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to earn money, then? "

"To be sure," said old Chanor, "but he must
work; he might have saved a deal already if he had
remained with us. What can we do? Artists have
a horror of dependence."

" They have due regard for their worth and their
dignity," rejoined Stidmann. " I don't blame Wen-
ceslas for starting out alone to try and make a name
and become a great man; it's his right! And yet I
lost much when he left me!"

"There you have it," cried Rivet; "that's the
ambition of the young men just hatched from the
university egg. For heaven's sake begin by saving
money and seek glory afterwards!"

" One spoils his touch picking up crowns!" re-
plied Stidmann. " It is for glory to bring us fortune."

"What would you have?" said Chanor to Rivet;
" one can't tie them "

" They would gnaw through the halter!" retorted
Stidmann.

"All these gentry," said Chanor, with a glance
at Stidmann, " have as much caprice as talent. They
are terribly extravagant, they have Lorettes, they
throw money out of the window, and they have no
time to attend to their work; they thereupon neglect
their orders; we have recourse to workmen who are
not their equals, but who make money; then they com-
plain of the hard times, whereas if they had attended
to business they would have mountains of gold "



COUSIN BETTE IOQ

"You remind me, old papa Lumignon," said Stid-
mann, "of that ante-revolution bookseller, who
said: 'Ah! if I could have Montesquieu, Voltaire and
Rousseau, poor as church-mice, in my loft, and keep
their breeches in my closet, what nice little books
they should write for me, with which I would make
my fortune!' If one could forge great works like
nails, the errand-boys would make them Give me
a thousand francs and hold your tongue!"

The excellent Rivet returned home delighted for
poor Mademoiselle Fischer, who dined with him every
Monday, and whom he was sure to find there.

" If you can make him work hard," said he, " you
will be more lucky than wise, for you will be repaid,
principal, interest and costs. This Pole has talent
and can earn his living; but you must conceal his
trousers and his shoes, keep him from going to the
Chaumiere and to the Quartier Notre-Dame de Lo-
rette, hold him in leash. Unless you take these
precautions, your sculptor will be afl&neur, and you
know what artists understand by that! Horrible
things, I tell you! I have heard that a thousand
franc note is gone in a day."

This incident had a tremendous effect upon the
home life of Lisbeth and Wenceslas. The bene-
factress dipped the exile's bread in the absinthe of
reproaches, when she saw that her funds were en-
dangered, and she very often believed them lost.
The doting mother became a cruel step-mother, she
scolded the poor child, worried him, blamed him for
not working rapidly enough and for choosing such a



IIO THE POOR RELATIONS

difficult trade. She could not believe that models in
red wax, tiny figures, sketches for ornaments, mere
experiments, could have any value. In another
moment, sorry for her harshness, she would strive
to do away with its effects by soft words and little
attentions. The unfortunate youth, after groaning to
find himself dependent upon this fury, and under the
domination of a Vosges peasant, would be overjoyed
by her wheedling ways and the maternal solicitude
of one who cared for naught but the physical,
the material side of life. He was like a wife, who
forgives the brutal treatment of a week for the sake
of the caresses of a momentary reconciliation. Made-
moiselle Fischer thus acquired absolute dominion
over this life. The love of domination, which lay
dormant in germ in the old maid's heart, developed
with great rapidity. She was able to satisfy her
pride and her need of action; had she not a being
all to herself, to scold and guide and flatter and
make happy, without fear of a rival ? The good and
the evil traits of her character came into play equally.
If she sometimes made a martyr of the poor artist,
she lavished upon him as a recompense, delicate
attentions as refreshing as the fragrance of wild
flowers, she enjoyed seeing him want for nothing;
she would have given her life for him; of that Wen-
ceslas had no doubt. Like all noble hearts, the poor
fellow forgot the harshness, the failings of this
woman, who, moreover, had told him the story of
her life, by way of apology for her barbarity, and
he remembered only her benefactions.



COUSIN BETTE III

One day the old maid, exasperated because Wen-
ceslas had gone out to lounge about the streets
instead of working, made a scene.

"You belong to me!" said she. "If you are an
honest man, you should do your best to pay what
you owe me as soon as possible "

The young nobleman, in whose veins the blood
of the Steinbocks took fire, turned pale as death.

