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IN VANITY FAIR
THE wedding was to take place at noon, and for half an hour already
guests had been pouring into the magnificently decorated church, which
was leafy with evergreens and balmy with the scent of flowers. The high
altar in the rear glowed with countless candles, and through the great
doorway, which was wide open, one could see the peristyle decked with
shrubs, the steps covered with a broad carpet, and the inquisitive crowd
assembled on the square and even along the Rue Royale, under the bright
After finding three more chairs for some ladies who had arrived rather
late, Duthil remarked to Massot, who was jotting down names in his
note-book: "Well, if any more come, they will have to remain standing."
"Who were those three?" the journalist inquired.
"The Duchess de Boisemont and her two daughters."
"Indeed! All the titled people of France, as well as all the financiers
and politicians, are here! It's something more even than a swell Parisian
As a matter of fact all the spheres of "society" were gathered together
there, and some at first seemed rather embarrassed at finding themselves
beside others. Whilst Duvillard's name attracted all the princes of
finance and politicians in power, Madame de Quinsac and her son were
supported by the highest of the French aristocracy. The mere names of the
witnesses sufficed to indicate what an extraordinary medley there was. On
Gerard's side these witnesses were his uncle, General de Bozonnet, and
the Marquis de Morigny; whilst on Camille's they were the great banker
Louvard, and Monferrand, the President of the Council and Minister of
Finances. The quiet bravado which the latter displayed in thus supporting
the bride after being compromised in her father's financial intrigues
imparted a piquant touch of impudence to his triumph. And public
curiosity was further stimulated by the circumstance that the nuptial
blessing was to be given by Monseigneur Martha, Bishop of Persepolis, the
Pope's political agent in France, and the apostle of the endeavours to
win the Republic over to the Church by pretending to "rally" to it.
"But, I was mistaken," now resumed Massot with a sneer. "I said a really
Parisian wedding, did I not? But in point of fact this wedding is a
symbol. It's the apotheosis of the /bourgeoisie/, my dear fellow--the old
nobility sacrificing one of its sons on the altar of the golden calf in
order that the Divinity and the gendarmes, being the masters of France
once more, may rid us of those scoundrelly Socialists!"
Then, again correcting himself, he added: "But I was forgetting. There
are no more Socialists. Their head was cut off the other morning."
Duthil found this very funny. Then in a confidential way he remarked:
"You know that the marriage wasn't settled without a good deal of
difficulty. . . . Have you read Sagnier's ignoble article this morning?"
"Yes, yes; but I knew it all before, everybody knew it."
Then in an undertone, understanding one another's slightest allusion,
they went on chatting. It was only amidst a flood of tears and after a
despairing struggle that Baroness Duvillard had consented to let her
lover marry her daughter. And in doing so she had yielded to the sole
desire of seeing Gerard rich and happy. She still regarded Camille with
all the hatred of a defeated rival. Then, an equally painful contest had
taken place at Madame de Quinsac's. The Countess had only overcome her
revolt and consented to the marriage in order to save her son from the
dangers which had threatened him since childhood; and the Marquis de
Morigny had been so affected by her maternal abnegation, that in spite of
all his anger he had resignedly agreed to be a witness, thus making a
supreme sacrifice, that of his conscience, to the woman whom he had ever
loved. And it was this frightful story that Sagnier--using transparent
nicknames--had related in the "Voix du Peuple" that morning. He had even
contrived to make it more horrid than it really was; for, as usual, he
was badly informed, and he was naturally inclined to falsehood and
invention, as by sending an ever thicker and more poisonous torrent from
his sewer, he might, day by day, increase his paper's sales. Since
Monferrand's victory had compelled him to leave the African Railways
scandal on one side, he had fallen back on scandals in private life,
stripping whole families bare and pelting them with mud.
All at once Duthil and Massot were approached by Chaigneux, who, with his
shabby frock coat badly buttoned, wore both a melancholy and busy air.
"Well, Monsieur Massot," said he, "what about your article on Silviane?
Is it settled? Will it go in?"
As Chaigneux was always for sale, always ready to serve as a valet, it
had occurred to Duvillard to make use of him to ensure Silviane's success
at the Comedie. He had handed this sorry deputy over to the young woman,
who entrusted him with all manner of dirty work, and sent him scouring
Paris in search of applauders and advertisements. His eldest daughter was
not yet married, and never had his four women folk weighed more heavily
on his hands. His life had become a perfect hell; they had ended by
beating him, if he did not bring a thousand-franc note home on the first
day of every month.
"My article!" Massot replied; "no, it surely won't go in, my dear deputy.
Fonsegue says that it's written in too laudatory a style for the 'Globe.'
He asked me if I were having a joke with the paper."
Chaigneux became livid. The article in question was one written in
advance, from the society point of view, on the success which Silviane
would achieve in "Polyeucte," that evening, at the Comedie. The
journalist, in the hope of pleasing her, had even shown her his "copy";
and she, quite delighted, now relied upon finding the article in print in
the most sober and solemn organ of the Parisian press.
"Good heavens! what will become of us?" murmured the wretched Chaigneux.
"It's absolutely necessary that the article should go in."
