Read CHAPTER VI. of Sentimental Education, free online book, by Gustave Flaubert, on


When Rosanette’s enthusiasm for the Gardes Mobiles had calmed down, she became more charming than ever, and Frederick insensibly glided into the habit of living with her.

The best portion of the day was the morning on the terrace.  In a light cambric dress, and with her stockingless feet thrust into slippers, she kept moving about him ­went and cleaned her canaries’ cage, gave her gold-fishes some water, and with a fire-shovel did a little amateur gardening in the box filled with clay, from which arose a trellis of nasturtiums, giving an attractive look to the wall.  Then, resting, with their elbows on the balcony, they stood side by side, gazing at the vehicles and the passers-by; and they warmed themselves in the sunlight, and made plans for spending the evening.  He absented himself only for two hours at most, and, after that, they would go to some theatre, where they would get seats in front of the stage; and Rosanette, with a large bouquet of flowers in her hand, would listen to the instruments, while Frederick, leaning close to her ear, would tell her comic or amatory stories.  At other times they took an open carriage to drive to the Bois de Boulogne.  They kept walking about slowly until the middle of the night.  At last they made their way home through the Arc de Triomphe and the grand avenue, inhaling the breeze, with the stars above their heads, and with all the gas-lamps ranged in the background of the perspective like a double string of luminous pearls.

Frederick always waited for her when they were going out together.  She was a very long time fastening the two ribbons of her bonnet; and she smiled at herself in the mirror set in the wardrobe; then she would draw her arm over his, and, making him look at himself in the glass beside her: 

“We produce a good effect in this way, the two of us side by side.  Ah! my poor darling, I could eat you!”

He was now her chattel, her property.  She wore on her face a continuous radiance, while at the same time she appeared more languishing in manner, more rounded in figure; and, without being able to explain in what way, he found her altered, nevertheless.

One day she informed him, as if it were a very important bit of news, that my lord Arnoux had lately set up a linen-draper’s shop for a woman who was formerly employed in his pottery-works.  He used to go there every evening ­“he spent a great deal on it no later than a week ago; he had even given her a set of rosewood furniture.”

“How do you know that?” said Frederick.

“Oh!  I’m sure of it.”

Delphine, while carrying out some orders for her, had made enquiries about the matter, She must, then, be much attached to Arnoux to take such a deep interest in his movements.  He contented himself with saying to her in reply: 

“What does this signify to you?”

Rosanette looked surprised at this question.

“Why, the rascal owes me money.  Isn’t it atrocious to see him keeping beggars?”

Then, with an expression of triumphant hate in her face: 

“Besides, she is having a nice laugh at him.  She has three others on hand.  So much the better; and I’ll be glad if she eats him up, even to the last farthing!”

Arnoux had, in fact, let himself be made use of by the girl from Bordeaux with the indulgence which characterises senile attachments.  His manufactory was no longer going on.  The entire state of his affairs was pitiable; so that, in order to set them afloat again, he was at first projecting the establishment of a cafe chantant, at which only patriotic pieces would be sung.  With a grant from the Minister, this establishment would become at the same time a focus for the purpose of propagandism and a source of profit.  Now that power had been directed into a different channel, the thing was impossible.

His next idea was a big military hat-making business.  He lacked capital, however, to give it a start.

He was not more fortunate in his domestic life.  Madame Arnoux was less agreeable in manner towards him, sometimes even a little rude.  Berthe always took her father’s part.  This increased the discord, and the house was becoming intolerable.  He often set forth in the morning, passed his day in making long excursions out of the city, in order to divert his thoughts, then dined at a rustic tavern, abandoning himself to his reflections.

The prolonged absence of Frederick disturbed his habits.  Then he presented himself one afternoon, begged of him to come and see him as in former days, and obtained from him a promise to do so.

Frederick did not feel sufficient courage within him to go back to Madame Arnoux’s house.  It seemed to him as if he had betrayed her.  But this conduct was very pusillanimous.  There was no excuse for it.  There was only one way of ending the matter, and so, one evening, he set out on his way.

As the rain was falling, he had just turned up the Passage Jouffroy, when, under the light shed from the shop-windows, a fat little man accosted him.  Frederick had no difficulty in recognising Compain, that orator whose motion had excited so much laughter at the club.  He was leaning on the arm of an individual whose head was muffled in a zouave’s red cap, with a very long upper lip, a complexion as yellow as an orange, a tuft of beard under his jaw, and big staring eyes listening with wonder.

