by Honore de Balzac
Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley
Dedicated to the Comtesse Clara Maffei.
In September, 1835, one of the richest heiresses of the faubourg
Saint-Germain, Mademoiselle du Rouvre, the only daughter of the
Marquis du Rouvre, married Comte Adam Mitgislas Laginski, a young
We ask permission to write these Polish names as they are pronounced,
to spare our readers the aspect of the fortifications of consonants by
which the Slave language protects its vowels,--probably not to lose
them, considering how few there are.
The Marquis du Rouvre had squandered nearly the whole of a princely
fortune, which he obtained originally through his marriage with a
Demoiselle de Ronquerolles. Therefore, on her mother's side Clementine
du Rouvre had the Marquis de Ronquerolles for uncle, and Madame de
Serizy for aunt. On her father's side she had another uncle in the
eccentric person of the Chevalier du Rouvre, a younger son of the
house, an old bachelor who had become very rich by speculating in
lands and houses. The Marquis de Ronquerolles had the misfortune to
lose both his children at the time of the cholera, and the only son of
Madame de Serizy, a young soldier of great promise, perished in Africa
in the affair of the Makta. In these days rich families stand between
the danger of impoverishing their children if they have too many, or
of extinguishing their names if they have too few,--a singular result
of the Code which Napoleon never thought of. By a curious turn of
fortune Clementine became, in spite of her father having squandered
his substance on Florine (one of the most charming actresses in
Paris), a great heiress. The Marquis de Ronquerolles, a clever
diplomatist under the new dynasty, his sister, Madame de Serizy, and
the Chevalier du Rouvre agreed, in order to save their fortunes from
the dissipations of the marquis, to settle them on their niece, to
whom, moreover, they each pledged themselves to pay ten thousand
francs a year from the day of her marriage.
It is quite unnecessary to say that the Polish count, though an exile,
was no expense to the French government. Comte Adam Laginski belonged
to one of the oldest and most illustrious families in Poland, which
was allied to many of the princely houses of Germany,--Sapieha,
Radziwill, Mniszech, Rzewuski, Czartoryski, Leczinski, Lubormirski,
and all the other great Sarmatian SKIS. But heraldic knowledge is not
the most distinguishing feature of the French nation under Louis-
Philippe, and Polish nobility was no great recommendation to the
bourgeoisie who were lording it in those days. Besides, when Adam
first made his appearance, in 1833, on the boulevard des Italiens, at
Frascati, and at the Jockey-Club, he was leading the life of a young
man who, having lost his political prospects, was taking his pleasure
in Parisian dissipation. At first he was thought to be a student.
The Polish nationality had at this period fallen as low in French
estimation, thanks to a shameful governmental reaction, as the
republicans had sought to raise it. The singular struggle of the
Movement against Resistance (two words which will be inexplicable
thirty years hence) made sport of what ought to have been truly
respected,--the name of a conquered nation to whom the French had
offered hospitality, for whom fetes had been given (with songs and
dances by subscription), above all, a nation which in the Napoleonic
struggle between France and Europe had given us six thousand men, and
Do not infer from this that either side is taken here; either that of
the Emperor Nicholas against Poland, or that of Poland against the
Emperor. It would be a foolish thing to slip political discussion into
tales that are intended to amuse or interest. Besides, Russia and
Poland were both right,--one to wish the unity of its empire, the
other to desire its liberty. Let us say in passing that Poland might
have conquered Russia by the influence of her morals instead of
fighting her with weapons; she should have imitated China which, in
the end, Chinesed the Tartars, and will, it is to be hoped, Chinese
the English. Poland ought to have Polonized Russia. Poniatowski tried
to do so in the least favorable portion of the empire; but as a king
he was little understood,--because, possibly, he did not fully
But how could the Parisians avoid disliking an unfortunate people who
were the cause of that shameful falsehood enacted during the famous
review at which all Paris declared its will to succor Poland? The
Poles were held up to them as the allies of the republican party, and
they never once remembered that Poland was a republic of aristocrats.
From that day forth the bourgeoisie treated with base contempt the
exiles of the nation it had worshipped a few days earlier. The wind of
a riot is always enough to veer the Parisians from north to south
under any regime. It is necessary to remember these sudden
fluctuations of feeling in order to understand why it was that in 1835
the word "Pole" conveyed a derisive meaning to a people who consider
themselves the wittiest and most courteous nation on earth, and their
city of Paris the focus of enlightenment, with the sceptre of arts and
literature within its grasp.
There are, alas! two sorts of Polish exiles,--the republican Poles,
sons of Lelewel, and the noble Poles, at the head of whom is Prince
Adam Czartoryski. The two classes are like fire and water; but why
complain of that? Such divisions are always to be found among exiles,
no matter of what nation they may be, or in what countries they take
refuge. They carry their countries and their hatreds with them. Two
French priests, who had emigrated to Brussels during the Revolution,
showed the utmost horror of each other, and when one of them was asked
why, he replied with a glance at his companion in misery: "Why?
because he's a Jansenist!" Dante would gladly have stabbed a Guelf had
he met him in exile. This explains the virulent attacks of the French
against the venerable Prince Adam Czartoryski, and the dislike shown
to the better class of Polish exiles by the shopkeeping Caesars and
the licensed Alexanders of Paris.
In 1834, therefore, Adam Mitgislas Laginski was something of a butt
for Parisian pleasantry.
"He is rather nice, though he is a Pole," said Rastignac.
"All these Poles pretend to be great lords," said Maxime de Trailles,
"but this one does pay his gambling debts, and I begin to think he
must have property."
Without wishing to offend these banished men, it may be allowable to
remark that the light-hearted, careless inconsistency of the Sarmatian
character does justify in some degree the satire of the Parisians,
who, by the bye, would behave in like circumstances exactly as the
Poles do. The French aristocracy, so nobly succored during the
Revolution by the Polish lords, certainly did not return the kindness
in 1832. Let us have the melancholy courage to admit this, and to say
that the faubourg Saint-Germain is still the debtor of Poland.
Was Comte Adam rich, or was he poor, or was he an adventurer? This
problem was long unsolved. The diplomatic salons, faithful to
instructions, imitated the silence of the Emperor Nicholas, who held
that all Polish exiles were virtually dead and buried. The court of
the Tuileries, and all who took their cue from it, gave striking proof
of the political quality which was then dignified by the name of
sagacity. They turned their backs on a Russian prince with whom they
had all been on intimate terms during the Emigration, merely because
it was said that the Emperor Nicholas gave him the cold shoulder.
Between the caution of the court and the prudence of the diplomates,
the Polish exiles of distinction lived in Paris in the Biblical
solitude of "super flumina Babylonis," or else they haunted a few
salons which were the neutral ground of all opinions. In a city of
pleasure, like Paris, where amusements abound on all sides, the
heedless gayety of a Pole finds twice as many encouragements as it
needs to a life of dissipation.
It must be said, however, that Adam had two points against him,--his
appearance, and his mental equipment. There are two species of Pole,
as there are two species of Englishwoman. When an Englishwoman is not
very handsome she is horribly ugly. Comte Adam belonged in the second
category of human beings. His small face, rather sharp in expression,
looked as if it had been pressed in a vise. His short nose, and fair
hair, and reddish beard and moustache made him look all the more like
a goat because he was small and thin, and his tarnished yellow eyes
caught you with that oblique look which Virgil celebrates. How came
he, in spite of such obvious disadvantages, to possess really
exquisite manners and a distinguished air? The problem is solved
partly by the care and elegance of his dress, and partly by the
training given him by his mother, a Radziwill. His courage amounted to
daring, but his mind was not more than was needed for the ephemeral
talk and pleasantry of Parisian conversation. And yet it would have
been difficult to find among the young men of fashion in Paris a
single one who was his superior. Young men talk a great deal too much
in these days of horses, money, taxes, deputies; French CONVERSATION
is no longer what it was. Brilliancy of mind needs leisure and certain
social inequalities to bring it out. There is, probably, more real
conversation in Vienna or St. Petersburg than in Paris. Equals do not
need to employ delicacy or shrewdness in speech; they blurt out things
as they are. Consequently the dandies of Paris did not discover the
great seigneur in the rather heedless young fellow who, in their
talks, would flit from one subject to another, all the more intent
upon amusement because he had just escaped from a great peril, and,
finding himself in a city where his family was unknown, felt at
liberty to lead a loose life without the risk of disgracing his name.
