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beginning to work once more became apparent,
when the Prince de Wissembourg, president of the
subscription committee, desired to see the statue,
Wenceslas made the reply to which all idlers resort:
"1 am just going to work on it! " And he soothed
his dear Hortense with deceitful words, with the
magnificent schemes of the artist who is a smoker.
Hortense's love for her poet redoubled, she saw in
her mind's eye a sublime statue of Marechal Mont-
cornet. Montcornet was to be the idealized type of
intrepidity, the model cavalry officer, the personifi-
cation of courage a la Murat Why, by a mere
glance at the statue, one could imagine all the
Emperor's victories. And then the execution! The
pencil responded promptly to the thought



324 THE POOR RELATIONS

In place of a statue there came a fascinating little
Wenceslas.

Whenever the subject was broached, of going to
the workshop at Gros-Caillou to mould the clay,
and cast the model either the prince's clock de-
manded Wenceslas' presence at Florent and Cha-
nor's workshop, where the figures were being
carved; or else it was a gray, gloomy day; to-
day a press of business; to-morrow a family dinner;
without counting the infirmities of talent and of the
body; and lastly, the days when he remained at
home to romp with an adored wife. The Marechal
Prince de Wissembourg was forced to lose his tem-
per, and to say that he would reconsider his decision,
in order to obtain the model. It was only after a
thousand reproofs and innumerable harsh words that
the committee of subscribers at last succeeded in
obtaining a sight of the plaster cast Every day
that he worked Steinbock returned home visibly
tired out, complaining of this sort of mason's work,
and of his physical weakness. During this first
year the young couple were in comparatively easy
circumstances. Countess Steinbock, doting upon
her husband, absorbed in the joy of satisfied love,
cursed the Minister of War ; she went to see him,
and told him that great works of art were not made
like so many pieces of cannon, and that the State
should be content to await the pleasure of genius,
as Louis XIV. was, and Francois I. and Leo X.
Poor Hortense, believing that she had a Phidias in
her arms, treated Wencelas with the weak motherly



COUSIN BETTE 325

indulgence of a wife who carries love to the verge
of idolatry.

"Don't be in a hurry," she said to her husband,
"our whole future depends upon this statue; take
your time and produce a chef-d'ceuvre. "

She would go to the studio. Steinbock, still in
love, would waste five hours out of seven, describing
his statue to his wife instead of working at it. In
this way it took him eighteen months to complete
this work, which was to him of the highest import-
ance.

When the clay was run through the mould, and
the model actually existed, poor Hortense, having
been an eye-witness of the superhuman exertions
put forth by her husband, whose health suffered
from the fatigue which attacks the sculptor's
body, arms and hand, Hortense considered it a
wonderful piece of work. Her father, who knew
nothing of sculpture, and the baroness, who was no
less ignorant, were loud in their admiration of the
chef-d'ceuvre; the Minister of War came to look at
it, at their request, and under the influence of their
enthusiasm, expressed his satisfaction with the
model, as it stood all by itself, in a good light, and
cunningly placed in front of a green curtain. But
alas! at the Exhibition of 1841 the unanimous cen-
sure found expression in hootings and mockery, in
the mouths of a public incensed with the idol they
had been in such haste to place upon a pedestal.
Stidmann sought to enlighten Wenceslas, as a
friend, he was accused of jealousy. In Hortense's



326 THE POOR RELATIONS

eyes the articles in the newspapers were the shrieks
of envy. Stidmann, like the good fellow he was,
procured the insertion of articles wherein the
animadversions of the critics were combated,
wherein it was pointed out that sculptors so modi-
fied their works between the plaster and the marble,
that the marble was exhibited. "Between the
original conception in plaster and the completed
statue in marble," said Claude Vignon, "a chef-
d'oeuvre may be ruined, or a wretched failure
transformed into a great success. The plaster is
the manuscript, the marble is the book."

In two years and a half Steinbock produced a
statue and a child. The child was sublimely
beautiful, the statue was detestable.

The prince's clock and the statue paid the debts
of the young couple. Thereupon Steinbock con-
tracted the habit of going into society, to the play,
to the Italiens; he talked wonderfully well upon art,
and in the eyes of society maintained his position
as a great artist by his conversation, by his critical
explanations. There are men of genius in Paris
who pass their lives in listening to their own con-
versation, and who are content with a sort of salon
celebrity. Steinbock, copying these entertaining
hybrids, contracted an aversion to labor that waxed
greater day by day. He detected all the difficulties
of the task as soon as he set about it, and the con-
sequent discouragement weakened his resolution.
Inspiration, the frenzy of intellectual generation,
fled at once at the sight of this sick lover.



