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money together never fear. Write me what I
must bring you for your work. I will die, or you
shall soon be free."

"Oh! I shall owe you my life twice over!" he
cried, "for I should lose more than life, if people
believed me to be a worthless fellow."

Lisbeth left him with joy at her heart; she hoped
to be able, by keeping her artist under lock and
key, to put an end to his marriage with Hortense
by saying that he was married, that he was par-
doned through the efforts of his wife, and had
started for Russia. In execution of this plan she
called at the baroness's about three o'clock,
although it was not her regular day for dining there ;
but she longed to enjoy the torture which her
younger cousin would suffer as the time approached
for Wenceslas to appear.

"Have you come to dinner, Bette?" asked the
baroness, concealing her disappointment

"Why yes."

"Good!" said Hortense, "1 will go and give
orders to have it served promptly, for you don't
like to wait"

Hortense made a gesture intended to reassure her
mother ; for she proposed to tell the footman to send
Monsieur Steinbock away when he called; but as
the footman had gone out Hortense was compelled
to give the order to the maid, and the maid went to



COUSIN BETTE 199

her room to get her work, preparatory to taking up
her station in the anteroom.

"What about my lover?" said Cousin Bette to
Hortense, when she returned; "you don't mention
him any more."

"By the way, what has become of him ?" said Hor-
tense, "for he is famous now. You ought to be very
happy," she added in her cousin's ear, "for every-
body is talking about Monsieur Wenceslas Si^ein-
bock."

"A great deal too much," she replied aloud.
"Monsieur is taking to bad courses. If it were
only a question of keeping his mind occupied
to the point of carrying the day over the dissi-
pations of Paris, I know my power; but they
say that in order to attract an artist of his calibre
to his court, the Emperor Nicholas has pardoned
him"

"Oh! nonsense!" exclaimed the baroness.

"How do you know that?" asked Hortense,
seized with something like cramp at her heart

"Why," replied the fiendish Bette, "a person to
whom he is bound by the most sacred of bonds, his
wife, wrote him to that effect yesterday. He is
anxious to go; ah! he would be a fool to leave
France for Russia "

Hortense glanced at her mother as her head fell
forward; the baroness had just time to catch her
fainting daughter, who was as white as the lace of
her neckerchief.

"Lisbethl you have killed my child I " cried



200 THE POOR RELATIONS

the baroness. "You were born to bring misfortune
upon us."

"Well, well ! how am I at fault in this, Adeline? "
demanded the Lorrainer, rising and assuming a
threatening attitude, to which in her dismay, the
baroness paid no heed.

"I was wrong," replied Adeline, holding Hortense
in her arms. "Ring! "

At that moment the door opened, the two women
turned their heads simultaneously and beheld Wen-
ceslas Steinbock, whom the cook had admitted in
the maid's absence.

"Hortense!" ejaculated the artist, rushing for-
ward to the group formed by the three women.
And he kissed his affianced bride before her
mother's eyes, but with such pious veneration that
the baroness was not angry. It was a more effica-
cious salt for the swoon than all the English salts
in the world. Hortense opened her eyes, saw
Wenceslas, and the color returned to her cheeks. A
moment more and she was herself again.

"So this is what you've been hiding from me? "
said Cousin Bette, smiling at Wenceslas, and mak-
ing a pretence of guessing the truth by virtue of
the confusion of her two cousins. "How did you
steal my lover from me? "she said to Hortense,
leading her into the garden.

Hortense naively narrated to her cousin the ro-
mance of her love. Her mother and father, con-
vinced that Bette would never marry, had, she
said, authorized the Comte Steinbock's visits. But



COUSIN BETTE 2OI

Hortense, like Agnes of old, attributed to chance the
purchase of the group and the author's visit, due,
so she said, to his desire to know the name of
his first customer. Steinbock almost immediately
joined the cousins to thank the old maid effusively
for his speedy deliverance. Lisbeth jesuitically
replied that, as the creditor would make only the
vaguest promises, she did not expect to procure his
release until the next day, and that he must have
been ashamed of such trivial persecution and taken
the initiative himself. The old maid seemed well-
pleased, however, and congratulated Wenceslas on
his good fortune.

