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(Cousin Bette.)












It is not the Roman prince, nor the heir of the
illustrious house of Cajetani, which has given popes
to Christendom, to whom I dedicate this small frag-
ment of a long story, but the learned commentator
of Dante.

To you I owe my comprehension of the marvel-
ous framework of ideas, whereon the greatest of
Italian poets constructed his poem, the only poem
that the moderns have to offer in emulation of that
of Homer. Until I had heard your voice the Dimna
Commedia seemed to me a stupendous enigma, to
which no one had been able to find the key, the
commentators least of all. To understand Dante
thus is to be great like him ; but all forms of great-
ness are familiar to you.

An intelligent Frenchman might build up a repu-
tation for himself, might earn a professorship and
many a decoration, by publishing, in a dogmatic
volume, the improvisation with which you assisted
us to while away the hours of one of those evenings
when we were resting from the fatigue of a day of
sight-seeing in Rome. Perhaps you are not aware
that most of our professors live upon Germany,
England, the Orient or the North, as insects upon a



tree ; and, like the insect, they become an integral
part of their subject, borrowing their value from its
value. Now, Italy has not yet had justice done her
from the professor's chair. I shall never receive the
credit due to me as a man of letters for my self-
restraint. I might, by appropriating your ideas, have
become a learned man with the authority of three
Schlegels ; whereas I am content to remain a simple
doctor of social medicine, the veterinary surgeon for
incurable diseases, were it only that I might bear
witness to my gratitude to my cicerone, and add
your illustrious name to the names of Porcia, San-
Severino, Pareto, Di Negro and Belgiojoso, which
represent, in the Comkdie Humaine, the close and
enduring alliance between Italy and France, which
Bishop Bandello, author of divers extremely amus-
ing tales, perpetuated in the same way, in the six-
teenth century, in that magnificent collection of
novels, whence several of Shakespeare's plays were
derived, in some cases entire r&les 'verbatim et lit-

The two sketches which I dedicate to you consti-
tute the two ever-enduring faces of the same fact.
Homo duplex, our great Buffon has said ; why not
add : Res duplex ? Everything is two-fold, even
virtue. So Moliere always presents both sides of
every human problem ; and in imitation of him
Diderot wrote one day : Ceci n'est pas un conte,
which may perhaps be considered Diderot's master-
piece, wherein he presents the sublime figure of
Mademoiselle de Lachaux sacrificed by Gardanne,


in contrast to the figure of an unexceptionable lover
slain by his mistress. My two novels are placed
together, therefore, like twins of different sexes.
It is a literary caprice which one may gratify once in
a way, especially in a work wherein one seeks to
portray all the forms in which thought may be clothed.
Most disputes among men, are due to the fact that
there are people, learned and ignorant alike, so con-
stituted that they can see but one aspect of a fact
or an idea, and invariably claim that the one they
have seen is the only true, the only sound one. So
it was that the Holy Book prophetically announced :
"God will give the world over to dissension." I
confess that that single passage of Scripture should
lead the Holy See to bestow upon you the govern-
ment of the two Chambers, in obedience to the sen-
tence expounded in 1814, by the ordinance of Louis

May your intellect, may your poetic nature, vouch-
safe their patronage to the two episodes of the Poor


Of your affectionate servant,


Paris, August-September, 1846.



Toward the middle of the month of July, 1838,
one of the public carriages called milords, then a
novelty in the streets of Paris, passed along Rue de
1'Universite, containing a stout man of medium
height, in the uniform of a captain in the National

Among the good Parisians, who are commonly
accused of being so very clever, there are those who
fancy themselves infinitely more attractive in uni-
form than in their ordinary garb, and who credit the
fair sex with so depraved a taste as to be favorably
impressed by a bearskin cap and regimentals.

The physiognomy of this captain in the Second
Legion exhaled a smug self-satisfaction which im-
parted an additional glow to his fat, ruddy cheeks. '
By the halo which wealth acquired in business binds
around the brow of retired shopkeepers, it was easy
to identify him as one of the chosen public servants
of Paris, at the very least a former deputy cf his
arrondissement. In like manner you may be sure
that the ribbon of the Legion of Honor was not
lacking on his chest, ostentatiously inflated a la



Prussienne. Planted proudly in a corner of the
milord, this decorated personage allowed his glance
to stray from one to another of the passers-by, who
very often in Paris are thus made the beneficiaries
of genial smiles intended for absent bright eyes.

