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Lousteau borrowed forty francs of him, and divided the money into four
equal parts.

Misery had brought down Lucien's pride and extinguished sentiment; he
shed tears as he told the story of his troubles, but each one of his
comrades had a tale as cruel as his own; and when the three versions
had been given, it seemed to the poet that he was the least unfortunate
among the four. All of them craved a respite from remembrance and
thoughts which made trouble doubly hard to bear.

Lousteau hurried to the Palais Royal to gamble with his remaining nine
francs. The great man unknown to fame, though he had a divine mistress,
must needs hie him to a low haunt of vice to wallow in perilous
pleasure. Vignon betook himself to the _Rocher de Cancale_ to drown
memory and thought in a couple of bottles of Bordeaux; Lucien parted
company with him on the threshold, declining to share that supper. When
he shook hands with the one journalist who had not been hostile to him,
it was with a cruel pang in his heart.

"What shall I do?" he asked aloud.

"One must do as one can," the great critic said. "Your book is good, but
it excited jealousy, and your struggle will be hard and long. Genius is
a cruel disease. Every writer carries a canker in his heart, a devouring
monster, like the tapeworm in the stomach, which destroys all feeling as
it arises in him. Which is the stronger? The man or the disease? One
has need be a great man, truly, to keep the balance between genius and
character. The talent grows, the heart withers. Unless a man is a giant,
unless he has the thews of a Hercules, he must be content either to lose
his gift or to live without a heart. You are slender and fragile, you
will give way," he added, as he turned into the restaurant.

Lucien returned home, thinking over that terrible verdict. He beheld
the life of literature by the light of the profound truths uttered by
Vignon.

"Money! money!" a voice cried in his ears.

Then he drew three bills of a thousand francs each, due respectively
in one, two, and three months, imitating the handwriting of his
brother-in-law, David Sechard, with admirable skill. He endorsed the
bills, and took them next morning to Metivier, the paper-dealer in the
Rue Serpente, who made no difficulty about taking them. Lucien wrote
a few lines to give his brother-in-law notice of this assault upon his
cash-box, promising, as usual in such cases, to be ready to meet the
bills as they fell due.

When all debts, his own and Coralie's, were paid, he put the three
hundred francs which remained into Berenice's hands, bidding her to
refuse him money if he asked her for it. He was afraid of a return of
the gambler's frenzy. Lucien worked away gloomily in a sort of cold,
speechless fury, putting forth all his powers into witty articles,
written by the light of the lamp at Coralie's bedside. Whenever he
looked up in search of ideas, his eyes fell on that beloved face, white
as porcelain, fair with the beauty that belongs to the dying, and he
saw a smile on her pale lips, and her eyes, grown bright with a more
consuming pain than physical suffering, always turned on his face.

Lucien sent in his work, but he could not leave the house to worry
editors, and his articles did not appear. When he at last made up his
mind to go to the office, he met with a cool reception from Theodore
Gaillard, who had advanced him money, and turned his literary diamonds
to good account afterwards.

"Take care, my dear fellow, you are falling off," he said. "You must not
let yourself down, your work wants inspiration!"

"That little Lucien has written himself out with his romance and his
first articles," cried Felicien Vernou, Merlin, and the whole chorus of
his enemies, whenever his name came up at Dauriat's or the Vaudeville.
"The work he is sending us is pitiable."

"To have written oneself out" (in the slang of journalism), is a verdict
very hard to live down. It passed everywhere from mouth to mouth,
ruining Lucien, all unsuspicious as he was. And, indeed, his burdens
were too heavy for his strength. In the midst of a heavy strain of work,
he was sued for the bills which he had drawn in David Sechard's name. He
had recourse to Camusot's experience, and Coralie's sometime adorer was
generous enough to assist the man she loved. The intolerable situation
lasted for two whole months; the days being diversified by stamped
papers handed over to Desroches, a friend of Bixiou, Blondet, and des
Lupeaulx.

