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1 ' A man came here to-night in a carriage ; do you
know him ? ' '

Madame Olivier had not failed to recognize
Months; how could she have forgotten him?
Montes used to slip a hundred sous into her hand
every time he left the house on Rue du Doyenne a
little too early in the morning. If the baron had
applied to Monsieur Olivier perhaps he would have
(287)



288 THE POOR RELATIONS

learned all. But Olivier was asleep. Among the
lower classes not only are the women superior in
intellect to the men, but they almost always rule
them. Madame Olivier had long since made up her
, mind what course to adopt in case of a collision
between her two benefactors; she looked upon
Madame Marneffe as the stronger of the two
powers.

"Do I know him?" she replied; "no, faith, I
never saw him before! "

"What! Madame Marneffe's cousin never came
to see her when she lived on Rue du Doyenne ? ' '

" Oh ! he's her cousin ! ' ' cried Madame Olivier.
"He may have come there, but I didn't recognize
him. The first time I see him, monsieur, I will
look at him carefully ' '

"He's coming down now," said Hulot hastily,
cutting her short

"Why he's gone," rejoined Madame Olivier,
who understood the whole affair. "The carriage
isn't here."

"Did you see him go?"

" As plainly as I see you. ' To the Embassy ! ' he
said to his servant"

Her tone and her words extorted a sigh of joy from
the baron; he took Madame Olivier's hand and
pressed it.

"Thanks, dear Madame Olivier; but that's not
all ! What about Monsieur Crevel ? "

' ' Monsieur Crevel ? What do you mean ? I don't
understand," said Madame Olivier.



COUSIN BETTE 289

' ' Hear what I say ! he's in love with Madame
Marneffe ' '

"Impossible, Monsieur le Baron! impossible!"
said she, clasping her hands.

"He's in love with Madame Marneffe! " repeated
the baron imperatively. "What do they do? I
don't know, but I propose to know, and you must
find out If you can put me on the track of this
intrigue your son shall be a notary."

"Monsieur le Baron, don't feed on your blood like
this," said Madame Olivier. "Madame loves you
and she loves no one else; her maid knows it, and
we tell each other that you are the luckiest man on
earth, for you know what a treasure madame is.
Ah! she's perfection. She gets up at ten o'clock
every day, then she breakfasts; so far so good.
Well, then she takes an hour or two for her toilette
and that brings us to two o'clock; after that she
goes out to walk at the Tuileries in the sight and
hearing of all the world, and is always at home
again at four o'clock, when it's time for you to
come. Oh! she's as regular as a clock. She has
no secrets from her maid and Reine has none from
me! No, Reine can't have any, on account of my
son, for she thinks a great deal of him. So you
see that, if Madame had anything to do with Mon-
sieur Crevel, we should know it"

The baron, with beaming face, reascended the

stairs to Madame Marneffe's, fully convinced that he

was the only man loved by that pernicious courtesan,

as deceitful, but as beautiful and alluring, as a siren.

19



290 THE POOR RELATIONS

Crevel and Marneffe were just beginning a new
game of piquet Crevel was losing, as everybody
is sure to lose who doesn't pay attention to his
game. Marneffe, who knew the cause of the mayor's
distraction, profited by it without scruple; he
looked at the cards to be taken, and discarded
accordingly; then, after looking into his adversary's
hand, he played a sure game. The value of the
chip being twenty sous he had already robbed the
mayor of thirty francs when the baron returned.

"Well, well," said the Councilor of State, amazed
to find the salon empty, "you are alone! Where
are they all ? "

"Your good humor frightened everybody away,"
replied Crevel.

"No, it was the arrival of my wife's cousin,"
said Marneffe. ' ' The ladies and gentlemen thought
Valerie and Henri must have something to say to
each other after a separation of three years, and so
they discreetly took their leave. If 1 had been
here I'd have kept them; but perhaps I should
have made a mistake, for Lisbeth's sickness has
put everything in confusion as she always pours the
tea at half past ten "

"Lisbeth is really sick then?" demanded Crevel
in a rage.

"So I understood," replied Marneffe with the dis-
gusting indifference of a man for whom women no
longer exist

The mayor had kept watch on the' clock ; and by
that reckoning the baron had apparently passed



COUSIN BETTE 2gi

forty minutes in Lisbeth's room. Hulot's joyous
bearing seriously incriminated Hector, Valerie and
Lisbeth.

"I have just seen her, she is suffering terribly,
poor girl," said the baron.