The milord stopped in that portion of the street
which lies between Rue de Bellechasse and Rue de
Bourgogne, at the door of a large house newly built
upon part of the courtyard of an old family mansion
with a garden. The mansion itself had been spared,
and still stood in its original shape at the end of the
curtailed courtyard.

Simply by the way in which the captain accepted
the services of the driver in descending from the
milord, one could recognize the quinquagenarian.
There are movements of the body whose artless
heaviness is as outspoken as a certificate of birth.
The captain drew his yellow glove on his right hand,
and without pausing to question the concierge,
directed his steps toward the entrance to the ground-
floor of the mansion with an air which said : " She
is mine!" Paris concierges have a knowing eye;
they never interfere with decorated individuals
dressed in blue, with a heavy tread; in short, they
know a rich man when they see him.

The whole ground-floor was occupied by M. le
Baron Hulot d'Ervy, who had been commissary-
in-chief under the Republic, formerly intendant-
general of the army, and was at this time at the
head of one of the most important departments of
the Ministry of War, Councilor of State, grand


officer of the Legion of Honor, etc., etc. Baron
Hulot had taken the surname of Ervy, his birth-
place, to distinguish himself from his brother, the
famous General Hulot, colonel of the grenadiers of
the Imperial Guard, created by the Emperor Count
de Forzheim after the campaign of 1809. The
count being the elder brother and responsible for
the welfare of his junior, procured for him with
fatherly good judgment a place in the War Depart-
ment, where, thanks to their united services, the
baron earned and obtained the favor of Napoleon.
As early as 1807 Baron Hulot was intendant-general
of the armies engaged in Spain.

Having rung the bell, the citizen captain made
divers violent attempts to re-adjust his coat, which
was badly wrinkled, as well behind as in front, by
the action of his pear-shaped paunch. Admitted as
soon as a liveried domestic caught sight of him, this
important and imposing personage followed the
domestic, who announced, as he threw open the
door of the salon:

"M. Crevel!"

Upon hearing this name, admirably adapted to the
bearing of the man to whom it belonged, a tall, fair,
well-preserved woman seemed to experience some-
thing like an electric shock, and sprang to her feet.

" Hortense, my love, go out into the garden with
your Cousin Bette," said she hastily to her daughter,
who sat at her embroidery a few steps away.

With a graceful courtesy -to the captain, Made-
moiselle Hortense Hulot left the room through a long


window, taking with her a thin, meagre old maid,
who looked to be older than the baroness, although
she was five years younger.

"Your marriage is the matter in hand," said
Cousin Bette in the ear of her little Cousin Hor-
tense, with no sign of offence at the unceremonious
fashion in which the baroness dismissed her, as if
she were of no account whatever.

The general appearance of this cousin would have
afforded, at need, a sufficient explanation of the lack
of ceremony.

She wore a currant-colored merino dress, the cut
and trimming of which dated from the Restoration;
an embroidered neckerchief, which might have been
worth three francs; a straw hat covered with shell-
shaped pieces of blue satin edged with straw, like
those worn by the old-clothes women at the Market.
At sight of the goatskin shoes, the style of which
pointed to a shoemaker of the lowest order, a stranger
would have hesitated to salute Cousin Bette as one
of the family, for she much resembled a dressmaker
on day wages. Nevertheless the old maid did not
leave the room without a little friendly nod to M.
Crevel, to which that personage replied by a sign of

" You will come to-morrow, won't you, Made-
moiselle Fischer?" said he.

"You are to have no company?" asked Cousin

" My children and yourself, no one else," replied
the visitor.


" Very well, then, you may count upon me."

" I am at your service, madame," said the captain
of militia, bowing once more to Madame Hulot.

As he spoke he bestowed upon the baroness such
a glance as Tartuffe bestows upon Elmire when, at
Poitiers or Covtances, a provincial actor feels called
upon to bring out the real meaning of the part.

" If you will come this way with me, monsieur,
we can talk business much more conveniently than
in this salon," said Madame Hulot, indicating an ad-
joining room, which, in the division of the suite,
was known as a card-room.

