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tions; but, on the eve of her daughter's marriage,
so arranged by the baron as to coincide with the
day when Madame Marneffe took possession of her
suite on Rue Vanneau, Hector put an end to his
wife's astonishment by this ministerial communica-
tion:

"Adeline, our daughter will soon be married, so
all our agony on that subject is at an end. The
time has come for us to withdraw from the world,



COUSIN BETTE 2i;

for I have hardly three years now, to remain in my
place, before I shall complete the term of service
which permits me to retire. Why should we continue
to incur expenses that are no longer necessary ? Our
apartments cost us six thousand francs a year, we
have four servants, and we run through thirty thou-
sand francs a year. If you wish me to carry out my
agreements, for I have assigned my salary for three
years to obtain the necessary sums for Hortense's
settlement and to take up your uncle's notes "

"Ah! you did well, my dear," she said, inter-
rupting her husband and kissing his hands.

This avowal put an end to Adeline's fears.

"I have some trifling sacrifices to ask of you,"
he resumed, withdrawing his hands, and depositing
a kiss on his wife's brow. "I have found, on Rue
Plumet, a lovely apartment on the first floor, suit-
able in every way, with magnificent wainscotings,
the rent of which is only fifteen hundred francs,
where you will need but one maid, and I shall get
along very well with one servant"

"Yes, my dear."

"By living simply, while keeping up appear-
ances, you will hardly spend more than six thou-
sand francs a year, exclusive of my private expenses
which I will take care of "

The noble-hearted woman threw her arms joyfully
about her husband's neck.

"What bliss to be able to show you once more
how dearly I love you!" she cried, "and what a
man of resources you are! "



218 THE POOR RELATIONS

"We will receive our family once a week, and I,
as you know, dine at home but rarely. You can,
without causing remark, dine twice a week with
Victorin and twice with Hortense; and as I think
that I can bring about a thorough reconciliation
between Crevel and ourselves, we will dine once a
week with him, and those five dinners, with our
own, will fill out the week, assuming that we have
an invitation outside the family now and then."

"I will be economical," said Adeline.

"Ah! " he cried, "you are the pearl of women."

"My dear, divine Hector, I will bless you with
my last breath," she replied, "for you have arranges
our dear Hortense's marriage so handsomely."

Thus began the diminution of lovely Madame
Hulot's household, and, if we must say it, the
desertion solemnly promised to Madame Marneffe.

Pursy little Pere Crevel, being naturally invited
to the signing of the contract, bore himself on that
occasion as if the scene with which this story
opened had never taken place, as if he had no griev-
ance against Baron Hulot Celestin Crevel was
most amiable in fact; he was always a little too
much the former dealer in perfumery, but he was
beginning to rise to the majestic, by virtue of his
major's commission. He talked about dancing at
the wedding.

"My dear madame," said he graciously to the
baroness, "people like us know how to forget; don't
banish me from your house, and condescend to
adorn my apartments now and then by coming there



COUSIN BETTE 2IQ

with your children. Have no fear, I will never
mention what I have at the bottom of my heart
I acted like an idiot, for I should lose too much if I
am never to see you any more "

"Monsieur, a virtuous woman has no ears for
such speeches as those to which you allude; and, if
you keep your word, you can have no doubt of the
pleasure with which I shall see the end of a rupture
which is always most painful in families "

"Well, old sulker," said Baron Hulot forcibly
carrying Crevel away into the garden, "you avoid
me everywhere, even in my own house. Ought
two old admirers of the fair sex to quarrel over a
petticoat? Upon my word, that shows the grocer."

"Monsieur, I am not so handsome a man as you,
and my limited powers of fascination prevent me
from making good my losses as easily as you do "

"Sarcasm ! " rejoined the baron.

"Sarcasm is allowable against the victor, when
one is whipped."

Begun in this strain the conversation ended in
a complete reconciliation; but Crevel was firm in
maintaining his right to be revenged.

Madame Marneffe insisted upon an invitation to
Mademoiselle Mulct's wedding. In order to enjoy
the pleasure of seeing his future mistress in his
salon, the Councilor of State was compelled to in-
vite the employes of his division, down to and
including deputy-chiefs. Thereupon a large ball
became a necessity. Like a careful housewife, the
baroness calculated that an evening party would be



220 THE POOR RELATIONS

less expensive than a dinner, and would make it
possible to receive a larger company. Thus Hor-
tense's wedding caused a great commotion.