Early in August, Bianchon told them that Coralie's condition was
hopeless - she had only a few days to live. Those days were spent in
tears by Berenice and Lucien; they could not hide their grief from the
dying girl, and she was broken-hearted for Lucien's sake.

Some strange change was working in Coralie. She would have Lucien bring
a priest; she must be reconciled to the Church and die in peace. Coralie
died as a Christian; her repentance was sincere. Her agony and death
took all energy and heart out of Lucien. He sank into a low chair at the
foot of the bed, and never took his eyes off her till Death brought
the end of her suffering. It was five o'clock in the morning. Some
singing-bird lighting upon a flower-pot on the window-sill, twittered a
few notes. Berenice, kneeling by the bedside, was covering a hand fast
growing cold with kisses and tears. On the chimney-piece there lay
eleven sous.

Lucien went out. Despair made him beg for money to lay Coralie in
her grave. He had wild thoughts of flinging himself at the Marquise
d'Espard's feet, of entreating the Comte du Chatelet, Mme. de Bargeton,
Mlle. des Touches, nay, that terrible dandy of a de Marsay. All his
pride had gone with his strength. He would have enlisted as a common
soldier at that moment for money. He walked on with a slouching,
feverish gait known to all the unhappy, reached Camille Maupin's house,
entered, careless of his disordered dress, and sent in a message. He
entreated Mlle. des Touches to see him for a moment.

"Mademoiselle only went to bed at three o'clock this morning," said the
servant, "and no one would dare to disturb her until she rings."

"When does she ring?"

"Never before ten o'clock."

Then Lucien wrote one of those harrowing appeals in which the
well-dressed beggar flings all pride and self-respect to the winds. One
evening, not so very long ago, when Lousteau had told him of the abject
begging letters which Finot received, Lucien had thought it impossible
that any creature would sink so low; and now, carried away by his pen,
he had gone further, it may be, than other unlucky wretches upon the
same road. He did not suspect, in his fever and imbecility, that he
had just written a masterpiece of pathos. On his way home along the
Boulevards, he met Barbet.

"Barbet!" he begged, holding out his hand. "Five hundred francs!"

"No. Two hundred," returned the other.

"Ah! then you have a heart."

"Yes; but I am a man of business as well. I have lost a lot of money
through you," he concluded, after giving the history of the failure of
Fendant and Cavalier, "will you put me in the way of making some?"

Lucien quivered.

"You are a poet. You ought to understand all kinds of poetry," continued
the little publisher. "I want a few rollicking songs at this moment to
put along with some more by different authors, or they will be down upon
me over the copyright. I want to have a good collection to sell on the
streets at ten sous. If you care to let me have ten good drinking-songs
by to-morrow morning, or something spicy, - you know the sort of thing,
eh! - I will pay you two hundred francs."

When Lucien returned home, he found Coralie stretched out straight and
stiff on a pallet-bed; Berenice, with many tears, had wrapped her in a
coarse linen sheet, and put lighted candles at the four corners of the
bed. Coralie's face had taken that strange, delicate beauty of death
which so vividly impresses the living with the idea of absolute calm;
she looked like some white girl in a decline; it seemed as if those
pale, crimson lips must open and murmur the name which had blended with
the name of God in the last words that she uttered before she died.

Lucien told Berenice to order a funeral which should not cost more than
two hundred francs, including the service at the shabby little church of
the Bonne-Nouvelle. As soon as she had gone out, he sat down to a table,
and beside the dead body of his love he composed ten rollicking songs
to fit popular airs. The effort cost him untold anguish, but at last the
brain began to work at the bidding of Necessity, as if suffering were
not; and already Lucien had learned to put Claude Vignon's terrible
maxims in practice, and to raise a barrier between heart and brain. What
a night the poor boy spent over those drinking songs, writing by the
light of the tall wax candles while the priest recited the prayers for
the dead!

