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"I am inclined, Madame Madame ?"

"Madame Marneffe."

" My dear Madame Marneffe, to do injustice for
the sake of your lovely eyes I have a cousin who
lives in your house, and I will call on her one of
these days, as soon as possible; come there and pre-
fer your request."

"Pardon my boldness, Monsieur le Baron; but
you will understand how I ventured to speak as I
did; I have no protector."

"Aha!"

"Oh! monsieur, you misunderstand me,*' said
she, lowering her eyes.



COUSIN BETTE 127

The baron thought the sun had disappeared.

"I am in despair, but I am a virtuous woman,"
she continued. "Six months ago I lost my only
protector, Marshal Montcornet."

"Ah! you are his daughter?"

"Yes, monsieur, but he never acknowledged
me."

" So that he could leave you part of his fortune."

"He left me nothing, monsieur, for no will was
found."

"Oh! poor little woman, the marshal was taken
off suddenly by apoplexy. But don't lose hope,
madame; we owe something to the daughter of one
of the Chevaliers Bayard of the Empire."

Madame Marneffe bowed gracefully, and was as
proud of her success as the baron of his.

" Where the devil was she coming from so early?"
he asked himself, while he watched the undulating
movement of her dress, to which she imparted a
somewhat exaggerated grace. " Her face is too
tired to be returning from the baths, and her hus-
band is waiting for her. It's very puzzling and fur-
nishes much food for thought."

When Madame Marneffe was safely housed, the
baron desired to know what his daughter was doing
in the shop. As he entered, still gazing at Madame
Marneffe's windows, he very nearly collided with a
pale-faced youth, with sparkling gray eyes, dressed
in a summer coat of black merino, trousers of coarse
ticking, and with gaiters of yellow leather over his
shoes, who darted out like a wild man; and he



128 THE POOR RELATIONS

watched him run toward Madame Marneffe's house,
and go in.

As she glided into the shop, Hortense had imme-
diately distinguished the famous group in a prominent
position on a table placed in the centre of the floor
within range of the door. Even without the circum-
stances to which she owed her foreknowledge of it,
this masterpiece would in all probability have at-
tracted the girl's attention by virtue of what we must
call the brio of great things, for it is sure that, in
Italy, she might have posed for the statue of Brio.

All the works of men of genius do not possess in
the same degree the brilliancy, the splendor visible
to the eyes of all, even of the ignorant. For
example, certain of Raphael's pictures, such as the
famous Transfiguration, the Madonna di Foligno, the
frescoes of the Stance in the Vatican, do not compel
instant admiration, as do the Violin-Player in the
Sciarra gallery, the portraits of the Doni and the
Vision of E^ekiel in the Pitti gallery, the Bearing of
the Cross in the Borghese gallery, the Wedding of tkf
Virgin in the Brera Museum at Milan. The Saint
John the Baptist in the Tribune, and Saint Luke Comb-
ing the Virgin's Hair in the Academy of Rome, have
not the fascination of the portraits of Leo X., and of
the Virgin at Dresden. Nevertheless all are equally
meritorious. More than that: the Stance, the Trans-
figuration, the Cameos, and the three easel pictures
at the Vatican represent the highest degree of
sublimity and perfection. But these masterpieces
demand from the most appreciative admirer intense



COUSIN BETTE 12g

application and study to be understood in all their
details; while the Violinist, the Wedding of the
Virgin, and the Vision of E^ekiel enter your heart at
once through the double door of the eyes, and make
a place for themselves there; you love to receive
them thus without exertion; it is not the acme of
art, but it is true pleasure. This fact proves that
the element of chance enters into the production of
artistic works, just as in some families there are
beautiful children who come into the world without
causing their mothers to suffer, and upon whom
everything seems to smile, with whom everything
succeeds; there are, in a word, flowers of genius as
there are flowers of love.

This brio, an untranslatable Italian word which
we are beginning to adopt, is the characteristic of
first works. It is the fruit of the eager, daring im-
petuosity of youthful talent, a quality which mani-
fests itself later at certain propitious moments; but
then it does not come from the artist's heart; and in-
stead of throwing it into his work as a volcano emits
flame, he suffers it, he owes it to circumstances, to
love, to rivalry, often to hatred, and more than all
to the requirements of a reputation to be maintained.