COUSIN BETTE 327

Sculpture is like dramatic art, at once the most
difficult and the simplest of all forms of art Copy
a model, and the task is done ; but to impart a soul,
to produce the type of a whole class in the figure of
a man or a woman, is like the sin of Prometheus.
Successful achievement in this line is recorded in
the annals of sculpture, as the names of poets are
recorded in the annals of humanity. Michael An-
gelo, Michael Colombo, Jean Goujon, Phidias,
Praxiteles, Polycletus, Puget, Canova, Albert
Diirer are brothers to Milton, Virgil, Dante, Shakes-
peare, Tasso, Homer and Moliere. The work these
men did was of such noble proportions that one
statue was enough to immortalize a man, as Figaro,
Lovelace and Manon Lescaut were enough to im-
mortalize Beaumarchais, Richardson and Abbe Pre-
vost Superficial persons and artists count many
such in their ranks have said that real sculpture
existed only in the nude, that it died with Greek
art, and that our modern raiment made it impossi-
ble. In the first place, the ancients produced
sublime statues draped from head to foot, as for ex-
ample, the Polhymnia, Julia, etc., and we have never
found the tenth part of their works. In the second
place, let all true lovers of art go to Florence and
see Michael Angelo's Penseur, or to the cathedral at
Mayence and see the Virgin by Albert Diirer, an
ebony statue of a living woman beneath her triple
robes, with the silkiest, loveliest hair that ever lady's
maid dressed. Let the ignoramuses hasten thither,
and all will agree that genius can embody a thought



328 THE POOR RELATIONS

in coat, dress or armor, and place a body therein,
even as man impresses his character and his habits
upon his outer covering.

Sculpture is the constant realization of that fact
which, for the first and only time, is called in
painting, Raphael! The solution of this arduous
problem is to be found only in constant, unre-
mitting toil, for the material obstacles must be
so thoroughly overcome, the hand so chastened, so
willing and obedient, that the sculptor may con-
tend soul to soul with that intangible moral nature
which must be transfigured in the process of
materialization. If Paganini, whose soul found ut-
terance through the strings of his violin, had passed
three days without studying, he would have lost,
with his power of expression, the register of his in-
strument; he so designated the union that existed
between the violin, the bow, the strings and him-
self; that union once dissolved, he would suddenly
have become a commonplace violinist Constant
labor is the law of art as of life; for art is creation
idealized. And so great artists and full-grown poets
do not await orders or customers ; they produce to-
day, to-morrow, all the time. Hence the habit of
constant labor, the unerring appreciation of the
obstacles to be overcome, which keeps them in
touch with the muse and her creative forces.
Canova lived in his studio, as Voltaire lived in his
study. Homer and Phidias must have done like-
wise.

Wenceslas Steinbock was upon the dreary path



COUSIN BETTE 329

trodden by these great men, and which leads to the
Alpine heights of fame, when Lisbeth chained him
down in his attic. Happiness, in the guise of Hor-
tense, made the poet a sloth once more, the normal
condition of all artists, for with them slothfulness
is activity. It is like the enjoyment of a pacha in
his seraglio; they welcome ideas caressingly, they
drink to excess of the springs which supply the
mind. Great artists like Steinbock, consumed by
the habit of dreaming, have been justly called
dreamers. These opium-eaters all come to want;
whereas, if they had been kept to their work by
inflexible circumstances, they would have been
great men. Such demi-artists are charming fellows,
men like them, and make them drunk with
praise; they seem superior to the veritable artists,
who are taxed with self-conceit, boorishness, and
rebellion against the laws of society. For this
reason : Great men belong to their . works. Their
dissociation from all other interests, their devotion
to their work stamps them as egotists in the eyes of
fools, who would like to see them dressed in the
same clothes as the fashionable dandy, going
through the evolutions called social duties. They
would like to see the lions of Atlas curled and
scented like a marchioness's lap-dog. Such men,
who have few equals and seldom encounter them,
fall into the habit of exclusiveness, born of a soli-
tary life; they become inexplicable enigmas to the
majority of mankind, made up, as we know, of
fools and of envious, ignorant, superficial people.



330 THE POOR RELATIONS

Do you understand now the part a woman has to
play living beside one of these magnificent hybrids ?
A woman must not only be what Lisbeth was for
five years, but must also offer him love, submissive
and discreet, always ready and always smiling.