"Bad boy ! " she said to him before Hortense and
her mother, "if you had confessed to me night
before last that you loved my Cousin Hortense, and
that she loved you, you would have spared me
many tears. I thought that you meant to abandon
your old friend, your schoolmistress, while on the
contrary you are going to be my cousin ; henceforth
you will belong to me, the bond between us rather
feeble, to be sure, but strong enough for the senti-
ment I entertain for you "

And she kissed Wenceslas on the forehead. Hor-
tense threw herself into her cousin's arms and burst
into tears.

"I owe my happiness to you," said she; "I shall
never forget it "

"Cousin Bette," added the baroness, embracing
Lisbeth in her intense excitement at seeing things
fall out so happily, "the baron and I owe you a debt,



202 THE POOR RELATIONS

and we will pay it ; come and let us talk a little
business in the garden," said she leading her away.

Thus Lisbeth to all appearance was playing the
role of the good angel of the family; she was adored
by Crevel, by Hulot, by Adeline and Hortense.

" We don't want you to work any more," said the
baroness. "Supposing that you can earn forty sous
a day, Sundays excepted, that makes six hundred
francs a year. Now, what do your savings amount
to?"

"Forty -five hundred francs."

"Poor cousin! " said the baroness.

She raised her eyes heavenward, so touched was
she as she thought of all the hardships and priva-
tions implied by the mention of that sum, laid by
in thirty years. Lisbeth, who misunderstood the
meaning of the exclamation, saw therein the pitying
disdain of the parvenu, and her hatred was increased
by a formidable dose of gall, at the very moment
that her cousin was laying aside all her suspicions
of the tyrant of her childhood.

"We will increase that sum by ten thousand five
hundred francs," said Adeline, "we will place the
whole in your name as entitled to the income, and
in Hortense 's name as trustee; thus you will have
an income of six hundred francs. "

Lisbeth seemed to be as happy as a woman can
be. When she returned, with her handkerchief at
her eyes, wiping away the tears of joy, Hortense
told her of all the favors which were raining upon
Wenceslas, the well-beloved of the whole family.



COUSIN BETTE 2O$

Thus when the baron returned home he found
his family complete, for the baroness had officially
saluted Count Steinbock by the name of son, and
appointed the wedding for the fifteenth, subject to
her husband's approbation. And so, as soon as he
appeared in the salon, the councilor of state was
assailed by his wife and daughter, who ran to meet'
him, one to whisper in his ear, the other to kiss him.

"You have gone too far in binding me thus,
madame," said the baron sternly. "This marriage
isn't a fact yet," he added, glancing at Steinbock,
who turned pale.

"He knows of my arrest," said the unlucky
artist to himself.

"Come, children," continued the father, leading
his daughter and her lover into the garden. And
he sat down with them on one of the moss-covered
benches in the summer-house.

"Monsieur le Comte, do you love my daughter
as dearly as I loved her mother?" he demanded of
Wenceslas.

"More dearly, monsieur," said the artist

"The mother was a peasant's daughter and
hadn't a sou."

"Give me Mademoiselle Hortense as she sits
there, without even a trousseau "

"I should think so ! " said the baron with a smile ;
"Hortense is the daughter of Baron Hulpt d'Ervy,
Councilor of State, director at the War Department,
grand officer of the Legion of Honor, brother of
Comte Hulot, whose glory is undying, and who will



204 THE POOR RELATIONS

soon be a marshal of France. And she has a
dowry! "

"It is very true," said the love-lorn artist, "that
1 may seem to be ambitious; but if my dear Hor-
tense were a workman's daughter I would marry
her"

"That's what I wanted to know," rejoined the
baron. "Off with you, Hortense, and let me talk
with the count; you see that he loves you sin-
cerely."

"O father ! I knew that you were joking," replied
the happy girl.

"My dear Steinbock," said the baron, with
infinite grace of diction and great charm of manner,
when he was alone with the artist, "1 allotted to
my son two hundred thousand francs for his mar-
riage portion, of which the poor boy has never
received two liards; he will never have any of it
My daughter's dot will be two hundred thousand
francs of which you will acknowledge the receipt "

"Yes, Monsieur le Baron "

"How fast you go," said the Councilor of State.
" Be good enough to listen to me. One can not ask
from a son-in-law the self-sacrificing devotion one
is entitled to expect from a son. My son was aware
of all that I could do and what I will do for his
future ; he will be a minister, he will easily find his
two hundred thousand francs. In your case, young
man, it's a very different matter! You will receive
sixty thousand francs in a five per cent government
bond in your wife's name. This fund will be



COUSIN BETTE 2O5

charged with a small annuity to be paid to Lisbeth,
but she will not live long, she is consumptive, I
know. Don't mention that secret to anybody; let
the poor girl die in peace. My daughter will have
a trousseau costing twenty thousand francs; her
mother contributes her diamonds to the amount of
six thousand francs, "

"Monsieur, you overwhelm me! " said Steinbock,
dumfounded.

