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comer, instead of calling forth bills from soup-
' dealers, will save us from want "

"Valerie," retorted Marneffe, imitating Crevel's
attitude, "I hope Monsieur le Baron Hulot will take
care of his son and won't burden a poor clerk with
him ; I propose to be very exacting with him. So,
collect your evidence, madame! try to get some



COUSIN BETTE 379

letters from him in which he speaks of his good
fortune, for he seems very long-winded about secur-
ing my appointment. "

With that Marneffe set out for the department,
where the invaluable friendship of his director
permitted him to remain away from his office until
eleven o'clock; moreover, he did but little work
there, because of his notorious incapacity and his
distaste for work.

When they were left alone Lisbeth and Valerie
looked at each other for a moment like soothsayers,
and simultaneously broke forth in a great roar of
laughter.

"Tell me, Valerie, is it true?" said Lisbeth, "or
is it only a comedy ? "

"It's a physical truth! " Valerie replied. "Hor-
tense wears out my patience ! And last night it oc-
curred to me to toss this child like a bomb into
Wenceslas' household."

She went into her bedroom, followed by Lisbeth,
and showed her the following letter all written :

" Wenceslas, my dear, I still believe in your love, although
I have not seen you for nearly three weeks. Is it disdain ?
Delilah cannot think so. Is it not rather the tyranny of a
woman, whom you told me you could never love again?
Wenceslas, you are too great an artist to allow yourself to be
domineered over In this way. The family is the tomb of
glory ! Think whether you resemble the Wenceslas of the
Rue de Doyenne"? You missed fire with my father's monu-
ment ; but in you the lover is much more powerful than the
artist, and you are more fortunate with the daughter. My
adored Wenceslas, you are a father. If you should not come



380 THE POOR RELATIONS

to see me In my present condition you would be esteemed a
wretched creature by your friends ; but I love you so madly
that I feel I should never have the strength to curse you.
May 1 call myself ever

"THY VALERIE?"

"What do you say to my plan of sending this
letter to the studio when our dear Hortense is alone
there?" Valerie asked Lisbeth. "Last night I
learned from Stidmann that Wenceslas was to call
for him at eleven o'clock to go to Chanor's on busi-
ness; so that hussy of a Hortense will be alone."

"After such a trick," Lisbeth replied, "I could
no longer remain your friend openly; it would be
necessary for me to leave you, and let it be sup-
posed that I had ceased to see you or even speak
to you."

"Evidently," said Valerie; "but"

"Oh! don't you worry," Lisbeth interrupted.
"We will meet again when I am Madame la
Marechale; they all wish it now; the baron alone
knows nothing of the project, but you must bring
him around to it"

"But," said Valerie, "it's possible that I may
soon be on rather delicate terms with the baron."

"Madame Olivier's the only one who can be
trusted to ensure that Hortense shall intercept that
letter," said Lisbeth; "we must send her first to
Rue Saint-Dominique before she goes to the studio. "

"Oh! our pretty little one will be at home,"
Madame Marneffe replied, ringing for Reine to sum-
mon Madame Olivier.



COUSIN BETTE 581

Ten minutes after the fatal letter was despatched,
Baron Hulot arrived. Madame Marneffe sprang
upon the old man's neck with the movement of a cat.

"Hector, you are a father ! " she whispered in his
ear. "That's what comes of falling out and making
up again."

Noticing the start of surprise which the baron
could not repress quickly enough, Valerie assumed
a cold demeanor which drove the Councilor of State
to despair. She made him extort the most decisive
proofs from her one by one. When conviction,
taken gently by the hand by vanity, had made its
way into the old man's mind, she spoke to him of
Monsieur Marneffe's rage.

"My old grumbler," said she, "it's very cruel of
you not to appoint your responsible publisher, our
agent if you choose, chief of bureau and officer of
the Legion of Honor, for you have ruined the man ;
he adores his Stanislas, the little monstrico who
takes after him, and whom I can't endure. Unless
you prefer to give Stanislas twelve hundred francs
a year, the principal I mean, of course, the in-
come to be in my name.".

"But if I provide funds I prefer they should stand
in my son's name, and not in the monstrico' si 11 said
the baron.

