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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCousin Betty (la Cousine Bette) - Part 15
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Cousin Betty (la Cousine Bette) - Part 15 Post by :bulkmailer007 Category :Long Stories Author :Honore De Balzac Date :May 2012 Read :2616

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Cousin Betty (la Cousine Bette) - Part 15

On the very day after the funeral, the friar called again on the lawyer, who received him in perfect silence. The monk held out his hand without a word, and without a word Victorin Hulot gave him eighty thousand-franc notes, taken from a sum of money found in Crevel's desk.

Young Madame Hulot inherited the estate of Presles and thirty thousand francs a year.

Madame Crevel had bequeathed a sum of three hundred thousand francs to Baron Hulot. Her scrofulous boy Stanislas was to inherit, at his majority, the Hotel Crevel and eighty thousand francs a year.

Among the many noble associations founded in Paris by Catholic charity, there is one, originated by Madame de la Chanterie, for promoting civil and religious marriages between persons who have formed a voluntary but illicit union. Legislators, who draw large revenues from the registration fees, and the Bourgeois dynasty, which benefits by the notary's profits, affect to overlook the fact that three-fourths of the poorer class cannot afford fifteen francs for the marriage-contract. The pleaders, a sufficiently vilified body, gratuitously defend the cases of the indigent, while the notaries have not as yet agreed to charge nothing for the marriage-contract of the poor. As to the revenue collectors, the whole machinery of Government would have to be dislocated to induce the authorities to relax their demands. The registrar's office is deaf and dumb.

Then the Church, too, receives a duty on marriages. In France the Church depends largely on such revenues; even in the House of God it traffics in chairs and kneeling stools in a way that offends foreigners; though it cannot have forgotten the anger of the Saviour who drove the money-changers out of the Temple. If the Church is so loath to relinquish its dues, it must be supposed that these dues, known as Vestry dues, are one of its sources of maintenance, and then the fault of the Church is the fault of the State.

The co-operation of these conditions, at a time when charity is too greatly concerned with the negroes and the petty offenders discharged from prison to trouble itself about honest folks in difficulties, results in the existence of a number of decent couples who have never been legally married for lack of thirty francs, the lowest figure for which the Notary, the Registrar, the Mayor and the Church will unite two citizens of Paris. Madame de la Chanterie's fund, founded to restore poor households to their religious and legal status, hunts up such couples, and with all the more success because it helps them in their poverty before attacking their unlawful union.

As soon as Madame Hulot had recovered, she returned to her occupations. And then it was that the admirable Madame de la Chanterie came to beg that Adeline would add the legalization of these voluntary unions to the other good works of which she was the instrument.

One of the Baroness' first efforts in this cause was made in the ominous-looking district, formerly known as la Petite Pologne--Little Poland--bounded by the Rue du Rocher, Rue de la Pepiniere, and Rue de Miromenil. There exists there a sort of offshoot of the Faubourg Saint-Marceau. To give an idea of this part of the town, it is enough to say that the landlords of some of the houses tenanted by working men without work, by dangerous characters, and by the very poor employed in unhealthy toil, dare not demand their rents, and can find no bailiffs bold enough to evict insolvent lodgers. At the present time speculating builders, who are fast changing the aspect of this corner of Paris, and covering the waste ground lying between the Rue d'Amsterdam and the Rue Faubourg-du-Roule, will no doubt alter the character of the inhabitants; for the trowel is a more civilizing agent than is generally supposed. By erecting substantial and handsome houses, with porters at the doors, by bordering the streets with footwalks and shops, speculation, while raising the rents, disperses the squalid class, families bereft of furniture, and lodgers that cannot pay. And so these districts are cleared of such objectionable residents, and the dens vanish into which the police never venture but under the sanction of the law.

In June 1844, the purlieus of the Place de Laborde were still far from inviting. The genteel pedestrian, who by chance should turn out of the Rue de la Pepiniere into one of those dreadful side-streets, would have been dismayed to see how vile a bohemia dwelt cheek by jowl with the aristocracy. In such places as these, haunted by ignorant poverty and misery driven to bay, flourish the last public letter-writers who are to be found in Paris. Wherever you see the two words "Ecrivain Public" written in a fine copy hand on a sheet of letter-paper stuck to the window pane of some low entresol or mud-splashed ground-floor room, you may safely conclude that the neighborhood is the lurking place of many unlettered folks, and of much vice and crime, the outcome of misery; for ignorance is the mother of all sorts of crime. A crime is, in the first instance, a defect of reasoning powers.