This apartment was separated by only a thin par-
tition from the boudoir, the window of which looked
upon the garden, and Madame Hulot left M. Crevel
alone for a moment, deeming it advisable to close
the door and window of the boudoir, so that no one
could come there to listen. She also took the pre-
caution to close the long window of the large salon,
smiling as she did so at her daughter and her cousin,
who had established themselves in an old pagoda at
the end of the garden. As she returned she left the
card-room door open, so that she could hear if any-
one should open that of the salon. As she went and
came the baroness, being unobserved, allowed her
features to express her real thoughts; and anybody
who had seen her would have been almost terrified
by her agitation. But as she returned across the
large salon to the card-room her face assumed that
mask of impenetrable reserve which all women,
even the most ingenuous, see'm to have at command.


During these preliminaries, which were, to say
the least, singular, the national guardsman exam-
ined the furnishings of the room in which he found
himself. As his eyes fell upon the silk hangings,
once red, now faded to pale violet by the action of
the sun, and worn threadbare at the folds by long
use, a carpet whence the color had vanished, chairs
on which the gilding was worn away, and the
stained and spotted silk coverings worn out in
strips, expressions of disdain, satisfaction and hope
succeeded one another upon his vacant, parvenu
shopkeeper's face. He was looking at himself in
the mirror, which hung above an old Empire-clock,
passing himself in review, as it were, when the
rustling of her silk dress announced the baroness,
and he at once struck an attitude.

Having thrown herself upon a little couch, which
must have been very beautiful about 1809, the
baroness, pointing to an armchair, the arms of which
were terminated by bronzed sphinxes heads, from
which the paint had fallen off in scales, leaving the
wood bare in spots, motioned to Crevel to be seated.

" These precautions you are taking, madame,
would be of most delightful augury for a "

"For a lover," she suggested, interrupting the
national guardsman.

" That is a weak word," said he, placing his right
hand upon his heart, and rolling his eyes in a fashion
that almost invariably makes a woman laugh when
in cold blood she sees them assume such an expres-
sion : " lover 1 lover 1 say rather one bewitched."


" Listen, Monsieur Crevel," rejoined the baroness,
whose mood was too serious to admit of laughter,
" you are fifty years old ; ten years younger than
M. Hulot, I know, but at my age a woman's folly
should be justified by good looks, youth, celebrity,
merit, or some other of the brilliant qualities which
dazzle us to the point of making us forget every-
thing, even our age. If you had an income of fifty
thousand francs your age would outweigh your for-
tune, so that of all that a woman demands you
possess nothing at all."

"And what of love ?" said the national guards-
man, rising and walking toward her ; " a love,

"No, monsieur, obstinacy !" said the baroness,
interrupting him to put an end to the absurd scene.

"Very true, obstinacy and love," he retorted,
" but something better, too ; rights "

"Rights ?" cried Madame Hulot, rising to a sub-
lime height of scorn, defiance and wrath. " But,"
she continued, " at this rate we shall never have
done, and I didn't ask you to come here to talk upon
the subject which caused your banishment, not-
withstanding the close connection between our fam-

" I thought"

"Again!" she exclaimed. "Can you not see,
monsieur, by my cool and unconcerned way of
speaking of lovers and love and of every subject
most dangerous for a woman to talk about, that I
am perfectly sure of retaining my virtue ? 1 have


no fear, not even of arousing suspicion, by closeting
myself with you. Is that the conduct of a weak
woman? You are well aware why I asked you to
come !"

"No, madame," rejoined Crevel, assuming a
frigid manner. He pursed up his lips and again
struck an attitude.

" Very well ; I will be brief in order to abridge
our mutual discomfort," said the baroness, looking
him in the face.

Crevel executed an ironical salute, in which one
of the guild would have recognized the airs and
graces of a former traveling salesman.

" Our son has married your daughter"

"And if it were still to be done!" said Crevel.