This imprudent remark, wherein the words my
son were uttered .with the brutal impetuosity of a
river overflowing its banks, was metamorphosed,
after an hour's conversation, into a formal promise
to settle twelve hundred francs a year on the unborn



382 THE POOR RELATIONS

child. This promise was, upon Valerie's tongue
and in her face, what a drum is in the hands of a
small boy ; she had it to play with for three weeks.
Just as Baron Hulot, as happy as the man a year
married, who longs for an heir, left the house on
Rue Vanneau, Madame Olivier had driven Hortense
to extort from her the letter she was to hand to the
count in person. The young woman gave her a
twenty-franc piece for the letter. The suicide pays
for his opium, his pistol, his charcoal. Hortense
read the letter and re-read it; she saw nothing but
the white paper striped with black lines; there was
nothing but that piece of paper in the world, every-
thing was black about her. The glare of the con-
flagration which was consuming the edifice of her
happiness lighted up the paper, for the most pro-
found darkness reigned about her. The cries of her
little Wenceslas, who was playing near by, sounded
to her ear as if he were in the depths of a valley,
and she on the summit of a mountain. Outraged
thus at twenty-four, in all the splendor of her
beauty, enveloped in a pure, devoted love, the blow
was not a mere dagger-thrust, it was death itself.
The earlier attack was purely nervous, her body
writhed in the embrace of jealousy; but this cer-
tainly attacked the heart, and the body was as
nothing. For about ten minutes Hortense remained
in this dazed condition. Then her mother's image
appeared before her, and created a revolution. She
became calm and cold and recovered her reason.
She rang for her maid.



COUSIN BETTE 383

"Let Louise help you, my dear," she said to the
cook. "You must pack up, as soon as possible,
everything here that belongs to me, and all that
has to do with my son. I give you an hour.
When everything is ready, call a carriage from the
square and let me know. No remarks ! I am going
to leave the house and take Louise. You will stay
here with monsieur! take good care of him."

She went to her room, sat down at her desk, and
wrote the following letter :

"MONSIEUR LE COMTE :

" The letter attached to mine will explain the resolution
I have taken.

" When you read these lines I shall have left your house,
and taken shelter with my mother, with our child.

" Do not imagine that I shall ever reverse this decision.
Do not believe that it is due to the impulsiveness and incon-
siderate haste of youth, or to the sharp sting of young love
wounded ; you would be sadly mistaken.

" I have thought very deeply for two weeks past concerning
life and love, union and duty to each other. I have heard
the whole story of my mother's devotion, and she has told
me of her sorrows ! Every day for twenty-three years she
has shown herself a heroine ; but I do not feel that I am
strong enough to follow her example, not that I have loved
you less than she loves my father, but for reasons based upon
my temperament. Our home would become a hell on earth,
and I might lose my head so completely as to bring dishonor
upon you, upon myself, upon my child. I do not choose to
be a Madame Marneffe ; and, in such a career, a woman of
my disposition would perhaps never stop. Unluckily for my-
self, I am a Hulot, not a Fischer.

" Living alone, and at a distance from the sight of your
evil courses, I can answer for myself, especially as 1 have



384 THE POOR RELATIONS

our child to care for, near my sublimely strong-hearted
mother, whose life will soothe the tumultuous impulses of
my heart. There, 1 can be a good mother, bring up our son
carefully, and live. With you, the wife would kill the mother,
and incessant quarreling would embitter my disposition.

" 1 would welcome instant death ; but 1 do not choose to be
ill for twenty-five years, as my mother has been. If you
have been false to me for my father's mistress, after three
years of absolute, uninterrupted love, what rivals should I
not have to contend with later? Ah ! monsieur, you are
beginning much earlier than my father the career of libertinage
and extravagance, which dishonors the father of a family,
which lessens his children's respect for him, and at the end
of which disgrace and despair await him.

" I am not implacable. Unchangeable sentiments are not
becoming in feeble creatures who live under the eye of God.
If you win renown and fortune by persistent work, if you
abandon courtesans, and turn aside from these unsavory, miry
paths, you will again find a wife who is worthy of you.

" I believe you to be too much of a gentleman to have
recourse to the law. You will respect my wishes, Monsieur
le Comte, by leaving me with my mother ; and, above all
things, never go there. I have left you all the money that
hateful woman loaned you. Adieu !

"HORTENSE HULOT."

The writing of this letter was a painful task;
Hortense abandoned herself again and again to par-
oxysms of weeping, and to the cries of strangled
passion. She laid aside her pen and took it up
again in the effort to express in simple language
what love ordinarily declares rhapsodically in
these quasi-testamentary letters. Her heart over-
flowed in exclamations, in lamentations and tears;
but her reason dictated th$ words.