Morning broke before the last song was finished. Lucien tried it over
to a street-song of the day, to the consternation of Berenice and the
priest, who thought that he was mad: -


Lads, 'tis tedious waste of time
To mingle song and reason;
Folly calls for laughing rhyme,
Sense is out of season.
Let Apollo be forgot
When Bacchus fills the drinking-cup;
Any catch is good, I wot,
If good fellows take it up.
Let philosophers protest,
Let us laugh,
And quaff,
And a fig for the rest!

As Hippocrates has said,
Every jolly fellow,
When a century has sped,
Still is fit and mellow.
No more following of a lass
With the palsy in your legs?
- While your hand can hold a glass,
You can drain it to the dregs,
With an undiminished zest.
Let us laugh,
And quaff,
And a fig for the rest!

Whence we come we know full well.
Whiter are we going?
Ne'er a one of us can tell,
'Tis a thing past knowing.
Faith! what does it signify,
Take the good that Heaven sends;
It is certain that we die,
Certain that we live, my friends.
Life is nothing but a jest.
Let us laugh,
And quaff,
And a fig for the rest!


He was shouting the reckless refrain when d'Arthez and Bianchon arrived,
to find him in a paroxysm of despair and exhaustion, utterly unable to
make a fair copy of his verses. A torrent of tears followed; and when,
amid his sobs, he had told his story, he saw the tears standing in his
friends' eyes.

"This wipes out many sins," said d'Arthez.

"Happy are they who suffer for their sins in this world," the priest
said solemnly.

At the sight of the fair, dead face smiling at Eternity, while Coralie's
lover wrote tavern-catches to buy a grave for her, and Barbet paid for
the coffin - of the four candles lighted about the dead body of her who
had thrilled a great audience as she stood behind the footlights in her
Spanish basquina and scarlet green-clocked stockings; while beyond in
the doorway, stood the priest who had reconciled the dying actress with
God, now about to return to the church to say a mass for the soul of her
who had "loved much," - all the grandeur and the sordid aspects of the
scene, all that sorrow crushed under by Necessity, froze the blood of
the great writer and the great doctor. They sat down; neither of them
could utter a word.

Just at that moment a servant in livery announced Mlle. des Touches.
That beautiful and noble woman understood everything at once.
She stepped quickly across the room to Lucien, and slipped two
thousand-franc notes into his hand as she grasped it.

"It is too late," he said, looking up at her with dull, hopeless eyes.

The three stayed with Lucien, trying to soothe his despair with
comforting words; but every spring seemed to be broken. At noon all the
brotherhood, with the exception of Michel Chrestien (who, however, had
learned the truth as to Lucien's treachery), was assembled in the poor
little church of the Bonne-Nouvelle; Mlle. de Touches was present,
and Berenice and Coralie's dresser from the theatre, with a couple of
supernumeraries and the disconsolate Camusot. All the men accompanied
the actress to her last resting-place in Pere Lachaise. Camusot,
shedding hot tears, had solemnly promised Lucien to buy the grave in
perpetuity, and to put a headstone above it with the words:


CORALIE

AGED NINETEEN YEARS

August, 1822


Lucien stayed there, on the sloping ground that looks out over Paris,
until the sun had set.

"Who will love me now?" he thought. "My truest friends despise me.
Whatever I might have done, she who lies here would have thought me
wholly noble and good. I have no one left to me now but my sister and
mother and David. And what do they think of me at home?"

Poor distinguished provincial! He went back to the Rue de la Lune; but
the sight of the rooms was so acutely painful, that he could not stay
in them, and he took a cheap lodging elsewhere in the same street. Mlle.
des Touches' two thousand francs and the sale of the furniture paid the
debts.

Berenice had two hundred francs left, on which they lived for two
months. Lucien was prostrate; he could neither write nor think; he gave
way to morbid grief. Berenice took pity upon him.

"Suppose that you were to go back to your own country, how are you to
get there?" she asked one day, by way of reply to an exclamation of
Lucien's.

"On foot."

"But even so, you must live and sleep on the way. Even if you walk
twelve leagues a day, you will want twenty francs at least."