But one fine day in 1834 Adam suddenly bought a house in the rue de la
Pepiniere. Six months later his style of living was second to none in
Paris. About the time when he thus began to take himself seriously he
had seen Clementine du Rouvre at the Opera and had fallen in love with
her. A year later the marriage took place. The salon of Madame
d'Espard was the first to sound his praises. Mothers of daughters then
learned too late that as far back as the year 900 the family of the
Laginski was among the most illustrious of the North. By an act of
prudence which was very unPolish, the mother of the young count had
mortgaged her entire property on the breaking out of the insurrection
for an immense sum lent by two Jewish bankers in Paris. Comte Adam was
now in possession of eighty thousand francs a year. When this was
discovered society ceased to be surprised at the imprudence which had
been laid to the charge of Madame de Serizy, the Marquis de
Ronquerolles, and the Chevalier du Rouvre in yielding to the foolish
passion of their niece. People jumped, as usual, from one extreme of
judgment to the other.
During the winter of 1836 Comte Adam was the fashion, and Clementine
Laginska one of the queens of Paris. Madame Laginska is now a member
of that charming circle of young women represented by Mesdames de
Lestorade, de Portenduere, Marie de Vandenesse, du Guenic, and de
Maufrigneuse, the flowers of our present Paris, who live at such
immeasurable distance from the parvenus, the vulgarians, and the
speculators of the new regime.
This preamble is necessary to show the sphere in which was done one of
those noble actions, less rare than the calumniators of our time
admit,--actions which, like pearls, the fruit of pain and suffering,
are hidden within rough shells, lost in the gulf, the sea, the tossing
waves of what we call society, the century, Paris, London, St.
Petersburg,--or what you will.
If the axiom that architecture is the expression of manner and morals
was ever proved, it was certainly after the insurrection of 1830,
during the present reign of the house of Orleans. As all the old
fortunes are diminishing in France, the majestic mansions of our
ancestors are constantly being demolished and replaced by species of
phalansteries, in which the peers of July occupy the third floor above
some newly enriched empirics on the lower floors. A mixture of styles
is confusedly employed. As there is no longer a real court or nobility
to give the tone, there is no harmony in the production of art. Never,
on the other hand, has architecture discovered so many economical ways
of imitating the real and the solid, or displayed more resources, more
talent, in distributing them. Propose to an architect to build upon
the garden at the back of an old mansion, and he will run you up a
little Louvre overloaded with ornament. He will manage to get in a
courtyard, stables, and if you care for it, a garden. Inside the house
he will accommodate a quantity of little rooms and passages. He is so
clever in deceiving the eye that you think you will have plenty of
space; but it is only a nest of small rooms, after all, in which a
ducal family has to turn itself about in the space that its own
bakehouse formerly occupied.
The hotel of the Comtesse Laginska, rue de la Pepiniere, is one of
these creations, and stands between court and garden. On the right, in
the court, are the kitchens and offices; to the left the coachhouse
and stables. The porter's lodge is between two charming portes-
cocheres. The chief luxury of the house is a delightful greenhouse
contrived at the end of a boudoir on the ground-floor which opens upon
an admirable suite of reception rooms. An English philanthropist had
built this architectural bijou, designed the garden, added the
greenhouse, polished the doors, bricked the courtyard, painted the
window-frames green, and realized, in short, a dream which resembled
(proportions excepted) George the Fourth's Pavilion at Brighton. The
inventive and industrious Parisian workmen had moulded the doors and
window-frames; the ceilings were imitated from the middle-ages or
those of a Venetian palace; marble veneering abounded on the outer
walls. Steinbock and Francois Souchet had designed the mantel-pieces
and the panels above the doors; Schinner had painted the ceilings in
his masterly manner. The beauties of the staircase, white as a woman's
arm, defied those of the hotel Rothschild. On account of the riots and
the unsettled times, the cost of this folly was only about eleven
hundred thousand francs,--to an Englishman a mere nothing. All this
luxury, called princely by persons who do not know what real princes
are, was built in the garden of the house of a purveyor made a Croesus
by the Revolution, who had escaped to Brussels and died there after
going into bankruptcy. The Englishman died in Paris, of Paris; for to
many persons Paris is a disease,--sometimes several diseases. His
widow, a Methodist, had a horror of the little nabob establishment,
and ordered it to be sold. Comte Adam bought it at a bargain; and how
he came to do so shall presently be made known, for bargains were not
at all in his line as a grand seigneur.
Behind the house lay the verdant velvet of an English lawn shaded at
the lower end by a clump of exotic trees, in the midst of which stood
a Chinese pagoda with soundless belfries and motionless golden eggs.
The greenhouse concealed the garden wall on the northern side, the
opposite wall was covered with climbing plants trained upon poles
painted green and connected with crossway trellises. This lawn, this
world of flowers, the gravelled paths, the simulated forest, the
verdant palisades, were contained within the space of five and twenty
square rods, which are worth to-day four hundred thousand francs,--the
value of an actual forest. Here, in this solitude in the middle of
Paris, the birds sang, thrushes, nightingales, warblers, bulfinches,
and sparrows. The greenhouse was like an immense jardiniere, filling
the air with perfume in winter as in summer. The means by which its
atmosphere was made to order, torrid as in China or temperate as in
Italy, were cleverly concealed. Pipes in which hot water circulated,
or steam, were either hidden under ground or festooned with plants
overhead. The boudoir was a large room. The miracle of the modern
Parisian fairy named Architecture is to get all these many and great
things out of a limited bit of ground.
The boudoir of the young countess was arranged to suit the taste of
the artist to whom Comte Adam entrusted the decoration of the house.
It is too full of pretty nothings to be a place for repose; one scarce
knows where to sit down among carved Chinese work-tables with their
myriads of fantastic figures inlaid in ivory, cups of yellow topaz
mounted on filagree, mosaics which inspire theft, Dutch pictures in
the style which Schinner has adopted, angels such as Steinbock
conceived but often could not execute, statuettes modelled by genius
pursued by creditors (the real explanation of the Arabian myth),
superb sketches by our best artists, lids of chests made into panels
alternating with fluted draperies of Italian silk, portieres hanging
from rods of old oak in tapestried masses on which the figures of some
hunting scene are swarming, pieces of furniture worthy to have
belonged to Madame de Pompadour, Persian rugs, et cetera. For a last
graceful touch, all these elegant things were subdued by the half-
light which filtered through embroidered curtains and added to their
charm. On a table between the windows, among various curiosities, lay
a whip, the handle designed by Mademoiselle de Fauveau, which proved
that the countess rode on horseback.
Such is a lady's boudoir in 1837,--an exhibition of the contents of
many shops, which amuse the eye, as if ennui were the one thing to be
dreaded by the social world of the liveliest and most stirring capital
in Europe. Why is there nothing of an inner life? nothing which leads
to revery, nothing reposeful? Why indeed? Because no one in our day is
sure of the future; we are living our lives like prodigal annuitants.
One morning Clementine appeared to be thinking of something. She was
lying at full length on one of those marvellous couches from which it
is almost impossible to rise, the upholsterer having invented them for
lovers of the "far niente" and its attendant joys of laziness to sink
into. The doors of the greenhouse were open, letting the odors of
vegetation and the perfume of the tropics pervade the room. The young
wife was looking at her husband who was smoking a narghile, the only
form of pipe she would have suffered in that room. The portieres, held
back by cords, gave a vista through two elegant salons, one white and
gold, comparable only to that of the hotel Forbin-Janson, the other in
the style of the Renaissance. The dining-room, which had no rival in
Paris except that of the Baron de Nucingen, was at the end of a short
gallery decorated in the manner of the middle-ages. This gallery
opened on the side of the courtyard upon a large antechamber, through
which could be seen the beauties of the staircase.
The count and countess had just finished breakfast; the sky was a
sheet of azure without a cloud, April was nearly over. They had been
married two years, and Clementine had just discovered for the first
time that there was something resembling a secret or a mystery in her
household. The Pole, let us say it to his honor, is usually helpless
before a woman; he is so full of tenderness for her that in Poland he
becomes her inferior, though Polish women make admirable wives. Now a
Pole is still more easily vanquished by a Parisian woman. Consequently
Comte Adam, pressed by questions, did not even attempt the innocent
roguery of selling the suspected secret. It is always wise with a
woman to get some good out of a mystery; she will like you the better
for it, as a swindler respects an honest man the more when he finds he
cannot swindle him. Brave in heart but not in speech, Comte Adam
merely stipulated that he should not be compelled to answer until he
had finished his narghile.
"If any difficulty occurred when we were travelling," said Clementine,
"you always dismissed it by saying, 'Paz will settle that.' You never
wrote to any one but Paz. When we returned here everybody kept saying,
'the captain, the captain.' If I want the carriage--'the captain.' Is
there a bill to pay--'the captain.' If my horse is not properly
bitted, they must speak to Captain Paz. In short, it is like a game of
dominoes--Paz is everywhere. I hear of nothing but Paz, but I never
see Paz. Who and what is Paz? Why don't you bring forth your Paz?"
