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.' instead of my savings. But don't be alarmed," she
added, after counting the money, "it will all be
used for you. We have here enough to make us
secure for a year. In a year from now, you can pay
your debts, and have a round sum of your own, if
you go on in this way."



COUSIN BETTE 145

Seeing that his ruse was successful, Wenceslas
told the old maid some wonderful tales about the
Due d'Herouville.

" I mean that you shall dress all in black, in the
fashion, and have a new stock of linen, for you
ought to make a good appearance when you call
upon your patrons," said Bette. "And then, too,
you must have a larger and more suitable apart-
ment than your horrid attic, and furnish it in good
shape how gay you are! You are not the same
man," she added, eyeing Wenceslas keenly.

"Why they said that my group was a master-
piece."

"Very well, so much the better! Make more of
them," retorted the old maid sharply, matter-of-fact
to the last degree, and incapable of comprehending
the joy of triumph, or beauty in art. " Think no more
about what is sold, but make something else to sell.
You have spent two hundred francs in cash, without
counting your labor and your time, over that infernal
Samson. It will cost you more than two thousand
francs to have your clock cast. Look you, if you
take my advice, you will finish those two little boys
crowning the little girl with blue-bells; that will take
the fancy of the Parisians! I am going to call on M.
Graff, the tailor, before I go to M. Crevel's. Go
up to your own room and let me dress."

The next day the baron, who had gone mad over

Madame Marneffe, went to see Cousin Bette, who

was vastly amazed, when she opened her door, to

find him before her, for he had never paid her a visit.

10



146 THE POOR RELATIONS

She at once said to herself: " Can Hortense have
designs on my lover?" for, the night before, she
had learned at M. Crevel's of the rupture of the
marriage with the councilor of the royal court.

"What, cousin, you here? You come to see me
for the first time in your life; surely it's not on ac-
count of my lovely eyes?"

"Lovely! they are indeed," replied the baron;
"you have the loveliest eyes I have seen "

"Why have you come? Really, lam ashamed
to receive you in such a hovel."

The first of the two rooms comprised in Cousin
Bette's suite served as parlor, dining-room, kitchen
and work-room. The furniture was such as one
finds in the houses of well-to-do mechanics: walnut
chairs stuffed with straw, a small walnut dining-
table, a work-table, colored engravings in frames of
stained wood, little muslin curtains at the windows,
a large walnut wardrobe, the floor well scrubbed
and fairly shining with cleanliness; all without a speck
of dust, but cold to the last degree, a perfect picture
by Terburg in which nothing was lacking, not even
the gray effect produced by a wall-paper once of a
bluish tint and faded to the color of flax. As for
the bedroom, no one had ever entered there.

The baron took it all in at a glance, saw the sign
manual of slender circumstances upon everything,
from the cast-iron stove to the cooking utensils, and
was taken with nausea as he said to himself :

"So this is virtue! Why have I come," he an-
swered aloud. " You are too shrewd a girl not to



COUSIN BETTE 147

end by guessing, and so it's much better to tell
you," he cried, seating himself and drawing aside
the plaited muslin curtain to look across the court-
yard. "There is in this house a very pretty
woman "

" Madame Marneffe! Oh! I see!" said she, grasp-
ing the whole affair. "And Josepha?"

"Alas! cousin, there is no Josepha I was turned
out of doors like a lackey."

"And you would like? " queried the cousin, re-
garding the baron with the dignity of a prude taking
offence fifteen minutes too soon.

"As Madame Marneffe is a lady of very good
position, the wife of a clerk, and as you can asso-
ciate with her without compromising yourself,"
continued the baron, " 1 would like to see you on
neighborly terms with her. Oh! never fear, she
will show the very greatest consideration for the
cousin of M. le Directeur!"

At that moment they heard the rustling of a dress
on the staircase, accompanied by the footsteps of a
lady in the daintiest of boots. The sounds ceased
upon the landing. After two taps on the door
Madame Marneffe made her appearance.

" Pardon me, mademoiselle, for this intrusion upon
you, but I failed to find you yesterday when I came
to pay you a visit. We are neighbors, and if I had
known that you were the cousin of Monsieur the
Councilor of State, I should, long ago, have asked
you to use your influence with him. I saw him
come in, and thereupon I took the liberty of coming;



148 THE POOR RELATIONS

for my husband, Monsieur le Baron, spoke to me of
a report on the personnel of the department which
will be submitted to the minister to-morrow."

