Infomotions, Inc.The Three Cities Trilogy: Paris, Volume 3 / Émile, 1840-1902

Author: Émile, 1840-1902
Title: The Three Cities Trilogy: Paris, Volume 3
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Title: The Three Cities Trilogy: Paris, Vol. 3

Author: Emile Zola

Release Date: October, 2005 [EBook #9166]
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[This file was first posted on September 10, 2003]

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THREE CITIES: PARIS, VOL. 3 ***




Produced by Dagny [dagnypg@yahoo.com]
and David Widger [widger@cecomet.net]




                          THE THREE CITIES



                               PARIS



                                BY

                            EMILE ZOLA



                TRANSLATED BY ERNEST A. VIZETELLY



                              BOOK III



I

THE RIVALS

ON the Wednesday preceding the mid-Lent Thursday, a great charity bazaar
was held at the Duvillard mansion, for the benefit of the Asylum of the
Invalids of Labour. The ground-floor reception rooms, three spacious
Louis Seize /salons/, whose windows overlooked the bare and solemn
courtyard, were given up to the swarm of purchasers, five thousand
admission cards having been distributed among all sections of Parisian
society. And the opening of the bombarded mansion in this wise to
thousands of visitors was regarded as quite an event, a real
manifestation, although some people whispered that the Rue
Godot-de-Mauroy and the adjacent streets were guarded by quite an army of
police agents.

The idea of the bazaar had come from Duvillard himself, and at his
bidding his wife had resigned herself to all this worry for the benefit
of the enterprise over which she presided with such distinguished
nonchalance. On the previous day the "Globe" newspaper, inspired by its
director Fonsegue, who was also the general manager of the asylum, had
published a very fine article, announcing the bazaar, and pointing out
how noble, and touching, and generous was the initiative of the Baroness,
who still gave her time, her money, and even her home to charity, in
spite of the abominable crime which had almost reduced that home to
ashes. Was not this the magnanimous answer of the spheres above to the
hateful passions of the spheres below? And was it not also a peremptory
answer to those who accused the capitalists of doing nothing for the
wage-earners, the disabled and broken-down sons of toil?

The drawing-room doors were to be opened at two o'clock, and would only
close at seven, so that there would be five full hours for the sales. And
at noon, when nothing was as yet ready downstairs, when workmen and women
were still decorating the stalls, and sorting the goods amidst a final
scramble, there was, as usual, a little friendly /dejeuner/, to which a
few guests had been invited, in the private rooms on the first floor.
However, a scarcely expected incident had given a finishing touch to the
general excitement of the house: that very morning Sagnier had resumed
his campaign of denunciation in the matter of the African Railway Lines.
In a virulent article in the "Voix du Peuple," he had inquired if it were
the intention of the authorities to beguile the public much longer with
the story of that bomb and that Anarchist whom the police did not arrest.
And this time, while undertaking to publish the names of the thirty-two
corrupt senators and deputies in a very early issue, he had boldly named
Minister Barroux as one who had pocketed a sum of 200,000 francs. Mege
would therefore certainly revive his interpellation, which might become
dangerous, now that Paris had been thrown into such a distracted state by
terror of the Anarchists. At the same time it was said that Vignon and
his party had resolved to turn circumstances to account, with the object
of overthrowing the ministry. Thus a redoubtable crisis was inevitably at
hand. Fortunately, the Chamber did not meet that Wednesday; in fact, it
had adjourned until the Friday, with the view of making mid-Lent a
holiday. And so forty-eight hours were left one to prepare for the
onslaught.

Eve, that morning, seemed more gentle and languid than ever, rather pale
too, with an expression of sorrowful anxiety in the depths of her
beautiful eyes. She set it all down to the very great fatigue which the
preparations for the bazaar had entailed on her. But the truth was that
Gerard de Quinsac, after shunning any further assignation, had for five
days past avoided her in an embarrassed way. Still she was convinced that
she would see him that morning, and so she had again ventured to wear the
white silk gown which made her look so much younger than she really was.
At the same time, beautiful as she had remained, with her delicate skin,
superb figure and noble and charming countenance, her six and forty years
were asserting themselves in her blotchy complexion and the little
creases which were appearing about her lips, eyelids and temples.

Camille, for her part, though her position as daughter of the house made
it certain that she would attract much custom as a saleswoman, had
obstinately persisted in wearing one of her usual dresses, a dark
"carmelite" gown, an old woman's frock, as she herself called it with a
cutting laugh. However, her long and wicked-looking face beamed with some
secret delight; such an expression of wit and intelligence wreathing her
thin lips and shining in her big eyes that one lost sight of her
deformity and thought her almost pretty.

Eve experienced a first deception in the little blue and silver
sitting-room, where, accompanied by her daughter, she awaited the arrival
of her guests. General de Bozonnet, whom Gerard was to have brought with
him, came in alone, explaining that Madame de Quinsac had felt rather
poorly that morning, and that Gerard, like a good and dutiful son, had
wished to remain with her. Still he would come to the bazaar directly
after /dejeuner/. While the Baroness listened to the General, striving to
hide her disappointment and her fear that she would now be unable to
obtain any explanation from Gerard that day, Camille looked at her with
eager, devouring eyes. And a certain covert instinct of the misfortune
threatening her must at that moment have come to Eve, for in her turn she
glanced at her daughter and turned pale as if with anxiety.

Then Princess Rosemonde de Harn swept in like a whirlwind. She also was
to be one of the saleswomen at the stall chosen by the Baroness, who
liked her for her very turbulence, the sudden gaiety which she generally
brought with her. Gowned in fire-hued satin (red shot with yellow),
looking very eccentric with her curly hair and thin boyish figure, she
laughed and talked of an accident by which her carriage had almost been
cut in halves. Then, as Baron Duvillard and Hyacinthe came in from their
rooms, late as usual, she took possession of the young man and scolded
him, for on the previous evening she had vainly waited for him till ten
o'clock in the expectation that he would keep his promise to escort her
to a tavern at Montmartre, where some horrible things were said to occur.
Hyacinthe, looking very bored, quietly replied that he had been detained
at a seance given by some adepts in the New Magic, in the course of which
the soul of St. Theresa had descended from heaven to recite a love
sonnet.

However, Fonsegue was now coming in with his wife, a tall, thin, silent
and generally insignificant woman, whom he seldom took about with him. On
this occasion he had been obliged to bring her, as she was one of the
lady-patronesses of the asylum, and he himself was coming to lunch with
the Duvillards in his capacity as general manager. To the superficial
observer he looked quite as gay as usual; but he blinked nervously, and
his first glance was a questioning one in the direction of Duvillard, as
if he wished to know how the latter bore the fresh thrust directed at him
by Sagnier. And when he saw the banker looking perfectly composed, as
superb, as rubicund as usual, and chatting in a bantering way with
Rosemonde, he also put on an easy air, like a gamester who had never lost
but had always known how to compel good luck, even in hours of treachery.
And by way of showing his unconstraint of mind he at once addressed the
Baroness on managerial matters: "Have you now succeeded in seeing M.
l'Abbe Froment for the affair of that old man Laveuve, whom he so warmly
recommended to us? All the formalities have been gone through, you know,
and he can be brought to us at once, as we have had a bed vacant for
three days past."

"Yes, I know," replied Eve; "but I can't imagine what has become of Abbe
Froment, for he hasn't given us a sign of life for a month past. However,
I made up my mind to write to him yesterday, and beg him to come to the
bazaar to-day. In this manner I shall be able to acquaint him with the
good news myself."

"It was to leave you the pleasure of doing so," said Fonsegue, "that I
refrained from sending him any official communication. He's a charming
priest, is he not?"

"Oh! charming, we are very fond of him."

However, Duvillard now intervened to say that they need not wait for
Duthil, as he had received a telegram from him stating that he was
detained by sudden business. At this Fonsegue's anxiety returned, and he
once more questioned the Baron with his eyes. Duvillard smiled, however,
and reassured him in an undertone: "It's nothing serious. Merely a
commission for me, about which he'll only be able to bring me an answer
by-and-by." Then, taking Fonsegue on one side, he added: "By the way,
don't forget to insert the paragraph I told you of."

"What paragraph? Oh! yes, the one about that /soiree/ at which Silviane
recited a piece of verse. Well, I wanted to speak to you about it. It
worries me a little, on account of the excessive praise it contains."

Duvillard, but a moment before so full of serenity, with his lofty,
conquering, disdainful mien, now suddenly became pale and agitated. "But
I absolutely want it to be inserted, my dear fellow! You would place me
in the greatest embarrassment if it were not to appear, for I promised
Silviane that it should."

As he spoke his lips trembled, and a scared look came into his eyes,
plainly revealing his dismay.

"All right, all right," said Fonsegue, secretly amused, and well pleased
at this complicity. "As it's so serious the paragraph shall go in, I
promise you."

The whole company was now present, since neither Gerard nor Duthil was to
be expected. So they went into the dining-room amidst a final noise of
hammering in the sale-rooms below. The meal proved somewhat of a
scramble, and was on three occasions disturbed by female attendants, who
came to explain difficulties and ask for orders. Doors were constantly
slamming, and the very walls seemed to shake with the unusual bustle
which filled the house. And feverish as they all were in the dining-room,
they talked in desultory, haphazard fashion on all sorts of subjects,
passing from a ball given at the Ministry of the Interior on the previous
night, to the popular mid-Lent festival which would take place on the
morrow, and ever reverting to the bazaar, the prices that had been given
for the goods which would be on sale, the prices at which they might be
sold, and the probable figure of the full receipts, all this being
interspersed with strange anecdotes, witticisms and bursts of laughter.
On the General mentioning magistrate Amadieu, Eve declared that she no
longer dared to invite him to /dejeuner/, knowing how busy he was at the
Palace of Justice. Still, she certainly hoped that he would come to the
bazaar and contribute something. Then Fonsegue amused himself with
teasing Princess Rosemonde about her fire-hued gown, in which, said he,
she must already feel roasted by the flames of hell; a suggestion which
secretly delighted her, as Satanism had now become her momentary passion.
Meantime, Duvillard lavished the most gallant politeness on that silent
creature, Madame Fonsegue, while Hyacinthe, in order to astonish even the
Princess, explained in a few words how the New Magic could transform a
chaste young man into a real angel. And Camille, who seemed very happy
and very excited, from time to time darted a hot glance at her mother,
whose anxiety and sadness increased as she found the other more and more
aggressive, and apparently resolved upon open and merciless warfare.

At last, just as the dessert was coming to an end, the Baroness heard her
daughter exclaim in a piercing, defiant voice: "Oh! don't talk to me of
the old ladies who still seem to be playing with dolls, and paint
themselves, and dress as if they were about to be confirmed! All such
ogresses ought to retire from the scene! I hold them in horror!"

At this, Eve nervously rose from her seat, and exclaimed apologetically:
"You must forgive me for hurrying you like this. But I'm afraid that we
shan't have time to drink our coffee in peace."

The coffee was served in the little blue and silver sitting-room, where
bloomed some lovely yellow roses, testifying to the Baroness's keen
passion for flowers, which made the house an abode of perpetual spring.
Duvillard and Fonsegue, however, carrying their cups of steaming coffee
with them, at once went into the former's private room to smoke a cigar
there and chat in freedom. As the door remained wide open, one could
hear their gruff voices more or less distinctly. Meantime, General de
Bozonnet, delighted to find in Madame Fonsegue a serious, submissive
person, who listened without interrupting, began to tell her a very long
story of an officer's wife who had followed her husband through every
battle of the war of 1870. Then Hyacinthe, who took no coffee--
contemptuously declaring it to be a beverage only fit for door-keepers--
managed to rid himself of Rosemonde, who was sipping some kummel, in
order to come and whisper to his sister: "I say, it was very stupid of
you to taunt mamma in the way you did just now. I don't care a rap about
it myself. But it ends by being noticed, and, I warn you candidly, it
shows ill breeding."

Camille gazed at him fixedly with her black eyes. "Pray don't /you/
meddle with my affairs," said she.

At this he felt frightened, scented a storm, and decided to take
Rosemonde into the adjoining red drawing-room in order to show her a
picture which his father had just purchased. And the General, on being
called by him, likewise conducted Madame Fonsegue thither.

The mother and daughter then suddenly found themselves alone and face to
face. Eve was leaning on a pier-table, as if overcome; and indeed, the
least sorrow bore her down, so weak at heart she was, ever ready to weep
in her naive and perfect egotism. Why was it that her daughter thus hated
her, and did her utmost to disturb that last happy spell of love in which
her heart lingered? She looked at Camille, grieved rather than irritated;
and the unfortunate idea came to her of making a remark about her dress
at the very moment when the girl was on the point of following the others
into the larger drawing-room.

"It's quite wrong of you, my dear," said she, "to persist in dressing
like an old woman. It doesn't improve you a bit."

As Eve spoke, her soft eyes, those of a courted and worshipped handsome
woman, clearly expressed the compassion she felt for that ugly, deformed
girl, whom she had never been able to regard as a daughter. Was it
possible that she, with her sovereign beauty, that beauty which she
herself had ever adored and nursed, making it her one care, her one
religion--was it possible that she had given birth to such a graceless
creature, with a dark, goatish profile, one shoulder higher than the
other, and a pair of endless arms such as hunchbacks often have? All her
grief and all her shame at having had such a child became apparent in the
quivering of her voice.

Camille, however, had stopped short, as if struck in the face with a
whip. Then she came back to her mother and the horrible explanation began
with these simple words spoken in an undertone: "You consider that I
dress badly? Well, you ought to have paid some attention to me, have seen
that my gowns suited your taste, and have taught me your secret of
looking beautiful!"

Eve, with her dislike of all painful feeling, all quarrelling and bitter
words, was already regretting her attack. So she sought to make a
retreat, particularly as time was flying and they would soon be expected
downstairs: "Come, be quiet, and don't show your bad temper when all
those people can hear us. I have loved you--"

But with a quiet yet terrible laugh Camille interrupted her. "You've
loved me! Oh! my poor mamma, what a comical thing to say! Have you ever
loved /anybody/? You want others to love /you/, but that's another
matter. As for your child, any child, do you even know how it ought to be
loved? You have always neglected me, thrust me on one side, deeming me so
ugly, so unworthy of you! And besides, you have not had days and nights
enough to love yourself! Oh! don't deny it, my poor mamma; but even now
you're looking at me as if I were some loathsome monster that's in your
way."

From that moment the abominable scene was bound to continue to the end.
With their teeth set, their faces close together, the two women went on
speaking in feverish whispers.

"Be quiet, Camille, I tell you! I will not allow such language!"

"But I won't be quiet when you do all you can to wound me. If it's wrong
of me to dress like an old woman, perhaps another is rather ridiculous in
dressing like a girl, like a bride."

"Like a bride? I don't understand you."

"Oh! yes, you do. However, I would have you know that everybody doesn't
find me so ugly as you try to make them believe."

"If you look amiss, it is because you don't dress properly; that is all I
said."

"I dress as I please, and no doubt I do so well enough, since I'm loved
as I am."

"What, really! Does someone love you? Well, let him inform us of it and
marry you."

"Yes--certainly, certainly! It will be a good riddance, won't it? And
you'll have the pleasure of seeing me as a bride!"

Their voices were rising in spite of their efforts to restrain them.
However, Camille paused and drew breath before hissing out the words:
"Gerard is coming here to ask for my hand in a day or two."

Eve, livid, with wildly staring eyes, did not seem to understand.
"Gerard? why do you tell me that?"

"Why, because it's Gerard who loves me and who is going to marry me! You
drive me to extremities; you're for ever repeating that I'm ugly; you
treat me like a monster whom nobody will ever care for. So I'm forced to
defend myself and tell you the truth in order to prove to you that
everybody is not of your opinion."

Silence fell; the frightful thing which had risen between them seemed to
have arrested the quarrel. But there was neither mother nor daughter left
there. They were simply two suffering, defiant rivals. Eve in her turn
drew a long breath and glanced anxiously towards the adjoining room to
ascertain if anyone were coming in or listening to them. And then in a
tone of resolution she made answer:

"You cannot marry Gerard."

"Pray, why not?"

"Because I won't have it; because it's impossible."

"That isn't a reason; give me a reason."

"The reason is that the marriage is impossible that is all."

"No, no, I'll tell you the reason since you force me to it. The reason is
that Gerard is your lover! But what does that matter, since I know it and
am willing to take him all the same?"

And to this retort Camille's flaming eyes added the words: "And it is
particularly on that account that I want him." All the long torture born
of her infirmities, all her rage at having always seen her mother
beautiful, courted and adored, was now stirring her and seeking vengeance
in cruel triumph. At last then she was snatching from her rival the lover
of whom she had so long been jealous!

"You wretched girl!" stammered Eve, wounded in the heart and almost
sinking to the floor. "You don't know what you say or what you make me
suffer."

However, she again had to pause, draw herself erect and smile; for
Rosemonde hastened in from the adjoining room with the news that she was
wanted downstairs. The doors were about to be opened, and it was
necessary she should be at her stall. Yes, Eve answered, she would be
down in another moment. Still, even as she spoke she leant more heavily
on the pier-table behind her in order that she might not fall.

Hyacinthe had drawn near to his sister: "You know," said he, "it's simply
idiotic to quarrel like that. You would do much better to come
downstairs."

But Camille harshly dismissed him: "Just /you/ go off, and take the
others with you. It's quite as well that they shouldn't be about our
ears."

Hyacinthe glanced at his mother, like one who knew the truth and
considered the whole affair ridiculous. And then, vexed at seeing her so
deficient in energy in dealing with that little pest, his sister, he
shrugged his shoulders, and leaving them to their folly, conducted the
others away. One could hear Rosemonde laughing as she went off below,
while the General began to tell Madame Fonsegue another story as they
descended the stairs together. However, at the moment when the mother and
daughter at last fancied themselves alone once more, other voices reached
their ears, those of Duvillard and Fonsegue, who were still near at hand.
The Baron from his room might well overhear the dispute.

Eve felt that she ought to have gone off. But she had lacked the strength
to do so; it had been a sheer impossibility for her after those words
which had smote her like a buffet amidst her distress at the thought of
losing her lover.

"Gerard cannot marry you," she said; "he does not love you."

"He does."

"You fancy it because he has good-naturedly shown some kindness to you,
on seeing others pay you such little attention. But he does not love
you."

"He does. He loves me first because I'm not such a fool as many others
are, and particularly because I'm young."

This was a fresh wound for the Baroness; one inflicted with mocking
cruelty in which rang out all the daughter's triumphant delight at seeing
her mother's beauty at last ripening and waning. "Ah! my poor mamma, you
no longer know what it is to be young. If I'm not beautiful, at all
events I'm young; my eyes are clear and my lips are fresh. And my hair's
so long too, and I've so much of it that it would suffice to gown me if I
chose. You see, one's never ugly when one's young. Whereas, my poor
mamma, everything is ended when one gets old. It's all very well for a
woman to have been beautiful, and to strive to keep so, but in reality
there's only ruin left, and shame and disgust."

She spoke these words in such a sharp, ferocious voice that each of them
entered her mother's heart like a knife. Tears rose to the eyes of the
wretched woman, again stricken in her bleeding wound. Ah! it was true,
she remained without weapons against youth. And all her anguish came from
the consciousness that she was growing old, from the feeling that love
was departing from her now, that like a fruit she had ripened and fallen
from the tree.

"But Gerard's mother will never let him marry you," she said.

"He will prevail on her; that's his concern. I've a dowry of two
millions, and two millions can settle many things."

"Do you now want to libel him, and say that he's marrying you for your
money?"

"No, indeed! Gerard's a very nice and honest fellow. He loves me and he's
marrying me for myself. But, after all, he isn't rich; he still has no
assured position, although he's thirty-six; and there may well be some
advantage in a wife who brings you wealth as well as happiness. For, you
hear, mamma, it's happiness I'm bringing him, real happiness, love that's
shared and is certain of the future."

Once again their faces drew close together. The hateful scene,
interrupted by sounds around them, postponed, and then resumed, was
dragging on, becoming a perfect drama full of murderous violence,
although they never shouted, but still spoke on in low and gasping
voices. Neither gave way to the other, though at every moment they were
liable to some surprise; for not only were all the doors open, so that
the servants might come in, but the Baron's voice still rang out gaily,
close at hand.

"He loves you, he loves you"--continued Eve. "That's what you say. But
/he/ never told you so."

"He has told me so twenty times; he repeats it every time that we are
alone together!"

"Yes, just as one says it to a little girl by way of amusing her. But he
has never told you that he meant to marry you."

"He told it me the last time he came. And it's settled. I'm simply
waiting for him to get his mother's consent and make his formal offer."

"You lie, you lie, you wretched girl! You simply want to make me suffer,
and you lie, you lie!"

Eve's grief at last burst forth in that cry of protest. She no longer
knew that she was a mother, and was speaking to her daughter. The woman,
the /amorosa/, alone remained in her, outraged and exasperated by a
rival. And with a sob she confessed the truth: "It is I he loves! Only
the last time I spoke to him, he swore to me--you hear me?--he swore upon
his honour that he did not love you, and that he would never marry you!"

A faint, sharp laugh came from Camille. Then, with an air of derisive
compassion, she replied: "Ah! my poor mamma, you really make me sorry for
you! What a child you are! Yes, really, you are the child, not I. What!
you who ought to have so much experience, you still allow yourself to be
duped by a man's protests! That one really has no malice; and, indeed,
that's why he swears whatever you want him to swear, just to please and
quiet you, for at heart he's a bit of a coward."

"You lie, you lie!"

"But just think matters over. If he no longer comes here, if he didn't
come to /dejeuner/ this morning, it is simply because he's had enough of
you. He has left you for good; just have the courage to realise it. Of
course he's still polite and amiable, because he's a well-bred man, and
doesn't know how to break off. The fact is that he takes pity on you."

"You lie, you lie!"

"Well, question him then. Have a frank explanation with him. Ask him his
intentions in a friendly way. And then show some good nature yourself,
and realise that if you care for him you ought to give him me at once in
his own interest. Give him back his liberty, and you will soon see that
I'm the one he loves."

"You lie, you lie! You wretched child, you only want to torture and kill
me!"

Then, in her fury and distress, Eve remembered that she was the mother,
and that it was for her to chastise that unworthy daughter. There was no
stick near her, but from a basket of the yellow roses, whose powerful
scent intoxicated both of them, she plucked a handful of blooms, with
long and spiny stalks, and smote Camille across the face. A drop of blood
appeared on the girl's left temple, near her eyelid.

But she sprang forward, flushed and maddened by this correction, with her
hand raised and ready to strike back. "Take care, mother! I swear I'd
beat you like a gipsy! And now just put this into your head: I mean to
marry Gerard, and I will; and I'll take him from you, even if I have to
raise a scandal, should you refuse to give him to me with good grace."

Eve, after her one act of angry vigour, had sunk into an armchair,
overcome, distracted. And all the horror of quarrels, which sprang from
her egotistical desire to be happy, caressed, flattered and adored, was
returning to her. But Camille, still threatening, still unsatiated,
showed her heart as it really was, her stern, black, unforgiving heart,
intoxicated with cruelty. There came a moment of supreme silence, while
Duvillard's gay voice again rang out in the adjoining room.

The mother was gently weeping, when Hyacinthe, coming upstairs at a run,
swept into the little /salon/. He looked at the two women, and made a
gesture of indulgent contempt. "Ah! you're no doubt satisfied now! But
what did I tell you? It would have been much better for you to have come
downstairs at once! Everybody is asking for you. It's all idiotic. I've
come to fetch you."

Eve and Camille would not yet have followed him, perhaps, if Duvillard
and Fonsegue had not at that moment come out of the former's room. Having
finished their cigars they also spoke of going downstairs. And Eve had to
rise and smile and show dry eyes, while Camille, standing before a
looking-glass, arranged her hair, and stanched the little drop of blood
that had gathered on her temple.