' ' Does it please you so much to see somebody
else suffer, my dear friend," retorted Crevel sourly,
"for you return to us with a most jubilant face?
Is Lisbeth in danger of dying? Your daughter will
be her heir, they say. You don't look like yourself,
for you went away with the face of the Moor of
Venice, and you come back with that of Saint-
Preux! I'd like well to see Madame Marneffe's
face"

"What do you mean by those words ? " demanded
Monsieur Marneffe, gathering up his cards and lay-
ing them in front of him.

The lack-lustre eyes of the man, infirm at forty-
seven, brightened perceptibly, a slight color over-
spread his cold, flabby cheeks, he half opened his
toothless mouth, while to his black lips came a sort
of thick, white foam like chalk. This exhibition
of rage on the part of an impotent man, whose
life hung by a thread, and who, in a duel, would
have risked nothing, whereas Crevel would have
had everything to lose, terrified the good mayor.

"I say," he replied, "that I would like to see
Madame Marneffe's face, and I have the more reason
for saying it, because yours at this moment is
extremely disagreeable. Ton honor, you are fright-
fully ugly, my dear Marneffe "



THE POOR RELATIONS

"Do you know that you're not civil ? "

"A man who wins thirty francs from me in
forty-five minutes never looks handsome to me."

"Ah! if you'd seen me seventeen years ago, "
said the deputy-chief."

"You were good-looking then?" queried Crevel.

"That's what ruined me; if I had been like you
I should have been a peer, and mayor."

"Yes," rejoined Crevel with a smile, "you have
done too much fighting, and, of the two metals a
man acquires by worshipping the god of commerce,
you chose the wrong one, the drug! "

With that Crevel burst out laughing. Though
Marneffe might lose his temper anent his imperiled
honor, he always took such low, vulgar jests very
pleasantly; they were the small-change of conver-
sation between Crevel and him.

"Eve costs me very dear; but faith, my motto's
'short and sweet' "

"I prefer 'long and happy,' " retorted Crevel.

Madame Marneffe entered the room, saw her hus-
band playing with Crevel, and that they, with the
baron, were its only occupants; she understood,
simply by the municipal functionary's expression,
all the thoughts that had excited him, and she im-
mediately determined upon the course to pursue.

"Marneffe, my dear ! " said she, leaning over her
husband's shoulder, and running her taper fingers
through his ugly gray hair, which was too scanty
to cover his head, "it's very late for you, and
you must go to bed. You know you must take



COUSIN BETTE 293

a purgative to-morrow, the doctor told you so,
and Reine will bring you some herb soup at seven
o'clock. If you want to live, stop your game, "

"Shall we make it five points?" Marneffe asked
Crevel.

"Very well, I have two already," Crevel replied.

"How long will that last?" asked Valerie.

"Ten minutes," said Marneffe.

"It's eleven o'clock now," Valerie rejoined.
"Really, Monsieur Crevel, anyone would say you
wanted to kill my husband. Hurry up, at all events. "

This equivocal remark caused Crevel, Hulot and
Marneffe himself to smile. Valerie went and talked
with her Hector.

"Go out, my love," she said in his ear, "and
walk up and down Rue Vanneau; you can come
back when you see Crevel leave the house."

"I prefer to go out and then come back to your
bed-room by way of the dressing-room; you can
tell Reine to open the door for me."

"Reine is upstairs looking after Lisbeth. "

"Very well, suppose I go up to Lisbeth's room?"

There was danger on all sides for Valerie, who,
as she anticipated an explanation with Crevel, did
not want Hulot in her bed-room where he could over-
hear all that was said. And the Brazilian was
waiting in Lisbeth's room.

"Upon my word," she said to Hector, "when
you men take a fancy into your head, you'd burn a
house down to get into it. Lisbeth is in a condition
that makes it impossible for her to receive you.



294 THE POOR RELATIONS

Are you afraid of taking cold in the street? Go
out or else good-night! "

"Adieu, messieurs," said the baron aloud.

Once he was attacked in his self-esteem as an
old man, Hulot was determined to prove that he
could play the young man by awaiting the happy
moment in the street, and he left the house.

Marneffe bade his wife good-night, and, as he did
so, took her hands with a great show of affection.
Valerie gave his hand a significant pressure, which
meant :

"Pray rid me of Crevel."

"Good-night, Crevel," thereupon said Marneffe;
"I hope you won't stay long with Valerie. I'm
jealous, you see it's taken me late in life, but it's
got me, and I'll come back and see if you've gone. "

"We have some business to talk over, but I shall
not stay long," said Crevel.

"Speak low! What do you want of me?" said
Valerie in two different tones, looking at Crevel
with an expression in which pride was mingled
with contempt

As his eyes met this haughty stare, Crevel, who
was immensely useful to Valerie, and was inclined
to presume upon that fact, became humble and sub-
missive once more.

