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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesScenes From A Courtesan's Life - Esther Happy - Part 2
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Scenes From A Courtesan's Life - Esther Happy - Part 2 Post by :narnia Category :Long Stories Author :Honore De Balzac Date :May 2012 Read :2635

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Scenes From A Courtesan's Life - Esther Happy - Part 2

The priest perceived how well the girl had deserved her nickname; he understood how difficult it was to resist this bewitching creature; he suddenly comprehended Lucien's love, and just what must have fascinated the poet. Such a passion hides among a thousand temptations a dart-like hook which is most apt to catch the lofty soul of an artist. These passions, inexplicable to the vulgar, are perfectly accounted for by the thirst for ideal beauty, which is characteristic of a creative mind. For are we not, in some degree, akin to the angels, whose task it is to bring the guilty to a better mind? are we not creative when we purify such a creature? How delightful it is to harmonize moral with physical beauty! What joy and pride if we succeed! How noble a task is that which has no instrument but love!

Such alliances, made famous by the example of Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Alcibiades, Cethegus, and Pompey, and yet so monstrous in the eyes of the vulgar, are based on the same feeling that prompted Louis XIV. to build Versailles, or that makes men rush into any ruinous enterprise--into converting the miasma of a marsh into a mass of fragrance surrounded by living waters; placing a lake at the top of a hill, as the Prince de Conti did at Nointel; or producing Swiss scenery at Cassan, like Bergeret, the farmer-general. In short, it is the application of art in the realm of morals.

The priest, ashamed of having yielded to this weakness, hastily pushed Esther away, and she sat down quite abashed, for he said:

"You are still the courtesan." And he calmly replaced the paper in his sash.

Esther, like a child who has a single wish in its head, kept her eyes fixed on the spot where the document lay hidden.

"My child," the priest went on after a pause, "your mother was a Jewess, and you have not been baptized; but, on the other hand, you have never been taken to the synagogue. You are in the limbo where little children are----"

"Little children!" she echoed, in a tenderly pathetic tone.

"As you are on the books of the police, a cipher outside the pale of social beings," the priest went on, unmoved. "If love, seen as it swept past, led you to believe three months since that you were then born, you must feel that since that day you have been really an infant. You must, therefore, be led as if you were a child; you must be completely changed, and I will undertake to make you unrecognizable. To begin with, you must forget Lucien."

The words crushed the poor girl's heart; she raised her eyes to the priest and shook her head; she could not speak, finding the executioner in the deliverer again.

"At any rate, you must give up seeing him," he went on. "I will take you to a religious house where young girls of the best families are educated; there you will become a Catholic, you will be trained in the practice of Christian exercises, you will be taught religion. You may come out an accomplished young lady, chaste, pure, well brought up, if----" The man lifted up a finger and paused.

"If," he went on, "you feel brave enough to leave the 'Torpille' behind you here."

"Ah!" cried the poor thing, to whom each word had been like a note of some melody to which the gates of Paradise were slowly opening. "Ah! if it were possible to shed all my blood here and have it renewed!"

"Listen to me."

She was silent.

"Your future fate depends on your power of forgetting. Think of the extent to which you pledge yourself. A word, a gesture, which betrays La Torpille will kill Lucien's wife. A word murmured in a dream, an involuntary thought, an immodest glance, a gesture of impatience, a reminiscence of dissipation, an omission, a shake of the head that might reveal what you know, or what is known about you for your woes----"

"Yes, yes, Father," said the girl, with the exaltation of a saint. "To walk in shoes of red-hot iron and smile, to live in a pair of stays set with nails and maintain the grace of a dancer, to eat bread salted with ashes, to drink wormwood,--all will be sweet and easy!"

She fell again on her knees, she kissed the priest's shoes, she melted into tears that wetted them, she clasped his knees, and clung to them, murmuring foolish words as she wept for joy. Her long and beautiful light hair waved to the ground, a sort of carpet under the feet of the celestial messenger, whom she saw as gloomy and hard as ever when she lifted herself up and looked at him.

"What have I done to offend you?" cried she, quite frightened. "I have heard of a woman, such as I am, who washed the feet of Jesus with perfumes. Alas! virtue has made me so poor that I have nothing but tears to offer you."

"Have you not understood?" he answered, in a cruel voice. "I tell you, you must be able to come out of the house to which I shall take you so completely changed, physically and morally, that no man or woman you have ever known will be able to call you 'Esther' and make you look round. Yesterday your love could not give you strength enough so completely to bury the prostitute that she could never reappear; and again to-day she revives in adoration which is due to none but God."

"Was it not He who sent you to me?" said she.

"If during the course of your education you should even see Lucien, all would be lost," he went on; "remember that."

"Who will comfort him?" said she.

"What was it that you comforted him for?" asked the priest, in a tone in which, for the first time during this scene, there was a nervous quaver.

"I do not know; he was often sad when he came."

"Sad!" said the priest. "Did he tell you why?"

"Never," answered she.

"He was sad at loving such a girl as you!" exclaimed he.

"Alas! and well he might be," said she, with deep humility. "I am the most despicable creature of my sex, and I could find favor in his eyes only by the greatness of my love."

"That love must give you the courage to obey me blindly. If I were to take you straight from hence to the house where you are to be educated, everybody here would tell Lucien that you had gone away to-day, Sunday, with a priest; he might follow in your tracks. In the course of a week, the portress, not seeing me again, might suppose me to be what I am not. So, one evening--this day week--at seven o'clock, go out quietly and get into a cab that will be waiting for you at the bottom of the Rue des Frondeurs. During this week avoid Lucien, find excuses, have him sent from the door, and if he should come in, go up to some friend's room. I shall know if you have seen him, and in that event all will be at an end. I shall not even come back. These eight days you will need to make up some suitable clothing and to hide your look of a prostitute," said he, laying a purse on the chimney-shelf. "There is something in your manner, in your clothes--something indefinable which is well known to Parisians, and proclaims you what you are. Have you never met in the streets or on the Boulevards a modest and virtuous girl walking with her mother?"

"Oh yes, to my sorrow! The sight of a mother and daughter is one of our most cruel punishments; it arouses the remorse that lurks in the innermost folds of our hearts, and that is consuming us.--I know too well all I lack."

"Well, then, you know how you should look next Sunday," said the priest, rising.

"Oh!" said she, "teach me one real prayer before you go, that I may pray to God."

It was a touching thing to see the priest making this girl repeat Ave _Maria and _Paternoster in French.

"That is very fine!" said Esther, when she had repeated these two grand and universal utterances of the Catholic faith without making a mistake.

"What is your name?" she asked the priest when he took leave of her.