Compain was, no doubt, proud of him, for he said: 

“Let me introduce you to this jolly dog!  He is a bootmaker whom I include amongst my friends.  Come and let us take something!”

Frederick having thanked him, he immediately thundered against Rateau’s motion, which he described as a manoeuvre of the aristocrats.  In order to put an end to it, it would be necessary to begin ’93 over again!  Then he enquired about Regimbart and some others, who were also well known, such as Masselin, Sanson, Lecornu, Marechal, and a certain Deslauriers, who had been implicated in the case of the carbines lately intercepted at Troyes.

All this was new to Frederick.  Compain knew nothing more about the subject.  He quitted the young man with these words: 

“You’ll come soon, will you not? for you belong to it.”

“To what?”

“The calf’s head!”

“What calf’s head?”

“Ha, you rogue!” returned Compain, giving him a tap on the stomach.

And the two terrorists plunged into a cafe.

Ten minutes later Frederick was no longer thinking of Deslauriers.  He was on the footpath of the Rue de Paradis in front of a house; and he was staring at the light which came from a lamp in the second floor behind a curtain.

At length he ascended the stairs.

“Is Arnoux there?”

The chambermaid answered: 

“No; but come in all the same.”

And, abruptly opening a door: 

“Madame, it is Monsieur Moreau!”

She arose, whiter than the collar round her neck.

“To what do I owe the honour ­of a visit ­so unexpected?”

“Nothing.  The pleasure of seeing old friends once more.”

And as he took a seat: 

“How is the worthy Arnoux going on?”

“Very well.  He has gone out.”

“Ah, I understand! still following his old nightly practices.  A little distraction!”

“And why not?  After a day spent in making calculations, the head needs a rest.”

She even praised her husband as a hard-working man.  Frederick was irritated at hearing this eulogy; and pointing towards a piece of black cloth with a narrow blue braid which lay on her lap: 

“What is it you are doing there?”

“A jacket which I am trimming for my daughter.”

“Now that you remind me of it, I have not seen her.  Where is she, pray?”

“At a boarding-school,” was Madame Arnoux’s reply.

Tears came into her eyes.  She held them back, while she rapidly plied her needle.  To keep himself in countenance, he took up a number of L’Illustration which had been lying on the table close to where she sat.

“These caricatures of Cham are very funny, are they not?”


Then they relapsed into silence once more.

All of a sudden, a fierce gust of wind shook the window-panes.

“What weather!” said Frederick.

“It was very good of you, indeed, to come here in the midst of this dreadful rain.”

“Oh! what do I care about that?  I’m not like those whom it prevents, no doubt, from going to keep their appointments.”

“What appointments?” she asked with an ingenuous air.

“Don’t you remember?”

A shudder ran through her frame and she hung down her head.

He gently laid his hand on her arm.

“I assure you that you have given me great pain.”

She replied, with a sort of wail in her voice: 

“But I was frightened about my child.”

She told him about Eugene’s illness, and all the tortures which she had endured on that day.

“Thanks! thanks!  I doubt you no longer.  I love you as much as ever.”

“Ah! no; it is not true!”

“Why so?”

She glanced at him coldly.

“You forget the other! the one you took with you to the races! the woman whose portrait you have ­your mistress!”

“Well, yes!” exclaimed Frederick, “I don’t deny anything!  I am a wretch!  Just listen to me!”

If he had done this, it was through despair, as one commits suicide.  However, he had made her very unhappy in order to avenge himself on her with his own shame.

“What mental anguish!  Do you not realise what it means?”

Madame Arnoux turned away her beautiful face while she held out her hand to him; and they closed their eyes, absorbed in a kind of intoxication that was like a sweet, ceaseless rocking.  Then they stood face to face, gazing at one another.

“Could you believe it possible that I no longer loved you?”

She replied in a low voice, full of caressing tenderness: 

“No! in spite of everything, I felt at the bottom of my heart that it was impossible, and that one day the obstacle between us two would disappear!”

“So did I; and I was dying to see you again.”

“I once passed close to you in the Palais-Royal!”

“Did you really?”

And he spoke to her of the happiness he experienced at coming across her again at the Dambreuses’ house.

“But how I hated you that evening as I was leaving the place!”

“Poor boy!”

“My life is so sad!”

“And mine, too!  If it were only the vexations, the anxieties, the humiliations, all that I endure as wife and as mother, seeing that one must die, I would not complain; the frightful part of it is my solitude, without anyone.”

“But you have me here with you!”

“Oh! yes!”

