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Chapter 4


One would have said that all the carriages in Paris were making a
pilgrimage to the Palais de l'Industrie that day. As early as nine
o'clock in the morning they began to drive, by way of all streets,
avenues, and bridges, toward that hall of the fine arts where all
artistic Paris invites all fashionable Paris to be present at the
pretended varnishing of three thousand four hundred pictures.

A long procession of visitors pressed through the doors, and, disdaining
the exhibition of sculpture, hastened upstairs to the picture gallery.
Even while mounting the steps they raised their eyes to the canvases
displayed on the walls of the staircase, where they hang the special
category of decorative painters who have sent canvases of unusual
proportions or works that the committee dare not refuse.

In the square salon a great crowd surged and rustled. The artists,
who were in evidence until evening, were easily recognized by their
activity, the sonorousness of their voices, and the authority of their
gestures. They drew their friends by the sleeve toward the pictures,
which they pointed out with exclamations and mimicry of a connoisseur's
energy. All types of artists were to be seen--tall men with long hair,
wearing hats of mouse-gray or black and of indescribable shapes,
large and round like roofs, with their turned-down brims shadowing
the wearer's whole chest. Others were short, active, slight or stocky,
wearing foulard cravats and round jackets, or the sack-like garment of
the singular costume peculiar to this class of painters.

There was the clan of the fashionables, of the curious, and of artists
of the boulevard; the clan of Academicians, correct, and decorated
with red rosettes, enormous or microscopic, according to individual
conception of elegance and good form; the clan of bourgeois painters,
assisted by the family surrounding the father like a triumphal chorus.

On the four great walls the canvases admitted to the honor of the
square salon dazzled one at the very entrance by their brilliant tones,
glittering frames, the crudity of new color, vivified by fresh varnish,
blinding under the pitiless light poured from above.

The portrait of the President of the Republic faced the entrance; while
on another wall a general bedizened with gold lace, sporting a hat
decorated with ostrich plumes, and wearing red cloth breeches, hung in
pleasant proximity to some naked nymphs under a willow-tree, and near
by was a vessel in distress almost engulfed by a great wave. A bishop
of the early Church excommunicating a barbarian king, an Oriental street
full of dead victims of the plague, and the Shade of Dante in Hell,
seized and captivated the eye with irresistible fascination.

Other paintings in the immense room were a charge of cavalry;
sharpshooters in a wood; cows in a pasture; two noblemen of the
eighteenth century fighting a duel on a street corner; a madwoman
sitting on a wall; a priest administering the last rites to a dying man;
harvesters, rivers, a sunset, a moonlight effect--in short, samples of
everything that artists paint, have painted, and will paint until the
end of the world.

Olivier, in the midst of a group of celebrated brother painters, members
of the Institute and of the jury, exchanged opinions with them. He
was oppressed by a certain uneasiness, a dissatisfaction with his own
exhibited work, of the success of which he was very doubtful, in spite
of the warm congratulations he had received.

Suddenly he sprang forward; the Duchesse de Mortemain had appeared at
the main entrance.

"Hasn't the Countess arrived yet?" she inquired of Bertin.

"I have not seen her."

"And Monsieur de Musadieu?"

"I have not seen him either."

"He promised me to be here at ten o'clock, at the top of the stairs, to
show me around the principal galleries."

"Will you permit me to take his place, Duchess?"

"No, no. Your friends need you. We shall see each other again very soon,
for I shall expect you to lunch with us."

Musadieu hastened toward them. He had been detained for some minutes in
the hall of sculpture, and excused himself, breathless already.

"This way, Duchess, this way," said he. "Let us begin at the right."

They were just disappearing among the throng when the Comtesse de
Guilleroy, leaning on her daughter's arm, entered and looked around in
search of Olivier Bertin.

He saw them and hastened to meet them. As he greeted the two ladies, he

"How charming you look to-day. Really, Nanette has improved very much.
She has actually changed in a week."

He regarded her with the eye of a close observer, adding: "The lines of
her face are softer, yet more expressive; her complexion is clearer.
She is already something less of a little girl and somewhat more of a

Suddenly he bethought himself of the grand affair of the day.

"Let us begin at the right," said he, "and we shall soon overtake the

The Countess, well informed on all matters connected with painting, and
as preoccupied as if she were herself on exhibition, inquired: "What do
they say of the exposition?"

"A fine one," Bertin replied. "There is a remarkable Bonnat, two
excellent things by Carolus Duran, an admirable Puvis de Chavannes, a
very new and astonishing Roll, an exquisite Gervex, and many others, by
Beraud, Cazin, Duez--in short, a heap of good things."

"And you?" said the Countess.