" My God!" she continued, " before long we shall
have nothing to live on but the thirty sous that I, a
poor girl, earn "

The two paupers, losing their tempers in the duel
of words, waxed hot against each other; and the
unhappy artist thereupon, for the first time, re-
proached his benefactress for having rescued him
from death to make him lead the life of a galley-
slave, far worse than nothingness, where one might
at least find repose, he said. And he spoke of going
away.

" Go away! "cried the old maid "Ah! M. Rivet
was right!"

And she thereupon categorically explained to the
youth that in twenty-four hours she could put him
in prison for the rest of his days. It was a knock-
down blow. Steinbock fell into a condition of black
melancholy and absolute silence. The next night
Lisbeth, overhearing preparations for suicide, went
up to her boarder's room, and handed him the bundle
of papers with an acquittance in due form.

"Here, my child," said she, with tears in her
eyes, " forgive me! Leave me, and be happy; I



112 THE POOR RELATIONS

torment you too much; but tell me that you will
sometimes think of the poor girl who put you in a
way to earn your living. What would you have?
You are the cause of my ill-humor; I might die, and
what would become of you without me? That's the
reason of my impatience to see you in a position to
make things that can be sold. I don't ask for my
money for myself, not at all! I am afraid of your
laziness, which you call reverie, of the many hours
you consume forming your great conceptions, during
which you gaze at the sky, and I would like to have
you contract the habit of working."

This was said with an accent, a look, an attitude,
and tears, which touched the noble artist to the
heart; he threw his arms about his benefactress,
pressed her to his breast, and kissed her on the fore-
head.

"Keep these papers," he said, almost gayly.
"Why should you send me to Clichy? am I not
imprisoned here by gratitude?"

This episode in their secret life together had hap-
pened about six months before, and had caused
Wenceslas to produce three pieces of work: the seal
which Hortense retained, the group placed with the
dealer in bric-a-brac, and a beautiful clock, which he
was just on the point of finishing, for he was putting
the last screws into the model.

This clock represented the twelve Hours, admir-
ably delineated by twelve female figures whirling
around in such a mad, swift dance, that three Loves,
clinging to a mass of flowers and fruit, were unable



COUSIN BETTE 113

to stop any of them save Midnight, whose torn
chlamys remained in the hands of the boldest of the
three. The group rested upon a round pedestal,
beautifully ornamented with figures of fantastic ani-
mals. The Hour was indicated in a monstrous mouth
opened in a yawn. Each Hour presented special
devices, most happily conceived to indicate the cus-
tomary pursuits of mankind at that hour.

It will be easy now to understand the extraordi-
nary attachment Mademoiselle Fischer had conceived
for her Livonian; she wished him to be happy, and
she saw that he was wasting, pining away in his
attic. The cause of this lamentable situation is
plain. The Lorrainer watched over this child of the
North with the affection of a mother, the jealousy
of a wife, and the cunning of a dragon; she so
arranged matters as to make every species of folly
or dissipation impossible, by keeping him always
without money. She would fain keep her victim
and her comrade to herself, virtuous as he was per-
force, and she did not understand the barbarity of
this insane desire, for she had become accustomed
to privations of every sort. She loved Steinbock
enough not to marry him, and she loved him too
much to give him up to another woman; she could
not resign herself to be to him a mother simply, and
she deemed herself a madwoman when she thought
of any other r61e. These contradictory feelings,
this ferocious jealousy, this joy in possessing a man
for her own, all combined to excite the old maid's
heart beyond measure. Having been really in love
8



114 THE POOR RELATIONS

for four years, she cherished the mad hope that this
inconsequent, purposeless life, her persistence in
which was likely to cause the ruin of him she called
her child, might last indefinitely. The struggle
between her impulses and her common sense made
her unjust and tyrannical. She revenged herself
upon the young man for her own lack of youth,
beauty and wealth; and, after each revengeful out-
burst, her innate consciousness that she had done
wrong led her to acts of humility and infinite tender-
ness. It did not occur to her to sacrifice to her idol
until she had written her power upon his body with
an axe. It was, in a word, Shakespeare's Tempest
reversed, Caliban, master of Ariel and Prospero.
As for the unhappy, meditative, slothfully inclined
youth of lofty ideals, there opened to his eyes, as to
those of the caged lions at the Jardin des Plantes, a
glimpse of the desert which his heart had become
under the hand of his protectress. The forced toil
which Lisbeth exacted from him did not fulfil the
demands of his heart. His ennui became a physical
disease, and he was dying by degrees, unable to
ask, and helpless to procure the requisite money for
a transgression which is often a necessity. On cer-
tain days of reviving energy, when a realizing sense
of his misery increased his exasperation, he would
glare at Lisbeth, as a thirsty traveler, traversing an
arid waste, might glare at a pool of brackish water.
These bitter fruits of poverty and of this hermit's
life in Paris were keenly relished by Lisbeth. And
yet she foresaw with dismay that the first symptom



COUSIN BETTE 11$

of a real passion would deprive her of her slave.
Sometimes she blamed herself for having furnished
this poet with the means of doing without her, in
forcing him, by her tyranny and her reproaches, to
become a great sculptor of trifles.