"Well, I'm quite agreeable. But speak to the governor yourself. He's
standing yonder between Vignon and Dauvergne, the Minister of Public
"Yes, I certainly will speak to him--but not here. By-and-by in the
sacristy, during the procession. And I must also try to speak to
Dauvergne, for our Silviane particularly wants him to be in the
ministerial box this evening. Monferrand will be there; he promised
Massot began to laugh, repeating the expression which had circulated
through Paris directly after the actress's engagement: "The Silviane
ministry. . . . Well, Dauvergne certainly owes that much to his
godmother!" said he.
Just then the little Princess de Harn, coming up like a gust of wind,
broke in upon the three men. "I've no seat, you know!" she cried.
Duthil fancied that it was a question of finding her a well-placed chair
in the church. "You mustn't count on me," he answered. "I've just had no
end of trouble in stowing the Duchess de Boisemont away with her two
"Oh, but I'm talking of this evening's performance. Come, my dear Duthil,
you really must find me a little corner in somebody's box. I shall die, I
know I shall, if I can't applaud our delicious, our incomparable friend!"
Ever since setting Silviane down at her door on the previous day,
Rosemonde had been overflowing with admiration for her.
"Oh! you won't find a single remaining seat, madame," declared Chaigneux,
putting on an air of importance. "We have distributed everything. I have
just been offered three hundred francs for a stall."
"That's true, there has been a fight even for the bracket seats, however
badly they might be placed," Duthil resumed. "I am very sorry, but you
must not count on me. . . . Duvillard is the only person who might take
you in his box. He told me that he would reserve me a seat there. And so
far, I think, there are only three of us, including his son. . . . Ask
Hyacinthe by-and-by to procure you an invitation."
Rosemonde, whom Hyacinthe had so greatly bored that she had given him his
dismissal, felt the irony of Duthil's suggestion. Nevertheless, she
exclaimed with an air of delight: "Ah, yes! Hyacinthe can't refuse me
that. Thanks for your information, my dear Duthil. You are very nice, you
are; for you settle things gaily even when they are rather sad. . . . And
don't forget, mind, that you have promised to teach me politics. Ah!
politics, my dear fellow, I feel that nothing will ever impassion me as
Then she left them, hustled several people, and in spite of the crush
ended by installing herself in the front row.
"Ah! what a crank she is!" muttered Massot with an air of amusement.
Then, as Chaigneux darted towards magistrate Amadieu to ask him in the
most obsequious way if he had received his ticket, the journalist said to
Duthil in a whisper: "By the way, my dear friend, is it true that
Duvillard is going to launch his famous scheme for a Trans-Saharan
railway? It would be a gigantic enterprise, a question of hundreds and
hundreds of millions this time. . . . At the 'Globe' office yesterday
evening, Fonsegue shrugged his shoulders and said it was madness, and
would never come off!"
Duthil winked, and in a jesting way replied: "It's as good as done, my
dear boy. Fonsegue will be kissing the governor's feet before another
forty-eight hours are over."
Then he gaily gave the other to understand that golden manna would
presently be raining down on the press and all faithful friends and
willing helpers. Birds shake their feathers when the storm is over, and
he, Duthil, was as spruce and lively, as joyous at the prospect of the
presents he now expected, as if there had never been any African Railways
scandal to upset him and make him turn pale with fright.
"The deuce!" muttered Massot, who had become serious. "So this affair
here is more than a triumph: it's the promise of yet another harvest.
Well, I'm no longer surprised at the crush of people."
At this moment the organs suddenly burst into a glorious hymn of
greeting. The marriage procession was entering the church. A loud clamour
had gone up from the crowd, which spread over the roadway of the Rue
Royale and impeded the traffic there, while the /cortege/ pompously
ascended the steps in the bright sunshine. And it was now entering the
edifice and advancing beneath the lofty, re-echoing vaults towards the
high altar which flared with candles, whilst on either hand crowded the
congregation, the men on the right and the women on the left. They had
all risen and stood there smiling, with necks outstretched and eyes
glowing with curiosity.
First, in the rear of the magnificent beadle, came Camille, leaning on
the arm of her father, Baron Duvillard, who wore a proud expression
befitting a day of victory. Veiled with superb /point d'Alencon/ falling
from her diadem of orange blossom, gowned in pleated silk muslin over an
underskirt of white satin, the bride looked so extremely happy, so
radiant at having conquered, that she seemed almost pretty. Moreover, she
held herself so upright that one could scarcely detect that her left
shoulder was higher than her right.
Next came Gerard, giving his arm to his mother, the Countess de
Quinsac,--he looking very handsome and courtly, as was proper, and she
displaying impassive dignity in her gown of peacock-blue silk embroidered
with gold and steel beads. But it was particularly Eve whom people wished
to see, and every neck was craned forward when she appeared on the arm of
General Bozonnet, the bridegroom's first witness and nearest male
relative. She was gowned in "old rose" taffetas trimmed with Valenciennes
of priceless value, and never had she looked younger, more deliciously
fair. Yet her eyes betrayed her emotion, though she strove to smile; and
her languid grace bespoke her widowhood, her compassionate surrender of
the man she loved. Monferrand, the Marquis de Morigny, and banker
Louvard, the three other witnesses, followed the Baroness and General
Bozonnet, each giving his arm to some lady of the family. A considerable
sensation was caused by the appearance of Monferrand, who seemed on
first-rate terms with himself, and jested familiarly with the lady he
accompanied, a little brunette with a giddy air. Another who was noticed
in the solemn, interminable procession was the bride's eccentric brother
Hyacinthe, whose dress coat was of a cut never previously seen, with its
tails broadly and symmetrically pleated.
