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Honoré de Balzac.

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an evening party that comes to an end at eleven. She is always with me
while I work," he added.

"You have so much imagination!" said Lucien, and thereby made a mortal
enemy of Vernou.

"Well," continued Lousteau, "you are coming; but that is not all. M. de
Rubempre is about to be one of us, so you must push him in your paper.
Give him out for a chap that will make a name for himself in literature,
so that he can put in at least a couple of articles every month."

"Yes, if he means to be one of us, and will attack our enemies, as
we will attack his, I will say a word for him at the Opera to-night,"
replied Vernou.

"Very well - good-bye till to-morrow, my boy," said Lousteau, shaking
hands with every sign of cordiality. "When is your book coming out?"

"That depends on Dauriat; it is ready," said Vernou _pater-familias_.

"Are you satisfied?"

"Yes and no - - "

"We will get up a success," said Lousteau, and he rose with a bow to his
colleague's wife.

The abrupt departure was necessary indeed; for the two infants, engaged
in a noisy quarrel, were fighting with their spoons, and flinging the
pap in each other's faces.

"That, my boy, is a woman who all unconsciously will work great havoc
in contemporary literature," said Etienne, when they came away. "Poor
Vernou cannot forgive us for his wife. He ought to be relieved of her in
the interests of the public; and a deluge of blood-thirsty reviews and
stinging sarcasms against successful men of every sort would be averted.
What is to become of a man with such a wife and that pair of abominable
brats? Have you seen Rigaudin in Picard's _La Maison en Loterie_? You
have? Well, like Rigaudin, Vernou will not fight himself, but he will
set others fighting; he would give an eye to put out both eyes in the
head of the best friend he has. You will see him using the bodies of
the slain for a stepping-stone, rejoicing over every one's misfortunes,
attacking princes, dukes, marquises, and nobles, because he himself is
a commoner; reviling the work of unmarried men because he forsooth has
a wife; and everlastingly preaching morality, the joys of domestic life,
and the duties of the citizen. In short, this very moral critic will
spare no one, not even infants of tender age. He lives in the Rue Mandar
with a wife who might be the _Mamamouchi_ of the _Bourgeois gentilhomme_
and a couple of little Vernous as ugly as sin. He tries to sneer at
the Faubourg Saint-Germain, where he will never set foot, and makes his
duchesses talk like his wife. That is the sort of man to raise a howl
at the Jesuits, insult the Court, and credit the Court party with the
design of restoring feudal rights and the right of primogeniture - just
the one to preach a crusade for Equality, he that thinks himself the
equal of no one. If he were a bachelor, he would go into society; if he
were in a fair way to be a Royalist poet with a pension and the Cross
of the Legion of Honor, he would be an optimist, and journalism offers
starting-points by the hundred. Journalism is the giant catapult set in
motion by pigmy hatreds. Have you any wish to marry after this? Vernou
has none of the milk of human kindness in him, it is all turned to gall;
and he is emphatically the Journalist, a tiger with two hands that tears
everything to pieces, as if his pen had the hydrophobia."

"It is a case of gunophobia," said Lucien. "Has he ability?"

"He is witty, he is a writer of articles. He incubates articles; he does
that all his life and nothing else. The most dogged industry would fail
to graft a book on his prose. Felicien is incapable of conceiving a work
on a large scale, of broad effects, of fitting characters harmoniously
in a plot which develops till it reaches a climax. He has ideas, but
he has no knowledge of facts; his heroes are utopian creatures,
philosophical or Liberal notions masquerading. He is at pains to
write an original style, but his inflated periods would collapse at a
pin-prick from a critic; and therefore he goes in terror of reviews,
like every one else who can only keep his head above water with the
bladders of newspaper puffs."

"What an article you are making out of him!"

"That particular kind, my boy, must be spoken, and never written."

"You are turning editor," said Lucien.

"Where shall I put you down?"

"At Coralie's."

"Ah! we are infatuated," said Lousteau. "What a mistake! Do as I do with
Florine, let Coralie be your housekeeper, and take your fling."

"You would send a saint to perdition," laughed Lucien.

"Well, there is no damning a devil," retorted Lousteau.

The flippant tone, the brilliant talk of this new friend, his views of
life, his paradoxes, the axioms of Parisian Machiavelism, - all these
things impressed Lucien unawares. Theoretically the poet knew that such
thoughts were perilous; but he believed them practically useful.