She seemed to be agitated, and to be trembling;
but she had simply run up the stairs.

" You have no need to play the petitioner, fair
lady," replied the baron; " it is my place to ask the
favor of an interview with you."

"Very well, if mademoiselle agrees, come!" said
Madame Marneffe.

"Go, cousin, I will join you later," said cousin
Bette prudently.

The lady relied so confidently upon M. le Direc-
teur's visit, and upon the understanding between
them, that she had not only made her own toilet
with an eye to such an interview, but had made
the toilet of her apartment as well. Early in the
morning the rooms were filled with flowers pur-
chased on credit. Marneffe had assisted his wife to
scrub the furniture, and to restore lustre to the
smallest objects by washing with soap, and brushing
and dusting everything. It was Valerie's aim to be
surrounded by an atmosphere of freshness in order
to gratify M. le Directeur, and to gratify him suffi-
ciently to earn the right to be cruel, to hold the
sugar-plum out of reach, as for a child, by employ-
ing all the resources of modern tactics. She had
taken Hulot's measure. Give a Parisian woman,
who is driven to extremities, twenty-four hours,
and she would overturn a ministry.

This man of the Empire, accustomed to the style



COUSIN BETTE 149

of love-making in vogue under the Empire, was
sure to be absolutely ignorant of the modern style,
the new-fashioned scruples, the different style of
conversation invented since 1830, in which the poor,
weak woman ends by causing herself to be looked
upon as the victim of her lover's desires, as a Sister
of Charity who dresses his wounds, as a ministering
angel. This new art of love consumes an enormous
number of pious words in doing the devil's work.
Passion is a martyr. One aspires to the ideal, to
the infinite; on one side and the other the lovers
seek to become better through love. All these
fine phrases are a mere excuse for displaying still
more ardor in practice, more frenzy in the downfall
than in the old days. This hypocrisy, the charac-
teristic of our time, has infected the art of love-
making with gangrene. The lovers deem themselves
a pair of angels, and they act like a pair of devils,
if they can. Love had not time to indulge in an-
alysis of this sort between two campaigns, and, in
1809, it achieved successes as rapidly as the Empire.
Under the Restoration, Hulot, the well-favored, be-
coming a ladies' man once more, had in the first
place played the part of consoler to a few former
lady friends, at that time fallen, like burned-out
stars, from the political firmament, and subse-
quently, no longer young, allowed himself to be led
captive by the Jenny Cadines and Josephas.

Madame Marneffe had trained her batteries on
learning the baron's antecedents, as narrated at
length to her by her husband, on the strength of



IJO THE POOR RELATIONS

certain information gleaned at the department. As
the comedy of modern sentiment might have for the
baron the charm of novelty, Valerie's plan was
formed, and, let us say at once, the test that she
made of her power during that morning call fulfilled
all her expectations. Thanks to her sentimental,
capricious, romantic manoeuvres, Valerie, without
making any promises, obtained the post of deputy
chief of bureau, and the Cross of the Legion of
Honor for her husband.

This little warfare did not go forward without
dinners at the Rocher de Cancale, theatre parties, and
an abundance of gifts in the way of mantles, scarfs,
dresses and jewels. The apartment on Rue du Doy-
enne was not satisfactory; the baron formed a plot
to furnish a suite magnificently for her in a charming
modern house on Rue Vanneau.

M. Marneffe obtained leave of absence for a fort-
night, to be taken at any time within a month, to go
to his province to settle some business matters there,
and he also received an honorarium. He promised
himself to take a little trip to Switzerland to study
the fair sex.

While Baron Hulot's mind was thus occupied with
his protegee, he did not forget his protigk. The Min-
ister of Commerce, Comte Popinot, loved the arts;
he gave two thousand francs for a copy of the
Samson group, on condition that the mould should
be broken so that there should be no Samsons in
existence save Mademoiselle Hulot's and his own.
This same group aroused the admiration of a prince,



COUSIN BETTE 15 1

to whom the model of the clock was exhibited, and
who ordered a copy of it; but his must be the only
copy and he offered thirty thousand francs for it.
The artists consulted, among whom was Stidmann,
declared that the designer of those two works of art
could be trusted to make a statue. Immediately the
Marechal Prince de Wissembourg, Minister of War,
and president of the subscription committee for the
monument to Marechal Montcornet, called a meeting
of the committee, by whom the execution of the
statue was entrusted to Steinbock. Comte de Ras-
tignac, then Under-Secretary of State, desired to
have a specimen of the work of the artist whose
fame was waxing great amid the acclamations of
his rivals. He obtained from Steinbock the charm-
ing group of the two little boys crowning a little
girl, and promised him a studio at the government
marble warehouse, situated, as every one knows,
at Gros-Caillou.