Wenceslas' group was to his future works what
the Wedding of the Virgin is to Raphael's complete
work, the first step of his talent, taken with inimit-
able grace, with the enthusiasm and fascinating
exuberance of childhood, with its innate force con-
cealed beneath pink and white flesh, dotted with
dimples, like echoes of a mother's laughter. Prince
9



130 THE POOR RELATIONS

Eugene, they say, paid four hundred thousand francs
for this picture, which would be worth a million to a
country where there are no Raphaels, but no one
would give that sum for one of the frescoes, which
are, however, much superior as mere works of art.
I Hortense restrained her admiration as she thought
'of the amount of her savings, but assumed an ex-
pression of indifference and said to the dealer:

" What is the price of this?"

" Fifteen hundred francs," he replied, glancing at
a young man sitting on a stool in a corner of the
shop.

This young man was struck dumb as he looked
upon Baron Hulot's living masterpiece. Hortense,
thus warned, recognized the artist by the flush which
suffused his pale, pinched face, and she saw a spark
set alight by her question gleaming in his gray eyes;
she looked at his face, which was as thin and drawn
as that of a monk immersed in asceticism, and
she admired the well-shaped, rosy lips, the small,
graceful chin, and the sil ky, chestnut locks of the
Slav.

" If it were twelve hundred francs," said she, " I
would tell you to send it to me."

" It's an antique, mademoiselle," observed the
dealer, who believed, like all his brethren, that this
ne plus ultra of bric-a-brac expressed all there was
to be said.

"Excuse me, monsieur, it was done this year,"
she replied gently, " and I have come for the express
purpose of asking you to send the artist to us, if he



COUSIN BETTE 131

agrees to the price, for we may be able to secure
some valuable orders for him."

" If the twelve hundred francs are for him, what
will there be for me? I am a dealer/' was the good-
natured rejoinder.

"Ah! to be sure," said the girl in a disdainful
tone.

"Oh! mademoiselle, take it! I will arrange mat-
ters with the dealer," cried the Livonian, beside
himself with excitement.

Fascinated by Hortense's sublime beauty, and by
her manifest love for the arts, he added:

" I am the maker of that group, and for ten days
I have come here three times a day to see if any
one would recognize its merit and make an offer for
it. You are my first admirer, so take it!"

" Come with the dealer, monsieur, an hour from
now Here is my father's card," said Hortense.

Then, as the dealer went into an adjoining room
to wrap the group in cloth, she added in an under-
tone, to the unbounded astonishment of the artist,
who thought he must be dreaming:

" Out of regard for your future, Monsieur Wen-
ceslas, do not show this card, or mention the name
of your customer to Mademoiselle Fischer, for she
is our cousin."

The words "our cousin," made the artist's head
swim; he caught a glimpse of Paradise as he looked
upon an Eve come thence to earth. He had dreamed
of the lovely cousin of whom Lisbeth had spoken
to him, as constantly as Hortense had dreamed of



132 THE POOR RELATIONS

her cousin's lover, and when she entered the shop
he thought:

"Ah! if she could be like this!"

The glance which the lovers exchanged can be
imagined; it was a glance of flame, for virtuous
lovers have not the least hypocrisy.

"Well, well, what the devil are you doing in
here?" the father asked his daughter.

" I have spent the twelve hundred francs I had
saved; come."

She took her father's arm, as he repeated:

" Twelve hundred francs!"

" Yes, thirteen hundred! but you will lend me
the difference."

" For what, pray, could you spend that amount
of money in this shop?"

"Ah! that's the question!" replied the happy
maiden; "if I have found a husband, it won't be a
high price."

"A husband, my child, in this shop?"

" Tell me, father dear, would you forbid me to
marry a great artist?"

" No, my child. A great artist in these days is a
prince without a title; he has glory and fortune, the
two greatest social advantages, after virtue," he
added, pharisaically.

"Of course," said Hortense. "And what do you
think of sculpture?"

" It's a very poor game," said Hulot, shaking his
head. "One must have powerful patronage, in
addition to great talent, for the government is the



COUSIN BETTE 133

only customer. It is an art without a market; to-
day there are no great people, nor great fortunes,
nor entailed palaces, nor heirlooms. We can only
find room for small pictures and small figures, so
the arts are threatened by the little."

" But a great artist who should find a market? "
queried Hortense.

" That would solve the problem."

"And who is powerfully supported?"

"Better still!"

"And noble?"

"Nonsense!"

"A count?"

"And a sculptor!"

" He has no fortune."