"As for the remaining hundred and twenty thou-
sand francs "

"Pray cease, monsieur," said the artist, "I do
not wish that my dear Hortense "

"Will you kindly hear me out, O hot-headed
young man ? As for the hundred and twenty thou-
sand francs, I have them not; but you will receive
them"

"Monsieur! "

"You will receive them in orders which I will
obtain for you from the government, I give you
my word of honor. You see you are to have a
studio at the marble-warehouse. Exhibit a few fine
statues and I will procure your admission to the
Institute. My brother and I are looked upon with
favor in high places, so I hope to succeed in procur-
ing commissions for you for sculptures at Versailles
to a fourth of the amount Furthermore, you will
receive orders from the city of Paris and some from
the Chamber of Peers; you shall have them, my
dear fellow, in such numbers that you will be obliged
to have assistants. That's the way I will perform



206 THE POOR RELATIONS

my obligation. Consider whether the dot paid in
this way will meet your wishes, take counsel of
your strength "

"I feel that I have the strength to make a fortune
for my wife single-handed, if everything else should
fail ! " exclaimed the noble artist

"That's what I like!" cried the baron, "ardent
youth oppressed by no doubts ! I would have over-
thrown whole armies for a wife! Very good," said
he, taking the young sculptor's hand and shaking it
warmly, "you have my consent Next Sunday the
contract, and the following Saturday at the altar;
it's my wife's birthday!"

"All goes well," said the baroness to her daughter
with her face glued to the window, "your father
and your intended are embracing."

When he returned home that evening Wenceslas
found the explanation of the enigma of his release;
the concierge handed him a bulky, sealed package
which contained the papers relating to his debt
with a release in due form indorsed at the foot of
the judgment, and accompanied by the following
letter :

"My dear Wenceslas:

"I went to see you this morning at ten o'clock to present
you to a royal highness who wishes to make your acquain-
tance. There I learned that the English had taken you off to
one of their little islands, the capital of which is called Clichy's
Castle.

"I at once called on L6on de Lora, to whom I said jokingly
that you couldn't leave the country-house where you were for
lack of four thousand francs, and that your future would be



COUSIN BETTE 20/

compromised unless you exhibited yourself to your royal pat-
ron. Bridau, that man of genius, who has known what
poverty is, and who knows your story, was there by good
luck. My son, between them they made up the sum, and 1
went off to pay the Tartar who committed the crime of Use
genie by bottling you up. As I had to be at the Tuileries at
noon, 1 could not take a look at you inhaling the air of liberty.
I know you are a gentleman, and 1 answered for you to my
two friends: but go and see them to-morrow.

"Leon and Bridau won't touch your money: each of them
will ask you for a group, and they will do well. That is what
1 think, who would like to be able to call myself your rival,
but am only your comrade.

" STIDMANN."

" P. S. I told the prince that you would not return from
your journey until to-morrow, and he said: ' Very well, to-
morrow!' "

Comte Wenceslas slept free from all disturbing
care between the purple sheets, with which we are
provided by Favor, that limping divinity, who,
where men of genius are concerned, moves even
more slowly than Justice and Fortune, because
Jupiter ordained that she should wear no bandage
over her eyes. Easily led astray by the display of
charlatans, attracted by their gaudy costumes and
their trumpets, she wastes, in watching and paying
for their empty shows, the time she ought to spend
searching out men of merit in the corners where
they are hiding.



It remains to be explained now how Monsieur le
Baron Hulot had succeeded in collecting the compo-
nent parts of Hortense's dot, and in meeting the
appalling expense of the delightful suite in which
Madame Marneffe was to be installed. His financial
conception bore the stamp of the talent which
guides the steps of spendthrifts and hotheads, in the
quagmires where mishaps of so many sorts bring
about their destruction. Nothing will more clearly
demonstrate the strange power imparted by vice,
to which are to be attributed the masterstrokes
achieved now and then by ambitious individuals,
by voluptuaries, in short, by all the subjects of the
devil.

On the morning of the preceding day, the aged
Johann Fischer, because of his inability to pay
thirty thousand francs collected by his nephew,
found himself confronted by the necessity of stop-
ping payment unless the baron should repay them to
him.