A sob of deep emotion made her bosom swell.  She spread out her arms, and they strained one another, while their lips met in a long kiss.

A creaking sound on the floor not far from them reached their ears.  There was a woman standing close to them; it was Rosanette.  Madame Arnoux had recognised her.  Her eyes, opened to their widest, scanned this woman, full of astonishment and indignation.  At length Rosanette said to her: 

“I have come to see Monsieur Arnoux about a matter of business.”

“You see he is not here.”

“Ah! that’s true,” returned the Maréchale.  “Your nurse is right!  A thousand apologies!”

And turning towards Frederick: 

“So here you are ­you?”

The familiar tone in which she addressed him, and in her own presence, too, made Madame Arnoux flush as if she had received a slap right across the face.

“I tell you again, he is not here!”

Then the Maréchale, who was looking this way and that, said quietly: 

“Let us go back together!  I have a cab waiting below.”

He pretended not to hear.

“Come! let us go!”

“Ah! yes! this is a good opportunity!  Go! go!” said Madame Arnoux.

They went off together, and she stooped over the head of the stairs in order to see them once more, and a laugh ­piercing, heart-rending, reached them from the place where she stood.  Frederick pushed Rosanette into the cab, sat down opposite her, and during the entire drive did not utter a word.

The infamy, which it outraged him to see once more flowing back on him, had been brought about by himself alone.  He experienced at the same time the dishonour of a crushing humiliation and the regret caused by the loss of his new-found happiness.  Just when, at last, he had it in his grasp, it had for ever more become impossible, and that through the fault of this girl of the town, this harlot.  He would have liked to strangle her.  He was choking with rage.  When they had got into the house he flung his hat on a piece of furniture and tore off his cravat.

“Ha! you have just done a nice thing ­confess it!”

She planted herself boldly in front of him.

“Ah! well, what of that?  Where’s the harm?”

“What!  You are playing the spy on me?”

“Is that my fault?  Why do you go to amuse yourself with virtuous women?”

“Never mind!  I don’t wish you to insult them.”

“How have I insulted them?”

He had no answer to make to this, and in a more spiteful tone: 

“But on the other occasion, at the Champ de Mars ­”

“Ah! you bore us to death with your old women!”


He raised his fist.

“Don’t kill me!  I’m pregnant!”

Frederick staggered back.

“You are lying!”

“Why, just look at me!”

She seized a candlestick, and pointing at her face: 

“Don’t you recognise the fact there?”

Little yellow spots dotted her skin, which was strangely swollen.  Frederick did not deny the evidence.  He went to the window, and opened it, took a few steps up and down the room, and then sank into an armchair.

This event was a calamity which, in the first place, put off their rupture, and, in the next place, upset all his plans.  The notion of being a father, moreover, appeared to him grotesque, inadmissible.  But why?  If, in place of the Maréchale ­And his reverie became so deep that he had a kind of hallucination.  He saw there, on the carpet, in front of the chimney-piece, a little girl.  She resembled Madame Arnoux and himself a little ­dark, and yet fair, with two black eyes, very large eyebrows, and a red ribbon in her curling hair. (Oh, how he would have loved her!) And he seemed to hear her voice saying:  “Papa! papa!”

Rosanette, who had just undressed herself, came across to him, and noticing a tear in his eyelids, kissed him gravely on the forehead.

He arose, saying: 

“By Jove, we mustn’t kill this little one!”

Then she talked a lot of nonsense.  To be sure, it would be a boy, and its name would be Frederick.  It would be necessary for her to begin making its clothes; and, seeing her so happy, a feeling of pity for her took possession of him.  As he no longer cherished any anger against her, he desired to know the explanation of the step she had recently taken.  She said it was because Mademoiselle Vatnaz had sent her that day a bill which had been protested for some time past; and so she hastened to Arnoux to get the money from him.

“I’d have given it to you!” said Frederick.

“It is a simpler course for me to get over there what belongs to me, and to pay back to the other one her thousand francs.”

“Is this really all you owe her?”

She answered: 


On the following day, at nine o’clock in the evening (the hour specified by the doorkeeper), Frederick repaired to Mademoiselle Vatnaz’s residence.

