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me for all this."

"Is that her writing?"

"My God! " said Hulot, falling upon a chair com-
pletely crushed. "I recognize all her things; there
are her caps and her slippers. Damnation ! tell me,
since when ? "

Crevel made a sign that he understood, and took
a package of bills from the little inlaid cabinet

"Look, my old friend! 1 paid the contractors in
December, 1838. In October, two months before,
this charming little house was used for the first
time."

The Councilor of State hung his head.

"How the devil do you manage it? for I know
how her time is occupied, hour by hour."



COUSIN BETTE 307

"And what about the walk at the Tuileries?''
queried Crevel, rubbing his hands gleefully.

"Well, what about it? " rejoined Hulot in a
dazed sort of way.

"Your soi-disant mistress goes to the Tuileries
and is supposed to walk about there from one
o'clock to four; but presto! in a twinkling she's
here. Are you familiar with Moliere? Well, baron,
there's nothing imaginary in your title."

Hulot, having no further pretext for doubting,
maintained a gloomy silence. Disaster drives all
strong, intelligent men to philosophy. The baron,
morally speaking, was like a man trying to find his
way in a dense forest at night His dejected
silence, the change which took place upon his woe-
begone face, aroused Crevel's anxiety, for he did
not desire his colleague's death.

"As I was saying, my old friend, we have each
won a game, let's play the rubber. Come, will you
play the rubber ? and may the best man win ! "

"Why is it," said Hulot to himself, "that out of
every ten women at least seven are utterly bad?"

The baron's distress was too great to allow him
to solve the problem. Beauty is the greatest of all
human powers. Every form of power without count-
erpoise, without some autocratic curb, leads to
abuse, to acts of madness. Arbitrariness is the
insanity of power. In a woman caprice is arbitrari-
ness.

"You have no reason to complain, my dear fellow;
you have the loveliest of wives, and she is virtuous. "



308 THE POOR RELATIONS

"I deserve my fate," said Hulot, "I have never
appreciated my wife, I have made her suffer terri-
bly, and she is an angel ! O, my poor Adeline, you
are well avenged ! She suffers alone, in silence, she
is worthy of adoration, she deserves my love, and I
ought for she is lovely still, fair as a lily, and like
a young girl again. But was there ever a more
despicable, infamous, wicked creature than this
Valerie?"

"She's a good-for-naught, " said Crevel, "she
ought to be whipped on the Place du Chatelet ; but,
my dear Canillac, if we are aristocrats, Mar6chal
de Richelieu, old fool, Pompadour, Du Barry,
downright eighteenth century rakes, in short, still
we have no lieutenant of police to-day."

"How can one make a woman love one? " Hulot
asked himself, paying no heed to Crevel.

"It's absurd for such old fellows as we are to want
to be loved, my dear boy, " said Crevel ; "at best we
can only expect to be endured, for Madame Marneffe is
a hundred times more depraved than Josepha "

"And avaricious ! she has cost me a hundred and
ninety-two thousand francs!" cried Hulot

"And how many centimes?" asked Crevel with
the insolence of the man of wealth, deeming the
sum a paltry one.

"It's easy to see that you don't love her," said
the baron sadly.

"I have had enough of her," replied Crevel, "for
she has had more than three hundred thousand
francs from me ! "



COUSIN BETTE 309

"Where is it? where does it all go? "said the
baron burying his face in his hands.

"If we had had an understanding, like the young
fellows who club together to keep a grisette of the
two sous kind, she would have cost us less "

"There's something in that ! " the baron assented ;
"but she would deceive us still, for what do you
think of this Brazilian, old fellow?"

"Ah! old fox, you're right; we are cheated like
like shareholders ! " said Crevel. "All these women
are regular limited-liability companies!"

"So it was she who told you about the light in
the window? " said the baron.

"My good man," replied Crevel, striking his
favorite attitude, "we are gulled! Valerie's a
She told me to keep you here I understand now
She has her Brazilian Ah ! I give her up, for if you
held her hands she'd find a way to deceive you
with her feet! Damme, she's an infamous wretch!
she's a strumpet!"

"She's lower than the common prostitutes,"
said the baron. "Josepha and Jenny Cadine were
within their rights in deceiving us, for they trade
on their charms!"

