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in-chief, Hulot d'Ervy . It happened, naturally enough,
that Hulot, who paid a visit to Strasbourg, made the
acquaintance of the Fischer family. Adeline's father
and his younger brother were at that time bidders
for the contract to furnish forage in Alsace.

Adeline, then sixteen years old, might be com
pared to the famous Madame du Barry, like herself
a child of Lorraine. She was one of those perfect,
bewildering beauties, one of those women like Mad-
ame Tallien, upon whose moulding nature bestows
especial care; upon them she lavishes her most pre-
cious gifts: distinction, nobility, grace, refinement,
elegance, flesh unlike other flesh, and coloring com-
pounded in that undiscovered workshop where
Chance is the workman. Those lovely creatures



COUSIN BETTE 39

all resemble one another. Bianca Capella, whose
portrait is one of Bronzino's chefs-d'oeuvre; the
Venus of Jean Goujon, the original of which was
the celebrated Diane de Poitiers; Signora Olympia,
whose portrait is in the Doria Gallery; Ninon, Ma-
dame du Barry, Madame Tallien, Mademoiselle
Georges, Madame Rcamier, all those women, who
retained their beauty despite their years, their pas-
sions, or the excessively dissipated lives they led,
have points of striking similarity in their shape and
build, and in the character of their beauty; so strik-
ing as to lead one to believe that there exists in the
ocean of the generations of mankind an Aphrodisian
current whence issue all these Venuses, children of
the same briny wave.

Adeline Fischer, one of the fairest of the divine
race, possessed the sublime characteristics, the ser-
pentine outlines, the poisonous fabric of those women
who are queens from their birth. The fair hair which
God's hand bestowed upon our mother Eve, the
figure of an empress, a majestic bearing, a stately
profile, the modesty of a village maiden, caused all
men to stop and look as she passed by, charmed as
amateurs in art are charmed by a Raphael; and so
it was that the commissary, having seen her, took
Mademoiselle Adeline Fischer to wife, to the un-
bounded amazement of the Fischers, who had been
brought up in awe of their superiors.

The elder, a soldier of 1792, and severely wounded
in the attack upon the lines at Wissembourg, adored
the Emperor Napoleon and everything -connected



40 THE POOR RELATIONS

with the Grande Armee. Andre and Johann spoke
with respect of Commissary Hulot, the Emperor's
protege, to whom, moreover, they owed their pros-
perity, for Hulot d'Ervy, finding them to be intelli-
gent and honest, took them from the provision train
of the army to place them at the head of a special
commissary-department. The brothers Fischer made
themselves useful in the campaign of 1804. Hulot,
at the peace, obtained for them the contract to fur-
nish forage in Alsace, not knowing that he should be
sent to Strasbourg later to make preparations for the
campaign of 1806.

To the young peasant girl this marriage was like
an Assumption. The fair Adeline passed without
transition from the mire of her native village to the
paradise of the imperial court. About that time the
commissary, who was one of the most upright and
untiring officials of his corps, was created a baron,
summoned to attend upon the Emperor, and attached
to the Imperial Guard. The lovely village maiden had
the courage to educate herself for love of her husband,
with whom she was nothing less than madly in love.
Indeed the commissary-in-chief was as a man, the
counterpart of Adeline as a woman. He was one
of the chosen few among handsome men. Tall,
well-built, fair, with sparkling blue eyes full of fire,
of irresistible variety of expression, and a graceful
figure, he attracted attention among the D'Orsays,
the Forbins, the Ouvrards; in a word, in the bat-
talion of the handsome men of the Empire. A man
made for conquest, and imbued with the theories in



COUSIN BETTE 41

vogue under the Directory in respect to women, his
licentious career was interrupted for a considerable
time by his attachment to his wife.

In Adeline's eyes the baron was, from the begin-
ning, a sort of god who could do no wrong; she
owed everything to him: fortune, she had a car-
riage, a house in town, and all the luxuries of the
time; happiness, she was loved in sight of all the
world; a title, she was a baroness; celebrity, she
was known at Paris as lovely Madame Hulot; in
fact, she had the honor of repelling the homage of the
Emperor, who presented her with a diamond neck-
lace, and continued to confer distinction upon her in
his thoughts, for he would ask from time to time:
"What of lovely Madame Hulot, is she still virtu-
ous?" in the tone of a man capable of wreaking
vengeance upon him who should succeed where he
had failed.