In the anteroom, he jostled against the furniture, which was heaped together.  But the sound of voices and of music guided him.  He opened a door, and tumbled into the middle of a rout.  Standing up before a piano, which a young lady in spectacles was fingering, Delmar, as serious as a pontiff, was declaiming a humanitarian poem on prostitution; and his hollow voice rolled to the accompaniment of the metallic chords.  A row of women sat close to the wall, attired, as a rule, in dark colours without neck-bands or sleeves.  Five or six men, all people of culture, occupied seats here and there.  In an armchair was seated a former writer of fables, a mere wreck now; and the pungent odour of the two lamps was intermingled with the aroma of the chocolate which filled a number of bowls placed on the card-table.

Mademoiselle Vatnaz, with an Oriental shawl thrown over her shoulders, sat at one side of the chimney-piece.  Dussardier sat facing her at the other side.  He seemed to feel himself in an embarrassing position.  Besides, he was rather intimidated by his artistic surroundings.  Had the Vatnaz, then, broken off with Delmar?  Perhaps not.  However, she seemed jealous of the worthy shopman; and Frederick, having asked to let him exchange a word with her, she made a sign to him to go with them into her own apartment.  When the thousand francs were paid down before her, she asked, in addition, for interest.

“’Tisn’t worth while,” said Dussardier.

“Pray hold your tongue!”

This want of moral courage on the part of so brave a man was agreeable to Frederick as a justification of his own conduct.  He took away the bill with him, and never again referred to the scandal at Madame Arnoux’s house.  But from that time forth he saw clearly all the defects in the Marechale’s character.

She possessed incurable bad taste, incomprehensible laziness, the ignorance of a savage, so much so that she regarded Doctor Derogis as a person of great celebrity, and she felt proud of entertaining himself and his wife, because they were “married people.”  She lectured with a pedantic air on the affairs of daily life to Mademoiselle Irma, a poor little creature endowed with a little voice, who had as a protector a gentleman “very well off,” an ex-clerk in the Custom-house, who had a rare talent for card tricks.  Rosanette used to call him “My big Loulou.”  Frederick could no longer endure the repetition of her stupid words, such as “Some custard,” “To Chaillot,” “One could never know,” etc.; and she persisted in wiping off the dust in the morning from her trinkets with a pair of old white gloves.  He was above all disgusted by her treatment of her servant, whose wages were constantly in arrear, and who even lent her money.  On the days when they settled their accounts, they used to wrangle like two fish-women; and then, on becoming reconciled, used to embrace each other.  It was a relief to him when Madame Dambreuse’s evening parties began again.

There, at any rate, he found something to amuse him.  She was well versed in the intrigues of society, the changes of ambassadors, the personal character of dressmakers; and, if commonplaces escaped her lips, they did so in such a becoming fashion, that her language might be regarded as the expression of respect for propriety or of polite irony.  It was worth while to watch the way in which, in the midst of twenty persons chatting around her, she would, without overlooking any of them, bring about the answers she desired and avoid those that were dangerous.  Things of a very simple nature, when related by her, assumed the aspect of confidences.  Her slightest smile gave rise to dreams; in short, her charm, like the exquisite scent which she usually carried about with her, was complex and indefinable.

While he was with her, Frederick experienced on each occasion the pleasure of a new discovery, and, nevertheless, he always found her equally serene the next time they met, like the reflection of limpid waters.

But why was there such coldness in her manner towards her niece?  At times she even darted strange looks at her.

As soon as the question of marriage was started, she had urged as an objection to it, when discussing the matter with M. Dambreuse, the state of “the dear child’s” health, and had at once taken her off to the baths of Balaruc.  On her return fresh pretexts were raised by her ­that the young man was not in a good position, that this ardent passion did not appear to be a very serious attachment, and that no risk would be run by waiting.  Martinon had replied, when the suggestion was made to him, that he would wait.  His conduct was sublime.  He lectured Frederick.  He did more.  He enlightened him as to the best means of pleasing Madame Dambreuse, even giving him to understand that he had ascertained from the niece the sentiments of her aunt.

As for M. Dambreuse, far from exhibiting jealousy, he treated his young friend with the utmost attention, consulted him about different things, and even showed anxiety about his future, so that one day, when they were talking about Pere Roque, he whispered with a sly air: 

“You have done well.”

And Cecile, Miss John, the servants and the porter, every one of them exercised a fascination over him in this house.  He came there every evening, quitting Rosanette for that purpose.  Her approaching maternity rendered her graver in manner, and even a little melancholy, as if she were tortured by anxieties.  To every question put to her she replied: 

“You are mistaken; I am quite well.”

She had, as a matter of fact, signed five notes in her previous transactions, and not having the courage to tell Frederick after the first had been paid, she had gone back to the abode of Arnoux, who had promised her, in writing, the third part of his profits in the lighting of the towns of Languedoc by gas (a marvellous undertaking!), while requesting her not to make use of this letter at the meeting of shareholders.  The meeting was put off from week to week.