"Carlos Herrera; I am a Spaniard banished from my country."

Esther took his hand and kissed it. She was no longer the courtesan; she was an angel rising after a fall.

In a religious institution, famous for the aristocratic and pious teaching imparted there, one Monday morning in the beginning of March 1824 the pupils found their pretty flock increased by a newcomer, whose beauty triumphed without dispute not only over that of her companions, but over the special details of beauty which were found severally in perfection in each one of them. In France it is extremely rare, not to say impossible, to meet with the thirty points of perfection, described in Persian verse, and engraved, it is said, in the Seraglio, which are needed to make a woman absolutely beautiful. Though in France the whole is seldom seen, we find exquisite parts. As to that imposing union which sculpture tries to produce, and has produced in a few rare examples like the Diana and the Callipyge, it is the privileged possession of Greece and Asia Minor.

Esther came from that cradle of the human race; her mother was a Jewess. The Jews, though so often deteriorated by their contact with other nations, have, among their many races, families in which this sublime type of Asiatic beauty has been preserved. When they are not repulsively hideous, they present the splendid characteristics of Armenian beauty. Esther would have carried off the prize at the Seraglio; she had the thirty points harmoniously combined. Far from having damaged the finish of her modeling and the freshness of her flesh, her strange life had given her the mysterious charm of womanhood; it is no longer the close, waxy texture of green fruit and not yet the warm glow of maturity; there is still the scent of the flower. A few days longer spent in dissolute living, and she would have been too fat. This abundant health, this perfection of the animal in a being in whom voluptuousness took the place of thought, must be a remarkable fact in the eyes of physiologists. A circumstance so rare, that it may be called impossible in very young girls, was that her hands, incomparably fine in shape, were as soft, transparent, and white as those of a woman after the birth of her second child. She had exactly the hair and the foot for which the Duchesse de Berri was so famous, hair so thick that no hairdresser could gather it into his hand, and so long that it fell to the ground in rings; for Esther was of that medium height which makes a woman a sort of toy, to be taken up and set down, taken up again and carried without fatigue. Her skin, as fine as rice-paper, of a warm amber hue showing the purple veins, was satiny without dryness, soft without being clammy.

Esther, excessively strong though apparently fragile, arrested attention by one feature that is conspicuous in the faces in which Raphael has shown his most artistic feeling, for Raphael is the painter who has most studied and best rendered Jewish beauty. This remarkable effect was produced by the depth of the eye-socket, under which the eye moved free from its setting; the arch of the brow was so accurate as to resemble the groining of a vault. When youth lends this beautiful hollow its pure and diaphanous coloring, and edges it with closely-set eyebrows, when the light stealing into the circular cavity beneath lingers there with a rosy hue, there are tender treasures in it to delight a lover, beauties to drive a painter to despair. Those luminous curves, where the shadows have a golden tone, that tissue as firm as a sinew and as mobile as the most delicate membrane, is a crowning achievement of nature. The eye at rest within is like a miraculous egg in a nest of silken wings. But as time goes on this marvel acquires a dreadful melancholy, when passions have laid dark smears on those fine forms, when grief had furrowed that network of delicate veins. Esther's nationality proclaimed itself in this Oriental modeling of her eyes with their Turkish lids; their color was a slate-gray which by night took on the blue sheen of a raven's wing. It was only the extreme tenderness of her expression that could moderate their fire.

Only those races that are native to deserts have in the eye the power of fascinating everybody, for any woman can fascinate some one person. Their eyes preserve, no doubt, something of the infinitude they have gazed on. Has nature, in her foresight, armed their retina with some reflecting background to enable them to endure the mirage of the sand, the torrents of sunshine, and the burning cobalt of the sky? or, do human beings, like other creatures, derive something from the surroundings among which they grow up, and preserve for ages the qualities they have imbibed from them? The great solution of this problem of race lies perhaps in the question itself. Instincts are living facts, and their cause dwells in past necessity. Variety in animals is the result of the exercise of these instincts.

To convince ourselves of this long-sought-for truth, it is enough to extend to the herd of mankind the observation recently made on flocks of Spanish and English sheep which, in low meadows where pasture is abundant, feed side by side in close array, but on mountains, where grass is scarce, scatter apart. Take these two kinds of sheep, transfer them to Switzerland or France; the mountain breeds will feed apart even in a lowland meadow of thick grass, the lowland sheep will keep together even on an alp. Hardly will a succession of generations eliminate acquired and transmitted instincts. After a century the highland spirit reappears in a refractory lamb, just as, after eighteen centuries of exile, the spirit of the East shone in Esther's eyes and features.

Her look had no terrible fascination; it shed a mild warmth, it was pathetic without being startling, and the sternest wills were melted in its flame. Esther had conquered hatred, she had astonished the depraved souls of Paris; in short, that look and the softness of her skin had earned her the terrible nickname which had just led her to the verge of the grave. Everything about her was in harmony with these characteristics of the Peri of the burning sands. Her forehead was firmly and proudly molded. Her nose, like that of the Arab race, was delicate and narrow, with oval nostrils well set and open at the base. Her mouth, fresh and red, was a rose unblemished by a flaw, dissipation had left no trace there. Her chin, rounded as though some amorous sculptor had polished its fulness, was as white as milk. One thing only that she had not been able to remedy betrayed the courtesan fallen very low: her broken nails, which needed time to recover their shape, so much had they been spoiled by the vulgarest household tasks.

The young boarders began by being jealous of these marvels of beauty, but they ended by admiring them. Before the first week was at an end they were all attached to the artless Jewess, for they were interested in the unknown misfortunes of a girl of eighteen who could neither read nor write, to whom all knowledge and instruction were new, and who was to earn for the Archbishop the triumph of having converted a Jewess to Catholicism and giving the convent a festival in her baptism. They forgave her beauty, finding themselves her superiors in education.

Esther very soon caught the manners, the accent, the carriage and attitudes of these highly-bred girls; in short, her first nature reasserted itself. The change was so complete that on his first visit Herrera was astonished as it would seem--and the Mother Superior congratulated him on his ward. Never in their existence as teachers had these sisters met with a more charming nature, more Christian meekness, true modesty, nor a greater eagerness to learn. When a girl has suffered such misery as had overwhelmed this poor child, and looks forward to such a reward as the Spaniard held out to Esther, it is hard if she does not realize the miracles of the early Church which the Jesuits revived in Paraguay.

"She is edifying," said the Superior, kissing her on the brow.

And this essentially Catholic word tells all.