While the Baroness had been ill, this quarter, to which she was a minor Providence, had seen the advent of a public writer who settled in the Passage du Soleil--Sun Alley--a spot of which the name is one of the antitheses dear to the Parisian, for the passage is especially dark. This writer, supposed to be a German, was named Vyder, and he lived on matrimonial terms with a young creature of whom he was so jealous that he never allowed her to go anywhere excepting to some honest stove and flue-fitters, in the Rue Saint-Lazare, Italians, as such fitters always are, but long since established in Paris. These people had been saved from a bankruptcy, which would have reduced them to misery, by the Baroness, acting in behalf of Madame de la Chanterie. In a few months comfort had taken the place of poverty, and Religion had found a home in hearts which once had cursed Heaven with the energy peculiar to Italian stove-fitters. So one of Madame Hulot's first visits was to this family.

She was pleased at the scene that presented itself to her eyes at the back of the house where these worthy folks lived in the Rue Saint-Lazare, not far from the Rue du Rocher. High above the stores and workshops, now well filled, where toiled a swarm of apprentices and workmen--all Italians from the valley of Domo d'Ossola--the master's family occupied a set of rooms, which hard work had blessed with abundance. The Baroness was hailed like the Virgin Mary in person.

After a quarter of an hour's questioning, Adeline, having to wait for the father to inquire how his business was prospering, pursued her saintly calling as a spy by asking whether they knew of any families needing help.

"Ah, dear lady, you who could save the damned from hell!" said the Italian wife, "there is a girl quite near here to be saved from perdition."

"A girl well known to you?" asked the Baroness.

"She is the granddaughter of a master my husband formerly worked for, who came to France in 1798, after the Revolution, by name Judici. Old Judici, in Napoleon's time, was one of the principal stove-fitters in Paris; he died in 1819, leaving his son a fine fortune. But the younger Judici wasted all his money on bad women; till, at last, he married one who was sharper than the rest, and she had this poor little girl, who is just turned fifteen."

"And what is wrong with her?" asked Adeline, struck by the resemblance between this Judici and her husband.

"Well, madame, this child, named Atala, ran away from her father, and came to live close by here with an old German of eighty at least, named Vyder, who does odd jobs for people who cannot read and write. Now, if this old sinner, who bought the child of her mother, they say for fifteen hundred francs, would but marry her, as he certainly has not long to live, and as he is said to have some few thousand of francs a year--well, the poor thing, who is a sweet little angel, would be out of mischief, and above want, which must be the ruin of her."

"Thank you very much for the information. I may do some good, but I must act with caution.--Who is the old man?"

"Oh! madame, he is a good old fellow; he makes the child very happy, and he has some sense too, for he left the part of town where the Judicis live, as I believe, to snatch the child from her mother's clutches. The mother was jealous of her, and I dare say she thought she could make money out of her beauty and make a _mademoiselle of the girl.

"Atala remembered us, and advised her gentleman to settle near us; and as the good man sees how decent we are, he allows her to come here. But get them married, madame, and you will do an action worthy of you. Once married, the child will be independent and free from her mother, who keeps an eye on her, and who, if she could make money by her, would like to see her on the stage, or successful in the wicked life she meant her to lead."

"Why doesn't the old man marry her?"

"There was no necessity for it, you see," said the Italian. "And though old Vyder is not a bad old fellow, I fancy he is sharp enough to wish to remain the master, while if he once got married--why, the poor man is afraid of the stone that hangs round every old man's neck."

"Could you send for the girl to come here?" said Madame Hulot. "I should see her quietly, and find out what could be done--"

The stove-fitter's wife signed to her eldest girl, who ran off. Ten minutes later she returned, leading by the hand a child of fifteen and a half, a beauty of the Italian type. Mademoiselle Judici inherited from her father that ivory skin which, rather yellow by day, is by artificial light of lily-whiteness; eyes of Oriental beauty, form, and brilliancy, close curling lashes like black feathers, hair of ebony hue, and that native dignity of the Lombard race which makes the foreigner, as he walks through Milan on a Sunday, fancy that every porter's daughter is a princess.