There was already quite a number of people below, in the three huge
saloons adorned with tapestry and plants. The stalls had been draped with
red silk, which set a gay, bright glow around the goods. And no ordinary
bazaar could have put forth such a show, for there was something of
everything among the articles of a thousand different kinds, from
sketches by recognised masters, and the autographs of famous writers,
down to socks and slippers and combs. The haphazard way in which things
were laid out was in itself an attraction; and, in addition, there was a
buffet, where the whitest of beautiful hands poured out champagne, and
two lotteries, one for an organ and another for a pony-drawn village
cart, the tickets for which were sold by a bevy of charming girls, who
had scattered through the throng. As Duvillard had expected, however, the
great success of the bazaar lay in the delightful little shiver which the
beautiful ladies experienced as they passed through the entrance where
the bomb had exploded. The rougher repairing work was finished, the walls
and ceilings had been doctored, in part re-constructed. However, the
painters had not yet come, and here and there the whiter stone and
plaster work showed like fresh scars left by all the terrible gashes. It
was with mingled anxiety and rapture that pretty heads emerged from the
carriages which, arriving in a continuous stream, made the flagstones of
the court re-echo. And in the three saloons, beside the stalls, there was
no end to the lively chatter: "Ah! my dear, did you see all those marks?
How frightful, how frightful! The whole house was almost blown up. And to
think it might begin again while we are here! One really needs some
courage to come, but then, that asylum is such a deserving institution,
and money is badly wanted to build a new wing. And besides, those
monsters will see that we are not frightened, whatever they do."

When the Baroness at last came down to her stall with Camille she found
the saleswomen feverishly at work already under the direction of Princess
Rosemonde, who on occasions of this kind evinced the greatest cunning and
rapacity, robbing the customers in the most impudent fashion. "Ah! here
you are," she exclaimed. "Beware of a number of higglers who have come to
secure bargains. I know them! They watch for their opportunities, turn
everything topsy-turvy and wait for us to lose our heads and forget
prices, so as to pay even less than they would in a real shop. But I'll
get good prices from them, you shall see!"

At this, Eve, who for her own part was a most incapable saleswoman, had
to laugh with the others. And in a gentle voice she made a pretence of
addressing certain recommendations to Camille, who listened with a
smiling and most submissive air. In point of fact the wretched mother was
sinking with emotion, particularly at the thought that she would have to
remain there till seven o'clock, and suffer in secret before all those
people, without possibility of relief. And thus it was almost like a
respite when she suddenly perceived Abbe Froment sitting and waiting for
her on a settee, covered with red velvet, near her stall. Her legs were
failing her, so she took a place beside him.

"You received my letter then, Monsieur l'Abbe. I am glad that you have
come, for I have some good news to give you, and wished to leave you the
pleasure of imparting it to your /protege/, that man Laveuve, whom you so
warmly recommended to me. Every formality has now been fulfilled, and you
can bring him to the asylum to-morrow."

Pierre gazed at her in stupefaction. "Laveuve? Why, he is dead!"

In her turn she became astonished. "What, dead! But you never informed me
of it! If I told you of all the trouble that has been taken, of all that
had to be undone and done again, and the discussions and the papers and
the writing! Are you quite sure that he is dead?"

"Oh! yes, he is dead. He has been dead a month."

"Dead a month! Well, we could not know; you yourself gave us no sign of
life. Ah! /mon Dieu/! what a worry that he should be dead. We shall now
be obliged to undo everything again!"

"He is dead, madame. It is true that I ought to have informed you of it.
But that doesn't alter the fact--he is dead."

Dead! that word which kept on returning, the thought too, that for a
month past she had been busying herself for a corpse, quite froze her,
brought her to the very depths of despair, like an omen of the cold death
into which she herself must soon descend, in the shroud of her last
passion. And, meantime, Pierre, despite himself, smiled bitterly at the
atrocious irony of it all. Ah! that lame and halting Charity, which
proffers help when men are dead!

The priest still lingered on the settee when the Baroness rose. She had
seen magistrate Amadieu hurriedly enter like one who just wished to show
himself, purchase some trifle, and then return to the Palace of Justice.
However, he was also perceived by little Massot, the "Globe" reporter,
who was prowling round the stalls, and who at once bore down upon him,
eager for information. And he hemmed him in and forthwith interviewed him
respecting the affair of that mechanician Salvat, who was accused of
having deposited the bomb at the entrance of the house. Was this simply
an invention of the police, as some newspapers pretended? Or was it
really correct? And if so, would Salvat soon be arrested? In self-defence
Amadieu answered correctly enough that the affair did not as yet concern
him, and would only come within his attributions, if Salvat should be
arrested and the investigation placed in his hands. At the same time,
however, the magistrate's pompous and affectedly shrewd manner suggested
that he already knew everything to the smallest details, and that, had he
chosen, he could have promised some great events for the morrow. A circle
of ladies had gathered round him as he spoke, quite a number of pretty
women feverish with curiosity, who jostled one another in their eagerness
to hear that brigand tale which sent a little shiver coursing under their
skins. However, Amadieu managed to slip off after paying Rosemonde twenty
francs for a cigarette case, which was perhaps worth thirty sous.

Massot, on recognising Pierre, came up to shake hands with him. "Don't
you agree with me, Monsieur l'Abbe, that Salvat must be a long way off by
now if he's got good legs? Ah! the police will always make me laugh!"

However, Rosemonde brought Hyacinthe up to the journalist. "Monsieur
Massot," said she, "you who go everywhere, I want you to be judge. That
Chamber of Horrors at Montmartre, that tavern where Legras sings the
'Flowers of the Streets'--"

"Oh! a delightful spot, madame," interrupted Massot, "I wouldn't take
even a gendarme there."

"No, don't jest, Monsieur Massot, I'm talking seriously. Isn't it quite
allowable for a respectable woman to go there when she's accompanied by a
gentleman?" And, without allowing the journalist time to answer her, she
turned towards Hyacinthe: "There! you see that Monsieur Massot doesn't
say no! You've got to take me there this evening, it's sworn, it's
sworn."

Then she darted away to sell a packet of pins to an old lady, while the
young man contented himself with remarking, in the voice of one who has
no illusions left: "She's quite idiotic with her Chamber of Horrors!"

Massot philosophically shrugged his shoulders. It was only natural that a
woman should want to amuse herself. And when Hyacinthe had gone off,
passing with perverse contempt beside the lovely girls who were selling
lottery tickets, the journalist ventured to murmur: "All the same, it
would do that youngster good if a woman were to take him in hand."

Then, again addressing Pierre, he resumed: "Why, here comes Duthil! What
did Sagnier mean this morning by saying that Duthil would sleep at Mazas
to-night?"

In a great hurry apparently, and all smiles, Duthil was cutting his way
through the crowd in order to join Duvillard and Fonsegue, who still
stood talking near the Baroness's stall. And he waved his hand to them in
a victorious way, to imply that he had succeeded in the delicate mission
entrusted to him. This was nothing less than a bold manoeuvre to hasten
Silviane's admission to the Comedie Francaise. The idea had occurred to
her of making the Baron give a dinner at the Cafe Anglais in order that
she might meet at it an influential critic, who, according to her
statements, would compel the authorities to throw the doors wide open for
her as soon as he should know her. However, it did not seem easy to
secure the critic's presence, as he was noted for his sternness and
grumbling disposition. And, indeed, after a first repulse, Duthil had for
three days past been obliged to exert all his powers of diplomacy, and
bring even the remotest influence into play. But he was radiant now, for
he had conquered.

"It's for this evening, my dear Baron, at half-past seven," he exclaimed.
"Ah! dash it all, I've had more trouble than I should have had to secure
a concession vote!" Then he laughed with the pretty impudence of a man of
pleasure, whom political conscientiousness did not trouble. And, indeed,
his allusion to the fresh denunciations of the "Voix du Peuple" hugely
amused him.

"Don't jest," muttered Fonsegue, who for his part wished to amuse himself
by frightening the young deputy. "Things are going very badly!"

Duthil turned pale, and a vision of the police and Mazas rose before his
eyes. In this wise sheer funk came over him from time to time. However,
with his lack of all moral sense, he soon felt reassured and began to
laugh. "Bah!" he retorted gaily, winking towards Duvillard, "the
governor's there to pilot the barque!"

The Baron, who was extremely pleased, had pressed his hands, thanked him,
and called him an obliging fellow. And now turning towards Fonsegue, he
exclaimed: "I say, you must make one of us this evening. Oh! it's
necessary. I want something imposing round Silviane. Duthil will
represent the Chamber, you journalism, and I finance--" But he suddenly
paused on seeing Gerard, who, with a somewhat grave expression, was
leisurely picking his way through the sea of skirts. "Gerard, my friend,"
said the Baron, after beckoning to him, "I want you to do me a service."
And forthwith he told him what was in question; how the influential
critic had been prevailed upon to attend a dinner which would decide
Silviane's future; and how it was the duty of all her friends to rally
round her.

"But I can't," the young man answered in embarrassment. "I have to dine
at home with my mother, who was rather poorly this morning."

"Oh! a sensible woman like your mother will readily understand that there
are matters of exceptional importance. Go home and excuse yourself. Tell
her some story, tell her that a friend's happiness is in question." And
as Gerard began to weaken, Duvillard added: "The fact is, that I really
want you, my dear fellow; I must have a society man. Society, you know,
is a great force in theatrical matters; and if Silviane has society with
her, her triumph is certain."

Gerard promised, and then chatted for a moment with his uncle, General de
Bozonnet, who was quite enlivened by that throng of women, among whom he
had been carried hither and thither like an old rudderless ship. After
acknowledging the amiability with which Madame Fonsegue had listened to
his stories, by purchasing an autograph of Monseigneur Martha from her
for a hundred francs, he had quite lost himself amid the bevy of girls
who had passed him on, one to another. And now, on his return from them,
he had his hands full of lottery tickets: "Ah! my fine fellow," said he,
"I don't advise you to venture among all those young persons. You would
have to part with your last copper. But, just look! there's Mademoiselle
Camille beckoning to you!"

Camille, indeed, from the moment she had perceived Gerard, had been
smiling at him and awaiting his approach. And when their glances met he
was obliged to go to her, although, at the same moment, he felt that
Eve's despairing and entreating eyes were fixed upon him. The girl, who
fully realised that her mother was watching her, at once made a marked
display of amiability, profiting by the license which charitable fervour
authorised, to slip a variety of little articles into the young man's
pockets, and then place others in his hands, which she pressed within her
own, showing the while all the sparkle of youth, indulging in fresh,
merry laughter, which fairly tortured her rival.

So extreme was Eve's suffering, that she wished to intervene and part
them. But it so chanced that Pierre barred her way, for he wished to
submit an idea to her before leaving the bazaar. "Madame," said he,
"since that man Laveuve is dead, and you have taken so much trouble with
regard to the bed which you now have vacant, will you be so good as to
keep it vacant until I have seen our venerable friend, Abbe Rose? I am to
see him this evening, and he knows so many cases of want, and would be so
glad to relieve one of them, and bring you some poor /protege/ of his."

"Yes, certainly," stammered the Baroness, "I shall be very happy,--I will
wait a little, as you desire,--of course, of course, Monsieur l'Abbe."

She was trembling all over; she no longer knew what she was saying; and,
unable to conquer her passion, she turned aside from the priest, unaware
even that he was still there, when Gerard, yielding to the dolorous
entreaty of her eyes, at last managed to escape from Camille and join
her.

"What a stranger you are becoming, my friend!" she said aloud, with a
forced smile. "One never sees you now."

"Why, I have been poorly," he replied, in his amiable way. "Yes, I assure
you I have been ailing a little."

He, ailing! She looked at him with maternal anxiety, quite upset. And,
indeed, however proud and lofty his figure, his handsome regular face did
seem to her paler than usual. It was as if the nobility of the facade
had, in some degree, ceased to hide the irreparable dilapidation within.
And given his real good nature, it must be true that he
suffered--suffered by reason of his useless, wasted life, by reason of
all the money he cost his impoverished mother, and of the needs that were
at last driving him to marry that wealthy deformed girl, whom at first he
had simply pitied. And so weak did he seem to Eve, so like a piece of
wreckage tossed hither and thither by a tempest, that, at the risk of
being overheard by the throng, she let her heart flow forth in a low but
ardent, entreating murmur: "If you suffer, ah! what sufferings are
mine!--Gerard, we must see one another, I will have it so."

"No, I beg you, let us wait," he stammered in embarrassment.

"It must be, Gerard; Camille has told me your plans. You cannot refuse to
see me. I insist on it."

He made yet another attempt to escape the cruel explanation. "But it's
impossible at the usual place," he answered, quivering. "The address is
known."

"Then to-morrow, at four o'clock, at that little restaurant in the Bois
where we have met before."

He had to promise, and they parted. Camille had just turned her head and
was looking at them. Moreover, quite a number of women had besieged the
stall; and the Baroness began to attend to them with the air of a ripe
and nonchalant goddess, while Gerard rejoined Duvillard, Fonsegue and
Duthil, who were quite excited at the prospect of their dinner that
evening.

Pierre had heard a part of the conversation between Gerard and the
Baroness. He knew what skeletons the house concealed, what physiological
and moral torture and wretchedness lay beneath all the dazzling wealth
and power. There was here an envenomed, bleeding sore, ever spreading, a
cancer eating into father, mother, daughter and son, who one and all had
thrown social bonds aside. However, the priest made his way out of the
/salons/, half stifling amidst the throng of lady-purchasers who were
making quite a triumph of the bazaar. And yonder, in the depths of the
gloom, he could picture Salvat still running and running on; while the
corpse of Laveuve seemed to him like a buffet of atrocious irony dealt to
noisy and delusive charity.



II

SPIRIT AND FLESH

How delightful was the quietude of the little ground-floor overlooking a
strip of garden in the Rue Cortot, where good Abbe Rose resided!
Hereabouts there was not even a rumble of wheels, or an echo of the
panting breath of Paris, which one heard on the other side of the height
of Montmartre. The deep silence and sleepy peacefulness were suggestive
of some distant provincial town.

Seven o'clock had struck, the dusk had gathered slowly, and Pierre was in
the humble dining-room, waiting for the /femme-de-menage/ to place the
soup upon the table. Abbe Rose, anxious at having seen so little of him
for a month past, had written, asking him to come to dinner, in order
that they might have a quiet chat concerning their affairs. From time to
time Pierre still gave his friend money for charitable purposes; in fact,
ever since the days of the asylum in the Rue de Charonne, they had had
accounts together, which they periodically liquidated. So that evening
after dinner they were to talk of it all, and see if they could not do
even more than they had hitherto done. The good old priest was quite
radiant at the thought of the peaceful evening which he was about to
spend in attending to the affairs of his beloved poor; for therein lay
his only amusement, the sole pleasure to which he persistently and
passionately returned, in spite of all the worries that his inconsiderate
charity had already so often brought him.

Glad to be able to procure his friend this pleasure, Pierre, on his side,
grew calmer, and found relief and momentary repose in sharing the other's
simple repast and yielding to all the kindliness around him, far from his
usual worries. He remembered the vacant bed at the Asylum, which Baroness
Duvillard had promised to keep in reserve until he should have asked Abbe
Rose if he knew of any case of destitution particularly worthy of
interest; and so before sitting down to table he spoke of the matter.

"Destitution worthy of interest!" replied Abbe Rose, "ah! my dear child,
every case is worthy of interest. And when it's a question of old toilers
without work the only trouble is that of selection, the anguish of
choosing one and leaving so many others in distress." Nevertheless,
painful though his scruples were, he strove to think and come to some
decision. "I know the case which will suit you," he said at last. "It's
certainly one of the greatest suffering and wretchedness; and, so humble
a one, too--an old carpenter of seventy-five, who has been living on
public charity during the eight or ten years that he has been unable to
find work. I don't know his name, everybody calls him 'the big Old'un.'
There are times when he does not come to my Saturday distributions for
weeks together. We shall have to look for him at once. I think that he
sleeps at the Night Refuge in the Rue d'Orsel when lack of room there
doesn't force him to spend the night crouching behind some palings. Shall
we go down the Rue d'Orsel this evening?"

Abbe Rose's eyes beamed brightly as he spoke, for this proposal of his
signified a great debauch, the tasting of forbidden fruit. He had been
reproached so often and so roughly with his visits to those who had
fallen to the deepest want and misery, that in spite of his overflowing,
apostolic compassion, he now scarcely dared to go near them. However, he
continued: "Is it agreed, my child? Only this once? Besides, it is our
only means of finding the big Old'un. You won't have to stop with me
later than eleven. And I should so like to show you all that! You will
see what terrible sufferings there are! And perhaps we may be fortunate
enough to relieve some poor creature or other."

Pierre smiled at the juvenile ardour displayed by this old man with snowy
hair. "It's agreed, my dear Abbe," he responded, "I shall be very pleased
to spend my whole evening with you, for I feel it will do me good to
follow you once more on one of those rambles which used to fill our
hearts with grief and joy."

At this moment the servant brought in the soup; however, just as the two
priests were taking their seats a discreet ring was heard, and when Abbe
Rose learnt that the visitor was a neighbour, Madame Mathis, who had come
for an answer, he gave orders that she should be shown in.

"This poor woman," he explained to Pierre, "needed an advance of ten
francs to get a mattress out of pawn; and I didn't have the money by me
at the time. But I've since procured it. She lives in the house, you
know, in silent poverty, on so small an income that it hardly keeps her
in bread."

"But hasn't she a big son of twenty?" asked Pierre, suddenly remembering
the young man he had seen at Salvat's.

"Yes, yes. Her parents, I believe, were rich people in the provinces.
I've been told that she married a music master, who gave her lessons, at
Nantes; and who ran away with her and brought her to Paris, where he
died. It was quite a doleful love-story. By selling the furniture and
realising every little thing she possessed, she scraped together an
income of about two thousand francs a year, with which she was able to
send her son to college and live decently herself. But a fresh blow fell
on her: she lost the greater part of her little fortune, which was
invested in doubtful securities. So now her income amounts at the utmost
to eight hundred francs; two hundred of which she has to expend in rent.
For all her other wants she has to be content with fifty francs a month.
About eighteen months ago her son left her so as not to be a burden on
her, and he is trying to earn his living somewhere, but without success,
I believe."

Madame Mathis, a short, dark woman, with a sad, gentle, retiring face,
came in. Invariably clad in the same black gown, she showed all the
anxious timidity of a poor creature whom the storms of life perpetually
assailed. When Abbe Rose had handed her the ten francs discreetly wrapped
in paper, she blushed and thanked him, promising to pay him back as soon
as she received her month's money, for she was not a beggar and did not
wish to encroach on the share of those who starved.

"And your son, Victor, has he found any employment?" asked the old
priest.

She hesitated, ignorant as she was of what her son might be doing, for
now she did not see him for weeks together. And finally, she contented
herself with answering: "He has a good heart, he is very fond of me. It
is a great misfortune that we should have been ruined before he could
enter the Ecole Normale. It was impossible for him to prepare for the
examination. But at the Lycee he was such a diligent and intelligent
pupil!"

"You lost your husband when your son was ten years old, did you not?"
said Abbe Rose.

At this she blushed again, thinking that her husband's story was known to
the two priests. "Yes, my poor husband never had any luck," she said.
"His difficulties embittered and excited his mind, and he died in prison.
He was sent there through a disturbance at a public meeting, when he had
the misfortune to wound a police officer. He had also fought at the time
of the Commune. And yet he was a very gentle man and extremely fond of
me."

Tears had risen to her eyes; and Abbe Rose, much touched, dismissed her:
"Well, let us hope that your son will give you satisfaction, and be able
to repay you for all you have done for him."

With a gesture of infinite sorrow, Madame Mathis discreetly withdrew. She
was quite ignorant of her son's doings, but fate had pursued her so
relentlessly that she ever trembled.

"I don't think that the poor woman has much to expect from her son," said
Pierre, when she had gone. "I only saw him once, but the gleam in his
eyes was as harsh and trenchant as that of a knife."

"Do you think so?" the old priest exclaimed, with his kindly /naivete/.
"Well, he seemed to me very polite, perhaps a trifle eager to enjoy life;
but then, all the young folks are impatient nowadays. Come, let us sit
down to table, for the soup will be cold."

Almost at the same hour, on the other side of Paris, night had in like
fashion slowly fallen in the drawing-room of the Countess de Quinsac, on
the dismal, silent ground-floor of an old mansion in the Rue St.
Dominique. The Countess was there, alone with her faithful friend, the
Marquis de Morigny, she on one side, and he on the other side of the
chimney-piece, where the last embers of the wood fire were dying out. The
servant had not yet brought the lamp, and the Countess refrained from
ringing, finding some relief from her anxiety in the falling darkness,
which hid from view all the unconfessed thoughts that she was afraid of
showing on her weary face. And it was only now, before that dim hearth,
and in that black room, where never a sound of wheels disturbed the
silence of the slumberous past, that she dared to speak.

"Yes, my friend," she said, "I am not satisfied with Gerard's health. You
will see him yourself, for he promised to come home early and dine with
me. Oh! I'm well aware that he looks big and strong; but to know him
properly one must have nursed and watched him as I have done! What
trouble I had to rear him! In reality he is at the mercy of any petty
ailment. His slightest complaint becomes serious illness. And the life he
leads does not conduce to good health."

She paused and sighed, hesitating to carry her confession further.

"He leads the life he can," slowly responded the Marquis de Morigny, of
whose delicate profile, and lofty yet loving bearing, little could be
seen in the gloom. "As he was unable to endure military life, and as even
the fatigues of diplomacy frighten you, what would you have him do? He
can only live apart pending the final collapse, while this abominable
Republic is dragging France to the grave."

"No doubt, my friend. And yet it is just that idle life which frightens
me. He is losing in it all that was good and healthy in him. I don't
refer merely to the /liaisons/ which we have had to tolerate. The last
one, which I found so much difficulty in countenancing at the outset, so
contrary did it seem to all my ideas and beliefs, has since seemed to me
to exercise almost a good influence. Only he is now entering his
thirty-sixth year, and can he continue living in this fashion without
object or duties? If he is ailing it is perhaps precisely because he does
nothing, holds no position, and serves no purpose." Her voice again
quavered. "And then, my friend, since you force me to tell you
everything, I must own that I am not in good health myself. I have had
several fainting fits of late, and have consulted a doctor. The truth is,
that I may go off at any moment."

With a quiver, Morigny leant forward in the still deepening gloom, and
wished to take hold of her hands. "You! what, am I to lose you, my last
affection!" he faltered, "I who have seen the old world I belong to
crumble away, I who only live in the hope that you at all events will
still be here to close my eyes!"

But she begged him not to increase her grief: "No, no, don't take my
hands, don't kiss them! Remain there in the shade, where I can scarcely
see you. . . . We have loved one another so long without aught to cause
shame or regret; and that will prove our strength--our divine
strength--till we reach the grave. . . . And if you were to touch me, if
I were to feel you too near me I could not finish, for I have not done so
yet."

As soon as he had relapsed into silence and immobility, she continued:
"If I were to die to-morrow, Gerard would not even find here the little
fortune which he still fancies is in my hands. The dear child has often
cost me large sums of money without apparently being conscious of it. I
ought to have been more severe, more prudent. But what would you have?
Ruin is at hand. I have always been too weak a mother. And do you now
understand in what anguish I live? I ever have the thought that if I die
Gerard will not even possess enough to live on, for he is incapable of
effecting the miracle which I renew each day, in order to keep the house
up on a decent footing. . . . Ah! I know him, so supine, so sickly, in
spite of his proud bearing, unable to do anything, even conduct himself.
And so what will become of him; will he not fall into the most dire
distress?"

Then her tears flowed freely, her heart opened and bled, for she foresaw
what must happen after her death: the collapse of her race and of a whole
world in the person of that big child. And the Marquis, still motionless
but distracted, feeling that he had no title to offer his own fortune,
suddenly understood her, foresaw in what disgrace this fresh disaster
would culminate.

"Ah! my poor friend!" he said at last in a voice trembling with revolt
and grief. "So you have agreed to that marriage--yes, that abominable
marriage with that woman's daughter! Yet you swore it should never be!
You would rather witness the collapse of everything, you said. And now
you are consenting, I can feel it!"

She still wept on in that black, silent drawing-room before the
chimney-piece where the fire had died out. Did not Gerard's marriage to
Camille mean a happy ending for herself, a certainty of leaving her son
wealthy, loved, and seated at the banquet of life? However, a last
feeling of rebellion arose within her.

"No, no," she exclaimed, "I don't consent, I swear to you that I don't
consent as yet. I am fighting with my whole strength, waging an incessant
battle, the torture of which you cannot imagine."

Then, in all sincerity, she foresaw the likelihood of defeat. "If I
should some day give way, my friend, at all events believe that I feel,
as fully as you do, how abominable such a marriage must be. It will be
the end of our race and our honour!"