In recreation hours Esther would question her companions, but discreetly, as to the simplest matters in fashionable life, which to her were like the first strange ideas of life to a child. When she heard that she was to be dressed in white on the day of her baptism and first Communion, that she should wear a white satin fillet, white bows, white shoes, white gloves, and white rosettes in her hair, she melted into tears, to the amazement of her companions. It was the reverse of the scene of Jephtha on the mountain. The courtesan was afraid of being understood; she ascribed this dreadful dejection to the joy with which she looked forward to the function. As there is certainly as wide a gulf between the habits she had given up and the habits she was acquiring as there is between the savage state and civilization, she had the grace and simplicity and depth which distinguished the wonderful heroine of the American Puritans. She had too, without knowing it, a love that was eating out her heart--a strange love, a desire more violent in her who knew everything than it can be in a maiden who knows nothing, though the two forms of desire have the same cause, and the same end in view.

During the first few months the novelty of a secluded life, the surprises of learning, the handiworks she was taught, the practices of religion, the fervency of a holy resolve, the gentle affections she called forth, and the exercise of the faculties of her awakened intelligence, all helped to repress her memory, even the effort she made to acquire a new one, for she had as much to unlearn as to learn. There is more than one form of memory: the body and mind have each their own; home-sickness, for instance, is a malady of the physical memory. Thus, during the third month, the vehemence of this virgin soul, soaring to Paradise on outspread wings, was not indeed quelled, but fettered by a dull rebellion, of which Esther herself did not know the cause. Like the Scottish sheep, she wanted to pasture in solitude, she could not conquer the instincts begotten of debauchery.

Was it that the foul ways of the Paris she had abjured were calling her back to them? Did the chains of the hideous habits she had renounced cling to her by forgotten rivets, and was she feeling them, as old soldiers suffer still, the surgeons tell us, in the limbs they have lost? Had vice and excess so soaked into her marrow that holy waters had not yet exorcised the devil lurking there? Was the sight of him for whom her angelic efforts were made, necessary to the poor soul, whom God would surely forgive for mingling human and sacred love? One had led to the other. Was there some transposition of the vital force in her involving her in inevitable suffering? Everything is doubtful and obscure in a case which science scorns to study, regarding the subject as too immoral and too compromising, as if the physician and the writer, the priest and the political student, were not above all suspicion. However, a doctor who was stopped by death had the courage to begin an investigation which he left unfinished.

Perhaps the dark depression to which Esther fell a victim, and which cast a gloom over her happy life, was due to all these causes; and perhaps, unable as she was to suspect them herself, she suffered as sick creatures suffer who know nothing of medicine or surgery.

The fact is strange. Wholesome and abundant food in the place of bad and inflammatory nourishment did not sustain Esther. A pure and regular life, divided between recreation and studies intentionally abridged, taking the place of a disorderly existence of which the pleasures and the pains were equally horrible, exhausted the convent-boarder. The coolest rest, the calmest nights, taking the place of crushing fatigue and the most torturing agitation, gave her low fever, in which the common symptoms were imperceptible to the nursing Sister's eye or finger. In fact, virtue and happiness following on evil and misfortune, security in the stead of anxiety, were as fatal to Esther as her past wretchedness would have been to her young companions. Planted in corruption, she had grown up in it. That infernal home still had a hold on her, in spite of the commands of a despotic will. What she loathed was life to her, what she loved was killing her.

Her faith was so ardent that her piety was a delight to those about her. She loved to pray. She had opened her spirit to the lights of true religion, and received it without an effort or a doubt. The priest who was her director was delighted with her. Still, at every turn her body resisted the spirit.

To please a whim of Madame de Maintenon's, who fed them with scraps from the royal table, some carp were taken out of a muddy pool and placed in a marble basin of bright, clean water. The carp perished. The animals might be sacrificed, but man could never infect them with the leprosy of flattery. A courtier remarked at Versailles on this mute resistance. "They are like me," said the uncrowned queen; "they pine for their obscure mud."

This speech epitomizes Esther's story.

At times the poor girl was driven to run about the splendid convent gardens; she hurried from tree to tree, she rushed into the darkest nooks--seeking? What? She did not know, but she fell a prey to the demon; she carried on a flirtation with the trees, she appealed to them in unspoken words. Sometimes, in the evening, she stole along under the walls, like a snake, without any shawl over her bare shoulders. Often in chapel, during the service, she remained with her eyes fixed on the Crucifix, melted to tears; the others admired her; but she was crying with rage. Instead of the sacred images she hoped to see, those glaring nights when she had led some orgy as Habeneck leads a Beethoven symphony at the Conservatoire--nights of laughter and lasciviousness, with vehement gestures, inextinguishable laughter, rose before her, frenzied, furious, and brutal. She was as mild to look upon as a virgin that clings to earth only by her woman's shape; within raged an imperial Messalina.

She alone knew the secret of this struggle between the devil and the angel. When the Superior reproved her for having done her hair more fashionably than the rule of the House allowed, she altered it with prompt and beautiful submission; she would have cut her hair off if the Mother had required it of her. This moral home-sickness was truly pathetic in a girl who would rather have perished than have returned to the depths of impurity. She grew pale and altered and thin. The Superior gave her shorter lessons, and called the interesting creature to her room to question her. But Esther was happy; she enjoyed the society of her companions; she felt no pain in any vital part; still, it was vitality itself that was attacked. She regretted nothing; she wanted nothing. The Superior, puzzled by her boarder's answers, did not know what to think when she saw her pining under consuming debility.

The doctor was called in when the girl's condition seemed serious; but this doctor knew nothing of Esther's previous life, and could not guess it; he found every organ sound, the pain could not be localized. The invalid's replies were such as to upset every hypothesis. There remained one way of clearing up the learned man's doubts, which now lighted on a frightful suggestion; but Esther obstinately refused to submit to a medical examination.

In this difficulty the Superior appealed to the Abbe Herrera. The Spaniard came, saw that Esther's condition was desperate, and took the physician aside for a moment. After this confidential interview, the man of science told the man of faith that the only cure lay in a journey to Italy. The Abbe would not hear of such a journey before Esther's baptism and first Communion.

"How long will it be till then?" asked the doctor.

"A month," replied the Superior.

"She will be dead," said the doctor.

"Yes, but in a state of grace and salvation," said the Abbe.

In Spain the religious question is supreme, above all political, civil, or vital considerations; so the physician did not answer the Spaniard. He turned to the Mother Superior, but the terrible Abbe took him by the arm and stopped him.

"Not a word, monsieur!" said he.

The doctor, though a religious man and a Monarchist, looked at Esther with an expression of tender pity. The girl was as lovely as a lily drooping on its stem.

"God help her, then!" he exclaimed as he went away.