This venerable, white-haired old man of seventy
had such blind confidence in Hulot, who, in the
eyes of the old Bonapartist, was a beam from the
Napoleonic sun, that he walked calmly to and
fro with the clerk from the Bank in the reception-
room of the little ground-floor apartment, hired at
14 (209)



210 THE POOR RELATIONS

eight hundred francs a year, in which he superin-
tended his various enterprises in the way of grain
and forage.

"Marguerite has gone to get the money not two
steps away," he said.

The man in the gray coat trimmed with silver
lace was so well aware of the old Alsatian's upright-
ness, that he would have left the notes of hand for
thirty thousand francs with him ; but the old fellow
compelled him to wait, as eight o'clock had not
struck. A cabriolet stopped at the door, the old
man darted into the street and held out his hand
with sublime confidence to the baron, who gave
him thirty thousand francs in bank-notes.

"Go three doors farther on, I will tell you why,"
said old Fischer. "Here you are, young man,"
he said, returning and counting out the paper to the
Bank's representative, whom he thereupon escorted
to the door.

When the clerk was out of sight, Fischer ordered
the driver of the cabriolet, in which his august
nephew, Napoleon's right arm, was waiting, to
turn about, and said as he led him into the house:

"Do you want them to know at the Bank of
France that you turned over to me the thirty thou-
sand francs on which you were endorser? Indeed
it was too much in the first place to have placed
the signature of a man like you on them ! "

"Let us go to the end of your little garden," said
the high official. "You are solid," he resumed,
taking his seat under a vine-clad trellis and eyeing



COUSIN BETTE 211

the old man as the mistress of a bagnio sizes up
a substitute.

"Solid enough to invest in an annuity," jocosely
replied the thin, wrinkled, nervous, keen-eyed old
man.

"Does the heat make you ill? "

"On the contrary."

"What do you say to Africa?"

"A fine country! The French went therewith
the Little Corporal."

"It's necessary to save us all, for you to go to
Algeria," said the baron.

"And what about my business? "

"A clerk in the War Department, about to retire,
with no means of earning his living, will buy your
establishment."

"What am I to do in Algeria? "

"Furnish the provisions of war grain and for-
age; I have your commission already signed. You
will procure your supplies in the country at prices
seventy per cent below what we shall allow you for
them."

"Where shall I get them?"

"From the ra^ias, the achour, the caliphates.
There is in Algeria a country even now but little
known although we have been there eight years
an enormous quantity of grain and forage. Now,
when these crops belong to the Arabs, we take them
from them under innumerable pretexts ; and, when
they are ours, the Arabs do their best to take them
from us. There is a deal of fighting over the grain;



212 THE POOR RELATIONS

but no one ever knows the exact quantities that
have been stolen on one side and the other. There's
no time, in a level country, to measure out wheat
by the hectolitre as at the market, or hay as on Rue
d'Enfer. The Arab chiefs, as well as our Spahis,
prefer money, and sell the crops at a very low
price. The army administration has fixed needs;
it can purchase in the markets only at exorbitant
prices, based upon the difficulty of procuring sup-
plies and the danger the transports run. Such is
Algeria from the commissary's standpoint It is a
foul puddle, blackened by the ink bottle of every
new administration. We officials shall not be able
to see clearly there for ten years to come, but pri-
vate individuals have sharp eyes. So I send you
thither to make your fortune; I place you there, as
Napoleon placed a poor marshal at the head of a king-
dom where he could secretly countenance contraband
trade. I am ruined, my dear Fischer. I must have a
hundred thousand francs within a year from now "

"I see no harm in taking them from the Arabs,"
calmly rejoined the Alsatian. "That sort of thing
was done under the Empire "

"The purchaser of your establishment will corne
to see you this morning, and will pay you ten thou-
sand francs," continued Baron Hulot "Isn't that
all you need to go to Algeria? "

The old man made a sign of assent

"As for funds over there, you need have no
fear," said the baron. "I will take the balance
of the price of your establishment here; I need it"



COUSIN BETTE 213

"Everything is yours, even my blood," said the
old man.

"Oh! don't you be alarmed," replied the baron,
crediting his uncle with more perspicacity than he
possessed; "as to matters of impost your probity
shall not suffer; everything depends on the persons
in authority; now, it was I who appointed the per-'
sons in authority and I am sure of them. This,
Papa Fischer, is a secret of life and death; I know
you, and I have spoken to you without disguise or
circumlocution."