When the affianced pair had taken their places before the prayer-stools
awaiting them, and the members of both families and the witnesses had
installed themselves in the rear in large armchairs, all gilding and red
velvet, the ceremony was performed with extraordinary pomp. The cure of
the Madeleine officiated in person; and vocalists from the Grand Opera
reinforced the choir, which chanted the high mass to the accompaniment of
the organs, whence came a continuous hymn of glory. All possible luxury
and magnificence were displayed, as if to turn this wedding into some
public festivity, a great victory, an event marking the apogee of a
class. Even the impudent bravado attaching to the loathsome private drama
which lay behind it all, and which was known to everybody, added a touch
of abominable grandeur to the ceremony. But the truculent spirit of
superiority and domination which characterised the proceedings became
most manifest when Monseigneur Martha appeared in surplice and stole to
pronounce the blessing. Tall of stature, fresh of face, and faintly
smiling, he had his wonted air of amiable sovereignty, and it was with
august unction that he pronounced the sacramental words, like some
pontiff well pleased at reconciling the two great empires whose heirs he
united. His address to the newly married couple was awaited with
curiosity. It proved really marvellous, he himself triumphed in it. Was
it not in that same church that he had baptised the bride's mother, that
blond Eve, who was still so beautiful, that Jewess whom he himself had
converted to the Catholic faith amidst the tears of emotion shed by all
Paris society? Was it not there also that he had delivered his three
famous addresses on the New Spirit, whence dated, to his thinking, the
rout of science, the awakening of Christian spirituality, and that policy
of rallying to the Republic which was to lead to its conquest?
So it was assuredly allowable for him to indulge in some delicate
allusions, by way of congratulating himself on his work, now that he was
marrying a poor scion of the old aristocracy to the five millions of that
/bourgeoise/ heiress, in whose person triumphed the class which had won
the victory in 1789, and was now master of the land. The fourth estate,
the duped, robbed people, alone had no place in those festivities. But by
uniting the affianced pair before him in the bonds of wedlock,
Monseigneur Martha sealed the new alliance, gave effect to the Pope's own
policy, that stealthy effort of Jesuitical Opportunism which would take
democracy, power and wealth to wife, in order to subdue and control them.
When the prelate reached his peroration he turned towards Monferrand, who
sat there smiling; and it was he, the Minister, whom he seemed to be
addressing while he expressed the hope that the newly married pair would
ever lead a truly Christian life of humility and obedience in all fear of
God, of whose iron hand he spoke as if it were that of some gendarme
charged with maintaining the peace of the world. Everybody was aware that
there was some diplomatic understanding between the Bishop and the
Minister, some secret pact or other whereby both satisfied their passion
for authority, their craving to insinuate themselves into everything and
reign supreme; and thus when the spectators saw Monferrand smiling in his
somewhat sly, jovial way, they also exchanged smiles.
"Ah!" muttered Massot, who had remained near Duthil, "how amused old
Justus Steinberger would be, if he were here to see his granddaughter
marrying the last of the Quinsacs!"
"But these marriages are quite the thing, quite the fashion, my dear
fellow," the deputy replied. "The Jews and the Christians, the
/bourgeois/ and the nobles, do quite right to come to an understanding,
so as to found a new aristocracy. An aristocracy is needed, you know, for
otherwise we should be swept away by the masses."
None the less Massot continued sneering at the idea of what a grimace
Justus Steinberger would have made if he had heard Monseigneur Martha. It
was rumoured in Paris that although the old Jew banker had ceased all
intercourse with his daughter Eve since her conversion, he took a keen
interest in everything she was reported to do or say, as if he were more
than ever convinced that she would prove an avenging and dissolving agent
among those Christians, whose destruction was asserted to be the dream of
his race. If he had failed in his hope of overcoming Duvillard by giving
her to him as a wife, he doubtless now consoled himself with thinking of
the extraordinary fortune to which his blood had attained, by mingling
with that of the harsh, old-time masters of his race, to whose corruption
it gave a finishing touch. Therein perhaps lay that final Jewish conquest
of the world of which people sometimes talked.
A last triumphal strain from the organ brought the ceremony to an end;
whereupon the two families and the witnesses passed into the sacristy,
where the acts were signed. And forthwith the great congratulatory
The bride and bridegroom at last stood side by side in the lofty but
rather dim room, panelled with oak. How radiant with delight was Camille
at the thought that it was all over, that she had triumphed and married
that handsome man of high lineage, after wresting him with so much
difficulty from one and all, her mother especially! She seemed to have
grown taller. Deformed, swarthy, and ugly though she was, she drew
herself up exultingly, whilst scores and scores of women, friends or
acquaintances, scrambled and rushed upon her, pressing her hands or
kissing her, and addressing her in words of ecstasy. Gerard, who rose
both head and shoulders above his bride, and looked all the nobler and
stronger beside one of such puny figure, shook hands and smiled like some
Prince Charming, who good-naturedly allowed himself to be loved.
Meanwhile, the relatives of the newly wedded pair, though they were drawn
up in one line, formed two distinct groups past which the crowd pushed
and surged with arms outstretched. Duvillard received the congratulations
offered him as if he were some king well pleased with his people; whilst
Eve, with a supreme effort, put on an enchanting mien, and answered one
and all with scarcely a sign of the sobs which she was forcing back.