On the very day of this consultation, Esther was taken by her protector to the _Rocher de Cancale_, a famous restaurant, for his wish to save her had suggested strange expedients to the priest. He tried the effect of two excesses--an excellent dinner, which might remind the poor child of past orgies; and the opera, which would give her mind some images of worldliness. His despotic authority was needed to tempt the young saint to such profanation. Herrera disguised himself so effectually as a military man, that Esther hardly recognized him; he took care to make his companion wear a veil, and put her in a box where she was hidden from all eyes.

This palliative, which had no risks for innocence so sincerely regained, soon lost its effect. The convent-boarder viewed her protector's dinners with disgust, had a religious aversion for the theatre, and relapsed into melancholy.

"She is dying of love for Lucien," said Herrera to himself; he had wanted to sound the depths of this soul, and know how much could be exacted from it.

So the moment came when the poor child was no longer upheld by moral force, and the body was about to break down. The priest calculated the time with the hideous practical sagacity formerly shown by executioners in the art of torture. He found his protegee in the garden, sitting on a bench under a trellis on which the April sun fell gently; she seemed to be cold and trying to warm herself; her companions looked with interest at her pallor as of a folded plant, her eyes like those of a dying gazelle, her drooping attitude. Esther rose and went to meet the Spaniard with a lassitude that showed how little life there was in her, and, it may be added, how little care to live. This hapless outcast, this wild and wounded swallow, moved Carlos Herrera to compassion for the second time. The gloomy minister, whom God should have employed only to carry out His revenges, received the sick girl with a smile, which expressed, indeed, as much bitterness as sweetness, as much vengeance as charity. Esther, practised in meditation, and used to revulsions of feeling since she had led this almost monastic life, felt on her part, for the second time, distrust of her protector; but, as on the former occasion, his speech reassured her.

"Well, my dear child," said he, "and why have you never spoken to me of Lucien?"

"I promised you," she said, shuddering convulsively from head to foot; "I swore to you that I would never breathe his name."

"And yet you have not ceased to think of him."

"That, monsieur, is the only fault I have committed. I think of him always; and just as you came, I was saying his name to myself."

"Absence is killing you?"

Esther's only answer was to hang her head as the sick do who already scent the breath of the grave.

"If you could see him----?" said he.

"It would be life!" she cried.

"And do you think of him only spiritually?"

"Ah, monsieur, love cannot be dissected!"

"Child of an accursed race! I have done everything to save you; I send you back to your fate.--You shall see him again."

"Why insult my happiness? Can I not love Lucien and be virtuous? Am I not ready to die here for virtue, as I should be ready to die for him? Am I not dying for these two fanaticisms--for virtue, which was to make me worthy of him, and for him who flung me into the embrace of virtue? Yes, and ready to die without seeing him or to live by seeing him. God is my Judge."

The color had mounted to her face, her whiteness had recovered its amber warmth. Esther looked beautiful again.

"The day after that on which you are washed in the waters of baptism you shall see Lucien once more; and if you think you can live in virtue by living for him, you shall part no more."

The priest was obliged to lift up Esther, whose knees failed her; the poor child dropped as if the ground had slipped from under her feet. The Abbe seated her on a bench; and when she could speak again she asked him:

"Why not to-day?"

"Do you want to rob Monseigneur of the triumph of your baptism and conversion? You are too close to Lucien not to be far from God."

"Yes, I was not thinking----"

"You will never be of any religion," said the priest, with a touch of the deepest irony.

"God is good," said she; "He can read my heart."

Conquered by the exquisite artlessness and gestures, Herrera kissed her on the forehead for the first time.

"Your libertine friends named you well; you would bewitch God the Father.--A few days more must pass, and then you will both be free."

"Both!" she echoed in an ecstasy of joy.

This scene, observed from a distance, struck pupils and superiors alike; they fancied they had looked on at a miracle as they compared Esther with herself. She was completely changed; she was alive. She reappeared her natural self, all love, sweet, coquettish, playful, and gay; in short, it was a resurrection.

Herrera lived in the Rue Cassette, near Saint-Sulpice, the church to which he was attached. This building, hard and stern in style, suited this Spaniard, whose discipline was that of the Dominicans. A lost son of Ferdinand VII.'s astute policy, he devoted himself to the cause of the constitution, knowing that this devotion could never be rewarded till the restoration of the _Rey netto_. Carlos Herrera had thrown himself body and soul into the _Camarilla at the moment when the Cortes seemed likely to stand and hold their own. To the world this conduct seemed to proclaim a superior soul. The Duc d'Angouleme's expedition had been carried out, King Ferdinand was on the throne, and Carlos Herrera did not go to claim the reward of his services at Madrid. Fortified against curiosity by his diplomatic taciturnity, he assigned as his reason for remaining in Paris his strong affection for Lucien de Rubempre, to which the young man already owed the King's patent relating to his change of name.

Herrera lived very obscurely, as priests employed on secret missions traditionally live. He fulfilled his religious duties at Saint-Sulpice, never went out but on business, and then after dark, and in a hackney cab. His day was filled up with a siesta in the Spanish fashion, which arranges for sleep between the two chief meals, and so occupies the hours when Paris is in a busy turmoil. The Spanish cigar also played its part, and consumed time as well as tobacco. Laziness is a mask as gravity is, and that again is laziness.

Herrera lived on the second floor in one wing of the house, and Lucien occupied the other wing. The two apartments were separated and joined by a large reception room of antique magnificence, suitable equally to the grave priest and to the young poet. The courtyard was gloomy; large, thick trees shaded the garden. Silence and reserve are always found in the dwellings chosen by priests. Herrera's lodging may be described in one word--a cell. Lucien's, splendid with luxury, and furnished with every refinement of comfort, combined everything that the elegant life of a dandy demands--a poet, a writer, ambitious and dissipated, at once vain and vainglorious, utterly heedless, and yet wishing for order, one of those incomplete geniuses who have some power to wish, to conceive--which is perhaps the same thing--but no power at all to execute.

These two, Lucien and Herrera, formed a body politic. This, no doubt, was the secret of their union. Old men in whom the activities of life have been uprooted and transplanted to the sphere of interest, often feel the need of a pleasing instrument, a young and impassioned actor, to carry out their schemes. Richelieu, too late, found a handsome pale face with a young moustache to cast in the way of women whom he wanted to amuse. Misunderstood by giddy-pated younger men, he was compelled to banish his master's mother and terrify the Queen, after having tried to make each fall in love with him, though he was not cut out to be loved by queens.

