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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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