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retired merchant - every ex-tradesman is a retired merchant - spent two
hours in the Rue des Saussayes to attend to business, and gave the
rest of his time to Mademoiselle Zaire, which annoyed Zaire very much.
Orosmanes-Crevel had a fixed bargain with Mademoiselle Heloise; she
owed him five hundred francs worth of enjoyment every month, and no
"bills delivered." He paid separately for his dinner and all extras.
This agreement, with certain bonuses, for he made her a good many
presents, seemed cheap to the ex-attache of the great singer; and he
would say to widowers who were fond of their daughters, that it paid
better to job your horses than to have a stable of your own. At the
same time, if the reader remembers the speech made to the Baron by the
porter at the Rue Chauchat, Crevel did not escape the coachman and the
groom.

Crevel, as may be seen, had turned his passionate affection for his
daughter to the advantage of his self-indulgence. The immoral aspect
of the situation was justified by the highest morality. And then the
ex-perfumer derived from this style of living - it was the inevitable,
a free-and-easy life, _Regence, Pompadour, Marechal de Richelieu_,
what not - a certain veneer of superiority. Crevel set up for being a
man of broad views, a fine gentleman with an air and grace, a liberal
man with nothing narrow in his ideas - and all for the small sum of
about twelve to fifteen hundred francs a month. This was the result
not of hypocritical policy, but of middle-class vanity, though it came
to the same in the end.

On the Bourse Crevel was regarded as a man superior to his time, and
especially as a man of pleasure, a _bon vivant_. In this particular
Crevel flattered himself that he had overtopped his worthy friend
Birotteau by a hundred cubits.

"And is it you?" cried Crevel, flying into a rage as he saw Lisbeth
enter the room, "who have plotted this marriage between Mademoiselle
Hulot and your young Count, whom you have been bringing up by hand for
her?"

"You don't seem best pleased at it?" said Lisbeth, fixing a piercing
eye on Crevel. "What interest can you have in hindering my cousin's
marriage? For it was you, I am told, who hindered her marrying
Monsieur Lebas' son."

"You are a good soul and to be trusted," said Crevel. "Well, then, do
you suppose that I will ever forgive Monsieur Hulot for the crime of
having robbed me of Josepha - especially when he turned a decent girl,
whom I should have married in my old age, into a good-for-nothing
slut, a mountebank, an opera singer! - No, no. Never!"

"He is a very good fellow, too, is Monsieur Hulot," said Cousin Betty.

"Amiable, very amiable - too amiable," replied Crevel. "I wish him no
harm; but I do wish to have my revenge, and I will have it. It is my
one idea."

"And is that desire the reason why you no longer visit Madame Hulot?"

"Possibly."

"Ah, ha! then you were courting my fair cousin?" said Lisbeth, with a
smile. "I thought as much."

"And she treated me like a dog! - worse, like a footman; nay, I might
say like a political prisoner. - But I will succeed yet," said he,
striking his brow with his clenched fist.

"Poor man! It would be dreadful to catch his wife deceiving him after
being packed off by his mistress."

"Josepha?" cried Crevel. "Has Josepha thrown him over, packed him off,
turned him out neck and crop? Bravo, Josepha, you have avenged me! I
will send you a pair of pearls to hang in your ears, my ex-sweetheart!
- I knew nothing of it; for after I had seen you, on the day after
that when the fair Adeline had shown me the door, I went back to visit
the Lebas, at Corbeil, and have but just come back. Heloise played the
very devil to get me into the country, and I have found out the
purpose of her game; she wanted me out of the way while she gave a
house-warming in the Rue Chauchat, with some artists, and players, and
writers. - She took me in! But I can forgive her, for Heloise amuses
me. She is a Dejazet under a bushel. What a character the hussy is!
There is the note I found last evening:

"'DEAR OLD CHAP, - I have pitched my tent in the Rue Chauchat. I
have taken the precaution of getting a few friends to clean up the
paint. All is well. Come when you please, monsieur; Hagar awaits
her Abraham.'

"Heloise will have some news for me, for she has her bohemia at her
fingers' end."

"But Monsieur Hulot took the disaster very calmly," said Lisbeth.

"Impossible!" cried Crevel, stopping in a parade as regular as the
swing of a pendulum.

"Monsieur Hulot is not as young as he was," Lisbeth remarked
significantly.

"I know that," said Crevel, "but in one point we are alike: Hulot
cannot do without an attachment. He is capable of going back to his
wife. It would be a novelty for him, but an end to my vengeance. You
smile, Mademoiselle Fischer - ah! perhaps you know something?"