Do what we will, always, in the course of an ambitious life, we find a woman in the way just when we least expect such an obstacle. However great a political man may be, he always needs a woman to set against a woman, just as the Dutch use a diamond to cut a diamond. Rome at the height of its power yielded to this necessity. And observe how immeasurably more imposing was the life of Mazarin, the Italian cardinal, than that of Richelieu, the French cardinal. Richelieu met with opposition from the great nobles, and he applied the axe; he died in the flower of his success, worn out by this duel, for which he had only a Capuchin monk as his second. Mazarin was repulsed by the citizen class and the nobility, armed allies who sometimes victoriously put royalty to flight; but Anne of Austria's devoted servant took off no heads, he succeeded in vanquishing the whole of France, and trained Louis XIV., who completed Richelieu's work by strangling the nobility with gilded cords in the grand Seraglio of Versailles. Madame de Pompadour dead, Choiseul fell!

Had Herrera soaked his mind in these high doctrines? Had he judged himself at an earlier age than Richelieu? Had he chosen Lucien to be his Cinq-Mars, but a faithful Cinq-Mars? No one could answer these questions or measure this Spaniard's ambition, as no one could foresee what his end might be. These questions, asked by those who were able to see anything of this coalition, which was long kept a secret, might have unveiled a horrible mystery which Lucien himself had known but a few days. Carlos was ambitious for two; that was what his conduct made plain to those persons who knew him, and who all imagined that Lucien was the priest's illegitimate son.

Fifteen months after Lucien's reappearance at the opera ball, which led him too soon into a world where the priest had not wished to see him till he should have fully armed him against it, he had three fine horses in his stable, a coupe for evening use, a cab and a tilbury to drive by day. He dined out every day. Herrera's foresight was justified; his pupil was carried away by dissipation; he thought it necessary to effect some diversion in the frenzied passion for Esther that the young man still cherished in his heart. After spending something like forty thousand francs, every folly had brought Lucien back with increased eagerness to La Torpille; he searched for her persistently; and as he could not find her, she became to him what game is to the sportsman.

Could Herrera understand the nature of a poet's love?

When once this feeling has mounted to the brain of one of these great little men, after firing his heart and absorbing his senses, the poet becomes as far superior to humanity through love as he already is through the power of his imagination. A freak of intellectual heredity has given him the faculty of expressing nature by imagery, to which he gives the stamp both of sentiment and of thought, and he lends his love the wings of his spirit; he feels, and he paints, he acts and meditates, he multiplies his sensations by thought, present felicity becomes threefold through aspiration for the future and memory of the past; and with it he mingles the exquisite delights of the soul, which makes him the prince of artists. Then the poet's passion becomes a fine poem in which human proportion is often set at nought. Does not the poet then place his mistress far higher than women crave to sit? Like the sublime Knight of la Mancha, he transfigures a peasant girl to be a princess. He uses for his own behoof the wand with which he touches everything, turning it into a wonder, and thus enhances the pleasure of loving by the glorious glamour of the ideal.

Such a love is the very essence of passion. It is extreme in all things, in its hopes, in its despair, in its rage, in its melancholy, in its joy; it flies, it leaps, it crawls; it is not like any of the emotions known to ordinary men; it is to everyday love what the perennial Alpine torrent is to the lowland brook.

These splendid geniuses are so rarely understood that they spend themselves in hopes deceived; they are exhausted by the search for their ideal mistress, and almost always die like gorgeous insects splendidly adorned for their love-festival by the most poetical of nature's inventions, and crushed under the foot of a passer-by. But there is another danger! When they meet with the form that answers to their soul, and which not unfrequently is that of a baker's wife, they do as Raphael did, as the beautiful insect does, they die in the Fornarina's arms.

Lucien was at this pass. His poetical temperament, excessive in all things, in good as in evil, had discerned the angel in this girl, who was tainted by corruption rather than corrupt; he always saw her white, winged, pure, and mysterious, as she had made herself for him, understanding that he would have her so.

Towards the end of the month of May 1825 Lucien had lost all his good spirits; he never went out, dined with Herrera, sat pensive, worked, read volumes of diplomatic treatises, squatted Turkish-fashion on a divan, and smoked three or four hookahs a day. His groom had more to do in cleaning and perfuming the tubes of this noble pipe than in currying and brushing down the horses' coats, and dressing them with cockades for driving in the Bois. As soon as the Spaniard saw Lucien pale, and detected a malady in the frenzy of suppressed passion, he determined to read to the bottom of this man's heart on which he founded his life.

One fine evening, when Lucien, lounging in an armchair, was mechanically contemplating the hues of the setting sun through the trees in the garden, blowing up the mist of scented smoke in slow, regular clouds, as pensive smokers are wont, he was roused from his reverie by hearing a deep sigh. He turned and saw the Abbe standing by him with folded arms.

"You were there!" said the poet.

"For some time," said the priest, "my thoughts have been following the wide sweep of yours." Lucien understood his meaning.

"I have never affected to have an iron nature such as yours is. To me life is by turns paradise and hell; when by chance it is neither, it bores me; and I am bored----"

"How can you be bored when you have such splendid prospects before you?"

"If I have no faith in those prospects, or if they are too much shrouded?"

"Do not talk nonsense," said the priest. "It would be far more worthy of you and of me that you should open your heart to me. There is now that between us which ought never to have come between us--a secret. This secret has subsisted for sixteen months. You are in love."

"And what then?"

"A foul hussy called La Torpille----"

"Well?"

"My boy, I told you you might have a mistress, but a woman of rank, pretty, young, influential, a Countess at least. I had chosen Madame d'Espard for you, to make her the instrument of your fortune without scruple; for she would never have perverted your heart, she would have left you free.--To love a prostitute of the lowest class when you have not, like kings, the power to give her high rank, is a monstrous blunder."

"And am I the first man who had renounced ambition to follow the lead of a boundless passion?"

"Good!" said the priest, stooping to pick up the mouthpiece of the hookah which Lucien had dropped on the floor. "I understand the retort. Cannot love and ambition be reconciled? Child, you have a mother in old Herrera--a mother who is wholly devoted to you----"

"I know it, old friend," said Lucien, taking his hand and shaking it.

"You wished for the toys of wealth; you have them. You want to shine; I am guiding you into the paths of power, I kiss very dirty hands to secure your advancement, and you will get on. A little while yet and you will lack nothing of what can charm man or woman. Though effeminate in your caprices, your intellect is manly. I have dreamed all things of you; I forgive you all. You have only to speak to have your ephemeral passions gratified. I have aggrandized your life by introducing into it that which makes it delightful to most people--the stamp of political influence and dominion. You will be as great as you now are small; but you must not break the machine by which we coin money. I grant you all you will excepting such blunders as will destroy your future prospects. When I can open the drawing-rooms of the Faubourg Saint-Germain to you, I forbid your wallowing in the gutter. Lucien, I mean to be an iron stanchion in your interest; I will endure everything from you, for you. Thus I have transformed your lack of tact in the game of life into the shrewd stroke of a skilful player----"

Lucien looked up with a start of furious impetuosity.