"And he reckons upon Mademoiselle Hortense
Hulot's?" said the baron sarcastically, fixing his eyes
searchingly upon his daughter's.

" This great artist, a count, and a sculptor, has
just seen your daughter for the first time in his life,
and for five minutes, Monsieur le Baron," retorted
Hortense calmly. "Yesterday, you must know,
my dear, good, little father, while you were at the
Chamber, mamma fainted. This fainting, which she
laid to her nerves, was caused by some disappoint-
ment connected with the breaking off of my mar-
riage, for she told me that, to rid yourself of me "

"She loves you too dearly to use an expression

SO"

" Unparliamentary," laughed Hortense; " no, she
didn't use those words; but I know myself that a



134 THE POOR RELATIONS

marriageable daughter who doesn't get married is
too heavy a burden for honest parents. Very well,
she thinks that, if a man of energy and talent, who
would be satisfied with a dot of thirty thousand
francs, should make his appearance, we should all
be very lucky! In short, she thought it advisable
to prepare me for the modesty of my destiny, and
to prevent my indulging in too splendid dreams.
Which means that I have no dot and that my mar-
riage is broken off."

"Your mother is a dear, good, noble woman,"
replied the father, deeply humiliated, although well
pleased with this disclosure.

" Yesterday she told me that you would allow her
to sell her diamonds in order to find a husband for
me; but I prefer that she keep her diamonds, and I
would like to find a husband for myself. I think I
have found the man, the suitor who comes up to
mamma's programme "

"Here! on the Place du Carrousel! in one
morning?"

" Oh! papa, the trouble dates from further back
than that," she retorted slyly.

" Come, my little girl, let us tell our dear father
the whole story," said he coaxingly, concealing his
uneasiness.

Under a promise of absolute secrecy, Hortense
related the substance of her conversations with
Cousin Bette. Then, when they reached home,
she showed her father the famous seal as a proof
of the sagacity of her judgment. The father in his



COUSIN BETTE 135

inmost heart marveled at the profound address dis-
played by young women acting by instinct alone,
as he realized the simplicity of the plan which this
imaginary passion had suggested to the innocent girl
in a single night.

" You shall soon see the chef-d'oeuvre I have bought;
the dealer is going to bring it and dear Wenceslas
will come with him The designer of such a group
should make his fortune; but you must obtain for
him, by your influence, an order for a statue and a
room at the Institute "

" How you go on!" cried the father. " Why, if
we let you have your way, you would be married
before the legal time, within eleven days "

" Must we wait eleven days?" she replied with a
laugh. "Why, in five minutes I loved him as you
loved mamma when you first saw her! and he loves
me as if we had known each other two years. Yes,"
she continued, in reply to a gesture from her father,
" I read ten volumes of love in his eyes. And will
not you and mamma accept him for my husband
when he has proved to you that he is a man of
genius? Sculpture is the foremost of the arts!"
she cried, clapping her hands and dancing up and
down. " Listen, I will tell you everything "

"Is there something more, pray?" queried her
father with a smile.

Her absolute, prattling innocence had altogether
reassured the baron.

"A confession of the greatest importance," said
she. "I loved him before I knew him, but I



136 THE POOR RELATIONS

have gone mad over him since I saw him an hour
ago."

"A little too mad," commented the baron, de-
lighting in the spectacle of this outspoken passion.

" Don't punish me for confiding in you," she re-
joined. " It is sweet to cry into a father's heart:
'I love him, I am happy in loving him!' You are
going to see my Wenceslas! Such a melancholy
brow! gray eyes in which the sun of genius
shines! and such a distinguished air! What do
you think, is Livonia a beautiful country? The
idea of my Cousin Bette marrying that man, when
she's old enough to be his mother! Why it would
be downright murder! I am so envious of what she
must have done for him! I fancy that she won't
look with pleasure upon my marriage."

" We must conceal nothing from your mother, my
angel," said the baron.

" I must not show her this seal, and I promised
not to betray my cousin, who is afraid of mamma's
raillery, so she says."

" You are very scrupulous about the seal, but you
steal your Cousin Bette's lover!"

" I made a promise about the seal, but I made no
promise about the man who made it."
j This incident, patriarchal in its simplicity, was
curiously in touch with the secret position of this
family; and the baron, while applauding his daughter
for her frankness, told her that henceforth she
must leave the affair to the prudence of her parents.