H,ortense, enlightened by her mother's suffering,
discovered too late, under the pressure of dire pov-
erty, the errors her excessive love had led her in-
voluntarily to commit; but, like her mother's own
daughter, her heart was torn at the idea of worry-
ing Wenceslas; she loved her dear poet too well to
be his executioner, and she watched the approach
of the moment when she, her son and her husband
would be in absolute want

"Come, come, my little one," said Bette, as she
saw the tears gathering in her cousin's lovely eyes,
"you mustn't despair. A tumblerful of your tears
won't pay for a plate of soup! How much do you
need?"

"Only five or six thousand francs."

"I have only three thousand at the outside," said
Lisbeth. "What is Wenceslas at work on now? "

"They propose that he shall undertake, with
Stidmann, a dessert service for the Due d'Herou-
ville for six thousand francs. In that case Chanor
agrees to pay four thousand francs due Messieurs
Leon de Lora and Bridau, a debt of honor."

"What! you have had the money for the statue
and bas-reliefs of the monument to Marechal Mont-
cornet, and you haven't paid that! "

"Why, for three years," said Hortense, "we



COUSIN BETTE 331

have spent twelve thousand francs a year, and my
income is two .thousand. The marshal's monu-
ment, after all expenses were paid, brought us no
more than sixteen thousand. Really, if Wenceslas
doesn't work, I don't know what will become of us.
Ah ! if 1 could only learn to make statues, how I'd
make the clay fly! " said she, extending her beau-
tiful arms.

It will be seen that the woman fulfilled the prom-
ise of the girl. Hortense's eye sparkled; the blood
flowed swift and strong through her veins ; she de-
plored having to waste her energy in holding her
child.

"Ah! my dear little pet, a wise girl should only
marry an artist when his fortune is made, not
when he has it to make."

At that moment they heard the steps and voices
of Stidmann and Wenceslas, escorting Chanor to
the door, and the two former soon made their ap-
pearance. Stidmann, an artist prominent in the
social circle of journalists, illustrious actresses and
celebrated lorettes, was a young man of fashion
whom Valerie wished to add to her circle, and whom
Claude Vignon had already introduced to her. Stid-
mann had recently ceased his connection with
Madame Schontz, who had been married a few
months before this time, and had gone to live in the
provinces. Valerie and Lisbeth, being informed of
the rupture by Claude Vignon, deemed it advisable
to attract this friend of Wenceslas to Rue Vanneau.
As Stidmann, as a matter of prudence, was an



332 THE POOR RELATIONS

infrequent visitor at the Steinbocks', and as Lisbeth
was not present at the time of his recent introduction
by Claude Vignon, this was her first meeting with
him. As she scrutinized the famous artist, she sur-
prised several glances directed by him at Hortense,
which opened to her mind the possibility that he
might be given to Countess Steinbock as a consola-
tion, if Wenceslas should betray her. It had, in fact,
occurred to Stidmann that if Wenceslas were not his
good friend, Hortense, his youthful and superbly beau-
tiful countess, would make an adorable mistress; but
that desire, restrained by the sentiment of honor,
kept him away from the house. Lisbeth noticed the
significant embarrassment which attacks a man in
the presence of a woman with whom he is forbidden
to flirt

"He's a very good-looking young fellow," she
whispered to Hortense.

"Ah! do you think so? I never noticed it, " she
replied.

"Stidmann, my boy," said Wenceslas in his
comrade's ear, "we don't stand on ceremony with
each other, and we have some business to talk over
with this old maid. ' '

Stidmann bowed to the cousins and took his
leave.

"It's settled," said Wenceslas, returning after he
had shown Stidmann out; "but the work will take
six months, and we must have something to live on
all that time."

"I have my diamonds," cried the young Countess



COUSIN BETTB 333

Steinbock, with the sublime impulsiveness of women
who love.

The tears came to Wenceslas' eyes.

"Oh! I am going to work," said he, sitting
down beside his wife, and taking her on his knee.
"I am going to make gewgaws at odd times, wed-
ding presents and bronze groups "

"But, my dear children," said Lisbeth, "for
you are my heirs, you know, and I'll leave you a
pretty little pile, my word for it, especially if you
help me to marry the marshal, if we should suc-
ceed soon, I'd take you to board with me, you and
Adeline. Ah! we could live very happily together.
Just for this time, take the advice of my experience.
Don't resort to the Mont-de-Piete, it means ruin to
the borrower. I have always found that those who
are in want haven't the necessary money to pay
the interest when the time for renewal comes around,
and it's all lost I can arrange for a loan for you
at five per cent on your own note."