"I will go," said the old man. "And this will
last?"

"Two years! you will have a hundred thousand
francs of your own to live happily in the Vosges."

"It shall be as you wish, my honor is yours,"
said the old man calmly.

"That's the way I like to hear a man talk. How-
ever, you mustn't go until you have seen your
grand-niece happily married; she will be a coun-
tess."

The achour, the ra^ia of ra^ias, and the price
paid by the retired clerk for the Fischer establish-
ment could not produce at once sixty thousand francs
for Hortense's dot, including the trousseau, which
would cost about five thousand francs, and the forty
thousand francs expended or to be expended for
Madame Marneffe. For that matter, how had the
baron raised the thirty thousand francs he had just
brought to Pere Fischer ? In this way. Some days
before, Hulot had insured his life for a hundred and



214 THE POOR RELATIONS

fifty thousand francs, for three years, in two com-
panies. Armed with the policies, on which the
premiums were paid, he thus addressed Monsieur le
Baron de Nucingen, peer of France, as he took a
seat in his carriage to go to dinner with him after
a session of the Chamber of Peers.

"Baron, I am in need of seventy thousand francs,
and I ask you to let me have them. You will accept
a guarantor to whom I will assign for three years
the assignable portion of my salary, amounting to
twenty-five thousand francs a year, that is to say,
seventy-five thousand francs. You will say : 'you
may die.' "

The baron bent his head assentingly.

"Here is an insurance policy for a hundred and
fifty thousand francs, which will be made over to
you to the extent of eighty thousand francs," con-
tinued the baron, taking a paper from his pocket.

"And subbose you were dizmisd? " queried the
millionaire baron, with a laugh.

The other baron, anti-millionaire, became
thoughtful.

"Don'd pe alarmed. I vould not haf made the
opjection egzept to zhow you dat I am endidled to
zome gredit vor gifing you der money. You moost
pe fery hart bressed, for der Rank has your zigna-
dure."

"I am marrying my daughter," said Baron Hulot,
"and I am without means, like all those who con-
tinue to hold offices in the departments in an
ungrateful age, when the five hundred bourgeois



COUSIN BETTE 215

who sit on the benches in the Chamber will never
think of paying faithful servants handsomely, as the
Emperor did."

"Ah! bud you haf hat Zhosepha!" rejoined the
peer of France, "and that egsplains everyding!
Bedween us the Due d'Herufille did you a gread
zervice by taking that bloot-zucker away from your
burse.

"1 have known that trial, and know how to combat it,"

he added, fancying that he was quoting a line of
poetry. "Listen to a friend's advice: Close your
zhop or you will be undone."

This disreputable affair was arranged through the
medium of a petty usurer named Vauvinet, one of
those reptiles who hang about in front of great
banking-houses like the little fish which seems
to act as servant to the shark. This lynx was
so anxious to secure the patronage of so illus-
trious a personage as Monsieur le Baron Hulot, that
he promised to discount his notes for thirty thou-
sand francs, at ninety days, agreeing to renew them
four times, and not to put them in circulation.

Fischer's successor was to give forty thousand
francs for his establishment, but with the promise
of a contract to furnish forage in some department
near Paris.

Such was the ghastly labyrinth in which his pas-
sions involved one who had been one of the most
upright men on earth hitherto, one of the most skil-
ful constructors of the Napoleonic administration;



216 THE POOR RELATIONS

extortion to pay usury, usury to indulge his pas-
sions and arrange his daughter's marriage. This
science of prodigality, all these expedients were
resorted to in order to appear great in the eyes of
Madame Marneffe, to be the Jupiter of that middle-
class Danae. A man does not display more energy,
more intelligence, more audacity, in making his
fortune honestly, than the baron displayed in plung-
ing head-first into a wasp's nest; he did not neglect
the affairs of his division, he hurried up the uphol-
sterers, overlooked the workmen, and scrutinized
minutely the most trifling details of the establish-
ment on Rue Vanneau. Although he was entirely
at Madame Marneffe's service, he still attended the
sittings of the Chamber, he was everywhere at
once, and neither his family nor anyone else ob-
served his preoccupation.

Adeline, surprised beyond measure to learn that
her uncle was saved, and to see a marriage-portion
set down in the contract, felt somewhat ill at ease
amid the happiness afforded her by Hortense's
marriage brought about upon such honorable condi-


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