
320 BALZAC'S WORKS
"I will be, Monsieur le Baron," said Marneffe shortly.
"But, my dear fellow 11
"I will be, Monsieur le Baron," Marneffe coldly re-
peated, looking alternately at the Baron and at Valerie.
"You have placed my wife in a position that necessitates
her making up her differences with me, and I mean to keep
her; for, my dear felloiv, she is a charming creature," he
added, with crushing irony. "I am master here more than
you are at the War Office."
The Baron felt one of those pangs of fury which have
the effect, in the heart, of a fit of raging toothache, and he
could hardly conceal the tears in his eyes.
During this little scene, Valerie had been explaining
Marneffe's imaginary determination to Montes, and thus
had rid Jierself of him for a time.
Of her four adherents, Crevel alone was exempted from
the rule Crevel, the master of the little "bijou" apartment;
and he displayed on his countenance an air of really inso-
lent beatitude, notwithstanding the wordless reproofs ad-
ministered by Valerie in frowns and meaning grimaces.
His triumphant paternity beamed in every feature.
When Valerie was whispering a word of correction in
his ear, he snatched her hand, and put in:
"To-morrow, my Duchess, you shall have your own
little house! The papers are to be signed to-morrow."
"And the furniture?" said she, with a smile.
"I have a thousand shares in the Versailles rive gauche
railway. I bought them at twenty-five, and they will go
up to three hundred in -consequence of the amalgamation
of the two lines, which is a secret told to me. You shall
have furniture fit for a queen. But then you will be mine
alone henceforth ? ' '
COUSIN BETTY 321
"Yes, burly Maire, " said this middle-class Madame de
Merteuil. "But behave yourself; respect th*e future Ma-
dame Crevel. "
"My dear cousin," Lisbeth was saying to the Baron,
"I shall go to see Adeline early to-morrow; for, as you
must see. I cannot, with any decency, remain here. I will
go and keep house for your brother the Marshal."
"I am going home this evening," said Hulot.
"Very well, you will see me at breakfast to-morrow,"
said Lisbeth, smiling.
She understood that her presence would be necessary
at the family scene that would take place on the morrow.
And the very first thing in the morning she went to see
Victorin and to tell him that Hortense and Wenceslas had
When the Baron went home at half -past ten, Mariette
and Louise, who had had a hard day, were locking up the
apartment. Hulot had not to ring.
Very much put out at this compulsory virtue, the hus-
band went straight to his wife's room, and through the half-
open door he saw her kneeling before her Crucifix, absorbed
in prayer, in one of those attitudes which make the fortune
of the painter or the sculptor who is so happy to invent
and then to express them. Adeline, carried away by her
enthusiasm, was praying aloud:
"O God, have mercy and enlighten him!"
The Baroness was praying for her Hector.
At this sight, so unlike what he had just left, and on
hearing this petition founded on the events of the day, the
Baron heaved a sigh of deep emotion. Adeline looked
round, her face drowned in tears. She was so convinced
that her prayer had been heard, that, with one spring, she
322 BALZAC '8 WORKS
threw her arms round Hector with the impetuosity of happy
affection. A'deline had given up all a wife's instincts; sor-
row had effaced even the memory of them. No feeling
survived in her but those of motherhood, of the family
honor, and the pure attachment of a Christian wife for a
husband who had gone astray the saintly tenderness which
survives all else in a woman's soul.
"Hector!" she said, "are you come back to us? Has
God taken pity on our family ? ' '
"Dear Adeline," replied the Baron, coming in and seat-
ing his wife by his side on a couch, "you are the saintliest
creature I ever knew; I have long known myself to be
unworthy of you."
"You would have very little to do, my dear," said she,
holding Hulot's hand and trembling so violently that it
was as though she had a palsy, "very little to set things
in order "
She dared not proceed; she felt that every word would
be a reproof, and she did not wish to mar the happiness
with which this meeting was inundating her soul.
"It is Hortense who has brought me here," said Hulot.
"That child may do us far more harm by her hasty proceed-
ing than my absurd passion for Valerie has ever done. But
we will discuss all this to-morrow morning. Hortense is
asleep, Mariette tells me; we will not disturb her."