"Ah! that would save us!" said Hortense.

"Very well, little one, let Wenceslas call on the
person who will accommodate him at my request
It's Madame Marneffe; by a little judicious flattery,
for she's as vain as all parvenus, you can induce
her to help you out of your embarrassment in the
most obliging way. Come to her house, my dear
Hortense. ' '

Hortense looked at Wenceslas with such an ex-
pression as men condemned to death must wear
when they mount the scaffold.



334 THE POOR RELATIONS

"Claude Vignon has presented Stidmann there,"
replied Wenceslas. "It's a very pleasant house."

Hortense hung her head. A single word will
serve to describe the sensation that came over her :
it was not grief, it was a deathly pang.

"Why, my dear Hortense, pray learn what life
is! " cried Lisbeth, comprehending the full meaning
of Hortense 's eloquent movement "If you don't,
you will be like your mother, banished to a deserted
chamber, where you will weep like Calypso after
the departure of Ulysses, in an age when there are
no Telemachuses ! "she added, repeating one of
Madame Marneffe's jocose remarks. "We must
look upon the people in the world as tools to be
made use of, to be taken up or laid aside, according
to their usefulness. Make use of Madame Marneffe,
my dears, and drop her later on. Are you afraid
that Wenceslas, who adores you, will conceive a
passion for a woman four or five years older than
you, faded as a truss of hay and "

"I much prefer to pledge my diamonds," said
Hortense. "Oh! never go there, Wenceslas! it's
a perfect hell ! "

"Hortense is right!" said Wenceslas, embracing
his wife.

"Thanks, my dear," replied the young woman,
happy beyond expression. "Oh! Lisbeth, my
husband's an angel; he doesn't gamble, we go
everywhere together, and if he could go to work in
earnest no, I should be too happy. Why should
we show ourselves at the house of our father's



COUSIN BETTE 335

mistress, a woman who is ruining him, and who is
the cause of the sorrow which is killing dear,
heroic mamma?"

"My child, that isn't the source of his ruin; it
was his songstress who ruined him, and then your
marriage!" rejoined Cousin Bette. "Great
heavens! Madame Marneffe is very useful to
him ! but I ought to say nothing"

"You stand up for everybody, dear Bette"

Here Hortense was summoned to the garden by
the shrieks of her child, and Lisbeth remained alone
with Wenceslas.

"You have an angel for a wife, Wenceslas! " said
she; "love her dearly, never make her unhappy."

"Yes, I love her so dearly that I conceal our situ-
ation from her," Wenceslas replied; "but I can
speak to you, Lisbeth Well then, if we should
pawn my wife's diamonds at the Mont-de-Piete, we
should be no better off."

"Then borrow from Madame Marneffe, " said
Lisbeth. "Induce Hortense to let you come there,
or else, why, come without her suspecting it!"

"That's what occurred to me," replied Wen-
ceslas, "just as I refused to go so as not to grieve
Hortense."

"Listen to me, Wenceslas; I love you both too
dearly not to warn you of the danger. If you come
there, hold your heart with both hands, for the
woman's a demon; every one who sees her wor-
ships her; she's so depraved, so alluring! She's
as fascinating as a masterpiece of art. Borrow her



336 THE POOR RELATIONS

money, but don't leave your heart in pawn. I
should never forgive myself if my cousin were to be
wronged. Here she is!" cried Lisbeth; "say no
more, I'll arrange the matter for you."

"Kiss Lisbeth, my angel," said Wenceslas to his
I wife, "she will help us out of our trouble by loaning
us her savings."

He made a sign to Lisbeth which she understood.

"Then I hope you will go to work, my cherub?"
said Hortense.

"Oh yes!" replied the artist, "to-morrow."

"It's this 'to-morrow' that ruins us," said Hor
tense with a smile.

"Ah! my dear child, I leave it to you if some-
thing hasn't turned up every day, obstacles of one
sort or another, or business?"

"Yes, you are right, my love."

"I have ideas here! " continued Steinbock strik-
ing his brow. "oh! but I mean to surprise all my
enemies. I mean to make a table service in the
German style of the Sixteenth Century, the dreamy
style! I will fashion leaves filled with insects; I
will have children lying upon them, and I will min-
gle with them chimeras never seen before, real
chimeras, the substance of our dreams! I have
them here! It will be intricate in execution,
airy and at the same time substantial. Chanor
went away filled with wondering admiration.
I needed encouragement, for the last article on
the Montcornet monument was too much for me
to bear."



