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afford her some little distraction, and allowed her to
make the acquaintance of a pretty little actress, one
Jenny Cadine, whose lot in life bore some resem-
blance to hers. This actress also owed everything
to a protector, who had bestowed great care upon her
bringing up. This protector was Baron Hulot."

" I know it, monsieur," said the baroness in a
calm, unmoved voice.

" Eh! the deuce!" cried Crevel, more and more
taken aback. " Very good! But do you know that
your monster of a man protected Jenny Cadine at
the age of thirteen?"

"Well, monsieur, what of it?" said the baroness.

"As Jenny Cadine," resumed the former trades-
man, "was twenty, Josepha's age, when they
became acquainted, the baron must have been
playing the r&le that Louis XV. played with Made-
moiselle de Romans from 1826, and in that case you
had for at least twelve years "

"Monsieur, I had my reasons for allowing M.
Hulot his liberty."

"That falsehood, madame, will suffice no doubt
to atone for all the sins you have committed, and



22 THE POOR RELATIONS

will open the gate of Paradise to you," retorted
Crevel with a cunning leer, which made the baroness
blush. " Tell that to others, sublime and adorable
woman, but not to Pere Crevel, who, you must
know, has made one of a party of four with your
villain of a husband too often not to be fully aware
of your worth! He sometimes reproached himself,
between two glasses, as he dilated to me upon your
perfections. Oh! I know you well: you are an
angel. Between a young girl of twenty and your-
self a libertine might hesitate: I do not."

" Monsieur!"

"All right; I will stop at that. But understand,
O saintly and dignified woman, that husbands,
once in their cups, tell many tales of their wives to
their mistresses, who laugh without stint at them."

Tears of shame, which trickled from between
Madame Hulot's lovely eyelashes, brought the
national guardsman to a halt, and he no longer
thought of assuming his favorite attitude.

"I resume," said he. "We were brought
together, the baron and myself, by our rascalities.
The baron, like all men of vicious habits, is very
attractive, and a downright good fellow. Oh! the
rascal won my heart! He was a man of expedients.
But a truce to these reminiscences. We became
like two brothers. The villain, for all the world
like the Regent, did his best to lead me astray, to
preach Saint-Simonism where women were con-
cerned, to fill me with the ideas of a great lord, of a
thoroughbred aristocrat; but, mark you, I loved my



COUSIN BETTE 23

little one well enough to marry her, if I had not
dreaded having children. How do you suppose that
two old papas, such friends as as we were, could
fail to think of marrying our children ? Three
months after your son's marriage to my Clestine,
Hulot I don't know how 1 can pronounce his name,
the traitor! for he deceived us both, madame well,
the traitor spirited my little Josepha away from me.
The villain knew that he was supplanted by a Coun-
cilor of State and an artist save the mark! in the
heart of Jenny Cadine, whose vogue increased most
prodigiously, and he took from me my poor little
mistress, a love of a woman ; but you certainly
must have seen her at the Italiens, where his influ-
ence secured her an engagement. Your man is not
as prudent as myself, who am as regular as a sheet
of music he had already been well cut into by
Jenny Cadine, who cost him well nigh thirty thous-
and francs a year. Well, you must know he ruined
himself utterly for Josepha. Josepha, madame, is
a Jewess; her name is Mirah an anagram of Hiram
an Israelitish device intended as a means of iden-
tification, for she was abandoned as a child in Ger-
many my investigations prove that she is the
natural daughter of a wealthy Jew banker. The
stage, and, above all, the lessons she learned from
Jenny Cadine, Madame Schontz, Malaga and Cara-
bine, as to the method of handling old men, devel-
oped in this child, whom I maintained in a virtuous
and inexpensive life, the instinctive thirst of the first
Hebrews for gold and jewels, for the golden calf !