"Isn't everything going on right?" asked the count, taking the
"bocchettino" of his narghile from his lips.
"Everything is going on so right that other people with an income of
two hundred thousand francs would ruin themselves by going at our
pace, and we have only one hundred and ten thousand."
So saying she pulled the bell-cord (an exquisite bit of needlework). A
footman entered, dressed like a minister.
"Tell Captain Paz that I wish to see him."
"If you think you are going to find out anything that way--" said
Comte Adam, laughing.
It is well to mention that Adam and Clementine, married in December,
1835, had gone soon after the wedding to Italy, Switzerland, and
Germany, where they spent the greater part of two years. Returning to
Paris in November, 1837, the countess entered society for the first
time as a married woman during the winter which had just ended, and
she then became aware of the existence, half-suppressed and wholly
dumb but very useful, of a species of factotum who was personally
invisible, named Paz,--spelt thus, but pronounced "Patz."
"Monsieur le capitaine Paz begs Madame la comtesse to excuse him,"
said the footman, returning. "He is at the stables; as soon as he has
changed his dress Comte Paz will present himself to Madame."
"What was he doing at the stables?"
"He was showing them how to groom Madame's horse," said the man. "He
was not pleased with the way Constantin did it."
The countess looked at the footman. He was perfectly serious and did
not add to his words the sort of smile by which servants usually
comment on the actions of a superior who seems to them to derogate
from his position.
"Ah! he was grooming Cora."
"Madame la comtesse intends to ride out this morning?" said the
footman, leaving the room without further answer.
"Is Paz a Pole?" asked Clementine, turning to her husband, who nodded
by way of affirmation.
Madame Laginska was silent, examining Adam. With her feet extended
upon a cushion and her head poised like that of a bird on the edge of
its nest listening to the noises in a grove, she would have seemed
enchanting even to a blase man. Fair and slender, and wearing her hair
in curls, she was not unlike those semi-romantic pictures in the
Keepsakes, especially when dressed, as she was this morning, in a
breakfast gown of Persian silk, the folds of which could not disguise
the beauty of her figure or the slimness of her waist. The silk with
its brilliant colors being crossed upon the bosom showed the spring of
the neck,--its whiteness contrasting delightfully against the tones of
a guipure lace which lay upon her shoulders. Her eyes and their long
black lashes added at this moment to the expression of curiosity which
puckered her pretty mouth. On the forehead, which was well modelled,
an observer would have noticed a roundness characteristic of the true
Parisian woman,--self-willed, merry, well-informed, but inaccessible
to vulgar seductions. Her hands, which were almost transparent, were
hanging down at the end of each arm of her chair; the tapering
fingers, slightly turned up at their points, showed nails like
almonds, which caught the light. Adam smiled at his wife's impatience,
and looked at her with a glance which two years of married life had
not yet chilled. Already the little countess had made herself mistress
of the situation, for she scarcely paid attention to her husband's
admiration. In fact, in the look which she occasionally cast at him,
there seemed to be the consciousness of a Frenchwoman's ascendancy
over the puny, volatile, and red-haired Pole.
"Here comes Paz," said the count, hearing a step which echoed through
The countess beheld a tall and handsome man, well-made, and bearing on
his face the signs of pain which come of inward strength and secret
endurance of sorrow. He wore one of those tight, frogged overcoats
which were then called "polonaise." Thick, black hair, rather unkempt,
covered his square head, and Clementine noticed his broad forehead
shining like a block of white marble, for Paz held his visored cap in
his hand. The hand itself was like that of the Infant Hercules. Robust
health flourished on his face, which was divided by a large Roman nose
and reminded Clementine of some handsome Transteverino. A black silk
cravat added to the martial appearance of this six-foot mystery, with
eyes of jet and Italian fervor. The amplitude of his pleated trousers,
which allowed only the tips of his boots to be seen, revealed his
faithfulness to the fashions of his own land. There was something
really burlesque to a romantic woman in the striking contrast no one
could fail to remark between the captain and the count, the little
Pole with his pinched face and the stalwart soldier.
"Good morning, Adam," he said familiarly. Then he bowed courteously as
he asked Clementine what he could do for her.
"You are Laginski's friend!" exclaimed the countess.
"For life and death," answered Paz, to whom the count threw a smile of
affection as he drew a last puff from his perfumed pipe.
"Then why don't you take your meals with us? why did you not accompany
us to Italy and Switzerland? why do you hide yourself in such a way
that I am unable to thank you for the constant services that you do
for us?" said the countess, with much vivacity of manner but no
In fact, she thought she perceived in Paz a sort of voluntary
servitude. Such an idea carried with it in her mind a certain contempt
for a social amphibian, a being half-secretary, half-bailiff, and yet
neither the one nor the other, a poor relation, an embarrassing
"Because, countess," he answered with perfect ease of manner, "there
are no thanks due. I am Adam's friend, and it gives me pleasure to
take care of his interests."
"And you remain standing for your pleasure, too," remarked Comte Adam.
Paz sat down on a chair near the door.
"I remember seeing you about the time I was married, and afterwards in
the courtyard," said Clementine. "But why do you put yourself in a
position of inferiority,--you, Adam's friend?"
"I am perfectly indifferent to the opinion of the Parisians," he
replied. "I live for myself, or, if you like, for you two."
"But the opinion of the world as to a friend of my husband is not
indifferent to me--"
"Ah, madame, the world will be satisfied if you tell them I am 'an
After a moment's silence he added, "Are you going out to-day?"
"Will you come with us to the Bois?"
So saying, Paz bowed and withdrew.
"What a good soul he is!" said Adam. "He has all the simplicity of a
"Now tell me all about your relations with him," said Clementine.
"Paz, my dear," said Laginski, "belongs to a noble family as old and
illustrious as our own. One of the Pazzi of Florence, at the time of
their disasters, fled to Poland, where he settled with some of his
property and founded the Paz family, to which the title of count was
granted. This family, which distinguished itself greatly in the
glorious days of our royal republic, became rich. The graft from the
tree that was felled in Italy flourished so vigorously in Poland that
there are several branches of the family still there. I need not tell
you that some are rich and some are poor. Our Paz is the scion of a
poor branch. He was an orphan, without other fortune than his sword,
when he served in the regiment of the Grand Duke Constantine at the
time of our revolution. Joining the Polish cause, he fought like a
Pole, like a patriot, like a man who has nothing,--three good reasons
for fighting well. In his last affair, thinking he was followed by his
men, he dashed upon a Russian battery and was taken prisoner. I was
there. His brave act roused me. 'Let us go and get him!' I said to my
troop, and we charged the battery like a lot of foragers. I got Paz--I
was the seventh man; we started twenty and came back eight, counting
Paz. After Warsaw was sold we were forced to escape those Russians. By
a curious chance, Paz and I happened to come together again, at the
same hour and the same place, on the other side of the Vistula. I saw
the poor captain arrested by some Prussians, who made themselves the
blood-hounds of the Russians. When we have fished a man out of the
Styx we cling to him. This new danger for poor Paz made me so unhappy
that I let myself be taken too, thinking I could help him. Two men can
get away where one will perish. Thanks to my name and some family
connections in Prussia, the authorities shut their eyes to my escape.
I got my dear captain through as a man of no consequence, a family
servant, and we reached Dantzic. There we got on board a Dutch vessel
and went to London. It took us two months to get there. My mother was
ill in England, and expecting me. Paz and I took care of her till her
death, which the Polish troubles hastened. Then we left London and
came to France. Men who go through such adversities become like
brothers. When I reached Paris, at twenty-two years of age, and found
I had an income of over sixty thousand francs a year, without counting
the proceeds of the diamonds and the pictures sold by my mother, I
wanted to secure the future of my dear Paz before I launched into
dissipation. I had often noticed the sadness in his eyes--sometimes
tears were in them. I had had good reason to understand his soul,
which is noble, grand, and generous to the core. I thought he might
not like to be bound by benefits to a friend who was six years younger
than himself, unless he could repay them. I was careless and
frivolous, just as a young fellow is, and I knew I was certain to ruin
myself at play, or get inveigled by some woman, and Paz and I might
then be parted; and though I had every intention of always looking out
for him, I knew I might sometime or other forget to provide for him.
In short, my dear angel, I wanted to spare him the pain and
mortification of having to ask me for money, or of having to hunt me
up if he got into distress. SO, one morning, after breakfast, when we
were sitting with our feet on the andirons smoking pipes, I produced,
--with the utmost precaution, for I saw him look at me uneasily,--a
certificate of the Funds payable to bearer for a certain sum of money
Clementine jumped up and went and seated herself on Adam's knee, put
her arms round his neck, and kissed him. "Dear treasure!" she said,
"how handsome he is! Well, what did Paz do?"