"Oh, they compliment me, but I am not satisfied."

"You never are satisfied."

"Yes, sometimes. But to-day I really feel that I am right."


"I do not know."

"Let us go to see it."

When they arrived before Bertin's picture--two little peasant-girls
taking a bath in a brook--they found a group admiring it. The Countess
was delighted, and whispered: "It is simply a delicious bit--a jewel!
You never have done anything better."

Bertin pressed close to her, loving her and thanking her for every word
that calmed his suffering and healed his aching heart. Through his mind
ran arguments to convince him that she was right, that she must judge
accurately with the intelligent observation of an experienced Parisian.
He forgot, so desirous was he to reassure himself, that for at least
twelve years he had justly reproached her for too much admiring the
dainty trifles, the elegant nothings, the sentimentalities and nameless
trivialities of the passing fancy of the day, and never art, art alone,
art detached from the popular ideas, tendencies, and prejudices.

"Let us go on," said he, drawing them away from his picture. He led them
for a long time from gallery to gallery, showing them notable canvases
and explaining their subjects, happy to be with them.

"What time is it?" the Countess asked suddenly.

"Half after twelve."

"Oh, let us hasten to luncheon then. The Duchess must be waiting for us
at Ledoyen's, where she charged me to bring you, in case we should not
meet her in the galleries."

The restaurant, in the midst of a little island of trees and shrubs,
seemed like an overflowing hive. A confused hum of voices, calls, the
rattling of plates and glasses came from the open windows and large
doors. The tables, set close together and filled with people eating,
extended in long rows right and left of a narrow passage, up and down
which ran the distracted waiters, holding along their arms dishes filled
with meats, fish, or fruit.

Under the circular gallery there was such a throng of men and women as
to suggest a living pate. Everyone there laughed, called out, drank and
ate, enlivened by the wines and inundated by one of those waves of joy
that sweep over Paris, on certain days, with the sunshine.

An attendant showed the Countess, Annette, and Bertin upstairs into
a reserved room, where the Duchess awaited them. As they entered, the
painter observed, beside his aunt, the Marquis de Farandal, attentive
and smiling, and extending his hand to receive the parasols and wraps of
the Countess and her daughter. He felt again so much displeasure that he
suddenly desired to say rude and irritating things.

The Duchess explained the meeting of her nephew and the departure of
Musadieu, who had been carried off by the Minister of the Fine Arts, and
Bertin, at the thought that this insipidly good-looking Marquis might
marry Annette, that he had come there only to see her, and that he
regarded her already as destined to share his bed, unnerved and revolted
him, as if some one had ignored his own rights--sacred and mysterious

As soon as they were at table, the Marquis, who sat beside the young
girl, occupied himself in talking to her with the devoted air of a man
authorized to pay his addresses.

He assumed a curious manner, which seemed to the painter bold and
searching; his smiles were satisfied and almost tender, his gallantry
was familiar and officious. In manner and word appeared already
something of decision, as if he were about to announce that he had won
the prize.

The Duchess and the Countess seemed to protect and approve this attitude
of a pretender, and exchanged glances of complicity.

As soon as the luncheon was finished the party returned to the
Exposition. There was such a dense crowd in the galleries, it seemed
impossible to penetrate it. An odor of perspiring humanity, a stale
smell of old gowns and coats, made an atmosphere at once heavy and
sickening. No one looked at the pictures any more, but at faces and
toilets, seeking out well-known persons; and at times came a great
jostling of the crowd as it was forced to give way before the high
double ladder of the varnishers, who cried: "Make way, Messieurs! Make
way, Mesdames!"

At the end of ten minutes, the Countess and Olivier found themselves
separated from the others. He wished to find them immediately, but,
leaning upon him, the Countess said: "Are we not very well off as it
is? Let them go, since it is quite natural that we should lose sight of
them; we will meet them again in the buffet at four o'clock."

"That is true," he replied.

But he was absorbed by the idea that the Marquis was accompanying
Annette and continuing his attempts to please her by his fatuous and
affected gallantry.

"You love me always, then?" murmured the Countess.

"Yes, certainly," he replied, with a preoccupied air, trying to catch a
glimpse of the Marquis's gray hat over the heads of the crowd.

Feeling that he was abstracted, and wishing to lead him back to her own
train of thought, the Countess continued:

"If you only knew how I adore your picture of this year! It is certainly
your _chef-d'oeuvre_."

He smiled, suddenly, forgetting the young people in remembering his
anxiety of the morning.

"Do you really think so?" he asked.

"Yes, I prefer it above all others."

With artful wheedling, she crowned him anew, having known well for a
long time that nothing has a stronger effect on an artist than tender
and continuous flattery. Captivated, reanimated, cheered by her sweet
words, he began again to chat gaily, seeing and hearing only her in that
tumultuous throng.