Atala, told by the stove-fitter's daughter that she was to meet the great lady of whom she had heard so much, had hastily dressed in a black silk gown, a smart little cape, and neat boots. A cap with a cherry-colored bow added to the brilliant effect of her coloring. The child stood in an attitude of artless curiosity, studying the Baroness out of the corner of her eye, for her palsied trembling puzzled her greatly.

Adeline sighed deeply as she saw this jewel of womanhood in the mire of prostitution, and determined to rescue her to virtue.

"What is your name, my dear?"

"Atala, madame."

"And can you read and write?"

"No, madame; but that does not matter, as monsieur can."

"Did your parents ever take you to church? Have you been to your first Communion? Do you know your Catechism?"

"Madame, papa wanted to make me do something of the kind you speak of, but mamma would not have it--"

"Your mother?" exclaimed the Baroness. "Is she bad to you, then?"

"She was always beating me. I don't know why, but I was always being quarreled over by my father and mother--"

"Did you ever hear of God?" cried the Baroness.

The girl looked up wide-eyed.

"Oh, yes, papa and mamma often said 'Good God,' and 'In God's name,' and 'God's thunder,'" said she, with perfect simplicity.

"Then you never saw a church? Did you never think of going into one?"

"A church?--Notre-Dame, the Pantheon?--I have seen them from a distance, when papa took me into town; but that was not very often. There are no churches like those in the Faubourg."

"Which Faubourg did you live in?"

"In the Faubourg."

"Yes, but which?"

"In the Rue de Charonne, madame."

The inhabitants of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine never call that notorious district other than _the Faubourg. To them it is the one and only Faubourg; and manufacturers generally understand the words as meaning the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

"Did no one ever tell you what was right or wrong?"

"Mamma used to beat me when I did not do what pleased her."

"But did you not know that it was very wicked to run away from your father and mother to go to live with an old man?"

Atala Judici gazed at the Baroness with a haughty stare, but made no reply.

"She is a perfect little savage," murmured Adeline.

"There are a great many like her in the Faubourg, madame," said the stove-fitter's wife.

"But she knows nothing--not even what is wrong. Good Heavens!--Why do you not answer me?" said Madame Hulot, putting out her hand to take Atala's.

Atala indignantly withdrew a step.

"You are an old fool!" said she. "Why, my father and mother had had nothing to eat for a week. My mother wanted me to do much worse than that, I think, for my father thrashed her and called her a thief! However, Monsieur Vyder paid all their debts, and gave them some money --oh, a bagful! And he brought me away, and poor papa was crying. But we had to part!--Was it wicked?" she asked.

"And are you very fond of Monsieur Vyder?"

"Fond of him?" said she. "I should think so! He tells me beautiful stories, madame, every evening; and he has given me nice gowns, and linen, and a shawl. Why, I am figged out like a princess, and I never wear sabots now. And then, I have not known what it is to be hungry these two months past. And I don't live on potatoes now. He brings me bonbons and burnt almonds, and chocolate almonds.--Aren't they good? --I do anything he pleases for a bag of chocolate.--Then my old Daddy is very kind; he takes such care of me, and is so nice; I know now what my mother ought to have been.--He is going to get an old woman to help me, for he doesn't like me to dirty my hands with cooking. For the past month, too, he has been making a little money, and he gives me three francs every evening that I put into a money-box. Only he will never let me out except to come here--and he calls me his little kitten! Mamma never called me anything but bad names--and thief, and vermin!"

"Well, then, my child, why should not Daddy Vyder be your husband?"

"But he is, madame," said the girl, looking at Adeline with calm pride, without a blush, her brow smooth, her eyes steady. "He told me that I was his little wife; but it is a horrid bore to be a man's wife --if it were not for the burnt almonds!"

"Good Heaven!" said the Baroness to herself, "what monster can have had the heart to betray such perfect, such holy innocence? To restore this child to the ways of virtue would surely atone for many sins.--I knew what I was doing." thought she, remembering the scene with Crevel. "But she--she knows nothing."

"Do you know Monsieur Samanon?" asked Atala, with an insinuating look.

"No, my child; but why do you ask?"

"Really and truly?" said the artless girl.