24 THE POOR RELATIONS

The celebrated cantatrice, having acquired a fierce
greed for gain, is determined to be rich, very rich.
And so she squanders not a sou of all that is squan-
dered upon her. She tried her hand upon Monsieur
Hulot, and plucked him clean. Oh! she shaved him,
as the saying is! The poor fellow, after contending
with one of the Kellers and the Marquis d'Esgrignon,
both mad over Josepha, to say nothing of her
unknown idolaters, will soon see her taken from him
by that enormously wealthy duke, who patronizes
the arts. What's his name? a dwarf? ah! yes;
the Duke d'Herouville. This great nobleman pro-
poses to have Josepha all to himself; the whole
courtesan world is talking about it, and the baron
knows nothing of it; for it is the same in the thir-
teenth arrondissement as in all the others: the lover,
like the husband, is the last to find out what is
going on. Now do you understand my rights?
Your husband, fair lady, has robbed me of my hap-
piness, of the only joy I have had since I lost my
wife. Yes, if I had not had the ill-luck to meet that
old spendthrift, Josepha would still be mine ; for
you see I would never have put her on the stage;
she would have remained obscure, virtuous and all
my own. Oh! if you had seen her eight years ago;
slender and lithe, with the golden complexion of an
Andalusian, as they say; black hair that shone like
satin, eyes with long brown lashes, whose glances
were like flashes of lightning, the distinction of a
duchess in her gestures, and as modest in her pov-
erty, her unassuming grace and loveliness, as a wild



COUSIN BETTE . 25

deer! By the fault of Monsieur Hulot her charms,
her purity, everything has become a trap for wolves,
a hole to catch hundred-sou pieces. The little one
is the queen of demi-reps, as the saying goes.
Last of all, to-day she blagues, she who used to
know nothing at all, hardly the meaning of the
word!"

At this juncture the quondam perfumer wiped his
eyes, in which a few tears had gathered. The evi-
dent sincerity of his grief had its effect upon Mad-
ame Hulot, who roused herself from the fit of
abstraction into which she had fallen.

" Well, madame, can one find such another treas-
ure at fifty -two years? At that age love costs
thirty thousand francs a year; I have the figures
from your husband, and I am too fond of Celestine
to ruin her. When I first saw you at the first eve-
ning party you gave us, I could not understand why
that villain Hulot should keep a Jenny Cadine.
You had the bearing of an empress. You are less
than thirty years old, madame," he continued; " to
me you seem young; you are beautiful. On my
word of honor I was touched to the heart that day,
and I said to myself: ' If I had not my Josepha, as
Pere Hulot neglects his wife, she would fit me like
a glove.' Ah! pardon me, that is an expression of
my former trade. The perfumer will peep out from
time to time, and that is what prevents my aspiring
to be a deputy. So it was that when I was betrayed
in such dastardly fashion by the baron, for, among
old sinners like us, our friends' mistresses should



26 THE POOR RELATIONS

be held sacred, I swore to take his wife away from
him. It's no more than fair. The baron would
have nothing to say, and we are sure of impunity.
You turned me out of doors like a mangy dog at the
first words I let fall as to the state of my heart;
thereby you redoubled my love, my obstinacy, if
you please, and you shall be mine."

"How, pray?"

" I don't know, but it shall be. Look you, mad-
ame, an idiot of a perfumer retired! who has but
one idea in his head is more formidable than a man
of intellect who has thousands of them. I am clean
gone over you, and you are my revenge! it is as if
I were in love twice over. I speak frankly to you,
like a determined man. Just as you say to me: 'I
will not be yours,' so I talk coolly with you. In
short, I play with my cards on the table, according
to the proverb. Yes, you shall be mine, and before
long, too. Oh! if you were fifty, still you should
be my mistress. It shall be, I say, for I expect
every assistance from your husband "

Madame Hulot fixed her eyes upon the scheming
tradesman in such a terrified stare, that he thought
she had gone mad, and he checked himself.

"You would have it so, you poured out your scorn
on me, you defied me, and I have spoken!" he said,
feeling the necessity of justifying the brutality of
his last words.

" Oh! my child! my child!" cried the baroness in
a voice like a dying woman's.

"Ah! I no longer care for anything!" rejoined



COUSIN BETTE 27

Crevel. "On the day Josepha was taken from
me, I was like a tigress whose whelps have been
stolen. In short, I was as I see you now. Your
daughter! she is the means by which I obtain you.
Yes, 1 put a stop to your daughter's marriage! and
you can not find a husband for her without my help!
Beautiful as Mademoiselle Hortense is, she must have
a dot."

" Alas! yes,''' said the baroness, wiping her eyes.

" Very well, try asking the baron for ten thousand
francs," said Crevel, striking his attitude once more.

He waited a moment, like an actor marking time.

