wife, you see; that is the secret of my extravagance. I
have solved the problem of playing the lord on easy
"Would you give your daughter such a mother-in-law?"
cried Madame Hulot.
"You do not know Valerie, Madame," replied Crevel
gravely, striking the attitude of his first manner. "She
is a woman with good blood in her veins, a lady, and a
woman who enjoys the highest consideration. Why, only
yesterday the vicar of the parish was dining with her. She
is pious, and we have presented a splendid monstrance to
"Oh! she is clever, she is witty, she is delightful, well
informed she has everything in her favor. For my part,
my dear Adeline, I owe everything to that charming woman;
she has opened my mind, polished nry speech, as you may
have noticed; she corrects my impetuosity, and gives me
words and ideas. I never say anything now that I ought
not. I have greatly improved; you must have noticed it.
And then she has encouraged my ambition. I shall be a
Deputy; and I shall make no blunders, for I shall consult
my Egeria. Every great politician, from Numa to our
present Prime Minister, has had his Sibyl of the fountain.
A score of deputies visit Valerie; she is acquiring consid-
erable influence ; and now that she is about to be established
COUSIN BETTY 377
in a charming house, with a carriage, she will be one of the
occult rulers of Paris.
"A fine locomotive 1 That is what such a woman is.
Oh, I have blessed you many a time for your stern virtue."
"It is enough to make one doubt the goodness of God!"
cried Adeline, whose indignation had dried her tears.
"But, no! Divine justice must be hanging over her head."
"You know nothing of the world, my beauty," said the
great politician, deeply offended. "The world, my Ade-
line, loves success ! Say, now, has it come to seek out your
sublime virtue, priced at two hundred thousand francs?"
The words made Madame Hulot shudder; the nervous
trembling attacked her once more. She saw that the ex-
perfumer was taking a mean revenge on her as he had on
Hulot; she felt sick with disgust, and a spasm rose to her
throat, hindering speech.
"Money!" she said at last. "Always money!"
"You touched me deeply," said Crevel, reminded by
these words of the woman's humiliation, "when I beheld
you there, weeping at my feet! You perhaps will not be-
lieve me, but if I had my pocket-book about me, it would
have been yours. Come, do you really want such a sum?"
As she heard this question, big with two hundred thou-
sand francs, Adeline forgot the odious insults heaped on
her by this cheap-jack fine gentleman, before the tempting
picture of success described by Machiavelli-Crevel, who
only wanted to find out her secrets and laugh over them
"Oh! I will do anything, everything," cried the un-
happy woman. "Monsieur. I will sell myself I will be
a Vale'rie, if I must. ' '
"You would find that difficult," replied Crevel. "Va-
378 BALZAC'S WORKS
le*rie is a masterpiece in her way. My good mother, twenty-
five years of virtue are always repellent, like a badly treated
disease. And your virtue has grown very mouldy, my dear
child. But you shall see how much I love you. I will
manage to get you your two hundred thousand francs."
Adeline, incapable of uttering a word, seized his hand
and laid it on her heart; a tear of joy trembled in her eyes.
"Oh! don't be in a hurry; there will be some hard pull-
ing. I am a jolly good fellow, a good soul with no preju-
dices, and I will put things plainly to you. You want to
do as Yalerie does very good. But that is not all; you
must have a gull, a stockholder, a Hulot. Well, I know
a retired tradesman in fact, a hosier. He is heavy, dull,
has not an idea, I ami licking him into shape, but I don't
know when he will do me credit. My man is a deputy,
stupid and conceited ; the tyranny of a turbaned wife, in the
depths of the country, has preserved him in a state of utter
virginity as to the luxury and pleasures of Paris life. But
Beauvisage (his name is Beauvisage) is a millionnaire, and,
like me, my dear, three years ago, he will give a hundred
thousand crowns to be the lover of a real lady. Yes, you
see," he went on, misunderstanding a gesture on Adeline's
part, "he is jealous of me, you understand; jealous of my
happiness with Madame Marneffe, and he is a fellow quite
capable of selling an estate to purchase a
"Enough, Monsieur Crevel!" said Madame Hulot, no
longer controlling her disgust, and showing all her shame
in her face. "I am punished beyond my deserts. My con-
science, so sternly repressed by the iron hand of necessity,
tells me, at this final insult, that such sacrifices are impos-
sible. -My pride is gone; I do not say now, as I did the
first time, 'Go! 1 after receiving this mortal thrust. I have
COUSIN BETTY 379
lost the right to do so. I have flung myself before you like
"Yes," she went on, in reply to a negative on Crevel's
part, "I have fouled my life, till now so pure, by a degrad-
ing thought; and I am inexcusable! I know it! I 'deserve
every insult you can offer me! God's will be done! If,
indeed, He desires the death of two creatures worthy to
appear before Him, they must die! I shall mourn them,
and pray for them! If it is His will that my family should
be humbled to the dust, we must bow to His avenging
sword, nay, and kiss it, since we are Christians. I know
how to expiate this disgrace, which will be the torment of
all my remaining days.