"Thaddeus turned pale," said the count, "but he didn't say a word."
"Oh! his name is Thaddeus, is it?"
"Yes; Thaddeus folded the paper and gave it back to me, and then he
said: 'I thought, Adam, that we were one for life or death, and that
we should never part. Do you want to be rid of me?' 'Oh!' I said, 'if
you take it that way, Thaddeus, don't let us say another word about
it. If I ruin myself you shall be ruined too.' 'You haven't fortune
enough to live as a Laginski should,' he said, 'and you need a friend
who will take care of your affairs, and be a father and a brother and
a trusty confidant.' My dear child, as Paz said that he had in his
look and voice, calm as they were, a maternal emotion, and also the
gratitude of an Arab, the fidelity of a dog, the friendship of a
savage,--not displayed, but ever ready. Faith! I seized him, as we
Poles do, with a hand on each shoulder, and I kissed him on the lips.
'For life and death, then! all that I have is yours--do what you will
with it.' It was he who found me this house and bought it for next to
nothing. He sold my Funds high and bought in low, and we have paid for
this barrack with the profits. He knows horses, and he manages to buy
and sell at such advantage that my stable really costs very little;
and yet I have the finest horses and the most elegant equipages in all
Paris. Our servants, brave Polish soldiers chosen by him, would go
through fire and water for us. I seem, as you say, to be ruining
myself; and yet Paz keeps the house with such method and economy that
he has even repaired some of my foolish losses at play,--the
thoughtless folly of a young man. My dear, Thaddeus is as shrewd as
two Genoese, as eager for gain as a Polish Jew, and provident as a
good housekeeper. I never could force him to live as I did when I was
a bachelor. Sometimes I had to use a sort of friendly coercion to make
him go to the theatre with me when I was alone, or to the jovial
little dinners I used to give at a tavern. He doesn't like social
"What does he like, then?" asked Clementine.
"Poland; he loves Poland and pines for it. His only spendings are sums
he gives, more in my name than in his own, to some of our poor
"Well, I shall love him, the fine fellow!" said the countess, "he
looks to me as simple-hearted as he is grand."
"All these pretty things you have about you," continued Adam, who
praised his friend in the noblest sincerity, "he picked up; he bought
them at auction, or as bargains from the dealers. Oh! he's keener than
they are themselves. If you see him rubbing his hands in the
courtyard, you may be sure he has traded away one good horse for a
better. He lives for me; his happiness is to see me elegant, in a
perfectly appointed equipage. The duties he takes upon himself are all
accomplished without fuss or emphasis. One evening I lost twenty
thousand francs at whist. 'What will Paz say?' thought I as I walked
home. Paz paid them to me, not without a sigh; but he never reproached
me, even by a look. But that sigh of his restrained me more than the
remonstrances of uncles, mothers, or wives could have done. 'Do you
regret the money?' I said to him. 'Not for you or me, no,' he replied;
'but I was thinking that twenty poor Poles could have lived a year on
that sum.' You must understand that the Pazzi are fully the equal of
the Laginski, so I couldn't regard my dear Paz as an inferior. I never
went out or came in without going first to Paz, as I would to my
father. My fortune is his; and Thaddeus knows that if danger
threatened him I would fling myself into it and drag him out, as I
have done before."
"And that is saying a good deal, my dear friend," said the countess.
"Devotion is like a flash of lightning. Men devote themselves in
battle, but they no longer have the heart for it in Paris."
"Well," replied Adam, "I am always ready, as in battle, to devote
myself to Paz. Our two characters have kept their natural asperities
and defects, but the mutual comprehension of our souls has tightened
the bond already close between us. It is quite possible to save a
man's life and kill him afterwards if we find him a bad fellow; but
Paz and I know THAT of each other which makes our friendship
indissoluble. There's a constant exchange of happy thoughts and
impressions between us; and really, perhaps, such a friendship as ours
is richer than love."
A pretty hand closed the count's mouth so promptly that the action was
somewhat like a blow.
"Yes," he said, "friendship, my dear angel, knows nothing of bankrupt
sentiments and collapsed joys. Love, after giving more than it has,
ends by giving less than it receives."
"One side as well as the other," remarked Clementine laughing.
"Yes," continued Adam, "whereas friendship only increases. You need
not pucker up your lips at that, for we are, you and I, as much
friends as lovers; we have, at least I hope so, combined the two
sentiments in our happy marriage."
"I'll explain to you what it is that has made you and Thaddeus such
good friends," said Clementine. "The difference in the lives you lead
comes from your tastes and from necessity; from your likings, not your
positions. As far as one can judge from merely seeing a man once, and
also from what you tell me, there are times when the subaltern might
become the superior."
"Oh, Paz is truly my superior," said Adam, naively; "I have no
advantage over him except mere luck."
His wife kissed him for the generosity of those words.
"The extreme care with which he hides the grandeur of his feelings is
one form of his superiority," continued the count. "I said to him
once: 'You are a sly one; you have in your heart a vast domain within
which you live and think.' He has a right to the title of count; but
in Paris he won't be called anything but captain."
"The fact is that the Florentine of the middle-ages has reappeared in
our century," said the countess. "Dante and Michael Angelo are in
"That's the very truth," cried Adam. "He is a poet in soul."
"So here I am, married to two Poles," said the young countess, with a
gesture worthy of some genius of the stage.
"Dear child!" said Adam, pressing her to him, "it would have made me
very unhappy if my friend did not please you. We were both rather
afraid of it, he and I, though he was delighted at my marriage. You
will make him very happy if you tell him that you love him,--yes, as
an old friend."
"I'll go and dress, the day is so fine; and we will all three ride
together," said Clementine, ringing for her maid.
Paz was leading so subterranean a life that the fashionable world of
Paris asked who he was when the Comtesse Laginska was seen in the Bois
de Boulogne riding between her husband and a stranger. During the ride
Clementine insisted that Thaddeus should dine with them. This caprice
of the sovereign lady compelled Paz to make an evening toilet.
Clementine dressed for the occasion with a certain coquetry, in a
style that impressed even Adam himself when she entered the salon
where the two friends awaited her.
"Comte Paz," she said, "you must go with us to the Opera."
This was said in the tone which, coming from a woman means: "If you
refuse we shall quarrel."
"Willingly, madame," replied the captain. "But as I have not the
fortune of a count, have the kindness to call me captain."
"Very good, captain; give me your arm," she said,--taking it and
leading the way to the dining-room with the flattering familiarity
which enchants all lovers.
The countess placed the captain beside her; his behavior was that of a
poor sub-lieutenant dining at his general's table. He let Clementine
talk, listened deferentially as to a superior, did not differ with her
in anything, and waited to be questioned before he spoke at all. He
seemed actually stupid to the countess, whose coquettish little ways
missed their mark in presence of such frigid gravity and conventional
respect. In vain Adam kept saying: "Do be lively, Thaddeus; one would
really suppose you were not at home. You must have made a wager to
disconcert Clementine." Thaddeus continued heavy and half asleep. When
the servants left the room at the end of the dessert the captain
explained that his habits were diametrically opposite to those of
society,--he went to bed at eight o'clock and got up very early in the
morning; and he excused his dulness on the ground of being sleepy.
"My intention in taking you to the Opera was to amuse you, captain;
but do as you prefer," said Clementine, rather piqued.
"I will go," said Paz.
"Duprez sings 'Guillaume Tell,'" remarked Adam. "But perhaps you would
rather go to the 'Varietes'?"
The captain smiled and rang the bell. "Tell Constantin," he said to
the footman, "to put the horses to the carriage instead of the coupe.
We should be rather squeezed otherwise," he said to the count.
"A Frenchman would have forgotten that," remarked Clementine, smiling.
"Ah! but we are Florentines transplanted to the North," answered
Thaddeus with a refinement of accent and a look in his eyes which made
his conduct at table seem assumed for the occasion. There was too
evident a contrast between his involuntary self-revelation in this
speech and his behavior during dinner. Clementine examined the captain
with a few of those covert glances which show a woman's surprise and
also her capacity for observation.
It resulted from this little incident that silence reigned in the
salon while the three took their coffee, a silence rather annoying to
Adam, who was incapable of imagining the cause of it. Clementine no
longer tried to draw out Thaddeus. The captain, on the other hand,
retreated within his military stiffness and came out of it no more,
neither on the way to the Opera nor in the box, where he seemed to be
"You see, madame, that I am a very stupid man," he said during the
dance in the last act of "Guillaume Tell." "Am I not right to keep, as
the saying is, to my own specialty?"
"In truth, my dear captain, you are neither a talker nor a man of the
world, but you are perhaps Polish."
"Therefore leave me to look after your pleasures, your property, your
household--it is all I am good for."