This cry profoundly stirred the Marquis, and he was unable to add a word.
Haughty and uncompromising Catholic and Royalist that he was, he, on his
side also, expected nothing but the supreme collapse. Yet how
heartrending was the thought that this noble woman, so dearly and so
purely loved, would prove one of the most mournful victims of the
catastrophe! And in the shrouding gloom he found courage to kneel before
her, take her hand, and kiss it.

Just as the servant was at last bringing a lighted lamp Gerard made his
appearance. The past-century charm of the old Louis XVI. drawing-room,
with its pale woodwork, again became apparent in the soft light. In order
that his mother might not be over-saddened by his failure to dine with
her that evening the young man had put on an air of brisk gaiety; and
when he had explained that some friends were waiting for him, she at once
released him from his promise, happy as she felt at seeing him so merry.

"Go, go, my dear boy," said she, "but mind you do not tire yourself too
much. . . . I am going to keep Morigny; and the General and Larombiere
are coming at nine o'clock. So be easy, I shall have someone with me to
keep me from fretting and feeling lonely."

In this wise Gerard after sitting down for a moment and chatting with the
Marquis was able to slip away, dress, and betake himself to the Cafe
Anglais.

When he reached it women in fur cloaks were already climbing the stairs,
fashionable and merry parties were filling the private rooms, the
electric lights shone brilliantly, and the walls were already vibrating
with the stir of pleasure and debauchery. In the room which Baron
Duvillard had engaged the young man found an extraordinary display, the
most superb flowers, and a profusion of plate and crystal as for a royal
gala. The pomp with which the six covers were laid called forth a smile;
while the bill of fare and the wine list promised marvels, all the rarest
and most expensive things that could be selected.

"It's stylish, isn't it?" exclaimed Silviane, who was already there with
Duvillard, Fonsegue and Duthil. "I just wanted to make your influential
critic open his eyes a little! When one treats a journalist to such a
dinner as this, he has got to be amiable, hasn't he?"

In her desire to conquer, it had occurred to the young woman to array
herself in the most amazing fashion. Her gown of yellow satin, covered
with old Alencon lace, was cut low at the neck; and she had put on all
her diamonds, a necklace, a diadem, shoulder-knots, bracelets and rings.
With her candid, girlish face, she looked like some Virgin in a missal, a
Queen-Virgin, laden with the offerings of all Christendom.

"Well, well, you look so pretty," said Gerard, who sometimes jested with
her, "that I think it will do all the same."

"Ah!" she replied with equanimity. "You consider me a /bourgeoise/, I
see. Your opinion is that a simple little dinner and a modest gown would
have shown better taste. But ah! my dear fellow, you don't know the way
to get round men!"

Duvillard signified his approval, for he was delighted to be able to show
her in all her glory, adorned like an idol. Fonsegue, for his part,
talked of diamonds, saying that they were now doubtful investments, as
the day when they would become articles of current manufacture was fast
approaching, thanks to the electrical furnace and other inventions.
Meantime Duthil, with an air of ecstasy and the dainty gestures of a
lady's maid, hovered around the young woman, either smoothing a
rebellious bow or arranging some fold of her lace.

"But I say," resumed Silviane, "your critic seems to be an ill-bred man,
for he's keeping us waiting."

Indeed, the critic arrived a quarter of an hour late, and while
apologising, he expressed his regret that he should be obliged to leave
at half-past nine, for he was absolutely compelled to put in an
appearance at a little theatre in the Rue Pigalle. He was a big fellow of
fifty with broad shoulders and a full, bearded face. His most
disagreeable characteristic was the narrow dogmatic pedantry which he had
acquired at the Ecole Normale, and had never since been able to shake
off. All his herculean efforts to be sceptical and frivolous, and the
twenty years he had spent in Paris mingling with every section of
society, had failed to rid him of it. /Magister/ he was, and /magister/
he remained, even in his most strenuous flights of imagination and
audacity. From the moment of his arrival he tried to show himself
enraptured with Silviane. Naturally enough, he already knew her by sight,
and had even criticised her on one occasion in five or six contemptuous
lines. However, the sight of her there, in full beauty, clad like a
queen, and presented by four influential protectors, filled him with
emotion; and he was struck with the idea that nothing would be more
Parisian and less pedantic than to assert she had some talent and give
her his support.

They had seated themselves at table, and the repast proved a magnificent
one, the service ever prompt and assiduous, an attendant being allotted
to each diner. While the flowers scattered their perfumes through the
room, and the plate and crystal glittered on the snowy cloth, an
abundance of delicious and unexpected dishes were handed round--a
sturgeon from Russia, prohibited game, truffles as big as eggs, and
hothouse vegetables and fruit as full of flavour as if they had been
naturally matured. It was money flung out of window, simply for the
pleasure of wasting more than other people, and eating what they could
not procure. The influential critic, though he displayed the ease of a
man accustomed to every sort of festivity, really felt astonished at it
all, and became servile, promising his support, and pledging himself far
more than he really wished to. Moreover, he showed himself very gay,
found some witty remarks to repeat, and even some rather ribald jests.
But when the champagne appeared after the roast and the grand burgundies,
his over-excitement brought him back perforce to his real nature. The
conversation had now turned on Corneille's "Polyeucte" and the part of
"Pauline," in which Silviane wished to make her /debut/ at the Comedie
Francaise. This extraordinary caprice, which had quite revolted the
influential critic a week previously, now seemed to him simply a bold
enterprise in which the young woman might even prove victorious if she
consented to listen to his advice. And, once started, he delivered quite
a lecture on the past, asserting that no actress had ever yet understood
it properly, for at the outset Pauline was simply a well-meaning little
creature of the middle classes, and the beauty of her conversion at the
finish arose from the working of a miracle, a stroke of heavenly grace
which endowed her with something divine. This was not the opinion of
Silviane, who from the first lines regarded Pauline as the ideal heroine
of some symbolical legend. However, as the critic talked on and on, she
had to feign approval; and he was delighted at finding her so beautiful
and docile beneath his ferule. At last, as ten o'clock was striking, he
rose and tore out of the hot and reeking room in order to do his work.

"Ah! my dears," cried Silviane, "he's a nice bore is that critic of
yours! What a fool he is with his idea of Pauline being a little
/bourgeoise/! I would have given him a fine dressing if it weren't for
the fact that I have some need of him. Ah! no, it's too idiotic! Pour me
out a glass of champagne. I want something to set me right after all
that!"

The /fete/ then took quite an intimate turn between the four men who
remained and that bare-armed, bare-breasted girl, covered with diamonds;
while from the neighbouring passages and rooms came bursts of laughter
and sounds of kissing, all the stir and mirth of the debauchery now
filling the house. And beneath the windows torrents of vehicles and
pedestrians streamed along the Boulevards where reigned the wild fever of
pleasure and harlotry.

"No, don't open it, or I shall catch cold!" resumed Silviane, addressing
Fonsegue as he stepped towards the window. "Are you so very warm, then?
I'm just comfortable. . . . But, Duvillard, my good fellow, please order
some more champagne. It's wonderful what a thirst your critic has given
me!"

Amidst the blinding glare of the lamps and the perfume of the flowers and
wines, one almost stifled in the room. And Silviane was seized with an
irresistible desire for a spree, a desire to tipple and amuse herself in
some vulgar fashion, as in her bygone days. A few glasses of champagne
brought her to full pitch, and she showed the boldest and giddiest
gaiety. The others, who had never before seen her so lively, began on
their own side to feel amused. As Fonsegue was obliged to go to his
office she embraced him "like a daughter," as she expressed it. However,
on remaining alone with the others she indulged in great freedom of
speech, which became more and more marked as her intoxication increased.
And to the class of men with whom she consorted her great attraction, as
she was well aware, lay in the circumstance that with her virginal
countenance and her air of ideal purity was coupled the most monstrous
perversity ever displayed by any shameless woman. Despite her innocent
blue eyes and lily-like candour, she would give rein, particularly when
she was drunk, to the most diabolical of fancies.

Duvillard let her drink on, but she guessed his thoughts, like she
guessed those of the others, and simply smiled while concocting
impossible stories and descanting fantastically in the language of the
gutter. And seeing her there in her dazzling gown fit for a queenly
virgin, and hearing her pour forth the vilest words, they thought her
most wonderfully droll. However, when she had drunk as much champagne as
she cared for and was half crazy, a novel idea suddenly occurred to her.

"I say, my children," she exclaimed, "we are surely not going to stop
here. It's so precious slow! You shall take me to the Chamber of
Horrors--eh? just to finish the evening. I want to hear Legras sing 'La
Chemise,' that song which all Paris is running to hear him sing."

But Duvillard indignantly rebelled: "Oh! no," said he; "most certainly
not. It's a vile song and I'll never take you to such an abominable
place."

But she did not appear to hear him. She had already staggered to her feet
and was arranging her hair before a looking-glass. "I used to live at
Montmartre," she said, "and it'll amuse me to go back there. And,
besides, I want to know if this Legras is a Legras that I knew, oh! ever
so long ago! Come, up you get, and let us be off!"

"But, my dear girl," pleaded Duvillard, "we can't take you into that den
dressed as you are! Just fancy your entering that place in a low-necked
gown and covered with diamonds! Why everyone would jeer at us! Come,
Gerard, just tell her to be a little reasonable."

Gerard, equally offended by the idea of such a freak, was quite willing
to intervene. But she closed his mouth with her gloved hand and repeated
with the gay obstinacy of intoxication: "Pooh, it will be all the more
amusing if they do jeer at us! Come, let us be off, let us be off,
quick!"

Thereupon Duthil, who had been listening with a smile and the air of a
man of pleasure whom nothing astonishes or displeases, gallantly took her
part. "But, my dear Baron, everybody goes to the Chamber of Horrors,"
said he. "Why, I myself have taken the noblest ladies there, and
precisely to hear that song of Legras, which is no worse than anything
else."

"Ah! you hear what Duthil says!" cried Silviane. "He's a deputy, he is,
and he wouldn't go there if he thought it would compromise his
honorability!"

Then, as Duvillard still struggled on in despair at the idea of
exhibiting himself with her in such a scandalous place, she became all
the merrier: "Well, my dear fellow, please yourself. I don't need you.
You and Gerard can go home if you like. But I'm going to Montmartre with
Duthil. You'll take charge of me, won't you, Duthil, eh?"

Still, the Baron was in no wise disposed to let the evening finish in
that fashion. The mere idea of it gave him a shock, and he had to resign
himself to the girl's stubborn caprice. The only consolation he could
think of was to secure Gerard's presence, for the young man, with some
lingering sense of decorum, still obstinately refused to make one of the
party. So the Baron took his hands and detained him, repeating in urgent
tones that he begged him to come as an essential mark of friendship. And
at last the wife's lover and daughter's suitor had to give way to the man
who was the former's husband and the latter's father.

Silviane was immensely amused by it all, and, indiscreetly thee-ing and
thou-ing Gerard, suggested that he at least owed the Baron some little
compliance with his wishes.

Duvillard pretended not to hear her. He was listening to Duthil, who told
him that there was a sort of box in a corner of the Chamber of Horrors,
in which one could in some measure conceal oneself. And then, as
Silviane's carriage--a large closed landau, whose coachman, a sturdy,
handsome fellow, sat waiting impassively on his box--was down below, they
started off.

The Chamber of Horrors was installed in premises on the Boulevard de
Rochechouart, formerly occupied by a cafe whose proprietor had become
bankrupt.* It was a suffocating place, narrow, irregular, with all sorts
of twists, turns, and secluded nooks, and a low and smoky ceiling. And
nothing could have been more rudimentary than its decorations. The walls
had simply been placarded with posters of violent hues, some of the
crudest character, showing the barest of female figures. Behind a piano
at one end there was a little platform reached by a curtained doorway.
For the rest, one simply found a number of bare wooden forms set
alongside the veriest pot-house tables, on which the glasses containing
various beverages left round and sticky marks. There was no luxury, no
artistic feature, no cleanliness even. Globeless gas burners flared
freely, heating a dense mist compounded of tobacco smoke and human
breath. Perspiring, apoplectical faces could be perceived through this
veil, and an acrid odour increased the intoxication of the assembly,
which excited itself with louder and louder shouts at each fresh song. It
had been sufficient for an enterprising fellow to set up these boards,
bring out Legras, accompanied by two or three girls, make him sing his
frantic and abominable songs, and in two or three evenings overwhelming
success had come, all Paris being enticed and flocking to the place,
which for ten years or so had failed to pay as a mere cafe, where by way
of amusement petty cits had been simply allowed their daily games at
dominoes.

  * Those who know Paris will identify the site selected by M. Zola
    as that where 'Colonel' Lisbonne of the Commune installed his
    den the 'Bagne' some years ago. Nevertheless, such places as the
    'Chamber of Horrors' now abound in the neighbourhood of
    Montmartre, and it must be admitted that whilst they are
    frequented by certain classes of Frenchmen they owe much of
    their success in a pecuniary sense to the patronage of
    foreigners. Among the latter, Englishmen are particularly
    conspicuous.--Trans.

And the change had been caused by the passion for filth, the irresistible
attraction exercised by all that brought opprobrium and disgust. The
Paris of enjoyment, the /bourgeoisie/ which held all wealth and power,
which would relinquish naught of either, though it was surfeited and
gradually wearying of both, simply hastened to the place in order that
obscenity and insult might be flung in its face. Hypnotised, as it were,
while staggering to its fall, it felt a need of being spat upon. And what
a frightful symptom there lay in it all: those condemned ones rushing
upon dirt of their own accord, voluntarily hastening their own
decomposition by that unquenchable thirst for the vile, which attracted
men, reputed to be grave and upright, and lovely women of the most
perfect grace and luxury, to all the beastliness of that low den!

At one of the tables nearest the stage sat little Princess Rosemonde de
Harn, with wild eyes and quivering nostrils, delighted as she felt at now
being able to satisfy her curiosity regarding the depths of Paris life.
Young Hyacinthe had resigned himself to the task of bringing her, and,
correctly buttoned up in his long frock-coat, he was indulgent enough to
refrain from any marked expression of boredom. At a neighbouring table
they had found a shadowy Spaniard of their acquaintance, a so-called
Bourse jobber, Bergaz, who had been introduced to the Princess by Janzen,
and usually attended her entertainments. They virtually knew nothing
about him, not even if he really earned at the Bourse all the money which
he sometimes spent so lavishly, and which enabled him to dress with
affected elegance. His slim, lofty figure was not without a certain air
of distinction, but his red lips spoke of strong passions and his bright
eyes were those of a beast of prey. That evening he had two young fellows
with him, one Rossi, a short, swarthy Italian, who had come to Paris as a
painter's model, and had soon glided into the lazy life of certain
disreputable callings, and the other, Sanfaute, a born Parisian
blackguard, a pale, beardless, vicious and impudent stripling of La
Chapelle, whose long curly hair fell down upon either side of his bony
cheeks.

"Oh! pray now!" feverishly said Rosemonde to Bergaz; "as you seem to know
all these horrid people, just show me some of the celebrities. Aren't
there some thieves and murderers among them?"

He laughed shrilly, and in a bantering way replied: "But you know these
people well enough, madame. That pretty, pink, delicate-looking woman
over yonder is an American lady, the wife of a consul, whom, I believe,
you receive at your house. That other on the right, that tall brunette
who shows such queenly dignity, is a Countess, whose carriage passes
yours every day in the Bois. And the thin one yonder, whose eyes glitter
like those of a she-wolf, is the particular friend of a high official,
who is well known for his reputation of austerity."

But she stopped him, in vexation: "I know, I know. But the others, those
of the lower classes, those whom one comes to see."

Then she went on asking questions, and seeking for terrifying and
mysterious countenances. At last, two men seated in a corner ended by
attracting her attention; one of them a very young fellow with a pale,
pinched face, and the other an ageless individual who, besides being
buttoned up to his neck in an old coat, had pulled his cap so low over
his eyes, that one saw little of his face beyond the beard which fringed
it. Before these two stood a couple of mugs of beer, which they drank
slowly and in silence.

"You are making a great mistake, my dear," said Hyacinthe with a frank
laugh, "if you are looking for brigands in disguise. That poor fellow
with the pale face, who surely doesn't have food to eat every day, was my
schoolfellow at Condorcet!"

Bergaz expressed his amazement. "What! you knew Mathis at Condorcet!
After all, though, you're right, he received a college education. Ah! and
so you knew him. A very remarkable young man he is, though want is
throttling him. But, I say, the other one, his companion, you don't know
him?"

Hyacinthe, after looking at the man with the cap-hidden face, was already
shaking his head, when Bergaz suddenly gave him a nudge as a signal to
keep quiet, and by way of explanation he muttered: "Hush! Here's
Raphanel. I've been distrusting him for some time past. Whenever he
appears anywhere, the police is not far off."

Raphanel was another of the vague, mysterious Anarchists whom Janzen had
presented to the Princess by way of satisfying her momentary passion for
revolutionism. This one, though he was a fat, gay, little man, with a
doll-like face and childish nose, which almost disappeared between his
puffy cheeks, had the reputation of being a thorough desperado; and at
public meetings he certainly shouted for fire and murder with all his
lungs. Still, although he had already been compromised in various
affairs, he had invariably managed to save his own bacon, whilst his
companions were kept under lock and key; and this they were now beginning
to think somewhat singular.

He at once shook hands with the Princess in a jovial way, took a seat
near her without being invited, and forthwith denounced the dirty
/bourgeoisie/ which came to wallow in places of ill fame. Rosemonde was
delighted, and encouraged him, but others near by began to get angry, and
Bergaz examined him with his piercing eyes, like a man of energy who
acts, and lets others talk. Now and then, too, he exchanged quick glances
of intelligence with his silent lieutenants, Sanfaute and Rossi, who
plainly belonged to him, both body and soul. They were the ones who found
their profit in Anarchy, practising it to its logical conclusions,
whether in crime or in vice.

Meantime, pending the arrival of Legras with his "Flowers of the
Pavement," two female vocalists had followed one another on the stage,
the first fat and the second thin, one chirruping some silly love songs
with an under-current of dirt, and the other shouting the coarsest of
refrains, in a most violent, fighting voice. She had just finished amidst
a storm of bravos, when the assembly, stirred to merriment and eager for
a laugh, suddenly exploded once more. Silviane was entering the little
box at one end of the hall. When she appeared erect in the full light,
with bare arms and shoulders, looking like a planet in her gown of yellow
satin and her blazing diamonds, there arose a formidable uproar, shouts,
jeers, hisses, laughing and growling, mingled with ferocious applause.
And the scandal increased, and the vilest expressions flew about as soon
as Duvillard, Gerard and Duthil also showed themselves, looking very
serious and dignified with their white ties and spreading shirt fronts.

"We told you so!" muttered Duvillard, who was much annoyed with the
affair, while Gerard tried to conceal himself in a dim corner.

She, however, smiling and enchanted, faced the public, accepting the
storm with the candid bearing of a foolish virgin, much as one inhales
the vivifying air of the open when it bears down upon one in a squall.
And, indeed, she herself had sprung from the sphere before her, its
atmosphere was her native air.

"Well, what of it?" she said replying to the Baron who wanted her to sit
down. "They are merry. It's very nice. Oh! I'm really amusing myself!"

"Why, yes, it's very nice," declared Duthil, who in like fashion set
himself at his ease. "Silviane is right, people naturally like a laugh
now and then!"

Amidst the uproar, which did not cease, little Princess Rosemonde rose
enthusiastically to get a better view. "Why, it's your father who's with
that woman Silviane," she said to Hyacinthe. "Just look at them! Well, he
certainly has plenty of bounce to show himself here with her!"

Hyacinthe, however, refused to look. It didn't interest him, his father
was an idiot, only a child would lose his head over a girl in that
fashion. And with his contempt for woman the young man became positively
insulting.

"You try my nerves, my dear fellow," said Rosemonde as she sat down. "You
are the child with your silly ideas about us. And as for your father, he
does quite right to love that girl. I find her very pretty indeed, quite
adorable!"

Then all at once the uproar ceased, those who had risen resumed their
seats, and the only sound was that of the feverish throb which coursed
through the assembly. Legras had just appeared on the platform. He was a
pale sturdy fellow with a round and carefully shaven face, stern eyes,
and the powerful jaws of a man who compels the adoration of women by
terrorising them. He was not deficient in talent, he sang true, and his
ringing voice was one of extraordinary penetration and pathetic power.
And his /repertoire/, his "Flowers of the Pavement," completed the
explanation of his success; for all the foulness and suffering of the
lower spheres, the whole abominable sore of the social hell created by
the rich, shrieked aloud in these songs in words of filth and fire and
blood.

A prelude was played on the piano, and Legras standing there in his
velvet jacket sang "La Chemise," the horrible song which brought all
Paris to hear him. All the lust and vice that crowd the streets of the
great city appeared with their filth and their poison; and amid the
picture of Woman stripped, degraded, ill-treated, dragged through the
mire and cast into a cesspool, there rang out the crime of the
/bourgeoisie/. But the scorching insult of it all was less in the words
themselves than in the manner in which Legras cast them in the faces of
the rich, the happy, the beautiful ladies who came to listen to him.
Under the low ceiling, amidst the smoke from the pipes, in the blinding
glare of the gas, he sent his lines flying through the assembly like
expectorations, projected by a whirlwind of furious contempt. And when he
had finished there came delirium; the beautiful ladies did not even think
of wiping away the many affronts they had received, but applauded
frantically. The whole assembly stamped and shouted, and wallowed,
distracted, in its ignominy.

"Bravo! bravo!" the little Princess repeated in her shrill voice. "It's
astonishing, astonishing, prodigious!"

And Silviane, whose intoxication seemed to have increased since she had
been there, in the depths of that fiery furnace, made herself
particularly conspicuous by the manner in which she clapped her hands and
shouted: "It's he, it's my Legras! I really must kiss him, he's pleased
me so much!"

Duvillard, now fairly exasperated, wished to take her off by force. But
she clung to the hand-rest of the box, and shouted yet more loudly,
though without any show of temper. It became necessary to parley with
her. Yes, she was willing to go off and let them drive her home; but,
first of all, she must embrace Legras, who was an old friend of hers. "Go
and wait for me in the carriage!" she said, "I will be with you in a
moment."

Just as the assembly was at last becoming calmer, Rosemonde perceived
that the box was emptying; and her own curiosity being satisfied, she
thought of prevailing on Hyacinthe to see her home. He, who had listened
to Legras in a languid way without even applauding, was now talking of
Norway with Bergaz, who pretended that he had travelled in the North. Oh!
the fiords! oh! the ice-bound lakes! oh! the pure lily-white, chaste
coldness of the eternal winter! It was only amid such surroundings, said
Hyacinthe, that he could understand woman and love, like a kiss of the
very snow itself.

"Shall we go off there to-morrow?" exclaimed the Princess with her
vivacious effrontery. "I'll shut up my house and slip the key under the
door."

Then she added that she was jesting, of course. But Bergaz knew her to be
quite capable of such a freak; and at the idea that she might shut up her
little mansion and perhaps leave it unprotected he exchanged a quick
glance with Sanfaute and Rossi, who still smiled in silence. Ah! what an
opportunity for a fine stroke! What an opportunity to get back some of
the wealth of the community appropriated by the blackguard /bourgeoisie/!

Meantime Raphanel, after applauding Legras, was looking all round the
place with his little grey, sharp eyes. And at last young Mathis and his
companion, the ill-clad individual, of whose face only a scrap of beard
could be seen, attracted his attention. They had neither laughed nor
applauded; they seemed to be simply a couple of tired fellows who were
resting, and in whose opinion one is best hidden in the midst of a crowd.

All at once, though, Raphanel turned towards Bergaz: "That's surely
little Mathis over yonder. But who's that with him?"

Bergaz made an evasive gesture; he did not know. Still, he no longer took
his eyes from Raphanel. And he saw the other feign indifference at what
followed, and finish his beer and take his leave, with the jesting remark
that he had an appointment with a lady at a neighbouring omnibus office.
No sooner had he gone than Bergaz rose, sprang over some of the forms and
jostled people in order to reach little Mathis, into whose ear he
whispered a few words. And the young man at once left his table, taking
his companion and pushing him outside through an occasional exit. It was
all so rapidly accomplished that none of the general public paid
attention to the flight.

"What is it?" said the Princess to Bergaz, when he had quietly resumed
his seat between Rossi and Sanfaute.

