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weight float on the surface of the water. Csar
Birotteau, a royalist, in high favor, envied, became
the target for the bourgeois opposition, while the
triumphant bourgeoisie was typified in Crevel.

This suite, rented at a thousand crowns, and
which overflowed with all the vulgarities that
money can buy, occupied the first floor of an old
mansion, standing between courtyard and garden.
Everything there was kept as carefully as beetles
at an entomologist's, for Crevel lived there very
little.

This luxurious "abode" constituted the legal



COUSIN BETTE 179

domicile of the ambitious bourgeois. His establish-
ment consisted of a cook and a valet de chambre; he
hired two additional servants, and ordered his state
dinner at Chevet, when he feasted his political
friends, people to be dazzled, or when he received
his family. The seat of Crevel's real existence,
formerly at Mademoiselle Heloise Brisetout's on
Rue Notre-Dame de Lorette, had been transferred,
as we have seen, to Rue Chauchat. Every morn-
ing the former merchant all retired tradesmen style
themselves former merchants passed two hours on
Rue des Saussayes, looking after matters of busi-
ness, and gave the rest of his time to Zaire, to
Zaire's extreme annoyance. Orosmane-Crevel had
a hard and fast bargain with Mademoiselle Heloise;
she owed him five hundred francs worth of pleasure
every month, without arrearages. Crevel also paid
for his dinner and all the extras. This contract,
with options, for he made her many presents,
seemed a thrifty one to the ex-lover of the famous
songstress. Talking on this subject with merchants
who had lost their wives and were too much attached
to their daughters, he would say that it was much
better to use hired horses than to have a stable of
one's own. Nevertheless, if we remember the con-
fidential information given the baron by the con-
cierge on Rue Chauchat, it will be evident that
Crevel did not get along without a coachman and a
groom.

Crevel had, as we see, turned his excessive
affection for his daughter to the advantage of his



180 THE POOR RELATIONS

pleasures. The immorality of his situation was
justified by considerations of the highest morality.
Furthermore, the former perfumer acquired from
this mode of life necessary perhaps, but dissolute,
reminiscent of the Regency, Pompadour, Marechal
de Richelieu, etc. a certain gloss of superiority.
Crevel posed as a man of broad views, as a great
lord on a small scale, as a generous-minded man,
without narrowness in his ideas, and all by virtue
of some twelve or fifteen hundred francs a month.
This was not the effect of politic hypocrisy, but of
bourgeois vanity, which, however, led to the same
result On the Bourse Crevel was looked upon as
a person superior to his time, and above all things
as a high liver. In this respect Crevel believed
that he had gone beyond the worthy Birotteau by a
hundred cubits.

"Well, well," cried Crevel, flying into a rage at
the sight of Cousin Bette, "so it's you who are
marrying Mademoiselle Hulot to a young count you
have raised for her at your apron-strings?"

"Anyone would think that that annoys you?"
replied Lisbeth with a searching glance at Crevel.
"What interest have you, pray, in preventing
my cousin's marriage ? for you put a stop to the
match with Monsieur Lebas's son, so they tell
me?"

"You are a good girl and know when to hold your
tongue," rejoined Pere Crevel. "Very good, do
you suppose I will ever forgive Monsieur Hulot for
the crime of stealing Josepha from me, especially



COUSIN BETTE l8l

when he makes of a virtuous girl, whom I would
have ended by marrying in my old-age, a good-for-
naught, a female mountebank, an opera singer?
No, no, never!"

"He's a good fellow, though, is Monsieur Hulot,"
said Cousin Bette.

"Agreeable, very agreeable, too agreeable!"
replied Crevel; "I wish him no ill; but I want my
revenge, and I'll have it That's my one idea!"

"Is it because of your desire for revenge that you
have ceased to visit Madame Hulot? "

"Perhaps"

"Aha ! so you paid court to my cousin, did you ? "
said Lisbeth with a smile. "I suspected as much."

"And she treated me like a dog; worse than a
dog, like a lackey; I would say rather like a politi-
cal prisoner! But I shall succeed," he added, strik-
ing his forehead with his clenched fist

"Poor man, it would be a terrible thing to find
his wife false after being cast off by his mistress ! "

"Jose"pha!" cried Crevel; "has Jos6pha left
him, cast him off, turned him out of doors ? Bravo,
Josepha! Josepha, you have avenged me! I will
send you a pair of pearls to wear in your ears, my
ex-hussy! I know nothing about this, for, after
I saw you the day after the fair Adeline once more
begged me to get out of her house, I went to see the
Lebas, at Corbeil, and have just returned. He"loise
moved heaven and earth to get me into the country,
and I knew what she was up to: she wanted to
have a house-warming without me on Rue Chauchat,



1 82 THE POOR RELATIONS

with a lot of artists, strolling players and literary
fellows I have been fooled ! I will forgive Hloise,
though, for she amuses me. She's a sort of unpub-
lished De"jazet What a rascal she is, the hussy!
here's the note I found last night :

" 'My dear old man : I have pitched my tent on Rue Chau-
chat. I took the precaution to have the plaster dried by
friends. All goes well. Come when you choose, monsieur.
Hagar awaits her Abraham.'"