Then, on the other side of the bridal pair, Madame de Quinsac stood
between General de Bozonnet and the Marquis de Morigny. Very dignified,
in fact almost haughty, she acknowledged most of the salutations
addressed to her with a mere nod, giving her little withered hand only to
those people with whom she was well acquainted. A sea of strange
countenances encompassed her, and now and again when some particularly
murky wave rolled by, a wave of men whose faces bespoke all the crimes of
money-mongering, she and the Marquis exchanged glances of deep sadness.
This tide continued sweeping by for nearly half an hour; and such was the
number of those who wanted to shake hands with the bridal pair and their
relatives, that the latter soon felt their arms ache.
Meantime, some folks lingered in the sacristy; little groups collected,
and gay chatter rang out. Monferrand was immediately surrounded. Massot
pointed out to Duthil how eagerly Public Prosecutor Lehmann rushed upon
the Minister to pay him court. They were immediately joined by
investigating magistrate Amadieu. And even M. de Larombiere, the judge,
approached Monferrand, although he hated the Republic, and was an
intimate friend of the Quinsacs. But then obedience and obsequiousness
were necessary on the part of the magistracy, for it was dependent on
those in power, who alone could give advancement, and appoint even as
they dismissed. As for Lehmann, it was alleged that he had rendered
assistance to Monferrand by spiriting away certain documents connected
with the African Railways affair, whilst with regard to the smiling and
extremely Parisian Amadieu, was it not to him that the government was
indebted for Salvat's head?
"You know," muttered Massot, "they've all come to be thanked for
guillotining that man yesterday. Monferrand owes that wretched fellow a
fine taper; for in the first place his bomb prolonged the life of the
Barroux ministry, and later on it made Monferrand prime minister, as a
strong-handed man was particularly needed to strangle Anarchism. What a
contest, eh? Monferrand on one side and Salvat on the other. It was all
bound to end in a head being cut off; one was wanted. . . . Ah! just
listen, they are talking of it."
This was true. As the three functionaries of the law drew near to pay
their respects to the all-powerful Minister, they were questioned by lady
friends whose curiosity had been roused by what they had read in the
newspapers. Thereupon Amadieu, whom duty had taken to the execution, and
who was proud of his own importance, and determined to destroy what he
called "the legend of Salvat's heroic death," declared that the scoundrel
had shown no true courage at all. His pride alone had kept him on his
feet. Fright had so shaken and choked him that he had virtually been dead
before the fall of the knife.
"Ah! that's true!" cried Duthil. "I was there myself."
Massot, however, pulled him by the arm, quite indignant at such an
assertion, although as a rule he cared a rap for nothing. "You couldn't
see anything, my dear fellow," said he; "Salvat died very bravely. It's
really stupid to continue throwing mud at that poor devil even when he's
However, the idea that Salvat had died like a coward was too pleasing a
one to be rejected. It was, so to say, a last sacrifice deposited at
Monferrand's feet with the object of propitiating him. He still smiled in
his peaceful way, like a good-natured man who is stern only when
necessity requires it. And he showed great amiability towards the three
judicial functionaries, and thanked them for the bravery with which they
had accomplished their painful duty to the very end. On the previous day,
after the execution, he had obtained a formidable majority in the Chamber
on a somewhat delicate matter of policy. Order reigned, said he, and all
was for the very best in France. Then, on seeing Vignon--who like a cool
gamester had made a point of attending the wedding in order to show
people that he was superior to fortune--the Minister detained him, and
made much of him, partly as a matter of tactics, for in spite of
everything he could not help fearing that the future might belong to that
young fellow, who showed himself so intelligent and cautious. When a
mutual friend informed them that Barroux' health was now so bad that the
doctors had given him up as lost, they both began to express their
compassion. Poor Barroux! He had never recovered from that vote of the
Chamber which had overthrown him. He had been sinking from day to day,
stricken to the heart by his country's ingratitude, dying of that
abominable charge of money-mongering and thieving; he who was so upright
and so loyal, who had devoted his whole life to the Republic! But then,
as Monferrand repeated, one should never confess. The public can't
understand such a thing.
At this moment Duvillard, in some degree relinquishing his paternal
duties, came to join the others, and the Minister then had to share the
honours of triumph with him. For was not this banker the master? Was he
not money personified--money, which is the only stable, everlasting
force, far above all ephemeral tenure of power, such as attaches to those
ministerial portfolios which pass so rapidly from hand to hand?
Monferrand reigned, but he would pass away, and a like fate would some
day fall on Vignon, who had already had a warning that one could not
govern unless the millions of the financial world were on one's side. So
was not the only real triumpher himself, the Baron--he who laid out five
millions of francs on buying a scion of the aristocracy for his daughter,
he who was the personification of the sovereign /bourgeoisie/, who
controlled public fortune, and was determined to part with nothing, even
were he attacked with bombs? All these festivities really centred in
himself, he alone sat down to the banquet, leaving merely the crumbs from
his table to the lowly, those wretched toilers who had been so cleverly
duped at the time of the Revolution.