"Oh! nothing, I merely wished to shake hands with Mathis as he was going
off."

Thereupon Rosemonde announced that she meant to do the same.
Nevertheless, she lingered a moment longer and again spoke of Norway on
perceiving that nothing could impassion Hyacinthe except the idea of the
eternal snow, the intense, purifying cold of the polar regions. In his
poem on the "End of Woman," a composition of some thirty lines, which he
hoped he should never finish, he thought of introducing a forest of
frozen pines by way of final scene. Now the Princess had risen and was
gaily reverting to her jest, declaring that she meant to take him home to
drink a cup of tea and arrange their trip to the Pole, when an
involuntary exclamation fell from Bergaz, who, while listening, had kept
his eyes on the doorway.

"Mondesir! I was sure of it!"

There had appeared at the entrance a short, sinewy, broad-backed little
man, about whose round face, bumpy forehead, and snub nose there was
considerable military roughness. One might have thought him a
non-commissioned officer in civilian attire. He gazed over the whole
room, and seemed at once dismayed and disappointed.

Bergaz, however, wishing to account for his exclamation, resumed in an
easy way: "Ah! I said there was a smell of the police about the place!
You see that fellow--he's a detective, a very clever one, named Mondesir,
who had some trouble when he was in the army. Just look at him, sniffing
like a dog that has lost scent! Well, well, my brave fellow, if you've
been told of any game you may look and look for it, the bird's flown
already!"

Once outside, when Rosemonde had prevailed on Hyacinthe to see her home,
they hastened to get into the brougham, which was waiting for them, for
near at hand they perceived Silviane's landau, with the majestic coachman
motionless on his box, while Duvillard, Gerard, and Duthil still stood
waiting on the curbstone. They had been there for nearly twenty minutes
already, in the semi-darkness of that outer boulevard, where all the
vices of the poor districts of Paris were on the prowl. They had been
jostled by drunkards; and shadowy women brushed against them as they went
by whispering beneath the oaths and blows of bullies. And there were
couples seeking the darkness under the trees, and lingering on the
benches there; while all around were low taverns and dirty lodging-houses
and places of ill-fame. All the human degradation which till break of day
swarms in the black mud of this part of Paris, enveloped the three men,
giving them the horrors, and yet neither the Baron nor Gerard nor Duthil
was willing to go off. Each hoped that he would tire out the others, and
take Silviane home when she should at last appear.

But after a time the Baron grew impatient, and said to the coachman:
"Jules, go and see why madame doesn't come."

"But the horses, Monsieur le Baron?"

"Oh! they will be all right, we are here."

A fine drizzle had begun to fall; and the wait went on again as if it
would never finish. But an unexpected meeting gave them momentary
occupation. A shadowy form, something which seemed to be a thin,
black-skirted woman, brushed against them. And all of a sudden they were
surprised to find it was a priest.

"What, is it you, Monsieur l'Abbe Froment?" exclaimed Gerard. "At this
time of night? And in this part of Paris?"

Thereupon Pierre, without venturing either to express his own
astonishment at finding them there themselves, or to ask them what they
were doing, explained that he had been belated through accompanying Abbe
Rose on a visit to a night refuge. Ah! to think of all the frightful want
which at last drifted to those pestilential dormitories where the stench
had almost made him faint! To think of all the weariness and despair
which there sank into the slumber of utter prostration, like that of
beasts falling to the ground to sleep off the abominations of life! No
name could be given to the promiscuity; poverty and suffering were there
in heaps, children and men, young and old, beggars in sordid rags, beside
the shameful poor in threadbare frock-coats, all the waifs and strays of
the daily shipwrecks of Paris life, all the laziness and vice, and
ill-luck and injustice which the torrent rolls on, and throws off like
scum. Some slept on, quite annihilated, with the faces of corpses.
Others, lying on their backs with mouths agape, snored loudly as if still
venting the plaint of their sorry life. And others tossed restlessly,
still struggling in their slumber against fatigue and cold and hunger,
which pursued them like nightmares of monstrous shape. And from all those
human beings, stretched there like wounded after a battle, from all that
ambulance of life reeking with a stench of rottenness and death, there
ascended a nausea born of revolt, the vengeance-prompting thought of all
the happy chambers where, at that same hour, the wealthy loved or rested
in fine linen and costly lace.*

  * Even the oldest Paris night refuges, which are the outcome
    of private philanthropy--L'Oeuvre de l'Hospitalite de Nuit--
    have only been in existence some fourteen or fifteen years.
    Before that time, and from the period of the great Revolution
    forward, there was absolutely no place, either refuge, asylum,
    or workhouse, in the whole of that great city of wealth and
    pleasure, where the houseless poor could crave a night's
    shelter. The various royalist, imperialist and republican
    governments and municipalities of modern France have often
    been described as 'paternal,' but no governments and
    municipalities in the whole civilised world have done less for
    the very poor. The official Poor Relief Board--L'Assistance
    Publique--has for fifty years been a by-word, a mockery and a
    sham, in spite of its large revenue. And this neglect of the
    very poor has been an important factor in every French
    revolution. Each of these--even that of 1870--had its purely
    economic side, though many superficial historians are content
    to ascribe economic causes to the one Revolution of 1789, and
    to pass them by in all other instances.--Trans.

In vain had Pierre and Abbe Rose passed all the poor wretches in review
while seeking the big Old'un, the former carpenter, so as to rescue him
from the cesspool of misery, and send him to the Asylum on the very
morrow. He had presented himself at the refuge that evening, but there
was no room left, for, horrible to say, even the shelter of that hell
could only be granted to early comers. And so he must now be leaning
against a wall, or lying behind some palings. This had greatly distressed
poor Abbe Rose and Pierre, but it was impossible for them to search every
dark, suspicious corner; and so the former had returned to the Rue
Cortot, while the latter was seeking a cab to convey him back to Neuilly.

The fine drizzling rain was still falling and becoming almost icy, when
Silviane's coachman, Jules, at last reappeared and interrupted the
priest, who was telling the Baron and the others how his visit to the
refuge still made him shudder.

"Well, Jules--and madame?" asked Duvillard, quite anxious at seeing the
coachman return alone.

Impassive and respectful, with no other sign of irony than a slight
involuntary twist of the lips, Jules answered: "Madame sends word that
she is not going home; and she places her carriage at the gentlemen's
disposal if they will allow me to drive them home."

This was the last straw, and the Baron flew into a passion. To have
allowed her to drag him to that vile den, to have waited there hopefully
so long, and to be treated in this fashion for the sake of a Legras! No,
no, he, the Baron, had had enough of it, and she should pay dearly for
her abominable conduct! Then he stopped a passing cab and pushed Gerard
inside it saying, "You can set me down at my door."

"But she's left us the carriage!" shouted Duthil, who was already
consoled, and inwardly laughed at the termination of it all. "Come here,
there's plenty of room for three. No? you prefer the cab? Well, just as
you like, you know."

For his part he gaily climbed into the landau and drove off lounging on
the cushions, while the Baron, in the jolting old cab, vented his rage
without a word of interruption from Gerard, whose face was hidden by the
darkness. To think of it! that she, whom he had overwhelmed with gifts,
who had already cost him two millions of francs, should in this fashion
insult him, the master who could dispose both of fortunes and of men!
Well, she had chosen to do it, and he was delivered! Then Duvillard drew
a long breath like a man released from the galleys.

For a moment Pierre watched the two vehicles go off; and then took his
own way under the trees, so as to shelter himself from the rain until a
vacant cab should pass. Full of distress and battling thoughts he had
begun to feel icy cold. The whole monstrous night of Paris, all the
debauchery and woe that sobbed around him made him shiver. Phantom-like
women who, when young, had led lives of infamy in wealth, and who now,
old and faded, led lives of infamy in poverty, were still and ever
wandering past him in search of bread, when suddenly a shadowy form
grazed him, and a voice murmured in his ear: "Warn your brother, the
police are on Salvat's track, he may be arrested at any moment."

The shadowy figure was already going its way, and as a gas ray fell upon
it, Pierre thought that he recognised the pale, pinched face of Victor
Mathis. And at the same time, yonder in Abbe Rose's peaceful dining-room,
he fancied he could again see the gentle face of Madame Mathis, so sad
and so resigned, living on solely by the force of the last trembling hope
which she had unhappily set in her son.



III

PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT

ALREADY at eight o'clock on that holiday-making mid-Lent Thursday, when
all the offices of the Home Department were empty, Monferrand, the
Minister, sat alone in his private room. A single usher guarded his door,
and in the first ante-chamber there were only a couple of messengers.

The Minister had experienced, on awaking, the most unpleasant of
emotions. The "Voix du Peuple," which on the previous day had revived the
African Railway scandal, by accusing Barroux of having pocketed 20,000
francs, had that morning published its long-promised list of the
bribe-taking senators and deputies. And at the head of this list
Monferrand had found his own name set down against a sum of 80,000
francs, while Fonsegue was credited with 50,000. Then a fifth of the
latter amount was said to have been Duthil's share, and Chaigneux had
contented himself with the beggarly sum of 3,000 francs--the lowest price
paid for any one vote, the cost of each of the others ranging from 5 to
20,000.

It must be said that there was no anger in Monferrand's emotion. Only he
had never thought that Sagnier would carry his passion for uproar and
scandal so far as to publish this list--a page which was said to have
been torn from a memorandum book belonging to Duvillard's agent, Hunter,
and which was covered with incomprehensible hieroglyphics that ought to
have been discussed and explained, if, indeed, the real truth was to be
arrived at. Personally, Monferrand felt quite at ease, for he had written
nothing, signed nothing, and knew that one could always extricate oneself
from a mess by showing some audacity, and never confessing. Nevertheless,
what a commotion it would all cause in the parliamentary duck-pond. He at
once realised the inevitable consequences, the ministry overthrown and
swept away by this fresh whirlwind of denunciation and tittle-tattle.
Mege would renew his interpellation on the morrow, and Vignon and his
friends would at once lay siege to the posts they coveted. And he,
Monferrand, could picture himself driven out of that ministerial sanctum
where, for eight months past, he had been taking his ease, not with any
foolish vainglory, but with the pleasure of feeling that he was in his
proper place as a born ruler, who believed he could tame and lead the
multitude.

Having thrown the newspapers aside with a disdainful gesture, he rose and
stretched himself, growling the while like a plagued lion. And then he
began to walk up and down the spacious room, which showed all the faded
official luxury of mahogany furniture and green damask hangings. Stepping
to and fro, with his hands behind his back, he no longer wore his usual
fatherly, good-natured air. He appeared as he really was, a born
wrestler, short, but broad shouldered, with sensual mouth, fleshy nose
and stern eyes, that all proclaimed him to be unscrupulous, of iron will
and fit for the greatest tasks. Still, in this case, in what direction
lay his best course? Must he let himself be dragged down with Barroux?
Perhaps his personal position was not absolutely compromised? And yet how
could he part company from the others, swim ashore, and save himself
while they were being drowned? It was a grave problem, and with his
frantic desire to retain power, he made desperate endeavours to devise
some suitable manoeuvre.

But he could think of nothing, and began to swear at the virtuous fits of
that silly Republic, which, in his opinion, rendered all government
impossible. To think of such foolish fiddle-faddle stopping a man of his
acumen and strength! How on earth can one govern men if one is denied the
use of money, that sovereign means of sway? And he laughed bitterly; for
the idea of an idyllic country where all great enterprises would be
carried out in an absolutely honest manner seemed to him the height of
absurdity.

At last, however, unable as he was to come to a determination, it
occurred to him to confer with Baron Duvillard, whom he had long known,
and whom he regretted not having seen sooner so as to urge him to
purchase Sagnier's silence. At first he thought of sending the Baron a
brief note by a messenger; but he disliked committing anything to paper,
for the veriest scrap of writing may prove dangerous; so he preferred to
employ the telephone which had been installed for his private use near
his writing-table.

"It is Baron Duvillard who is speaking to me? . . . Quite so. It's I, the
Minister, Monsieur Monferrand. I shall be much obliged if you will come
to see me at once. . . . Quite so, quite so, I will wait for you."

Then again he walked to and fro and meditated. That fellow Duvillard was
as clever a man as himself, and might be able to give him an idea. And he
was still laboriously trying to devise some scheme, when the usher
entered saying that Monsieur Gascogne, the Chief of the Detective Police,
particularly wished to speak to him. Monferrand's first thought was that
the Prefecture of Police desired to know his views respecting the steps
which ought to be taken to ensure public order that day; for two mid-Lent
processions--one of the Washerwomen and the other of the Students--were
to march through Paris, whose streets would certainly be crowded.

"Show Monsieur Gascogne in," he said.

A tall, slim, dark man, looking like an artisan in his Sunday best, then
stepped into the ministerial sanctum. Fully acquainted with the
under-currents of Paris life, this Chief of the Detective Force had a
cold dispassionate nature and a clear and methodical mind.
Professionalism slightly spoilt him, however: he would have possessed
more intelligence if he had not credited himself with so much.

He began by apologising for his superior the Prefect, who would certainly
have called in person had he not been suffering from indisposition.
However, it was perhaps best that he, Gascogne, should acquaint Monsieur
le Ministre with the grave affair which brought him, for he knew every
detail of it. Then he revealed what the grave affair was.

"I believe, Monsieur le Ministre, that we at last hold the perpetrator of
the crime in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy."

At this, Monferrand, who had been listening impatiently, became quite
impassioned. The fruitless searches of the police, the attacks and the
jeers of the newspapers, were a source of daily worry to him. "Ah!--Well,
so much the better for you Monsieur Gascogne," he replied with brutal
frankness. "You would have ended by losing your post. The man is
arrested?"

"Not yet, Monsieur le Ministre; but he cannot escape, and it is merely an
affair of a few hours."

Then the Chief of the Detective Force told the whole story: how Detective
Mondesir, on being warned by a secret agent that the Anarchist Salvat was
in a tavern at Montmartre, had reached it just as the bird had flown;
then how chance had again set him in presence of Salvat at a hundred
paces or so from the tavern, the rascal having foolishly loitered there
to watch the establishment; and afterwards how Salvat had been stealthily
shadowed in the hope that they might catch him in his hiding-place with
his accomplices. And, in this wise, he had been tracked to the
Porte-Maillot, where, realising, no doubt, that he was pursued, he had
suddenly bolted into the Bois de Boulogne. It was there that he had been
hiding since two o'clock in the morning in the drizzle which had not
ceased to fall. They had waited for daylight in order to organise a
/battue/ and hunt him down like some animal, whose weariness must
necessarily ensure capture. And so, from one moment to another, he would
be caught.

"I know the great interest you take in the arrest, Monsieur le Ministre,"
added Gascogne, "and it occurred to me to ask your orders. Detective
Mondesir is over there, directing the hunt. He regrets that he did not
apprehend the man on the Boulevard de Rochechouart; but, all the same,
the idea of following him was a capital one, and one can only reproach
Mondesir with having forgotten the Bois de Boulogne in his calculations."

Salvat arrested! That fellow Salvat whose name had filled the newspapers
for three weeks past. This was a most fortunate stroke which would be
talked of far and wide! In the depths of Monferrand's fixed eyes one
could divine a world of thoughts and a sudden determination to turn this
incident which chance had brought him to his own personal advantage. In
his own mind a link was already forming between this arrest and that
African Railways interpellation which was likely to overthrow the
ministry on the morrow. The first outlines of a scheme already rose
before him. Was it not his good star that had sent him what he had been
seeking--a means of fishing himself out of the troubled waters of the
approaching crisis?

"But tell me, Monsieur Gascogne," said he, "are you quite sure that this
man Salvat committed the crime?"

"Oh! perfectly sure, Monsieur le Ministre. He'll confess everything in
the cab before he reaches the Prefecture."

Monferrand again walked to and fro with a pensive air, and ideas came to
him as he spoke on in a slow, meditative fashion. "My orders! well, my
orders, they are, first, that you must act with the very greatest
prudence. Yes, don't gather a mob of promenaders together. Try to arrange
things so that the arrest may pass unperceived--and if you secure a
confession keep it to yourself, don't communicate it to the newspapers.
Yes, I particularly recommend that point to you, don't take the
newspapers into your confidence at all--and finally, come and tell me
everything, and observe secrecy, absolute secrecy, with everybody else."

Gascogne bowed and would have withdrawn, but Monferrand detained him to
say that not a day passed without his friend Monsieur Lehmann, the Public
Prosecutor, receiving letters from Anarchists who threatened to blow him
up with his family; in such wise that, although he was by no means a
coward, he wished his house to be guarded by plain-clothes officers. A
similar watch was already kept upon the house where investigating
magistrate Amadieu resided. And if the latter's life was precious, that
of Public Prosecutor Lehmann was equally so, for he was one of those
political magistrates, one of those shrewd talented Israelites, who make
their way in very honest fashion by invariably taking the part of the
Government in office.

Then Gascogne in his turn remarked: "There is also the Barthes affair,
Monsieur le Ministre--we are still waiting. Are we to arrest Barthes at
that little house at Neuilly?"

One of those chances which sometimes come to the help of detectives and
make people think the latter to be men of genius had revealed to him the
circumstance that Barthes had found a refuge with Abbe Pierre Froment.
Ever since the Anarchist terror had thrown Paris into dismay a warrant
had been out against the old man, not for any precise offence, but simply
because he was a suspicious character and might, therefore, have had some
intercourse with the Revolutionists. However, it had been repugnant to
Gascogne to arrest him at the house of a priest whom the whole district
venerated as a saint; and the Minister, whom he had consulted on the
point, had warmly approved of his reserve, since a member of the clergy
was in question, and had undertaken to settle the affair himself.

"No, Monsieur Gascogne," he now replied, "don't move in the matter. You
know what my feelings are, that we ought to have the priests with us and
not against us--I have had a letter written to Abbe Froment in order that
he may call here this morning, as I shall have no other visitors. I will
speak to him myself, and you may take it that the affair no longer
concerns you."

Then he was about to dismiss him when the usher came back saying that the
President of the Council was in the ante-room.*

  * The title of President of the Council is given to the French
    prime minister.--Trans.

"Barroux!--Ah! dash it, then, Monsieur Gascogne, you had better go out
this way. It is as well that nobody should meet you, as I wish you to
keep silent respecting Salvat's arrest. It's fully understood, is it not?
I alone am to know everything; and you will communicate with me here
direct, by the telephone, if any serious incident should arise."

The Chief of the Detective Police had scarcely gone off, by way of an
adjoining /salon/, when the usher reopened the door communicating with
the ante-room: "Monsieur le President du Conseil."

With a nicely adjusted show of deference and cordiality, Monferrand
stepped forward, his hands outstretched: "Ah! my dear President, why did
you put yourself out to come here? I would have called on you if I had
known that you wished to see me."

But with an impatient gesture Barroux brushed aside all question of
etiquette. "No, no! I was taking my usual stroll in the Champs Elysees,
and the worries of the situation impressed me so keenly that I preferred
to come here at once. You yourself must realise that we can't put up with
what is taking place. And pending to-morrow morning's council, when we
shall have to arrange a plan of defence, I felt that there was good
reason for us to talk things over."

He took an armchair, and Monferrand on his side rolled another forward so
as to seat himself with his back to the light. Whilst Barroux, the elder
of the pair by ten years, blanched and solemn, with a handsome face,
snowy whiskers, clean-shaven chin and upper-lip, retained all the dignity
of power, the bearing of a Conventionnel of romantic views, who sought to
magnify the simple loyalty of a rather foolish but good-hearted
/bourgeois/ nature into something great; the other, beneath his heavy
common countenance and feigned frankness and simplicity, concealed
unknown depths, the unfathomable soul of a shrewd enjoyer and despot who
was alike pitiless and unscrupulous in attaining his ends.

For a moment Barroux drew breath, for in reality he was greatly moved,
his blood rising to his head, and his heart beating with indignation and
anger at the thought of all the vulgar insults which the "Voix du Peuple"
had poured upon him again that morning. "Come, my dear colleague," said
he, "one must stop that scandalous campaign. Moreover, you can realise
what awaits us at the Chamber to-morrow. Now that the famous list has
been published we shall have every malcontent up in arms. Vignon is
bestirring himself already--"

"Ah! you have news of Vignon?" exclaimed Monferrand, becoming very
attentive.

"Well, as I passed his door just now, I saw a string of cabs waiting
there. All his creatures have been on the move since yesterday, and at
least twenty persons have told me that the band is already dividing the
spoils. For, as you must know, the fierce and ingenuous Mege is again
going to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for others. Briefly, we are
dead, and the others claim that they are going to bury us in mud before
they fight over our leavings." With his arm outstretched Barroux made a
theatrical gesture, and his voice resounded as if he were in the tribune.
Nevertheless, his emotion was real, tears even were coming to his eyes.
"To think that I who have given my whole life to the Republic, I who
founded it, who saved it, should be covered with insults in this fashion,
and obliged to defend myself against abominable charges! To say that I
abused my trust! That I sold myself and took 200,000 francs from that man
Hunter, simply to slip them into my pocket! Well, certainly there /was/ a
question of 200,000 francs between us. But how and under what
circumstances? They were doubtless the same as in your case, with regard
to the 80,000 francs that he is said to have handed you--"

But Monferrand interrupted his colleague in a clear trenchant voice: "He
never handed me a centime."

The other looked at him in astonishment, but could only see his big,
rough head, whose features were steeped in shadow: "Ah! But I thought you
had business relations with him, and knew him particularly well."

"No, I simply knew Hunter as everyone knew him. I was not even aware that
he was Baron Duvillard's agent in the African Railways matter; and there
was never any question of that affair between us."

This was so improbable, so contrary to everything Barroux knew of the
business, that for a moment he felt quite scared. Then he waved his hand
as if to say that others might as well look after their own affairs, and
reverted to himself. "Oh! as for me," he said, "Hunter called on me more
than ten times, and made me quite sick with his talk of the African
Railways. It was at the time when the Chamber was asked to authorise the
issue of lottery stock.* And, by the way, my dear fellow, I was then here
at the Home Department, while you had just taken that of Public Works. I
can remember sitting at that very writing-table, while Hunter was in the
same armchair that I now occupy. That day he wanted to consult me about
the employment of the large sum which Duvillard's house proposed to spend
in advertising; and on seeing what big amounts were set down against the
Royalist journals, I became quite angry, for I realised with perfect
accuracy that this money would simply be used to wage war against the
Republic. And so, yielding to Hunter's entreaties, I also drew up a list
allotting 200,000 francs among the friendly Republican newspapers, which
were paid through me, I admit it. And that's the whole story."**

  * This kind of stock is common enough in France. A part of it is
    extinguished annually at a public "drawing," when all such
    shares or bonds that are drawn become entitled to redemption
    at "par," a percentage of them also securing prizes of various
    amounts. City of Paris Bonds issued on this system are very
    popular among French people with small savings; but, on the
    other hand, many ventures, whose lottery stock has been
    authorised by the Legislature, have come to grief and ruined
    investors.--Trans.

  ** All who are acquainted with recent French history will be
    aware that Barroux' narrative is simply a passage from the
    life of the late M. Floquet, slightly modified to suit the
    requirements of M. Zola's story.--Trans.

Then he sprang to his feet and struck his chest, whilst his voice again
rose: "Well, I've had more than enough of all that calumny and falsehood!
And I shall simply tell the Chamber my story to-morrow. It will be my
only defence. An honest man does not fear the truth!"

But Monferrand, in his turn, had sprung up with a cry which was a
complete confession of his principles: "It's ridiculous, one never
confesses; you surely won't do such a thing!"

"I shall," retorted Barroux with superb obstinacy. "And we shall see if
the Chamber won't absolve me by acclamation."

"No, you will fall beneath an explosion of hisses, and drag all of us
down with you."

"What does it matter? We shall fall with dignity, like honest men!"

Monferrand made a gesture of furious anger, and then suddenly became
calm. Amidst all the anxious confusion in which he had been struggling
since daybreak, a gleam now dawned upon him. The vague ideas suggested by
Salvat's approaching arrest took shape, and expanded into an audacious
scheme. Why should he prevent the fall of that big ninny Barroux? The
only thing of importance was that he, Monferrand, should not fall with
him, or at any rate that he should rise again. So he protested no
further, but merely mumbled a few words, in which his rebellious feeling
seemingly died out. And at last, putting on his good-natured air once
more, he said: "Well, after all you are perhaps right. One must be brave.
Besides, you are our head, my dear President, and we will follow you."