"If he had them he would give them to the one
who takes Josepha's place," said he, pitching his
voice in a higher key. " Does a man ever stop on
the road he has taken? He is too fond of women!
There is a golden mean in everything, as our king
has said. And then vanity takes a hand! He's a
fine man! He'll ruin you all for his own gratifica-
tion. Indeed you're on the road to the poor-house
even now. See, since I ceased my visits you
haven't been able to re-furnish your salon. The
words straitened circumstances are belched out at
one by every lizard on yonder hangings. What
son-in-law would not be dismayed by such thinly
disguised evidences of poverty in its most horrible
form, the poverty of people of fashion? I have
been a shopkeeper and I know what I'm talking
about. There's no eye so keen as a Paris trades-
man's to discover the difference between real and
apparent affluence. You haven't a sou," he said in



28 THE POOR RELATIONS

a low voice. " That is visible in everything, even
in your servant's coat. Do you want me to disclose
to you certain frightful mysteries of which you know
nothing?"

"Monsieur," said Madame Hulot, whose hand-
kerchief was saturated with her tears, "Enough!
Enough!"

" But my son-in-law supplies his father with
money, and that is what I intended to tell you at the
outset as to your son's proceedings. But I have an
eye to my daughter's interests never fear."

" Oh! to marry my daughter and die!" cried the
wretched woman, fairly beside herself.

" Very good, this is the way to do it!" rejoined
the former perfumer.

Madame Hulot looked up at Crevel with a gleam
of hope, which transformed her features so swiftly,
that that single movement might well have softened
the man's heart and induced him to abandon his
absurd project.

"You will be beautiful for ten years to come,"
resumed Crevel, posing; " be kind to me, and Made-
moiselle Hortense is married. Hulot has given me
the right, as I told you, to make the bargain without
scruple, and he won't be angry. For the last three
years I have put my capital to good use, for my fol-
lies have been few and far between. I am three
hundred thousand francs to the good over and above
my fortune, and they are yours."

"Go, monsieur," said Madame Hulot; "go and
never show your face to me again. Except that



COUSIN BETTE 29

you made it necessary for me to know the secret of
your cowardly conduct in the matter of Hortense's
marriage yes, cowardly" she repeated, in re-
sponse to Crevel's gesture, "how can you vent
vour spleen upon a poor girl, a lovely, innocent
creature? Except for that necessity which tore my
maternal heart, you would never have spoken to me
again, you would never have put foot inside my
door. Thirty -two years of honor, of wifely loyalty,
shall not go for nothing under the attacks of M.
Crevel "

" Former dealer in perfumery, successor to C6sar
Birotteau, sign of La Reine des Roses, Rue Saint
Honore," said Crevel, in a mocking tone, " ex-
deputy mayor, captain in the national guard, chev-
alier of the Legion of Honor, just as my predecessor
was."

"Monsieur," continued the baroness, "M. Hulot
after twenty years of constancy may have grown
weary of his wife ; that concerns nobody but me ;
but, you see, monsieur, that he has made a great
mystery of his infidelities, for I was unaware that
he had supplanted you in Josepha's heart."

" Oh !" cried Crevel, " by the use of money,
madame ! The nightingale has cost him more than a
hundred thousand francs within two years. Ah! you
are not yet at the end."

" A truce to all this, Monsieur Crevel. Not for you
will I renounce the happiness a mother feels when
she can kiss her children without a pang of remorse
at her heart, and feel that she is respected and loved



30 THE POOR RELATIONS

by her family, and I will give back my soul to God
without stain."

"Amen!" said Crevel with the diabolical sneer in
which people of extravagant pretensions indulge
when they are thwarted anew in such enterprises.
"You are unacquainted with poverty in its last
stages shame, dishonor. I have tried to enlighten
you, for I would have been glad to save you and
your daughter ! but you* shall spell out the modern
parable of the prodigal father, from the first letter
to the last. Your tears and your pride touch my
heart, for it is a terrible thing to see a woman one
loves weep !" continued Crevel, taking a seat. " All
that I can promise you, dear Adeline, is to take no
steps against you or your husband; but never send
to me for information. That's all !"

" What shall I do, pray ?" cried Madame Hulot.

Hitherto the baroness had borne up bravely under
the threefold torture which this explanation inflicted
upon her heart, for she suffered as woman, as mother,
and as wife. Indeed, as her son's father-in-law
became more arrogant and aggressive, she had
found strength in her very resistance to the shop-
keeper's brutality ; but the touch of good nature he
exhibited in the midst of his exasperation as a re-
jected lover, as a humiliated national guardsman,
relaxed the extreme tension of her nerves ; she
wrung her hands, burst into tears, and was in such
a state of prostration that she allowed Crevel, on
his knees, to kiss her hands.

"My God ! what will become of us?" she cried.