That African Railways affair was already but so much ancient history,
buried, spirited away by a parliamentary commission. All who had been
compromised in it, the Duthils, the Chaigneux, the Fonsegues and others,
could now laugh merrily. They had been delivered from their nightmare by
Monferrand's strong fist, and raised by Duvillard's triumph. Even
Sagnier's ignoble article and miry revelations in the "Voix du Peuple"
were of no real account, and could be treated with a shrug of the
shoulders, for the public had been so saturated with denunciation and
slander that it was now utterly weary of all noisy scandal. The only
thing which aroused interest was the rumour that Duvillard's big affair
of the Trans-Saharan Railway was soon to be launched, that millions of
money would be handled, and that some of them would rain down upon
Whilst Duvillard was conversing in a friendly way with Monferrand and
Dauvergne, the Minister of Public Instruction, who had joined them,
Massot encountered Fonsegue, his editor, and said to him in an undertone:
"Duthil has just assured me that the Trans-Saharan business is ready, and
that they mean to chance it with the Chamber. They declare that they are
certain of success."
Fonsegue, however, was sceptical on the point. "It's impossible," said
he; "they won't dare to begin again so soon."
Although he spoke in this fashion, the news had made him grave. He had
lately had such a terrible fright through his imprudence in the African
Railways affair, that he had vowed he would take every precaution in
future. Still, this did not mean that he would refuse to participate in
matters of business. The best course was to wait and study them, and then
secure a share in all that seemed profitable. In the present instance he
felt somewhat worried. However, whilst he stood there watching the group
around Duvillard and the two ministers, he suddenly perceived Chaigneux,
who, flitting hither and thither, was still beating up applauders for
that evening's performance. He sang Silviane's praises in every key,
predicted a most tremendous success, and did his very best to stimulate
curiosity. At last he approached Dauvergne, and with his long figure bent
double exclaimed: "My dear Minister, I have a particular request to make
to you on the part of a very charming person, whose victory will not be
complete this evening if you do not condescend to favour her with your
Dauvergne, a tall, fair, good-looking man, whose blue eyes smiled behind
his glasses, listened to Chaigneux with an affable air. He was proving a
great success at the Ministry of Public Instruction, although he knew
nothing of University matters. However, like a real Parisian of Dijon, as
people called him, he was possessed of some tact and skill, gave
entertainments at which his young and charming wife outshone all others,
and passed as being quite an enlightened friend of writers and artists.
Silviane's engagement at the Comedie, which so far was his most notable
achievement, and which would have shaken the position of any other
minister, had by a curious chance rendered him popular. It was regarded
as something original and amusing.
On understanding that Chaigneux simply wished to make sure of his
presence at the Comedie that evening, he became yet more affable. "Why,
certainly, I shall be there, my dear deputy," he replied. "When one has
such a charming god-daughter one mustn't forsake her in a moment of
At this Monferrand, who had been lending ear, turned round. "And tell
her," said he, "that I shall be there, too. She may therefore rely on
having two more friends in the house."
Thereupon Duvillard, quite enraptured, his eyes glistening with emotion
and gratitude, bowed to the two ministers as if they had granted him some
When Chaigneux, on his side also, had returned thanks with a low bow, he
happened to perceive Fonsegue, and forthwith he darted towards him and
led him aside. "Ah! my dear colleague," he declared, "it is absolutely
necessary that this matter should be settled. I regard it as of supreme
"What are you speaking of?" inquired Fonsegue, much surprised.
"Why, of Massot's article, which you won't insert."
Thereupon, the director of the "Globe" plumply declared that he could not
insert the article. He talked of his paper's dignity and gravity; and
declared that the lavishing of such fulsome praise upon a hussy--yes, a
mere hussy, in a journal whose exemplary morality and austerity had cost
him so much labour, would seem monstrous and degrading. Personally, he
did not care a fig about it if Silviane chose to make an exhibition of
herself, well, he would be there to see; but the "Globe" was sacred.
Disconcerted and almost tearful, Chaigneux nevertheless renewed his
attempt. "Come, my dear colleague," said he, "pray make a little effort
for my sake. If the article isn't inserted, Duvillard will think that it
is my fault. And you know that I really need his help. My eldest
daughter's marriage has again been postponed, and I hardly know where to
turn." Then perceiving that his own misfortunes in no wise touched
Fonsegue, he added: "And do it for your own sake, my dear colleague, your
own sake. For when all is said Duvillard knows what is in the article,
and it is precisely because it is so favourable a one that he wishes to
see it in the 'Globe.' Think it over; if the article isn't published, he
will certainly turn his back on you."
For a moment Fonsegue remained silent. Was he thinking of the colossal
Trans-Saharan enterprise? Was he reflecting that it would be hard to
quarrel at such a moment and miss his own share in the coming
distribution of millions among faithful friends? Perhaps so; however, the
idea that it would be more prudent to await developments gained the day
with him. "No, no," he said, "I can't, it's a matter of conscience."
In the mean time congratulations were still being tendered to the newly
wedded couple. It seemed as if all Paris were passing through the
sacristy; there were ever the same smiles and the same hand shakes.
Gerard, Camille and their relatives, however weary they might feel, were
forced to retain an air of delight while they stood there against the
wall, pent up by the crowd. The heat was now becoming unbearable, and a
cloud of dust arose as when some big flock goes by.