" The marriage would not take place, I strongly
suspect," retorted the baroness hastily. "How-
ever, you have no reason to complain. My son
is not only one of the leading advocates of Paris,
but he has been deputy for a year past, and his
debut in the Chamber was brilliant enough to make
it reasonable to suppose that he will be a minister
before long. Victorin has twice been selected to
report important bills, and if he wished, he might
even now be avocat-general of the Court of Ap-
peal. So that if you mean to insinuate that you
have a son-in-law without fortune "

"A son-in-law whom I am obliged to support,
madame," rejoined Crevel, "which to my think-
ing is even worse. Of the five hundred thousand
francs which constituted my daughter's dowry, two


hundred have gone God knows where ! to pay the
debts of monsieur, your son, to furnish the house in
a way to make people stare ; a house that cost five
hundred thousand francs and yields scarcely fifteen
thousand, as he occupies the best part of it himself,
and upon which he still owes two hundred and sixty
thousand francs. The income barely covers the
interest on the debt. This year I give my daughter
twenty thousand francs to enable her to make both
ends meet. And my son-in-law, who was earning
thirty thousand francs at the Palais, they say, is
neglecting the Palais for the Chamber."

" This is also a side issue, Monsieur Crevel, and
keeps us far away from the subject. But,to have done
with it, if my son becomes a minister, if he makes
you an officer in the Legion of Honor and Councilor
of the Prefecture of Paris, for one who once dealt
in perfumery you will have no cause to complain."

" Ah ! there we are, madame. 1 am a shopkeeper,
a grocer, a dealer in almond paste and Portugal
water and cephalic oil, and I should esteem myself
highly honored to have married my only daughter
to the son of M. le Baron Hulot d'Ervy ; my daugh-
ter will be a baroness. 'Tis the Regency come again ;
'tis Louis XV.; 'tis the CEil-de-bceuf ! That's all very
fine. I love Celestine as a man loves his only
daughter ; I love her so dearly that, in order that
she might have no brother or sister, I resigned my-
self to all the inconvenience of widowerhood in
Paris in the prime of life, too, madame ! but
understand that, for all my insensate love for my


daughter, I will not cut into my fortune for your
son, whose expenses seem rather mysterious to me,
a former tradesman."

" Monsieur, there is M. Popinot, once a druggist on
Rue des Lombards, now Minister of Commerce."

"My friend, madame!" said the retired per-
fumer, "for I, Celestin Crevel, formerly chief -clerk to
Pere Cesar Birotteau, purchased the business of said
Birotteau, Popinot's father-in-law, Popinot being
then a simple clerk in the establishment; and he
himself reminds me of it, for he is not proud 1 must
do him that justice with people who have attained
a good position, and have an income of sixty thous-
and francs."

"Ah, well, monsieur, the ideas that you suggest
by the word ' regency,' are not in fashion at a time
when men are accepted for their personal qualities,
and that is what you did when you married your
daughter to my son."

"You have no idea how that marriage came
about!" cried Crevel. "Ah! this accursed bache-
lor life! Except for my misbehavior my Celestine
would be Viscomtess Popinot to-day!"

" But, once more, let us not indulge in recrimina-
tions as to things that are passed and gone," rejoined
the baroness with energy. " Let us talk of your
extraordinary conduct, which gives me just cause
for complaint. My daughter Hortense had an oppor-
tunity to marry, her marriage depended entirely
upon you; I believed you to be of a generous
disposition, I thought you would do justice to a


woman who never admitted any other than her hus-
band's image in her heart, that you would realize
how necessary it was for her to refuse to receive a
man whose visits might compromise her, and that
you would be only too willing, out of regard for the
family with which you are allied, to forward Hor-
tense's union with Councilor Lebas. But you
caused the marriage to fall through, monsieur "

"Madame,*'' replied the quondam perfumer, "I
acted as an honest man should. I was asked the
question whether the two hundred thousand francs
supposed to constitute Mademoiselle Hortense's mar-
riage-portion would be paid. I replied in these exact
words: ' I would not vouch for it. My son-in-law,
to whom the Hulot family allotted that sum as his
marriage-portion, had debts, and it is my opinion
that, if M. Hulot d'Ervy were to die to-morrow, his
widow would be without a crust.' That's the whole
of it, dear madame."

"Would you have used that language, monsieur,"
demanded Madame Hulot, gazing fixedly at Crevel,
"if I would have consented to be false to my vows
for your sake?"