Arrived in the Boulevard du Temple, the friends agreed to meet at the
office between four and five o'clock. Hector Merlin would doubtless be
there. Lousteau was right. The infatuation of desire was upon Lucien;
for the courtesan who loves knows how to grapple her lover to her
by every weakness in his nature, fashioning herself with incredible
flexibility to his every wish, encouraging the soft, effeminate habits
which strengthen her hold. Lucien was thirsting already for enjoyment;
he was in love with the easy, luxurious, and expensive life which the
actress led.

He found Coralie and Camusot intoxicated with joy. The Gymnase offered
Coralie an engagement after Easter on terms for which she had never
dared to hope.

"And this great success is owing to you," said Camusot.

"Yes, surely. _The Alcalde_ would have fallen flat but for him," cried
Coralie; "if there had been no article, I should have been in for
another six years of the Boulevard theatres."

She danced up to Lucien and flung her arms round him, putting an
indescribable silken softness and sweetness into her enthusiasm. Love
had come to Coralie. And Camusot? his eyes fell. Looking down after the
wont of mankind in moments of sharp pain, he saw the seam of Lucien's
boots, a deep yellow thread used by the best bootmakers of that time, in
strong contrast with the glistening leather. The color of that seam had
tinged his thoughts during a previous conversation with himself, as
he sought to explain the presence of a mysterious pair of hessians in
Coralie's fender. He remembered now that he had seen the name of "Gay,
Rue de la Michodiere," printed in black letters on the soft white kid
lining.

"You have a handsome pair of boots, sir," he said.

"Like everything else about him," said Coralie.

"I should be very glad of your bootmaker's address."

"Oh, how like the Rue des Bourdonnais to ask for a tradesman's address,"
cried Coralie. "Do _you_ intend to patronize a young man's bootmaker? A
nice young man you would make! Do keep to your own top-boots; they are
the kind for a steady-going man with a wife and family and a mistress."

"Indeed, if you would take off one of your boots, sir, I should be very
much obliged," persisted Camusot.

"I could not get it on again without a button-hook," said Lucien,
flushing up.

"Berenice will fetch you one; we can do with some here," jeered Camusot.

"Papa Camusot!" said Coralie, looking at him with cruel scorn, "have the
courage of your pitiful baseness. Come, speak out! You think that this
gentleman's boots are very like mine, do you not? - I forbid you to take
off your boots," she added, turning to Lucien. - "Yes, M. Camusot. Yes,
you saw some boots lying about in the fender here the other day,
and that is the identical pair, and this gentleman was hiding in my
dressing-room at the time, waiting for them; and he had passed the night
here. That was what you were thinking, _hein_? Think so; I would rather
you did. It is the simple truth. I am deceiving you. And if I am? I do
it to please myself."

She sat down. There was no anger in her face, no embarrassment; she
looked from Camusot to Lucien. The two men avoided each other's eyes.

"I will believe nothing that you do not wish me to believe," said
Camusot. "Don't play with me, Coralie; I was wrong - - "

"I am either a shameless baggage that has taken a sudden fancy; or a
poor, unhappy girl who feels what love really is for the first time, the
love that all women long for. And whichever way it is, you must leave
me or take me as I am," she said, with a queenly gesture that crushed
Camusot.

"Is it really true?" he asked, seeing from their faces that this was no
jest, yet begging to be deceived.

"I love mademoiselle," Lucien faltered out.

At that word, Coralie sprang to her poet and held him tightly to her;
then, with her arms still about him, she turned to the silk-mercer, as
if to bid him see the beautiful picture made by two young lovers.

"Poor Musot, take all that you gave to me back again; I do not want
to keep anything of yours; for I love this boy here madly, not for his
intellect, but for his beauty. I would rather starve with him than have
millions with you."

Camusot sank into a low chair, hid his face in his hands, and said not a
word.

"Would you like us to go away?" she asked. There was a note of ferocity
in her voice which no words can describe.

Cold chills ran down Lucien's spine; he beheld himself burdened with a
woman, an actress, and a household.

"Stay here, Coralie; keep it all," the old tradesman said at last, in a
faint, unsteady voice that came from his heart; "I don't want anything
back. There is the worth of sixty thousand francs here in the furniture;
but I could not bear to think of my Coralie in want. And yet, it will
not be long before you come to want. However great this gentleman's
talent may be, he can't afford to keep you. We old fellows must expect
this sort of thing. Coralie, let me come and see you sometimes; I may be
of use to you. And - I confess it; I cannot live without you."