"I am smiling at your notions," replied Lisbeth. "Yes, my cousin is
still handsome enough to inspire a passion. I should certainly fall in
love with her if I were a man."

"Cut and come again!" exclaimed Crevel. "You are laughing at me. - The
Baron has already found consolation?"

Lisbeth bowed affirmatively.

"He is a lucky man if he can find a second Josepha within twenty-four
hours!" said Crevel. "But I am not altogether surprised, for he told
me one evening at supper that when he was a young man he always had
three mistresses on hand that he might not be left high and dry - the
one he was giving over, the one in possession, and the one he was
courting for a future emergency. He had some smart little work-woman
in reserve, no doubt - in his fish-pond - his _Parc-aux-cerfs_! He is
very Louis XV., is my gentleman. He is in luck to be so handsome!
- However, he is ageing; his face shows it. - He has taken up with
some little milliner?"

"Dear me, no," replied Lisbeth.

"Oh!" cried Crevel, "what would I not do to hinder him from hanging up
his hat! I could not win back Josepha; women of that kind never come
back to their first love. - Besides, it is truly said, such a return is
not love. - But, Cousin Betty, I would pay down fifty thousand francs
- that is to say, I would spend it - to rob that great good-looking
fellow of his mistress, and to show him that a Major with a portly
stomach and a brain made to become Mayor of Paris, though he is a
grandfather, is not to have his mistress tickled away by a poacher
without turning the tables."

"My position," said Lisbeth, "compels me to hear everything and know
nothing. You may talk to me without fear; I never repeat a word of
what any one may choose to tell me. How can you suppose I should ever
break that rule of conduct? No one would ever trust me again."

"I know," said Crevel; "you are the very jewel of old maids. Still,
come, there are exceptions. Look here, the family have never settled
an allowance on you?"

"But I have my pride," said Lisbeth. "I do not choose to be an expense
to anybody."

"If you will but help me to my revenge," the tradesman went on, "I
will sink ten thousand francs in an annuity for you. Tell me, my fair
cousin, tell me who has stepped into Josepha's shoes, and you will
have money to pay your rent, your little breakfast in the morning, the
good coffee you love so well - you might allow yourself pure Mocha,
heh! And a very good thing is pure Mocha!"

"I do not care so much for the ten thousand francs in an annuity,
which would bring me nearly five hundred francs a year, as for
absolute secrecy," said Lisbeth. "For, you see, my dear Monsieur
Crevel, the Baron is very good to me; he is to pay my rent - - "

"Oh yes, long may that last! I advise you to trust him," cried Crevel.
"Where will he find the money?"

"Ah, that I don't know. At the same time, he is spending more than
thirty thousand francs on the rooms he is furnishing for this little
lady."

"A lady! What, a woman in society; the rascal, what luck he has! He is
the only favorite!"

"A married woman, and quite the lady," Lisbeth affirmed.

"Really and truly?" cried Crevel, opening wide eyes flashing with
envy, quite as much as at the magic words _quite the lady_.

"Yes, really," said Lisbeth. "Clever, a musician, three-and-twenty, a
pretty, innocent face, a dazzling white skin, teeth like a puppy's,
eyes like stars, a beautiful forehead - and tiny feet, I never saw the
like, they are not wider than her stay-busk."

"And ears?" asked Crevel, keenly alive to this catalogue of charms.

"Ears for a model," she replied.

"And small hands?"

"I tell you, in few words, a gem of a woman - and high-minded, and
modest, and refined! A beautiful soul, an angel - and with every
distinction, for her father was a Marshal of France - - "

"A Marshal of France!" shrieked Crevel, positively bounding with
excitement. "Good Heavens! by the Holy Piper! By all the joys in
Paradise! - The rascal! - I beg your pardon, Cousin, I am going crazy!
- I think I would give a hundred thousand francs - - "

"I dare say you would, and, I tell you, she is a respectable woman - a
woman of virtue. The Baron has forked out handsomely."

"He has not a sou, I tell you."

"There is a husband he has pushed - - "

"Where did he push him?" asked Crevel, with a bitter laugh.

"He is promoted to be second in his office - this husband who will
oblige, no doubt; - and his name is down for the Cross of the Legion of
Honor."