They had now again sat down face to face, and their conversation
continued till they came to a cordial agreement respecting the course
which the Government should adopt in view of the inevitable
interpellation on the morrow.

Meantime, Baron Duvillard was on his way to the ministry. He had scarcely
slept that night. When on the return from Montmartre Gerard had set him
down at his door in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, he had at once gone to bed,
like a man who is determined to compel sleep, so that he may forget his
worries and recover self-control. But slumber would not come; for hours
and hours he vainly sought it. The manner in which he had been insulted
by that creature Silviane was so monstrous! To think that she, whom he
had enriched, whose every desire he had contented, should have cast such
mud at him, the master, who flattered himself that he held Paris and the
Republic in his hands, since he bought up and controlled consciences just
as others might make corners in wool or leather for the purposes of
Bourse speculation. And the dim consciousness that Silviane was the
avenging sore, the cancer preying on him who preyed on others, completed
his exasperation. In vain did he try to drive away his haunting thoughts,
remember his business affairs, his appointments for the morrow, his
millions which were working in every quarter of the world, the financial
omnipotence which placed the fate of nations in his grasp. Ever, and in
spite of all, Silviane rose up before him, splashing him with mud. In
despair he tried to fix his mind on a great enterprise which he had been
planning for months past, a Trans-Saharan railway, a colossal venture
which would set millions of money at work, and revolutionise the trade of
the world. And yet Silviane appeared once more, and smacked him on both
cheeks with her dainty little hand, which she had dipped in the gutter.
It was only towards daybreak that he at last dozed off, while vowing in a
fury that he would never see her again, that he would spurn her, and
order her away, even should she come and drag herself at his feet.

However, when he awoke at seven, still tired and aching, his first
thought was for her, and he almost yielded to a fit of weakness. The idea
came to him to ascertain if she had returned home, and if so make his
peace. But he jumped out of bed, and after his ablutions he recovered all
his bravery. She was a wretch, and he this time thought himself for ever
cured of his passion. To tell the truth, he forgot it as soon as he
opened the morning newspapers. The publication of the list of
bribe-takers in the "Voix du Peuple" quite upset him, for he had hitherto
thought it unlikely that Sagnier held any such list. However, he judged
the document at a glance, at once separating the few truths it contained
from a mass of foolishness and falsehood. And this time also he did not
consider himself personally in danger. There was only one thing that he
really feared: the arrest of his intermediary, Hunter, whose trial might
have drawn him into the affair. As matters stood, and as he did not cease
to repeat with a calm and smiling air, he had merely done what every
banking-house does when it issues stock, that is, pay the press for
advertisements and puffery, employ brokers, and reward services
discreetly rendered to the enterprise. It was all a business matter, and
for him that expression summed up everything. Moreover, he played the
game of life bravely, and spoke with indignant contempt of a banker who,
distracted and driven to extremities by blackmailing, had imagined that
he would bring a recent scandal to an end by killing himself: a pitiful
tragedy, from all the mire and blood of which the scandal had sprouted
afresh with the most luxuriant and indestructible vegetation. No, no!
suicide was not the course to follow: a man ought to remain erect, and
struggle on to his very last copper, and the very end of his energy.

At about nine o'clock a ringing brought Duvillard to the telephone
installed in his private room. And then his folly took possession of him
once more: it must be Silviane who wished to speak to him. She often
amused herself by thus disturbing him amidst his greatest cares. No doubt
she had just returned home, realising that she had carried things too far
on the previous evening and desiring to be forgiven. However, when he
found that the call was from Monferrand, who wished him to go to the
ministry, he shivered slightly, like a man saved from the abyss beside
which he is travelling. And forthwith he called for his hat and stick,
desirous as he was of walking and reflecting in the open air. And again
he became absorbed in the intricacies of the scandalous business which
was about to stir all Paris and the legislature. Kill himself! ah, no,
that would be foolish and cowardly. A gust of terror might be sweeping
past; nevertheless, for his part he felt quite firm, superior to events,
and resolved to defend himself without relinquishing aught of his power.

As soon as he entered the ante-rooms of the ministry he realised that the
gust of terror was becoming a tempest. The publication of the terrible
list in the "Voix du Peuple" had chilled the guilty ones to the heart;
and, pale and distracted, feeling the ground give way beneath them, they
had come to take counsel of Monferrand, who, they hoped, might save them.
The first whom Duvillard perceived was Duthil, looking extremely
feverish, biting his moustaches, and constantly making grimaces in his
efforts to force a smile. The banker scolded him for coming, saying that
it was a great mistake to have done so, particularly with such a scared
face. The deputy, however, his spirits already cheered by these rough
words, began to defend himself, declaring that he had not even read
Sagnier's article, and had simply come to recommend a lady friend to the
Minister. Thereupon the Baron undertook this business for him and sent
him away with the wish that he might spend a merry mid-Lent. However, the
one who most roused Duvillard's pity was Chaigneux, whose figure swayed
about as if bent by the weight of his long equine head, and who looked so
shabby and untidy that one might have taken him for an old pauper. On
recognising the banker he darted forward, and bowed to him with
obsequious eagerness.

"Ah! Monsieur le Baron," said he, "how wicked some men must be! They are
killing me, I shall die of it all; and what will become of my wife, what
will become of my three daughters, who have none but me to help them?"

The whole of his woeful story lay in that lament. A victim of politics,
he had been foolish enough to quit Arras and his business there as a
solicitor, in order to seek triumph in Paris with his wife and daughters,
whose menial he had then become--a menial dismayed by the constant
rebuffs and failures which his mediocrity brought upon him. An honest
deputy! ah, good heavens! yes, he would have liked to be one; but was he
not perpetually "hard-up," ever in search of a hundred-franc note, and
thus, perforce, a deputy for sale? And withal he led such a pitiable
life, so badgered by the women folk about him, that to satisfy their
demands he would have picked up money no matter where or how.

"Just fancy, Monsieur le Baron, I have at last found a husband for my
eldest girl. It is the first bit of luck that I have ever had; there will
only be three women left on my hands if it comes off. But you can imagine
what a disastrous impression such an article as that of this morning must
create in the young man's family. So I have come to see the Minister to
beg him to give my future son-in-law a prefectoral secretaryship. I have
already promised him the post, and if I can secure it things may yet be
arranged."

He looked so terribly shabby and spoke in such a doleful voice that it
occurred to Duvillard to do one of those good actions on which he
ventured at times when they were likely to prove remunerative
investments. It is, indeed, an excellent plan to give a crust of bread to
some poor devil whom one can turn, if necessary, into a valet or an
accomplice. So the banker dismissed Chaigneux, undertaking to do his
business for him in the same way as he had undertaken to do Duthil's. And
he added that he would be pleased to see him on the morrow, and have a
chat with him, as he might be able to help him in the matter of his
daughter's marriage.

At this Chaigneux, scenting a loan, collapsed into the most lavish
thanks. "Ah! Monsieur le Baron, my life will not be long enough to enable
me to repay such a debt of gratitude."

As Duvillard turned round he was surprised to see Abbe Froment waiting in
a corner of the ante-room. Surely that one could not belong to the batch
of /suspects/, although by the manner in which he was pretending to read
a newspaper it seemed as if he were trying to hide some keen anxiety. At
last the Baron stepped forward, shook hands, and spoke to him cordially.
And Pierre thereupon related that he had received a letter requesting him
to call on the Minister that day. Why, he could not tell; in fact, he was
greatly surprised, he said, putting on a smile in order to conceal his
disquietude. He had been waiting a long time already, and hoped that he
would not be forgotten on that bench.

Just then the usher appeared, and hastened up to the banker. "The
Minister," said he, "was at that moment engaged with the President of the
Council; but he had orders to admit the Baron as soon as the President
withdrew." Almost immediately afterwards Barroux came out, and as
Duvillard was about to enter he recognised and detained him. And he spoke
of the denunciations very bitterly, like one indignant with all the
slander. Would not he, Duvillard, should occasion require it, testify
that he, Barroux, had never taken a centime for himself? Then, forgetting
that he was speaking to a banker, and that he was Minister of Finances,
he proceeded to express all his disgust of money. Ah! what poisonous,
murky, and defiling waters were those in which money-making went on!
However, he repeated that he would chastise his insulters, and that a
statement of the truth would suffice for the purpose.

Duvillard listened and looked at him. And all at once the thought of
Silviane came back, and took possession of the Baron, without any attempt
on his part to drive it away. He reflected that if Barroux had chosen to
give him a helping hand when he had asked for it, Silviane would now have
been at the Comedie Francaise, in which case the deplorable affair of the
previous night would not have occurred; for he was beginning to regard
himself as guilty in the matter; if he had only contented Silviane's whim
she would never have dismissed him in so vile a fashion.

"You know, I owe you a grudge," he said, interrupting Barroux.

The other looked at him in astonishment. "And why, pray?" he asked.

"Why, because you never helped me in the matter of that friend of mine
who wishes to make her /debut/ in 'Polyeucte.'"

Barroux smiled, and with amiable condescension replied: "Ah! yes,
Silviane d'Aulnay! But, my dear sir, it was Taboureau who put spokes in
the wheel. The Fine Arts are his department, and the question was
entirely one for him. And I could do nothing; for that very worthy and
honest gentleman, who came to us from a provincial faculty, was full of
scruples. For my own part I'm an old Parisian, I can understand anything,
and I should have been delighted to please you."

At this fresh resistance offered to his passion Duvillard once more
became excited, eager to obtain that which was denied him. "Taboureau,
Taboureau!" said he, "he's a nice deadweight for you to load yourself
with! Honest! isn't everybody honest? Come, my dear Minister, there's
still time, get Silviane admitted, it will bring you good luck for
to-morrow."

This time Barroux burst into a frank laugh: "No, no, I can't cast
Taboureau adrift at this moment--people would make too much sport of
it--a ministry wrecked or saved by a Silviane question!"

Then he offered his hand before going off. The Baron pressed it, and for
a moment retained it in his own, whilst saying very gravely and with a
somewhat pale face: "You do wrong to laugh, my dear Minister. Governments
have fallen or set themselves erect again through smaller matters than
that. And should you fall to-morrow I trust that you will never have
occasion to regret it."

Wounded to the heart by the other's jesting air, exasperated by the idea
that there was something he could not achieve, Duvillard watched Barroux
as he withdrew. Most certainly the Baron did not desire a reconciliation
with Silviane, but he vowed that he would overturn everything if
necessary in order to send her a signed engagement for the Comedie, and
this simply by way of vengeance, as a slap, so to say,--yes, a slap which
would make her tingle! That moment spent with Barroux had been a decisive
one.

However, whilst still following Barroux with his eyes, Duvillard was
surprised to see Fonsegue arrive and manoeuvre in such a way as to escape
the Prime Minister's notice. He succeeded in doing so, and then entered
the ante-room with an appearance of dismay about the whole of his little
figure, which was, as a rule, so sprightly. It was the gust of terror,
still blowing, that had brought him thither.

"Didn't you see your friend Barroux?" the Baron asked him, somewhat
puzzled.

"Barroux? No!"

This quiet lie was equivalent to a confession of everything. Fonsegue was
so intimate with Barroux that he thee'd and thou'd him, and for ten years
had been supporting him in his newspaper, having precisely the same
views, the same political religion. But with a smash-up threatening, he
doubtless realised, thanks to his wonderfully keen scent, that he must
change his friendships if he did not wish to remain under the ruins
himself. If he had, for long years, shown so much prudence and diplomatic
virtue in order to firmly establish the most dignified and respected of
Parisian newspapers, it was not for the purpose of letting that newspaper
be compromised by some foolish blunder on the part of an honest man.

"I thought you were on bad terms with Monferrand," resumed Duvillard.
"What have you come here for?"

"Oh! my dear Baron, the director of a leading newspaper is never on bad
terms with anybody. He's at the country's service."

In spite of his emotion, Duvillard could not help smiling. "You are
right," he responded. "Besides, Monferrand is really an able man, whom
one can support without fear."

At this Fonsegue began to wonder whether his anguish of mind was visible.
He, who usually played the game of life so well, with his own hand under
thorough control, had been terrified by the article in the "Voix du
Peuple." For the first time in his career he had perpetrated a blunder,
and felt that he was at the mercy of some denunciation, for with
unpardonable imprudence he had written a very brief but compromising
note. He was not anxious concerning the 50,000 francs which Barroux had
handed him out of the 200,000 destined for the Republican press. But he
trembled lest another affair should be discovered, that of a sum of money
which he had received as a present. It was only on feeling the Baron's
keen glance upon him that he was able to recover some self-possession.
How silly it was to lose the knack of lying and to confess things simply
by one's demeanour!

But the usher drew near and repeated that the Minister was now waiting
for the Baron; and Fonsegue went to sit down beside Abbe Froment, whom he
also was astonished to find there. Pierre repeated that he had received a
letter, but had no notion what the Minister might wish to say to him. And
the quiver of his hands again revealed how feverishly impatient he was to
know what it might be. However, he could only wait, since Monferrand was
still busy discussing such grave affairs.

On seeing Duvillard enter, the Minister had stepped forward, offering his
hand. However much the blast of terror might shake others, he had
retained his calmness and good-natured smile. "What an affair, eh, my
dear Baron!" he exclaimed.

"It's idiotic!" plainly declared the other, with a shrug of his
shoulders. Then he sat down in the armchair vacated by Barroux, while the
Minister installed himself in front of him. These two were made to
understand one another, and they indulged in the same despairing gestures
and furious complaints, declaring that government, like business, would
no longer be possible if men were required to show such virtue as they
did not possess. At all times, and under every /regime/, when a decision
of the Chambers had been required in connection with some great
enterprise, had not the natural and legitimate tactics been for one to do
what might be needful to secure that decision? It was absolutely
necessary that one should obtain influential and sympathetic support, in
a word, make sure of votes. Well, everything had to be paid for, men like
other things, some with fine words, others with favours or money,
presents made in a more or less disguised manner. And even admitting
that, in the present cases, one had gone rather far in the purchasing,
that some of the bartering had been conducted in an imprudent way, was it
wise to make such an uproar over it? Would not a strong government have
begun by stifling the scandal, from motives of patriotism, a mere sense
of cleanliness even?

"Why, of course! You are right, a thousand times right!" exclaimed
Monferrand. "Ah! if I were the master you would see what a fine
first-class funeral I would give it all!" Then, as Duvillard looked at
him fixedly, struck by these last words, he added with his expressive
smile: "Unfortunately I'm not the master, and it was to talk to you of
the situation that I ventured to disturb you. Barroux, who was here just
now, seemed to me in a regrettable frame of mind."

"Yes, I saw him, he has such singular ideas at times--" Then, breaking
off, the Baron added: "Do you know that Fonsegue is in the ante-room? As
he wishes to make his peace with you, why not send for him? He won't be
in the way, in fact, he's a man of good counsel, and the support of his
newspaper often suffices to give one the victory."

"What, is Fonsegue there!" cried Monferrand. "Why, I don't ask better
than to shake hands with him. There were some old affairs between us that
don't concern anybody! But, good heavens! if you only knew what little
spite I harbour!"

When the usher had admitted Fonsegue the reconciliation took place in the
simplest fashion. They had been great friends at college in their native
Correze, but had not spoken together for ten years past in consequence of
some abominable affair the particulars of which were not exactly known.
However, it becomes necessary to clear away all corpses when one wishes
to have the arena free for a fresh battle.

"It's very good of you to come back the first," said Monferrand. "So it's
all over, you no longer bear me any grudge?"

"No, indeed!" replied Fonsegue. "Why should people devour one another
when it would be to their interest to come to an understanding?"

Then, without further explanations, they passed to the great affair, and
the conference began. And when Monferrand had announced Barroux'
determination to confess and explain his conduct, the others loudly
protested. That meant certain downfall, they would prevent him, he surely
would not be guilty of such folly. Forthwith they discussed every
imaginable plan by which the Ministry might be saved, for that must
certainly be Monferrand's sole desire. He himself with all eagerness
pretended to seek some means of extricating his colleagues and himself
from the mess in which they were. However, a faint smile, still played
around his lips, and at last as if vanquished he sought no further.
"There's no help for it," said he, "the ministry's down."

The others exchanged glances, full of anxiety at the thought of another
Cabinet dealing with the African Railways affair. A Vignon Cabinet would
doubtless plume itself on behaving honestly.

"Well, then, what shall we do?"

But just then the telephone rang, and Monferrand rose to respond to the
summons: "Allow me."

He listened for a moment and then spoke into the tube, nothing that he
said giving the others any inkling of the information which had reached
him. This had come from the Chief of the Detective Police, and was to the
effect that Salvat's whereabouts in the Bois de Boulogne had been
discovered, and that he would be hunted down with all speed. "Very good!
And don't forget my orders," replied Monferrand.

Now that Salvat's arrest was certain, the Minister determined to follow
the plan which had gradually taken shape in his mind; and returning to
the middle of the room he slowly walked to and fro, while saying with his
wonted familiarity: "But what would you have, my friends? It would be
necessary for me to be the master. Ah! if I were the master! A Commission
of Inquiry, yes! that's the proper form for a first-class funeral to take
in a big affair like this, so full of nasty things. For my part, I should
confess nothing, and I should have a Commission appointed. And then you
would see the storm subside."

Duvillard and Fonsegue began to laugh. The latter, however, thanks to his
intimate knowledge of Monferrand, almost guessed the truth. "Just
listen!" said he; "even if the ministry falls it doesn't necessarily
follow that you must be on the ground with it. Besides, a ministry can be
mended when there are good pieces of it left."

Somewhat anxious at finding his thoughts guessed, Monferrand protested:
"No, no, my dear fellow, I don't play that game. We are jointly
responsible, we've got to keep together, dash it all!"

"Keep together! Pooh! Not when simpletons purposely drown themselves!
And, besides, if we others have need of you, we have a right to save you
in spite of yourself! Isn't that so, my dear Baron?"

Then, as Monferrand sat down, no longer protesting but waiting,
Duvillard, who was again thinking of his passion, full of anger at the
recollection of Barroux' refusal, rose in his turn, and exclaimed: "Why,
certainly! If the ministry's condemned let it fall! What good can you get
out of a ministry which includes such a man as Taboureau! There you have
an old, worn-out professor without any prestige, who comes to Paris from
Grenoble, and has never set foot in a theatre in his life! Yet the
control of the theatres is handed over to him, and naturally he's ever
doing the most stupid things!"

Monferrand, who was well informed on the Silviane question, remained
grave, and for a moment amused himself by trying to excite the Baron.
"Taboureau," said he, "is a somewhat dull and old-fashioned University
man, but at the department of Public Instruction he's in his proper
element."

"Oh! don't talk like that, my dear fellow! You are more intelligent than
that, you are not going to defend Taboureau as Barroux did. It's quite
true that I should very much like to see Silviane at the Comedie. She's a
very good girl at heart, and she has an amazing lot of talent. Would you
stand in her way if you were in Taboureau's place?"

"I? Good heavens, no! A pretty girl on the stage, why, it would please
everybody, I'm sure. Only it would be necessary to have a man of the same
views as were at the department of Instruction and Fine Arts."

His sly smile had returned to his face. The securing of that girl's
/debut/ was certainly not a high price to pay for all the influence of
Duvillard's millions. Monferrand therefore turned towards Fonsegue as if
to consult him. The other, who fully understood the importance of the
affair, was meditating in all seriousness: "A senator is the proper man
for Public Instruction," said he. "But I can think of none, none at all,
such as would be wanted. A man of broad mind, a real Parisian, and yet
one whose presence at the head of the University wouldn't cause too much
astonishment--there's perhaps Dauvergne--"

"Dauvergne! Who's he?" exclaimed Monferrand in surprise. "Ah! yes,
Dauvergne the senator for Dijon--but he's altogether ignorant of
University matters, he hasn't the slightest qualification."

"Well, as for that," resumed Fonsegue, "I'm trying to think. Dauvergne is
certainly a good-looking fellow, tall and fair and decorative. Besides,
he's immensely rich, has a most charming young wife--which does no harm,
on the contrary--and he gives real /fetes/ at his place on the Boulevard
St. Germain."

It was only with hesitation that Fonsegue himself had ventured to suggest
Dauvergne. But by degrees his selection appeared to him a real "find."
"Wait a bit! I recollect now that in his young days Dauvergne wrote a
comedy, a one act comedy in verse, and had it performed at Dijon. And
Dijon's a literary town, you know, so that piece of his sets a little
perfume of 'Belles-Lettres' around him. And then, too, he left Dijon
twenty years ago, and is a most determined Parisian, frequenting every
sphere of society. Dauvergne will do whatever one desires. He's the man
for us, I tell you."

Duvillard thereupon declared that he knew him, and considered him a very
decent fellow. Besides, he or another, it mattered nothing!

"Dauvergne, Dauvergne," repeated Monferrand. "/Mon Dieu/, yes! After all,
why not? He'll perhaps make a very good minister. Let us say Dauvergne."
Then suddenly bursting into a hearty laugh: "And so we are reconstructing
the Cabinet in order that that charming young woman may join the Comedie!
The Silviane cabinet--well, and what about the other departments?"

He jested, well knowing that gaiety often hastens difficult solutions.
And, indeed, they merrily continued settling what should be done if the
ministry were defeated on the morrow. Although they had not plainly said
so the plan was to let Barroux sink, even help him to do so, and then
fish Monferrand out of the troubled waters. The latter engaged himself
with the two others, because he had need of them, the Baron on account of
his financial sovereignty, and the director of "Le Globe" on account of
the press campaign which he could carry on in his favour. And in the same
way the others, quite apart from the Silviane business, had need of
Monferrand, the strong-handed man of government, who undertook to bury
the African Railways scandal by bringing about a Commission of Inquiry,
all the strings of which would be pulled by himself. There was soon a
perfect understanding between the three men, for nothing draws people
more closely together than common interest, fear and need. Accordingly,
when Duvillard spoke of Duthil's business, the young lady whom he wished
to recommend, the Minister declared that it was settled. A very nice
fellow was Duthil, they needed a good many like him. And it was also
agreed that Chaigneux' future son-in-law should have his secretaryship.
Poor Chaigneux! He was so devoted, always ready to undertake any
commission, and his four women folk led him such a hard life!

"Well, then, it's understood." And Monferrand, Duvillard and Fonsegue
vigorously shook hands.

However, when the first accompanied the others to the door, he noticed a
prelate, in a cassock of fine material, edged with violet, speaking to a
priest in the ante-room. Thereupon he, the Minister, hastened forward,
looking much distressed. "Ah! you were waiting, Monseigneur Martha! Come
in, come in quick!"

But with perfect urbanity the Bishop refused. "No, no, Monsieur l'Abbe
Froment was here before me. Pray receive him first."

Monferrand had to give way; he admitted the priest, and speedily dealt
with him. He who usually employed the most diplomatic reserve when he was
in presence of a member of the clergy plumply unfolded the Barthes
business. Pierre had experienced the keenest anguish during the two hours
that he had been waiting there, for he could only explain the letter he
had received by a surmise that the police had discovered his brother's
presence in his house. And so when he heard the Minister simply speak of
Barthes, and declare that the government would rather see him go into
exile than be obliged to imprison him once more, he remained for a moment
quite disconcerted. As the police had been able to discover the old
conspirator in the little house at Neuilly, how was it that they seemed
altogether ignorant of Guillaume's presence there? It was, however, the
usual gap in the genius of great detectives.

"Pray what do you desire of me, Monsieur le Ministre?" said Pierre at
last; "I don't quite understand."

"Why, Monsieur l'Abbe, I leave all this to your sense of prudence. If
that man were still at your house in forty-eight hours from now, we
should be obliged to arrest him there, which would be a source of grief
to us, for we are aware that your residence is the abode of every virtue.
So advise him to leave France. If he does that we shall not trouble him."

Then Monferrand hastily brought Pierre back to the ante-room; and,
smiling and bending low, he said: "Monseigneur, I am entirely at your
disposal. Come in, come in, I beg you."

The prelate, who was gaily chatting with Duvillard and Fonsegue, shook
hands with them, and then with Pierre. In his desire to win all hearts,
he that morning displayed the most perfect graciousness. His bright,
black eyes were all smiles, the whole of his handsome face wore a
caressing expression, and he entered the ministerial sanctum leisurely
and gracefully, with an easy air of conquest.