"I carried off La Torpille!"

"You?" cried Lucien.

In a fit of animal rage the poet jumped up, flung the jeweled mouthpiece in the priest's face, and pushed him with such violence as to throw down that strong man.

"I," said the Spaniard, getting up and preserving his terrible gravity.

His black wig had fallen off. A bald skull, as shining as a death's head, showed the man's real countenance. It was appalling. Lucien sat on his divan, his hands hanging limp, overpowered, and gazing at the Abbe with stupefaction.

"I carried her off," the priest repeated.

"What did you do with her? You took her away the day after the opera ball."

"Yes, the day after I had seen a woman who belonged to you insulted by wretches whom I would not have condescended to kick downstairs."

"Wretches!" interrupted Lucien, "say rather monsters, compared with whom those who are guillotined are angels. Do you know what the unhappy Torpille had done for three of them? One of them was her lover for two months. She was poor, and picked up a living in the gutter; he had not a sou; like me, when you rescued me, he was very near the river; this fellow would get up at night and go to the cupboard where the girl kept the remains of her dinner and eat it. At last she discovered the trick; she understood the shameful thing, and took care to leave a great deal; then she was happy. She never told any one but me, that night, coming home from the opera.

"The second had stolen some money; but before the theft was found out, she lent him the sum, which he was enabled to replace, and which he always forgot to repay to the poor child.

"As to the third, she made his fortune by playing out a farce worthy of Figaro's genius. She passed as his wife and became the mistress of a man in power, who believed her to be the most innocent of good citizens. To one she gave life, to another honor, to the third fortune --what does it all count for to-day? And this is how they reward her!"

"Would you like to see them dead?" said Herrera, in whose eyes there were tears.

"Come, that is just like you! I know you by that----"

"Nay, hear all, raving poet," said the priest. "La Torpille is no more."

Lucien flew at Herrera to seize him by the throat, with such violence that any other man must have fallen backwards; but the Spaniard's arm held off his assailant.

"Come, listen," said he coldly. "I have made another woman of her, chaste, pure, well bred, religious, a perfect lady. She is being educated. She can, if she may, under the influence of your love, become a Ninon, a Marion Delorme, a du Barry, as the journalist at the opera ball remarked. You may proclaim her your mistress, or you may retire behind a curtain of your own creating, which will be wiser. By either method you will gain profit and pride, pleasure and advancement; but if you are as great a politician as you are a poet, Esther will be no more to you than any other woman of the town; for, later, perhaps she may help us out of difficulties; she is worth her weight in gold. Drink, but do not get tipsy.

"If I had not held the reins of your passion, where would you be now? Rolling with La Torpille in the slough of misery from which I dragged you. Here, read this," said Herrera, as simply as Talma in _Manlius_, which he had never seen.

A sheet of paper was laid on the poet's knees, and startled him from the ecstasy and surprise with which he had listened to this astounding speech; he took it, and read the first letter written by Mademoiselle Esther:--

To Monsieur l'Abbe Carlos Herrera.

"MY DEAR PROTECTOR,--Will you not suppose that gratitude is stronger in me than love, when you see that the first use I make of the power of expressing my thoughts is to thank you, instead of devoting it to pouring forth a passion that Lucien has perhaps forgotten. But to you, divine man, I can say what I should not dare to tell him, who, to my joy, still clings to earth.

"Yesterday's ceremony has filled me with treasures of grace, and I place my fate in your hands. Even if I must die far away from my beloved, I shall die purified like the Magdalen, and my soul will become to him the rival of his guardian angel. Can I ever forget yesterday's festival? How could I wish to abdicate the glorious throne to which I was raised? Yesterday I washed away every stain in the waters of baptism, and received the Sacred Body of my Redeemer; I am become one of His tabernacles. At that moment I heard the songs of angels, I was more than a woman, born to a life of light amid the acclamations of the whole earth, admired by the world in a cloud of incense and prayers that were intoxicating, adorned like a virgin for the Heavenly Spouse.

"Thus finding myself worthy of Lucien, which I had never hoped to be, I abjured impure love and vowed to walk only in the paths of virtue. If my flesh is weaker than my spirit, let it perish. Be the arbiter of my destiny; and if I die, tell Lucien that I died to him when I was born to God."

Lucien looked up at the Abbe with eyes full of tears.

"You know the rooms fat Caroline Bellefeuille had, in the Rue Taitbout," the Spaniard said. "The poor creature, cast off by her magistrate, was in the greatest poverty; she was about to be sold up. I bought the place all standing, and she turned out with her clothes. Esther, the angel who aspired to heaven, has alighted there, and is waiting for you."

At this moment Lucien heard his horses pawing the ground in the courtyard; he was incapable of expressing his admiration for a devotion which he alone could appreciate; he threw himself into the arms of the man he had insulted, made amends for all by a look and the speechless effusion of his feelings. Then he flew downstairs, confided Esther's address to his tiger's ear, and the horses went off as if their master's passion had lived in their legs.

The next day a man, who by his dress might have been mistaken by the passers-by for a gendarme in disguise, was passing the Rue Taitbout, opposite a house, as if he were waiting for some one to come out; he walked with an agitated air. You will often see in Paris such vehement promenaders, real gendarmes watching a recalcitrant National Guardsman, bailiffs taking steps to effect an arrest, creditors planning a trick on the debtor who has shut himself in, lovers, or jealous and suspicious husbands, or friends doing sentry for a friend; but rarely do you meet a face portending such coarse and fierce thoughts as animated that of the gloomy and powerful man who paced to and fro under Mademoiselle Esther's windows with the brooding haste of a bear in its cage.

At noon a window was opened, and a maid-servant's hand was put out to push back the padded shutters. A few minutes later, Esther, in her dressing-gown, came to breathe the air, leaning on Lucien; any one who saw them might have taken them for the originals of some pretty English vignette. Esther was the first to recognize the basilisk eyes of the Spanish priest; and the poor creature, stricken as if she had been shot, gave a cry of horror.

"There is that terrible priest," said she, pointing him out to Lucien.

"He!" said Lucien, smiling, "he is no more a priest than you are."

"What then?" she said in alarm.

"Why, an old villain who believes in nothing but the devil," said Lucien.

This light thrown on the sham priest's secrets, if revealed to any one less devoted than Esther, might have ruined Lucien for ever.