"You have nothing to fear from this lady," said the Italian woman. "She is an angel."

"It is because my good old boy is afraid of being caught by Samanon. He is hiding, and I wish he could be free--"

"Why?"

"On! then he would take me to Bobino, perhaps to the Ambigu."

"What a delightful creature!" said the Baroness, kissing the girl.

"Are you rich?" asked Atala, who was fingering the Baroness' lace ruffles.

"Yes, and No," replied Madame Hulot. "I am rich for dear little girls like you when they are willing to be taught their duties as Christians by a priest, and to walk in the right way."

"What way is that?" said Atala; "I walk on my two feet."

"The way of virtue."

Atala looked at the Baroness with a crafty smile.

"Look at madame," said the Baroness, pointing to the stove-fitter's wife, "she has been quite happy because she was received into the bosom of the Church. You married like the beasts that perish."

"I?" said Atala. "Why, if you will give me as much as Daddy Vyder gives me, I shall be quite happy unmarried again. It is a grind.--Do you know what it is to--?"

"But when once you are united to a man as you are," the Baroness put in, "virtue requires you to remain faithful to him."

"Till he dies," said Atala, with a knowing flash. "I shall not have to wait long. If you only knew how Daddy Vyder coughs and blows.--Poof, poof," and she imitated the old man.

"Virtue and morality require that the Church, representing God, and the Mayor, representing the law, should consecrate your marriage," Madame Hulot went on. "Look at madame; she is legally married--"

"Will it make it more amusing?" asked the girl.

"You will be happier," said the Baroness, "for no one could then blame you. You would satisfy God! Ask her if she was married without the sacrament of marriage!"

Atala looked at the Italian.

"How is she any better than I am?" she asked. "I am prettier than she is."

"Yes, but I am an honest woman," said the wife, "and you may be called by a bad name."

"How can you expect God to protect you if you trample every law, human and divine, under foot?" said the Baroness. "Don't you know that God has Paradise in store for those who obey the injunctions of His Church?"

"What is there in Paradise? Are there playhouses?"

"Paradise!" said Adeline, "is every joy you can conceive of. It is full of angels with white wings. You see God in all His glory, you share His power, you are happy for every minute of eternity!"

Atala listened to the lady as she might have listened to music; but Adeline, seeing that she was incapable of understanding her, thought she had better take another line of action and speak to the old man.

"Go home, then, my child, and I will go to see Monsieur Vyder. Is he a Frenchman?"

"He is an Alsatian, madame. But he will be quite rich soon. If you would pay what he owes to that vile Samanon, he would give you back your money, for in a few months he will be getting six thousand francs a year, he says, and we are to go to live in the country a long way off, in the Vosges."

At the word _Vosges the Baroness sat lost in reverie. It called up the vision of her native village. She was roused from her melancholy meditation by the entrance of the stove-fitter, who came to assure her of his prosperity.

"In a year's time, madame, I can repay the money you lent us, for it is God's money, the money of the poor and wretched. If ever I make a fortune, come to me for what you want, and I will render through you the help to others which you first brought us."

"Just now," said Madame Hulot, "I do not need your money, but I ask your assistance in a good work. I have just seen that little Judici, who is living with an old man, and I mean to see them regularly and legally married."

"Ah! old Vyder; he is a very worthy old fellow, with plenty of good sense. The poor old man has already made friends in the neighborhood, though he has been here but two months. He keeps my accounts for me. He is, I believe, a brave Colonel who served the Emperor well. And how he adores Napoleon!--He has some orders, but he never wears them. He is waiting till he is straight again, for he is in debt, poor old boy! In fact, I believe he is hiding, threatened by the law--"

"Tell him that I will pay his debts if he will marry the child."

"Oh, that will soon be settled.--Suppose you were to see him, madame; it is not two steps away, in the Passage du Soleil."

So the lady and the stove-fitter went out.

"This way, madame," said the man, turning down the Rue de la Pepiniere.

The alley runs, in fact, from the bottom of this street through to the Rue du Rocher. Halfway down this passage, recently opened through, where the shops let at a very low rent, the Baroness saw on a window, screened up to a height with a green, gauze curtain, which excluded the prying eyes of the passer-by, the words:


"ECRIVAIN PUBLIC"; and on the door the announcement:

BUSINESS TRANSACTED.