And now only Monferrand and Monseigneur Martha were left, talking on and
on in the deserted building. Some people had thought that the prelate
wished to become a deputy. But he played a far more useful and lofty part
in governing behind the scenes, in acting as the directing mind of the
Vatican's policy in France. Was not France still the Eldest Daughter of
the Church, the only great nation which might some day restore
omnipotence to the Papacy? For that reason he had accepted the Republic,
preached the duty of "rallying" to it, and inspired the new Catholic
group in the Chamber. And Monferrand, on his side, struck by the progress
of the New Spirit, that reaction of mysticism which flattered itself that
it would bury science, showed the prelate much amiability, like a
strong-handed man who, to ensure his own victory, utilised every force
that was offered him.



IV

THE MAN HUNT

ON the afternoon of that same day such a keen desire for space and the
open air came upon Guillaume, that Pierre consented to accompany him on a
long walk in the Bois de Boulogne. The priest, upon returning from his
interview with Monferrand, had informed his brother that the government
once more wished to get rid of Nicholas Barthes. However, they were so
perplexed as to how they should impart these tidings to the old man, that
they resolved to postpone the matter until the evening. During their walk
they might devise some means of breaking the news in a gentle way. As for
the walk, this seemed to offer no danger; to all appearance Guillaume was
in no wise threatened, so why should he continue hiding? Thus the
brothers sallied forth and entered the Bois by the Sablons gate, which
was the nearest to them.

The last days of March had now come, and the trees were beginning to show
some greenery, so soft and light, however, that one might have thought it
was pale moss or delicate lace hanging between the stems and boughs.
Although the sky remained of an ashen grey, the rain, after falling
throughout the night and morning, had ceased; and exquisite freshness
pervaded that wood now awakening to life once more, with its foliage
dripping in the mild and peaceful atmosphere. The mid-Lent rejoicings had
apparently attracted the populace to the centre of Paris, for in the
avenues one found only the fashionable folks of select days, the people
of society who come thither when the multitude stops away. There were
carriages and gentlemen on horseback; beautiful aristocratic ladies who
had alighted from their broughams or landaus; and wet-nurses with
streaming ribbons, who carried infants wearing the most costly lace. Of
the middle-classes, however, one found only a few matrons living in the
neighbourhood, who sat here and there on the benches busy with embroidery
or watching their children play.

Pierre and Guillaume followed the Allee de Longchamp as far as the road
going from Madrid to the lakes. Then they took their way under the trees,
alongside the little Longchamp rivulet. They wished to reach the lakes,
pass round them, and return home by way of the Maillot gate. But so
charming and peaceful was the deserted plantation through which they
passed, that they yielded to a desire to sit down and taste the delight
of resting amidst all the budding springtide around them. A fallen tree
served them as a bench, and it was possible for them to fancy themselves
far away from Paris, in the depths of some real forest. It was, too, of a
real forest that Guillaume began to think on thus emerging from his long,
voluntary imprisonment. Ah! for the space; and for the health-bringing
air which courses between that forest's branches, that forest of the
world which by right should be man's inalienable domain! However, the
name of Barthes, the perpetual prisoner, came back to Guillaume's lips,
and he sighed mournfully. The thought that there should be even a single
man whose liberty was thus ever assailed, sufficed to poison the pure
atmosphere he breathed.

"What will you say to Barthes?" he asked his brother. "The poor fellow
must necessarily be warned. Exile is at any rate preferable to
imprisonment."

Pierre sadly waved his hand. "Yes, of course, I must warn him. But what a
painful task it is!"

Guillaume made no rejoinder, for at that very moment, in that remote,
deserted nook, where they could fancy themselves at the world's end, a
most extraordinary spectacle was presented to their view. Something or
rather someone leapt out of a thicket and bounded past them. It was
assuredly a man, but one who was so unrecognisable, so miry, so woeful
and so frightful, that he might have been taken for an animal, a boar
that hounds had tracked and forced from his retreat. On seeing the
rivulet, he hesitated for a moment, and then followed its course. But,
all at once, as a sound of footsteps and panting breath drew nearer, he
sprang into the water, which reached his thighs, bounded on to the
further bank, and vanished from sight behind a clump of pines. A moment
afterwards some keepers and policemen rushed by, skirting the rivulet,
and in their turn disappearing. It was a man hunt that had gone past, a
fierce, secret hunt with no display of scarlet or blast of horns athwart
the soft, sprouting foliage.

"Some rascal or other," muttered Pierre. "Ah! the wretched fellow!"

Guillaume made a gesture of discouragement. "Gendarmes and prison!" said
he. "They still constitute society's only schooling system!"

Meantime the man was still running on, farther and farther away.

When, on the previous night, Salvat had suddenly escaped from the
detectives by bounding into the Bois de Boulogne, it had occurred to him
to slip round to the Dauphine gate and there descend into the deep ditch*
of the city ramparts. He remembered days of enforced idleness which he
had spent there, in nooks where, for his own part, he had never met a
living soul. Nowhere, indeed, could one find more secret places of
retreat, hedged round by thicker bushes, or concealed from view by
loftier herbage. Some corners of the ditch, at certain angles of the
massive bastions, are favourite dens or nests for thieves and lovers.
Salvat, as he made his way through the thickest of the brambles, nettles
and ivy, was lucky enough to find a cavity full of dry leaves, in which
he buried himself to the chin. The rain had already drenched him, and
after slipping down the muddy slope, he had frequently been obliged to
grope his way upon all fours. So those dry leaves proved a boon such as
he had not dared to hope for. They dried him somewhat, serving as a
blanket in which he coiled himself after his wild race through the dank
darkness. The rain still fell, but he now only felt it on his head, and,
weary as he was, he gradually sank into deep slumber beneath the
continuous drizzle. When he opened his eyes again, the dawn was breaking,
and it was probably about six o'clock. During his sleep the rain had
ended by soaking the leaves, so that he was now immersed in a kind of
chilly bath. Still he remained in it, feeling that he was there sheltered
from the police, who must now surely be searching for him. None of those
bloodhounds would guess his presence in that hole, for his body was quite
buried, and briers almost completely hid his head. So he did not stir,
but watched the rise of the dawn.

  * This ditch or dry moat is about 30 feet deep and 50 feet wide.
    The counterscarp by which one may descend into it has an angle
    of 45 degrees.--Trans.

When at eight o'clock some policemen and keepers came by, searching the
ditch, they did not perceive him. As he had anticipated, the hunt had
begun at the first glimmer of light. For a time his heart beat violently;
however, nobody else passed, nothing whatever stirred the grass. The only
sounds that reached him were faint ones from the Bois de Boulogne, the
ring of a bicyclist's bell, the thud of a horse's hoofs, the rumble of
carriage wheels. And time went by, nine o'clock came, and then ten
o'clock. Since the rain had ceased falling, Salvat had not suffered so
much from the cold, for he was wearing a thick overcoat which little
Mathis had given him. But, on the other hand, hunger was coming back;
there was a burning sensation in his stomach, and leaden hoops seemed to
be pressing against his ribs. He had eaten nothing for two days; he had
been starving already on the previous evening, when he had accepted a
glass of beer at that tavern at Montmartre. Nevertheless, his plan was to
remain in the ditch until nightfall, and then slip away in the direction
of the village of Boulogne, where he knew of a means of egress from the
wood. He was not caught yet, he repeated, he might still manage to
escape. Then he tried to get to sleep again, but failed, so painful had
his sufferings become. By the time it was eleven, everything swam before
his eyes. He once nearly fainted, and thought that he was going to die.
Then rage gradually mastered him, and, all at once, he sprang out of his
leafy hiding-place, desperately hungering for food, unable to remain
there any longer, and determined to find something to eat, even should it
cost him his liberty and life. It was then noon.

On leaving the ditch he found the spreading lawns of the chateau of La
Muette before him. He crossed them at a run, like a madman, instinctively
going towards Boulogne, with the one idea that his only means of escape
lay in that direction. It seemed miraculous that nobody paid attention to
his helter-skelter flight. However, when he had reached the cover of some
trees he became conscious of his imprudence, and almost regretted the
sudden madness which had borne him along, eager for escape. Trembling
nervously, he bent low among some furze bushes, and waited for a few
minutes to ascertain if the police were behind him. Then with watchful
eye and ready ear, wonderful instinct and scent of danger, he slowly went
his way again. He hoped to pass between the upper lake and the Auteuil
race-course; but there were few trees in that part, and they formed a
broad avenue. He therefore had to exert all his skill in order to avoid
observation, availing himself of the slenderest stems, the smallest
bushes, as screens, and only venturing onward after a lengthy inspection
of his surroundings. Before long the sight of a guard in the distance
revived his fears and detained him, stretched on the ground behind some
brambles, for a full quarter of an hour. Then the approach first of a
cab, whose driver had lost his way, and afterwards of a strolling
pedestrian, in turn sufficed to stop him. He breathed once more, however,
when, after passing the Mortemart hillock, he was able to enter the
thickets lying between the two roads which lead to Boulogne and St.
Cloud. The coppices thereabouts were dense, and he merely had to follow
them, screened from view, in order to reach the outlet he knew of, which
was now near at hand. So he was surely saved.

But all at once, at a distance of some five and thirty yards, he saw a
keeper, erect and motionless, barring his way. He turned slightly to the
left and there perceived another keeper, who also seemed to be awaiting
him. And there were more and more of them; at every fifty paces or so
stood a fresh one, the whole forming a /cordon/, the meshes as it were of
a huge net. The worst was that he must have been perceived, for a light
cry, like the clear call of an owl, rang out, and was repeated farther
and farther off. The hunters were at last on the right scent, prudence
had become superfluous, and it was only by flight that the quarry might
now hope to escape. Salvat understood this so well that he suddenly began
to run, leaping over all obstacles and darting between the trees,
careless whether he were seen or heard. A few bounds carried him across
the Avenue de St. Cloud into the plantations stretching to the Allee de
la Reine Marguerite. There the undergrowth was very dense; in the whole
Bois there are no more closely set thickets. In summer they become one
vast entanglement of verdure, amidst which, had it been the leafy season,
Salvat might well have managed to secrete himself. For a moment he did
find himself alone, and thereupon he halted to listen. He could neither
see nor hear the keepers now. Had they lost his track, then? Profound
quietude reigned under the fresh young foliage. But the light, owlish cry
arose once more, branches cracked, and he resumed his wild flight,
hurrying straight before him. Unluckily he found the Allee de la Reine
Marguerite guarded by policemen, so that he could not cross over, but had
to skirt it without quitting the thickets. And now his back was turned
towards Boulogne; he was retracing his steps towards Paris. However, a
last idea came to his bewildered mind: it was to run on in this wise as
far as the shady spots around Madrid, and then, by stealing from copse to
copse, attempt to reach the Seine. To proceed thither across the bare
expanse of the race-course and training ground was not for a moment to be
thought of.

So Salvat still ran on and on. But on reaching the Allee de Longchamp he
found it guarded like the other roads, and therefore had to relinquish
his plan of escaping by way of Madrid and the river-bank. While he was
perforce making a bend alongside the Pre Catelan, he became aware that
the keepers, led by detectives, were drawing yet nearer to him, confining
his movements to a smaller and smaller area. And his race soon acquired
all the frenzy of despair. Haggard and breathless he leapt mounds, rushed
past multitudinous obstacles. He forced a passage through brambles, broke
down palings, thrice caught his feet in wire work which he had not seen,
and fell among nettles, yet picked himself up went on again, spurred by
the stinging of his hands and face. It was then Guillaume and Pierre saw
him pass, unrecognisable and frightful, taking to the muddy water of the
rivulet like a stag which seeks to set a last obstacle between itself and
the hounds. There came to him a wild idea of getting to the lake, and
swimming, unperceived, to the island in the centre of it. That, he madly
thought, would be a safe retreat, where he might burrow and hide himself
without possibility of discovery. And so he still ran on. But once again
the sight of some guards made him retrace his steps, and he was compelled
to go back and back in the direction of Paris, chased, forced towards the
very fortifications whence he had started that morning. It was now nearly
three in the afternoon. For more than two hours and a half he had been
running.

At last he saw a soft, sandy ride for horsemen before him. He crossed it,
splashing through the mire left by the rain, and reached a little
pathway, a delightful lovers' lane, as shady in summer as any arbour. For
some time he was able to follow it, concealed from observation, and with
his hopes reviving. But it led him to one of those broad, straight
avenues where carriages and bicycles, the whole afternoon pageant of
society, swept past under the mild and cloudy sky. So he returned to the
thickets, fell once more upon the keepers, lost all notion of the
direction he took, and even all power of thought, becoming a mere thing
carried along and thrown hither and thither by the chances of the pursuit
which pressed more and more closely upon him. Star-like crossways
followed one upon other, and at last he came to a broad lawn, where the
full light dazzled him. And there he suddenly felt the hot, panting
breath of his pursuers close in the rear. Eager, hungry breath it was,
like that of hounds seeking to devour him. Shouts rang out, one hand
almost caught hold of him, there was a rush of heavy feet, a scramble to
seize him. But with a supreme effort he leapt upon a bank, crawled to its
summit, rose again, and once more found himself alone, still running on
amid the fresh and quiet greenery.

Nevertheless, this was the end. He almost fell flat upon the ground. His
aching feet could no longer carry him; blood was oozing from his ears,
and froth had come to his mouth. His heart beat with such violence that
it seemed likely to break his ribs. Water and perspiration streamed from
him, he was miry and haggard and tortured by hunger, conquered, in fact,
more by hunger than by fatigue. And through the mist which seemed to have
gathered before his wild eyes, he suddenly saw an open doorway, the
doorway of a coach-house in the rear of a kind of chalet, sequestered
among trees. Excepting a big white cat, which took to flight, there was
not a living creature in the place. Salvat plunged into it and rolled
over on a heap of straw, among some empty casks. He was scarcely hidden
there when he heard the chase sweep by, the detectives and the keepers
losing scent, passing the chalet and rushing in the direction of the
Paris ramparts. The noise of their heavy boots died away, and deep
silence fell, while the hunted man, who had carried both hands to his
heart to stay its beating, sank into the most complete prostration, with
big tears trickling from his closed eyes.

Whilst all this was going on, Pierre and Guillaume, after a brief rest,
had resumed their walk, reaching the lake and proceeding towards the
crossway of the Cascades, in order to return to Neuilly by the road
beyond the water. However, a shower fell, compelling them to take shelter
under the big leafless branches of a chestnut-tree. Then, as the rain
came down more heavily and they could perceive a kind of chalet, a little
cafe-restaurant amid a clump of trees, they hastened thither for better
protection. In a side road, which they passed on their way, they saw a
cab standing, its driver waiting there in philosophical fashion under the
falling shower. Pierre, moreover, noticed a young man stepping out
briskly in front of them, a young man resembling Gerard de Quinsac, who,
whilst walking in the Bois, had no doubt been overtaken by the rain, and
like themselves was seeking shelter in the chalet. However, on entering
the latter's public room, the priest saw no sign of the gentleman, and
concluded that he must have been mistaken. This public room, which had a
kind of glazed verandah overlooking the Bois, contained a few chairs and
tables, the latter with marble tops. On the first floor there were four
or five private rooms reached by a narrow passage. Though the doors were
open the place had as yet scarcely emerged from its winter's rest. There
was nobody about, and on all sides one found the dampness common to
establishments which, from lack of custom, are compelled to close from
November until March. In the rear were some stables, a coach-house, and
various mossy, picturesque outbuildings, which painters and gardeners
would now soon embellish for the gay pleasure parties which the fine
weather would bring.

"I really think that they haven't opened for the season yet," said
Guillaume as he entered the silent house.

"At all events they will let us stay here till the rain stops," answered
Pierre, seating himself at one of the little tables.

However, a waiter suddenly made his appearance seemingly in a great
hurry. He had come down from the first floor, and eagerly rummaged a
cupboard for a few dry biscuits, which he laid upon a plate. At last he
condescended to serve the brothers two glasses of Chartreuse.

In one of the private rooms upstairs Baroness Duvillard, who had driven
to the chalet in a cab, had been awaiting her lover Gerard for nearly
half an hour. It was there that, during the charity bazaar, they had
given each other an appointment. For them the chalet had precious
memories: two years previously, on discovering that secluded nest, which
was so deserted in the early, hesitating days of chilly spring, they had
met there under circumstances which they could not forget. And the
Baroness, in choosing the house for the supreme assignation of their
dying passion, had certainly not been influenced merely by a fear that
she might be spied upon elsewhere. She had, indeed, thought of the first
kisses that had been showered on her there, and would fain have revived
them even if they should now prove the last that Gerard would bestow on
her.

But she would also have liked to see some sunlight playing over the
youthful foliage. The ashen sky and threatening rain saddened her. And
when she entered the private room she did not recognise it, so cold and
dim it seemed with its faded furniture. Winter had tarried there, with
all the dampness and mouldy smell peculiar to rooms which have long
remained closed. Then, too, some of the wall paper which had come away
from the plaster hung down in shreds, dead flies were scattered over the
parquetry flooring; and in order to open the shutters the waiter had to
engage in a perfect fight with their fastenings. However, when he had
lighted a little gas-stove, which at once flamed up and diffused some
warmth, the room became more cosy.

Eve had seated herself on a chair, without raising the thick veil which
hid her face. Gowned, gloved, and bonneted in black, as if she were
already in mourning for her last passion, she showed naught of her own
person save her superb fair hair, which glittered like a helm of tawny
gold. She had ordered tea for two, and when the waiter brought it with a
little plateful of dry biscuits, left, no doubt, from the previous
season, he found her in the same place, still veiled and motionless,
absorbed, it seemed, in a gloomy reverie. If she had reached the cafe
half an hour before the appointed time it was because she desired some
leisure and opportunity to overcome her despair and compose herself. She
resolved that of all things she would not weep, that she would remain
dignified and speak calmly, like one who, whatever rights she might
possess, preferred to appeal to reason only. And she was well pleased
with the courage that she found within her. Whilst thinking of what she
should say to dissuade Gerard from a marriage which to her mind would
prove both a calamity and a blunder, she fancied herself very calm,
indeed almost resigned to whatsoever might happen.

But all at once she started and began to tremble. Gerard was entering the
room.

"What! are you here the first, my dear?" he exclaimed. "I thought that I
myself was ten minutes before the time! And you've ordered some tea and
are waiting for me!"

He forced a smile as he spoke, striving to display the same delight at
seeing her as he had shown in the early golden days of their passion. But
at heart he was much embarrassed, and he shuddered at the thought of the
awful scene which he could foresee.

She had at last risen and raised her veil. And looking at him she
stammered: "Yes, I found myself at liberty earlier than I expected. . . .
I feared some impediment might arise . . . and so I came."

Then, seeing how handsome and how affectionate he still looked, she could
not restrain her passion. All her skilful arguments, all her fine
resolutions, were swept away. Her flesh irresistibly impelled her towards
him; she loved him, she would keep him, she would never surrender him to
another. And she wildly flung her arms around his neck.

"Oh! Gerard, Gerard! I suffer too cruelly; I cannot, I cannot bear it!
Tell me at once that you will not marry her, that you will never marry
her!"

Her voice died away in a sob, tears started from her eyes. Ah! those
tears which she had sworn she would never shed! They gushed forth without
cessation, they streamed from her lovely eyes like a flood of the
bitterest grief.

"My daughter, O God! What! you would marry my daughter! She, here, on
your neck where I am now! No, no, such torture is past endurance, it must
not be, I will not have it!"

He shivered as he heard that cry of frantic jealousy raised by a mother
who now was but a woman, maddened by the thought of her rival's youth,
those five and twenty summers which she herself had left far behind. For
his part, on his way to the assignation, he had come to what he thought
the most sensible decision, resolving to break off the intercourse after
the fashion of a well-bred man, with all sorts of fine consolatory
speeches. But sternness was not in his nature. He was weak and
soft-hearted, and had never been able to withstand a woman's tears.
Nevertheless, he endeavoured to calm her, and in order to rid himself of
her embrace, he made her sit down upon the sofa. And there, beside her,
he replied: "Come, be reasonable, my dear. We came here to have a
friendly chat, did we not? I assure you that you are greatly exaggerating
matters."

But she was determined to obtain a more positive answer from him. "No,
no!" she retorted, "I am suffering too dreadfully, I must know the truth
at once. Swear to me that you will never, never marry her!"

He again endeavoured to avoid replying as she wished him to do. "Come,
come," he said, "you will do yourself harm by giving way to such grief as
this; you know that I love you dearly."

"Then swear to me that you will never, never marry her."

"But I tell you that I love you, that you are the only one I love."

Then she again threw her arms around him, and kissed him passionately
upon the eyes. "Is it true?" she asked in a transport. "You love me, you
love no one else? Oh! tell me so again, and kiss me, and promise me that
you will never belong to her."

Weak as he was he could not resist her ardent caresses and pressing
entreaties. There came a moment of supreme cowardice and passion; her
arms were around him and he forgot all but her, again and again repeating
that he loved none other, and would never, never marry her daughter. At
last he even sank so low as to pretend that he simply regarded that poor,
infirm creature with pity. His words of compassionate disdain for her
rival were like nectar to Eve, for they filled her with the blissful idea
that it was she herself who would ever remain beautiful in his eyes and
whom he would ever love. . . .

At last silence fell between them, like an inevitable reaction after such
a tempest of despair and passion. It disturbed Gerard. "Won't you drink
some tea?" he asked. "It is almost cold already."

She was not listening, however. To her the reaction had come in a
different form; and as though the inevitable explanation were only now
commencing, she began to speak in a sad and weary voice. "My dear Gerard,
you really cannot marry my daughter. In the first place it would be so
wrong, and then there is the question of your name, your position.
Forgive my frankness, but the fact is that everybody would say that you
had sold yourself--such a marriage would be a scandal for both your
family and mine."

As she spoke she took hold of his hands, like a mother seeking to prevent
her big son from committing some terrible blunder. And he listened to
her, with bowed head and averted eyes. She now evinced no anger, no
jealous rage; all such feelings seemed to have departed with the rapture
of her passion.

"Just think of what people would say," she continued. "I don't deceive
myself, I am fully aware that there is an abyss between your circle of
society and ours. It is all very well for us to be rich, but money simply
enlarges the gap. And it was all very fine for me to be converted, my
daughter is none the less 'the daughter of the Jewess,' as folks so often
say. Ah! my Gerard, I am so proud of you, that it would rend my heart to
see you lowered, degraded almost, by a marriage for money with a girl who
is deformed, who is unworthy of you and whom you could never love."

He raised his eyes and looked at her entreatingly, anxious as he was to
be spared such painful talk. "But haven't I sworn to you, that you are
the only one I love?" he said. "Haven't I sworn that I would never marry
her! It's all over. Don't let us torture ourselves any longer."

Their glances met and lingered on one another, instinct with all the
misery which they dared not express in words. Eve's face had suddenly
aged; her eyelids were red and swollen, and blotches marbled her
quivering cheeks, down which her tears again began to trickle. "My poor,
poor Gerard," said she, "how heavily I weigh on you. Oh! do not deny it!
I feel that I am an intolerable burden on your shoulders, an impediment
in your life, and that I shall bring irreparable disaster on you by my
obstinacy in wishing you to be mine alone."

He tried to speak, but she silenced him. "No, no, all is over between us.
I am growing ugly, all is ended. And besides, I shut off the future from
you. I can be of no help to you, whereas you bestow all on me. And yet
the time has come for you to assure yourself a position. At your age you
can't continue living without any certainty of the morrow, without a home
and hearth of your own; and it would be cowardly and cruel of me to set
myself up as an obstacle, and prevent you from ending your life happily,
as I should do if I clung to you and dragged you down with me."

Gazing at him through her tears she continued speaking in this fashion.
Like his mother she was well aware that he was weak and even sickly; and
she therefore dreamt of arranging a quiet life for him, a life of
tranquil happiness free from all fear of want. She loved him so fondly;
and possessed so much genuine kindness of heart that perhaps it might be
possible for her to rise even to renunciation and sacrifice. Moreover,
the very egotism born of her beauty suggested that it might be well for
her to think of retirement and not allow the autumn of her life to be
spoilt by torturing dramas. All this she said to him, treating him like a
child whose happiness she wished to ensure even at the price of her own;
and he, his eyes again lowered, listened without further protest, pleased
indeed to let her arrange a happy life for him.