" You understand, my little girl, that it is not for



COUSIN BETTE 137

you to ascertain whether your cousin's lover is a
count, whether he has the proper papers to estab-
lish it, and whether his conduct offers guarantees of
his nobility As for your cousin, she refused five
offers when she was twenty years younger, and I
will undertake to say that she will be no obstacle."

" Listen to me, father, if you want me to be
married don't mention our lover to my cousin until
the moment has come to sign my marriage-contract
For six months I have been questioning her on this
subject! Somehow there's something inexplicable
about her "

" What is it?" said her father curiously.

" Well, her look is not pleasant when I go too far,
even in a joking way, concerning her lover. Make
your investigations; but let me sail my own boat.
My frankness ought to set your mind at rest."

" The Lord said: * Suffer little children to come
unto me!' and you are one of those who are com-
ing," rejoined the baron, with a slight infusion of
irony.

After lunch, the dealer, the artist and the group
were announced.

The sudden blush which overspread her daughter's
face made the baroness anxious at first, then watch-
ful, and Hortense's embarrassment, her flaming
glance, soon revealed the mystery so poorly con-
cealed in that youthful heart.

Count Steinbock, dressed in black from head to
foot, seemed to the baron a very distinguished young
man.



138 THE POOR RELATIONS

" Could you make a statue in bronze?" he asked,
as he held the group in his arms.

Having admired it with a knowing air, he passed
the bronze to his wife, who was not a connoisseur in
sculpture.

"Isn't it lovely, mamma?" whispered Hortense
in her mother's ear.

" A statue! monsieur, it is not so hard to do, as
to arrange the figures in a clock like this one, which
monsieur was kind enough to bring," was the artist's
reply to the baron's question.

The dealer was engaged placing upon the buffet
in the dining-room the wax model of the twelve
Hours, whom the Loves were trying to catch.

"Leave that clock with me," said the baron,
dumfounded by the beauty of the work, " I would
like to show it to the Ministers of the Interior and of
Commerce."

" Who is this young man you're so interested in?"
the baroness asked her daughter.

"An artist rich enough to make the most of this
model might make a hundred thousand francs out of
it," said the dealer in curiosities, assuming a know-
ing and mysterious air, as he detected the good
understanding between the maiden's eyes and the
artist's. " To do it you would only have to sell
twenty copies at eight thousand francs, for each
copy would cost a thousand crowns to cast; but, if
you number each copy and destroy the model, you
would easily find twenty amateurs delighted to be
the only ones to own the work."



COUSIN BETTE 139

"A hundred thousand francs!" cried Steinbock,
looking from the dealer to Hortense, and from her to
the baron and baroness.

" Yes, a hundred thousand francs!" the dealer
repeated, "and if I was rich enough, I'd buy it of
you myself for twenty thousand francs; for by de-
stroying the model it becomes a valuable piece of
property. But one of the princes ought to pay
thirty or forty thousand francs for this chef-d'oeuvre,
and adorn his salon with it. A clock has never been
made, by an artist, which pleases the bourgeois and
the connoisseur at the same time, and this one,
monsieur, solves that difficulty "

" Take this, monsieur," said Hortense, giving six
gold-pieces to the dealer, who thereupon withdrew.

" Do not mention this visit to any one on earth,"
said the artist to the dealer, following him to the
door. " If any one asks you where we carried the
group, say to the Due d'Herouville, the famous col-
lector who lives on Rue de Varenne."

The dealer nodded his head assentingly.

"Your name? "the baron asked the artist when
he returned.

" Count Steinbock."

"Have you papers to prove your identity?"

"Yes, Monsieur le Baron, they are in the Russian and
German languages, but without authentication"

" Do you feel that you are capable of making a
statue nine feet high?"

"Yes, monsieur."

" Well, if the persons whom I propose to consult



140 THE POOR RELATIONS

are pleased with your work, I can obtain for you the
statue of Marshal Montcornet, which is to be erected
over his tomb at Pere-Lachaise. The Minister of
War and the former officers of the Imperial Guard
have given a large sum, in order to have the privi-
lege of selecting the artist."

"Oh! monsieur, my fortune would be made! "
said Steinbock, overwhelmed by so much good luck
at one time.

"Have no fear," replied the baron, graciously,
" if the two ministers to whom I propose to show
your group and this model, are well pleased with
your work, your fortune is in a fair way "

Hortense squeezed her father's arm so that she
made him wince.

" Bring me your papers, and say nothing of your
hopes to anyone, not even to our old Cousin Bette."