_Petitions Drawn Up, Accounts Audited, Etc.

With Secrecy and Dispatch. The shop was like one of those little offices where travelers by omnibus wait the vehicles to take them on to their destination. A private staircase led up, no doubt, to the living-rooms on the entresol which were let with the shop. Madame Hulot saw a dirty writing-table of some light wood, some letter-boxes, and a wretched second-hand chair. A cap with a peak and a greasy green shade for the eyes suggested either precautions for disguise, or weak eyes, which was not unlikely in an old man.

"He is upstairs," said the stove-fitter. "I will go up and tell him to come down."

Adeline lowered her veil and took a seat. A heavy step made the narrow stairs creak, and Adeline could not restrain a piercing cry when she saw her husband, Baron Hulot, in a gray knitted jersey, old gray flannel trousers, and slippers.

"What is your business, madame?" said Hulot, with a flourish.

She rose, seized Hulot by the arm, and said in a voice hoarse with emotion:

"At last--I have found you!"

"Adeline!" exclaimed the Baron in bewilderment, and he locked the shop door. "Joseph, go out the back way," he added to the stove-fitter.

"My dear!" she said, forgetting everything in her excessive joy, "you can come home to us all; we are rich. Your son draws a hundred and sixty thousand francs a year! Your pension is released; there are fifteen thousand francs of arrears you can get on showing that you are alive. Valerie is dead, and left you three hundred thousand francs.

"Your name is quite forgotten by this time; you may reappear in the world, and you will find a fortune awaiting you at your son's house. Come; our happiness will be complete. For nearly three years I have been seeking you, and I felt so sure of finding you that a room is ready waiting for you. Oh! come away from this, come away from the dreadful state I see you in!"

"I am very willing," said the bewildered Baron, "but can I take the girl?"

"Hector, give her up! Do that much for your Adeline, who has never before asked you to make the smallest sacrifice. I promise you I will give the child a marriage portion; I will see that she marries well, and has some education. Let it be said of one of the women who have given you happiness that she too is happy; and do not relapse into vice, into the mire."

"So it was you," said the Baron, with a smile, "who wanted to see me married?--Wait a few minutes," he added; "I will go upstairs and dress; I have some decent clothes in a trunk."

Adeline, left alone, and looking round the squalid shop, melted into tears.

"He has been living here, and we rolling in wealth!" said she to herself. "Poor man, he has indeed been punished--he who was elegance itself."

The stove-fitter returned to make his bow to his benefactress, and she desired him to fetch a coach. When he came back, she begged him to give little Atala Judici a home, and to take her away at once.

"And tell her that if she will place herself under the guidance of Monsieur the Cure of the Madeleine, on the day when she attends her first Communion I will give her thirty thousand francs and find her a good husband, some worthy young man."

"My eldest son, then madame! He is two-and-twenty, and he worships the child."

The Baron now came down; there were tears in his eyes.

"You are forcing me to desert the only creature who had ever begun to love me at all as you do!" said he in a whisper to his wife. "She is crying bitterly, and I cannot abandon her so--"

"Be quite easy, Hector. She will find a home with honest people, and I will answer for her conduct."

"Well, then, I can go with you," said the Baron, escorting his wife to the cab.

Hector, the Baron d'Ervy once more, had put on a blue coat and trousers, a white waistcoat, a black stock, and gloves. When the Baroness had taken her seat in the vehicle, Atala slipped in like an eel.

"Oh, madame," she said, "let me go with you. I will be so good, so obedient; I will do whatever you wish; but do not part me from my Daddy Vyder, my kind Daddy who gives me such nice things. I shall be beaten--"

"Come, come, Atala," said the Baron, "this lady is my wife--we must part--"

"She! As old as that! and shaking like a leaf!" said the child. "Look at her head!" and she laughingly mimicked the Baroness' palsy.

The stove-fitter, who had run after the girl, came to the carriage door.

"Take her away!" said Adeline. The man put his arms round Atala and fairly carried her off.

"Thanks for such a sacrifice, my dearest," said Adeline, taking the Baron's hand and clutching it with delirious joy. "How much you are altered! you must have suffered so much! What a surprise for Hortense and for your son!"

Adeline talked as lovers talk who meet after a long absence, of a hundred things at once.