"Helolse will tell me the news, for she knows her
Bohemia inside and out"

"But my cousin took this set-back very well,"
said Cousin Bette.

"Impossible!" cried Crevel, pausing in his pen-
dulum-like stride.

"Monsieur Hulot is well along in years," suggested
Lisbeth maliciously.

"I know it," returned Crevel; "but we resemble
each other in one respect : Hulot cannot get along
without an attachment to somebody. He says to
himself that he is capable of returning to his wife.
That would be a novelty to him, but farewell to my
revenge. You smile, Mademoiselle Fischer aha!
you know something? "

"I am laughing at your ideas," Lisbeth replied.
'Yes, my cousin is still lovely enough to inspire
passion. I would fall in love with her if I were a
man."

"Who has drunk, will drink!" cried Crevel;
"you are laughing at me! The baron has found
somebody to console him."



COUSIN BETTE 183

Lisbeth bent her head in token of assent

"Ah! he's very lucky to replace Jose'pha between
one day and the next! " continued Crevel. "But I
am not surprised, for he told me one evening at
supper that, in his younger days, in order not to be
left in the lurch, he always had three mistresses,
tne one he was about to drop, the reigning one, and
the one he was paying court to for future use. He
must have had some grisette in reserve in his fish-
pond I in his Parc-aux-cerfs I He's a regular Louis
XV., the scamp! Oh! how lucky he is to be a
handsome man! Nevertheless, he's growing old,
he's marked he must have taken on some little
work-girl."

"Oh! no," said Lisbeth.

"Ah! " exclaimed Crevel, "what wouldn't I give
to prevent him from being able to put 'on his hat!
It was impossible for me to take Josepha from him ;
women of that sort never return to their first love.
And then, love never comes back, they say. But,
Cousin Bette, I would give, that is to say, I would
willingly spend fifty thousand francs, to take that
tall, handsome fellow's mistress away from him,
and show him that a fat old boy with the paunch of
a major and the skull of a future mayor of Paris,
doesn't allow his fair one to be whistled away
without giving tit for tat "

"My position," rejoined Bette, compels me to
hear everything and know nothing. You can talk
with me without fear, for I never repeat a word of
what anyone chooses to confide to me. Why should



1 84 THE POOR RELATIONS

I break the law that governs my conduct in that
respect? no one would ever trust me again."

"I know it," returned Crevel; "you are the
pearl of old maids. Look you! Sapristi, there
are exceptions. Tell me, have they ever made you
any allowance in the family? "

"Why, I have some pride of any own, and I don't
choose to cost anybody anything," said Bette.

"Ah! if you would assist me to avenge myself,"
rejoined the former tradesman, "I would settle an
annuity of ten thousand francs on your head. Tell
me, dear cousin, who it is that has taken Josepha's
place, and you shall have the wherewithal to pay
your rent, your little breakfast in the morning, the
nice coffee you're so fond of, you can indulge in pure
mocha eh? Oh! how delicious pure mocha is!"

"I don't care so much for the annuity of ten thous-
and francs, which would give me an income of
about five hundred, as I do for keeping my own
counsel absolutely ; for, you see, my dear Monsieur
Crevel, the baron is very kind to me, he is going
to pay my rent"

"Oh! yes for a long while! rely on him for
.that! " cried Crevel. "Where would the baron get
the money?"

"Ah! that I don't know. However, he is spend-
ing more than thirty thousand francs on the apart-
ments he is fitting up for this lady "

"A lady! What, can it be some woman in soci-
ety? The villain, what a lucky dog! nobody has
such luck as he!"



COUSIN BETTE 185

"A married woman, comme il faut," replied
Cousin Bette.

"Really?" cried Crevel with wide-open eyes,
inflamed no less by desire than by the magic phrase :
Comme ilfaut.

"Yes," replied Bette, "talented, a musician,
twentyrthree years old, a pretty, innocent face,
skin of dazzling whiteness, teeth like a young dog's,
eyes like stars, a superb forehead and tiny little
feet, I never saw the like, they're no wider than
her corset busk."