All at once little Princess de Harn, who had hitherto lingered nobody
knew where, sprang out of the throng, flung her arms around Camille,
kissed even Eve, and then kept Gerard's hand in her own while paying him
extraordinary compliments. Then, on perceiving Hyacinthe, she took
possession of him and carried him off into a corner. "I say," she
exclaimed, "I have a favour to ask you."
The young man was wonderfully silent that day. His sister's wedding
seemed to him a contemptible ceremony, the most vulgar that one could
imagine. So here, thought he, was another pair accepting the horrid
sexual law by which the absurdity of the world was perpetuated! For his
part, he had decided that he would witness the proceedings in rigid
silence, with a haughty air of disapproval. When Rosemonde spoke to him,
he looked at her rather nervously, for he was glad that she had forsaken
him for Duthil, and feared some fresh caprice on her part. At last,
opening his mouth for the first time that day, he replied: "Oh, as a
friend, you know, I will grant you whatever favour you like."
Forthwith the Princess explained that she would surely die if she did not
witness the /debut/ of her dear friend Silviane, of whom she had become
such a passionate admirer. So she begged the young man to prevail on his
father to give her a seat in his box, as she knew that one was left
Hyacinthe smiled. "Oh, willingly, my dear," said he; "I'll warn papa,
there will be a seat for you."
Then, as the procession of guests at last drew to an end and the vestry
began to empty, the bridal pair and their relatives were able to go off
through the chattering throng, which still lingered about to bow to them
and scrutinise them once more.
Gerard and Camille were to leave for an estate which Duvillard possessed
in Normandy, directly after lunch. This repast, served at the princely
mansion of the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, provided an opportunity for fresh
display. The dining-room on the first floor had been transformed into a
buffet, where reigned the greatest abundance and the most wonderful
sumptuousness. Quite a reception too was held in the drawing-rooms, the
large red /salon/, the little blue and silver /salon/ and all the others,
whose doors stood wide open. Although it had been arranged that only
family friends should be invited, there were quite three hundred people
present. The ministers had excused themselves, alleging that the weighty
cares of public business required their presence elsewhere. But the
magistrates, the deputies and the leading journalists who had attended
the wedding were again assembled together. And in that throng of hungry
folks, longing for some of the spoils of Duvillard's new venture, the
people who felt most out of their element were Madame de Quinsac's few
guests, whom General de Bozonnet and the Marquis de Morigny had seated on
a sofa in the large red /salon/, which they did not quit.
Eve, who for her part felt quite overcome, both her moral and physical
strength being exhausted, had seated herself in the little blue and
silver drawing-room, which, with her passion for flowers, she had
transformed into an arbour of roses. She would have fallen had she
remained standing, the very floor had seemed to sink beneath her feet.
Nevertheless, whenever a guest approached her she managed to force a
smile, and appear beautiful and charming. Unlooked-for help at last came
to her in the person of Monseigneur Martha, who had graciously honoured
the lunch with his presence. He took an armchair near her, and began to
talk to her in his amiable, caressing way. He was doubtless well aware of
the frightful anguish which wrung the poor woman's heart, for he showed
himself quite fatherly, eager to comfort her. She, however, talked on
like some inconsolable widow bent on renouncing the world for God, who
alone could bring her peace. Then, as the conversation turned on the
Asylum for the Invalids of Labour, she declared that she was resolved to
take her presidency very seriously, and, in fact, would exclusively
devote herself to it, in the future.
"And as we are speaking of this, Monseigneur," said she, "I would even
ask you to give me some advice. . . . I shall need somebody to help me,
and I thought of securing the services of a priest whom I much admire,
Monsieur l'Abbe Pierre Froment."
At this the Bishop became grave and embarrassed; but Princess Rosemonde,
who was passing by with Duthil, had overheard the Baroness, and drawing
near with her wonted impetuosity, she exclaimed: "Abbe Pierre Froment!
Oh! I forgot to tell you, my dear, that I met him going about in jacket
and trousers! And I've been told too that he cycles in the Bois with some
creature or other. Isn't it true, Duthil, that we met him?"
The deputy bowed and smiled, whilst Eve clasped her hands in amazement.
"Is it possible! A priest who was all charitable fervour, who had the
faith and passion of an apostle!"
Thereupon Monseigneur intervened: "Yes, yes, great sorrows occasionally
fall upon the Church. I heard of the madness of the unhappy man you speak
of. I even thought it my duty to write to him, but he left my letter
unanswered. I should so much have liked to stifle such a scandal! But
there are abominable forces which we cannot always overcome; and so a day
or two ago the archbishop was obliged to put him under interdict. . . .
You must choose somebody else, madame."
It was quite a disaster. Eve gazed at Rosemonde and Duthil, without
daring to ask them for particulars, but wondering what creature could
have been so audacious as to turn a priest from the path of duty. She
must assuredly be some shameless demented woman! And it seemed to Eve as
if this crime gave a finishing touch to her own misfortune. With a wave
of the arm, which took in all the luxury around her, the roses steeping
her in perfume, and the crush of guests around the buffet, she murmured:
"Ah! decidedly there's nothing but corruption left; one can no longer
rely on anybody!"
Whilst this was going on, Camille happened to be alone in her own room
getting ready to leave the house with Gerard. And all at once her brother
Hyacinthe joined her there. "Ah! it's you, youngster!" she exclaimed.
"Well, make haste if you want to kiss me, for I'm off now, thank
He kissed her as she suggested, and then in a doctoral way replied: "I
thought you had more self-command. The delight you have been showing all
this morning quite disgusts me."