"I who speak to you, Monsieur, am not Madame Hulot,
but a wretched, humble sinner, a Christian whose heart
henceforth will know but one feeling, and that is repentance,
all my time given up to prayer and charity. With such
a sin on my soul, I am the last of women, the first only of
penitents. You have been the means of bringing me to a
right mind; I can hear the Voice of God speaking within
me, and I can thank you!"
She was shaking with the nervous trembling which from
that hour never left her. Her low, sweet tones were quite
unlike the fevered accents of the woman who was ready for
dishonor to save her family. The blood faded from her
cheeks, her face was colorless, and her eyes were dry.
"And I played my part very badly, did I not?" she
went on, looking at Crevel with the sweetness that martyrs
must have shown in their eyes as they looked up at the
Proconsul. "True love, the sacred love of a devoted
woman, gives other pleasures, no doubt, than those that
are bought in the open market! But why so many words?"
380 BALZAC'S WORKS
said she, suddenly bethinking herself, and advancing a step
further in the way to perfection. "They sound like irony,
but I am not ironical! Forgive me. Besides, Monsieur,
I did not want to hurt any one but myself ' '
The dignity of virtue and its holy flame had expelled the
transient impurity of the woman who, splendid in her own
peculiar beauty, looked taller in Crevel's eyes. Adeline
had, at this moment, the majesty of the figures of Religion
clinging to the Cross, as painted by the old Venetians;
but she expressed, too, the immensity of her love and the
grandeur of the Catholic Church, to which she flew like
a wounded dove.
Crevel was dazzled, astounded.
"Madame, I am your slave, without conditions," said
he, in an inspiration of generosity. "We will look into
this matter and whatever you want the impossible even
I will do. I will pledge my securities at the Bank, and
in two hours you shall have the money."
"Good God! a miracle!" said poor Adeline, falling on
She prayed to Heaven with such fervor as touched
Crevel deeply; Madame Hulot saw that he had tears in
his eyes when, having ended her prayer, she rose to her feet.
"Be a friend to me, Monsieur," said she. "Your heart
is better than your words and conduct. God gave you your
soul; your passions and the world have given you your
ideas. Oh, I will love you truly," she exclaimed, with an
angelic tenderness in strange contrast with her attempts
at coquettish trickery.
"But cease to tremble so," said Crevel.
"Am I trembling?" said the Baroness, unconscious of
the infirmity that had so suddenly come upon her.
COUSIN BETTY 381
"Yes; why, look," said Crevel, taking Adeline by the
arm and showing her that she was shaking with nervous-
ness. "Come, Madame," he added respectfully, "compose
yourself; I am going to the Bank at once."
"And come back quickly! Remember," she added,
betraying all her secrets, "that the first point is to prevent
the suicide of our poor Uncle Fischer involved by my hus-
band for I trust you now, and I am telling you everything.
Oh, if we should not be in time, I know iny brother-in-law,
the Marshal, and he has such a delicate soul that he would
die of it in a few days."
"I am off, then," said Crevel, kissing the Baroness's
hand. "But what has that unhappy Hulot done?"
"He has swindled the Government."
"Grood Heavens! I fly, Madame; I understand, I admire
Crevel bent one knee, kissed Madame Hulot's skirt, and
vanished, saying, "You will see me soon."
Unluckily, on his way from the Rue Plumet to his
own house, to fetch the securities, Crevel went along
the Rue Vanneau, and he could not resist going in to
see his little Duchess. His face still bore an agitated
He went straight into Valerie's room, who was having
her hair dressed. She looked at Crevel in her glass, and,
like every woman of that sort, was annoyed, before she
knew anything about it, to see that he was moved by some
strong feeling of which she was not the cause.
"What is the matter, my dear?" said she. "Is that a
face to bring in to your little Duchess? I will not be your
Duchess any more, Monsieur, no more than I will be your
'little duck,' you old monster."