Meanwhile the Maréchale wanted money.  She would have died sooner than ask Frederick for any.  She did not wish to get it from him; it would have spoiled their love.  He contributed a great deal to the household expenses; but a little carriage, which he hired by the month, and other sacrifices, which were indispensable since he had begun to visit the Dambreuses, prevented him from doing more for his mistress.  On two or three occasions, when he came back to the house at a different hour from his usual time, he fancied he could see men’s backs disappearing behind the door, and she often went out without wishing to state where she was going.  Frederick did not attempt to enquire minutely into these matters.  One of these days he would make up his mind as to his future course of action.  He dreamed of another life which would be more amusing and more noble.  It was the fact that he had such an ideal before his mind that rendered him indulgent towards the Dambreuse mansion.

It was an establishment in the neighbourhood of the Rue de Poitiers.  There he met the great M. A., the illustrious B., the profound C., the eloquent Z., the immense Y., the old terrors of the Left Centre, the paladins of the Right, the burgraves of the golden mean; the eternal good old men of the comedy.  He was astonished at their abominable style of talking, their meannesses, their rancours, their dishonesty ­all these personages, after voting for the Constitution, now striving to destroy it; and they got into a state of great agitation, and launched forth manifestoes, pamphlets, and biographies.  Hussonnet’s biography of Fumichon was a masterpiece.  Nonancourt devoted himself to the work of propagandism in the country districts; M. de Gremonville worked up the clergy; and Martinon brought together the young men of the wealthy class.  Each exerted himself according to his resources, including Cisy himself.  With his thoughts now all day long absorbed in matters of grave moment, he kept making excursions here and there in a cab in the interests of the party.

M. Dambreuse, like a barometer, constantly gave expression to its latest variation.  Lamartine could not be alluded to without eliciting from this gentleman the quotation of a famous phrase of the man of the people:  “Enough of poetry!” Cavaignac was, from this time forth, nothing better in his eyes than a traitor.  The President, whom he had admired for a period of three months, was beginning to fall off in his esteem (as he did not appear to exhibit the “necessary energy"); and, as he always wanted a savior, his gratitude, since the affair of the Conservatoire, belonged to Changarnier:  “Thank God for Changarnier....  Let us place our reliance on Changarnier....  Oh, there’s nothing to fear as long as Changarnier ­”

M. Thiers was praised, above all, for his volume against Socialism, in which he showed that he was quite as much of a thinker as a writer.  There was an immense laugh at Pierre Leroux, who had quoted passages from the philosophers in the Chamber.  Jokes were made about the phalansterian tail.  The “Market of Ideas” came in for a meed of applause, and its authors were compared to Aristophanes.  Frederick patronised the work as well as the rest.

Political verbiage and good living had an enervating effect on his morality.  Mediocre in capacity as these persons appeared to him, he felt proud of knowing them, and internally longed for the respectability that attached to a wealthy citizen.  A mistress like Madame Dambreuse would give him a position.

He set about taking the necessary steps for achieving that object.

He made it his business to cross her path, did not fail to go and greet her with a bow in her box at the theatre, and, being aware of the hours when she went to church, he would plant himself behind a pillar in a melancholy attitude.  There was a continual interchange of little notes between them with regard to curiosities to which they drew each other’s attention, preparations for a concert, or the borrowing of books or reviews.  In addition to his visit each night, he sometimes made a call just as the day was closing; and he experienced a progressive succession of pleasures in passing through the large front entrance, through the courtyard, through the anteroom, and through the two reception-rooms.  Finally, he reached her boudoir, which was as quiet as a tomb, as warm as an alcove, and in which one jostled against the upholstered edging of furniture in the midst of objects of every sort placed here and there ­chiffoniers, screens, bowls, and trays made of lacquer, or shell, or ivory, or malachite, expensive trifles, to which fresh additions were frequently made.  Amongst single specimens of these rarities might be noticed three Etretat rollers which were used as paper-presses, and a Frisian cap hung from a Chinese folding-screen.  Nevertheless, there was a harmony between all these things, and one was even impressed by the noble aspect of the entire place, which was, no doubt, due to the loftiness of the ceiling, the richness of the portieres, and the long silk fringes that floated over the gold legs of the stools.