"This Brazilian,"

Dismayed by Valerie's disdainful glance, he
stopped short

"Well?" said she.

"This cousin "



COUSIN BETTE 295

"He isn't my cousin," she replied. "He is my
cousin in the eyes of the world and of Monsieur
Marneffe. If he were my lover you would have no
right to say a word. A shop-keeper who buys a
woman to be revenged on some man is, in my esti-
mation, far below him who buys her with love.
You weren't in love with me, but you saw in me
Monsieur Hulot's mistress, and you bought me as
one buys a pistol to shoot his enemy. I was hun-
gry, so I agreed!"

"But you haven't carried out your bargain,"
retorted Crevel, once more the tradesman.

"Ah! you want Baron Hulot to know that you
have taken his mistress in order to have your re-
venge for the abduction of Josepha, do you?
Nothing shows your meanness more clearly. You
say you love a woman, you treat her like a duchess,
and you seek to disgrace her ! After all, my dear,
you're right; the woman I speak of isn't to be com-
pared to Josepha. That damsel has the courage of
her infamy, while I am a hypocrite, and ought to
be scourged in public. Alas! Josepha protects her-
self by her talent and her fortune. My only defence
is my honor ; I am still a virtuous and worthy bour-
geoise ; but if you make a scandal, what will be-
come of me ? If I were rich, well and good ! But I
have an income now of fifteen thousand francs at
most, haven't I?"

"Much more," said Crevel; "I have doubled
your capital within two months in the Orleans."

"Very good; one doesn't begin to be esteemed in



296 THE POOR RELATIONS

Paris at less than fifty thousand francs income, and
you haven't the money to pay me for the position I
shall lose. What is it that I want ? to have Marneffe
appointed chief of bureau ; he would then have a
salary of six thousand francs ; he has been in the
service twenty-seven years, and after three years I
should be entitled to a pension of fifteen hundred if
he died. And you whom 1 have loaded with favors,
you who are fairly surfeited with good fortune, can-
not wait! And that's what he calls love!" she
cried.

"Although I began as a matter of business," said
Crevel, "I have since become your little dog. You
trample on my heart, you crush me, you humiliate
me, and I love you as I never loved before. Valerie, I
love you as dearly as I love Celestine! For you I
am capable of anything. Look you! instead of
coming to Rue du Dauphin twice a week, come
three times."

"Nothing but that! You are growing young, my
dear"

"Let me send Hulot away, humble him, rid you
of him," continued Crevel, without noticing this
bit of insolence; "don't receive this Brazilian
again, but be all mine, and you shall not be sorry.
In the first place, I will give you a certificate for
eight thousand francs a year, but for your life
only; I won't give you the funds that produce it
until you have been true to me five years "

"Still bargaining ! a bourgeois can never learn how
to give! You want to arrange relays of love



COUSIN BETTE 297

throughout your life, by certificates for annuities,
eh? Ah! you shop-keeper, you dealer in pomade!
you put a label- on everything! Hector told me that
the Due d'Herouville carried Josepha money enough
to give her thirty thousand francs a year in a horn
of sugar-plums! I am worth six Josephas! Ah! to
be loved !" she said, re-arranging her curls and going
to take a look at herself in the mirror. "Henri
loves me and would kill you like a fly at a wink
from me ! Hulot loves me, and he leaves his wife
in want! Go, and be a good paterfamilias, my
dear. Oh! you have for your little follies, three
hundred thousand 'francs outside your fortune, a
pretty little hoard, and you think of nothing but in-
creasing it "

"For you, Valerie, for I offer you half of it! " he
exclaimed, falling on his knees.

"What, you still here!" cried Marneffe the
hideous, appearing in his dressing-gown. "What
are you doing? "

"He is asking my pardon, my love, for an insult-
ing proposal he has just made me. As he couldn't
obtain anything from me, it occurred to monsieur
to try and buy me "

Crevel would have liked to go down into the
cellar through a trap-door, as they do on the stage.

"Rise, my dear Crevel," said Marneffe with a
smile, "you are making a fool of yourself. I can
see by the way Valerie acts that I'm in no danger."

"Go to bed and sleep peacefully," said Madame
Marneffe.



298 THE POOR RELATIONS

"How clever she is!" thought Crevel; "she's
adorable! she has saved my life!"

When Marneffe had returned to his room the
mayor took Valerie's hands and kissed them, leav-
ing the marks of tears upon them.