382 BALZAC'S WORKS
Crevel replied by a melancholy smile and a glance at the
"Reine, child, that will do for to-day; I can finish my
hair myself. Give me my Chinese wrapper; my gentle-
man seems to me out of sorts. ' '
Reine, whose face was pitted like a colander, and who
seemed to have been made on purpose to wait on Vale'rie,
smiled meaningly in reply, and brought the dressing-gown.
Valerie took off her combing-wrapper; she was in her shift,
and she wriggled into the dressing-gown like a snake into
a clump of grass.
"Madame is not at home?"
"What a question!" said Vale'rie.- "Come, tell me, my
big puss, have Rives Gauches gone down?"
"They have raised the price of the house?"
"You fancy that you are not the father of our little
"What nonsense!" replied he, sure of his paternity.
"On my honor, I give it up!" said Madame Marneffe.
"If I am expected to extract my friends' woes as you pull
the cork out of a bottle of Bordeaux, I let it alone. Go
away, you bore me."
"It is nothing," said Crevel. "I must find two hundred
thousand francs in two hours."
"Oh, you can easily get them. I have not spent the
fifty thousand francs we got out of Hulot for that report,
and I can ask Henri for fifty thousand"
"Henri it is always Henri!" exclaimed Crevel.
"And do you suppose, you great baby of a Machiavelli,
that I will cast oft' Henri? Would France disarm her fleet?
COUSIN BETTY 383
Henri ! why, he is a dagger in a sheath hanging to a nail.
That boy serves as a weather-glass to show me if you love
me and you don't love me this morning."
"I don't love you, Vale'rie?" cried Crevel. "I love you
as much as a million."
"That is not nearly enough!" cried she, jumping on to
Crevel's knee, and throwing both arms round his neck as
if it were a peg to hang on by. "I want to be loved as
much as ten millions, as much as all the gold in the world,
and more to that. Henri would never wait a minute before
telling me all he had on his mind. What is it, my great
pet ? Have it out. Make a clean breast of it to your own
And she swept her hair over Crevel's face, while she
jestingly pulled his nose.
"Can a man with a nose like that," she went on, "have
any secrets from his Vava UU ririe?"
And at Vava she tweaked his nose to the right; at tele
it went to the left; at ririe she nipped it straight again.
"Well, I have just seen " Crevel stopped and looked
at Madame Marneffe.
"Valerie, my treasure, promise me on your honor ours,
you know ? not to repeat a single word of what I tell you."
"Of course, Mayor, we know all about that. One hand
up so and one foot so!" And she put herself in an
attitude which, to use Rabelais' s phrase, stripped Crevel
bare from his brain to his heels, so quaint and delicious
was the nudity revealed through the light film of lawn.
"I have just seen virtue in despair."
"Can despair possess virtue?" said she, nodding gravely
and crossing her arms like Napoleon.
"It is poor Madame Hulot. She wants two hundred
384 BALZAC'S WORKS
thousand francs, or else Marshal Hulot and old Johann
Fischer will blow their brains out; and as you, my little
Duchess, are partly at the bottom of the mischief, I am
going to patch matters up. She is a saintly creature, I
know her well; she will repay you every penny."
At the name of Hulot, -at the words two hundred thou-
sand francs, a gleam from Valerie's eyes flashed from be-
tween her long eyelids like the flame of a cannon through
"What did the old thing do to move you to compassion ?
Did she show you what? her her religion?"
"Do not make game of her, sweetheart; she is a very-
saintly, a very noble and pious woman, worthy of all
respect. ' '
"Am I not worthy of respect then, heh?" answered
Valerie, with a threatening gaze at Crevel.
"I never said so," replied he, understanding that the
praise of virtue might not be gratifying to Madame Marneife.
"I am pious, too," "Vale'rie went on, taking her seat in
an armchair; "but I do not make a trade of my religion.
I go to church in secret."
She sat in silence, and paid no further heed to Crevel.
He, extremely ill at ease, came to stand in front of the chair
into which Valerie had thrown herself, and saw her lost in
the reflections, he had been so foolish as to suggest.
"Valerie, my little angel!"
Utter silence. A highly problematical tear was furtively
"One word, my little duck?"
"What are you thinking of, my darling?"