A quiet glance of contempt was her only answer. However, he continued:
"You know very well that she'll take your Gerard from you again, directly
you come back to Paris."
At this Camille's cheeks turned white and her eyes flared. She stepped
towards her brother with clenched fists: "She! you say that she will take
him from me!"
The "she" they referred to was their own mother.
"Listen, my boy! I'll kill her first!" continued Camille. "Ah, no! she
needn't hope for that. I shall know how to keep the man that belongs to
me. . . . And as for you, keep your spite to yourself, for I know you,
remember; you are a mere child and a fool!"
He recoiled as if a viper were rearing its sharp, slender black head
before him; and having always feared her, he thought it best to beat a
While the last guests were rushing upon the buffet and finishing the
pillage there, the bridal pair took their leave, before driving off to
the railway station. General de Bozonnet had joined a group in order to
vent his usual complaints about compulsory military service, and the
Marquis de Morigny was obliged to fetch him at the moment when the
Countess de Quinsac was kissing her son and daughter-in-law. The old lady
trembled with so much emotion that the Marquis respectfully ventured to
sustain her. Meantime, Hyacinthe had started in search of his father, and
at last found him near a window with the tottering Chaigneux, whom he was
violently upbraiding, for Fonsegue's conscientious scruples had put him
in a fury. Indeed, if Massot's article should not be inserted in the
"Globe," Silviane might lay all the blame upon him, the Baron, and wreak
further punishment upon him. However, upon being summoned by his son he
had to don his triumphal air once more, kiss his daughter on the
forehead, shake hands with his son-in-law, jest and wish them both a
pleasant journey. Then Eve, near whom Monseigneur Martha had remained,
smiling, in her turn had to say farewell. In this she evinced touching
bravery; her determination to remain beautiful and charming until the
very end lent her sufficient strength to show herself both gay and
She took hold of the slightly quivering hand which Gerard proffered with
some embarrassment, and ventured to retain it for a moment in her own, in
a good-hearted, affectionate way, instinct with all the heroism of
renunciation. "Good by, Gerard," she said, "keep in good health, be
happy." Then turning to Camille she kissed her on both cheeks, while
Monseigneur Martha sat looking at them with an air of indulgent sympathy.
They wished each other "Au revoir," but their voices trembled, and their
eyes in meeting gleamed like swords; in the same way as beneath the
kisses they had exchanged they had felt each other's teeth. Ah! how it
enraged Camille to see her mother still so beautiful and fascinating in
spite of age and grief! And for Eve how great the torture of beholding
her daughter's youth, that youth which had overcome her, and was for ever
wresting love from within her reach! No forgiveness was possible between
them; they would still hate one another even in the family tomb, where
some day they would sleep side by side.
All the same, that evening Baroness Duvillard excused herself from
attending the performance of "Polyeucte" at the Comedie Francaise. She
felt very tired and wished to go to bed early, said she. As a matter of
fact she wept on her pillow all night long. Thus the Baron's stage-box on
the first balcony tier contained only himself, Hyacinthe, Duthil, and
little Princess de Harn.
At nine o'clock there was a full house, one of the brilliant chattering
houses peculiar to great dramatic solemnities. All the society people who
had marched through the sacristy of the Madeleine that morning were now
assembled at the theatre, again feverish with curiosity, and on the
lookout for the unexpected. One recognised the same faces and the sane
smiles; the women acknowledged one another's presence with little signs
of intelligence, the men understood each other at a word, a gesture. One
and all had kept the appointment, the ladies with bared shoulders, the
gentlemen with flowers in their button-holes. Fonsegue occupied the
"Globe's" box, with two friendly families. Little Massot had his
customary seat in the stalls. Amadieu, who was a faithful patron of the
Comedie, was also to be seen there, as well as General de Bozonnet and
Public Prosecutor Lehmann. The man who was most looked at, however, on
account of his scandalous article that morning, was Sagnier, the terrible
Sagnier, looking bloated and apoplectical. Then there was Chaigneux, who
had kept merely a modest bracket-seat for himself, and who scoured the
passages, and climbed to every tier, for the last time preaching
enthusiasm. Finally, the two ministers Monferrand and Dauvergne appeared
in the box facing Duvillard's; whereupon many knowing smiles were
exchanged, for everybody was aware that these personages had come to help
on the success of the /debutante/.
On the latter point there had still been unfavourable rumours only the
previous day. Sagnier had declared that the /debut/ of such a notorious
harlot as Silviane at the Comedie Francaise, in such a part too as that
of "Pauline," which was one of so much moral loftiness, could only be
regarded as an impudent insult to public decency. The whole press,
moreover, had long been up in arms against the young woman's
extraordinary caprice. But then the affair had been talked of for six
months past, so that Paris had grown used to the idea of seeing Silviane
at the Comedie. And now it flocked thither with the one idea of being
entertained. Before the curtain rose one could tell by the very
atmosphere of the house that the audience was a jovial, good-humoured
one, bent on enjoying itself, and ready to applaud should it find itself
at all pleased.