"Tartufe! pooh!" cried Adam, laughing. "My dear, he is full of ardor;
he is thoroughly educated; he can, if he chooses, hold his own in any
salon. Clementine, don't believe his modesty."
"Adieu, comtesse; I have obeyed your wishes so far; and now I will
take the carriage and go home to bed and send it back for you."
Clementine bowed her head and let him go without replying.
"What a bear!" she said to the count. "You are a great deal nicer."
Adam pressed her hand when no one was looking.
"Poor, dear Thaddeus," he said, "he is trying to make himself
disagreeable where most men would try to seem more amiable than I."
"Oh!" she said, "I am not sure but what there is some CALCULATION in
his behavior; he would have taken in an ordinary woman."
Half an hour later, when the chasseur, Boleslas, called out "Gate!"
and the carriage was waiting for it to swing back, Clementine said to
her husband, "Where does the captain perch?"
"Why, there!" replied Adam, pointing to a floor above the porte-
cochere which had one window looking on the street. "His apartments
are over the coachhouse."
"Who lives on the other side?" asked the countess.
"No one as yet," said Adam; "I mean that apartment for our children
and their instructors."
"He didn't go to bed," said the countess, observing lights in
Thaddeus's rooms when the carriage had passed under the portico
supported by columns copied from those of the Tuileries, which
replaced a vulgar zinc awning painted in stripes like cloth.
The captain, in his dressing-gown with a pipe in his mouth, was
watching Clementine as she entered the vestibule. The day had been a
hard one for him. And here is the reason why: A great and terrible
emotion had taken possession of his heart on the day when Adam made
him go to the Opera to see and give his opinion on Mademoiselle du
Rouvre; and again when he saw her on the occasion of her marriage, and
recognized in her the woman whom a man is forced to love exclusively.
For this reason Paz strongly advised and promoted the long journey to
Italy and elsewhere after the marriage. At peace so long as Clementine
was away, his trial was renewed on the return of the happy household.
As he sat at his window on this memorable night, smoking his latakia
in a pipe of wild-cherry wood six feet long, given to him by Adam,
these are the thoughts that were passing through his mind:--
"I, and God, who will reward me for suffering in silence, alone know
how I love her! But how shall I manage to have neither her love nor
And his thoughts travelled far on this strange theme.
It must not be supposed that Thaddeus was living without pleasure, in
the midst of his sufferings. The deceptions of this day, for instance,
were a source of inward joy to him. Since the return of the count and
countess he had daily felt ineffable satisfactions in knowing himself
necessary to a household which, without his devotion to its interests,
would infallibly have gone to ruin. What fortune can bear the strain
of reckless prodigality? Clementine, brought up by a spendthrift
father, knew nothing of the management of a household which the women
of the present day, however rich or noble they are, are often
compelled to undertake themselves. How few, in these days, keep a
steward. Adam, on the other hand, son of one of the great Polish lords
who let themselves be preyed on by the Jews, and are wholly incapable
of managing even the wreck of their vast fortunes (for fortunes are
vast in Poland), was not of a nature to check his own fancies or those
of his wife. Left to himself he would probably have been ruined before
his marriage. Paz had prevented him from gambling at the Bourse, and
that says all.
Under these circumstances, Thaddeus, feeling that he loved Clementine
in spite of himself, had not the resource of leaving the house and
travelling in other lands to forget his passion. Gratitude, the key-
note of his life, held him bound to that household where he alone
could look after the affairs of the heedless owners. The long absence
of Adam and Clementine had given him peace. But the countess had
returned more lovely than ever, enjoying the freedom which marriage
brings to a Parisian woman, displaying the graces of a young wife and
the nameless attraction she gains from the happiness, or the
independence, bestowed upon her by a young man as trustful, as
chivalric, and as much in love as Adam. To know that he was the pivot
on which the splendor the household depended, to see Clementine when
she got out of her carriage on returning from some fete, or got into
it in the morning when she took her drive, to meet her on the
boulevards in her pretty equipage, looking like a flower in a whorl of
leaves, inspired poor Thaddeus with mysterious delights, which glowed
in the depths of his heart but gave no signs upon his face.
How happened it that for five whole months the countess had never
perceived the captain? Because he hid himself from her knowledge, and
carefully concealed the pains he took to avoid her. Nothing so
resembles the Divine love as hopeless human love. A man must have
great depth of heart to devote himself in silence and obscurity to a
woman. In such a heart is the worship of love for love's sake only--
sublime avarice, sublime because ever generous and founded on the
mysterious existence of the principles of creation. EFFECT is nature,
and nature is enchanting; it belongs to man, to the poet, the painter,
the lover. But CAUSE, to a few privileged souls and to certain mighty
thinkers, is superior to nature. Cause is God. In the sphere of causes
live the Newtons and all such thinkers as Laplace, Kepler, Descartes,
Malebranche, Spinoza, Buffon; also the true poets and solitarys of the
second Christian century, and the Saint Teresas of Spain, and such
sublime ecstatics. All human sentiments bear analogy to these
conditions whenever the mind abandons Effect for Cause. Thaddeus had
reached this height, at which all things change their relative aspect.
Filled with the joys unutterable of a creator he had attained in his
love to all that genius has revealed to us of grandeur.
"No," he was thinking to himself as he watched the curling smoke of
his pipe, "she was not entirely deceived. She might break up my
friendship with Adam if she took a dislike to me; but if she coquetted
with me to amuse herself, what would become of me?"
The conceit of this last supposition was so foreign to the modest
nature and Teutonic timidity of the captain that he scolded himself
for admitting it, and went to bed, resolved to await events before
deciding on a course.
The next day Clementine breakfasted very contentedly without Paz, and
without even noticing his disobedience to her orders. It happened to
be her reception day, when the house was thrown open with a splendor
that was semi-royal. She paid no attention to the absence of Comte
Paz, on whom all the burden of these parade days fell.
"Good!" thought he, as he heard the last carriages driving away at two
in the morning; "it was only the caprice or the curiosity of a
Parisian woman that made her want to see me."
After that the captain went back to his ordinary habits and ways,
which had been somewhat upset by this incident. Diverted by her
Parisian occupations, Clementine appeared to have forgotten Paz. It
must not be thought an easy matter to reign a queen over fickle Paris.
Does any one suppose that fortunes alone are risked in the great game?
The winters are to fashionable women what a campaign once was to the
soldiers of the Empire. What works of art and genius are expended on a
gown or a garland in which to make a sensation! A fragile, delicate
creature will wear her stiff and brilliant harness of flowers and
diamonds, silk and steel, from nine at night till two and often three
o'clock in the morning. She eats little, to attract remark to her
slender waist; she satisfied her hunger with debilitating tea, sugared
cakes, ices which heat her, or slices of heavy pastry. The stomach is
made to yield to the orders of coquetry. The awakening comes too late.
A fashionable woman's whole life is in contradiction to the laws of
nature, and nature is pitiless. She has no sooner risen than she makes
an elaborate morning toilet, and thinks of the one which she means to
wear in the afternoon. The moment she is dressed she has to receive
and make visits, and go to the Bois either on horseback or in a
carriage. She must practise the art of smiling, and must keep her mind
on the stretch to invent new compliments which shall seem neither
common nor far-fetched. All women do not succeed in this. It is no
surprise, therefore, to find a young woman who entered fashionable
society fresh and healthy, faded and worn out at the end of three
years. Six months spent in the country will hardly heal the wounds of
the winter. We hear continually, in these days, of mysterious
ailments,--gastritis, and so forth,--ills unknown to women when they
busied themselves about their households. In the olden time women only
appeared in the world at intervals; now they are always on the scene.
Clementine found she had to struggle for her supremacy. She was cited,
and that alone brought jealousies; and the care and watchfulness
exacted by this contest with her rivals left little time even to love
her husband. Paz might well be forgotten. Nevertheless, in the month
of May, as she drove home from the Bois, just before she left Paris
for Ronquerolles, her uncle's estate in Burgundy, she noticed
Thaddeus, elegantly dressed, sauntering on one of the side-paths of
the Champs-Elysees, in the seventh heaven of delight at seeing his
beautiful countess in her elegant carriage with its spirited horses
and sparkling liveries,--in short, his beloved family the admired of
"There's the captain," she said to her husband.
"He's happy!" said Adam. "This is his delight. He knows there's no
equipage more elegant than ours, and he is rejoicing to think that
some people envy it. Have you only just noticed him? I see him there
nearly every day."
"I wonder what he is thinking about now," said Clementine.
"He is thinking that this winter has cost a good deal, and that it is
time we went to economize with your old uncle Ronquerolles," replied
The countess stopped the carriage near Paz, and bade him take the seat
beside her. Thaddeus grew as red as a cherry.
"I shall poison you," he said; "I have been smoking."
"Doesn't Adam poison me?" she said.