The poor man's gentleness, stripped as he was of his happiness just as
happiness had reached its height, touched Lucien deeply. Coralie was
quite unsoftened by it.

"Come as often as you wish, poor Musot," she said; "I shall like you all
the better when I don't pretend to love you."

Camusot seemed to be resigned to his fate so long as he was not driven
out of the earthly paradise, in which his life could not have been all
joy; he trusted to the chances of life in Paris and to the temptations
that would beset Lucien's path; he would wait a while, and all that
had been his should be his again. Sooner or later, thought the wily
tradesman, this handsome young fellow would be unfaithful; he would keep
a watch on him; and the better to do this and use his opportunity with
Coralie, he would be their friend. The persistent passion that could
consent to such humiliation terrified Lucien. Camusot's proposal of a
dinner at Very's in the Palais Royal was accepted.

"What joy!" cried Coralie, as soon as Camusot had departed. "You will
not go back now to your garret in the Latin Quarter; you will live here.
We shall always be together. You can take a room in the Rue Charlot for
the sake of appearances, and _vogue le galere_!"

She began to dance her Spanish dance, with an excited eagerness that
revealed the strength of the passion in her heart.

"If I work hard I may make five hundred francs a month," Lucien said.

"And I shall make as much again at the theatre, without counting extras.
Camusot will pay for my dresses as before. He is fond of me! We can live
like Croesus on fifteen hundred francs a month."

"And the horses? and the coachman? and the footman?" inquired Berenice.

"I will get into debt," said Coralie. And she began to dance with
Lucien.

"I must close with Finot after this," Lucien exclaimed.

"There!" said Coralie, "I will dress and take you to your office. I will
wait outside in the boulevard for you with the carriage."

Lucien sat down on the sofa and made some very sober reflections as he
watched Coralie at her toilet. It would have been wiser to leave Coralie
free than to start all at once with such an establishment; but Coralie
was there before his eyes, and Coralie was so lovely, so graceful,
so bewitching, that the more picturesque aspects of bohemia were in
evidence; and he flung down the gauntlet to fortune.

Berenice was ordered to superintend Lucien's removal and installation;
and Coralie, triumphant, radiant, and happy, carried off her love,
her poet, and must needs go all over Paris on the way to the Rue
Saint-Fiacre. Lucien sprang lightly up the staircase, and entered the
office with an air of being quite at home. Coloquinte was there with
the stamped paper still on his head; and old Giroudeau told him again,
hypocritically enough, that no one had yet come in.

"But the editor and contributors _must_ meet somewhere or other to
arrange about the journal," said Lucien.

"Very likely; but I have nothing to do with the writing of the paper,"
said the Emperor's captain, resuming his occupation of checking off
wrappers with his eternal broum! broum!

Was it lucky or unlucky? Finot chanced to come in at that very moment
to announce his sham abdication and to bid Giroudeau watch over his
interests.

"No shilly-shally with this gentleman; he is on the staff," Finot added
for his uncle's benefit, as he grasped Lucien by the hand.

"Oh! is he on the paper?" exclaimed Giroudeau, much surprised at this
friendliness. "Well, sir, you came on without much difficulty."

"I want to make things snug for you here, lest Etienne should bamboozle
you," continued Finot, looking knowingly at Lucien. "This gentleman will
be paid three francs per column all round, including theatres."

"You have never taken any one on such terms before," said Giroudeau,
opening his eyes.

"And he will take the four Boulevard theatres. See that nobody sneaks
his boxes, and that he gets his share of tickets. - I should advise you,
nevertheless, to have them sent to your address," he added, turning to
Lucien. - "And he agrees to write besides ten miscellaneous articles of
two columns each, for fifty francs per month, for one year. Does that
suit you?"

"Yes," said Lucien. Circumstances had forced his hand.

"Draw up the agreement, uncle, and we will sign it when we come
downstairs."

"Who is the gentleman?" inquired Giroudeau, rising and taking off his
black silk skull-cap.

"M. Lucien de Rubempre, who wrote the article on _The Alcalde_."

"Young man, you have a gold mine _there_," said the old soldier, tapping
Lucien on the forehead. "I am not literary myself, but I read that
article of yours, and I liked it. That is the kind of thing! There's
gaiety for you! 'That will bring us new subscribers,' says I to myself.
And so it did. We sold fifty more numbers."