The Marechal Prince de Wissembourg, and the
Baron de Nucingen, on behalf of the bride, Comtes
de Rastignac and Popinot on behalf of Steinbock,
were the witnesses. Inasmuch as the celebrity of
Count Steinbock had led the most illustrious of the
Polish refugees to seek him out, he thought that he
ought to invite them. The Council of State, the
government departments, in which the baron held
office, the army, which wished to do honor to the
Comte de Forzheim, were to be represented by high
functionaries. The invitations thus made neces-
sary numbered two hundred. Who will fail now to
comprehend little Madame Marneffe's ambition to
appear in all her glory in such an assemblage?

A month before, the baroness had contributed the
value of her diamonds toward putting in order her
daughter's future home, after setting aside the finest
for the trousseau. The sale realized fifteen thou-
sand francs, five thousand of which were absorbed
by Hortense's trousseau. But what were ten thou-
sand francs to furnish the apartments of the young
couple, when we reflect upon the exigencies of mod-
ern luxury ? But Monsieur and Madame Hulot the
younger, Pere Crevel and the Comte de Forzheim
made valuable presents, for the old uncle kept a
certain sum in reserve for a service of plate.
Thanks to all this outside assistance, the most ex-
acting Parisian woman would have been content



COUSIN BETTE 221

with the surroundings of the young couple in the
apartments they had chosen on Rue Saint-Domi-
nique, near the Esplanade des Invalides. Everything
there was in harmony with their love, pure, out-
spoken and sincere, on both sides.

At last the great day arrived, and a great day it
was to be for the father as well as for Hortense and
Wenceslas ; Madame Marneffe had decided to have
her house-warming on the day following her fall and
the wedding of the lovers.

Who has not, at least once in his life, been pres-
ent at a wedding ball ? Every reader can search
his memory, and will surely smile as he recalls all
those guests arrayed in their Sunday best, by the
expression of their faces, no less than by their stiff,
conventional garb. If there was ever a social fact
that proved the influence of surroundings is it not
that? Indeed the festal array of this class so reacts
upon their fellow-guests that even those who are
most accustomed to wear clothes suited to the occa-
sion seem to belong to the same category with those
for whom the wedding marks an epoch in their lives.
And then, do you remember those sober-faced indi-
viduals, those old men who are so indifferent to
everything that they have retained the black coats
they wear everyday; and the old married folks,
whose faces betray their mournful experience of the
life the youthful bride and groom are just begin-
ning; and the lusts of the flesh, which are present
like the carbonic acid gas in champagne; and the
eavious maidens, the women thinking of naugjat



222 THE POOR RELATIONS

but the success of their costumes, and the poor rela-
tions, whose seedy appearance contrasts so strongly
with the gorgeously arrayed, and the gourmands,
who think only of the supper, and the gamblers, of
their game ? All classes are there, rich and poor,
envious and envied, philosophers and visionaries,
all grouped like the flowers in a bouquet around one
rare blossom, the bride. A wedding ball is the
world in miniature.

At the moment when the scene was most animated,
Crevel took the baron by the arm and said in his
ear, in the most natural way imaginable:

"Tudieu! what a pretty little creature that is in
pink, bombarding you with her glances! "

"Whom do you mean?"

"The wife of that deputy-chief you are pushing
ahead, God knows how! Madame Marneffe."

"How do you know that? "

"Look here, Hulot, I will try to forgive you for
the wrong you have done me if you will take me to
her house, and I will receive you at Hloise's.
Everybody's asking who that charming creature is.
Are you sure that no one in your department will
explain how her husband's appointment happened
to be made ? Oh ! you lucky rascal ! she's worth
more than a whole department Ah! I would be
glad to visit her department Come, Cinna, let
us be friends! "

"Better friends than ever," said the baron to the
dealer in perfumery, "and I promise to be a good
fellow. Within a month I'll take you to dinner



COUSIN BETTE 223

with the little angel. For we're dealing with
angels now, old comrade. I advise you to do as I
have done and give up the devils "

Cousin Bette, safely installed on Rue Vanneau,
in a pretty little suite on the third floor, left the
ball at ten o'clock, in order to go home and look at
the title to her twelve hundred francs of income,
in two certificates ; the reversion of one was vested
in Countess Steinbock, of the other in Madame
Hulot the younger. It will be understood now how
Monsieur Crevel was enabled to speak to his friend
Hulot of Madame Marneffe, and to have knowledge
of a mystery of which everybody was ignorant; for,
Monsieur Marneffe being absent, Cousin Bette, the
baron and Valerie were the only ones in the secret