COUSIN BETTE 385

When informed by Louise that everything was
in readiness she walked slowly through the little
garden, the bed-room, the salon, and gazed at every-
thing for the last time. Then she urged the cook
most earnestly to look to monsieur's welfare, prom-
ising to reward her if she should be honest. At last
she entered the carriage to go to her mother's,
heart-broken, weeping so bitterly as to move her
maid to tears, and covering little Wenceslas with
kisses in a delirious joy, wnich betrayed still a world
of love for his father.

The baroness already knew from Lisbeth that the
father-in-law was much to blame for her son-in-
law's sin ; she was not surprised at her daughter's
arrival, but approved the step she had taken and
consented to keep her beneath her roof. Adeline,
upon reflecting that meekness and devotion had
never checked her Hector, for whom her esteem was
beginning to grow less, concluded that her daughter
did well to adopt a different course. Within three
weeks the poor mother had received two wounds,
which caused her suffering, keener than all the
agony she had hitherto undergone. The baron had
brought Victorin and his wife to financial straits, '
and, according to Lisbeth, he was the cause of
Wenceslas' going astray, he had debauched his
son-in-law. The majesty of this father of a family,
so long upheld by foolish sacrifices, was sadly
fallen. Without regretting their money, the
younger Hulots became distrustful of the baron,
and at the same time anxious concerning him.



386 THE POOR RELATIONS

These sentiments, which were quite perceptible,
deeply afflicted Adeline, who foresaw the break-up
of the family. Thanks to the marshal's money, she
speedily transformed the dining room into a bed-
room for her daughter, and the reception-room be-
came, as in so many houses, the dining-room.

When Wenceslas returned home, and had finished
reading the two letters, he was conscious of a
feeling of satisfaction mingled with sadness. Hav-
ing been kept in sight, so to speak, by his wife,
he had inwardly rebelled against this sort of con-
finement a la Lisbeth. Cloyed with love for three
years, he also had reflected during the past two
weeks; and his conclusion was that the family was
H heavy burden to bear. He had just been congrat-
ulated by Stidmann on the passion with which he
had inspired Valerie; for Stidmann, with a hidden
motive not difficult to imagine, deemed it advisable
to flatter Hortense's husband's self-love, hoping to
console the victim. So Wenceslas was happy to be
able to return to Madame Marneffe. But he remem-
bered the perfect, innocent happiness he had en-
joyed, he recalled Hortense's charms, her virtue,
her outspoken, innocent love, and he regretted her
keenly. He longed to rush to his mother-in-law's
to obtain forgiveness, but he did as Hulot and Cre-
vel did, he went to see Madame Marneffe, to whom
he carried his wife's letter, in order to show her
what a catastrophe she had caused, and so to speak
to discount his misfortune by demanding, in return,
pleasures from his mistress. He found Crevel



COUSIN BETTE 387

with Valerie. The mayor, swollen with pride,
was pacing up and down the salon, like a man
in intense excitement He kept striking his atti-
tude as if he were about to speak, but he dared not
His face was beaming, and he ran to the window to
drum on the glass with his fingers. He gazed at
Valerie with a deeply moved expression. Luckily
for Crevel, Lisbeth appeared.

"Do you know the news, cousin?" he whispered
in her ear. "I am a father ! It seems to me that I
care less for poor Celestine. Oh ! that's what it is
to have a child by a woman one idolizes! To com-
bine paternity of the heart with paternity of blood !
Oh! I pray you tell Valerie this: I will work for
the child, I mean he shall be rich! She tells me
that from certain indications she thinks it will be a
boy ! If it's a boy, I want him to take the name of
Crevel; I'll consult my notary."

"I know how much she loves you," said Lis-
beth; "but, in the name of your future and hers,
contain yourself; don't rub your hands so all the
time."

While Lisbeth was carrying on this aside with
Crevel, Valerie had demanded her letter from Wen-
ceslas, and was whispering in his ear words which
dissipated his gloom.

"So you're free, my dear," said she. "Ought
great artists ever to marry ? You have no existence
except in the play of your imagination and in per-
fect freedom ! Ah ! I will love you so dearly, my
dear poet, that you will never regret your wife.