On the morrow these three lives, so truly
wretched, and in such diverse ways: the life of the
despairing mother, of the Marneffe family, and of
the unhappy exile, were destined all to be affected
by the innocent passion of Hortense, and by the
strange termination of the baron's ill-fated passion
for Josepha.



As he was about to enter the Opera, the Councilor
of State was attracted by the somewhat sombre ap-
pearance of that temple of art on Rue le Peletier.
where he saw neither gendarmes, nor lights, nor
attendants, nor barriers to keep the crowd within
limits. He looked at the bill-board, and saw thereon
a white band, in the centre of which appeared in
staring letters this decisive phrase:

CLOSED ON ACCOUNT OF ILLNESS.

He rushed off incontinently to the abode of
Josepha, who lived near at hand, on Rue Chauchat,
as did all the artists engaged at the Opera.

" Monsieur, whom do you wish to see?" inquired
the concierge, to his unbounded amazement.

"Do you no longer know me, pray?" rejoined the
baron with some inquietude.

" On the contrary, monsieur, it is just because I
have the honor to recognize you, that I say: ' Where
are you going?' "

A deathly chill froze the baron's blood.

"What has happened?" he demanded.

" If Monsieur le Baron should go to Mademoiselle
Mirah's apartment he would find there Mademoiselle
Helotee Brisetout, M. Bixiou, M. Leon de Lora, M.
Lousteau, M. de Vernisset, M. Stidmann, and a



Il8 THE POOR RELATIONS

number of ladies redolent of patchouly, having a
house warming "

"Very good, but where is ?"

" Mademoiselle Mirah? I am not sure that I ought
to tell you."

The baron slipped two hundred-sou pieces into the
concierge's hand.

" Oh! well, she is now on Rue de la Ville-l'feve'que,
in a house the Due d'Herouville has given her, so
they say," said the porter in an undertone.

Having inquired the number of the house, the
baron took a milord and was set down before one of
the pretty little modern houses with double doors,
in which everything, from the lantern without to
the gas within, betokened luxurious living.

The baron, in his blue broadcloth coat, white
cravat, white waistcoat, linen trousers and var-
nished boots, with plenty of starch in his shirt front,
was taken for a belated guest by the concierge of
this new Eden. His portliness, his gait, everything
about him, tended to justify that opinion.

In answer to the bell rung by the concierge, a foot-
man appeared in the vestibule. This footman, who
was new, like the house, admitted the baron, who
said to him in a commanding tone, accompanied by
an imperial gesture:

" Give this card to Mademoiselle Josepha "

The dupe mechanically looked about the room in
which he found himself, a reception room, filled with
rare flowers, and of which the furnishings must
have cost four thousand crowns. The footman



COUSIN BETTE 119

returned and begged monsieur to wait in the salon
until they left the table to take their coffee there.

Although the baron had been familiar with the
luxury in vogue under the Empire, which was cer-
tainly most prodigious, and the manifestations of
which, if not enduring, none the less cost fabulous
sums, he stood like one dazzled, struck dumb, in
that salon, whose three windows opened upon a
fairy-like garden, one of the gardens which are
manufactured in a month with artificial soil, trans-
planted flowers, and turf which seems to have been
obtained by chemical process. He marveled not
only at the display of wealth, the gilding, the most
costly sculptures of the so-called Pompadour style,
and the marvelous materials which any parvenu
tradesman might have ordered and secured with
oceans of gold, but those other things which none
but princes have the faculty of finding, of selecting,
of paying for and of giving away: two pictures by
Greuze and two by Watteau, two heads by Van
Dyck, two landscapes by Ruysdael, two by Guaspre,
a Rembrandt and a Holbein, a Murillo and a Titian,
two Teniers and two Metzus, a Van Huysum and an
Abraham Mignon in a word, two hundred thousand
francs in pictures beautifully framed. The settings
were worth almost as much as the canvases.