In ten minutes the Baron and his wife reached the Rue Louis-le-Grand, and there Adeline found this note awaiting her:--

"MADAME LA BARONNE,--

"Monsieur le Baron Hulot d'Ervy lived for one month in the Rue de Charonne under the name of Thorec, an anagram of Hector. He is now in the Passage du Soleil by the name of Vyder. He says he is an Alsatian, and does writing, and he lives with a girl named Atala Judici. Be very cautious, madame, for search is on foot; the Baron is wanted, on what score I know not.

"The actress has kept her word, and remains, as ever,


"Madame la Baronne, your humble servant,
"J. M."


The Baron's return was hailed with such joy as reconciled him to domestic life. He forgot little Atala Judici, for excesses of profligacy had reduced him to the volatility of feeling that is characteristic of childhood. But the happiness of the family was dashed by the change that had come over him. He had been still hale when he had gone away from his home; he had come back almost a hundred, broken, bent, and his expression even debased.

A splendid dinner, improvised by Celestine, reminded the old man of the singer's banquets; he was dazzled by the splendor of his home.

"A feast in honor of the return of the prodigal father?" said he in a murmur to Adeline.

"Hush!" said she, "all is forgotten."

"And Lisbeth?" he asked, not seeing the old maid.

"I am sorry to say that she is in bed," replied Hortense. "She can never get up, and we shall have the grief of losing her ere long. She hopes to see you after dinner."

At daybreak next morning Victorin Hulot was informed by the porter's wife that soldiers of the municipal guard were posted all round the premises; the police demanded Baron Hulot. The bailiff, who had followed the woman, laid a summons in due form before the lawyer, and asked him whether he meant to pay his father's debts. The claim was for ten thousand francs at the suit of an usurer named Samanon, who had probably lent the Baron two or three thousand at most. Victorin desired the bailiff to dismiss his men, and paid.

"But is it the last?" he anxiously wondered.

Lisbeth, miserable already at seeing the family so prosperous, could not survive this happy event. She grew so rapidly worse that Bianchon gave her but a week to live, conquered at last in the long struggle in which she had scored so many victories.

She kept the secret of her hatred even through a painful death from pulmonary consumption. And, indeed, she had the supreme satisfaction of seeing Adeline, Hortense, Hulot, Victorin, Steinbock, Celestine, and their children standing in tears round her bed and mourning for her as the angel of the family.

Baron Hulot, enjoying a course of solid food such as he had not known for nearly three years, recovered flesh and strength, and was almost himself again. This improvement was such a joy to Adeline that her nervous trembling perceptibly diminished.

"She will be happy after all," said Lisbeth to herself on the day before she died, as she saw the veneration with which the Baron regarded his wife, of whose sufferings he had heard from Hortense and Victorin.

And vindictiveness hastened Cousin Betty's end. The family followed her, weeping, to the grave.

The Baron and Baroness, having reached the age which looks for perfect rest, gave up the handsome rooms on the first floor to the Count and Countess Steinbock, and took those above. The Baron by his son's exertions found an official position in the management of a railroad, in 1845, with a salary of six thousand francs, which, added to the six thousand of his pension and the money left to him by Madame Crevel, secured him an income of twenty-four thousand francs. Hortense having enjoyed her independent income during the three years of separation from Wenceslas, Victorin now invested the two hundred thousand francs he had in trust, in his sister's name and he allowed her twelve thousand francs.

Wenceslas, as the husband of a rich woman, was not unfaithful, but he was an idler; he could not make up his mind to begin any work, however trifling. Once more he became the artist _in partibus_; he was popular in society, and consulted by amateurs; in short, he became a critic, like all the feeble folk who fall below their promise.

Thus each household, though living as one family, had its own fortune. The Baroness, taught by bitter experience, left the management of matters to her son, and the Baron was thus reduced to his salary, in hope that the smallness of his income would prevent his relapsing into mischief. And by some singular good fortune, on which neither the mother nor the son had reckoned, Hulot seemed to have foresworn the fair sex. His subdued behaviour, ascribed to the course of nature, so completely reassured the family, that they enjoyed to the full his recovered amiability and delightful qualities. He was unfailingly attentive to his wife and children, escorted them to the play, reappeared in society, and did the honors to his son's house with exquisite grace. In short, this reclaimed prodigal was the joy of his family.