She nearly always sat on a little sofa, close to the flower-stand, which garnished the recess of the window.  Frederick, seating himself on the edge of a large wheeled ottoman, addressed to her compliments of the most appropriate kind that he could conceive; and she looked at him, with her head a little on one side, and a smile playing round her mouth.

He read for her pieces of poetry, into which he threw his whole soul in order to move her and excite her admiration.  She would now and then interrupt him with a disparaging remark or a practical observation; and their conversation relapsed incessantly into the eternal question of Love.  They discussed with each other what were the circumstances that produced it, whether women felt it more than men, and what was the difference between them on that point.  Frederick tried to express his opinion, and, at the same time, to avoid anything like coarseness or insipidity.  This became at length a species of contest between them, sometimes agreeable and at other times tedious.

Whilst at her side, he did not experience that ravishment of his entire being which drew him towards Madame Arnoux, nor the feeling of voluptuous delight with which Rosanette had, at first, inspired him.  But he felt a passion for her as a thing that was abnormal and difficult of attainment, because she was of aristocratic rank, because she was wealthy, because she was a devotee ­imagining that she had a delicacy of sentiment as rare as the lace she wore, together with amulets on her skin, and modest instincts even in her depravity.

He made a certain use of his old passion for Madame Arnoux, uttering in his new flame’s hearing all those amorous sentiments which the other had caused him to feel in downright earnest, and pretending that it was Madame Dambreuse herself who had occasioned them.  She received these avowals like one accustomed to such things, and, without giving him a formal repulse, did not yield in the slightest degree; and he came no nearer to seducing her than Martinon did to getting married.  In order to bring matters to an end with her niece’s suitor, she accused him of having money for his object, and even begged of her husband to put the matter to the test.  M. Dambreuse then declared to the young man that Cecile, being the orphan child of poor parents, had neither expectations nor a dowry.

Martinon, not believing that this was true, or feeling that he had gone too far to draw back, or through one of those outbursts of idiotic infatuation which may be described as acts of genius, replied that his patrimony, amounting to fifteen thousand francs a year, would be sufficient for them.  The banker was touched by this unexpected display of disinterestedness.  He promised the young man a tax-collectorship, undertaking to obtain the post for him; and in the month of May, 1850, Martinon married Mademoiselle Cecile.  There was no ball to celebrate the event.  The young people started the same evening for Italy.  Frederick came next day to pay a visit to Madame Dambreuse.  She appeared to him paler than usual.  She sharply contradicted him about two or three matters of no importance.  However, she went on to observe, all men were egoists.

There were, however, some devoted men, though he might happen himself to be the only one.

“Pooh, pooh! you’re just like the rest of them!”

Her eyelids were red; she had been weeping.

Then, forcing a smile: 

“Pardon me; I am in the wrong.  Sad thoughts have taken possession of my mind.”

He could not understand what she meant to convey by the last words.

“No matter! she is not so hard to overcome as I imagined,” he thought.

She rang for a glass of water, drank a mouthful of it, sent it away again, and then began to complain of the wretched way in which her servants attended on her.  In order to amuse her, he offered to become her servant himself, pretending that he knew how to hand round plates, dust furniture, and announce visitors ­in fact, to do the duties of a valet-de-chambre, or, rather, of a running-footman, although the latter was now out of fashion.  He would have liked to cling on behind her carriage with a hat adorned with cock’s feathers.

“And how I would follow you with majestic stride, carrying your pug on my arm!”

“You are facetious,” said Madame Dambreuse.

Was it not a piece of folly, he returned, to take everything seriously?  There were enough of miseries in the world without creating fresh ones.  Nothing was worth the cost of a single pang.  Madame Dambreuse raised her eyelids with a sort of vague approval.

This agreement in their views of life impelled Frederick to take a bolder course.  His former miscalculations now gave him insight.  He went on: 

“Our grandsires lived better.  Why not obey the impulse that urges us onward?” After all, love was not a thing of such importance in itself.

“But what you have just said is immoral!”

She had resumed her seat on the little sofa.  He sat down at the side of it, near her feet.

“Don’t you see that I am lying!  For in order to please women, one must exhibit the thoughtlessness of a buffoon or all the wild passion of tragedy!  They only laugh at us when we simply tell them that we love them!  For my part, I consider those hyperbolical phrases which tickle their fancy a profanation of true love, so that it is no longer possible to give expression to it, especially when addressing women who possess more than ordinary intelligence.”

She gazed at him from under her drooping eyelids.  He lowered his voice, while he bent his head closer to her face.