Examining the situation from every aspect, she at last began to
recapitulate the points in favour of that abominable marriage, the
thought of which had so intensely distressed her. "It is certain," she
said, "that Camille would bring you all that I should like you to have.
With her, I need hardly say it, would come plenty, affluence. And as for
the rest, well, I do not wish to excuse myself or you, but I could name
twenty households in which there have been worse things. Besides, I was
wrong when I said that money opened a gap between people. On the
contrary, it draws them nearer together, it secures forgiveness for every
fault; so nobody would dare to blame you, there would only be jealous
ones around you, dazzled by your good fortune."

Gerard rose, apparently rebelling once more. "Surely," said he, "/you/
don't insist on my marrying your daughter?"

"Ah! no indeed! But I am sensible, and I tell you what I ought to tell
you. You must think it all over."

"I have done so already. It is you that I have loved, and that I love
still. What you say is impossible."

She smiled divinely, rose, and again embraced him. "How good and kind you
are, my Gerard. Ah! if you only knew how I love you, how I shall always
love you, whatever happens."

Then she again began to weep, and even he shed tears. Their good faith
was absolute; tender of heart as they were, they sought to delay the
painful wrenching and tried to hope for further happiness. But they were
conscious that the marriage was virtually an accomplished fact. Only
tears and words were left them, while life and destiny were marching on.
And if their emotion was so acute it was probably because they felt that
this was the last time they would meet as lovers. Still they strove to
retain the illusion that they were not exchanging their last farewell,
that their lips would some day meet again in a kiss of rapture.

Eve removed her arms from the young man's neck, and they both gazed round
the room, at the sofa, the table, the four chairs, and the little hissing
gas-stove. The moist, hot atmosphere was becoming quite oppressive.

"And so," said Gerard, "you won't drink a cup of tea?"

"No, it's so horrid here," she answered, while arranging her hair in
front of the looking-glass.

At that parting moment the mournfulness of this place, where she had
hoped to find such delightful memories, filled her with distress, which
was turning to positive anguish, when she suddenly heard an uproar of
gruff voices and heavy feet. People were hastening along the passage and
knocking at the doors. And, on darting to the window, she perceived a
number of policemen surrounding the chalet. At this the wildest ideas
assailed her. Had her daughter employed somebody to follow her? Did her
husband wish to divorce her so as to marry Silviane? The scandal would be
awful, and all her plans must crumble! She waited in dismay, white like a
ghost; while Gerard, also paling and quivering, begged her to be calm. At
last, when loud blows were dealt upon the door and a Commissary of Police
enjoined them to open it, they were obliged to do so. Ah! what a moment,
and what dismay and shame!

Meantime, for more than an hour, Pierre and Guillaume had been waiting
for the rain to cease. Seated in a corner of the glazed verandah they
talked in undertones of Barthes' painful affair, and ultimately decided
to ask Theophile Morin to dine with them on the following evening, and
inform his old friend that he must again go into exile.

"That is the best course," repeated Guillaume. "Morin is very fond of him
and will know how to break the news. I have no doubt too that he will go
with him as far as the frontier."

Pierre sadly looked at the falling rain. "Ah! what a choice," said he,
"to be ever driven to a foreign land under penalty of being thrust into
prison. Poor fellow! how awful it is to have never known a moment of
happiness and gaiety in one's life, to have devoted one's whole existence
to the idea of liberty, and to see it scoffed at and expire with
oneself!"

Then the priest paused, for he saw several policemen and keepers approach
the cafe and prowl round it. Having lost scent of the man they were
hunting, they had retraced their steps with the conviction no doubt that
he had sought refuge in the chalet. And in order that he might not again
escape them, they now took every precaution, exerted all their skill in
surrounding the place before venturing on a minute search. Covert fear
came upon Pierre and Guillaume when they noticed these proceedings. It
seemed to them that it must all be connected with the chase which they
had caught a glimpse of some time previously. Still, as they happened to
be in the chalet they might be called upon to give their names and
addresses. At this thought they glanced at one another, and almost made
up their minds to go off under the rain. But they realised that anything
like flight might only compromise them the more. So they waited; and all
at once there came a diversion, for two fresh customers entered the
establishment.

A victoria with its hood and apron raised had just drawn up outside the
door. The first to alight from it was a young, well-dressed man with a
bored expression of face. He was followed by a young woman who was
laughing merrily, as if much amused by the persistence of the downpour.
By way of jesting, indeed, she expressed her regret that she had not come
to the Bois on her bicycle, whereupon her companion retorted that to
drive about in a deluge appeared to him the height of idiocy.

"But we were bound to go somewhere, my dear fellow," she gaily answered.
"Why didn't you take me to see the maskers?"

"The maskers, indeed! No, no, my dear. I prefer the Bois, and even the
bottom of the lake, to them."

Then, as the couple entered the chalet, Pierre saw that the young woman
who made merry over the rain was little Princess Rosemonde, while her
companion, who regarded the mid-Lent festivities as horrible, and
bicycling as an utterly unaesthetic amusement, was handsome Hyacinthe
Duvillard. On the previous evening, while they were taking a cup of tea
together on their return from the Chamber of Horrors, the young man had
responded to the Princess's blandishments by declaring that the only form
of attachment he believed in was a mystic union of intellects and souls.
And as such a union could only be fittingly arrived at amidst the cold,
chaste snow, they had decided that they would start for Christiania on
the following Monday. Their chief regret was that by the time they
reached the fiords the worst part of the northern winter would be over.

They sat down in the cafe and ordered some kummel, but there was none,
said the waiter, so they had to content themselves with common anisette.
Then Hyacinthe, who had been a schoolfellow of Guillaume's sons,
recognised both him and Pierre; and leaning towards Rosemonde told her in
a whisper who the elder brother was.

Thereupon, with sudden enthusiasm, she sprang to her feet: "Guillaume
Froment, indeed! the great chemist!" And stepping forward with arm
outstretched, she continued: "Ah! monsieur, you must excuse me, but I
really must shake hands with you. I have so much admiration for you! You
have done such wonderful work in connection with explosives!" Then,
noticing the chemist's astonishment, she again burst into a laugh: "I am
the Princess de Harn, your brother Abbe Froment knows me, and I ought to
have asked him to introduce me. However, we have mutual friends, you and
I; for instance, Monsieur Janzen, a very distinguished man, as you are
aware. He was to have taken me to see you, for I am a modest disciple of
yours. Yes, I have given some attention to chemistry, oh! from pure zeal
for truth and in the hope of helping good causes, not otherwise. So you
will let me call on you--won't you?--directly I come back from
Christiania, where I am going with my young friend here, just to acquire
some experience of unknown emotions."

In this way she rattled on, never allowing the others an opportunity to
say a word. And she mingled one thing with another; her cosmopolitan
tastes, which had thrown her into Anarchism and the society of shady
adventurers; her new passion for mysticism and symbolism; her belief that
the ideal must triumph over base materialism; her taste for aesthetic
verse; and her dream of some unimagined rapture when Hyacinthe should
kiss her with his frigid lips in a realm of eternal snow.

All at once, however, she stopped short and again began to laugh. "Dear
me!" she exclaimed. "What are those policemen looking for here? Have they
come to arrest us? How amusing it would be!"

Police Commissary Dupot and detective Mondesir had just made up their
minds to search the cafe, as their men had hitherto failed to find Salvat
in any of the outbuildings. They were convinced that he was here. Dupot,
a thin, bald, short-sighted, spectacled little man, wore his usual
expression of boredom and weariness; but in reality he was very wide
awake and extremely courageous. He himself carried no weapons; but, as he
anticipated a most violent resistance, such as might be expected from a
trapped wolf, he advised Mondesir to have his revolver ready. From
considerations of hierarchical respect, however, the detective, who with
his snub nose and massive figure had much the appearance of a bull-dog,
was obliged to let his superior enter first.

From behind his spectacles the Commissary of Police quickly scrutinized
the four customers whom he found in the cafe: the lady, the priest, and
the two other men. And passing them in a disdainful way, he at once made
for the stairs, intending to inspect the upper floor. Thereupon the
waiter, frightened by the sudden intrusion of the police, lost his head
and stammered: "But there's a lady and gentleman upstairs in one of the
private rooms."

Dupot quietly pushed him aside. "A lady and gentleman, that's not what we
are looking for. . . . Come, make haste, open all the doors, you mustn't
leave a cupboard closed."

Then climbing to the upper floor, he and Mondesir explored in turn every
apartment and corner till they at last reached the room where Eve and
Gerard were together. Here the waiter was unable to admit them, as the
door was bolted inside. "Open the door!" he called through the keyhole,
"it isn't you that they want!"

At last the bolt was drawn back, and Dupot, without even venturing to
smile, allowed the trembling lady and gentleman to go downstairs, while
Mondesir, entering the room, looked under every article of furniture, and
even peeped into a little cupboard in order that no neglect might be
imputed to him.

Meantime, in the public room which they had to cross after descending the
stairs, Eve and Gerard experienced fresh emotion; for people whom they
knew were there, brought together by an extraordinary freak of chance.
Although Eve's face was hidden by a thick veil, her eyes met her son's
glance and she felt sure that he recognised her. What a fatality! He had
so long a tongue and told his sister everything! Then, as the Count, in
despair at such a scandal, hurried off with the Baroness to conduct her
through the pouring rain to her cab, they both distinctly heard little
Princess Rosemonde exclaim: "Why, that was Count de Quinsac! Who was the
lady, do you know?" And as Hyacinthe, greatly put out, returned no
answer, she insisted, saying: "Come, you must surely know her. Who was
she, eh?"

"Oh! nobody. Some woman or other," he ended by replying.

Pierre, who had understood the truth, turned his eyes away to hide his
embarrassment. But all at once the scene changed. At the very moment when
Commissary Dupot and detective Mondesir came downstairs again, after
vainly exploring the upper floor, a loud shout was raised outside,
followed by a noise of running and scrambling. Then Gascogne, the Chief
of the Detective Force, who had remained in the rear of the chalet,
continuing the search through the outbuildings, made his appearance,
pushing before him a bundle of rags and mud, which two policemen held on
either side. And this bundle was the man, the hunted man, who had just
been discovered in the coach-house, inside a staved cask, covered with
hay.

Ah! what a whoop of victory there was after that run of two hours'
duration, that frantic chase which had left them all breathless and
footsore! It had been the most exciting, the most savage of all sports--a
man hunt! They had caught the man at last, and they pushed him, they
dragged him, they belaboured him with blows. And he, the man, what a
sorry prey he looked! A wreck, wan and dirty from having spent the night
in a hole full of leaves, still soaked to his waist from having rushed
through a stream, drenched too by the rain, bespattered with mire, his
coat and trousers in tatters, his cap a mere shred, his legs and hands
bleeding from his terrible rush through thickets bristling with brambles
and nettles. There no longer seemed anything human about his face; his
hair stuck to his moist temples, his bloodshot eyes protruded from their
sockets; fright, rage, and suffering were all blended on his wasted,
contracted face. Still it was he, the man, the quarry, and they gave him
another push, and he sank on one of the tables of the little cafe, still
held and shaken, however, by the rough hands of the policemen.

Then Guillaume shuddered as if thunderstruck, and caught hold of Pierre's
hand. At this the priest, who was looking on, suddenly understood the
truth and also quivered. Salvat! the man was Salvat! It was Salvat whom
they had seen rushing through the wood like a wild boar forced by the
hounds. And it was Salvat who was there, now conquered and simply a
filthy bundle. Then once more there came to Pierre, amidst his anguish, a
vision of the errand girl lying yonder at the entrance of the Duvillard
mansion, the pretty fair-haired girl whom the bomb had ripped and killed!

Dupot and Mondesir made haste to participate in Gascogne's triumph. To
tell the truth, however, the man had offered no resistance; it was like a
lamb that he had let the police lay hold of him. And since he had been in
the cafe, still roughly handled, he had simply cast a weary and mournful
glance around him.

At last he spoke, and the first words uttered by his hoarse, gasping
voice were these: "I am hungry."

He was sinking with hunger and weariness. This was the third day that he
had eaten nothing.

"Give him some bread," said Commissary Dupot to the waiter. "He can eat
it while a cab is being fetched."

A policeman went off to find a vehicle. The rain had suddenly ceased
falling, the clear ring of a bicyclist's bell was heard in the distance,
some carriages drove by, and under the pale sunrays life again came back
to the Bois.

Meantime, Salvat had fallen gluttonously upon the hunk of bread which had
been given him, and whilst he was devouring it with rapturous animal
satisfaction, he perceived the four customers seated around. He seemed
irritated by the sight of Hyacinthe and Rosemonde, whose faces expressed
the mingled anxiety and delight they felt at thus witnessing the arrest
of some bandit or other. But all at once his mournful, bloodshot eyes
wavered, for to his intense surprise he had recognised Pierre and
Guillaume. When he again looked at the latter it was with the submissive
affection of a grateful dog, and as if he were once more promising that
he would divulge nothing, whatever might happen.

At last he again spoke, as if addressing himself like a man of courage,
both to Guillaume, from whom he had averted his eyes, and to others also,
his comrades who were not there: "It was silly of me to run," said he. "I
don't know why I did so. It's best that it should be all ended. I'm
ready."



V

THE GAME OF POLITICS

ON reading the newspapers on the following morning Pierre and Guillaume
were greatly surprised at not finding in them the sensational accounts of
Salvat's arrest which they had expected. All they could discover was a
brief paragraph in a column of general news, setting forth that some
policemen on duty in the Bois de Boulogne had there arrested an
Anarchist, who was believed to have played a part in certain recent
occurrences. On the other hand, the papers gave a deal of space to the
questions raised by Sagnier's fresh denunciations. There were innumerable
articles on the African Railways scandal, and the great debate which
might be expected at the Chamber of Deputies, should Mege, the Socialist
member, really renew his interpellation, as he had announced his
intention of doing.

As Guillaume's wrist was now fast healing, and nothing seemed to threaten
him, he had already, on the previous evening, decided that he would
return to Montmartre. The police had passed him by without apparently
suspecting any responsibility on his part; and he was convinced that
Salvat would keep silent. Pierre, however, begged him to wait a little
longer, at any rate until the prisoner should have been interrogated by
the investigating magistrate, by which time they would be able to judge
the situation more clearly. Pierre, moreover, during his long stay at the
Home Department on the previous morning, had caught a glimpse of certain
things and overheard certain words which made him suspect some dim
connection between Salvat's crime and the parliamentary crisis; and he
therefore desired a settlement of the latter before Guillaume returned to
his wonted life.

"Just listen," he said to his brother. "I am going to Morin's to ask him
to come and dine here this evening, for it is absolutely necessary that
Barthes should be warned of the fresh blow which is falling on him. And
then I think I shall go to the Chamber, as I want to know what takes
place there. After that, since you desire it, I will let you go back to
your own home."

It was not more than half-past one when Pierre reached the
Palais-Bourbon. It had occurred to him that Fonsegue would be able to
secure him admittance to the meeting-hall, but in the vestibule he met
General de Bozonnet, who happened to possess a couple of tickets. A
friend of his, who was to have accompanied him, had, at the last moment,
been unable to come. So widespread was the curiosity concerning the
debate now near at hand, and so general were the predictions that it
would prove a most exciting one, that the demand for tickets had been
extremely keen during the last twenty-four hours. In fact Pierre would
never have been able to obtain admittance if the General had not
good-naturedly offered to take him in. As a matter of fact the old
warrior was well pleased to have somebody to chat with. He explained that
he had simply come there to kill time, just as he might have killed it at
a concert or a charity bazaar. However, like the ex-Legitimist and
Bonapartist that he was, he had really come for the pleasure of feasting
his eyes on the shameful spectacle of parliamentary ignominy.

When the General and Pierre had climbed the stairs, they were able to
secure two front seats in one of the public galleries. Little Massot, who
was already there, and who knew them both, placed one of them on his
right and the other on his left. "I couldn't find a decent seat left in
the press gallery," said he, "but I managed to get this place, from which
I shall be able to see things properly. It will certainly be a big
sitting. Just look at the number of people there are on every side!"

The narrow and badly arranged galleries were packed to overflowing. There
were men of every age and a great many women too in the confused, serried
mass of spectators, amidst which one only distinguished a multiplicity of
pale white faces. The real scene, however, was down below in the
meeting-hall, which was as yet empty, and with its rows of seats disposed
in semi-circular fashion looked like the auditorium of a theatre. Under
the cold light which fell from the glazed roofing appeared the solemn,
shiny tribune, whence members address the Chamber, whilst behind it, on a
higher level, and running right along the rear wall, was what is called
the Bureau, with its various tables and seats, including the presidential
armchair. The Bureau, like the tribune, was still unoccupied. The only
persons one saw there were a couple of attendants who were laying out new
pens and filling inkstands.

"The women," said Massot with a laugh, after another glance at the
galleries, "come here just as they might come to a menagerie, that is, in
the secret hope of seeing wild beasts devour one another. But, by the
way, did you read the article in the 'Voix du Peuple' this morning? What
a wonderful fellow that Sagnier is. When nobody else can find any filth
left, he manages to discover some. He apparently thinks it necessary to
add something new every day, in order to send his sales up. And of course
it all disturbs the public, and it's thanks to him that so many people
have come here in the hope of witnessing some horrid scene."

Then he laughed again, as he asked Pierre if he had read an unsigned
article in the "Globe," which in very dignified but perfidious language
had called upon Barroux to give the full and frank explanations which the
country had a right to demand in that matter of the African Railways.
This paper had hitherto vigorously supported the President of the
Council, but in the article in question the coldness which precedes a
rupture was very apparent. Pierre replied that the article had much
surprised him, for he had imagined that Fonsegue and Barroux were linked
together by identity of views and long-standing personal friendship.

Massot was still laughing. "Quite so," said he. "And you may be sure that
the governor's heart bled when he wrote that article. It has been much
noticed, and it will do the government a deal of harm. But the governor,
you see, knows better than anybody else what line he ought to follow to
save both his own position and the paper's."

Then he related what extraordinary confusion and emotion reigned among
the deputies in the lobbies through which he had strolled before coming
upstairs to secure a seat. After an adjournment of a couple of days the
Chamber found itself confronted by this terrible scandal, which was like
one of those conflagrations which, at the moment when they are supposed
to be dying out, suddenly flare up again and devour everything. The
various figures given in Sagnier's list, the two hundred thousand francs
paid to Barroux, the eighty thousand handed to Monferrand, the fifty
thousand allotted to Fonsegue, the ten thousand pocketed by Duthil, and
the three thousand secured by Chaigneux, with all the other amounts
distributed among So-and-so and So-and-so, formed the general subject of
conversation. And at the same time some most extraordinary stories were
current; there was no end of tittle-tattle in which fact and falsehood
were so inextricably mingled that everybody was at sea as to the real
truth. Whilst many deputies turned pale and trembled as beneath a blast
of terror, others passed by purple with excitement, bursting with
delight, laughing with exultation at the thought of coming victory. For,
in point of fact, beneath all the assumed indignation, all the calls for
parliamentary cleanliness and morality, there simply lay a question of
persons--the question of ascertaining whether the government would be
overthrown, and in that event of whom the new administration would
consist. Barroux no doubt appeared to be in a bad way; but with things in
such a muddle one was bound to allow a margin for the unexpected. From
what was generally said it seemed certain that Mege would be extremely
violent. Barroux would answer him, and the Minister's friends declared
that he was determined to speak out in the most decisive manner. As for
Monferrand he would probably address the Chamber after his colleague, but
Vignon's intentions were somewhat doubtful, as, in spite of his delight,
he made a pretence of remaining in the back, ground. He had been seen
going from one to another of his partisans, advising them to keep calm,
in order that they might retain the cold, keen /coup d'oeil/ which in
warfare generally decides the victory. Briefly, such was the plotting and
intriguing that never had any witch's cauldron brimful of drugs and
nameless abominations been set to boil on a more hellish fire than that
of this parliamentary cook-shop.

"Heaven only knows what they will end by serving us," said little Massot
by way of conclusion.

General de Bozonnet for his part anticipated nothing but disaster. If
France had only possessed an army, said he, one might have swept away
that handful of bribe-taking parliamentarians who preyed upon the country
and rotted it. But there was no army left, there was merely an armed
nation, a very different thing. And thereupon, like a man of a past age
whom the present times distracted, he started on what had been his
favourite subject of complaint ever since he had been retired from the
service.

"Here's an idea for an article if you want one," he said to Massot.
"Although France may have a million soldiers she hasn't got an army. I'll
give you some notes of mine, and you will be able to tell people the
truth."

Warfare, he continued, ought to be purely and simply a caste occupation,
with commanders designated by divine right, leading mercenaries or
volunteers into action. By democratising warfare people had simply killed
it; a circumstance which he deeply regretted, like a born soldier who
regarded fighting as the only really noble occupation that life offered.
For, as soon as it became every man's duty to fight, none was willing to
do so; and thus compulsory military service--what was called "the nation
in arms"--would, at a more or less distant date, certainly bring about
the end of warfare. If France had not engaged in a European war since
1870 this was precisely due to the fact that everybody in France was
ready to fight. But rulers hesitated to throw a whole nation against
another nation, for the loss both in life and treasure would be
tremendous. And so the thought that all Europe was transformed into a
vast camp filled the General with anger and disgust. He sighed for the
old times when men fought for the pleasure of the thing, just as they
hunted; whereas nowadays people were convinced that they would
exterminate one another at the very first engagement.

"But surely it wouldn't be an evil if war should disappear," Pierre
gently remarked.

This somewhat angered the General. "Well, you'll have pretty nations if
people no longer fight," he answered, and then trying to show a practical
spirit, he added: "Never has the art of war cost more money than since
war itself has become an impossibility. The present-day defensive peace
is purely and simply ruining every country in Europe. One may be spared
defeat, but utter bankruptcy is certainly at the end of it all. And in
any case the profession of arms is done for. All faith in it is dying
out, and it will soon be forsaken, just as men have begun to forsake the
priesthood."

Thereupon he made a gesture of mingled grief and anger, almost cursing
that parliament, that Republican legislature before him, as if he
considered it responsible for the future extinction of warfare. But
little Massot was wagging his head dubiously, for he regarded the subject
as rather too serious a one for him to write upon. And, all at once, in
order to turn the conversation into another channel, he exclaimed: "Ah!
there's Monseigneur Martha in the diplomatic gallery beside the Spanish
Ambassador. It's denied, you know, that he intends to come forward as a
candidate in Morbihan. He's far too shrewd to wish to be a deputy. He
already pulls the strings which set most of the Catholic deputies who
have 'rallied' to the Republican Government in motion."

Pierre himself had just noticed Monseigneur Martha's smiling face. And,
somehow or other, however modest might be the prelate's demeanour, it
seemed to him that he really played an important part in what was going
on. He could hardly take his eyes from him. It was as if he expected that
he would suddenly order men hither and thither, and direct the whole
march of events.

"Ah!" said Massot again. "Here comes Mege. It won't be long now before
the sitting begins."

The hall, down below, was gradually filling. Deputies entered and
descended the narrow passages between the benches. Most of them remained
standing and chatting in a more or less excited way; but some seated
themselves and raised their grey, weary faces to the glazed roof. It was
a cloudy afternoon, and rain was doubtless threatening, for the light
became quite livid. If the hall was pompous it was also dismal with its
heavy columns, its cold allegorical statues, and its stretches of bare
marble and woodwork. The only brightness was that of the red velvet of
the benches and the gallery hand-rests.

Every deputy of any consequence who entered was named by Massot to his
companions. Mege, on being stopped by another member of the little
Socialist group, began to fume and gesticulate. Then Vignon, detaching
himself from a group of friends and putting on an air of smiling
composure, descended the steps towards his seat. The occupants of the
galleries, however, gave most attention to the accused members, those
whose names figured in Sagnier's list. And these were interesting
studies. Some showed themselves quite sprightly, as if they were entirely
at their ease; but others had assumed a most grave and indignant
demeanour. Chaigneux staggered and hesitated as if beneath the weight of
some frightful act of injustice; whereas Duthil looked perfectly serene
save for an occasional twitch of his lips. The most admired, however, was
Fonsegue, who showed so candid a face, so open a glance, that his
colleagues as well as the spectators might well have declared him
innocent. Nobody indeed could have looked more like an honest man.

"Ah! there's none like the governor," muttered Massot with enthusiasm.
"But be attentive, for here come the ministers. One mustn't miss Barroux'
meeting with Fonsegue, after this morning's article."