"But she, who plays the saint, the prude! " said
Crevel. "Come, Hulot, go back to your wife, for
your affairs are in a bad way, and people are begin-
ning to talk about certain notes of hand discounted
by a petty money-lender, whose specialty consists
in lending to lorettes one Vauvinet As for my-
self I've had enough of society women. And then,



310 THE POOR RELATIONS

at our age, what need have we of the hussies, who,
I honestly believe, can't help deceiving us? You
have white hair and false teeth, baron. I look like
Silenus. I propose to begin to save money. Money
never deceives. If the treasury is thrown open
every six months to everybody, at least it pays in-
terest, and with that woman it's all outgo. With
you, my dear colleague, Gubetta, my old partner in
sin, I might accept a situation chocnoso no,
philosophically; but a Brazilian, who, it may
be, has brought suspicious colonial wares from his
home "

"The woman," said Hulot, "is an inexplicable
creature ! "

"I can explain her," said Crevel; "we are old,
the Brazilian is young and handsome "

"Yes, that's true," said Hulot; "we are growing
old, I admit But, my friend, how are we to give
up watching the lovely creatures undressing them-
selves, doing up their hair, looking at us with a sly
smile through their fingers when they are putting
on their curl-papers, playing all their tricks, telling
their fibs, and swearing that we don't love them,
when they see that we are annoyed by matters of
business, and distracting our minds in spite of
everything?"

"Yes, on my word! it's the only pleasant thing
in life, " cried Crevel. "Ah! when a pretty face
smiles on you, and says: 'My dear love, do you
know what a dear fellow you are ? I must be made
differently from other women, who go mad over



COUSIN BETTE 311

little dandies with goatees, idiots who smoke and
are as vulgar as footmen! for their youth makes
them impertinent ! However, they come, say good-
morning, and go. I, whom you suspect of flirting,
prefer men of fifty to such little whipper-snappers,
for one can keep them a long while ; they are de-
voted, for they know how hard it is to find the
right woman, and they appreciate us. That's why
I love you, you great rascal ! ' And they accom-
pany these confessions, you might call them, with
their little airs and graces, and Ah! they're as
false as the programmes at the Hotel de Ville "

"A lie is often better than the truth," said Hulot,
to whose mind Crevel's pantomime in imitation of
Valerie recalled some charming scenes. "They
have to elaborate the lie, to sew the spangles on to
their stage clothes "

"And then, after all, we have the liars!" said
Crevel brutally.

"Valerie's a fairy," cried the baron; "she trans-
forms an old man into a youth "

"Aye," rejoined Crevel, "she's an eel that slips
through your fingers; but she's the loveliest of eels
white and sweet as sugar ! mischievous as Arnal ;
and as for her tricks! ah! "

"Ah! she's very clever! " cried the baron, think-
ing no more of his wife.

The two associates went to bed the best friends
in the world, reminding each other of Valerie's
charms one by one, the tones of her voice, her
coquettish ways, her gestures, her mischievous



312 THE POOR RELATIONS

antics, her flashes of wit, her moments of tender-
ness; for this artist in love was remarkable for her
impulsive outbursts, like some tenors who sing
better one day than another. And they were both
lulled to sleep by these alluring, diabolic reminis-
cences, lighted by the fires of hell.

The next morning at nine o'clock Hulot spoke of
going to the department, and Crevel had business
in the country. They left the house together, and
Crevel gave the baron his hand, saying:

"We part friends, don't we? for neither of us
thinks any more about Madame Marneffe. "

"Oh! that's all done with!" Hulot replied with
a horrified gesture.

At half-past ten Crevel mounted Madame Mar-
neffe's staircase four stairs at a time. He found the
vile creature, the adorable enchantress, in the most
bewitching deshabille imaginable, eating a dainty
little breakfast with Baron Henri Montes de Monte-
janos and Lisbeth. Notwithstanding the shock he
felt at the sight of the Brazilian, Crevel begged
Madame Marneffe to grant him a moment's
interview. Valerie went into the salon with
him.

"Valerie, my angel," said the amorous old fellow,
"Monsieur Marneffe hasn't long to live; if you will
be true to me, at his death we will be married.
Think it over. I have got rid of Hulot for you.
So do you consider whether this Brazilian will bear
comparison with a mayor of Paris, a man who, for
your sake, would seek to attain the highest of



COUSIN BETTE 313

dignities, and who already has an income of eighty
and some odd thousand francs."

"I'll think about it," said she. "I will beat
Rue du Dauphin at two o'clock, and we'll talk it
over; but be prudent! and don't forget the transfer
of funds you promised me yesterday."

She returned to the dining-room, followed by
Crevel, who flattered himself that he had discovered
a way of having Valerie all to himself; but he
there found Baron Hulot, who had come in during
their short conference, intent upon a similar design.
The Councilor of State requested a moment's audi-
ence, as Crevel had done. Madame Marneffe rose
to return to the salon, smiling at the Brazilian, as
if to say: "They are mad! for heaven's sake don't
they see you?"