As they went along the corridor from their bedroom to the dining-room, where their breakfast was served, the lovers met Carlos Herrera.

"What have you come here for?" said Lucien roughly.

"To bless you," replied the audacious scoundrel, stopping the pair and detaining them in the little drawing-room of the apartment. "Listen to me, my pretty dears. Amuse yourselves, be happy--well and good! Happiness at any price is my motto.--But you," he went on to Esther, "you whom I dragged from the mud, and have soaped down body and soul, you surely do not dream that you can stand in Lucien's way?--As for you, my boy," he went on after a pause, looking at Lucien, "you are no longer poet enough to allow yourself another Coralie. This is sober prose. What can be done with Esther's lover? Nothing. Can Esther become Madame de Rubempre? No.

"Well, my child," said he, laying his hand on Esther's, and making her shiver as if some serpent had wound itself round her, "the world must never know of your existence. Above all, the world must never know that a certain Mademoiselle Esther loves Lucien, and that Lucien is in love with her.--These rooms are your prison, my pigeon. If you wish to go out--and your health will require it--you must take exercise at night, at hours when you cannot be seen; for your youth and beauty, and the style you have acquired at the Convent, would at once be observed in Paris. The day when any one in the world, whoever it be," he added in an awful voice, seconded by an awful look, "learns that Lucien is your lover, or that you are his mistress, that day will be your last but one on earth. I have procured that boy a patent permitting him to bear the name and arms of his maternal ancestors. Still, this is not all; we have not yet recovered the title of Marquis; and to get it, he must marry a girl of good family, in whose favor the King will grant this distinction. Such an alliance will get Lucien on in the world and at Court. This boy, of whom I have made a man, will be first Secretary to an Embassy; later, he shall be Minister at some German Court, and God, or I--better still--helping him, he will take his seat some day on the bench reserved for peers----"

"Or on the bench reserved for----" Lucien began, interrupting the man.

"Hold your tongue!" cried Carlos, laying his broad hand on Lucien's mouth. "Would you tell such a secret to a woman?" he muttered in his ear.

"Esther! A woman!" cried the poet of _Les Marguerites_.

"Still inditing sonnets!" said the Spaniard. "Nonsense! Sooner or later all these angels relapse into being women, and every woman at moments is a mixture of a monkey and a child, two creatures who can kill us for fun.--Esther, my jewel," said he to the terrified girl, "I have secured as your waiting-maid a creature who is as much mine as if she were my daughter. For your cook, you shall have a mulatto woman, which gives style to a house. With Europe and Asie you can live here for a thousand-franc note a month like a queen--a stage queen. Europe has been a dressmaker, a milliner, and a stage super; Asie has cooked for an epicure Milord. These two women will serve you like two fairies."

Seeing Lucien go completely to the wall before this man, who was guilty at least of sacrilege and forgery, this woman, sanctified by her love, felt an awful fear in the depths of her heart. She made no reply, but dragged Lucien into her room, and asked him:

"Is he the devil?"

"He is far worse to me!" he vehemently replied. "But if you love me, try to imitate that man's devotion to me, and obey him on pain of death!----"

"Of death!" she exclaimed, more frightened than ever.

"Of death," repeated Lucien. "Alas! my darling, no death could be compared with that which would befall me if----"

Esther turned pale at his words, and felt herself fainting.

"Well, well," cried the sacrilegious forger, "have you not yet spelt out your daisy-petals?"

Esther and Lucien came out, and the poor girl, not daring to look at the mysterious man, said:

"You shall be obeyed as God is obeyed, monsieur."

"Good," said he. "You may be very happy for a time, and you will need only nightgowns and wrappers--that will be very economical."

The two lovers went on towards the dining-room, but Lucien's patron signed to the pretty pair to stop. And they stopped.

"I have just been talking of your servants, my child," said he to Esther. "I must introduce them to you."

The Spaniard rang twice. The women he had called Europe and Asie came in, and it was at once easy to see the reason of these names.

Asie, who looked as if she might have been born in the Island of Java, showed a face to scare the eye, as flat as a board, with the copper complexion peculiar to Malays, with a nose that looked as if it had been driven inwards by some violent pressure. The strange conformation of the maxillary bones gave the lower part of this face a resemblance to that of the larger species of apes. The brow, though sloping, was not deficient in intelligence produced by habits of cunning. Two fierce little eyes had the calm fixity of a tiger's, but they never looked you straight in the face. Asie seemed afraid lest she might terrify people. Her lips, a dull blue, were parted over prominent teeth of dazzling whiteness, but grown across. The leading expression of this animal countenance was one of meanness. Her black hair, straight and greasy-looking like her skin, lay in two shining bands, forming an edge to a very handsome silk handkerchief. Her ears were remarkably pretty, and graced with two large dark pearls. Small, short, and squat, Asie bore a likeness to the grotesque figures the Chinese love to paint on screens, or, more exactly, to the Hindoo idols which seem to be imitated from some non-existent type, found, nevertheless, now and again by travelers. Esther shuddered as she looked at this monstrosity, dressed out in a white apron over a stuff gown.

"Asie," said the Spaniard, to whom the woman looked up with a gesture that can only be compared to that of a dog to its master, "this is your mistress."

And he pointed to Esther in her wrapper.

Asie looked at the young fairy with an almost distressful expression; but at the same moment a flash, half hidden between her thick, short eyelashes, shot like an incendiary spark at Lucien, who, in a magnificent dressing-gown thrown open over a fine Holland linen shirt and red trousers, with a fez on his head, beneath which his fair hair fell in thick curls, presented a godlike appearance.

Italian genius could invent the tale of Othello; English genius could put it on the stage; but Nature alone reserves the power of throwing into a single glance an expression of jealousy grander and more complete than England and Italy together could imagine. This look, seen by Esther, made her clutch the Spaniard by the arm, setting her nails in it as a cat sets its claws to save itself from falling into a gulf of which it cannot see the bottom.

The Spaniard spoke a few words, in some unfamiliar tongue, to the Asiatic monster, who crept on her knees to Esther's feet and kissed them.

"She is not merely a good cook," said Herrera to Esther; "she is a past-master, and might make Careme mad with jealousy. Asie can do everything by way of cooking. She will turn you out a simple dish of beans that will make you wonder whether the angels have not come down to add some herb from heaven. She will go to market herself every morning, and fight like the devil she is to get things at the lowest prices; she will tire out curiosity by silence.

"You are to be supposed to have been in India, and Asie will help you to give effect to this fiction, for she is one of those Parisians who are born to be of any nationality they please. But I do not advise that you should give yourself out to be a foreigner.--Europe, what do you say?"