“Yes! you frighten me!  Perhaps I am offending you?  Forgive me!  I did not intend to say all that I have said!  ’Tis not my fault!  You are so beautiful!”

Madame Dambreuse closed her eyes, and he was astonished at his easy victory.  The tall trees in the clouds streaked the sky with long strips of red, and on every side there seemed to be a suspension of vital movements.  Then he recalled to mind, in a confused sort of way, evenings just the same as this, filled with the same unbroken silence.  Where was it that he had known them?

He sank upon his knees, seized her hand, and swore that he would love her for ever.  Then, as he was leaving her, she beckoned to him to come back, and said to him in a low tone: 

“Come by-and-by and dine with us!  We’ll be all alone!”

It seemed to Frederick, as he descended the stairs, that he had become a different man, that he was surrounded by the balmy temperature of hot-houses, and that he was beyond all question entering into the higher sphere of patrician adulteries and lofty intrigues.  In order to occupy the first rank there all he required was a woman of this stamp.  Greedy, no doubt, of power and of success, and married to a man of inferior calibre, for whom she had done prodigious services, she longed for some one of ability in order to be his guide.  Nothing was impossible now.  He felt himself capable of riding two hundred leagues on horseback, of travelling for several nights in succession without fatigue.  His heart overflowed with pride.

Just in front of him, on the footpath, a man wrapped in a seedy overcoat was walking, with downcast eyes, and with such an air of dejection that Frederick, as he passed, turned aside to have a better look at him.  The other raised his head.  It was Deslauriers.  He hesitated.  Frederick fell upon his neck.

“Ah! my poor old friend!  What! ’tis you!”

And he dragged Deslauriers into his house, at the same time asking his friend a heap of questions.

Ledru-Rollin’s ex-commissioner commenced by describing the tortures to which he had been subjected.  As he preached fraternity to the Conservatives, and respect for the laws to the Socialists, the former tried to shoot him, and the latter brought cords to hang him with.  After June he had been brutally dismissed.  He found himself involved in a charge of conspiracy ­that which was connected with the seizure of arms at Troyes.  He had subsequently been released for want of evidence to sustain the charge.  Then the acting committee had sent him to London, where his ears had been boxed in the very middle of a banquet at which he and his colleagues were being entertained.  On his return to Paris ­

“Why did you not call here, then, to see me?”

“You were always out!  Your porter had mysterious airs ­I did not know what to think; and, in the next place, I had no desire to reappear before you in the character of a defeated man.”

He had knocked at the portals of Democracy, offering to serve it with his pen, with his tongue, with all his energies.  He had been everywhere repelled.  They had mistrusted him; and he had sold his watch, his bookcase, and even his linen.

“It would be much better to be breaking one’s back on the pontoons of Belle Isle with Senecal!”

Frederick, who had been fastening his cravat, did not appear to be much affected by this news.

“Ha! so he is transported, this good Senecal?”

Deslauriers replied, while he surveyed the walls with an envious air: 

“Not everybody has your luck!”

“Excuse me,” said Frederick, without noticing the allusion to his own circumstances, “but I am dining in the city.  We must get you something to eat; order whatever you like.  Take even my bed!”

This cordial reception dissipated Deslauriers’ bitterness.

“Your bed?  But that might inconvenience you!”

“Oh, no!  I have others!”

“Oh, all right!” returned the advocate, with a laugh.  “Pray, where are you dining?”

“At Madame Dambreuse’s.”

“Can it be that you are ­perhaps ?”

“You are too inquisitive,” said Frederick, with a smile, which confirmed this hypothesis.

Then, after a glance at the clock, he resumed his seat.

“That’s how it is! and we mustn’t despair, my ex-defender of the people!”

“Oh, pardon me; let others bother themselves about the people henceforth!”

The advocate detested the working-men, because he had suffered so much on their account in his province, a coal-mining district.  Every pit had appointed a provisional government, from which he received orders.

“Besides, their conduct has been everywhere charming ­at Lyons, at Lille, at Havre, at Paris!  For, in imitation of the manufacturers, who would fain exclude the products of the foreigner, these gentlemen call on us to banish the English, German, Belgian, and Savoyard workmen.  As for their intelligence, what was the use of that precious trades’ union of theirs which they established under the Restoration?  In 1830 they joined the National Guard, without having the common sense to get the upper hand of it.  Is it not the fact that, since the morning when 1848 dawned, the various trade-bodies had not reappeared with their banners?  They have even demanded popular representatives for themselves, who are not to open their lips except on their own behalf.  All this is the same as if the deputies who represent beetroot were to concern themselves about nothing save beetroot.  Ah!  I’ve had enough of these dodgers who in turn prostrate themselves before the scaffold of Robespierre, the boots of the Emperor, and the umbrella of Louis Philippe ­a rabble who always yield allegiance to the person that flings bread into their mouths.  They are always crying out against the venality of Talleyrand and Mirabeau; but the messenger down below there would sell his country for fifty centimes if they’d only promise to fix a tariff of three francs on his walk.  Ah! what a wretched state of affairs!  We ought to set the four corners of Europe on fire!”