"Valerie, my child," began the Councilor of
State, "this cousin of yours is an American
cousin "

"Oh! enough of that!" she cried, interrupting
him. "Marneffe never has been, never will be,
never can be my husband. The first, the only man
I ever loved has returned, unexpectedly. It isn't
my fault! But do you look well at Henri and at
yourself. Then ask yourself if a woman, especially
when she loves, can hesitate. My dear, 1 am no-
body's kept mistress. From this day out I do not
propose to stand like Suzanne between two old
men. If you still care for me, you shall be, you and
Crevel, our good friends; but all this nonsense is at
an end, for I am twenty-six years old, and I propose



314 THE POOR RELATIONS

hereafter to be a saint, an exemplary, dignified wife
like your own."

"Indeed?" said Hulot "Ah! this is the way
you receive me when I come, like the Pope, with
my hands full of indulgences! Very well, your
| husband will never be chief of bureau or officer of
the Legion of Honor "

"We'll see about that! " said Madame Marneffe,
with a meaning glance at Hulot

"Let's not part in anger," said he in despair, "I
will come this evening, and we will have an under-
standing. "

"To Lisbeth's room, yes!"

"Very well," said the lovesick old fellow, "to Lis-
beth's room!"

Hulot and Crevel went down stairs together,
without exchanging a word until they reached the
street; but when they stood upon the sidewalk they
looked at each other with a joyless laugh.

"We are two old fools! " said Crevel.

"I have sent them away, "said Madame Marneffe
to Lisbeth as she resumed her seat at the table. "I
have never loved, I do not love, and I never
shall love anybody but my jaguar," she added,
smiling at Henri Montes. "Lisbeth, my girl, I
haven't told you, have 1 ? Henri has forgiven me
for the despicable things to which poverty re-
duced me."

"It's my own fault," said the Brazilian, "I ought
to have sent you a hundred thousand francs "

"Poor boy!" cried Valerie; "I ought to have



COUSIN BETTE 315

worked for my living, but my fingers weren't made
for that ask Lisbeth."

The Brazilian went away the happiest man in
Paris.

About noon Valerie and Lisbeth were talking
together in the sumptuously furnished bed-room
while the formidable Parisian put those last touches
to her toilette which a woman is always particular
to attend to herself. With bolted doors and cur-
tains drawn Valerie described all the occurrences of
the evening, the night and the morning, not omitting
the most trifling details.

"Are you satisfied, my jewel? "she asked Lis-
beth when her tale was at an end. "Which should
I be some day, Madame Crevel or Madame Montes ?
What's your opinion?"

"Crevel hasn't more than ten years to live, old
rake that he is," was Lisbeth's reply, "and Months
is young. Crevel will leave you thirty thousand
francs a year or thereabout Let Montes wait;
he'll be happy enough as long as he continues to be
the Benjamin. And so, when you're about thirty-
three, my dear child, by taking care to retain your
beauty, you can marry your Brazilian, and cut a great
swath with sixty thousand francs a year of your own,
especially under the patronageof a marshal'swife "

"Yes, but Montes is a Brazilian, he'll never
amount to anything," observed Valerie.

"We are living in railroad times," said Lisbeth,
" and foreigners in France, end by occupying im-
portant positions."



316 THE POOR RELATIONS

"We'll see," said Valerie, "when Marneffe is
dead, and he hasn't long to suffer."

"These attacks which keep returning," said Lis-
beth, "seem like remorse on the part of his consti-
tution. Well, I'm going to see Hortense."

"All right, go, my angel," Valerie replied, "and
bring me my artist! To think that in three years
1 haven't gained an inch of ground ! We ought both
to be ashamed ! Wenceslas and Henri, they are my
only passions. One is love, the other caprice."

"Aren't you lovely this morning!" said Lisbeth
putting her arm around Valerie's waist and kissing
heron the brow. "I enjoy all your enjoyment,
your fortune, your lovely costumes. I never lived
until the day we became sisters "

"Wait a minute, my tigress," laughed Valerie,
"your shawl is all awry. You don't know yet how
to wear a shawl, in spite of all my lessons for three
years, and you want to be Madame la Marechale
Hulot "

Shod in plum-colored boots, with gray silk stock-
ings, and arrayed in a magnificent silk dress, with
her hair en bandeau beneath a pretty little black
velvet capote lined with yellow satin, Lisbeth be-
took herself to Rue Saint-Dominique by the Boule-
vard des Invalides, wondering whether Hortense's
discouragement would finally put that steadfast
heart in her power, and if the innate Sarmatian
inconstancy, taken by storm at a moment when
anything is possible to such natures, would cause
Wenceslas to waver in his love for her.