"All in your name! " he said.
, "That sounds like love," she whispered in his
ear. "Well, love for love. Hulot is down in the
street The poor old fellow is waiting for me to
put a candle in one of my bed-room windows as a
signal to him to return ; I give you leave to go and
tell him that you are the only man 1 love; he will
never believe you, so do you take him to Rue du
Dauphin, give him the proofs, overwhelm him; I
give you leave, yes, I order you to do it The old
porpoise bores me, he wears me out Keep your man
at Rue du Dauphin all night, roast him over a slow
fire, take your revenge on him for stealing Josepha!
Hulot will die of it perhaps; but we will save his
wife and children from awful suffering. Madame
Hulot is working for her living! "

"Oh! the poor woman! on my word it's atro-
cious!" cried Crevel, his natural kindliness resum-
ing its sway.

"If you love me, Celestin," she whispered low
in his ear, which she touched with her lips, "keep
him with you or 1 am lost Marneffe is suspicious,
Hector has the key of the hall-door and expects to
return ! "

Crevel pressed Madame Marneffe in his arms, and
left her, in a transport of joy ; Valerie affectionately



COUSIN BETTE 299

accompanied him as far as the head of the stairs ;
then, as if drawn by a magnet, she went down
to the first floor, and kept on to the foot of the last
flight

"My Valerie! go back, don't compromise your-
self in the eyes of the concierge. Go; my life and
my fortune, everything is yours! Go, my'
duchess!"

"Madame Olivier!" cried Valerie softly, when
the door was closed.

"What! you here, madame?" exclaimed Madame
Olivier in blank amazement

"Throw the bolts above and below on the front
door, and don't open it again."

"Very well, madame."

As soon as the bolts were thrown Madame Olivier
described the attempt at corruption to which the
high official had descended in her regard.

"You acted like an angel, my dear Olivier; but
we will talk of this to-morrow."

Valerie flew up to the third floor with the swift-
ness of an arrow, knocked three light knocks on
Lisbeth's door, then returned to her own apartments,
where she gave her orders to Mademoiselle Reine;
for a woman never misses the opportunity offered
by a Montes arriving from Brazil.



"No! saperlotte, only women in good society
know how to love like that! " said Crevel to him-
self. "How she came down stairs, lighting the
way with her glances, and it was I drew her on !
No more Josepha! Josepha, she's trash!" cried
the quondam traveling salesman. "What's that I
said? a jade! Great God! I'm quite capable of let-
ting that out some day at the Tuileries. No, unless
Valerie educates me, I can never amount to any-
thing And I am so anxious to appear like a great
lord. Ah! what a woman! she gives me as bad a
pain as the colic when she looks coldly at me.
What grace! what wit! Josepha never moved me
so. And then her unseen perfections! Aha!
there's my man! "

He saw, in the darkness of Rue de Babylone, the
tall form of Hulot, slightly bent, skulking along by
the hoarding of a house in process of construction,
and he walked straight up to him.

"Good-morning, baron, for it's past midnight,
my friend! What the devil are you doing here?
you are still walking about and there's a nice little
mist At our age it's a bad thing. Do you want
me to give you some good advice? let's both go
home; for, between ourselves, you won't see any
light in the window "

At this last phrase, the baron began to realize
(301)



302 THE POOR RELATIONS

that he was sixty-three years old and that his cloak
was damp.

"Who could have told you that? " he cried.

"Parbleu, Valerie! our Valerie who chooses to be
my Valerie alone. We have won a game each, and
we'll play the rubber for the lady whenever you
choose. You can't lose your temper over it, for you
know that I stipulated for the right to take my re-
venge ; it took you three months to steal Josepha
from me; I have taken Valerie away from you in
But let's not talk of that," he continued. "Now I
propose that she shall be all mine. But we will
continue to be good friends none the less."

"None of your pleasantry," replied the baron in
a voice choked with rage; "this is a matter of life
or death."

"Hoity-toity, how you take it! Baron, don't you
remember what you said to me the day Hortense
was married: 'Ought two old gray-beards like us to
quarrel over a petticoat? That's like a grocer,
that's like people of no account ' We are, I
agree, thoroughbred aristocrats, Regency, Pompa-
dour, eighteenth century, Marechal de Richelieu to
the core, rocaille, and, if I may venture to say so,
true heroes of Les Liaisons Dangereusesl "

Crevel might have gone on heaping up his
epithets for a long while, for the baron listened as
deaf men listen when their deafness first comes
upon them. But when he saw, by the light of the
street-lamp, his enemy's face turned white, the
victor paused. It was a crushing blow to the baron



COUSIN BETTE 303

after Madame Olivier's statements and after Va-
lerie's last glance.