COUSIN BETTE 31

wiping her eyes. " Can a mother look on uncon-
cernedly and see her daughter pine away before her
eyes ? What will be the fate of such a superb
creature, as strong in her virtuous life by her mother's
side, as in her richly-endowed nature ? Some days
she walks in the garden, sad at heart, without know-
ing why. I find her with tears in her eyes."

" She is twenty-one years old," said Crevel.

"Should I put her in a convent ?" asked the
baroness, " for at such crises religion is often power-
less against nature, and the girls who have been most
piously brought up lose their heads ! "

" But rise, monsieur, I pray you; do you not see
that everything is now at an end between us, that
you fill me with horror, that you have crushed a
mother's last hope!"

" And what if I should raise it again?" he said.

Madame Hulot gazed at him with a frenzied expres-
sion, which touched him, but he forced back his com-
passion because of that phrase : you fill me with horror!
Virtue is always a little too unkindly and takes no
account of the devices and expedients by which
people extricate themselves from a false position.

"In these days men don't marry, without dot, a
young woman as lovely as Mademoiselle Hortense,"
continued Crevel, resuming his affected manner.
" Your daughter is one of those beauties who frighten
husbands ; she is like a thoroughbred horse which
requires too expensive care to find many buyers.
Walk about with such a woman on your arm ?
Every one will stare at you, follow you, covet your



32 THE POOR RELATIONS

wife. Such good luck is disquieting to many men,
who don't thirst for lovers to kill, for, after all, one
never kills but one. In your present situation you
can provide a husband for your daughter only in one
of three ways : by my assistance, but you'll have
none of it ! And, again: by hunting up an old man
of sixty, very rich, one who has no children, but
would like to have ; such a man is hard to find, but
they do exist ; there are so many old men who take
Josephas and Jenny Cadines, why shouldn't you
find one who would make as big a fool of himself
legitimately ? If 1 hadn't my Celestine and our two
grandchildren I would marry Hortense. Two ! The
last way is the easiest."

Madame Hulot raised her head and looked anx-
iously at the perfumer.

" Paris is a city where all the enterprising fellows
who sprout like wild shrubs on French soil come
together ; talent of all kinds swarms there, without
hearth or home, and courage capable of anything,
even of rising in the world. Well, these fellows
your humble servant was one of them in his day,
and knows whereof he speaks ! What had Du
Tillet or Popinot twenty years ago ? They were
both plodding along in Papa Birotteau's shop with
no other capital than the wish to succeed, which, in
my opinion, is worth all the capital in the world !
You can eat up your capital, and you can't eat up
your moral strength ! What had I myself ? desire
to succeed and courage. Du Tillet to-day is on a
par with the greatest personages. Little Popinot,



COUSIN BETTE 33

the richest druggist on Rue des Lombards, became a
deputy and is now minister. Very well, one of
these condotticri, as they say, of the Stock Exchange,
the pen or the brush, is the only being in Paris,
capable of marrying a lovely young girl without a
sou, for they have all sorts of courage. M. Popinot
married Mademoiselle Birotteau without the slightest
hope of a Hard of dot. Those people are mad !
They believe in love, as they believe in their luck
and their talents ! Find some enterprising fellow
who will fall in love with your daughter, and he
will marry her without a care for the present. You
must agree that, for an enemy, I am not ungener-
ous, for this advice is against my own interest."

"Ah! Monsieur Crevel, if you really mean to be
my friend, give up these absurd ideas!"

"Absurd? Madame, do not rush on your own de-
struction in this way, pray, I love you, and you will
come to me! I mean to say some day to Hulot: 'You
took Josepha from me, and I have taken your wife!'
It's the old law of retaliation! And I will follow out
my plan to the end, unless you become excessively
ugly. I shall succeed, too, and for this reason," he
added, striking his attitude and looking Madame Hu-
lot in the face, "You will not fall in with an amor-
ous old man or an amorous young man either," he
resumed after a pause, " because you love your
daughter too dearly to abandon her to the devious
ways of an old rake, and because you, Baroness
Hulot, sister of the old lieutenant-general who com-
manded the old grenadiers of the Old Guard, will
3



34 THE POOR RELATIONS

never resign yourself to take up with the man of
enterprise in the place where you will find him; for
he may be a simple artisan, just as the millionaire
of to-day was a simple mechanic ten years ago, a
simple overseer of workmen, a simple foreman of a
factory. And then, when you realize that your
daughter, with the spirit of her twenty years, is
'capable of dishonoring you, you will say to yourself:
1 It's much better that I should be the one to dis-
honor myself; and if M. Crevel will keep it secret,
1 will earn my daughter's dowry, two hundred
thousand francs, by ten years' devotion to the
former glove merchant Pere Crevel!' I bore you,
and what I say is shockingly immoral, is it not?
But if you were consumed by an irresistible passion
you would resort to such arguments, as women who
are in love use, to justify you in yielding to me.
Hortense's interests will suggest to your heart these
methods of compounding with your conscience."