By way of expressing his thanks, he murmured in her ear: "I have a mad
desire to embrace you!"

A warm wave of emotion swept over her, and, raising her shining eyes to
his, she repeated her question: "You love me always, then?"

He replied, with the intonation she wished to hear, and which she had
not heard before:

"Yes, I love you, my dear Any."

"Come often to see me in the evenings," she said. "Now that I have my
daughter I shall not go out very much."

Since she had recognized in him this unexpected reawakening of
tenderness, her heart was stirred with great happiness. In view of
Olivier's silvery hair, and the calming touch of time, she had not
suspected that he was fascinated by another woman, but she was terribly
afraid that, from pure dread of loneliness, he might marry. This fear,
which was of long standing, increased constantly, and set her wits
to contriving plans whereby she might have him near her as much as
possible, and to see that he should not pass long evenings alone in the
chill silence of his empty rooms. Not being always able to hold and
keep him, she would suggest amusements for him, sent him to the theater,
forced him to go into society, being better pleased to know that he was
mingling with many other women than alone in his gloomy house.

She resumed, answering his secret thought: "Ah, if I could only have you
always with me, how I should spoil you! Promise me to come often, since
I hardly go out at all now."

"I promise it."

At that moment a voice murmured "Mamma!" in her ear.

The Countess started and turned. Annette, the Duchess, and the Marquis
had just rejoined them.

"It is four o'clock," said the Duchess. "I am very tired and I wish to
go now."

"I will go, too; I have had enough of it," said the Countess.

They reached the interior stairway which divides the galleries where
the drawings and water-colors are hung, overlooking the immense garden
inclosed in glass, where the works of sculpture are exhibited.

From the platform of this stairway they could see from one end to the
other of this great conservatory, filled with statues set up along the
pathway around large green shrubs, and below was the crowd which covered
the paths like a moving black wave. The marbles rose from this mass of
dark hats and shoulders, piercing it in a thousand places, and seeming
almost luminous in their dazzling whiteness.

As Bertin took leave of the ladies at the door of exit, Madame de
Guilleroy whispered:

"Then--will you come this evening?"

"Yes, certainly."

Bertin reentered the Exposition, to talk with the artists over the
impressions of the day.

Painters and sculptors stood talking in groups around the statues and
in front of the buffet, upholding or attacking the same ideas that were
discussed every year, using the same arguments over works almost exactly
similar. Olivier, who usually took a lively share in these disputes,
being quick in repartee and clever in disconcerting attacks, besides
having a reputation as an ingenious theorist of which he was proud,
tried to urge himself to take an active part in the debates, but the
things he said interested him no more than those he heard, and he longed
to go away, to listen no more, to understand no more, knowing beforehand
as he did all that anyone could say on those ancient questions of art,
of which he knew all sides.

He loved these things, however, and had loved them until now in an
almost exclusive way; but to-day he was distracted by one of those
slight but persistent preoccupations, one of those petty anxieties which
are so small we ought not to allow ourselves to be troubled by them, but
which, in spite of all we do or say, prick through our thoughts like an
invisible thorn buried in the flesh.

He had even forgotten his anxiety over his little peasant bathers in the
remembrance of the displeasing idea of the Marquis approaching Annette.
What did it matter to him, after all? Had he any right? Why should he
wish to prevent this precious marriage, already arranged, and suitable
from every point of view? But no reasoning could efface that impression
of uneasiness and discontent which had seized him when he had beheld
Farandal talking and smiling like an accepted suitor, caressing with his
glances the fair face of the young girl.

When he entered the Countess's drawing-room that evening, and found her
alone with her daughter, continuing by the lamplight their knitting
for the poor, he had great difficulty in preventing himself from saying
sneering things about the Marquis, and from revealing to Annette his
real banality, veiled by a mask of elegance and good form.

For a long time, during these after-dinner evening visits, he had often
allowed himself to lapse into occasional silence that was slightly
somnolent, and was accustomed to fall into the easy attitudes of an old
friend who does not stand on ceremony. But now he seemed suddenly to
rouse himself and to show the alertness of men who do their best to be
agreeable, who take thought as to what they wish to say, and who, before
certain persons, seek for the best phrases in which to express
their ideas and render them attractive. No longer did he allow the
conversation to lag, but did his best to keep it bright and interesting;
and when he had made the Countess and her daughter laugh gaily, when he
felt that he had touched their emotions, or when they ceased to work in
order to listen to him, he felt a thrill of pleasure, an assurance of
success, which rewarded him for his efforts.