"The Government ought to be judicious and respect those who have the
Cross by not flinging it broadcast," said Crevel, with the look of an
aggrieved politician. "But what is there about the man - that old
bulldog of a Baron?" he went on. "It seems to me that I am quite a
match for him," and he struck an attitude as he looked at himself in
the glass. "Heloise has told me many a time, at moments when a woman
speaks the truth, that I was wonderful."

"Oh," said Lisbeth, "women like big men; they are almost always
good-natured; and if I had to decide between you and the Baron, I
should choose you. Monsieur Hulot is amusing, handsome, and has a
figure; but you, you are substantial, and then - you see - you look an
even greater scamp than he does."

"It is incredible how all women, even pious women, take to men who
have that about them!" exclaimed Crevel, putting his arm round
Lisbeth's waist, he was so jubilant.

"The difficulty does not lie there," said Betty. "You must see that a
woman who is getting so many advantages will not be unfaithful to her
patron for nothing; and it would cost you more than a hundred odd
thousand francs, for our little friend can look forward to seeing her
husband at the head of his office within two years' time. - It is
poverty that is dragging the poor little angel into that pit."

Crevel was striding up and down the drawing-room in a state of frenzy.

"He must be uncommonly fond of the woman?" he inquired after a pause,
while his desires, thus goaded by Lisbeth, rose to a sort of madness.

"You may judge for yourself," replied Lisbeth. "I don't believe he has
had _that_ of her," said she, snapping her thumbnail against one of
her enormous white teeth, "and he has given her ten thousand francs'
worth of presents already."

"What a good joke it would be!" cried Crevel, "if I got to the winning
post first!"

"Good heavens! It is too bad of me to be telling you all this
tittle-tattle," said Lisbeth, with an air of compunction.

"No. - I mean to put your relations to the blush. To-morrow I shall
invest in your name such a sum in five-per-cents as will give you six
hundred francs a year; but then you must tell me everything - his
Dulcinea's name and residence. To you I will make a clean breast of
it. - I never have had a real lady for a mistress, and it is the height
of my ambition. Mahomet's houris are nothing in comparison with what I
fancy a woman of fashion must be. In short, it is my dream, my mania,
and to such a point, that I declare to you the Baroness Hulot to me
will never be fifty," said he, unconsciously plagiarizing one of the
greatest wits of the last century. "I assure you, my good Lisbeth, I
am prepared to sacrifice a hundred, two hundred - Hush! Here are the
young people, I see them crossing the courtyard. I shall never have
learned anything through you, I give you my word of honor; for I do
not want you to lose the Baron's confidence, quite the contrary. He
must be amazingly fond of this woman - that old boy."

"He is crazy about her," said Lisbeth. "He could not find forty
thousand francs to marry his daughter off, but he has got them somehow
for his new passion."

"And do you think that she loves him?"

"At his age!" said the old maid.

"Oh, what an owl I am!" cried Crevel, "when I myself allowed Heloise
to keep her artist exactly as Henri IX. allowed Gabrielle her
Bellegrade. Alas! old age, old age! - Good-morning, Celestine. How do,
my jewel! - And the brat? Ah! here he comes; on my honor, he is
beginning to be like me! - Good-day, Hulot - quite well? We shall soon
be having another wedding in the family."

Celestine and her husband, as a hint to their father, glanced at the
old maid, who audaciously asked, in reply to Crevel:

"Indeed - whose?"

Crevel put on an air of reserve which was meant to convey that he
would make up for her indiscretions.

"That of Hortense," he replied; "but it is not yet quite settled. I
have just come from the Lebas', and they were talking of Mademoiselle
Popinot as a suitable match for their son, the young councillor, for
he would like to get the presidency of a provincial court. - Now, come
to dinner."



By seven o'clock Lisbeth had returned home in an omnibus, for she was
eager to see Wenceslas, whose dupe she had been for three weeks, and
to whom she was carrying a basket filled with fruit by the hands of
Crevel himself, whose attentions were doubled towards _his_ Cousin
Betty.

She flew up to the attic at a pace that took her breath away, and
found the artist finishing the ornamentation of a box to be presented
to the adored Hortense. The framework of the lid represented
hydrangeas - in French called _Hortensias_ - among which little Loves
were playing. The poor lover, to enable him to pay for the materials
of the box, of which the panels were of malachite, had designed two
candlesticks for Florent and Chanor, and sold them the copyright - two
admirable pieces of work.