This was success, but such success as comes to
one at Paris; that is to say, unreasoning, and likely
to be the undoing of those whose shoulders and
loins are not fitted to bear it, as, by the way, is
often the case. Count Wenceslas Steinbock was
talked of in the newspapers and reviews, but neither
he nor Mademoiselle Fischer had the slightest sus-
picion of it. Every day, as soon as Mademoiselle
Fischer went out to dine, Wenceslas called upon the
baroness. He passed an hour or two the;e, except
on the day on which Bette dined with her cousin
Hulot. This state of affairs lasted for some days.



152 THE POOR RELATIONS

The baron, assured as to the rank and civil status
of Count Steinbock; the baroness, delighted with
his disposition and his morals, and Hortense, proud
of her sanctioned love, of the celebrity of her
suitor, no longer hesitated to speak of the marriage;
lastly, the artist himself was at the summit of bliss,
when Madame Marneffe's indiscretion put every-
thing in jeopardy. It happened in this way.

Lisbeth, between whom and Madame Marneffe
Baron Hulot was desirous to arrange an intimacy, so
that he might have an eye in that household, had
already dined with Valerie, who, for her part, wish-
ing to have an ear in the Hulot family, treated the
old maid with great kindness. It occurred to Valerie
to invite Mademoiselle Fischer to the house-warming
in the new apartment in which she was to be in-
stalled. The old maid, overjoyed to find another
house at which to dine, and fascinated by Madame
Marneffe, had become very fond of her. Of all the
persons with whom she had been on friendly terms,
not one had expended so much for her. In fact,
Madame Marneffe, outdoing herself in little atten-
tions to Mademoiselle Fischer, was in much the
same position, so to speak, in respect to her, that
Cousin Bette occupied in respect to the baroness,
M. Rivet, Crevel, all those in short with whom she
was accustomed to dine. The Marneffes aroused
Cousin Bette's especial sympathy by allowing her
to see the extreme destitution of their household,
and painting it, as always, in its most vivid colors;
friends who were in their debt but had proved



COUSIN BETTE 153

ungrateful; sickness; a mother, Madame Fortin, from
whom they had concealed her straitened circum-
stances, and who died in the belief that she was still
wealthy, thanks to superhuman sacrifices, etc.

"Poor people!" she said to her cousin Hulot.
" You are quite right to take an interest in them,
they deserve it, for they are so brave, so kind. They
can barely live with the thousand crowns salary of
the office of deputy-chief, for they have run in debt
since the death of Margchal Montcornet! It's down-
right barbarism for the government to expect a clerk
who has a wife and children, to live in Paris on a
salary of twenty-four hundred francs."

In this way a young woman, who made a show
of friendship for her, who told her everything, con-
sulting her, flattering her, and apparently propos-
ing to be guided by her, became in a short time
dearer to eccentric Cousin Bette than any of her re-
lations.

Meanwhile the baron, discovering, to his admira-
tion, in Madame Marneffe a modesty, an education
and manners which neither Jenny Cadine nor
JosSpha nor their friends had ever exhibited, had fallen
in love with her within a month, with an old man's
passion, an insensate passion which seemed reason-
able enough. Indeed he saw no signs of mockery,
no taste for revelry, no mad extravagance, no de-
pravity, no contempt for social amenities, nor that
absolute independence, which in the case of the
actress and the singer, had caused all his woes. He
was free likewise from the rapacity characteristic of



154 THE POOR RELATIONS

courtesans, which may be compared to the thirst
of the sand.

Madame Marneffe, who had become his friend and
his confidante, made an extraordinary ado about
accepting the least thing from him.

" It's all right so far as offices are concerned and
gratuities, and anything you can obtain for us from
the government; but do not begin by dishonoring
the woman you claim to love," Valerie would say;
" otherwise, I shall not believe you and I love to
believe you," she would add with a glance a la
Sainte Therese taking a peep at heaven.

With every gift there was a fortress to be car-
ried, a scruple of conscience to be overcome. The
poor baron resorted to stratagem to offer her a
trifle, very costly by the way, congratulating him-
self on having at last fallen in with a virtuous
woman, on having found the realization of his
dreams. In this primitive household, as he styled
it, the baron was as much a god as in his own home.
M. Marneffe seemed to be a thousand leagues from
entertaining a thought that the Jupiter of his depart-
ment purposed to descend upon his wife in a shower
of gold, and he made himself the footman of his
august chief.