"I will get them together," he said.

He took his clothes and his best linen, keeping nothing but strict
necessaries, and went to Samanon, who offered fifty francs for his
entire wardrobe. In vain he begged the money-lender to let him have
enough to pay his fare by the coach; Samanon was inexorable. In a
paroxysm of fury, Lucien rushed to Frascati's, staked the proceeds of
the sale, and lost every farthing. Back once more in the wretched room
in the Rue de la Lune, he asked Berenice for Coralie's shawl. The good
girl looked at him, and knew in a moment what he meant to do. He had
confessed to his loss at the gaming-table; and now he was going to hang
himself.

"Are you mad, sir? Go out for a walk, and come back again at midnight.
I will get the money for you; but keep to the Boulevards, do not go
towards the Quais."

Lucien paced up and down the Boulevards. He was stupid with grief. He
watched the passers-by and the stream of traffic, and felt that he
was alone, and a very small atom in this seething whirlpool of Paris,
churned by the strife of innumerable interests. His thoughts went back
to the banks of his Charente; a craving for happiness and home awoke
in him; and with the craving, came one of the sudden febrile bursts of
energy which half-feminine natures like his mistake for strength. He
would not give up until he had poured out his heart to David Sechard,
and taken counsel of the three good angels still left to him on earth.

As he lounged along, he caught sight of Berenice - Berenice in her Sunday
clothes, speaking to a stranger at the corner of the Rue de la Lune and
the filthy Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, where she had taken her stand.

"What are you doing?" asked Lucien, dismayed by a sudden suspicion.

"Here are your twenty francs," said the girl, slipping four five-franc
pieces into the poet's hand. "They may cost dear yet; but you can go,"
and she had fled before Lucien could see the way she went; for, in
justice to him, it must be said that the money burned his hand, he
wanted to return it, but he was forced to keep it as the final brand set
upon him by life in Paris.




ADDENDUM

Note: A Distinguished Provincial at Paris is part two of a trilogy.
Part one is entitled Two Poets and part three is Eve and David. In other
addendum references parts one and three are usually combined under the
title Lost Illusions.

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Barbet
A Man of Business
The Seamy Side of History
The Middle Classes

Beaudenord, Godefroid de
The Ball at Sceaux
The Firm of Nucingen

Berenice
Lost Illusions

Bianchon, Horace
Father Goriot
The Atheist's Mass
Cesar Birotteau
The Commission in Lunacy
Lost Illusions
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Government Clerks
Pierrette
A Study of Woman
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Honorine
The Seamy Side of History
The Magic Skin
A Second Home
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Muse of the Department
The Imaginary Mistress
The Middle Classes
Cousin Betty
The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche

Blondet, Emile
Jealousies of a Country Town
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Modeste Mignon
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Firm of Nucingen
The Peasantry

Blondet, Virginie
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Secrets of a Princess
The Peasantry
Another Study of Woman
The Member for Arcis
A Daughter of Eve

Braulard
Cousin Betty
Cousin Pons

Bridau, Joseph
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
Modeste Mignon
Another Study of Woman
Pierre Grassou
Letters of Two Brides
Cousin Betty
The Member for Arcis

Bruel, Jean Francois du
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
A Start in Life
A Prince of Bohemia
The Middle Classes
A Daughter of Eve

Bruel, Claudine Chaffaroux, Madame du
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Middle Classes

Cabirolle, Agathe-Florentine
A Start in Life
Lost Illusions
A Bachelor's Establishment

Camusot
A Bachelor's Establishment
Cousin Pons
The Muse of the Department
Cesar Birotteau
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Canalis, Constant-Cyr-Melchior, Baron de
Letters of Two Brides
Modeste Mignon
The Magic Skin
Another Study of Woman
A Start in Life
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists
The Member for Arcis

Cardot, Jean-Jerome-Severin
A Start in Life
Lost Illusions

A Bachelor's Establishment
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

Carigliano, Duchesse de
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
The Peasantry
The Member for Arcis