" Lisbeth!" cried Madame Hulot, arriving at some
understanding of the end, but unable to guess at
the means.

" I can give you proof of my skill by making a
bust of Madame " Wenceslas added.

Struck with Madame Hulot's beauty, the artist
had been comparing the mother and daughter for
some moments.

" Well, monsieur, life bids fair to become bright
for you," said the baron, completely won by the
refined and distinguished exterior of Count Stein-
bock. " You will soon learn that in Paris no one
can possess talent without soon paying the penalty,
and that all faithful work finds its reward here."



COUSIN BETTE 141

Hortense blushingly handed the young man a
pretty Algerian purse containing sixty gold-pieces.
The artist, always the gentleman, replied to Hor-
tense's blush with a modest change of color easy to
interpret.

" Can it be, by any chance, that this is the first
money you have received for your works?" asked
the baroness.

"Yes, madame, for my works of art, but not for
my labor; for I have been a workman "

" Very well, let us hope that my daughter's money
will bring you good luck!" rejoined the baroness.

" And take it without scruple," added the baron,
noticing that Wenceslas still held the purse in his
hand without putting it in his pocket. "This sum
will be made good by some great nobleman, by a
prince, perhaps, who will surely return it to us with
interest to possess this lovely work."

" Oh! I think too much of it, papa, to give it up
to anybody in the world, even the Prince Royal!"

" I can make another group prettier than this for
mademoiselle "

" It wouldn't be this one," she replied. And, as
if abashed at having said too much, she went into
the garden.

" Then I shall break the mould and the model
when 1 return home!" said Steinbock.

"Well, bring me your papers, and you will soon
hear from me, if you realize my expectations, mon-
sieur."

After this sentence the artist felt obliged to take



142 THE POOR RELATIONS

his leave. Having saluted Madame Hulot and Hor-
tense, who returned from the garden expressly to
receive his salute, he went and walked about in the
Tuileries gardens, without the power or the courage
to return to his attic, where his tyrant would plague
him with questions and wrest his secret from him.

Hortense's lover imagined himself the producer of
groups and statues by the hundred; he felt in him-
self the power to chisel marble with his own hand,
like Canova, who was once as weak as he and was
near dying of his weakness. He was transfigured
by Hortense, who had become for him a living,
visible inspiration.



"Well," said the baroness to her daughter,
"what's the meaning of this?"

"It means, dear mamma, that you have seen
our Cousin Bette's lover, who, I hope, is now
mine. But close your eyes, feign ignorance. Good
heavens! I intended to conceal it all from you,
and here I am telling you everything "

"Adieu, my children," cried the baron, kissing
his wife and daughter; "I may go and see the
Nanny-goat, and I shall learn many things from her
about the young man."

"Papa, be prudent," urged Hortense.

"Oh! my dear girl!" cried the baroness when
Hortense had concluded the recital of her poem, the
last stanza of which was the adventure of that
morning, "my dear, little girl, Innocence will always
be the greatest rake on earth!"

Sincere passions have an instinct of their own.
Put a gourmand where he can take fruit from a
plate, he will make no mistake, but will take the
best, even without looking. In like manner, leave
young women, well brought-up, absolutely unfet-
tered in their choice of husbands, and if they are
in a position to secure the ones they select they
rarely go astray. Nature is infallible. The work
of Nature, in this regard, is called Love at first sight.
In love the first sight is second sight, pure and simple.
(143)



144 THE POOR RELATIONS

The baroness* satisfaction, although concealed
beneath her maternal dignity, was no less great than
her daughter's; for of the three methods of marrying
Hortense, of which Crevel had spoken, the one
most to her liking seemed in a fair way to succeed.
She saw in this incident the response of Providence
to her fervent prayers.

Mademoiselle Fischer's galley-slave, being com-
pelled at last to return to his lodgings, conceived
the idea of concealing the joy of the lover behind
the joy of the artist in ecstasies with his first suc-
cess.

"Victory! my group is sold to the Due d'Herou-
ville, who is going to give me orders for more," he
said, throwing down the twelve hundred francs in
gold on the old maid's table.

He had, as we can imagine, put Hortense's purse
in a safe place; he had it against his heart.

"Well," replied Lisbeth, "it's very lucky, for I
am killing myself with work. You see, my child,
money comes very slowly in the trade you have
chosen, for this is the first you've received, and it's
nearly five years that you've been digging! This
is hardly enough to repay what you have cost me
since you gave the note of hand that stands me


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