Frederick said in reply: 

“The spark is what you lack!  You were simply a lot of shopboys, and even the best of you were nothing better than penniless students.  As for the workmen, they may well complain; for, if you except a million taken out of the civil list, and of which you made a grant to them with the meanest expressions of flattery, you have done nothing for them, save to talk in stilted phrases!  The workman’s certificate remains in the hands of the employer, and the person who is paid wages remains (even in the eye of the law), the inferior of his master, because his word is not believed.  In short, the Republic seems to me a worn-out institution.  Who knows?  Perhaps Progress can be realised only through an aristocracy or through a single man?  The initiative always comes from the top, and whatever may be the people’s pretensions, they are lower than those placed over them!”

“That may be true,” said Deslauriers.

According to Frederick, the vast majority of citizens aimed only at a life of peace (he had been improved by his visits to the Dambreuses), and the chances were all on the side of the Conservatives.  That party, however, was lacking in new men.

“If you came forward, I am sure ­”

He did not finish the sentence.  Deslauriers saw what Frederick meant, and passed his two hands over his head; then, all of a sudden: 

“But what about yourself?  Is there anything to prevent you from doing it?  Why would you not be a deputy?”

In consequence of a double election there was in the Aube a vacancy for a candidate.  M. Dambreuse, who had been re-elected as a member of the Legislative Assembly, belonged to a different arrondissement.

“Do you wish me to interest myself on your behalf?” He was acquainted with many publicans, schoolmasters, doctors, notaries’ clerks and their masters.  “Besides, you can make the peasants believe anything you like!”

Frederick felt his ambition rekindling.

Deslauriers added: 

“You would find no trouble in getting a situation for me in Paris.”

“Oh! it would not be hard to manage it through Monsieur Dambreuse.”

“As we happened to have been talking just now about coal-mines,” the advocate went on, “what has become of his big company?  This is the sort of employment that would suit me, and I could make myself useful to them while preserving my own independence.”

Frederick promised that he would introduce him to the banker before three days had passed.

The dinner, which he enjoyed alone with Madame Dambreuse, was a delightful affair.  She sat facing him with a smile on her countenance at the opposite side of the table, whereon was placed a basket of flowers, while a lamp suspended above their heads shed its light on the scene; and, as the window was open, they could see the stars.  They talked very little, distrusting themselves, no doubt; but, the moment the servants had turned their backs, they sent across a kiss to one another from the tips of their lips.  He told her about his idea of becoming a candidate.  She approved of the project, promising even to get M. Dambreuse to use every effort on his behalf.

As the evening advanced, some of her friends presented themselves for the purpose of congratulating her, and, at the same time, expressing sympathy with her; she must be so much pained at the loss of her niece.  Besides, it was all very well for newly-married people to go on a trip; by-and-by would come incumbrances, children.  But really, Italy did not realise one’s expectations.  They had not as yet passed the age of illusions; and, in the next place, the honeymoon made everything look beautiful.  The last two who remained behind were M. de Gremonville and Frederick.  The diplomatist was not inclined to leave.  At last he departed at midnight.  Madame Dambreuse beckoned to Frederick to go with him, and thanked him for this compliance with her wishes by giving him a gentle pressure with her hand more delightful than anything that had gone before.

The Maréchale uttered an exclamation of joy on seeing him again.  She had been waiting for him for the last five hours.  He gave as an excuse for the delay an indispensable step which he had to take in the interests of Deslauriers.  His face wore a look of triumph, and was surrounded by an aureola which dazzled Rosanette.

“’Tis perhaps on account of your black coat, which fits you well; but I have never seen you look so handsome!  How handsome you are!”

In a transport of tenderness, she made a vow internally never again to belong to any other man, no matter what might be the consequence, even if she were to die of want.

Her pretty eyes sparkled with such intense passion that Frederick took her upon his knees and said to himself: 

“What a rascally part I am playing!” while admiring his own perversity.