COUSIN BETTE 337

When Lisbeth and Wenceslas were left alone
for a moment during the day, the artist agreed to
call upon Madame Marneffe the next day, when he
would either have obtained his wife's permission,
or would go on the sly.



Valerie, being made acquainted with this triumph
the same evening, required Baron Hulot to promise
that he would invite Stidmann, Claude Vignon and
Steinbock to dinner; for she was beginning to
tyrannize over him as women of her stamp can
tyrannize over old men, who trot all over the city
and carry invitations to anyone whose presence is
essential to the interests or vanity of their pitiless
mistresses.

The next day Valerie put herself under arms, by
making one of those toilettes to which fair Parisians
resort when they wish to make the most of all their
advantages. She made a careful study of the task,
as a man who is about to fight a duel rehearses his
feints and his parries. Not a fold, not a wrinkle.
Valerie's skin was never so soft and white and fine.
Her patches, too, insensibly attracted the eye. It
is commonly believed that the patches of the
Eighteenth Century have been forgotten or sup-
pressed ; this is an error. To-day the ladies, more
clever than their predecessors, resort to audacious
stratagems to attract the fire of the opera-glass.
Such an one was the first to invent the cockade of
ribbons, in the centre of which a diamond is placed,
and she monopolizes the public gaze for a whole
evening ; such another rehabilitates the net, or plants
a dagger in her hair to turn the mind to thoughts of

(339)



340 THE POOR RELATIONS

her garter; this one wears black-velvet wrist-
bands; that one reappears with lace in the coiffure
These sublime efforts, the Austerlitzes of coquetry or
of love, thereupon become the fashion for those in
less exalted spheres, just when their lucky inventors
are inventing others. For the evening in question,
'on which Valerie wished to achieve a notable
success, she arranged three patches. She had her
hair dressed with a water which changed her blonde
locks for a few days to gray. Madame Steinbock
was a brilliant blonde, and she was determined not
to resemble her in any respect. This unfamiliar
color imparted a something piquant and strange to
Valerie's appearance, and engrossed the attention
of her faithful servitors to such a degree that Montes
said to her: "What's the matter with you this
evening, pray?" Then she wore a black velvet
ribbon around her neck, of sufficient width to bring
out the dazzling whiteness of her breast The third
patch might be compared to the assassines our grand-
mothers used to wear. Valerie planted the sweetest
little rose-bud in the middle of her corsage just
where the dress meets the flesh, in the prettiest of
furrows. It was enough to make every man under
thirty lower his eyes.

"I am pretty enough to eat! " said she, practising
all her poses before the mirror exactly as a ballet-
dancer practises her bends.

Ljsbeth had gone to market, and the dinner
was to be one of those extra dainty repasts'
which Mathurine used to cook for the bishop



COUSIN BETTE 341

when he entertained his brother of the next
diocese.

Stidmann, Claude Vignon and Count Steinbock
arrived almost at the same time, toward six o'clock.
An ordinary, or, if you choose, a natural woman
on hearing his name, would have run to meet the
being she so ardently desired; but Valerie, who
had been waiting in her bed-room since five o'clock,
left her three guests together, well assured that she
would be the subject of their conversation, or at
least of their secret thoughts. In ordering the
arrangement of her salon she had put in evidence
the pretty trifles which Paris alone of all cities can
produce, which reveal the woman, and announce
her presence, so to speak; keepsakes bound with
enamel, and embroidered with pearls, cups filled
with lovely rings, chefs-d'oeuvre of Sevres or Sax-
ony porcelain mounted with exquisite taste by
Florent and Chanor, statuettes, too, and albums,
and all the other knick-knacks which command
fabulous prices, and are ordered from the manufac-
turers by passion in its first frenzy, or for a final
reconciliation. Valerie was under the spell of the
intoxication caused by success. She had promised
Crevel to be his wife, if Marneffe should die;
whereupon the amorous Crevel had caused the ten
thousand francs of revenue to be transferred to the
name of Valerie Fortin, that being the interest upon
his gains in railroad speculation during the past
three years, the net profits of the capital of a hun-
dred thousand crowns he had offered. Baroness Hulot



342 THE POOR RELATIONS

Thus Valerie was possessed of thirty-two thousand
francs a year. Crevel had just let slip a promise


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