"Is my agreement with Lousteau made out in duplicate and ready to sign?"
asked Finot, speaking aside.

"Yes."

"Then ante-date this gentleman's agreement by one day, so that Lousteau
will be bound by the previous contract."

Finot took his new contributor's arm with a friendliness that charmed
Lucien, and drew him out on the landing to say: -

"Your position is made for you. I will introduce you to _my_ staff
myself, and to-night Lousteau will go round with you to the theatres.
You can make a hundred and fifty francs per month on this little paper
of ours with Lousteau as its editor, so try to keep well with him. The
rogue bears a grudge against me as it is, for tying his hands so far
as you are concerned; but you have ability, and I don't choose that you
shall be subjected to the whims of the editor. You might let me have
a couple of sheets every month for my review, and I will pay you two
hundred francs. This is between ourselves, don't mention it to anybody
else; I should be laid open to the spite of every one whose vanity
is mortified by your good fortune. Write four articles, fill your two
sheets, sign two with your own name, and two with a pseudonym, so that
you may not seem to be taking the bread out of anybody else's mouth.
You owe your position to Blondet and Vignon; they think that you have a
future before you. So keep out of scrapes, and, above all things, be on
your guard against your friends. As for me, we shall always get on
well together, you and I. Help me, and I will help you. You have forty
francs' worth of boxes and tickets to sell, and sixty francs' worth of
books to convert into cash. With that and your work on the paper, you
will be making four hundred and fifty francs every month. If you use
your wits, you will find ways of making another two hundred francs
at least among the publishers; they will pay you for reviews and
prospectuses. But you are mine, are you not? I can count upon you."

Lucien squeezed Finot's hand in transports of joy which no words can
express.

"Don't let any one see that anything has passed between us," said Finot
in his ear, and he flung open a door of a room in the roof at the end of
a long passage on the fifth floor.

A table covered with a green cloth was drawn up to a blazing fire,
and seated in various chairs and lounges Lucien discovered Lousteau,
Felicien Vernou, Hector Merlin, and two others unknown to him, all
laughing or smoking. A real inkstand, full of ink this time, stood on
the table among a great litter of papers; while a collection of pens,
the worse for wear, but still serviceable for journalists, told the new
contributor very plainly that the mighty enterprise was carried on in
this apartment.

"Gentlemen," said Finot, "the object of this gathering is the
installation of our friend Lousteau in my place as editor of the
newspaper which I am compelled to relinquish. But although my opinions
will necessarily undergo a transformation when I accept the editorship
of a review of which the politics are known to you, my _convictions_
remain the same, and we shall be friends as before. I am quite at
your service, and you likewise will be ready to do anything for me.
Circumstances change; principles are fixed. Principles are the pivot on
which the hands of the political barometer turn."

There was an instant shout of laughter.

"Who put that into your mouth?" asked Lousteau.

"Blondet!" said Finot.

"Windy, showery, stormy, settled fair," said Merlin; "we will all row in
the same boat."

"In short," continued Finot, "not to muddle our wits with metaphors,
any one who has an article or two for me will always find Finot. - This
gentleman," turning to Lucien, "will be one of you. - I have arranged
with him, Lousteau."

Every one congratulated Finot on his advance and new prospects.

"So there you are, mounted on our shoulders," said a contributor whom
Lucien did not know. "You will be the Janus of Journal - - "

"So long as he isn't the Janot," put in Vernou.

"Are you going to allow us to make attacks on our _betes noires_?"

"Any one you like."

"Ah, yes!" said Lousteau; "but the paper must keep on its lines. M.
Chatelet is very wroth; we shall not let him off for a week yet."

"What has happened?" asked Lucien.

"He came here to ask for an explanation," said Vernou. "The Imperial
buck found old Giroudeau at home; and old Giroudeau told him, with
all the coolness in the world, that Philippe Bridau wrote the article.
Philippe asked the Baron to mention the time and the weapons, and there
it ended. We are engaged at this moment in offering excuses to the Baron
in to-morrow's issue. Every phrase is a stab for him."

"Keep your teeth in him and he will come round to me," said Finot; "and
it will look as if I were obliging him by appeasing you. He can say a
word to the Ministry, and we can get something or other out of him - an
assistant schoolmaster's place, or a tobacconist's license. It is a
lucky thing for us that we flicked him on the raw. Does anybody here
care to take a serious article on Nathan for my new paper?"

"Give it to Lucien," said Lousteau. "Hector and Vernou will write
articles in their papers at the same time."