Chance willed it that as Barroux came along with his head erect, his face
pale, and his whole demeanour aggressive, he was obliged to pass Fonsegue
in order to reach the ministerial bench. In doing so he did not speak to
him, but he gazed at him fixedly like one who is conscious of defection,
of a cowardly stab in the back on the part of a traitor. Fonsegue seemed
quite at ease, and went on shaking hands with one and another of his
colleagues as if he were altogether unconscious of Barroux' glance. Nor
did he even appear to see Monferrand, who walked by in the rear of the
Prime Minister, wearing a placid good-natured air, as if he knew nothing
of what was impending, but was simply coming to some ordinary humdrum
sitting. However, when he reached his seat, he raised his eyes and smiled
at Monseigneur Martha, who gently nodded to him. Then well pleased to
think that things were going as he wished them to go, he began to rub his
hands, as he often did by way of expressing his satisfaction.

"Who is that grey-haired, mournful-looking gentleman on the ministerial
bench?" Pierre inquired of Massot.

"Why, that's Taboureau, the Minister of Public Instruction, the excellent
gentleman who is said to have no prestige. One's always hearing of him,
and one never recognises him; he looks like an old, badly worn coin. Just
like Barroux he can't feel very well pleased with the governor this
afternoon, for to-day's 'Globe' contained an article pointing out his
thorough incapacity in everything concerning the fine arts. It was an
article in measured language, but all the more effective for that very
reason. It would surprise me if Taboureau should recover from it."

Just then a low roll of drums announced the arrival of the President and
other officials of the Chamber. A door opened, and a little procession
passed by amidst an uproar of exclamations and hasty footsteps. Then,
standing at his table, the President rang his bell and declared the
sitting open. But few members remained silent, however, whilst one of the
secretaries, a dark, lanky young man with a harsh voice, read the minutes
of the previous sitting. When they had been adopted, various letters of
apology for non-attendance were read, and a short, unimportant bill was
passed without discussion. And then came the big affair, Mege's
interpellation, and at once the whole Chamber was in a flutter, while the
most passionate curiosity reigned in the galleries above. On the
Government consenting to the interpellation, the Chamber decided that the
debate should take place at once. And thereupon complete silence fell,
save that now and again a brief quiver sped by, in which one could detect
the various feelings, passions and appetites swaying the assembly.

Mege began to speak with assumed moderation, carefully setting forth the
various points at issue. Tall and thin, gnarled and twisted like a
vine-stock, he rested his hands on the tribune as if to support his bent
figure, and his speech was often interrupted by the little dry cough
which came from the tuberculosis that was burning him. But his eyes
sparkled with passion behind his glasses, and little by little his voice
rose in piercing accents and he drew his lank figure erect and began to
gesticulate vehemently. He reminded the Chamber that some two months
previously, at the time of the first denunciations published by the "Voix
du Peuple," he had asked leave to interpellate the Government respecting
that deplorable affair of the African Railways; and he remarked, truly
enough, that if the Chamber had not yielded to certain considerations
which he did not wish to discuss, and had not adjourned his proposed
inquiries, full light would long since have been thrown on the whole
affair, in such wise that there would have been no revival, no increase
of the scandal, and no possible pretext for that abominable campaign of
denunciation which tortured and disgusted the country. However, it had at
last been understood that silence could be maintained no longer. It was
necessary that the two ministers who were so loudly accused of having
abused their trusts, should prove their innocence, throw full light upon
all they had done; apart from which the Chamber itself could not possibly
remain beneath the charge of wholesale venality.

Then he recounted the whole history of the affair, beginning with the
grant of a concession for the African Lines to Baron Duvillard; and next
passing to the proposals for the issue of lottery stock, which proposals,
it was now said, had only been sanctioned by the Chamber after the most
shameful bargaining and buying of votes. At this point Mege became
extremely violent. Speaking of that mysterious individual Hunter, Baron
Duvillard's recruiter and go-between, he declared that the police had
allowed him to flee from France, much preferring to spend its time in
shadowing Socialist deputies. Then, hammering the tribune with his fist,
he summoned Barroux to give a categorical denial to the charges brought
against him, and to make it absolutely clear that he had never received a
single copper of the two hundred thousand francs specified in Hunter's
list. Forthwith certain members shouted to Mege that he ought to read the
whole list; but when he wished to do so others vociferated that it was
abominable, that such a mendacious and slanderous document ought not to
be accorded a place in the proceedings of the French legislature. Mege
went on still in frantic fashion, figuratively casting Sagnier into the
gutter, and protesting that there was nothing in common between himself
and such a base insulter. But at the same time he demanded that justice
and punishment should be meted out equally to one and all, and that if
indeed there were any bribe-takers among his colleagues, they should be
sent that very night to the prison of Mazas.

Meantime the President, erect at his table, rang and rang his bell
without managing to quell the uproar. He was like a pilot who finds the
tempest too strong for him. Among all the men with purple faces and
barking mouths who were gathered in front of him, the ushers alone
maintained imperturbable gravity. At intervals between the bursts of
shouting, Mege's voice could still be heard. By some sudden transition he
had come to the question of a Collectivist organisation of society such
as he dreamt of, and he contrasted it with the criminal capitalist
society of the present day, which alone, said he, could produce such
scandals. And yielding more and more to his apostolic fervour, declaring
that there could be no salvation apart from Collectivism, he shouted that
the day of triumph would soon dawn. He awaited it with a smile of
confidence. In his opinion, indeed, he merely had to overthrow that
ministry and perhaps another one, and then he himself would at last take
the reins of power in hand, like a reformer who would know how to pacify
the nation. As outside Socialists often declared, it was evident that the
blood of a dictator flowed in that sectarian's veins. His feverish,
stubborn rhetoric ended by exhausting his interrupters, who were
compelled to listen to him. When he at last decided to leave the tribune,
loud applause arose from a few benches on the left.

"Do you know," said Massot to the General, "I met Mege taking a walk with
his three little children in the Jardin des Plantes the other day. He
looked after them as carefully as an old nurse. I believe he's a very
worthy fellow at heart, and lives in a very modest way."

But a quiver had now sped through the assembly. Barroux had quitted his
seat to ascend the tribune. He there drew himself erect, throwing his
head back after his usual fashion. There was a haughty, majestic,
slightly sorrowful expression on his handsome face, which would have been
perfect had his nose only been a little larger. He began to express his
sorrow and indignation in fine flowery language, which he punctuated with
theatrical gestures. His eloquence was that of a tribune of the romantic
school, and as one listened to him one could divine that in spite of all
his pomposity he was really a worthy, tender-hearted and somewhat foolish
man. That afternoon he was stirred by genuine emotion; his heart bled at
the thought of his disastrous destiny, he felt that a whole world was
crumbling with himself. Ah! what a cry of despair he stifled, the cry of
the man who is buffeted and thrown aside by the course of events on the
very day when he thinks that his civic devotion entitles him to triumph!
To have given himself and all he possessed to the cause of the Republic,
even in the dark days of the Second Empire; to have fought and struggled
and suffered persecution for that Republic's sake; to have established
that Republic amidst the battle of parties, after all the horrors of
national and civil war; and then, when the Republic at last triumphed and
became a living fact, secure from all attacks and intrigues, to suddenly
feel like a survival of some other age, to hear new comers speak a new
language, preach a new ideal, and behold the collapse of all he had
loved, all he had reverenced, all that had given him strength to fight
and conquer! The mighty artisans of the early hours were no more; it had
been meet that Gambetta should die. How bitter it all was for the last
lingering old ones to find themselves among the men of the new,
intelligent and shrewd generation, who gently smiled at them, deeming
their romanticism quite out of fashion! All crumbled since the ideal of
liberty collapsed, since liberty was no longer the one desideratum, the
very basis of the Republic whose existence had been so dearly purchased
after so long an effort!

Erect and dignified Barroux made his confession. The Republic to him was
like the sacred ark of life; the very worst deeds became saintly if they
were employed to save her from peril. And in all simplicity he, told his
story, how he had found the great bulk of Baron Duvillard's money going
to the opposition newspapers as pretended payment for puffery and
advertising, whilst on the other hand the Republican organs received but
beggarly, trumpery amounts. He had been Minister of the Interior at the
time, and had therefore had charge of the press; so what would have been
said of him if he had not endeavoured to reestablish some equilibrium in
this distribution of funds in order that the adversaries of the
institutions of the country might not acquire a great increase of
strength by appropriating all the sinews of war? Hands had been stretched
out towards him on all sides, a score of newspapers, the most faithful,
the most meritorious, had claimed their legitimate share. And he had
ensured them that share by distributing among them the two hundred
thousand francs set down in the list against his name. Not a centime of
the money had gone into his own pocket, he would allow nobody to impugn
his personal honesty, on that point his word must suffice. At that moment
Barroux was really grand. All his emphatic pomposity disappeared; he
showed himself, as he really was--an honest man, quivering, his heart
bared, his conscience bleeding, in his bitter distress at having been
among those who had laboured and at now being denied reward.

For, truth to tell, his words fell amidst icy silence. In his childish
simplicity he had anticipated an outburst of enthusiasm; a Republican
Chamber could but acclaim him for having saved the Republic; and now the
frigidity of one and all quite froze him. He suddenly felt that he was
all alone, done for, touched by the hand of death. Nevertheless, he
continued speaking amidst that terrible silence with the courage of one
who is committing suicide, and who, from his love of noble and eloquent
attitudes, is determined to die standing. He ended with a final
impressive gesture. However, as he came down from the tribune, the
general coldness seemed to increase, not a single member applauded. With
supreme clumsiness he had alluded to the secret scheming of Rome and the
clergy, whose one object, in his opinion, was to recover the predominant
position they had lost and restore monarchy in France at a more or less
distant date.

"How silly of him! Ought a man ever to confess?" muttered Massot. "He's
done for, and the ministry too!"

Then, amidst the general frigidity, Monferrand boldly ascended the
tribune stairs. The prevailing uneasiness was compounded of all the
secret fear which sincerity always causes, of all the distress of the
bribe-taking deputies who felt that they were rolling into an abyss, and
also of the embarrassment which the others felt at thought of the more or
less justifiable compromises of politics. Something like relief,
therefore, came when Monferrand started with the most emphatic denials,
protesting in the name of his outraged honour, and dealing blow after
blow on the tribune with one hand, while with the other he smote his
chest. Short and thick-set, with his face thrust forward, hiding his
shrewdness beneath an expression of indignant frankness, he was for a
moment really superb. He denied everything. He was not only ignorant of
what was meant by that sum of eighty thousand francs set down against his
name, but he defied the whole world to prove that he had even touched a
single copper of that money. He boiled over with indignation to such a
point that he did not simply deny bribe-taking on his own part, he denied
it on behalf of the whole assembly, of all present and past French
legislatures, as if, indeed, bribe-taking on the part of a representative
of the people was altogether too monstrous an idea, a crime that
surpassed possibility to such an extent that the mere notion of it was
absurd. And thereupon applause rang out; the Chamber, delivered from its
fears, thrilled by his words, acclaimed him.

From the little Socialist group, however, some jeers arose, and voices
summoned Monferrand to explain himself on the subject of the African
Railways, reminding him that he had been at the head of the Public Works
Department at the time of the vote, and requiring of him that he should
state what he now meant to do, as Minister of the Interior, in order to
reassure the country. He juggled with this question, declaring that if
there were any guilty parties they would be punished, for he did not
require anybody to remind him of his duty. And then, all at once, with
incomparable maestria, he had recourse to the diversion which he had been
preparing since the previous day. His duty, said he, was a thing which he
never forgot; he discharged it like a faithful soldier of the nation hour
by hour, and with as much vigilance as prudence. He had been accused of
employing the police on he knew not what base spying work in such wise as
to allow the man Hunter to escape. Well, as for that much-slandered
police force, he would tell the Chamber on what work he had really
employed it the day before, and how zealously it had laboured for the
cause of law and order. In the Bois de Boulogne, on the previous
afternoon, it had arrested that terrible scoundrel, the perpetrator of
the crime in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, that Anarchist mechanician Salvat,
who for six weeks past had so cunningly contrived to elude capture. The
scoundrel had made a full confession during the evening, and the law
would now take its course with all despatch. Public morality was at last
avenged, Paris might now emerge in safety from its long spell of terror,
Anarchism would be struck down, annihilated. And that was what he,
Monferrand, had done as a Minister for the honour and safety of his
country, whilst villains were vainly seeking to dishonour him by
inscribing his name on a list of infamy, the outcome of the very basest
political intrigues.

The Chamber listened agape and quivering. This story of Salvat's arrest,
which none of the morning papers had reported; the present which
Monferrand seemed to be making them of that terrible Anarchist whom many
had already begun to regard as a myth; the whole /mise-en-scene/ of the
Minister's speech transported the deputies as if they were suddenly
witnessing the finish of a long-interrupted drama. Stirred and flattered,
they prolonged their applause, while Monferrand went on celebrating his
act of energy, how he had saved society, how crime should be punished,
and how he himself would ever prove that he had a strong arm and could
answer for public order. He even won favour with the Conservatives and
Clericals on the Right by separating himself from Barroux, addressing a
few words of sympathy to those Catholics who had "rallied" to the
Republic, and appealing for concord among men of different beliefs in
order that they might fight the common enemy, that fierce, wild socialism
which talked of overthrowing everything!

By the time Monferrand came down from the tribune, the trick was played,
he had virtually saved himself. Both the Right and Left of the Chamber*
applauded, drowning the protests of the few Socialists whose
vociferations only added to the triumphal tumult. Members eagerly
stretched out their hands to the Minister, who for a moment remained
standing there and smiling. But there was some anxiety in that smile of
his; his success was beginning to frighten him. Had he spoken too well,
and saved the entire Cabinet instead of merely saving himself? That would
mean the ruin of his plan. The Chamber ought not to vote under the effect
of that speech which had thrilled it so powerfully. Thus Monferrand,
though he still continued to smile, spent a few anxious moments in
waiting to see if anybody would rise to answer him.

  * Ever since the days of the Bourbon Restoration it has been
    the practice in the French Chambers for the more conservative
    members to seat themselves on the President's right, and for
    the Radical ones to place themselves on his left. The central
    seats of the semicircle in which the members' seats are
    arranged in tiers are usually occupied by men of moderate views.
    Generally speaking, such terms as Right Centre and Left Centre
    are applied to groups of Moderates inclining in the first place
    to Conservatism and in the latter to Radicalism. All this is of
    course known to readers acquainted with French institutions, but
    I give the explanation because others, after perusing French
    news in some daily paper, have often asked me what was meant by
    "a deputy of the Right," and so forth.--Trans.

His success had been as great among the occupants of the galleries as
among the deputies themselves. Several ladies had been seen applauding,
and Monseigneur Martha had given unmistakable signs of the liveliest
satisfaction. "Ah, General!" said Massot to Bozonnet in a sneering way.
"Those are our fighting men of the present time. And he's a bold and
strong one, is Monferrand. Of course it is all what people style 'saving
one's bacon,' but none the less it's very clever work."

Just then, however, Monferrand to his great satisfaction had seen Vignon
rise from his seat in response to the urging of his friends. And
thereupon all anxiety vanished from the Minister's smile, which became
one of malicious placidity.

The very atmosphere of the Chamber seemed to change with Vignon in the
tribune. He was slim, with a fair and carefully tended beard, blue eyes
and all the suppleness of youth. He spoke, moreover, like a practical
man, in simple, straightforward language, which made the emptiness of the
other's declamatory style painfully conspicuous. His term of official
service as a prefect in the provinces had endowed him with keen insight;
and it was in an easy way that he propounded and unravelled the most
intricate questions. Active and courageous, confident in his own star,
too young and too shrewd to have compromised himself in anything so far,
he was steadily marching towards the future. He had already drawn up a
rather more advanced political programme than that of Barroux and
Monferrand, so that when opportunity offered there might be good reasons
for him to take their place. Moreover, he was quite capable of carrying
out his programme by attempting some of the long-promised reforms for
which the country was waiting. He had guessed that honesty, when it had
prudence and shrewdness as its allies, must some day secure an innings.
In a clear voice, and in a very quiet, deliberate way, he now said what
it was right to say on the subject under discussion, the things that
common sense dictated and that the Chamber itself secretly desired should
be said. He was certainly the first to rejoice over an arrest which would
reassure the country; but he failed to understand what connection there
could be between that arrest and the sad business that had been brought
before the Chamber. The two affairs were quite distinct and different,
and he begged his colleagues not to vote in the state of excitement in
which he saw them. Full light must be thrown on the African Railways
question, and this, one could not expect from the two incriminated
ministers. However, he was opposed to any suggestion of a committee of
inquiry. In his opinion the guilty parties, if such there were, ought to
be brought immediately before a court of law. And, like Barroux, he wound
up with a discreet allusion to the growing influence of the clergy,
declaring that he was against all unworthy compromises, and was equally
opposed to any state dictatorship and any revival of the ancient
theocratic spirit.

Although there was but little applause when Vignon returned to his seat,
it was evident that the Chamber was again master of its emotions. And the
situation seemed so clear, and the overthrow of the ministry so certain,
that Mege, who had meant to reply to the others, wisely abstained from
doing so. Meantime people noticed the placid demeanour of Monferrand, who
had listened to Vignon with the utmost complacency, as if he were
rendering homage to an adversary's talent; whereas Barroux, ever since
the cold silence which had greeted his speech, had remained motionless in
his seat, bowed down and pale as a corpse.

"Well, it's all over," resumed Massot, amidst the hubbub which arose as
the deputies prepared to vote; "the ministry's done for. Little Vignon
will go a long way, you know. People say that he dreams of the Elysee. At
all events everything points to him as our next prime minister."

Then, as the journalist rose, intending to go off, the General detained
him: "Wait a moment, Monsieur Massot," said he. "How disgusting all that
parliamentary cooking is! You ought to point it out in an article, and
show people how the country is gradually being weakened and rotted to the
marrow by all such useless and degrading discussions. Why, a great battle
resulting in the loss of 50,000 men would exhaust us less than ten years
of this abominable parliamentary system. You must call on me some
morning. I will show you a scheme of military reform, in which I point
out the necessity of returning to the limited professional armies which
we used to have, for this present-day national army, as folks call it,
which is a semi-civilian affair and at best a mere herd of men, is like a
dead weight on us, and is bound to pull us down!"

Pierre, for his part, had not spoken a word since the beginning of the
debate. He had listened to everything, at first influenced by the thought
of his brother's interests, and afterwards mastered by the feverishness
which gradually took possession of everybody present. He had become
convinced that there was nothing more for Guillaume to fear; but how
curiously did one event fit into another, and how loudly had Salvat's
arrest re-echoed in the Chamber! Looking down into the seething hall
below him, he had detected all the clash of rival passions and interests.
After watching the great struggle between Barroux, Monferrand and Vignon,
he had gazed upon the childish delight of that terrible Socialist Mege,
who was so pleased at having been able to stir up the depths of those
troubled waters, in which he always unwittingly angled for the benefit of
others. Then, too, Pierre had become interested in Fonsegue, who, knowing
what had been arranged between Monferrand, Duvillard and himself, evinced
perfect calmness and strove to reassure Duthil and Chaigneux, who, on
their side, were quite dismayed by the ministry's impending fall. Yet,
Pierre's eyes always came back to Monseigneur Martha. He had watched his
serene smiling face throughout the sitting, striving to detect his
impressions of the various incidents that had occurred, as if in his
opinion that dramatic parliamentary comedy had only been played as a step
towards the more or less distant triumph for which the prelate laboured.
And now, while awaiting the result of the vote, as Pierre turned towards
Massot and the General, he found that they were talking of nothing but
recruiting and tactics and the necessity of a bath of blood for the whole
of Europe. Ah! poor mankind, ever fighting and ever devouring one another
in parliaments as well as on battle-fields, when, thought Pierre, would
it decide to disarm once and for all, and live at peace according to the
laws of justice and reason!

Then he again looked down into the hall, where the greatest confusion was
prevailing among the deputies with regard to the coming vote. There was
quite a rainfall of suggested "resolutions," from a very violent one
proposed by Mege, to another, which was merely severe, emanating from
Vignon. The ministry, however, would only accept the "Order of the day
pure and simple," a mere decision, that is, to pass to the next business,
as if Mege's interpellation had been unworthy of attention. And presently
the Government was defeated, Vignon's resolution being adopted by a
majority of twenty-five. Some portion of the Left had evidently joined
hands with the Right and the Socialist group. A prolonged hubbub followed
this result.

"Well, so we are to have a Vignon Cabinet," said Massot, as he went off
with Pierre and the General. "All the same, though, Monferrand has saved
himself, and if I were in Vignon's place I should distrust him."

That evening there was a very touching farewell scene at the little house
at Neuilly. When Pierre returned thither from the Chamber, saddened but
reassured with regard to the future, Guillaume at once made up his mind
to go home on the morrow. And as Nicholas Barthes was compelled to leave,
the little dwelling seemed on the point of relapsing into dreary quietude
once more.

Theophile Morin, whom Pierre had informed of the painful alternative in
which Barthes was placed, duly came to dinner; but he did not have time
to speak to the old man before they all sat down to table at seven
o'clock. As usual Barthes had spent his day in marching, like a caged
lion, up and down the room in which he had accepted shelter after the
fashion of a big fearless child, who never worried with regard either to
his present circumstances or the troubles which the future might have in
store for him. His life had ever been one of unlimited hope, which
reality had ever shattered. Although all that he had loved, all that he
had hoped to secure by fifty years of imprisonment or exile,--liberty,
equality and a real brotherly republic,--had hitherto failed to come,
such as he had dreamt of them, he nevertheless retained the candid faith
of his youth, and was ever confident in the near future. He would smile
indulgently when new comers, men of violent ideas, derided him and called
him a poor old fellow. For his part, he could make neither head nor tail
of the many new sects. He simply felt indignant with their lack of human
feeling, and stubbornly adhered to his own idea of basing the world's
regeneration on the simple proposition that men were naturally good and
ought to be free and brotherly.

That evening at dinner, feeling that he was with friends who cared for
him, Barthes proved extremely gay, and showed all his ingenuousness in
talking of his ideal, which would soon be realised, said he, in spite of
everything. He could tell a story well whenever he cared to chat, and on
that occasion he related some delightful anecdotes about the prisons
through which he had passed. He knew all the dungeons, Ste. Pelagie and
Mont St. Michel, Belle-Ile-en-Mer and Clairvaux, to say nothing of
temporary gaols and the evil-smelling hulks on board which political
prisoners are often confined. And he still laughed at certain
recollections, and related how in the direst circumstances he had always
been able to seek refuge in his conscience. The others listened to him
quite charmed by his conversation, but full of anguish at the thought
that this perpetual prisoner or exile must again rise and take his staff
to sally forth, driven from his native land once more.

Pierre did not speak out until they were partaking of dessert. Then he
related how the Minister had written to him, and how in a brief interview
he had stated that Barthes must cross the frontier within forty-eight
hours if he did not wish to be arrested. Thereupon the old man gravely
rose, with his white fleece, his eagle beak and his bright eyes still
sparkling with the fire of youth. And he wished to go off at once.
"What!" said he, "you have known all this since yesterday, and have still
kept me here at the risk of my compromising you even more than I had done
already! You must forgive me, I did not think of the worry I might cause
you, I thought that everything would be satisfactorily arranged. I must
thank you both--yourself and Guillaume--for the few days of quietude that
you have procured to an old vagabond and madman like myself."

Then, as they tried to prevail on him to remain until the following
morning, he would not listen to them. There would be a train for Brussels
about midnight, and he had ample time to take it. He refused to let Morin
accompany him. No, no, said he, Morin was not a rich man, and moreover he
had work to attend to. Why should he take him away from his duties, when
it was so easy, so simple, for him to go off alone? He was going back
into exile as into misery and grief which he had long known, like some
Wandering Jew of Liberty, ever driven onward through the world.

When he took leave of the others at ten o'clock, in the little sleepy
street just outside the house, tears suddenly dimmed his eyes. "Ah! I'm
no longer a young man," he said; "it's all over this time. I shall never
come back again. My bones will rest in some corner over yonder." And yet,
after he had affectionately embraced Pierre and Guillaume, he drew
himself up like one who remained unconquered, and he raised a supreme cry
of hope. "But after all, who knows? Triumph may perhaps come to-morrow.
The future belongs to those who prepare it and wait for it!"

Then he walked away, and long after he had disappeared his firm, sonorous
footsteps could be heard re-echoing in the quiet night.





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