' ' I should have had no right to say it, dear Ade-
line," cried this singular lover, cutting the baroness
short, " for you would find the marriage-portion in
my portfolio."

And, to add the greater force to his words, the
corpulent Crevel dropped upon one knee and kissed
Madame Hulot's hand, attributing to hesitation her
speechless horror at his words.



" Buy my daughter's happiness at the price of ?
Oh! monsieur, rise, or I will ring "

The former dealer in perfumery rose with great
difficulty. This state of affairs so incensed him that
he again struck his favorite attitude. Almost every
man is particularly given to some posture which he
deems best calculated to show off all the advantages
with which nature has endowed him. This posture,
in Crevel's case, consisted in folding his arms b la
Napotion, turning his head three-fourths around, and
looking in the direction in which the artist made him
look in his portrait, that is to say, toward the hor-

"To remain faithful," he exclaimed, with well
simulated rage, "to remain faithful to a libert "

" To a husband, monsieur, who is worthy of my
fidelity," retorted Madame Hulot, interrupting Crevel
in order not to allow him to utter a word she did not
choose to hear.

" Look you, madame, you wrote me to come, you
wish to know the explanation of my conduct, you
drive me to extremities with your imperial airs, your
disdain, your contempt! Would not one say that I
was a blackamoor? I say again, and mark my
words! that I havd a right to pay my court to
you for But no, I love you enough to hold
my tongue "

"Go on, monsieur; I shall be forty-eight years
old in a few days; I am no silly prude and I can
listen to anything "

"Give me your word then as a virtuous woman


for, unluckily for me, you are a virtuous woman
never to mention my name, or to say that I told you
the secret."

" If you make that a condition of the disclosure,
I swear that I will name to no one, not even to my
husband, the person from whom I learned the enor-
mities you are about to confide to me."

"I believe you, for only you and he are con-
cerned "

Madame Hulot turned pale.

"Ah! if you love him still, prepare to suffer! Do
you wish me to hold my tongue?"

"Say on, monsieur, for, according to your own
account, it is for you to justify in my eyes the ex-
traordinary statements you have made, and your
persistence in tormenting a woman of my age, who
would like to see her daughter well married, and
then die in peace!"

"You see, you are unhappy "

"I, monsieur?"

"Yes, lovely and noble creature!" cried Crevel,
"you have suffered only too much "

"Monsieur, be silent and go! or address me

"Do you know, madame, how Monsieur Hulot
and I became acquainted? through our mistresses,

" Oh! monsieur!"

"Through our mistresses, madame," repeated
Crevel in a melodramatic tone, and abandoning his
attitude to make a gesture with his right hand.


"Well, what then, monsieur?" said the baron-
ess calmly, to Crevel's unbounded amazement.

Petty seducers never understand noble hearts.

"Five years a widower," resumed Crevel, in the
manner of a man about to tell a story, " and not
caring to marry a second time for the sake of my
daughter, whom I idolize, nor to form liaisons in my
own establishment, although I had at the time a very
pretty cashier, I furnished apartments, as they say,
for a little seamstress of fifteen, of marvelous beauty,
and with whom, I confess, I fell head over ears in
love, and so, madame, I begged my own aunt, whom
I had sent for from my native place my mother's
sister to make her home with the charming crea-
ture and keep an eye upon her, so that she might
remain as virtuous as possible in that what shall I
say? chocnoso no, illicit situation! The little one,
whose vocation for music was very apparent, was
supplied with teachers and received an education it
was necessary to keep her mind occupied! Further-
more, it was my purpose to be at one and the same
time her father, her benefactor, and, let us say the
word, her lover: to kill two birds with one stone, do a
kind action, and make sure of a kind friend. I was
happy for five years. The little one had one of
those voices which make the fortune of a theatre,
and I can not better describe her than as a Duprez
in petticoats. It cost me two thousand francs a
year, simply to cultivate her talents as a singer.
She made me mad over music, and I had a box
at the Italiens for her and my daughter. I used to


go there one day with Celestine, the next with

" What, the famous singer?"

"Yes, madame," responded Crevel, proudly,
"the renowned Josepha owes everything to me.
At last, in 1834, when she was twenty years old,
thinking that 1 had bound her to myself forever, and
having become as wax in her hands, I wished to

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