The baron had committed the imprudence of pre-
senting Madame Marneffe with a toilette much too
splendid for the wife of a deputy-chief ; the other
women were jealous both of Valerie's costume and
her beauty. There was a deal of whispering behind
fans, for Marneffe 's lack of funds had been the talk
of the department; the clerk was begging for assist-
ance just when the baron fell in love with madame.
Moreover, Hector could not conceal his ecstasy at
the success achieved by Valerie, who, with modest
reserve but great dignity, envied by all, underwent
the critical scrutiny which women dread so keenly,
when they make their first appearance upon a new
social level.

Having bestowed his wife, his daughter and his
son-in-law in a carriage, the baron found a way to



224 THE POOR RELATIONS

escape unobserved, leaving his son and daughter-in-
law to play the part of master and mistress of the
house.

He entered Madame Marneffe's carriage and es-
corted her home; but he found her silent and
thoughtful, almost melancholy.

"My happiness makes you very sad, Valerie,"
said he, drawing her to his side on the back seat of
the carriage.

"Why, my friend, don't you think that a poor
woman should always be pensive when committing
her first sin, even though her husband's infamous
conduct gives her her freedom? Do you think I
have no soul, no faith, no religion? You exhibited
your joy this evening in the most indiscreet way,
and placarded me outrageously. Upon my word a
college student wouldn't have been so silly as you
were. And so all those fine ladies tore me to pieces
with their haughty glances and biting words ! What
woman doesn't cling to her reputation? You have
ruined me. Ah ! I am yours, you know, and I have
no other way to obtain forgiveness for the sin than
to be faithful to you. Monster!" said she, with
a laugh, and allowing him to kiss her, "you knew
very well what you were doing. Madame Coquet,
the wife of our department chief, came and sat
down by me to admire my lace. 'It's English,'
said she. 'Is it very expensive, madame?' 'I
have no idea,' I replied. 'The lace came to me from
my mother, I'm not rich enough to buy anything of
the sort!' "



COUSIN BETTE 225

Madame Marneffe, as we see, had ended by fasci-
nating the old beau of the Empire so completely,
that he thought that he was the first to lead her
astray, and that he had aroused in her heart a pas-
sion so great as to make her forget her duty. She
said that she was abandoned by the infamous
Marneffe after they had been married three days,
and for unspeakable reasons. Since then she had
remained the most pure of maidens, and very happy,
for marriage seemed to her a horrible thing. Hence
her present sadness.

"If it should be with love as with marriage! "
said she weeping.

These artful falsehoods, which almost all women
resort to in the position in which Valerie then was,
gave the baron a glimpse of the roses of the seventh
heaven.

Thus did Valerie play her cards, while the
amorous artist and Hortense were, it may be, impa-
tiently awaiting the baroness's final blessing, and
her last kiss for her daughter. At seven o'clock in
the morning the baron, inexpressibly happy, for he
had found in his Valerie a combination of the most
innocent of maidens and consummate demons, re-
turned home to relieve Monsieur and Madame Hulot
the younger from their ungrateful task.

The dancers, male and female, almost stran-
gers to the family, who eventually take posses-
sion of the ground at all weddings, were in the
midst of those interminable contradances called
cotillons, the bouillotte players were intent upon
15



226 THE POOR RELATIONS

their game, and Pere Crevel had won six thousand
francs.

The newspapers, distributed by carriers, con-
tained this little notice among the happenings in
Paris:

"The celebration of the marriage of M. le Corate Steinbock
and Mademoiselle Hortense Hulot, daughter of Baron Hulot
d'Ervy, Councilor of State, and Director at the War Depart-
ment, niece of the illustrious Comte de Forzheim, took place
this morning at the church of Saint-Thomas d'Aquin. This
ceremony attracted a large assemblage. We noticed among
the guests several of our artistic celebrities: Leon de Lora,
Joseph Bridau, Stidmann, Bixiou; officials of the War Depart-
ment and Council of State, and several members of the two
Chambers; also the most eminent of the Polish emigres, Comte
Paz, Comte Laginski,etc.