"My God! there were so many other women in
Paris! " he cried at last.

"That's what I told you when you took Josepha
away from me," retorted Crevel.

"Look here, Crevel, it's impossible. Give me
your proofs! Have you a pass-key, as I have? "

And the baron, as they were now in front of the
house, inserted a key in the lock ; but he found the
door immovable, and tried in vain to shake it

"Don't make a row here in the middle of the
night," said Crevel calmly. "Come, baron, I have
better keys than yours."

"Proofs! proofs! " repeated the baron nearly mad
with rage and grief.

"Come, and I will give you them, " Crevel replied.

Following Valerie's instructions he dragged the
baron away toward the quay by Rue Hillerin-Bertin.
The unfortunate Councilor of State walked along
like a merchant on the eve of stopping payment;
he was lost in conjectures as to the explanation of
the depravity that lay hidden at the bottom of
Valerie's heart, and he believed that he was
the dupe of some trickery. As they crossed the
Pont Royal, his life seeemd to him so empty, so
completely lived out, and in such confusion on
account of his financial difficulties, that he was on
the point of yielding to the evil thought that came
to him of throwing Crevel into the river and jump-
ing in after him.



304 THE POOR RELATIONS

When they reached Rue du Dauphin, which, at
that time, had not been widened, Crevel halted in
front of a door. This door opened upon a long cor-
ridor paved with black and white flagstones, form-
ing a peristyle, at the end of which were a stair-
case and a porter's lodge lighted by a small interior
courtyard, like so many others in Paris. This
courtyard, which was shared in common with the
adjoining property, was remarkable in this respect
that it was unequally divided. Crevel 's little
house, for he was the owner, had a glass-roofed
addition, built upon the adjoining lot and laboring
under the disadvantage of having been built under
protest, it was entirely hidden from sight by the
lodge and the projections of the stairway.

This structure had long been used as a storehouse,
back-shop and kitchen for one of the two shops on
the street. Crevel detached these three ground-
floor rooms from the property as rented, and Grindot
transformed them into a snug little establishment.
There were two ways of reaching it, one through
the shop of a dealer in furniture, to whom Crevel
let it at a low price and by the month, so that he
might be able to punish him in case of indiscretion ;
and the other by a door concealed in the wall of the
corridor so skilfully that it was almost invisible.
This little suite, composed of a dining-room, a salon
and a bedroom, lighted from above, partly on the
neighbor's land and partly on Crevel's, was thus
almost impossible to discover. With the exception
of the dealer in second-hand furniture, the tenants



COUSIN BETTE 305

were ignorant of the existence of this little para-
dise. The female concierge, liberally paid for
being Crevel's accomplice, was an excellent cook.
The mayor therefore could go in and out of his little
establishment at any hour of the day or night with-
out fear of being spied upon. Even in the daytime,
a woman dressed as Parisian women dress when
they go out shopping, and provided with a key, in-
curred no risk in visiting Crevel ; she might notice
the second-hand furniture, haggle a little over prices,
enter the shop and leave it, without arousing the
least suspicion if anyone chanced to meet her.

When Crevel had lighted the candelabra in the
boudoir, the baron was greatly amazed at the taste-
ful and coquettish display of luxury. The quondam
perfumer had given Grindot carte blanche, and the
old architect had distinguished himself by a per-
formance after the Pompadour style, which cost, by
the way, sixty thousand francs.

"I want it to be so that a duchess on entering
the rooms would be surprised," said Crevel to
Grindot

He wished to have the most beautiful of Parisian
Edens, in which to enjoy his Eve, his woman of
the world, his Valerie, his duchess.

"There are two beds," said Crevel, as he pointed
to a divan from which he drew out a bed as one
takes a drawer from a desk. "Here's one, and the
other's in the bed-room. So we can both pass the
night here."

"The proofs! " said the baron.

30



306 THE POOR RELATIONS

Crevel took a candle and led his friend into the
bed-chamber, where Hulot saw upon a sofa a mag-
nificent dressing-gown belonging to Valerie, which
she wore on Rue Vanneau in his honor, before mak-
ing use of it at Crevel's little establishment The
mayor pressed the spring of the secret drawer in a
pretty little piece of inlaid furniture called a
bonheur-du-jour, felt in the drawer, seized a letter,
and handed it to the baron :

"Take this and read it"

The Councilor of State read this little penciled
note:

" I have waited for you for nothing, old stingy ! A woman
like myself never waits for a man who has sold perfumery.
There was no dinner ordered nor cigarettes. You shall pay


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