"And her ears?" queried Crevel, his pulses
quickened by this lover's description.

"Ears to be modeled," she replied.

"Little hands?"

"I tell you, in a word, she's a jewel of a woman,
and so virtuous, so modest, so refined! a lovely
creature, an angel, distinguished in every way, for
her father's a marshal of France "

"A marshal of France!" cried Crevel, with a
violent start "Mon Dieu! saperlotte! bless my
soul! Ah! the blackguard! Forgive me, cousin, I
am going mad ! I would give a hundred thousand
francs, I think "

"Oh yes! I tell you she's an honest woman, a
virtuous woman. So the baron has done things
handsomely."

"He hasn't a sou I tell you."

"There's a husband whom he has pushed for-
ward"

"In what way ? " asked Crevel with a bitter smile.



1 86 THE POOR RELATIONS

"He's already appointed deputy-chief of depart-
ment, is this husband, who will be complaisant no
doubt; he's in a fair way to get the cross."

"The government should be careful and show re-
spect to those it has decorated by not being too
lavish with the cross," said Crevel with an expres-
sion of political pique. "But what has this great
cur of an old baron in his favor after all?" he
continued. "So far as I can see I'm quite as good
as he is," he added, surveying himself in a mir-
ror, and striking his attitude. "Helolse has often
told me, at a time when women don't lie, that I was
a wonder."

"Oh! " rejoined Bette, "women like fat men, for
they are almost always good-natured ; and between
you and the baron, I would choose you. Monsieur
Hulot is clever and a handsome man, he has a dis-
tinguished bearing; but you are substantial, and
then you know you seem to be a wickeder wretch
than he!"

"It's incredible how all women, even the most
pious, take to men who have that appearance!"
cried Crevel, putting his arm around Bette's waist,
so exhilarated was he.

"That's not where the difficulty is," pursued
Bette. "You understand that a woman who has
so much done for her, won't be unfaithful to her
protector for trifles, and that would cost more
than a hundred and some odd thousand francs,
for the little lady in question imagines her hus-
band chief of a department two years hence.



COUSIN BETTE 187

It's poverty that drives the poor little angel into
the abyss."

Crevel strode up and down his salon like a mad-
man.

"He must think a great deal of this woman ? " he
asked after a moment's silence, during which his
desire, thus whetted by Lisbeth, became a sort of
frenzy.

"Judge for yourself! " replied Lisbeth. "I don't
think he has obtained that as yet! " said she, snap-
ping her thumb-nail against one of her huge white
incisors, "and he has already spent ten thousand
francs in presents."

"Oh! what a good farce!" cried Crevel, "if I
should get in ahead of him ! "

"Good heavens, it is very wrong in me to tell you
all this stuff," said Lisbeth, as if stricken with
remorse.

"No. I want to put your family to the blush.
To-morrow, I will settle a sum of money on you
that will bring you an income of six hundred francs
at five per cent, but you must tell me all: Dul-
cinea's name, and where she lives. I may as well
own to you that I have never had a woman in
society for my mistress, and it is the height of my
ambition to know such a one. The houris of Ma-
homet are nothing in comparison with my idea of
women of the world. In short this is my ideal, my
mania, and to such an extent, look you, that Bar-
oness Hulo^t will never be fifty years old in ny
eyes," said he, unconsciously adopting the thought



1 88 THE POOR RELATIONS

of one of the finest minds of the last century.
"Come, my good Lisbeth, I have decided to
sacrifice one hundred, two hundred, Hush! here
are my children, I see them crossing the courtyard.
I will never say that I learned anything from you,
1 give you my word of honor, for I don't want you
to lose the baron's confidence, quite the contrary.
He must be amazingly fond of this woman, must
my old chum!"

"Oh! he's mad over her!" said Bette. "He
didn't know where to find forty thousand francs for
his daughter's dot, but he has raised them for this
new passion."

"And you think that he is loved?" queried
Crevel.

"At his age! " was the old maid's reply.

"Oh ! what a fool I am ! " cried Crevel. "I who
shut my eyes to Heloise's artist, exactly as Henri
IV. did with regard to Gabrielle and Bellegarde.
Oh! old age! old age! Good afternoon, Celes-
tine, good afternoon, my jewel; and your little
brat? Ah! there he is! Upon my word he begins
to look like me. How are you, Hulot, my friend,
is everything all right? We shall soon have another
marriage in the family."

Ce"Iestine and her husband shook their heads as
they pointed to Lisbeth, and the daughter boldly
asked her father :

"Whose, pray?"