"M. le Comte Wenceslas Steinbock is the grand-nephew of
the celebrated general of King Charles XII. of Sweden. The
young count, having taken part in the Polish insurrection, fled
for refuge to France, where the just renown of his talent has
procured for him letters of limited naturalization."

Thus, notwithstanding the distressing financial
condition of Baron Hulot d'Ervy, nothing of all that
public opinion demands, not even newspaper notori-
ety, was lacking to the success of his daughter's mar-
riage, the celebration of which was in every detail
similar to that of the younger Hulot with Mademoi-
selle Crevel. This festive occasion caused a marked
decrease in the current gossip concerning the direc-
tor's financial condition, just as the marriage-portion
bestowed upon his daughter explained the necessity
he was under, of having recourse to borrowing.



COUSIN BETTE 227

Here ends, in a certain sense, the introduction to
this story. This narrative is to the drama which
completes it, what the premises are to a syllogism,
what the preliminary explanation is to every
classical tragedy.



When, in Paris, a woman has determined to offer
her beauty for sale, it does not by any means follow
that her fortune is made. One meets there many
adorable creatures, very clever too, in distressingly
slender circumstances, ending very miserably a life
begun in dissipation. This is the reason. It is not
enough for a woman to adopt the trade of a cour-
tesan, with the purpose of enjoying all its advan-
tages, while still retaining unsullied the robe of a
virtuous wife. Vice does not easily achieve its tri-
umphs; it bears this resemblance to genius that
they both require a combination of fortunate cir-
cumstances to bring about the con junction of fortune
and talent. But for the extraordinary phases of the
Revolution, there would have been no Emperor ; he
would have been simply a second edition of Fabert
Venal beauty without admirers, without celebrity,
without the cross of dishonor which squandered
wealth bestows, is a Correggio in a garret, genius
expiring in its attic. A Lais at Paris must there-
fore, first of all, find a rich man who will fall so
deeply in love with her as to give her her price. She
ought, above all things, to maintain an air of great
refinement, which is a sort of advertisement for her,
to have sufficiently-good manners to flatter a man's
self-esteem, to possess the Sophie Arnould variety
(229)



230 THE POOR RELATIONS

of wit which arouses the rich from their apathy;
she ought, lastly, to make herself attractive to lib-
ertines, by seeming to be faithful to some one man,
whose good fortune thereupon becomes a subject of
envy.

These conditions, which women of this sort call
luck, are not readily satisfied in Paris, although it
is a city filled with millionaires, idlers, and blast,
capricious old men. Providence has most assuredly
protected, in this way, the households of clerks and
small tradesmen, for whom these obstacles are, to
say the least, doubled by the surroundings amid
which they perform their evolutions. Nevertheless,
there are still enough Madame Marneffes in Paris
for Valerie to stand as a type, in this history of
morals. Some of these women act in obedience to
real passion and necessity at the same time, like
Madame Colleville, who was for so long attached to
one of the most famous orators of the Left, the
banker Keller; others are impelled by vanity, like
Madame de la Baudraye, who almost retained her
virtue despite her flight with Lousteau; these are
drawn on by the exigencies of the toilette, those by
the impossibility of supporting a family upon sal-
aries that are evidently too small. The niggardli-
ness of the State, or of the Chambers if you will,
is the cause of many a downfall, it engenders much
corruption. It is fashionable just now to express
much compassion for the fate of the working-classes,
who are represented as ground down by the manu-
facturers ; but the State is a hundred times harder



COUSIN BETTE 231

in its dealing than the most grasping of manufac-
turers; it carries economy in the matter of salaries
to the point of absurdity. Work hard, and your
trade pays you something in reason for your work;
but what does the State give to its multitude of
obscure and faithful toilers ?

To swerve from the path of honor is, for a mar-
ried woman, an unpardonable sin; but there are
degrees therein. Some women, far from being
depraved, hide their missteps and remain virtuous
women so far as appearance goes, like the two whose
adventures were adverted to but now ; while some
of them add to their faults the ignominy of speculat-
ing upon them. Madame Marneffe may be consid-
ered the type of those ambitious married courtesans
who, in the first place, enter upon a career of de-
pravity willing to accept all its consequences, and
who are determined to make their fortune and
enjoy themselves at the same time, with little
scruple as to the means; but such women, like
Madame Marneffe, almost always have their hus-
bands for decoys and accomplices. These Macchia-
vellis in petticoats are the most dangerous of women ;
and of all the unsavory varieties of the female
Parisian, they are the worst. A true courtesan, like
the Josephas, the Schontzes, a Malaga or Jenny
Cadine, carries with her, in the absolute independ-
ence of her condition, an advertisement as unmis-
takable as the red lantern of the house of prostitution
or the Quinquet lamps of the gambling-den. A
man knows then that he is going to his ruin. But