Not overmuch intelligence is needed, therefore,
to distinguish, in a simple, innocent, spotless heart
like Madame Hulot's, the causes of the fanatical
adoration which was mingled with her love. Hav-
ing said to herself that her husband should never
have ground for complaint against her, she became,
in her inmost heart, the humble, devoted, blind ser-
vant of her creator. Take note, however, that she
was endowed with great good sense, with the good
sense of the common people, which gives solidity
to their education. In society she talked but little,
spoke ill of no one, and did not seek to shine ; she
reflected deeply upon every subject, listened closely



42 THE POOR RELATIONS

and modeled herself upon the most virtuous women
and those of most eminent birth.

In 1815 Hulot followed the line of conduct adopted
by the Prince of Wissembourg, one of his most in-
timate friends, and was one of the organizers of
that improvised army, whose defeat at Waterloo
brought the Napoleonic cycle to a close. In 1816
the baron became one of the bugbears of the Feltre
ministry, and was not reinstated in the commissary
department until 1823, when his services were
needed for the Spanish war. In 1830 he reappeared
in the government as quart de ministre, at the time
of the species of conscription undertaken by Louis-
Philippe among the old adherents of Napoleon. After
the accession of the younger branch, of which he
was a zealous supporter, he remained at the Minis-
try of War, an indispensable fixture. He had obtained
his marshal's baton, however, and the king could do
nothing more for him, unless it were to make him a
minister or peer of France.

Being without occupation from i8i8to 1823, Baron
Hulot became most assiduous in his attentions to the
gentler sex. Madame Hulot fixed the date of her Hec-
tor's earliest infidelities about the time of the grand
finale of the Empire. At that time the baroness had
played the r61e of prima donna assoluta in her house-
hold for twelve years. She still possessed the time-
honored, deep-rooted affection which husbands feel
for their wives when they have resigned themselves
to play the part of sweet-tempered and virtuous
companions ; she knew that no rival could hold the



COUSIN BETTE 43

field two hours against a word of reproach from her,
but she closed her eyes and ears, and chose to know
nothing of her husband's conduct away from home.
She treated her Hector in short as a mother treats
a spoiled child. Three years prior to the conversa-
tion we have described, Hortense espied her father
in a proscenium box at the Varieties, with Jenny?
Cadine, and exclaimed :

"There's papa !"

" You are mistaken, my dear, he is at the mar-
shal's," the baroness replied.

The baroness had seen Jenny Cadine, but, in-
stead of feeling a pain at her heart when she saw
how lovely she was, she said to herself : " That
rascal Hector ought to be very happy." She suf-
fered none the less, and in secret abandoned herself
to frightful paroxysms, but when she saw her Hector
again she always saw in him her twelve years of
unalloyed happiness, and lost the power of uttering
a single complaint. She would have been glad to
have the baron make her his confidente, but she
had never ventured to hint to him that she knew of
his vagaries, out of respect for him. Such excessive
delicacy is never found save in the noble daughters
of the people who know how to receive blows with-
out returning them: in their veins flows the blood of
the first martyrs. Young women of good family,
being the equals of their husbands, feel the need of
tormenting them: and of marking their acts of toler-
ation by biting words, as one marks up points at
billiards, all in a diabolically revengeful spirit, and



44 THE POOR RELATIONS

to make sure of gaining a hold upon them, or of the
right to take their revenge in kind.

The baroness had a passionate admirer in her
brother-in-law, Lieutenant-General Hulot, the ven-
erable commander of the foot grenadiers of the Im-
perial Guard, upon whom a marshal's baton was to
be bestowed in his last hours. This old man, hav-
ing from 1830 to 1834 commanded the military
division which included the Breton departments, the
scene of his exploits in 1799 and 1800, had taken
up his abode in Paris, near his brother, whom he
always loved with the love of a father for his son.
The old soldier's heart sympathized with that of his
sister-in-law; he admired her as the noblest, the most
saintly of her sex. He had never married because
it was his ambition to fall in with a second Adeline,
whom he had sought to no purpose through twenty
provinces and as many campaigns. Rather than
lose caste in the heart of this old republican without
reproach and without stain, of whom Napoleon said:
"My gallant Hulot is the most stiff-necked of re-
publicans, but he will never betray me," Adeline
would have endured much more cruel suffering than
that imposed upon her. But the old man, seventy-
two years of age, broken down by thirty campaigns,
wounded for the twenty-seventh time at Waterloo,
was an object of admiration to Adeline, and not a
protector. The poor count, among his other infirmi-
ties, could hear only with the aid of an ear trumpet.