388 THE POOR RELATIONS

However, If you prefer, like many men, to maintain
an appearance of propriety, I will undertake to bring
Hortense back to your house in a very short time."

"Oh ! if it were possible ! "

"I am sure of it," said Valerie, slightly piqued.
"Your poor father-in-law is done for in every re-
spect, but through self-esteem he wants to have the
appearance of being loved, and to make people think
he has a mistress; and he is so vain on that point
that I rule him absolutely. The baroness is still so
fond of her Hector it always seems to me as if I
were talking about the Iliad that the two old people
will bring about a reconciliation with Hortense.
But if you prefer not to have storms at home, don't
let three weeks go by without coming to see your
mistress. I should die. My darling, a gentleman
owes some consideration to a woman whom he has
placed in such a compromising position as mine,
especially when that woman has to take many pre-
cautions touching her reputation. Stay to dinner,
my angel, and remember that I must seem colder
to you because you are the author of this too visi-
ble sin."

Baron Montes was announced; Valerie rose, ran
to meet him, whispered to him for a few seconds,
and warned him concerning her demeanor toward
him, as she had just warned Wenceslas; for the
Brazilian had a diplomatic countenance, most appro-
priate for the reception of the great news, which
overwhelmed him with joy; he was certain of his
claim to the title of father.



COUSIN BETTE 389

By dint of this strategy, based upon the self-love
of man as lover, Valerie had at her table, all of them
joyous, lively and happy, four men who believed
themselves to be adored by her, and whom Marneffe,
understanding the whole plot, jocosely dubbed to
Lisbeth the "Five Fathers of the Church."

Baron Hulot alone wore an anxious expression at
first; just as he left his office he met the Superin-
tendent of Employes of the department, a general,
and his intimate friend for thirty years, and he
spoke to him of appointing Marneffe to Coquet's
place, the latter consenting to resign.

"My dear friend," said he, "I prefer not to ask
this favor of the marechal unless we are in accord,
and I have your approval of the appointment"

"My dear fellow," replied the Superintendent of
Employes, "permit me to say to you that, for your
own sake, you ought not to insist upon this appoint-
ment I have already told you my opinion. It
would cause a scandal in the department, where
there is already far too much talk of yourself and
Madame Marneffe. This between ourselves. I have
no wish to touch you on a sensitive spot, nor to
disoblige you in anything under heaven, and I will
give you a proof of it If you really insist upon it,
if you are determined to ask for Monsieur Coquet's
place, who would truly be a great loss to the War
Department, he has been there since 1809, I will
go into the country for a fortnight, in order to leave
you a clear field with the marechal, who loves you
like a son. Thus I shall be neither for nor against,



390 THE POOR RELATIONS

and I shall have done nothing to offend my con-
science as a government official."

"I thank you," the baron replied, "and I will
think over what you have said."

"If I allow myself to say so much, my dear friend,
it is because your personal interest is much more
deeply concerned than my interest or my self-
esteem. In the first place the marechal is the mas-
ter. In the second place, my friend, we are blamed
for so many things that what is one more or less!
we are not virgins so far as criticism is concerned.
Under the Restoration people were appointed to
office to give them the salary, and without consider-
ing the good of the service. We are old com-
rades "

"True," rejoined the baron, "and it was because
I did not want to interrupt our long-standing, pre-
cious friendship, that I "

"All right," said the superintendent, observing
the embarrassment depicted upon Hulot's face, "I'll
take a little trip, old fellow. But take care! you
have enemies, that is to say, men who covet your
handsome salary, and you have but one anchor out
Ah! if you were a deputy as I am, you would
have nothing to fear; so look well to yourself. "

This most friendly language made a deep impres-
sion on the Councilor of State.

"But what is it, Roger ? Don't play the mysteri-
ous with me!"

The functionary whom Hulot called Roger looked
him in the face, took his hand and pressed it



COUSIN BETTE 39!

"We have been friends too long for me to shrink
from giving you a piece of advice. If you wish to
retain your position, you must make your own bed.
And so, if I were in your position, instead of asking
the marechal for Monsieur Coquet's place for Mon-
sieur Marneffe, I would beg him to use his influence
to keep me in regular service at the Council of
State, where I would die in peace; and like the
beaver I would give over my general directorship to
the hunters."