Crevel assumed a cunning expression, implying
that his indiscretion would be easily repaired



COUSIN BETTE 189

"Hortense's," he replied; "but it's not altogether
decided. I have just come from Lebas', and they
are talking of Mademoiselle Popinot for our young
councilor at the royal court of Paris, who would not
object to becoming a president in the provinces.
Come to dinner."



At seven o'clock Lisbeth was already on her way
home in an omnibus, for she was in haste to see
Wenceslas, whose dupe she had been for some three
weeks, and to whom she was carrying her satchel
filled with fruit selected by Crevel himself, whose
affection for his Cousin Bette had redoubled. She
ran up to the attic so quickly that she lost her
breath, and found the artist at work finishing the
decoration of a box that he proposed to present to
his dear Hortense. The border of the lid was
carved to represent hortensias, amid which Loves
were frolicking. The poor lover, to pay for the
box which was of malachite, had made two candle-
holders for Florent and Chanor, two masterpieces,
which he sold to them outright

"You have been working too hard these last few
days, my dear fellow," said Lisbeth, wiping the
perspiration from his brow and kissing him. "Such
activity in the month of August seems to me dan-
gerous. Really your health may suffer by it *
See, here are some peaches and plums from M. Cre-
vel's. Don't worry so; I have borrowed two thou-
sand francs, and unless something happens, we can
return them if you sell your clock ! And yet I have
some suspicion of the man who loaned them to me,
for he has just sent me this stamped paper."
(191)



192 THE POOR RELATIONS

She placed the notice of the application for arrest
under the sketch of Marechal Montcornet

"For whom are you making these lovely things ? "
she asked, taking up the branches of hortensias in
red wax, which Wenceslas had laid aside in order
to eat the fruit

"For a jeweler."

"What jeweler?"

"I don't know; Stidmann begged me to twist them
for him, he is so hurried."

"Why, these are hortensias," said she in a hol-
low voice. "How is it that you have never mod-
eled any wax for me? Was it so hard, pray, to
invent a dagger, a casket, no matter what, for a
souvenir?" she added, casting a withering glance
at the artist, whose eyes, luckily, were cast down.

"And you say that you love me! "

"Do you doubt it mademoiselle?"

"Oh! what a very warm mademoiselle! Look
you, you have been my only thought since I saw
you dying, over yonder. When I saved you, you
gave yourself to me ; I have never spoken to you of
this engagement, but I bound myself to you in my
own mind ! I said to myself : 'Since this poor fellow
gives himself to me, I mean to make him rich and
happy!' Very good; I have succeeded in making
your fortune! "

"How, pray?" asked the poor artist, happy
beyond words, and too innocent to suspect a trap.

"This is how," replied the Lorrainer.

Lisbeth could not deny herself the savage pleasure



COUSIN BETTE 193

of watching Wenceslas, who was gazing at her with
a filial affection, into which his love for Hortense
overflowed, and thus deceived the old maid. When
she saw for the first time in her life, the fire of pas-
sion alight in the eyes of a man, she thought that
she herself had lighted it

"Monsieur Crevel will furnish us with a hundred
thousand francs to set up in business, if, he says,
you choose to marry me ; he has strange ideas, the
vulgar old fellow. What do you think about it?"
she asked.

The artist, who had turned pale as a dead man,
looked at his benefactress with eyes in which no
light shone and which did not conceal his thoughts.
He remained open-mouthed and stupefied.

"I was never told so plainly before," she went
on with a bitter smile, "that I was frightfully
ugly!"

"Mademoiselle," replied Steinbock, "my bene-
factress will never be ugly in my eyes; I have a
very warm affection for you, but I am not yet
thirty, and"

"And I am forty-three! " said Bette. "My cousin
Hulot, who is forty-eight, still drives men mad;
but she is beautiful, she is! "

"Fifteen years difference between us, made-
moiselle! what sort of a household would ours be?
For our own sakes I think we should do well to
reflect My gratitude will certainly be equal to
your benefactions. Besides, your money will be
repaid in a few days."



194 THE POOR RELATIONS

"My money! "she cried. "Oh! you treat me
as if I were a heartless money-lender."

"Forgive me," rejoined Wenceslas, "but you
speak of it so often. In short, you made me, do
not destroy me."

"You want to leave me, I see," said she, shaking
her head. "Who has given you the strength to be
ungrateful, you who are like a man made of papier
m&ch'e ? Do you lack confidence in me, your good
genius ? in me, who have so often passed the night
working for you ! who-have given you the savings
of my whole life! who, for four years, have shared
my bread, the bread of a poor work-girl, with you,
and who have loaned you everything, even my
courage!"