"Yes," said Madame Hulot, suddenly plunged into the
depths of grief. She understood that the Baron's return
was prompted not so much by the wish to see his fam-
ily as by some ulterior interest.
"Leave her in peace till to-morrow," said the mother.
"The poor child is in a deplorable condition; she has been
crying all day."
COUSIN BETTY 323
At nine next morning, the Baron, awaiting his daughter,
whom he had sent for, was pacing the large, deserted draw-
ing-room, trying to find arguments by which to conquer the
most difficult form of obstinacy there is to deal with that
of a young wife, offended and implacable, as blameless youth
ever is, in its ignorance of the disgraceful compromises of
the world, of its passions and interests.
"Here I am, papa," said Hortense in a tremulous voice,
and looking pale from her miseries.
Hulot, sitting down, took his daughter round the waist,
and drew her dawn to sit on his knee.
"Well, my child," said he, kissing her forehead, "so
there are troubles at home, and you have been hasty and
headstrong ? That is not like a well-bred child. My Hor-
tense ought not to have taken such a decisive step as that
of leaving her house and deserting her husband on her own
account, and without consulting her parents. If my darling
girl had come to see her kind and admirable mother, she
would not have given me the cruel pain I feel! You do
not know the world; it is malignantly spiteful. People will
perhaps say that your husband sent you back to your par-
ents. Children brought up, as you were, on your mother's
lap, remain children longer than others ; they know nothing
of life. An artless, maidenly passion like yours for Wen-
ceslas, unfortunately, makes no allowances ; it acts on every
impulse. The little heart is moved, the head follows suit.
You would burn down Paris to be revenged, with no thought
of the courts of justice!
"When your old father tells you that you have out-
raged the proprieties, you may take his word for it. I say
nothing of the cruel pain you have given me. It is bitter,
I assure you, for you throw all the blame on a woman of
324 BALZAC'S WORKS
whose heart you know nothing, and whose hostility may
become disastrous. And you, alas! so full of guileless in-
nocence and purity, can have no suspicions; but you may
be vilified and slandered. Besides, rny darling pet, you
have taken a foolish jest too seriously. I can assure you,
on my honor, that your husband is blameless. Madam.e
So far the Baron, artistically diplomatic, had formulated
his remonstrances very judiciously. He had, as may be
observed, worked up to the mention of this name with su-
perior skill; and yet Hortense, as she heard it, winced as
if stung to the quick.
"Listen to me; I have had great experience and I have
seen much," he went on, stopping his daughter's attempt to
speak. "That lady is very cold to your husband. Yes,
you have been made the victim of a practical joke, and I
will prove it to you. Yesterday Wenceslas was dining
with her "
"Dining with her!" cried the young wife, starting to her
feet, and looking at her father with horror in every feature.
"Yesterday! After having had my letter! Oh, great God!
Why did I not take the veil rather than marry ? But now
my life is not my own! I have the child!" and she sobbed.
Her weeping went to Madame Hulot's heart. She came
out of her room and ran to her daughter, taking her in her
arms, and asking her those questions, stupid with grief,
which first rose to her lips.
"Now we have tears," said the Baron to himself, "and
all was going so well! What is to be done with women
"My child," said the Baroness, "listen to your father!
He loves us all come, come "
COUSIN BETTY 325
"Come, Hortense, my dear little girl, cry no more, you
make yourself too ugly!" said the Baron. "Now, be a
little reasonable. Go sensibly home, and I promise you
that Wenceslas shall never set foot in that woman's house.
I ask you to make that sacrifice, if it is a sacrifice to forgive
the husband you love so small a fault. I ask you for the
sake of my gray hairs, and of the love you owe your mother.
You do not want to blight my later years with bitterness and
Hortense fell at her father's feet like a crazed thing, with
the vehemence of despair; her hair, loosely pinned up, fell
about her, and she held out her hands with an expression
that painted her misery.