"What! could the marechal forget? "

"My old friend, the marechal has defended you so
vigorously in the Council of Ministers that there
is no longer any thought of turning you out; but it
has been talked of! So don't give them any pre-
text I won't say anything further. At this moment
you can make your own terms, being a Councilor
of State and peer of France. If you wait too long,
if you give them a hold on you, I'll answer for noth-
ing. Shall I go into the country? "

"Wait until I see the marechal," replied Hulot,
"and I will send my brother to feel the ground
about the master."

We can understand in what frame of mind the
baron returned to Madame Marneffe's ; he had almost
forgotten that he was a father, for Roger had acted
the part of a kind and true comrade in enlightening
him as to his position. Nevertheless, so great was
Valerie's influence over him that, before the dinner
was half over the baron entered into the spirit of
the occasion, and was all the more jovial because



392 THE POOR RELATIONS

he had additional cares to drown ; but the wretched
man did not suspect that before the evening was
over, he should himself be compelled to choose be-
tween his own happiness and the danger pointed
out by the superintendent, that is to say between
Madame Marneffe and his office. About eleven
o'clock, just when the scene was most animated,
for the salon was filled with guests, Valerie took
Hector with her to a corner of her divan.

"My dear old friend," she whispered, "your
daughter is so deeply irritated because Wenceslas
comes here, that she has made a stand upon that
point. A bad-tempered creature, that Hortense.
Ask Wenceslas to show you the letter the little fool
wrote him. This separation of two lovers, of which
1 am said to be the cause, may do me immeasurable
harm, for that's the way virtuous women attack
each other. It's scandalous to play at being vic-
timized, so as to throw the blame upon a woman
who has done no other wrong than having a pleas-
ant house. If you love me, you will exculpate me
by reconciling the two turtle-doves. Besides I'm
not at all set upon receiving your son-in-law; you
brought him to me, take him away again ! If you
have any authority in the family it seems to me
that you might very properly require your wife to
bring about a reconciliation. Tell her from me,
dear old lady, that if I am unjustly charged with
having caused trouble between a young couple, with
having disturbed the harmony of a family and taken
both the father and the son-in-law, I'll earn my



COUSIN BETTE 393

reputation by raising the deuce with them, in my own
way! Why, here is Lisbeth talking of leaving me!
She prefers her family to me, and I can't blame her
for it She won't stay here, she says, unless the
young people are reconciled. Left to ourselves the
expense here will be tripled! "

"Oh! as to that," said the baron, upon being in-
formed of his daughter's escapade, "I'll arrange
matters all right"

"Very well," replied Valerie, "there's another
thing. What about Coquet's place?"

"That," replied Hector lowering his eyes, "is
more difficult, not to say impossible! "

"Impossible, my dear Hector," said Madame Mar-
neffe in the baron's ear; "why you don't know to
what extremes Marneffe will go. I am in his power;
like most men, he is immoral in his own interest,
but he is exceedingly vindictive after the manner of
all small-minded, impotent men. In the situation in
which you have placed me, I am at his discretion.
I am obliged to go back with him for a few days, and
he is quite capable of never leaving my room again. "

Hulot gave a prodigious start

"He would leave me in peace on condition that he
is made chief of bureau. It's infamous, but logical. "

"Valerie, do you love me?"

"That question, my dear, in my present condi-
tion, is an insult worthy of a lackey "

"Very well, if I make up my mind to try, simply
to try to ask the marechal for a place for Marneffe, I
am no longer anybody and Marneffe is dismissed.'*



394 - THE POOR RELATIONS

"I thought that you and the prince were intimate
friends!"

"Surely, he has given me substantial proofs of
his friendship; but, my child, there is someone
above the marechal, for instance, the whole council
of ministers. With a little time, by standing off
and on, we shall get there. To be sure of success
we must wait for the moment when they ask for
some service at my hands. Then I can say: 'I pass
you the cassia, pass me the senna. ' "

"If I tell Marneffe that, my poor Hector, he'll play
us some vile trick. Do you tell him yourself that
he must wait; I won't undertake it Oh! I know
my fate ; he knows how to punish me and he won't
leave rny room. Don't forget the twelve hundred
francs a year for the little one."

Hulot took Marneffe aside, feeling that his enjoy-
ment was threatened; and for the first time he
dropped the lofty tone he had thus far adopted
toward him, so dismayed was he by the idea of that
moribund creature in his pretty wife's bed-room.

" Marneffe, my dear fellow," said he, "we've
been talking about you to-day ! But you won't be
chief of the bureau at the first stroke. We must


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