232 THE POOR RELATIONS

the mawkish pretensions to chastity and virtue, the
hypocritical manoeuvres of a married woman, who
never allows anything to be seen but the vulgar
needs of a household, and who makes a pretence of
shunning all frivolities, lead him on without eclat to
ruin, ruin which is the more extraordinary in that
we excuse it although we do not seek to explain it
It is the ignoble book of expenditures, and not the
joyous caprice of the moment, which devours for-
tunes. A father of a family ruins himself inglori-
ously, and the great consolation of satisfied vanity
fails him in his poverty.

This tirade will pierce like an arrow to the heart
of many families. We find Madame Marneffes on
all the floors of the social structure, and even amid
courts; for Valerie is a sad reality, modeled from
life even to the smallest details. Unhappily this
portrait will cure no one of the mania for loving
angels with a sweet smile, a pensive air, and an
innocent face, whose hearts are strong-boxes.

About three years after Hortense's marriage, in
1841, Baron Hulot d'Ervy was generally supposed
to have reformed, to have unharnessed, to adopt the
expression of the first surgeon of Louis XV., and
yet Madame Marneffe was then costing him twice
as much as Josepha had ever done. But Valerie,
although she was always well-dressed, affected the
simplicity of a deputy-chief's wife; she reserved
her splendor for her robes de chambre, for her house
costumes. Thus she sacrificed the vanity of a true
Parisian to her beloved Hector. And yet, when



COUSIN BETTE 233

she went to the play, she always appeared in a
stylish hat and a costume of the greatest elegance;
the baron escorted her thither in a carriage, to a
choice box.

The suite on Rue Vanneau, which occupied the
whole second floor of a modern mansion with a
courtyard in front and a garden behind, was redo-
lent of virtue. Its splendor consisted in chintz
hangings, in handsome and comfortable furniture.
The only exception was the bed-room, in which
was displayed the profusion of a Jenny Cadine or a
Schontz. There were lace-curtains, cashmeres,
brocade portieres, mantel ornaments, of which the
models were made by Stidmann, and a little cabinet
filled with marvels of art Hulot did not choose
that his Valerie should dwell in a nest inferior in
magnificence to the gold and pearl-bedizened den of
a Josepha. The two principal rooms, the salon and
the dining-room, were furnished, one in red dam-
ask, the other in carved oak. But, impelled by
the desire to secure perfect harmony, the baron,
at the end of six months, reinforced this ephemeral
magnificence with something more enduring, by
presenting her with sundry articles of great value,
as for example, a service of silver-plate which cost
more than twenty-four thousand francs.

Madame Marneffe's establishment, in two years
gained the reputation of being very attractive.
There was card-playing there. Valerie herself was
speedily discovered to be an amiable and intellectual
person. To justify the change in her circumstances



234 THE POOR RELATIONS

the report was spread that her natural father,
Marechal Montcornet, had left her a handsome legacy
in the care of a trustee. With one eye to the future
Valerie had added religious hypocrisy to her social
hypocrisy. Regular in her attendance at service
on Sunday, she received all the honors of piety.
She collected alms, became interested in charitable
work, passed the consecrated bread, and did some
good in the quarter, all at Hector's expense. Thus
everything about her establishment was conducted
with perfect propriety ; so that many people main-
tained the purity of her relations with the baron,
dwelling upon the age of the Councilor of State, to
whom they attributed a platonic liking for Madame
Marneffe's refined wit, charm of manner and enter-
taining conversation, almost equal to the late Louis
the Eighteenth's fondness for well-turned notes.

The baron left the house with all the other guests,
about midnight, and returned a quarter of an hour
later. Herein lies the secret of this profound secret :

The concierges of the house were Monsieur and
Madame Olivier, who, through the influence of the
baron, a friend of the landlord, who was in quest of
a concierge, had removed from their obscure and
unproductive quarters on Rue du Doyenne" to these
lucrative and magnificent quarters on Rue Vanneau.
Now Madame Olivier, who was formerly a laun-
dress in the household of Charles X., and was


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