Cavalier
The Seamy Side of History

Chaboisseau
The Government Clerks
A Man of Business

Chatelet, Sixte, Baron du
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Thirteen

Chatelet, Marie-Louise-Anais de Negrepelisse, Baronne du
Lost Illusions
The Government Clerks

Chrestien, Michel
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess

Collin, Jacques
Father Goriot
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Member for Arcis

Coloquinte
A Bachelor's Establishment

Coralie, Mademoiselle
A Start in Life
A Bachelor's Establishment

Dauriat
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Modeste Mignon

Desroches (son)
A Bachelor's Establishment
Colonel Chabert
A Start in Life
A Woman of Thirty
The Commission in Lunacy
The Government Clerks
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Firm of Nucingen
A Man of Business
The Middle Classes

Arthez, Daniel d'
Letters of Two Brides
The Member for Arcis
The Secrets of a Princess

Espard, Jeanne-Clementine-Athenais de Blamont-Chauvry, Marquise d'
The Commission in Lunacy
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Letters of Two Brides
Another Study of Woman
The Gondreville Mystery
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
Beatrix

Finot, Andoche
Cesar Birotteau
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Government Clerks
A Start in Life
Gaudissart the Great
The Firm of Nucingen

Foy, Maximilien-Sebastien
Cesar Birotteau

Gaillard, Theodore
Beatrix
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Gaillard, Madame Theodore
Jealousies of a Country Town
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists

Galathionne, Prince and Princess (both not in each story)
The Secrets of a Princess
The Middle Classes
Father Goriot
A Daughter of Eve
Beatrix

Gentil
Lost Illusions

Giraud, Leon
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Unconscious Humorists

Giroudeau
A Start in Life
A Bachelor's Establishment

Grindot
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Start in Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Beatrix
The Middle Classes
Cousin Betty

Lambert, Louis
Louis Lambert
A Seaside Tragedy

Listomere, Marquis de
The Lily of the Valley
A Study of Woman

Listomere, Marquise de
The Lily of the Valley
Lost Illusions
A Study of Woman
A Daughter of Eve

Lousteau, Etienne
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve
Beatrix
The Muse of the Department
Cousin Betty
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Middle Classes
The Unconscious Humorists

Lupeaulx, Clement Chardin des
The Muse of the Department
Eugenie Grandet
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Ursule Mirouet

Manerville, Paul Francois-Joseph, Comte de
The Thirteen
The Ball at Sceaux
Lost Illusions
A Marriage Settlement

Marsay, Henri de
The Thirteen
The Unconscious Humorists
Another Study of Woman
The Lily of the Valley
Father Goriot
Jealousies of a Country Town
Ursule Mirouet
A Marriage Settlement
Lost Illusions
Letters of Two Brides
The Ball at Sceaux
Modeste Mignon
The Secrets of a Princess
The Gondreville Mystery
A Daughter of Eve

Matifat (wealthy druggist)
Cesar Birotteau
A Bachelor's Establishment
Lost Illusions
The Firm of Nucingen
Cousin Pons

Meyraux
Louis Lambert

Montcornet, Marechal, Comte de
Domestic Peace
Lost Illusions

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Peasantry
A Man of Business
Cousin Betty

Montriveau, General Marquis Armand de
The Thirteen
Father Goriot
Lost Illusions
Another Study of Woman
Pierrette
The Member for Arcis

Nathan, Raoul
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
Letters of Two Brides
The Seamy Side of History
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Unconscious Humorists

Nathan, Madame Raoul
The Muse of the Department
Lost Illusions
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Government Clerks
A Bachelor's Establishment
Ursule Mirouet
Eugenie Grandet
The Imaginary Mistress
A Prince of Bohemia

Negrepelisse, De
The Commission in Lunacy
Lost Illusions

Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
The Firm of Nucingen
Father Goriot
Pierrette
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions



Online LibraryHonoré de BalzacA Distinguished Provincial at Paris → online text (page 28 of 29)