He was a most agreeable old man, a ruin, but full of wit, having retained no more of his vice than made it an added social grace.

Of course, everybody was quite satisfied and easy. The young people and the Baroness lauded the model father to the skies, forgetting the death of the two uncles. Life cannot go on without much forgetting!

Madame Victorin, who managed this enormous household with great skill, due, no doubt, to Lisbeth's training, had found it necessary to have a man-cook. This again necessitated a kitchen-maid. Kitchen-maids are in these days ambitious creatures, eager to detect the _chef's secrets, and to become cooks as soon as they have learnt to stir a sauce. Consequently, the kitchen-maid is liable to frequent change.

At the beginning of 1845 Celestine engaged as kitchen-maid a sturdy Normandy peasant come from Isigny--short-waisted, with strong red arms, a common face, as dull as an "occasional piece" at the play, and hardly to be persuaded out of wearing the classical linen cap peculiar to the women of Lower Normandy. This girl, as buxom as a wet-nurse, looked as if she would burst the blue cotton check in which she clothed her person. Her florid face might have been hewn out of stone, so hard were its tawny outlines.

Of course no attention was paid to the advent in the house of this girl, whose name was Agathe--an ordinary, wide-awake specimen, such as is daily imported from the provinces. Agathe had no attractions for the cook, her tongue was too rough, for she had served in a suburban inn, waiting on carters; and instead of making a conquest of her chief and winning from him the secrets of the high art of the kitchen, she was the object of his great contempt. The _chef's attentions were, in fact, devoted to Louise, the Countess Steinbock's maid. The country girl, thinking herself ill-used, complained bitterly that she was always sent out of the way on some pretext when the _chef was finishing a dish or putting the crowning touch to a sauce.

"I am out of luck," said she, "and I shall go to another place."

And yet she stayed though she had twice given notice to quit.

One night, Adeline, roused by some unusual noise, did not see Hector in the bed he occupied near hers; for they slept side by side in two beds, as beseemed an old couple. She lay awake an hour, but he did not return. Seized with a panic, fancying some tragic end had overtaken him--an apoplectic attack, perhaps--she went upstairs to the floor occupied by the servants, and then was attracted to the room where Agathe slept, partly by seeing a light below the door, and partly by the murmur of voices. She stood still in dismay on recognizing the voice of her husband, who, a victim to Agathe's charms, to vanquish this strapping wench's not disinterested resistance, went to the length of saying:

"My wife has not long to live, and if you like you may be a Baroness."

Adeline gave a cry, dropped her candlestick, and fled.

Three days later the Baroness, who had received the last sacraments, was dying, surrounded by her weeping family.

Just before she died, she took her husband's hand and pressed it, murmuring in his ear:

"My dear, I had nothing left to give up to you but my life. In a minute or two you will be free, and can make another Baronne Hulot."

And, rare sight, tears oozed from her dead eyes.

This desperateness of vice had vanquished the patience of the angel, who, on the brink of eternity, gave utterance to the only reproach she had ever spoken in her life.

The Baron left Paris three days after his wife's funeral. Eleven months after Victorin heard indirectly of his father's marriage to Mademoiselle Agathe Piquetard, solemnized at Isigny, on the 1st February 1846.

"Parents may hinder their children's marriage, but children cannot interfere with the insane acts of their parents in their second childhood," said Maitre Hulot to Maitre Popinot, the second son of the Minister of Commerce, who was discussing this marriage.


(THE END)

ADDENDUM

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

Beauvisage, Phileas
The Member for Arcis

Berthier (Parisian notary)
Cousin Pons

Bianchon, Horace
Father Goriot
The Atheist's Mass
Cesar Birotteau
The Commission in Lunacy
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
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
The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche

Bixiou, Jean-Jacques
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
Modeste Mignon
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Firm of Nucingen
The Muse of the Department
The Member for Arcis
Beatrix
A Man of Business
Gaudissart II.
The Unconscious Humorists
Cousin Pons

Braulard
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Cousin Pons

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

Brisetout, Heloise
Cousin Pons
The Middle Classes

Cadine, Jenny
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists
The Member for Arcis

Chanor
Cousin Pons

Chocardelle, Mademoiselle
Beatrix
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Member for Arcis