"Enough! Enough! Mademoiselle," said he,
throwing himself on his knees and holding out his
hands to her. "Don't say another word! In three
days I will speak, I will tell you everything; let me
be happy," he said, kissing her hands, "I love, and
I am loved."

"Well, then, be happy, my child," said she,
raising him

Thereupon she kissed him on the brow and hair
with the frenzy of a man condemned to death
breathing the air of his last morning.

"Ah! you are the noblest and best of creatures,
you are the equal of my beloved," said the poor
artist

"I love you dearly enough to tremble for your
future," she rejoined gloomily. "Judas hanged



COUSIN BETTE IQ5

himself ! all ingrates come to a bad end ! You leave
me and you will do nothing more of any account!
Consider that, even if we don't marry for I am an
old maid, I know, I have no wish to smother the
flower of your youth, your poetic talent, as you call
it, in my arms which are like branches of a vine;
but can't we remain together without marrying?
Listen to me; I have the business instinct, and I
can get together a fortune by ten years' work, for
my name is Economy ; while with a young woman,
who will be all for spending, you will squander
everything and work only to make her happy.
Happiness creates nothing but memories. When I
think of you I sit for whole hours with my arms
hanging at my sides. Come, Wenceslas, stay with
me. You see I understand all about it; you shall
have mistresses, pretty women like little Marneffe,
who is anxious to see you, and who will afford you
the pleasure you cannot find with me. Then, when
I have got together an income of thirty thousand
francs for you, you shall marry."

"You are an angel, mademoiselle, and I shall
never forget this moment," replied Wenceslas, wip-
ing away his tears.

"That's the way I like to have you, my child,"
said she, gazing at him wildly.

Vanity is so strong in us all that Lisbeth believed
she had triumphed. She had made such a great
concession in suggesting Madame Marneffe! She
experienced the keenest emotion of her whole life,
for the first time she felt joy pouring in a flood into



196 THE POOR RELATIONS

her heart She would have sold her soul to the
devil for another such hour.

"I am betrothed," he replied, "and I love a
woman with whom no other can successfully con-
tend. But you are, and will always be, the mother
I have lost"

These words fell like an avalanche of snow upon a
flaming crater. Lisbeth sat down and gazed with a
sombre expression at the distinguished beauty, the
glowing youth, the artist's brow, the beautiful hair,
everything which aroused in her the suppressed
instincts of her sex, and tiny tears, instantly dried,
moistened her eyes for a moment She resembled
one of those slender statues which the sculptors of
images of the Middle Ages were accustomed to place
in a sitting posture upon tombs.

"I do not curse you," said she, rising abruptly,
"you are only a child. May God protect you ! "

She went down stairs and locked herself into her
apartments.

"She loves me," said Wenceslas to himself,
"poor creature. How eloquent she was in her
excitement! She is mad."

This last effort of this unimaginative, matter-of-
fact nature, to keep with her the image of beauty
and poesy, was so violent that it can be fitly-com-
pared only to the savage energy of the shipwrecked
sailor in his last supreme struggle to reach the shore.

Two days later, at half-past four in the morning,
just when Count Steinbock was sleeping most pro-
foundly, he heard a knock at the door of his attic;



COUSIN BETTE 197

he left his bed to open the door, whereupon two
shabbily dressed men entered, accompanied by a
third, whose garb indicated a bailiff in adverse cir-
cumstances.

"You are Monsieur Wenceslas, Comte Stein-
bock?" said this last-mentioned personage.

"Yes, monsieur."

"My name is Grasset, monsieur, successor to
Monsieur Louchard, constable "

"What then?"

"You are under arrest, monsieur, and must go
with us to the prison at Clichy. Be good enough
to dress. We have had consideration for you,
as you see; I didn't bring any police officer, and
there is a fiacre below."

"You are well looked out for, " said one of
the understrappers; "so we count on your gen-
erosity."

Steinbock dressed and went down stairs, each
arm in the grasp of one of the followers; when he
was inside the fiacre the driver started off without
orders, like a man who knows where to go; within
half an hour the hapless foreigner found himself
well and duly registered on the prison books, with-
out having uttered a word of remonstrance, so great
was his surprise.

At ten o'clock he was sent for to the office of the
prison, and found Lisbeth there, dissolved in tears;
she gave him money with which to live comfortably,
and to procure a room large enough to work in.

"My child," said she, "don't mention your arrest



198 THE POOR RELATIONS

to anybody, don't write to a living soul, for it would
ruin your future; we must hide this stigma, and
soon I shall have set you free ; I am going to get the


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