"You have been working too hard these last few days, my dear fellow,"
said Lisbeth, wiping the perspiration from his brow, and giving him a
kiss. "Such laborious diligence is really dangerous in the month of
August. Seriously, you may injure your health. Look, here are some
peaches and plums from Monsieur Crevel. - Now, do not worry yourself so
much; I have borrowed two thousand francs, and, short of some
disaster, we can repay them when you sell your clock. At the same
time, the lender seems to me suspicious, for he has just sent in this
document."

She laid the writ under the model sketch of the statue of General
Montcornet.

"For whom are you making this pretty thing?" said she, taking up the
model sprays of hydrangea in red wax which Wenceslas had laid down
while eating the fruit.

"For a jeweler."

"For what jeweler?"

"I do not know. Stidmann asked me to make something out of them, as he
is very busy."

"But these," she said in a deep voice, "are _Hortensias_. How is it
that you have never made anything in wax for me? Is it so difficult to
design a pin, a little box - what not, as a keepsake?" and she shot a
fearful glance at the artist, whose eyes were happily lowered. "And
yet you say you love me?"

"Can you doubt it, mademoiselle?"

"That is indeed an ardent _mademoiselle_! - Why, you have been my only
thought since I found you dying - just there. When I saved you, you
vowed you were mine, I mean to hold you to that pledge; but I made a
vow to myself! I said to myself, 'Since the boy says he is mine, I
mean to make him rich and happy!' Well, and I can make your fortune."

"How?" said the hapless artist, at the height of joy, and too artless
to dream of a snare.

"Why, thus," said she.

Lisbeth could not deprive herself of the savage pleasure of gazing at
Wenceslas, who looked up at her with filial affection, the expression
really of his love for Hortense, which deluded the old maid. Seeing in
a man's eyes, for the first time in her life, the blazing torch of
passion, she fancied it was for her that it was lighted.

"Monsieur Crevel will back us to the extent of a hundred thousand
francs to start in business, if, as he says, you will marry me. He has
queer ideas, has the worthy man. - Well, what do you say to it?" she
added.

The artist, as pale as the dead, looked at his benefactress with a
lustreless eye, which plainly spoke his thoughts. He stood stupefied
and open-mouthed.

"I never before was so distinctly told that I am hideous," said she,
with a bitter laugh.

"Mademoiselle," said Steinbock, "my benefactress can never be ugly in
my eyes; I have the greatest affection for you. But I am not yet
thirty, and - - "

"I am forty-three," said Lisbeth. "My cousin Adeline is forty-eight,
and men are still madly in love with her; but then she is handsome
- she is!"

"Fifteen years between us, mademoiselle! How could we get on together!
For both our sakes I think we should be wise to think it over. My
gratitude shall be fully equal to your great kindness. - And your money
shall be repaid in a few days."

"My money!" cried she. "You treat me as if I were nothing but an
unfeeling usurer."

"Forgive me," said Wenceslas, "but you remind me of it so often.
- Well, it is you who have made me; do not crush me."

"You mean to be rid of me, I can see," said she, shaking her head.
"Who has endowed you with this strength of ingratitude - you who are a
man of papier-mache? Have you ceased to trust me - your good genius?
- me, when I have spent so many nights working for you - when I have
given you every franc I have saved in my lifetime - when for four years
I have shared my bread with you, the bread of a hard-worked woman, and
given you all I had, to my very courage."

"Mademoiselle - no more, no more!" he cried, kneeling before her with
uplifted hands. "Say not another word! In three days I will tell you,
you shall know all. - Let me, let me be happy," and he kissed her
hands. "I love - and I am loved."

"Well, well, my child, be happy," she said, lifting him up. And she
kissed his forehead and hair with the eagerness that a man condemned
to death must feel as he lives through the last morning.

"Ah! you are of all creatures the noblest and best! You are a match
for the woman I love," said the poor artist.

"I love you well enough to tremble for your future fate," said she
gloomily. "Judas hanged himself - the ungrateful always come to a bad
end! You are deserting me, and you will never again do any good work.
Consider whether, without being married - for I know I am an old maid,
and I do not want to smother the blossom of your youth, your poetry,
as you call it, in my arms, that are like vine-stocks - but whether,
without being married, we could not get on together? Listen; I have
the commercial spirit; I could save you a fortune in the course of ten
years' work, for Economy is my name! - while, with a young wife, who
would be sheer Expenditure, you would squander everything; you would
work only to indulge her. But happiness creates nothing but memories.
Even I, when I am thinking of you, sit for hours with my hands in my
lap - -

"Come, Wenceslas, stay with me. - Look here, I understand all about it;
you shall have your mistresses; pretty ones too, like that little
Marneffe woman who wants to see you, and who will give you happiness
you could never find with me. Then, when I have saved you thirty
thousand francs a year in the funds - - "

"Mademoiselle, you are an angel, and I shall never forget this hour,"
said Wenceslas, wiping away his tears.