Madame Marneffe, aged twenty-three, a pure
and timorous bourgeoise, a lovely flower hidden in
Rue du Doyenne, could know nothing of the dissi-
pation and demoralization of courtesans, which were
now disgusting beyond measure to the baron, for he
had never yet known the charm of the virtue which



COUSIN BETTE 1 55

resists, and the shrinking Valerie made him taste
that charm, as the song has it, the whole length of
the river.

When matters had once arrived at this stage be-
tween Hector and Valerie, no one will be surprised
to learn that Valerie soon knew from Hector the
secret of the approaching marriage of Steinbock,
the great artist, with Hortense. Between a lover
without privileges, and a wife who does not readily
make up her mind to become a mistress, oral and
moral conflicts take place wherein the word often
betrays the thought, just as, in a fencing match, the
foil becomes as active as the sword in a duel. At
such a time the most prudent man imitates M. de
Turenne. So it was that the baron had hinted at
the entire freedom of action which his daughter's
marriage would give him, in reply to the loving
Valerie, who had more than once cried:

" 1 cannot understand how one can commit a sin
for a man who is not wholly one's own!"

Already the baron had sworn a thousand times,
that, for twenty-five years, everything had been at an
end between Madame Hulot and himself.

"They say she is so lovely," Madame Marneffe
replied; "I must have proofs."

"You shall have them," said the baron, over-
joyed at this demand, whereby his Valerie seemed
to compromise herself.

" And how? You must never leave me," rejoined
Valerie.

Hector was thereupon compelled to disclose his



I $6 THE POOR RELATIONS

plans then in process of execution on Rue Vanneau,
to prove to his Valerie that it was his purpose to
give to her that half of life which belongs to a law-
ful wife, assuming that the day and night divide
equally the lives of civilized people. He spoke of
leaving his wife without scandal by leaving her
alone as soon as his daughter was married. The
baroness would then pass all her time with Hortense
and the young Hulots; he was certain of his wife's
submission.

"And then, my little angel, my real life, my true
home will be on Rue Vanneau."

"Lord, how coolly you dispose of me! "said
Madame Marneffe. "And my husband? "

"That ragamuffin!"

" Indeed beside you he is just that " she an-
swered with a laugh.

Madame Marneffe had a frantic longing to see the
young Count Steinbock after she had heard his
story; it may be that she desired to obtain some
specimen of his handiwork while they still lived
beneath the same roof. Her curiosity displeased
the baron to such a degree that Valerie swore that
she would never look at Wenceslas. But, after she
had secured her reward for abandoning this whim,
in the shape of a complete tea-service in old Sevres
pate tendre, she retained the desire at the bot-
tom of her heart, as if written upon a memorandum.
And so, one day, when she had asked her Cousin
Bette to come and take coffee with her in her apart-
ment, she led the conversation round to her lover,



COUSIN BETTE 157

in order to ascertain if she could see him without
risk.

"My darling," said she, for each called the other
"my darling," " why have you never introduced
your lover to me? Do you know that he has lately
become famous?"

"He, famous?"

" Why, everyone is talking about him! "

" Nonsense!" cried Lisbeth.

" He is to make the statue of my father, and I
could help him materially to make his work a suc-
cess, for Madame Montcornet can't, as I can, loan
him a miniature by Sain, a chef-d'oeuvre done in
1809, before the Wagram campaign and given to
my poor mother; in short, a youthful, handsome
Montcornet "

Sain and Augustin together held the sceptre of
miniature-painting under the Empire.

" He is going to make a statue, do you say, my
dear? " asked Lisbeth.

" Nine feet high, ordered by the War Department.
Well, well, where have you been? I have to tell
you the news! Why the government is going to
give Count Steinbeck a studio and apartments at
Gros-Caillou, at the marble warehouse; your Pole
may be the director there, a post worth two thou-
sand francs, a ring on his finger "

" How do you know all this, when I know nothing
of it?" said Lisbeth at last rousing from her stupor.