The performance really proved extraordinary. When Silviane, chastely
robed, made her appearance in the first act, the house was quite
astonished by her virginal face, her innocent-looking mouth, and her eyes
beaming with immaculate candour. Then, although the manner in which she
had understood her part at first amazed people, it ended by charming
them. From the moment of confiding in "Stratonice," from the moment of
relating her dream, she turned "Pauline" into a soaring mystical
creature, some saint, as it were, such as one sees in stained-glass
windows, carried along by a Wagnerian Brunhilda riding the clouds. It was
a thoroughly ridiculous conception of the part, contrary to reason and
truth alike. Still, it only seemed to interest people the more, partly on
account of mysticism being the fashion, and partly on account of the
contrast between Silviane's assumed candour and real depravity. Her
success increased from act to act, and some slight hissing which was
attributed to Sagnier only helped to make the victory more complete.
Monferrand and Dauvergne, as the newspapers afterwards related, gave the
signal for applause; and the whole house joined in it, partly from
amusement and partly perhaps in a spirit of irony.
During the interval between the fourth and fifth acts there was quite a
procession of visitors to Duvillard's box, where the greatest excitement
prevailed. Duthil, however, after absenting himself for a moment, came
back to say: "You remember our influential critic, the one whom I brought
to dinner at the Cafe Anglais? Well, he's repeating to everybody that
'Pauline' is merely a little /bourgeoise/, and is not transformed by the
heavenly grace until the very finish of the piece. To turn her into a
holy virgin from the outset simply kills the part, says he."
"Pooh!" repeated Duvillard, "let him argue if he likes, it will be all
the more advertisement. . . . The important point is to get Massot's
article inserted in the 'Globe' to-morrow morning."
On this point, unfortunately, the news was by no means good. Chaigneux,
who had gone in search of Fonsegue, declared that the latter still
hesitated in the matter in spite of Silviane's success, which he declared
to be ridiculous. Thereupon, the Baron became quite angry. "Go and tell
Fonsegue," he exclaimed, "that I insist on it, and that I shall remember
what he does."
Meantime Princess Rosemonde was becoming quite delirious with enthusiasm.
"My dear Hyacinthe," she pleaded, "please take me to Silviane's
dressing-room; I can't wait, I really must go and kiss her."
"But we'll all go!" cried Duvillard, who heard her entreaty.
The passages were crowded, and there were people even on the stage.
Moreover, when the party reached the door of Silviane's dressing-room,
they found it shut. When the Baron knocked at it, a dresser replied that
madame begged the gentlemen to wait a moment.
"Oh! a woman may surely go in," replied Rosemonde, hastily slipping
through the doorway. "And you may come, Hyacinthe," she added; "there can
be no objection to you."
Silviane was very hot, and a dresser was wiping her perspiring shoulders
when Rosemonde darted forward and kissed her. Then they chatted together
amidst the heat and glare from the gas and the intoxicating perfumes of
all the flowers which were heaped up in the little room. Finally,
Hyacinthe heard them promise to see one another after the performance,
Silviane even inviting Rosemonde to drink a cup of tea with her at her
house. At this the young man smiled complacently, and said to the
actress: "Your carriage is waiting for you at the corner of the Rue
Montpensier, is it not? Well, I'll take the Princess to it. That will be
the simpler plan, you can both go off together!"
"Oh! how good of you," cried Rosemonde; "it's agreed."
Just then the door was opened, and the men, being admitted, began to pour
forth their congratulations. However, they had to regain their seats in
all haste so as to witness the fifth act. This proved quite a triumph,
the whole house bursting into applause when Silviane spoke the famous
line, "I see, I know, I believe, I am undeceived," with the rapturous
enthusiasm of a holy martyr ascending to heaven. Nothing could have been
more soul-like, it was said. And so when the performers were called
before the curtain, Paris bestowed an ovation on that virgin of the
stage, who, as Sagnier put it, knew so well how to act depravity at home.
Accompanied by Duthil, Duvillard at once went behind the scenes in order
to fetch Silviane, while Hyacinthe escorted Rosemonde to the brougham
waiting at the corner of the Rue Montpensier. Having helped her into it,
the young man stood by, waiting. And he seemed to grow quite merry when
his father came up with Silviane, and was stopped by her, just as, in his
turn, he wished to get into the carriage.
"There's no room for you, my dear fellow," said she. "I've a friend with
Rosemonde's little smiling face then peered forth from the depths of the
brougham. And the Baron remained there open-mouthed while the vehicle
swiftly carried the two women away!
"Well, what would you have, my dear fellow?" said Hyacinthe, by way of
explanation to Duthil, who also seemed somewhat amazed by what had
happened. "Rosemonde was worrying my life out, and so I got rid of her by
packing her off with Silviane."
Duvillard was still standing on the pavement and still looking dazed when
Chaigneux, who was going home quite tired out, recognised him, and came
up to say that Fonsegue had thought the matter over, and that Massot's
article would be duly inserted. In the passages, too, there had been a
deal of talk about the famous Trans-Saharan project.
Then Hyacinthe led his father away, trying to comfort him like a sensible
friend, who regarded woman as a base and impure creature. "Let's go home
to bed," said he. "As that article is to appear, you can take it to her
to-morrow. She will see you, sure enough."
Thereupon they lighted cigars, and now and again exchanging a few words,
took their way up the Avenue de l'Opera, which at that hour was deserted
and dismal. Meantime, above the slumbering houses of Paris the breeze
wafted a prolonged sigh, the plaint, as it were, of an expiring world.
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