Hortense and Wenceslas occupied the ground floor
of a house that stood just at the spot where Rue
Saint-Dominique meets the Esplanade des Invalides. ;
Their apartments, once fully in harmony with the
spirit of the honeymoon, now presented a half-fresh,
half-faded aspect which we may call their autumn.
Newly-married people are bunglers; without know-
ing or intending it they ruin everything about them
just as they abuse their love. Being absorbed in
themselves they care little for the future, which, at
a later period, fills the thoughts of the wife and
mother.

Lisbeth found that her cousin Hortense had just
finished dressing a little Wenceslas who had been
sent out to the garden.

"Good-morning, Bette," said she, as she herself
opened the door for her cousin.

The cook had gone to market; the maid, who was
also the children's nurse, was washing.

"Good-morning, my dear child," replied Lisbeth
as she kissed her. "Is Wenceslas in his studio? "
she asked in her ear.

"No, he is talking with Stidmann and Chanor in
the salon."

"Can we be alone! " asked Lisbeth.

"Come to my room."

This room, hung in chintz with pink flowers
(317)



318 THE POOR RELATIONS

and green leaves on a white ground, on which, as
on the carpet, the sun shone all day long, was no
longer pretty. The curtains had not been washed
for a long while. The smell of Wenceslas' cigar
was very perceptible ; as he had become a past-
master of his art and was of noble birth, he depos-
ited his ashes on the arms of chairs, on the pret-
tiest pieces of furniture, after the manner of a
beloved husband at whose hands anything will be
endured, or like a rich man, who does not bother
his head about vulgar trifles.

"Come, let us talk of your affairs," said Lisbeth,
seeing that her cousin sat silent in the armchair
into which she had thrown herself. "Why, what's
the matter? You're quite pale, my dear."

"Two new articles have appeared in which my
poor Wenceslas is shamefully abused ; I read them,
but I am keeping them from him, for he would be
discouraged altogether. The marble statue of Mare-
chal Montcornet is considered absolutely bad.
They have mercy on the bas-reliefs, so that they
may, with atrocious bad faith, glorify Wenceslas'
talent as a mere maker of ornaments, and thus add
more weight to the opinion that art, strictly speak-
ing, is a closed book to us ! Stidmann, when I im-
plored him to tell me the truth, drove me to despair
by confessing that his own opinion agreed with that
of all the artists and critics and the public gener-
ally. 'If,' he said to me out in the garden before
lunch, 'Wenceslas doesn't produce a masterpiece
next year, he must abandon the highest form of



COUSIN BETTE 319

sculpture, and confine himself to idyllic subjects,
small figures, jeweiry and goldsmith's work ! ' This
judgment caused me the keenest grief, for Wen-
ceslas would never agree to it, he is so conscious of
his own power, and has so many lovely ideas "

"You can't pay tradespeople with ideas," ob-
served Lisbeth; "I used to wear myself out telling
him so. You need money for that Money is paid
only for things that are finished and which catch
the bourgeois fancy sufficiently to be purchased.
When it's a question of living, it's much better
that the sculptor should have on his board the
model of a candlestick, a fender or a table, than a
group or a statue ; for everybody needs those things,
while you may have to wait long months for the
lover of groups and his money "

"You are right, dear Lisbeth! pray tell him that;
1 haven't the courage. But, as he said to Stid-
mann, if he goes back to ornaments and petty sculp-
ture, he must give up the Institute, and all thought
of any great artistic creations, and we shall lose the
three hundred thousand francs' worth of commis-
sions that Versailles, the city of Paris, and the
ministry were holding in reserve for us. That's
what we lose by these frightful articles, dictated by
rivals who would like to inherit our commissions."

"And that's not what you have been dreaming, of
my poor little kitten!" said Bette, kissing Hor-
tense on the forehead; "you wanted to have a
nobleman for your husband, a ruling power in the
world of art, at the head of all sculptors. But that's



320 THE POOR RELATIONS

all poetry, you see. That dream requires fifty
thousand francs a year, and you have only twenty-
four hundred while I live; three thousand after my
death. ' '

The tears gathered in Hortense's eyes, and Bette
lapped them up with her glance as a cat drinks milk.