" Hortense has another uncle."

"Who? Pere Fischer? He is winding up his
affairs, by the baron's fault also, for his rake spares
no cash-box within its reach."

" Count Hulot "

I " Oh ! your husband, madame, has already
squandered the savings of the old lieutenant-
general he used them to furnish his songstress's
house. Come, will you allow me to go away
without hope?"

" Adieu, monsieur. One is easily cured of a
passion for a woman of my age, and Christian



COUSIN BETTE 35

thoughts will gain the upper hand. God protects
the unfortunate "

The baroness rose to compel the captain to with-
draw, and forced him back into the large salon.

" Ought the lovely Madame Hulot to pass her life
amid such rubbish as this?" he said.

And he pointed to an old lamp, a chandelier of
which the gilding was worn off, the threadbare car-
pet ; in fine, alj the rags and tatters of opulence
which made of that white and red and gold salon
a ghastly spectre of the festivities of the Empire.

"Virtue, monsieur, sheds its lustre over every-
thing here. I have no desire to acquire a magnificent
establishment by making of this beauty which you
attribute to me a trap for wolves, a hole to catch hun-
dred-sou pieces !"

The captain bit his lips as he recognized the epi-
thets with which he had inveighed against Josepha's
greed.

"For whose sake is all this perseverance?" he
asked.

At that moment the baroness had escorted him as
far as the door.

"For a libertine!" he added, with the smug
expression of a virtuous man and a millionaire.

"If you were right, monsieur, there would be
some merit in my constancy, that's all."

She left the captain after she had bowed to him
as one bows to rid one's self of a bore, and turned
her back too quickly to see him for the last time in
his favorite pose. She set about opening all the



36 THE POOR RELATIONS

doors she had previously closed, and did not notice
the threatening gesture with which Crevel said
adieu. She walked with the proud and noble bear-
ing of a martyr at the Coliseum. Her strength was
exhausted, nevertheless, for she dropped upon the
couch in her blue boudoir as if she were ready to
faint, and lay there with her eyes fixed upon the
ruined kiosk where her daughter was chattering with
Cousin Bette.



From the first days of her married life up to that
moment the baroness had loved her husband as
Josephine finally came to love Napoleon, with an
admiring, motherly, unreflecting affection. Even if
she did not know all the details Crevel had given
her, she was very well aware that for twenty years
past Baron Hulot had been guilty of acts of infidelity,
but she drew a veil of lead over her eyes and wept
in silence, and never a reproachful word escaped
her lips. In return for this angelic sweetness of
temper she had gained the veneration of her hus-
band, and was worshipped as a divinity by those
about her. A wife's love for her husband,, and the
respect with which she hedges it about, are conta-
gious in a family. Hortense believed her father to
be a flawless model of conjugal affection. As for
Hulot, the son, he had been brought up to admire
the baron, in whose person everyone recognized
one of the titans who sustained Napoleon, and he
knew that he owed his position to the paternal
name, rank and importance; moreover the impres-
sions of childhood retain their influence for a long
while, and he still feared his father; so that even
had he suspected the irregularities disclosed by
Crevel, he was too respectful to complain, and
would besides have excused them for reasons based
upon the way in which men look at such matters.
(37)



38 THE POOR RELATIONS

It becomes necessary at this point to explain the
extraordinary devotion of this beautiful and noble-
hearted woman; this, in a few words, is the siory
of her life:

In a village on the extreme frontier of Lorraine,
at the foot of the Vosges, lived three brothers, named
Fischer, simple laborers, who left their homes, by
force of the republican conscription, to join the army
called the Army of the Rhine.

In 1799, Andre, the second brother, a widower,
and father of Madame Hulot, left his daughter in
charge of his elder brother, Pierre Fischer, who was
rendered incapable of further service by a wound re-
ceived in 1797, and engaged in certain enterprises in
the way of military transportation, being indebted for
the opportunity to the patronage of the commissary-


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