Europe was a perfect contrast to Asie, for she was the smartest waiting-maid that Monrose could have hoped to see as her rival on the stage. Slight, with a scatter-brain manner, a face like a weasel, and a sharp nose, Europe's features offered to the observer a countenance worn by the corruption of Paris life, the unhealthy complexion of a girl fed on raw apples, lymphatic but sinewy, soft but tenacious. One little foot was set forward, her hands were in her apron-pockets, and she fidgeted incessantly without moving, from sheer excess of liveliness. Grisette and stage super, in spite of her youth she must have tried many trades. As full of evil as a dozen Madelonnettes put together, she might have robbed her parents, and sat on the bench of a police-court.

Asie was terrifying, but you knew her thoroughly from the first; she descended in a straight line from Locusta; while Europe filled you with uneasiness, which could not fail to increase the more you had to do with her; her corruption seemed boundless. You felt that she could set the devils by the ears.

"Madame might say she had come from Valenciennes," said Europe in a precise little voice. "I was born there--Perhaps monsieur," she added to Lucien in a pedantic tone, "will be good enough to say what name he proposes to give to madame?"

"Madame van Bogseck," the Spaniard put in, reversing Esther's name. "Madame is a Jewess, a native of Holland, the widow of a merchant, and suffering from a liver-complaint contracted in Java. No great fortune --not to excite curiosity."

"Enough to live on--six thousand francs a year; and we shall complain of her stinginess?" said Europe.

"That is the thing," said the Spaniard, with a bow. "You limbs of Satan!" he went on, catching Asie and Europe exchanging a glance that displeased him, "remember what I have told you. You are serving a queen; you owe her as much respect as to a queen; you are to cherish her as you would cherish a revenge, and be as devoted to her as to me. Neither the door-porter, nor the neighbors, nor the other inhabitants of the house--in short, not a soul on earth is to know what goes on here. It is your business to balk curiosity if any should be roused. --And madame," he went on laying his broad hairy hand on Esther's arm, "madame must not commit the smallest imprudence; you must prevent it in case of need, but always with perfect respect.

"You, Europe, are to go out for madame in anything that concerns her dress, and you must do her sewing from motives of economy. Finally, nobody, not even the most insignificant creature, is ever to set foot in this apartment. You two, between you, must do all there is to be done.

"And you, my beauty," he went on, speaking to Esther, "when you want to go out in your carriage by night, you can tell Europe; she will know where to find your men, for you will have a servant in livery, of my choosing, like those two slaves."

Esther and Lucien had not a word ready. They listened to the Spaniard, and looked at the two precious specimens to whom he gave his orders. What was the secret hold to which he owed the submission and servitude that were written on these two faces--one mischievously recalcitrant, the other so malignantly cruel?

He read the thoughts of Lucien and Esther, who seemed paralyzed, as Paul and Virginia might have been at the sight of two dreadful snakes, and he said in a good-natured undertone:

"You can trust them as you can me; keep no secrets from them; that will flatter them.--Go to your work, my little Asie," he added to the cook.--"And you, my girl, lay another place," he said to Europe; "the children cannot do less than ask papa to breakfast."

When the two women had shut the door, and the Spaniard could hear Europe moving to and fro, he turned to Lucien and Esther, and opening a wide palm, he said:

"I hold them in the hollow of my hand."

The words and gesture made his hearers shudder.

"Where did you pick them up?" cried Lucien.

"What the devil! I did not look for them at the foot of the throne!" replied the man. "Europe has risen from the mire, and is afraid of sinking into it again. Threaten them with Monsieur Abbe when they do not please you, and you will see them quake like mice when the cat is mentioned. I am used to taming wild beasts," he added with a smile.

"You strike me as being a demon," said Esther, clinging closer to Lucien.

"My child, I tried to win you to heaven; but a repentant Magdalen is always a practical joke on the Church. If ever there were one, she would relapse into the courtesan in Paradise. You have gained this much: you are forgotten, and have acquired the manners of a lady, for you learned in the convent what you never could have learned in the ranks of infamy in which you were living.--You owe me nothing," said he, observing a beautiful look of gratitude on Esther's face. "I did it all for him," and he pointed to Lucien. "You are, you will always be, you will die a prostitute; for in spite of the delightful theories of cattle-breeders, you can never, here below, become anything but what you are. The man who feels bumps is right. You have the bump of love."

The Spaniard, it will be seen, was a fatalist, like Napoleon, Mahomet, and many other great politicians. It is a strange thing that most men of action have a tendency to fatalism, just as most great thinkers have a tendency to believe in Providence.

"What I am, I do not know," said Esther with angelic sweetness; "but I love Lucien, and shall die worshiping him."

"Come to breakfast," said the Spaniard sharply. "And pray to God that Lucien may not marry too soon, for then you would never see him again."

"His marriage would be my death," said she.

She allowed the sham priest to lead the way, that she might stand on tiptoe and whisper to Lucien without being seen.

"Is it your wish," said she, "that I should remain in the power of this man who sets two hyenas to guard me?"

Lucien bowed his head.

The poor child swallowed down her grief and affected gladness, but she felt cruelly oppressed. It needed more than a year of constant and devoted care before she was accustomed to these two dreadful creatures whom Carlos Herrera called the two watch-dogs.

Lucien's conduct since his return to Paris had borne the stamp of such profound policy that it excited--and could not fail to excite--the jealousy of all his former friends, on whom he took no vengeance but by making them furious at his success, at his exquisite "get up," and his way of keeping every one at a distance. The poet, once so communicative, so genial, had turned cold and reserved. De Marsay, the model adopted by all the youth of Paris, did not make a greater display of reticence in speech and deed than did Lucien. As to brains, the journalist had ere now proved his mettle. De Marsay, against whom many people chose to pit Lucien, giving a preference to the poet, was small-minded enough to resent this.

Lucien, now in high favor with men who secretly pulled the wires of power, was so completely indifferent to literary fame, that he did not care about the success of his romance, republished under its real title, _L'Archer de Charles IX._, or the excitement caused by his volume of sonnets called _Les Marguerites_, of which Dauriat sold out the edition in a week.

"It is posthumous fame," said he, with a laugh, to Mademoiselle des Touches, who congratulated him.

The terrible Spaniard held his creature with an iron hand, keeping him in the road towards the goal where the trumpets and gifts of victory await patient politicians. Lucien had taken Beaudenord's bachelor quarters on the Quai Malaquais, to be near the Rue Taitbout, and his adviser was lodging under the same roof on the fourth floor. Lucien kept only one horse to ride and drive, a man-servant, and a groom. When he was not dining out, he dined with Esther.

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