"Tell me, my dear little Cousin Bette," said
Madame Marneffe, graciously, "are you capable of



158 THE POOR RELATIONS

a devoted friendship that will stand every test? Do
you wish that we should be to each other like
sisters? Will you swear to have no more secrets
from me than 1 have from you? to be my spy as I
will be yours? Above all, will you swear never to
sell me either to my husband or to M. Hulot, and
never to confess that it was I who told you "

Madame Marneffe paused in this picador's work,
for Cousin Bette frightened her. The Lorrainer's
face had become terrible to look upon. Her piercing
black eyes glared like those of a tiger. Her ex-
pression resembled that we imagine the pythonesses
to have worn; she ground her teeth together to pre-
vent them from chattering, and a terrible convulsion
caused her whole frame to tremble. She had thrust
her claw-like hand between her cap and her hair, to
grasp it and so sustain her head, which had become
too heavy; she was in a raging fever! The smoke
of the fire which consumed her seemed to find vent
through her wrinkles, as through so many crevices
plowed by a volcanic eruption. It was a sublime
spectacle.

"Well, why do you stop?" said she, in a hollow
voice; " I will be to you all that I was to him. Oh!
I would have given my blood for him! "

"You love him then? "

"As if he were my child! "

"Oh well," rejoined Madame Marneffe, breath-
ing more freely, "if you love him in that way,
you will soon be very happy, for you wish him to be
happy, do you not?"



COUSIN BETTE 159

Lisbeth replied with a nod as swift as a mad-
woman's.

" He is to marry your second cousin in a month."

"Hortense?" cried the old maid, beating her brow
and rising.

"Aha! then you do love this young man?" queried
Madame Marneffe.

"My dear, we are friends for life and death," said
Mademoiselle Fischer. " Yes, if you have an at-
tachment for anybody it shall be sacred to me. In
short, your vices will become virtues in my eyes,
for I shall stand in need of your vices, myself!"

"So you are living with him, are you?" cried
Valerie.

" No, I would have been a mother to him "

"Oh! then I don't understand it at all," said
Valerie; "for in that case you are neither fooled
nor deceived, and you ought to be very happy to
see him make a good marriage; that gives him a fair
start. Besides all is over so far as you're concerned.
Our artist goes to Madame Hulot's every day, as soon
as you go out to dinner "

"Adeline!" muttered Lisbeth. "Oh, Adeline,
you shall pay me for this, I'll make you uglier than
lam!"

"Why, you're as pale as a corpse!" cried Valerie.

" Is there something then, that ? Oh! what an
idiot I am! the mother and daughter must suspect
that you would put obstacles in the way of this
love affair, as they conceal it from you," cried
Madame Marneffe; " but if you are not living with



160 THE POOR RELATIONS

the young man, my darling, all this is more incom-
prehensible to me than my husband's heart "

"Oh! you don't know," rejoined Lisbeth, "you
don't know what an underhand business this is! it's
the last blow that kills! I have received blows that
wounded me to the very soul! You don't know that
ever since I was old enough to feel I have been sac-
rificed to Adeline! They beat me, and fondled her! I
went about dressed like a scullery-maid, and she was
rigged out like a lady. I dug in the garden, I picked
beans; and she, why her ten fingers never moved
except to arrange her gewgaws! She married the
baron, she came to the Emperor's court to shine,
and I remained in my village till 1809, waiting for a
suitable match, four years; then they brought me
here, but only to make a work-girl of me, and offer
me husbands in the shape of clerks, and captains
who looked like porters! I have lived on their leav-
ings for twenty-six years And now it happens just
as in the Old Testament, the poor man owns a single
lamb which is his only treasure, and the rich man
who has whole flocks covets the poor man's lamb
and steals it without warning, without asking for
it, Adeline filches my happiness! Adeline! Ade-
line! I shall see you in the mire, lower down than
I! Hortense, whom I did love, has deceived me
The baron No, that isn't possible. Come, tell me
again the things that may be true in all this."

" Be calm, my darling "

"Valerie, my dear angel, I will be calm," replied
the strange creature, seating herself. " There is



COUSIN BETTE l6l

only one thing that will restore my reason; give me
a proof ! "

"Why, your Cousin Hortense owns the Samson
group, and here is a lithograph of it published by a
review; she paid for it out of her savings; and it's
the baron who, in his future son-in-law's interest, is
pushing him ahead and obtaining all these commis-
sions for him."

"Water! water!" exclaimed Lisbeth after a
glance at the lithograph, beneath which she read:
Group belonging to Mademoiselle Hulot d'Ervy.
" Water! my head's on fire; I am going mad!"

Madame Marneffe brought water; the old maid
removed her cap, took down her black hair, and
dipped her head in the basin which her new friend


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