"Yes, but he is Adam," returned the captain.
"And why can't Thaddeus have the same privileges?" asked the countess,
That divine smile had a power which triumphed over the heroic
resolutions of poor Paz; he looked at Clementine with all the fire of
his soul in his eyes, though, even so, its flame was tempered by the
angelic gratitude of the man whose life was based upon that virtue.
The countess folded her arms in her shawl, lay back pensively on her
cushions, ruffling the feathers of her pretty bonnet, and looked at
the people who passed her. That flash of a great and hitherto resigned
soul reached her sensibilities. What was Adam's merit in her eyes? It
was natural enough to have courage and generosity. But Thaddeus--
surely Thaddeus possessed, or seemed to possess, some great
superiority over Adam. They were dangerous thoughts which took
possession of the countess's mind as she again noticed the contrast of
the fine presence that distinguished Thaddeus, and the puny frame in
which Adam showed the degenerating effects of intermarriage among the
Polish aristocratic families. The devil alone knew the thoughts that
were in Clementine's head, for she sat still, with thoughtful, dreamy
eyes, and without saying a word until they reached home.
"You will dine with us; I shall be angry if you disobey me," she said
as the carriage turned in. "You are Thaddeus to me, as you are to
Adam. I know your obligations to him, but I also know those we are
under to you. Both generosities are natural--but you are generous
every day and all day. My father dines here to-day, also my uncle
Ronquerolles and my aunt Madame de Serizy. Dress yourself therefore,"
she said, taking the hand he offered to assist her from the carriage.
Thaddeus went to his own room to dress with a joyful heart, though
shaken by an inward dread. He went down at the last moment and behaved
through dinner as he had done on the first occasion, that is, like a
soldier fit only for his duties as a steward. But this time Clementine
was not his dupe; his glance had enlightened her. The Marquis de
Ronquerolles, one of the ablest diplomates after Talleyrand, who had
served with de Marsay during his short ministry, had been informed by
his niece of the real worth and character of Comte Paz, and knew how
modestly he made himself the steward of his friend Laginski.
"And why is this the first time I have the pleasure of seeing Comte
Paz?" asked the marquis.
"Because he is so shy and retiring," replied Clementine with a look at
Paz telling him to change his behavior.
Alas! that we should have to avow it, at the risk of rendering the
captain less interesting, but Paz, though superior to his friend Adam,
was not a man of parts. His apparent superiority was due to his
misfortunes. In his lonely and poverty-stricken life in Warsaw he had
read and taught himself a good deal; he had compared and meditated.
But the gift of original thought which makes a great man he did not
possess, and it can never be acquired. Paz, great in heart only,
approached in heart to the sublime; but in the sphere of sentiments,
being more a man of action than of thought, he kept his thoughts to
himself; and they only served therefore to eat his heart out. What,
after all, is a thought unexpressed?
After Clementine's little speech, the Marquis de Ronquerolles and his
sister exchanged a singular glance, embracing their niece, Comte Adam,
and Paz. It was one of those rapid scenes which take place only in
France and Italy,--the two regions of the world (all courts excepted)
where eyes can say everything. To communicate to the eye the full
power of the soul, to give it the value of speech, needs either the
pressure of extreme servitude, or complete liberty. Adam, the Marquis
du Rouvre, and Clementine did not observe this luminous by-play of the
old coquette and the old diplomatist, but Paz, the faithful watchdog,
understood its meaning. It was, we must remark, an affair of two
seconds; but to describe the tempest it roused in the captain's soul
would take far too much space in this brief history.
"What!" he said to himself, "do the aunt and uncle think I might be
loved? Then my happiness only depends on my own audacity! But Adam--"
Ideal love and desire clashed with gratitude and friendship, all
equally powerful, and, for a moment, love prevailed. The lover would
have his day. Paz became brilliant, he tried to please, he told the
story of the Polish insurrection in noble words, being questioned
about it by the diplomatist. By the end of dinner Paz saw Clementine
hanging upon his lips and regarding him as a hero, forgetting that
Adam too, after sacrificing a third of his vast fortune, had been an
exile. At nine o'clock, after coffee had been served, Madame de Serizy
kissed her niece on the forehead, pressed her hand, and went away,
taking Adam with her and leaving the Marquis de Ronquerolles and the
Marquis du Rouvre, who soon followed. Paz and Clementine were alone
"I will leave you now, madame," said Thaddeus. "You will of course
rejoin them at the Opera?"
"No," she answered, "I don't like dancing, and they give an odious
ballet to-night 'La Revolte au Serail.'"
There was a moment's silence.
"Two years ago Adam would not have gone to the Opera without me," said
Clementine, not looking at Paz.
"He loves you madly," replied Thaddeus.
"Yes, and because he loves me madly he is all the more likely not to
love me to-morrow," said the countess.
"How inexplicable Parisian women are!" exclaimed Thaddeus. "When they
are loved to madness they want to be loved reasonably: and when they
are loved reasonably they reproach a man for not loving them at all."
"And they are quite right. Thaddeus," she went on, smiling, "I know
Adam well; I am not angry with him; he is volatile and above all grand
seigneur. He will always be content to have me as his wife and he will
never oppose any of my tastes, but--"
"Where is the marriage in which there are no 'buts'?" said Thaddeus,
gently, trying to give another direction to Clementine's mind.
The least presuming of men might well have had the thought which came
near rendering this poor lover beside himself; it was this: "If I do
not tell her now that I love her I am a fool," he kept saying to
Neither spoke; and there came between the pair one of those deep
silences that are crowded with thoughts. The countess examined Paz
covertly, and Paz observed her in a mirror. Buried in an armchair like
a man digesting his dinner, the image of a husband or an indifferent
old man, Paz crossed his hands upon his stomach and twirled his thumbs
mechanically, looking stupidly at them.
"Why don't you tell me something good of Adam?" cried Clementine
suddenly. "Tell me that he is not volatile, you who know him so well."
The cry was fine.
"Now is the time," thought poor Paz, "to put an insurmountable barrier
between us. Tell you good of Adam?" he said aloud. "I love him; you
would not believe me; and I am incapable of telling you harm. My
position is very difficult between you."
Clementine lowered her head and looked down at the tips of his
"You Northern men have nothing but physical courage," she said
complainingly; "you have no constancy in your opinions."
"How will you amuse yourself alone, madame?" said Paz, assuming a
"Are not you going to keep me company?"
"Excuse me for leaving you."
"What do you mean? Where are you going?"
The thought of a heroic falsehood had come into his head.
"I--I am going to the Circus in the Champs Elysees; it opens to-night,
and I can't miss it."
"Why not?" said Clementine, questioning him by a look that was half-
"Must I tell you why?" he said, coloring; "must I confide to you what
I hide from Adam, who thinks my only love is Poland."
"Ah! a secret in our noble captain?"
"A disgraceful one--which you will perhaps understand, and pity."
"Yes, I, Comte Paz; I am madly in love with a girl who travels all
over France with the Bouthor family,--people who have the rival circus
to Franconi; but they play only at fairs. I have made the director at
the Cirque-Olympique engage her."
"Is she handsome?"
"To my thinking," said Paz, in a melancholy tone. "Malaga (that's her
stage name) is strong, active, and supple. Why do I prefer her to all
other women in the world?--well, I can't tell you. When I look at her,
with her black hair tied with a blue satin ribbon, floating on her
bare and olive-colored shoulders, and when she is dressed in a white
tunic with a gold edge, and a knitted silk bodice that makes her look
like a living Greek statue, and when I see her carrying those flags in
her hand to the sound of martial music, and jumping through the paper
hoops which tear as she goes through, and lighting so gracefully on
the galloping horse to such applause,--no hired clapping,--well, all
that moves me."
"More than a handsome woman in a ballroom?" asked Clementine, with
amazement and curiosity.
"Yes," answered Paz, in a choking voice. "Such agility, such grace
under constant danger seems to me the height of triumph for a woman.
Yes, madame, Cinti and Malibran, Grisi and Taglioni, Pasta and
Ellsler, all who reign or have reigned on the stage, can't be
compared, to my mind, with Malaga, who can jump on or off a horse at
full gallop, or stand on the point of one foot and fall easily into
the saddle, and knit stockings, break eggs, and make an omelette with
the horse at full speed, to the admiration of the people,--the real
people, peasants and soldiers. Malaga, madame, is dexterity
personified; her little wrist or her little foot can rid her of three
or four men. She is the goddess of gymnastics."
"She must be stupid--"
"Oh, no," said Paz, "I find her as amusing as the heroine of 'Peveril
of the Peak.' Thoughtless as a Bohemian, she says everything that
comes into her head; she thinks no more about the future than you do
of the sous you fling to the poor. She says grand things sometimes.