"Father," she said, "ask my life! Take it if you will,
but at least take it pure and spotless, and I will yield it up
gladly. Do not ask me to die in dishonor and crime. I
am not at all like my husband ; I cannot swallow an out-
rage. If I went back under my husband's roof, I should
be capable of smothering him in a fit of jealousy or of do-
ing worse ! Do not exact from me a thing that is beyond
my powers. Do not have to mourn for me still living, for
the least that can befall me is to go mad. I feel madness
close upon me!
"Yesterday, yesterday, he could dine with that woman,
after having read my letter ? Are other men made so ? My
life I give you, but do not let my death be ignominious !
His fault? a small one! When he has a child by that
"A child!" cried Hulot, starting back a step or two.
"Come. This is really some fooling."
At this juncture Victorin and Lisbeth arrived, and stood
dumfounded at the scene. The daughter was prostrate at
326 BALZAC'S WORKS
her father's feet. The Baroness, speechless between her
maternal feelings and her conjugal duty, showed a harassed
face bathed in tears.
"Lisbeth, " said the Baron, seizing his cousin by the
hand and pointing to Hortense, "you can help me here.
My poor child's brain is turned; she believes that her
Wenceslas is Madame Marneffe's lover, while all that
Valerie wanted was to have a group by him."
"'Delilah!' 1 cried the young wife. "The only thing he
had done since our marriage. -The man would not work
for me or for his son, and he has worked with frenzy for
that good-for-nothing creature. Oh, father, kill me out-
right, for every word stabs like a knife!"
Lisbeth turned to the Baroness and Victorin, point-
ing with a pitying shrug to the Baron, who could not
"Listen to me," said she to him. "I had no idea when
you asked me to go to lodge over Madame Marneffe and
keep house for her I had no idea of what she was; but
many things may be learned in three years. That creature
is a prostitute, and one whose depravity can only be com-
pared with that of her infamous and horrible husband. You
are the dupe, my lord pot-boiler, of those people ; you will
be led further by them than you dream of 1 I speak plainly,
for you are at the bottom of a pit. "
The Baroness and her daughter, hearing Lisbeth speak
in this style, cast adoring looks at her, such as the devout
cast at a Madonna for having saved their life.
"That horrible woman was bent on destroying your son-
in-law's home. To what end ? I know not. My brain is
not equal to seeing clearly into these dark intrigues per-
verse, ignoble, infamous ! Your Madame Marneffe does not
COUSIN BETTY 327
love your son-in-law, but she will have him at her feet out
of revenge. I have just spoken to the wretched woman as
she deserves. She is a shameless courtesan; I have told
her that I am leaving her house, that I would not have my
honor smirched in that muck-heap. I owe myself to my
family before all else.
"I knew that Hortense had left her husband, so here I
am. Your Valerie, whom you believe to be a saint, is the
cause of this miserable separation ; can I remain with such
a woman? Our poor little -Hortense," said she, touching
the Baron's arm, with peculiar meaning, "is perhaps the
dupe of a wish. of such women as these, who, to possess a
toy, would sacrifice a family.
"I do not think Wenceslas guilty; but I think him
weak, and I cannot promise that he will not yield to her
refinements of temptation. My mind is made up. The
woman is fatal to you ; she will bring you all to utter ruin.
I will not even seem to be concerned in the destruction of
my own family, after living there for three years solely to
"You are cheated, Baron; say very positively that you
will have nothing to say to the promotion of that dreadful
Marneffe, and you will see then! There is a fine rod in
pickle for you in that case."
Lisbeth lifted up Hortense and kissed her enthusiastically.
"My dear Hortense, stand firm," she whispered.
The Baroness embraced Lisbeth with the vehemence of
a woman who sees herself avenged. The whole family stood
in perfect silence round the father, who had wit enough to
know what that silence implied. A storm of fury swept
across his brow and face with evident signs; the veins
swelled, his eyes were bloodshot, his flesh showed patches
328 BALZAC'S WORKS
of color. Adeline fell on her knees before him and seized
"My dear, forgive, my dear!"
"You loathe me!" cried the Baron the cry of his
For we all know the secret of our own wrongdoing.