He came now every time that he knew they were alone, and never, perhaps,
had he passed such delightful evenings.

Madame de Guilleroy, whose continual fears were soothed by this
assiduity, made fresh efforts to attract him and to keep him near her.
She refused invitations to dinners in the city, she did not go to balls,
nor to the theaters, in order to have the joy of throwing into the
telegraph-box, on going out at three o'clock, a little blue despatch
which said: "Come to-night." At first, wishing to give him earlier the
tete-a-tete that he desired, she had sent her daughter to bed as soon
as it was ten o'clock. Then after one occasion when he had appeared
surprised at this and had begged laughingly that Annette should not
be treated any longer like a naughty little girl, she had allowed her
daughter a quarter of an hour's grace, then half an hour, and finally a
whole hour. Bertin never remained long after the young girl had retired;
it was as if half the charm that held him there had departed with her.
He would soon take the little low seat that he preferred beside the
Countess and lay his cheek against her knee with a caressing movement.
She would give him one of her hands, which he clasped in his, and the
fever of his spirit would suddenly be abated; he ceased to talk, and
appeared to find repose in tender silence from the effort he had made.

Little by little the Countess, with the keenness of feminine instinct,
comprehended that Annette attracted him almost as much as she herself.
This did not anger her; she was glad that between them he could find
something of that domestic happiness which he lacked; and she imprisoned
him between them, as it were, playing the part of tender mother in such
a way that he might almost believe himself the young girl's father; and
a new bond of tenderness was added to that which had always held him to
this household.

Her personal vanity, always alert, but disturbed since she had felt in
several ways, like almost invisible pin-pricks, the innumerable attacks
of advancing age, took on a new allurement. In order to become as
slender as Annette, she continued to drink nothing, and the real
slimness of her figure gave her the appearance of a young girl. When her
back was turned one could hardly distinguish her from Annette; but
her face showed the effect of this regime. The plump flesh began to be
wrinkled and took on a yellowish tint which rendered more dazzling by
contrast the superb freshness of the young girl's complexion. Then the
Countess began to make up her face with theatrical art, and, though in
broad daylight she produced an effect that was slightly artificial, in
the evening her complexion had that charmingly soft tint obtained by
women who know how to make up well.

The realization of her fading beauty, and the employment of artificial
aid to restore it, somewhat changed her habits. As much as possible,
she avoided comparison with her daughter in the full light of day, but
rather sought it by lamplight, which, if anything, showed herself to
greater advantage. When she was fatigued, pale, and felt that she looked
older than usual, she had convenient headaches by reason of which she
excused herself from going to balls and theaters; but on days when she
knew she looked well she triumphed again and played the elder sister
with the grave modesty of a little mother. In order always to wear gowns
like those of her daughter, she made Annette wear toilettes suitable
for a fully-grown young woman, a trifle too old for her; and Annette who
showed more and more plainly her joyous and laughing disposition, wore
them with sparkling vivacity that rendered her still more attractive.
She lent herself with all her heart to the coquettish arts of her
mother, acting with her, as if by instinct, graceful little domestic
scenes; she knew when to embrace her at the effective moment, how to
clasp her tenderly round the waist, and to show by a movement, a caress,
or some ingenious pose, how pretty both were and how much they resembled
each other.

From seeing the two so much together, and from continually comparing
them, Olivier Bertin sometimes actually confused them in his own mind.
Sometimes, when Annette spoke, and he happened to be looking elsewhere,
he was compelled to ask: "Which of you said that?" He often amused
himself by playing this game of confusion when all three were alone in
the drawing-room with the Louis XV tapestries. He would close his eyes
and beg them to ask him the same question, the one after the other, and
then change the order of the interrogations, so that he might recognize
their voices. They did this with so much cleverness in imitating each
other's intonations, in saying the same phrases with the same accents,
that often he could not tell which spoke. In fact, they had come to
speak so much alike that the servants answered "Yes, Madame" to the
daughter and "Yes, Mademoiselle" to the mother.

From imitating each other's voices and movements for amusement,
they acquired such a similarity of gait and gesture that Monsieur de
Guilleroy himself, when he saw one or the other pass through the shadowy
end of the drawing-room, confounded them for an instant and asked: "Is
that you, Annette, or is it your mamma?"

From this resemblance, natural and assumed, was engendered in the mind
and heart of the painter a strange impression of a double entity, old
and young, wise yet ignorant, two bodies made, the one after the other,
with the same flesh; in fact, the same woman continued, but rejuvenated,
having become once more what she was formerly. Thus he lived near them,
shared between them, uneasy, troubled, feeling for the mother his old
ardor awakened, and for the daughter an indefinable tenderness.

Guy de Maupassant

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