"Good-day, gentlemen; we shall meet each other face to face at
Barbin's," said Finot, laughing.

Lucien received some congratulations on his admission to the mighty army
of journalists, and Lousteau explained that they could be sure of
him. "Lucien wants you all to sup in a body at the house of the fair
Coralie."

"Coralie is going on at the Gymnase," said Lucien.

"Very well, gentlemen; it is understood that we push Coralie, eh? Put
a few lines about her new engagement in your papers, and say something
about her talent. Credit the management of the Gymnase with tack and
discernment; will it do to say intelligence?"

"Yes, say intelligence," said Merlin; "Frederic has something of
Scribe's."

"Oh! Well, then, the manager of the Gymnase is the most perspicacious
and far-sighted of men of business," said Vernou.

"Look here! don't write your articles on Nathan until we have come to an
understanding; you shall hear why," said Etienne Lousteau. "We ought
to do something for our new comrade. Lucien here has two books to bring
out - a volume of sonnets and a novel. The power of the paragraph should
make him a great poet due in three months; and we will make use of his
sonnets (_Marguerites_ is the title) to run down odes, ballads, and
reveries, and all the Romantic poetry."

"It would be a droll thing if the sonnets were no good after all," said
Vernou. - "What do you yourself think of your sonnets, Lucien?"

"Yes, what do you think of them?" asked one of the two whom Lucien did
not know.

"They are all right, gentlemen; I give you my word," said Lousteau.

"Very well, that will do for me," said Vernou; "I will heave your book
at the poets of the sacristy; I am tired of them."

"If Dauriat declines to take the _Marguerites_ this evening, we will
attack him by pitching into Nathan."

"But what will Nathan say?" cried Lucien.

His five colleagues burst out laughing.

"Oh! he will be delighted," said Vernou. "You will see how we manage
these things."

"So he is one of us?" said one of the two journalists.

"Yes, yes, Frederic; no tricks. - We are all working for you, Lucien, you
see; you must stand by us when your turn comes. We are all friends
of Nathan's, and we are attacking him. Now, let us divide Alexander's
empire. - Frederic, will you take the Francais and the Odeon?"

"If these gentlemen are willing," returned the person addressed as
Frederic. The others nodded assent, but Lucien saw a gleam of jealousy
here and there.

"I am keeping the Opera, the Italiens, and the Opera-Comique," put in
Vernou.

"And how about me? Am I to have no theatres at all?" asked the second
stranger.

"Oh well, Hector can let you have the Varietes, and Lucien can spare you
the Porte Saint-Martin. - Let him have the Porte Saint-Martin, Lucien,
he is wild about Fanny Beaupre; and you can take the Cirque-Olympique in
exchange. I shall have Bobino and the Funambules and Madame Saqui. Now,
what have we for to-morrow?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing."

"Gentlemen, be brilliant for my first number. The Baron du Chatelet
and his cuttlefish bone will not last for a week, and the writer of _Le
Solitaire_ is worn out."

"And 'Sosthenes-Demosthenes' is stale too," said Vernou; "everybody has
taken it up."

"The fact is, we want a new set of ninepins," said Frederic.

"Suppose that we take the virtuous representatives of the Right?"
suggested Lousteau. "We might say that M. de Bonald has sweaty feet."

"Let us begin a series of sketches of Ministerialist orators," suggested
Hector Merlin.

"You do that, youngster; you know them; they are your own party," said
Lousteau; "you could indulge any little private grudges of your own.
Pitch into Beugnot and Syrieys de Mayrinhac and the rest. You might have
the sketches ready in advance, and we shall have something to fall back
upon."

"How if we invented one or two cases of refusal of burial with
aggravating circumstances?" asked Hector.

"Do not follow in the tracks of the big Constitutional papers; they have
pigeon-holes full of ecclesiastical _canards_," retorted Vernou.

"_Canards_?" repeated Lucien.

"That is our word for a scrap of fiction told for true, put in to
enliven the column of morning news when it is flat. We owe the discovery
to Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of the lightning conductor and the
republic. That journalist completely deceived the Encyclopaedists by
his transatlantic _canards_. Raynal gives two of them for facts in his
_Histoire philosophique des Indes_."

"I did not know that," said Vernou. "What were the stories?"

"One was a tale about an Englishman and a negress who helped him to



Online LibraryHonoré de BalzacA Distinguished Provincial at Paris → online text (page 17 of 29)