We almost always ascribe to our victims the hateful feel-
ings which must fill them with the hope of revenge; and
in spite of every effort of hypocrisy, our tongue or our face
makes confession under the rack of some unexpected an-
guish, as the criminal of old confessed under the hands of
"Our children," he went on, to retract the avowal, "turn
at last to be our enemies ' '
"Father!" Victorin began.
"You dare to interrupt your father!" said the Baron in
a voice of thunder, glaring at his son.
"Father, listen to me," Victorin went on in a clear, firm
voice, the voice of a puritanical deputy. "I know the re-
spect I owe you too well ever to fail in it, and you will
always find me the most respectful and submissive of
sons. ' '
Those who are in the habit of attending the sittings of
the Chamber will recognize the tactics of parliamentary war-
fare in these fine-drawn phrases, used to calm the factions
while gaining time.
"We are far from being your enemies," his son went
on. "I have quarrelled with my father-in-law, Monsieur
Crevel, for having rescued your notes of hand for sixty
thousand francs from Vauvinet, and that money is, beyond
doubt, in Madame Marneffe's pocket. I am not finding
fault with you, father," said he, in reply to an impatient
COUSIN BETTY 329
gesture of the Baron's; "I simply wish to add my protest
to my cousin Lisbeth's, and to point out to you that though
my devotion to you as a father is blind and unlimited, my
dear father, our pecuniary resources, unfortunately, are
"Money!" cried the excitable old man, dropping on to
a chair, quite crushed by this argument. "From my son!
You shall be repaid your money, sir," said he, rising,
and he went to the door.
At this cry the Baron turned round, suddenly showing
his wife a face bathed in tears; she threw her arms round
him with the strength of despair.
"Do not leave us thus do not go away in anger. I
have not said a word not I!"
At this heart-wrung speech the children fell at their
"We all love you," said Hortense.
Lisbeth, as rigid as a statue, watched the group with a
superior smile on her lips. Just then Marshal Hulot's voice
was heard in the anteroom. The family all felt the impor-
tance of secrecy, and the scene suddenly changed. The
young people rose, and every one tried to hide all traces
A discussion was going on at the door between Mariette
and a soldier, who was so persistent that the cook came in.
"Monsieur, a regimental quartermaster, who says he is
just come from Algiers, insists on seeing you."
'-'Tell him to wait."
"Monsieur," said Mariette to her master in an under-
tone, "he told me to tell you privately that it has to do
with your uncle there."
330 BALZAC'S WORKS
The Baron started ; he believed that the funds had been
sent at last which he had been asking for these two months,
to pay up his bills; he left the family party, and hurried
out to the anteroom.
"You are Mounsieur de Paron Hulot?"
"Your own self?"
"My own self."
The man, who had been fumbling meanwhile in the lin-
ing of his cap, drew out a letter, of which the Baron hastily
broke the seal, and read as follows:
"DEAR NEPHEW Far from being able to send you the
hundred thousand francs you ask of me, my present posi-
tion is not tenable unless you can take some decisive steps
to save me. We are saddled with a public prosecutor who
talks goody, and rodomontades nonsense about the manage-
ment. It is impossible to get the black-chokered pump
to hold his tongue. If the War Minister allows civilians
to feed out of his hand, I am done for. I can trust the
bearer; try to get him promoted; he has done us good
service. Do not abandon me to the crows!"
This letter was a thunderbolt; the Baron could read
in it the intestine warfare between the civil and military
authorities, which to this day hampers the Government,
and he was required to invent on the spot some palliative
for the difficulty that stared him in the face. He desired
the soldier to come back next day, dismissing him with
splendid promises of promotion, and he returned to the
drawing-room. "Good-day and good-by, brother," said he
to the Marshal. "Good-by, children. Good-by, my dear
COUSIN BETTY 331
Adeline. And what are you going to do, Lisbeth?" he
"I? I am going to keep house for the Marshal, for
I must end my days doing what I can for one or another
"Do not leave Valerie till I have seen you again," said
Hulot in his cousin's ear. "Good-by, Hortense, refractory
little puss; try to be reasonable. I have important business
to be attended to at once; we will discuss your reconcilia-