"Oh, Monsieur Crevel, 1 was thinking of the day of my
COUSIN BETTY 385
first communion! How pretty I was! How pure, how
saintly! immaculate! Oh! if any one had come to my
mother and said, 'Your daughter will be a hussy, and un-
faithful to her husband; one day a police-officer will find
her in a disreputable house; she will sell herself to a Crevel
to cheat a Hulot two horrible old men ' Poof ! horrible !
she would have died before the end of the sentence, she
was so fond of me, poor dear! "
"You cannot think how well a woman must love a man
before she can silence the remorse that gnaws at the heart
of an adulterous wife. I am quite sorry that Heine is not
here; she would have told you that she found me this morn-
ing praying with tears in my eyes. I, Monsieur Crevel, for
my part, do not make a mockery of religion. Have you
ever heard me say a word I ought not on such a subject?"
Crevel shook his head in negation.
"I will never allow it to be mentioned in my presence.
I can make fun of anything under the sun: Kings, politics,
finance, everything that is sacred in the eyes of the world
judges, matrimony, and love old men and maidens. But
the Church and God! There I draw the line. I know I
am wicked; I am sacrificing my future life to you. And
you have no conception of the immensity of my love."
Crevel clasped his hands.
"No, unless you could see into my heart, and fathom
the depth of my convictions so as to know the extent of
my sacrifice! I feel in me the making of a Magdalen.
And see how respectfully I treat the priests; think of the
gifts I make to the Church! My mother brought me up
in the Catholic Faith, and I know what is meant by God!
It is to sinners like us that His voice is most awful."
Vol. 10 (Q)
386 BALZAC'S WORKS
Valerie wiped away two tears that trickled down her
cheeks. Crevel was in dismay. Madame Marneft'e stood
up in her excitement.
"Be calm, my darling you alarm me!"
Madame Marneffe fell on her knees.
"Dear Heaven! I am not bad all through!" she cried,
clasping her hands. "Vouchsafe to rescue Thy wander-
ing lamb, strike her, crush her, snatch her from foul and
adulterous hands, and how gladly she will nestle on Thy
shoulder! How willingly she will return to the fold!"
She got up and looked at Crevel; her colorless eyes
"Yes, Crevel, and, do you know? I, too, am frightened
sometimes. The justice of God is exerted in this nether
world as well as in the next. What mercy can I expect at
God's hands? His vengeance overtakes the guilty in many
ways; it assumes every aspect of disaster. That was what
my mother told me on her deathbed, speaking of her own
old age. But if I should lose you," she added, hugging
Crevel with a sort of savage frenzy "oh! I should die!"
Madame Marneffe released Crevel, knelt down again at
the armchair, folded her hands and in what a bewitching
attitude! and with incredible fervor poured out the follow-
"And thou, Saint Valerie, my patron saint, why dost
thou so rarely visit the pillow of her who was intrusted to
thy care? Oh, come this evening, as thou didst this morn-
ing, to inspire me with holy thoughts, and I will quit the
path of sin; like the Magdalen, I will give up deluding joys
and the false glitter of the world, even the man I love so
"My precious duck! v
COUSLX BETTY 387
"No more of the 'precious duck,' Monsieur!" said she,
turning round like a virtuous wife, her eyes full of tears,
but dignified, cold, and indifferent.
"Leave me," she went on, pushing him from her.
"What is my duty? To belong wholly to my husband.
He is a dying man, and what .am I doing? Deceiving
him on the edge of the grave. He believes your child to
be his. I will tell him the truth, and begin by securing
his pardon before I ask for God's. We must part. Good-
by, Monsieur Crevel." and she stood up to offer him an icy
cold hand. "Good-by, my friend; we shall meet no more
till we meet in a better world. You have to thank me for
some enjoyment, criminal indeed; now I want oh yes, I
shall have your esteem."
Crevel was weeping bitter tears.
4 'You great pumpkin!" she exclaimed, with an infernal
peal of laughter. "That is how your pious women go about
it to drag from you a plum of two hundred thousand francs.
And you, who talk of the Marechal de Richelieu, the proto-
type of Lovelace, you can be taken in by such a stale trick
as that! I could get hundreds of thousands of francs out
of you any day, if I chose, you old ninny! Keep your
money! If you have more than you know what to do with,
it is mine. If you give two sous to that 'respectable'
woman, who is pious forsooth, because she is fifty-six years
of age, we shall never meet again, and you may take her
for your mistress! You would come back to me next day
bruised all over from her bony caresses and sodden with
her tears, and sick of her little barmaid's caps and her
whimpering, which must turn her favors into showers "
"In point of fact," said Crevel, "two hundred thousand
francs is a round sum of money."