"Ah! now do you understand, my bonhomme?"
queried Josepha.

Over heavy Persian carpets she had stolen, on
tiptoe into the room, through a door that opened
noiselessly, and surprised her adorer in one of



120 THE POOR RELATIONS

those periods of stupefaction when the ears ring so
that one can hear nothing but the knell of disaster.

This word bonhomme, addressed to this high
administrative functionary, a word which portrays
to admiration the audacity with which such creatures
drag the greatest lives through the mire, left the baron
rooted to the spot where he stood. Josepha, all in
white and yellow, was so magnificently arrayed for
the festal occasion that she shone, even in the midst
of this insensate luxury, as the rarest jewel of all.

" Isn't it fine?" she continued. " The duke laid
out on it all the profits of a little investment in stocks
which he sold at an advance. Not a bad fellow,
my little duke, eh? Only the great lords of the old
days know how to change coal into gold. The
notary brought me, before dinner, the contract for
the purchase of the house to sign, and it contains a
receipt for the price. What fine fellows all the great
lords yonder are: D'Esgrignon, Rastignac, Maxime,
Lenoncourt, Verneuil, Laginski, Rochefide, La Pal-
ferine, and, for bankers, Nucingen and Du Tillet,
with Antonia, Malaga, Carabine and La Schontz,
are all sorry for your hard luck. Yes, my old
friend, you are invited to join us, but on condition
that you drink at once the worth of two bottles of
champagne, Hungarian and Cape wine, to put your-
self on a level with them. We are all too full here,
dear boy, not to close the Opera; my manager is as
tipsy as a cornet-a -piston, he's in the cackling stage!"

" Oh, Josepha! " cried the baron.

" What a bore it is to have an explanation!" she



COUSIN BETTE 121

interrupted with a smile. " Tell me, are you worth
the six hundred thousand francs that this hotel and
its furnishing cost? Can you bring me a paper good
for an income of thirty thousand francs, such as the
duke gave me in a horn of white paper filled with
sugar-plums? That was a sweet idea!"

"What perversity!" exclaimed the Councilor of
State, who, in that moment of frenzy, would have
pawned his wife's diamonds to replace the Due
d'Herouville for twenty-four hours.

" It's my trade to be perverse!" she retorted.
"Ah! so that's the way you take it! Why didn't
you organize a company? Bless my soul, my poor
dyed cat, you ought to thank me! I leave you just
when, if I had stayed with you, you would have
devoured your wife's future, your daughter's
dowry, and Ah! you are weeping. The Empire is
dying out! I salute the Empire."

She assumed a tragic pose, and declaimed:

"Your name is Hulot ! I no longer know you 1 "

and returned to the dining-room.

Through the half-opened door came a flash of
light, accompanied by a burst of sound betokening
the increasing wildness of the revel, and laden with
the odors of a banquet of the first order.

The cantatrice came back and looked through the
door, and when she saw Hulot standing on the same
spot as if he were made of bronze, she stepped for-
ward and reappeared.



122 THE POOR RELATIONS

" Monsieur," said she, " I turned over the rubbish
in Rue Chauchat to little Helolse Brisetout de Bixiou;
if you choose to ask for your nightcap, your boot-
jack, your belt and the wax for your whiskers, I
stipulated that they should be returned to you."

The effect of this horrible banter was to drive the
baron from the house, as Lot was driven from
Gomorrah, but without turning to look back like
Madame Lot.

Hulot returned home, striding along like a mad-
man, talking to himself, and found his family calmly
playing whist for two sous a point, as when he left
them. When she saw her husband's face, poor
Adeline thought that some terrible disaster had
occurred, that he was dishonored; she gave her
cards to Hortense and led Hector to the same little
room where, five hours earlier, Crevel had predicted
for her the most degrading tortures of poverty.

"What's the matter?" said she in deadly terror.

"Oh! forgive me; but let me tell you the in-
famous story."

For ten minutes he gave vent to his fury.

"Why, my dear," said the poor woman heroic-
ally, " such creatures don't know what love is!
Such pure, devoted love as you deserve; how could
c you, with your good sense, undertake to contend
with a million of money?"

"Dear Adeline!" cried the baron, throwing his
arms about his wife, and pressing her to his heart.

The baroness had poured a soothing balm upon
the bleeding wounds of self-esteem.