You couldn't make her believe that an old diplomatist was a handsome
young man, not if you offered her a million of francs. Such love as
hers is perpetual flattery to a man. Her health is positively
insolent, and she has thirty-two oriental pearls in lips of coral. Her
muzzle--that's what she calls the lower part of her face--has, as
Shakespeare expresses it, the savor of a heifer's nose. She can make a
man unhappy. She likes handsome men, strong men, Alexanders, gymnasts,
clowns. Her trainer, a horrible brute, used to beat her to make her
supple, and graceful, and intrepid--"
"You are positively intoxicated with Malaga."
"Oh, she is called Malaga only on the posters," said Paz, with a
piqued air. "She lives in the rue Saint-Lazare, in a pretty apartment
on the third story, all velvet and silk, like a princess. She has two
lives, her circus life and the life of a pretty woman."
"Does she love you?"
"She loves me--now you will laugh--solely because I'm a Pole. She saw
an engraving of Poles rushing with Poniatowski into the Elster,--for
all France persists in thinking that the Elster, where it is
impossible to get drowned, is an impetuous flood, in which Poniatowski
and his followers were engulfed. But in the midst of all this I am
very unhappy, madame."
A tear of rage fell from his eyes and affected the countess.
"You men have such a passion for singularity."
"And you?" said Thaddeus.
"I know Adam so well that I am certain he could forget me for some
mountebank like your Malaga. Where did you first see her?"
"At Saint-Cloud, last September, on the fete-day. She was at a corner
of a booth covered with flags, where the shows are given. Her
comrades, all in Polish costumes, were making a horrible racket. I
watched her standing there, silent and dumb, and I thought I saw a
melancholy expression in her face; in truth there was enough about her
to sadden a girl of twenty. That touched me."
The countess was sitting in a delicious attitude, pensive and rather
"Poor, poor Thaddeus!" she exclaimed. Then, with the kindliness of a
true great lady she added, not without a malicious smile, "Well go, go
to your Circus."
Thaddeus took her hand, kissed it, leaving a hot tear upon it, and
Having invented this passion for a circus-rider, he bethought him that
he must give it some reality. The only truth in his tale was the
momentary attention he had given to Malaga at Saint-Cloud; and he had
since seen her name on the posters of the Circus, where the clown, for
a tip of five francs, had told him that the girl was a foundling,
stolen perhaps. Thaddeus now went to the Circus and saw her again. For
ten francs one of the grooms (who take the place in circuses of the
dressers at a theatre) informed him that Malaga was named Marguerite
Turquet, and lived on the fifth story of a house in the rue des
The following day Paz went to the faubourg du Temple, found the house,
and asked to see Mademoiselle Turquet, who during the summer was
substituting for the leading horsewoman at the Cirque-Olympique, and a
supernumerary at a boulevard theatre in winter.
"Malaga!" cried the portress, rushing into the attic, "there's a fine
gentleman wanting you. He is getting information from Chapuzot, who is
playing him off to give me time to tell you."
"Thank you, M'ame Chapuzot; but what will he think of me if he finds
me ironing my gown?"
"Pooh! when a man's in love he loves everything about us."
"Is he an Englishman? they are fond of horses."
"No, he looks to me Spanish."
"That's a pity; they say Spaniards are always poor. Stay here with me,
M'ame Chapuzot; I don't want him to think I'm deserted."
"Who is it you are looking for, monsieur?" asked Madame Chapuzot,
opening the door for Thaddeus, who had now come upstairs.
"My dear," said the portress, with an air of importance, "here is some
one to see you."
A line on which the clothes were drying caught the captain's hat and
knocked it off.
"What is it you wish, monsieur?" said Malaga, picking up the hat and
giving it to him.
"I saw you at the Circus," said Thaddeus, "and you reminded me of a
daughter whom I have lost, mademoiselle; and out of affection for my
Heloise, whom you resemble in a most striking manner, I should like to
be of some service to you, if you will permit me."
"Why, certainly; pray sit down, general," said Madame Chapuzot;
"nothing could be more straightforward, more gallant."
"But I am not gallant, my good lady," exclaimed Paz. "I am an
unfortunate father who tries to deceive himself by a resemblance."
"Then am I to pass for your daughter?" said Malaga, slyly, and not in
the least suspecting the perfect sincerity of his proposal.
"Yes," said Paz, "and I'll come and see you sometimes. But you shall
be lodged in better rooms, comfortably furnished."
"I shall have furniture!" cried Malaga, looking at Madame Chapuzot.
"And servants," said Paz, "and all you want."
Malaga looked at the stranger suspiciously.
"What countryman is monsieur?"
"I am a Pole."
"Oh! then I accept," she said.
Paz departed, promising to return.
"Well, that's a stiff one!" said Marguerite Turquet, looking at Madame
Chapuzot; "I'm half afraid he is wheedling me, to carry out some fancy
of his own--Pooh! I'll risk it."
A month after this eccentric interview the circus-rider was living in
a comfortable apartment furnished by Comte Adam's own upholsterer, Paz
having judged it desirable to have his folly talked about at the hotel
Laginski. Malaga, to whom this adventure was like a leaf out of the
Arabian Nights, was served by Monsieur and Madame Chapuzot in the
double capacity of friends and servants. The Chapuzots and Marguerite
were constantly expecting some result of all this; but at the end of
three months none of them were able to make out the meaning of the
Polish count's caprice. Paz arrived duly and passed about an hour
there once a week, during which time he sat in the salon, and never
went into Malaga's boudoir nor into her bedroom, in spite of the
clever manoeuvring of the Chapuzots and Malaga to get him there. The
count would ask questions as to the small events of Marguerite's life,
and each time that he came he left two gold pieces of forty francs
each on the mantel-piece.
"He looks as if he didn't care to be here," said Madame Chapuzot.
"Yes," said Malaga, "the man's as cold as an icicle."
"But he's a good fellow all the same," cried Chapuzot, who was happy
in a new suit of clothes made of blue cloth, in which he looked like
the servant of some minister.
The sum which Paz deposited weekly on the mantel-piece, joined to
Malaga's meagre salary, gave her the means of sumptuous living
compared with her former poverty. Wonderful stories went the rounds of
the Circus about Malaga's good-luck. Her vanity increased the six
thousand francs which Paz had spent on her furniture to sixty
thousand. According to the clowns and the supers, Malaga was
squandering money; and she now appeared at the Circus wearing burnous
and shawls and elegant scarfs. The Pole, it was agreed on all sides,
was the best sort of man a circus-rider had ever encountered, not
fault-finding nor jealous, and willing to let Malaga do just what she
"Some women have the luck of it," said Malaga's rival, "and I'm not
one of them,--though I do draw a third of the receipts."
Malaga wore pretty things, and occasionally "showed her head" (a term
in the lexicon of such characters) in the Bois, where the fashionable
young men of the day began to remark her. In fact, before long Malaga
was very much talked about in the questionable world of equivocal
women, who presently attacked her good fortune by calumnies. They said
she was a somnambulist, and the Pole was a magnetizer who was using
her to discover the philosopher's stone. Some even more envenomed
scandals drove her to a curiosity that was greater than Psyche's. She
reported them in tears to Paz.
"When I want to injure a woman," she said in conclusion, "I don't
calumniate her; I don't declare that some one magnetizes her to get
stones out of her, but I say plainly that she is humpbacked, and I
prove it. Why do you compromise me in this way?"
Paz maintained a cruel silence. Madame Chapuzot was not long in
discovering the name and title of Comte Paz; then she heard certain
positive facts at the hotel Laginski: for instance, that Paz was a
bachelor, and had never been known to have a daughter, alive or dead,
in Poland or in France. After that Malaga could not control a feeling
"My dear child," Madame Chapuzot would say, "that monster--" (a man
who contented himself with only looking, in a sly way,--not daring to
come out and say things,--and such a beautiful creature too, as
Malaga,--of course such a man was a monster, according to Madame
Chapuzot's ideas) "--that monster is trying to get a hold upon you,
and make you do something illegal and criminal. Holy Father, if you
should get into the police-courts! it makes me tremble from head to
foot; suppose they should put you in the newspapers! I'll tell you
what I should do in your place; I'd warn the police."
One particular day, after many foolish notions had fermented for some
time in Malaga's mind, Paz having laid his money as usual on the
mantel-piece, she seized the bits of gold and flung them in his face,
crying out, "I don't want stolen money!"
The captain gave the gold to Chapuzot, went away without a word, and
did not return.
Clementine was at this time at her uncle's place in Burgundy.