So long as Baron Hulot d'Ervy was a handsome man
his amourettes had no perceptible effect upon his



COUSIN BETTE 45

fortune: but at fifty years he was obliged to reckon
with the Graces. At that age love changes to vice;
a most absurd vanity becomes mingled with it. And
so, about that time, Adeline noticed that her husband
became wonderfully particular touching his toilet,
dyeing his hair and whiskers, and wearing belts and
corsets. He was determined to remain handsome
at any price. This excessive care for his person, a
fault of which, he formerly made great sport, he
carried to the smallest details. At last Adeline dis-
covered that the Pactolus which flowed to the dwell-
ings of the baron's mistresses took its rise beneath
her roof. Within eight years a considerable fortune
had been squandered, and so effectually that, at the
time of the younger Hulot's marriage, two years
before, the baron was forced to confess to his wife
that his salary constituted their entire fortune.

"Where will this lead us ?" was Adeline's an-
swer.

" Never fear," replied the councilor of state. " I
will turn over to you the emoluments of my office,
and provide for Hortense's marriage and our future
by going into business."

Her profound faith in the power and great merit,
in the capabilities and character of her husband,
allayed her momentary anxiety.

Now, the nature of the baroness* reflections and
her tears after Crevel's departure should be per-
fectly understood. The poor woman had known for
two years that she was at the bottom of an abyss,
but she believed herself to be alone there. She did



46 THE POOR RELATIONS

not know how her son's marriage was brought to
pass, nor was she aware of Hector's liaison with
the covetous Josepha: in short, she hoped that no
one on earth knew of her sorrow. Now, if Crevel
spoke so freely of the baron's extravagant courses,
Hector must be in a fair way to forfeit the consider-
1 ation in which he was held. From the irritated per-
fumer's vulgar talk she obtained a clear idea of the
hateful bargaining which resulted in the young ad-
vocate's marriage. Two courtesans had been the
high priestesses of that union, suggested in some
debauch amid the degrading familiarities of two tipsy
old men!

"So he forgets Hortense!" she said to herself,
" and yet he sees her every day; will he seek a
husband for her in his harlots' circle?"

The maternal instinct alone, more powerful than
the wifely loyalty, spoke at that moment ; for she
saw Hortense, with her cousin Bette, laughing the
unrestrained laughter of heedless youth, and she
was well aware that that nervous laughter was a no
less ominous symptom than the tearful reverie of a
solitary walk in the garden.

Hortense resembled her mother, but her hair was
of the hue of gold, naturally wavy, and grew in
, astonishing profusion. Her complexion was like
mother-of-pearl. In her could be seen the fruit of
an honest marriage, of a pure and noble love in all
its intensity. There was a glowing animation in
her expression, a mobility of featuie, a youthful im-
pulsiveness, a freshness of life, an overflowing store



COUSIN BETTE 47

of health, which created an atmosphere about her,
and generated electric currents. Hortense compelled
attention. When her deep-blue eyes, swimming in
the fluid in which innocence immerses them, rested
upon a passer-by, he started involuntarily. More-
over her complexion was not marred by a single one
of those red blotches, which are the price commonly
paid by golden blondes for their milk-white skins.
Tall, plump, without stoutness, endowed with a
beautiful figure, which equaled her mother's in dis-
tinction, she well deserved the title of goddess so
lavishly bestowed by the ancient authors. So it
was that no one who saw Hortense on the street
could forbear to exclaim: "Great heaven! what a
lovely girl!" She was so innocent that she would
say, on returning home:

"Why, what do they all mean, mamma, by crying
out: 'What a lovely girl !' Weren't you with me?
Aren't you lovelier than I?"

And in very truth, although she had passed her
forty-seventh year, the baroness might well have
been preferred to her daughter by those who love sun-
sets, for she had as yet lost nothing of her advantages,
as the ladies say, by one of those phenomena seldom
seen, especially in Paris, where Ninon caused much
heartburning in that particular, to such an extent
did she seem to usurp the prerogatives of the ugly
in the seventeenth century.