The story of the honeymoon is here given in a
few words ; perhaps it may contain something of a
lesson for artists.

Moral labor, the hunt in the lofty regions of the
intelligence, is one of the greatest efforts demanded
of man. The one quality which above all others
deserves to be rewarded with renown in art and
by that word we must understand all the creations
of the thought is courage; a form of courage of
which the common herd has no idea, and which is
here described, it may be for the first time. Driven
by the terrible pressure of poverty, maintained by
Bette in a situation similar to that of a horse who is
made to wear blinders to prevent his looking to
right or to left, goaded by the stern old maid, the
personification of Necessity, a sort of secondary
Destiny, Wenceslas, a born poet and dreamer, had
proceeded from conception to execution, crossing,
without measuring, the chasms which separate
those two hemispheres of art To think, to dream,
to conceive lovely works of art is a delightful occu-
pation. It is as if one were smoking enchanted
cigars, it is the life of the courtesan intent upon the
gratification of her caprice. The work then ap-
pears in all the charm of infancy, in the mad joy of



COUSIN BETTE 321

generation, with the bright colors and sweet per-
fume of the flower, and the fast-flowing juice of the
fruit, tasted in anticipation. Such is conception
and its delights. He who can sketch his plan in
words is at once deemed an extraordinary man.
This faculty all artists and writers possess. But to
produce! to bring forth! to rear the child with in-
finite toil, to put it to bed every night gorged with
milk, to embrace it every morning with a mother's
inexhaustible love, to lick away the dirt, to clothe
it a hundred times over in the loveliest jackets,
which it constantly tears to bits ; to refuse to be
discouraged by the vagaries of this wild creature,
and to make of it the living masterpiece, which ap-
peals to every eye in sculpture, to every mind in
literature, to every memory in painting, to every
heart in music, such is execution and its attendant
labors. The hand should be constantly put forward,
ready at any moment to obey the head. Now, it is
no more true that the head has at command the
creative faculty, than that love always flows
smoothly.

This habit of creation, this indefatigable passion
for maternity, which makes the mother, that chef-
d'oeuvre of nature so thoroughly understood by
Raphael ! in a word, this maternity of the brain,
so difficult of attainment, may be lost with marvel-
ous ease. Inspiration is genius's opportunity. It
runs away, not keeping low; it is in the air and
flies off, as quick to take alarm as a crow; it wears
no scarf by which the poet can lay hold of it ; its

21



322 THE POOR RELATIONS

hair is aflame ; it takes to its wings, like the gor-
geous red and white flamingoes, the despair of hun-
ters. Thus the labor is a fatiguing struggle, dreaded
and yet loved by the noble and powerful natures,
which are so often shattered by it A great poet
of the present day once said in speaking of this
appalling toil: "I began it in despair, and I leave it
with chagrin. ' ' Let those who are uninformed take
heed! If the artist does not rush headlong into his
work, as Curtius plunged into the gulf, as the sol-
dier rushes upon the redoubt, without reflection;
and if, in that crater, he does not work like a miner
buried under a landslip; if, in short, he stands
gazing at the difficulties in his path instead of over-
coming them one by one, after the manner of the
lovers in fairy tales, who, to obtain their prin-
cesses, fight with monsters who come to life as
often as they are slain, the work remains unfinished,
it breathes its last in a corner of the studio, where
production becomes impossible, and the artist assists
at the suicide of his talent. Rossini, Raphael's
brother in genius, affords a striking example, by
virtue of his poverty-stricken youth contrasted with
his opulent old age. Thus do we account for the
fact that a like reward, a like triumph, the same
wreath of laurel is accorded to great poets and
generals.

Wenceslas, by nature a dreamer, had expended
so much energy in giving form to his conceptions,
in learning, and in working under the despotic
guidance of Lisbeth, that love and good fortune



COUSIN BETTE 323

brought about a reaction. His true character reap-
peared. The slothful indifference, the effeminacy
characteristic of the Sarmatian, returned and took
up their abode in his heart, in the willing furrows
whence the school-master's rod had expelled them.
The artist, during the first months of their union,
loved his wife. Hortense and Wenceslas gave
themselves over to the fascinating follies of a legiti-
mate, happy, unreasoning passion. Hortense was
therefore the first to excuse Wenceslas from all
labor, being overjoyed to achieve this triumph over
her rival, sculpture. A woman's caresses put the
muse to flight, and softened the fierce, the brutal stead-
fastness of the laborer. Six or seven months
passed, and the sculptor's fingers had forgotten how
to hold the boasting-tool. When the necessity of


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