"That is how I like to see you, my child," said she, gazing at him
with rapture.

Vanity is so strong a power in us all that Lisbeth believed in her
triumph. She had conceded so much when offering him Madame Marneffe.
It was the crowning emotion of her life; for the first time she felt
the full tide of joy rising in her heart. To go through such an
experience again she would have sold her soul to the Devil.

"I am engaged to be married," Steinbock replied, "and I love a woman
with whom no other can compete or compare. - But you are, and always
will be, to me the mother I have lost."

The words fell like an avalanche of snow on a burning crater. Lisbeth
sat down. She gazed with despondent eyes on the youth before her, on
his aristocratic beauty - the artist's brow, the splendid hair,
everything that appealed to her suppressed feminine instincts, and
tiny tears moistened her eyes for an instant and immediately dried up.
She looked like one of those meagre statues which the sculptors of the
Middle Ages carved on monuments.

"I cannot curse you," said she, suddenly rising. "You - you are but a
boy. God preserve you!"

She went downstairs and shut herself into her own room.

"She is in love with me, poor creature!" said Wenceslas to himself.
"And how fervently eloquent! She is crazy."

This last effort on the part of an arid and narrow nature to keep hold
on an embodiment of beauty and poetry was, in truth, so violent that
it can only be compared to the frenzied vehemence of a shipwrecked
creature making the last struggle to reach shore.

On the next day but one, at half-past four in the morning, when Count
Steinbock was sunk in the deepest sleep, he heard a knock at the door
of his attic; he rose to open it, and saw two men in shabby clothing,
and a third, whose dress proclaimed him a bailiff down on his luck.

"You are Monsieur Wenceslas, Count Steinbock?" said this man.

"Yes, monsieur."

"My name is Grasset, sir, successor to Louchard, sheriff's
officer - - "

"What then?"

"You are under arrest, sir. You must come with us to prison - to
Clichy. - Please to get dressed. - We have done the civil, as you see; I
have brought no police, and there is a hackney cab below."

"You are safely nabbed, you see," said one of the bailiffs; "and we
look to you to be liberal."

Steinbock dressed and went downstairs, a man holding each arm; when he
was in the cab, the driver started without orders, as knowing where he
was to go, and within half an hour the unhappy foreigner found himself
safely under bolt and bar without even a remonstrance, so utterly
amazed was he.

At ten o'clock he was sent for to the prison-office, where he found
Lisbeth, who, in tears, gave him some money to feed himself adequately
and to pay for a room large enough to work in.

"My dear boy," said she, "never say a word of your arrest to anybody,
do not write to a living soul; it would ruin you for life; we must
hide this blot on your character. I will soon have you out. I will
collect the money - be quite easy. Write down what you want for your
work. You shall soon be free, or I will die for it."

"Oh, I shall owe you my life a second time!" cried he, "for I should
lose more than my life if I were thought a bad fellow."

Lisbeth went off in great glee; she hoped, by keeping her artist under
lock and key, to put a stop to his marriage by announcing that he was
a married man, pardoned by the efforts of his wife, and gone off to
Russia.

To carry out this plan, at about three o'clock she went to the
Baroness, though it was not the day when she was due to dine with her;
but she wished to enjoy the anguish which Hortense must endure at the
hour when Wenceslas was in the habit of making his appearance.

"Have you come to dinner?" asked the Baroness, concealing her
disappointment.

"Well, yes."

"That's well," replied Hortense. "I will go and tell them to be
punctual, for you do not like to be kept waiting."

Hortense nodded reassuringly to her mother, for she intended to tell
the man-servant to send away Monsieur Steinbock if he should call; the
man, however, happened to be out, so Hortense was obliged to give her
orders to the maid, and the girl went upstairs to fetch her needlework
and sit in the ante-room.

"And about my lover?" said Cousin Betty to Hortense, when the girl
came back. "You never ask about him now?"

"To be sure, what is he doing?" said Hortense. "He has become famous.
You ought to be very happy," she added in an undertone to Lisbeth.
"Everybody is talking of Monsieur Wenceslas Steinbock."

"A great deal too much," replied she in her clear tones. "Monsieur is
departing. - If it were only a matter of charming him so far as to defy
the attractions of Paris, I know my power; but they say that in order



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