As she thought of her daughter, the baroness'
mind reverted to the father; she fancied him falling
lower and lower day by day, until he reached the



48 THE POOR RELATIONS

very mire of society, and perhaps dismissed some
fine day from the ministry. The idea of the down-
fall of her idol, accompanied by an indistinct vision
of the misfortunes predicted by Crevel, caused the
poor woman such torture that she lost consciousness
after the manner of ecstatics.

Cousin Bette, with whom Hortense was talking,
looked up from time to time to see when they might
return to the salon, but her young cousin was plying
her so closely with questions just when the baroness
reopened the long window, that she did not notice.
her.

Lisbeth Fischer, who was five years younger than
Madame Hulot, although she was the daughter of
the eldest of the brothers Fischer, was far from
being as beautiful as her cousin: and so she had
been prodigiously jealous of Adeline. Jealousy was
the fundamental quality of this eccentric character,
a word invented by the English to designate the
follies, not of commonplace people, but of great
families. A peasant of the Vosges, in the fullest
meaning of the term, thin, dark, with glossy black
hair, heavy eyebrows joined by a tuft, long, power-
ful arms, large feet, a mole or two on her long, ape-
like face such was this maiden's portrait in a few
strokes.

The family, who made one household, sacrificed
the commonplace girl to the beauty, the acrid fruit
to the brilliant flower. Lisbeth worked in the fields
while her cousin was petted at home; and it occurred
to her one day, when she found Adeline alone,



COUSIN BETTE 49

to try and pull out her nose, a pure Greek nose
such as old ladies admire. Although she was
whipped for this transgression she continued none
the less to tear the favorite's dresses and spoil her
neckerchiefs.

At the time of her cousin's extraordinary mar-
riage, Lisbeth bent her head before that freak of
destiny as Napoleon's brothers and sisters bent
before the splendor of the throne and the all-power-
ful word of command. Adeline, who was kind-
hearted and sweet-tempered to excess, bethought
herself at Paris of Lisbeth, and sent for her about
1809, with the purpose of rescuing her from poverty
by arranging a marriage for her. As it was impos-
sible to find a husband as soon as Adeline could
have wished, for this black-eyed damsel, with the
coal-black eyebrows, who could neither read nor
write, the baron began by giving her a trade. He
apprenticed Lisbeth to the court embroiderers, the
famous brothers Rons.

The cousin, called Bette for short, having become
a worker in gold and silver lace, and being of the
energetic temperament common to mountaineers,
had the courage to learn to read, write, and cipher;
for her cousin, the baron, had impressed upon her
the necessity of possessing so much learning in
order to conduct an embroidery establishment. She
was determined to make her fortune; in two years
she metamorphosed herself. In 1811 the peasant
girl had become a rather pleasing, clever and intelli-
gent forewoman.

4



50 THE POOR RELATIONS

The product called gold and silver lace-work
included epaulets, shoulder-knots and sword-tassels;
in short, that numberless variety of gorgeous objects
which glisten upon the rich uniforms of the French
army and upon civilian costumes. The Emperor,
with an Italian fondness for dress, lavished gold and
silver embroidery upon all the seams of his retainers'
garb, and his Empire comprised one hundred and
thirty-three departments. The furnishing of these
decorations, generally supplied to the tailors, who
were men of wealth and substance, or directly to
the great dignitaries, was in itself a lucrative busi-
ness.

At the very moment when Cousin Bette, the most
skilful workwoman in the Pons establishment,
where she was entrusted with the superintendence
of the manufacture, might have settled herself for
life, the Empire fell with a crash. The olive-branch
of peace in the hands of the Bourbons alarmed Lis-
beth; she feared a falling off in that line of business,
which would have henceforth but eighty-six instead
of a hundred and thirty-three departments to look to
for support, to say nothing of the enormous reduc-
tion of the army. Taking fright at the uncertain
prospects of the industry, she refused the offers of
,the baron, who thought her mad. She justified his
opinion by breaking with M. Rivet, the buyer for the
Pons establishment, with whom the baron proposed
that she should wed, and so became once more a
a simple work-girl.

The Fischer family thereupon fell back into the



COUSIN BETTE 5 1

precarious situation from which Baron Hulot had
extricated it.