Colleville, Flavie Minoret, Madame
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Collin, Jacqueline
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Crevel, Celestin
Cesar Birotteau
Cousin Pons

Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d')
Jealousies of a Country Town
Letters of Two Brides
A Man of Business
The Secrets of a Princess

Falcon, Jean
The Chouans
The Muse of the Department

Graff, Wolfgang
Cousin Pons

Grassou, Pierre
Pierre Grassou
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Grindot
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Start in Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Beatrix
The Middle Classes

Hannequin, Leopold
Albert Savarus
Beatrix
Cousin Pons

Herouville, Duc d'
The Hated Son
Jealousies of a Country Town
Modeste Mignon

Hulot (Marshal)
The Chouans
The Muse of the Department

Hulot, Victorin
The Member for Arcis

La Bastie la Briere, Madame Ernest de
Modeste Mignon
The Member for Arcis

La Baudraye, Madame Polydore Milaud de
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia

La Chanterie, Baronne Henri le Chantre de
The Seamy Side of History

Laginski, Comte Adam Mitgislas
Another Study of Woman
The Imaginary Mistress

La Palferine, Comte de
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
Beatrix
The Imaginary Mistress

La Roche-Hugon, Martial de
Domestic Peace
The Peasantry
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
The Middle Classes

Lebas, Joseph
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

Lebas, Madame Joseph (Virginie)
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

Lebas
The Muse of the Department

Lefebvre, Robert
The Gondreville Mystery

Lenoncourt-Givry, Duc de
Letters of Two Brides
The Member for Arcis

Lora, Leon de
The Unconscious Humorists
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
Pierre Grassou
Honorine
Beatrix

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

Massol
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Magic Skin
A Daughter of Eve
The Unconscious Humorists

Montauran, Marquis de (younger brother of Alphonse de)
The Chouans
The Seamy Side of History

Montcornet, Marechal, Comte de
Domestic Peace
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Peasantry
A Man of Business

Navarreins, Duc de
A Bachelor's Establishment
Colonel Chabert
The Muse of the Department
The Thirteen
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Peasantry
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Country Parson
The Magic Skin
The Gondreville Mystery
The Secrets of a Princess

Nourrisson, Madame
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
The Firm of Nucingen
Father Goriot
Pierrette
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
A Man of Business
The Muse of the Department
The Unconscious Humorists

Paz, Thaddee
The Imaginary Mistress

Popinot, Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
Gaudissart the Great
Cousin Pons

Popinot, Madame Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
A Prince of Bohemia
Cousin Pons

Popinot, Vicomte
Cousin Pons

Rastignac, Eugene de
Father Goriot
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Ball at Sceaux
The Commission in Lunacy
A Study of Woman
Another Study of Woman
The Magic Skin
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Gondreville Mystery
The Firm of Nucingen
The Member for Arcis
The Unconscious Humorists

Rivet, Achille
Cousin Pons

Rochefide, Marquis Arthur de
Beatrix

Ronceret, Madame Fabien du
Beatrix
The Muse of the Department
The Unconscious Humorists

Samanon
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Government Clerks
A Man of Business

Sinet, Seraphine
The Unconscious Humorists

Steinbock, Count Wenceslas
The Imaginary Mistress

Stidmann
Modeste Mignon
Beatrix
The Member for Arcis
Cousin Pons
The Unconscious Humorists

Tillet, Ferdinand du
Cesar Birotteau
The Firm of Nucingen
The Middle Classes
A Bachelor's Establishment
Pierrette
Melmoth Reconciled
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
The Unconscious Humorists

Trailles, Comte Maxime de
Cesar Birotteau
Father Goriot
Gobseck
Ursule Mirouet
A Man of Business
The Member for Arcis
The Secrets of a Princess
The Member for Arcis
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists

Turquet, Marguerite
The Imaginary Mistress
The Muse of the Department
A Man of Business

Vauvinet
The Unconscious Humorists

Vernisset, Victor de
The Seamy Side of History
Beatrix

Vernou, Felicien
A Bachelor's Establishment
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve

Vignon, Claude
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Daughter of Eve
Honorine
Beatrix
The Unconscious Humorists


(THE END)
Honore de Balzac's Novel: Cousin Betty (La Cousine Bette)

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