COUSIN BETTE 123

"To be sure," said the baron, "take away the
Due d'Herouville's fortune, she would not hesitate
between us."

"My dear," continued Adeline, making one last
effort, "if you really must have mistresses, why
don't you do as Crevel does and take women who
are not so expensive, and who belong to a class
likely to be happy with a little for a long time to
come? We should all be the gainers. lean under-
stand the need, but I cannot understand at all the
vanity "

"Oh! what a dear, noble woman you are!" he
cried. " I am an old fool, and I don't deserve to
have an angel like you for a helpmeet."

"I am simply my Napoleon's Josephine," she
replied, with a shade of melancholy.

' ' Josephine was not your equal, ' ' said he. ' ' Come,
1 will have a game of whist with my brother and
my children; I must stick to my trade of pater-
familias, find a husband for Hortense, and bury the
libertine. "

This benignity touched poor Adeline so deeply
that she said:

" That creature has wretched taste to prefer any-
body in the world to my Hector. Ah! I would not
give you up for all the gold on earth. How can any
one let you go when she has the good fortune to be
loved by you! "

The glance with which the baron requited his
wife's fanatical adoration confirmed her in the opin-
ion that gentleness and submission are a woman's



124 THE POOR RELATIONS

most potent weapons. She was wrong in that.
The noblest sentiments carried to extremity pro-
duce results like those of the greatest vices. Bona-
parte became Emperor because he shot down the
populace within two steps of the spot where Louis
XVI. lost the monarchy and his head because he
would not allow the blood of one M. Sauce to be
shed.

The next morning Hortense, who went to bed
with Wenceslas' seal under her pillow, so that she
might not be separated from it while she slept, was
dressed betimes, and sent a message to her father,
begging him to come to the garden as soon as he
rose.

About half-past nine, the father, in compliance
with his daughter's request, gave her his arm, and
they walked together along the quays and by the
Pont Royal to the Place du Carrousel.

" Let us pretend to be out for a saunter, papa,"
said Hortense as they passed through the wicket to
cross the vast square.

"Out for a saunter here? " queried her father
jocosely.

"We are supposed to have gone to the Museum,
and down there," said she, pointing to the booths
against the walls of the houses that stood at right
angles to Rue du Doyenne, " see there are dealers
in bric-a-brac and pictures. "

"Your cousin lives down there."

" I know it; but we mustn't let her see us "

"What do you propose to do?" said the baron



COUSIN BETTE 125

finding himself within thirty yards of the window
at which he had seen Madame Marneffe, who sud-
denly came to his mind.

Hortense had led her father in front of the window
of one of the shops at the corner of the cluster of
houses which skirt the old Louvre and face the H6tel
de Nantes. She entered the shop; her father re-
mained outside, busily engaged in gazing at the
windows of the charming little lady who had left
her image on the old beau's heart the evening before,
as if to soothe the wound he was so soon to receive
in that organ, and he could not refrain from putting
his wife's advice in practice.

"I must fall back on the little bourgeoises," he
said to himself, recalling Madame Marneffe's ador-
able charm. " This woman will speedily make me
forget the grasping Josepha."

This is what took place simultaneously inside the
shop and outside the shop.

As he scrutinized the windows of his latest charmer
the baron spied the husband, who, while brushing
his own overcoat, was evidently on the watch, and
seemed to be awaiting some person's appearance on
the square. Fearing lest he should be seen and
afterwards recognized, the amorous baron turned
his back upon Rue du Doyenne, but so placed him-
self that he could glance in that direction now and
then. This manoeuvre brought him almost face to
face with Madame Marneffe, who, coming from the
quay, was doubling the headland of houses on her
way home. Valerie felt something like a shock as



126 THE POOR RELATIONS

she received the baron's astonished gaze and she re-
plied to it with a prudish simper.

" Pretty creature," cried the baron, "for whom
one would do many a foolish thing!"

"Eh! monsieur," she replied, turning about like
a woman who has resolved upon a desperate course,
" you are M. le Baron Hulot, aren't you?"

The baron, with increasing amazement, nodded
his head assentingly.

" Very well, since chance has brought our eyes
together twice, and I am fortunate enough to have
aroused your curiosity or your interest, I will tell
you that instead of doing foolish things you ought to
do justice. My husband's fate depends upon you.'*

" How so?" queried the baron gallantly.

" He is a clerk in your department at the Ministry
of War, M. Lebrun's division, M. Coquet's bureau,"
she replied with a smile.


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