Ruined by the catastrophe of Fontainebleau, the
three brothers Fischer in desperation took service in
the free companies of 1815. The eldest, Lisbeth's
father, was killed. Adeline's father, sentenced to
death by a court-martial, fled to Germany, and died
at Treves in 1820. The youngest, Johann, came to
Paris to implore ,the aid of the queen of the family,
who was said to be eating from gold and silver, who
never appeared at receptions without diamonds upon
her head and neck, as large as walnuts, and pre-
sented by the emperor.

Johann Fischer, at that time forty-three years of
age, received from Baron Hulot a sum of ten thou-
sand francs with which to start a small enterprise in
the way of forage, at Versailles, a privilege obtained
from the Ministry of War through the secret influ-
ence of friends whom the former intendant-general
still possessed there.

These family reverses, the disgrace of Baron
Hulot, the certainty of counting for very little in
that vast upheaval of men, interests and affairs,
which made Paris a hell and a paradise, were too
much for Cousin Bette. She thereupon abandoned
all thought of contest or comparison with her
cousin, after she had felt her superiority in so many
different directions; but envy still lay hidden at
the bottom of her heart, like a pestilential germ
which may come to the surface and lay waste a
city, if one opens the fatal bale of wool in which it



52 THE POOR RELATIONS

is confined. From time to time she would say to
herself :

"Adeline and I are of the same blood, our fathers
were brothers, she lives in a fine house, I in an
attic."

But year after year, on her birthday, and on New
Year's Day, Lisbeth received gifts from the baron
and baroness; the baron, who was most kind to her,
paid for her winter's supply of wood; old General
Hulot received her once a year at dinner, and a
cover was always laid for her at her cousin's table.
They laughed at her, but they never blushed for
her. In short, they had provided her with her inde-
pendence at Paris, where she lived in her own way.

The young woman was, in truth, afraid of every
sort of restraint. Her cousin offered to take her to
live with her Bette detected in the offer the halter
of a state of servitude; many a time the baron
solved the difficult problem of finding a husband for
her; but, though attracted at first, she would soon
refuse in fear and trembling lest her lack of educa-
tion, her ignorance, and her poverty should be cast
in her face; lastly, if the baroness suggested that
she should live with their uncle and keep house for
him, in the place of a hired housekeeper, who must
necessarily be a great expense, she would reply that
she was much less inclined for a marriage of that
sort.

Cousin Bette's ideas presented that strange aspect
which is noticeable in natures that have developed
very late in life, in savages, who think much and



COUSIN BETTE 53

speak little. Her peasant intelligence, moreover,
had acquired, in the conversations of the workshop,
through constant association with the artisans of
both sexes, a touch of Parisian keenness. This
girl, whose character strikingly resembled that of
the Corsicans, and who was animated to no purpose
by the impulses common to strong natures, would
have loved to protect a man of feeble character;
but since she had lived in the capital, the capital
had changed her on the surface. The Parisian polish
made that stout-tempered soul liable to rust. En-
dowed with a ready wit that had become profound,
as always happens with those who have taken a
vow of true celibacy, she would have been in any
other situation a woman to be feared, with the
stinging fashion in which she expressed her thoughts.
If evil-minded, she would have sown discord in the
most united family.

In the early days, when she cherished certain
hopes, the secret of which she shared with no one,
she had decided to wear corsets and conform to the
fashion, and she thereby achieved a momentary
splendor, during which the baron deemed her a mar-
riageable subject. Lisbeth was at that time the
piquant brunette of the old French romances. Her
piercing glance, her olive complexion, her willowy
figure, might have tempted a major on half-pay;
but she was content, she laughingly said to herself,
with her own admiration. She ended by enjoying
her life, after she had pruned it of all material cares,
for she dined out every day, after working from



54 THE POOR RELATIONS

sunrise. She had therefore to provide only her
breakfast and her rent; her employers dressed her
and gave her many acceptable articles of food, as
sugar, coffee, wine, etc.

In 1837, after twenty-seven years of life, during
half of which she had been supported by the Hulot
family and her uncle Fischer, Cousin Bette, resigned
to the fate of being nobody, allowed herself to be en-
tertained without scruple; she voluntarily declined to
attend grand dinner-parties, preferring the more inti-
mate society where she would count for what she
was worth, and avoid blows to her self-esteem . Every-
where, at General Hulot's, at Crevel's, at the younger
Hulot's, at Rivet's, the successor of Rons to whom
she had become reconciled, and at whose house she
was a welcome guest at the baroness', she seemed
one of the family. She had the knack of propitiating
the servants everywhere, by giving them small pour-


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