388 BALZAC S WORKS
"They have fine appetites, have the goody sort! By the
poker! they sell their sermons dearer than we sell the rarest
and realest thing on earth pleasure. And they can spin
a yarn! There, I know them. I have seen plenty in my
mother's house. They think everything is allowable for
the Church and for .Really, my dear love, you ought
to be ashamed of yourself for you are not so open-handed !
You have not given me two hundred thousand francs all
"Oh, yes," said Crevel, "your little house will cost as
much as that."
"Then you have four hundred thousand francs?" said
"Then, sir, you meant to loan that old horror the two
hundred thousand francs due for my hotel? What a crime,
what high treason ! ' '
"Only listen to me."
"If you were giving the money to some idiotic philan-
thropic scheme, you would be regarded as a coming man,"
she went on, with increasing eagerness, "and I should be
the first to advise it; for you are too simple to write a big
political book that might make you famous; as for style,
you have not enough to butter a pamphlet; but you might
do as other men do who are in your predicament, and who
get a halo of glory about their name by putting it at the top
of some social, or moral, or general, or national enterprise.
Benevolence is out of date, quite vulgar. Providing for old
offenders, and making them more comfortable than the poor
devils who are honest, is played out. What I should like
to see is some invention of your own with an endowment
of two hundred thousand francs something difficult and
COUSIN BETTY 389
really useful. Then you would be talked about as a man
of mark, a Monty on, and I should be very proud of you!
"But as to throwing two hundred thousand francs into
a holy-water shell, or lending them to a bigot cast off by
her husband, and who knows why? there is always some
reason : does any one cast me off, I ask you ? is a piece
of idiocy which in our days could only come into the head
of a retired perfumer. It reeks of the counter. You would
not dare look at yourself in the glass two days after.
"Go and pay the money in where it will be safe run,
fly; I will not admit you again without the receipt in your
hand. Gk>, as fast and soon as you can!"
She pushed Crevel out of the room by the shoulders,
seeing avarice blossoming in his face once more. When
she heard the outer door shut, she exclaimed:
"Then Lisbeth is revenged over and over again! What
a pity that she is at her old Marshal's now! We would
have had a good laugh! So the old woman wants to take
the bread out of my mouth. I will startle her a little!"
Marshal Hulot, being obliged to live in a style suited
to the highest military rank, had taken a handsome house
in the Rue du Mont-Parnasse, where there are three or four
princely residences. Though he rented the whole house,
he inhabited only the ground floor. When Lisbeth went
to keep house for him, she at once wished to let the first
floor, which, as she said, would pay the whole rent, so that
the Count would live almost rent-free; but the old soldier
would not hear of it.
For some months past the Marshal had had many sad
thoughts. He had guessed how miserably poor his sister-
in-law was, and suspected her griefs without understanding
390 BALZAC'S WORKS
their cause. The old man, so cheerful in his deafness,
became taciturn; he could not help thinking that his house
would one day be a refuge for the Baroness and her daugh-
ter; and it was for them that he kept the first floor. The
srnallness of his fortune was so well known at headquarters
that the War Minister, the Prince de Wissembourg, begged
his old comrade to accept a sum of money for his household
expenses. This sum the Marshal spent in furnishing the
ground floor, which was in every way suitable; for, as he
said, he would not accept the Marshal's baton to walk the
streets with it.
The house had belonged to a senator under the Empire,
and the ground floor drawing-rooms had been very mag-
niticently fitted with carved wood, white-and-gold, still in
very good preservation. The Marshal had found some good
old furniture in the same style; in the coach-house he had
a carriage with two batons in saltire on the panels; and
when he was expected to appear in full fig, at the Min-
ister's, at the Tuileries, for some ceremony or high festival,
he hired horses for the job.
His servant for more than thirty years was an old soldier
of sixty, whose sister was the cook, so he had saved ten
thousand francs, adding it by degrees to a little hoard he
intended for Hortense. Every day the old man walked
along the boulevard, from the Kite du Mont-Parnasse to the
Hue Plumet; and every pensioner as he passed stood at
attention, without fail, to salute him: then the Marshal
rewarded the veteran with a smile.
"Who is the man you always stand at attention to sa-
lute?" said a young workman one day to an old captain
"I will tell you, boy," replied the officer.
COUSIN BETTY 391
The "boy" stood resigned, as a man does to listen to an
"In 1809," said the captain, "we were covering the flank
of the main army, marching on Vienna under the Emperor's
command. We came to a bridge defended by three batteries