When the Circus troop discovered that Malaga had lost her Polish
count, much excitement was produced among them. Malaga's display of
honor was considered folly by some, and shrewdness by others. The
conduct of the Pole, however, even when discussed by the cleverest of
women, seemed inexplicable. Thaddeus received in the course of the
next week thirty-seven letters from women of their kind. Happily for
him, his astonishing reserve did not excite the curiosity of the
fashionable world, and was only discussed in the demi-mondaine
Two weeks later the handsome circus-rider, crippled by debt, wrote the
following letter to Comte Paz, which, having fallen into the hands of
Comte Adam, was read by several of the dandies of the day, who
pronounced it a masterpiece:--
"You, whom I still dare to call my friend, will you not pity me
after all that has passed,--which you have so ill understood? My
heart disavows whatever may have wounded your feelings. If I was
fortunate enough to charm you and keep you beside me in the past,
return to me; otherwise, I shall fall into despair. Poverty has
overtaken me, and you do not know what HORRID THINGS it brings
with it. Yesterday I lived on a herring at two sous, and one sou
of bread. Is that a breakfast for the woman you loved? The
Chapuzots have left me, though they seemed so devoted. Your
desertion has caused me to see to the bottom of all human
attachments. The dog we feed does not leave us, but the Chapuzots
have gone. A sheriff has seized everything on behalf of the
landlord, who has no heart, and the jeweller, who refused to wait
even ten days,--for when we lose the confidence of such as you,
credit goes too. What a position for women who have nothing to
reproach themselves with but the happiness they have given! My
friend, I have taken all I have of any value to MY UNCLE'S; I have
nothing but the memory of you left, and here is the winter coming
on. I shall be fireless when it turns cold; for the boulevards are
to play only melodramas, in which I have nothing but little bits
of parts which don't POSE a woman. How could you misunderstand the
nobleness of my feelings for you?--for there are two ways of
expressing gratitude. You who seemed so happy in seeing me well-
off, how can you leave me in poverty? Oh, my sole friend on earth,
before I go back to the country fairs with Bouthor's circus, where
I can at least make a living, forgive me if I wish to know whether
I have lost you forever. If I were to let myself think of you when
I jump through the hoops, I should be sure to break my legs by
losing A TIME. Whatever may be the result, I am yours for life.
"That letter," thought Thaddeus, shouting with laughter, "is worth the
ten thousand francs I have spent upon her."
Clementine came home the next day, and the day after that Paz beheld
her again, more beautiful and graceful than ever. After dinner, during
which the countess treated Paz with an air of perfect indifference, a
little scene took place in the salon between the count and his wife
when Thaddeus had left them. On pretence of asking Adam's advice,
Thaddeus had left Malaga's letter with him, as if by mistake.
"Poor Thaddeus!" said Adam, as Paz disappeared, "what a misfortune for
a man of his distinction to be the plaything of the lowest kind of
circus-rider. He will lose everything, and get lower and lower, and
won't be recognizable before long. Here, read that," added the count,
giving Malaga's letter to his wife.
Clementine read the letter, which smelt of tobacco, and threw it from
her with a look of disgust.
"Thick as the bandage is over his eyes," continued Adam, "he must have
found out something; Malaga tricked him, no doubt."
"But he goes back to her," said Clementine, "and he will forgive her!
It is for such horrible women as that that you men have indulgence."
"Well, they need it," said Adam.
"Thaddeus used to show some decency--in living apart from us," she
remarked. "He had better go altogether."
"Oh, my dear angel, that's going too far," said the count, who did not
want the death of the sinner.
Paz, who knew Adam thoroughly, had enjoined him to secrecy, pretending
to excuse his dissipations, and had asked his friend to lend him a few
thousand francs for Malaga.
"He is a very firm fellow," said Adam.
"How so?" asked Clementine.
"Why, for having spent no more than ten thousand francs on her, and
letting her send him that letter before he would ask me for enough to
pay her debts. For a Pole, I call that firm."
"He will ruin you," said Clementine, in the sharp tone of a Parisian
woman, when she shows her feline distrusts.
"Oh, I know him," said Adam; "he will sacrifice Malaga, if I ask him."
"We shall see," remarked the countess.
"If it is best for his own happiness, I sha'n't hesitate to ask him to
leave her. Constantin says that since Paz has been with her he, sober
as he is, has sometimes come home quite excited. If he takes to
intoxication I shall be just as grieved as if he were my own son."
"Don't tell me anything more about it," cried the countess, with a
gesture of disgust.
Two days later the captain perceived in the manner, the tones of
voice, but, above all, in the eyes of the countess, the terrible
results of Adam's confidences. Contempt had opened a gulf between the
beloved woman and himself. He was suddenly plunged into the deepest
distress of mind, for the thought gnawed him, "I have myself made her
despise me!" His own folly stared him in the face. Life then became a
burden to him, the very sun turned gray. And yet, amid all these
bitter thoughts, he found again some moments of pure joy. There were
times when he could give himself up wholly to his admiration for his
mistress, who paid not the slightest attention to him. Hanging about
in corners at her parties and receptions, silent, all heart and eyes,
he never lost one of her attitudes, nor a tone of her voice when she
sang. He lived in her life; he groomed the horse which SHE rode, he
studied the ways and means of that splendid establishment, to the
interests of which he was now more devoted than ever. These silent
pleasures were buried in his heart like those of a mother, whose heart
a child never knows; for is it knowing anything unless we know it all?
His love was more perfect than the love of Petrarch for Laura, which
found its ultimate reward in the treasures of fame, the triumph of the
poem which she had inspired. Surely the emotion that the Chevalier
d'Assas felt in dying must have been to him a lifetime of joy. Such
emotions as these Paz enjoyed daily,--without dying, but also without
the guerdon of immortality.
But what is Love, that, in spite of all these ineffable delights, Paz
should still have been unhappy? The Catholic religion has so magnified
Love that she has wedded it indissolubly to respect and nobility of
spirit. Love is therefore attended by those sentiments and qualities
of which mankind is proud; it is rare to find true Love existing where
contempt is felt. Thaddeus was suffering from the wounds his own hand
had given him. The trial of his former life, when he lived beside his
mistress, unknown, unappreciated, but generously working for her, was
better than this. Yes, he wanted the reward of his virtue, her
respect, and he had lost it. He grew thin and yellow, and so ill with
constant low fever that during the month of January he was obliged to
keep his bed, though he refused to see a doctor. Comte Adam became
very uneasy about him; but the countess had the cruelty to remark:
"Let him alone; don't you see it is only some Olympian trouble?" This
remark, being repeated to Thaddeus, gave him the courage of despair;
he left his bed, went out, tried a few amusements, and recovered his
About the end of February Adam lost a large sum of money at the
Jockey-Club, and as he was afraid of his wife, he begged Thaddeus to
let the sum appear in the accounts as if he had spent it on Malaga.
"There's nothing surprising in your spending that sum on the girl; but
if the countess finds out that I have lost it at cards I shall be
lowered in her opinion, and she will always be suspicious in future."
"Ha! this, too!" exclaimed Thaddeus, with a sigh.
"Now, Thaddeus, if you will do me this service we shall be forever
quits,--though, indeed, I am your debtor now."
"Adam, you will have children; don't gamble any more," said Paz.
"So Malaga has cost us another twenty thousand francs," cried the
countess, some time later, when she discovered this new generosity to
Paz. "First, ten thousand, now twenty more,--thirty thousand! the
income of which is fifteen hundred! the cost of my box at the Opera,
and the whole fortune of many a bourgeois. Oh, you Poles!" she said,
gathering some flowers in her greenhouse; "you are really
incomprehensible. Why are you not furious with him?"
"Poor Paz is--"
"Poor Paz, poor Paz, indeed!" she cried, interrupting him, "what good
does he do us? I shall take the management of the household myself.
You can give him the allowance he refused, and let him settle it as he
likes with his Circus."
"He is very useful to us, Clementine. He has certainly saved over
forty thousand francs this last year. And besides, my dear angel, he
has managed to put a hundred thousand with Nucingen, which a steward
would have pocketed."
Clementine softened down; but she was none the less hard in her
feelings to Thaddeus. A few days later, she requested him to come to
that boudoir where, one year earlier, she had been surprised into
comparing him with her husband. This time she received him alone,
without perceiving the slightest danger in so doing.
"My dear Paz," she said, with the condescending familiarity of the
great to their inferiors, "if you love Adam as you say you do, you
will do a thing which he will not ask of you, but which I, his wife,
do not hesitate to exact."
"About Malaga?" said Thaddeus, with bitterness in his heart.
"Well, yes," she said; "if you wish to end your days in this house and
continue good friends with us, you must give her up. How an old
"I am only thirty-five, and haven't a white hair."
"You look old," she said, "and that's the same thing. How so careful a
manager, so distinguished a--"
The horrible part of all this was her evident intention to rouse a
sense of honor in his soul which she thought extinct.
"--so distinguished a man as you are, Thaddeus," she resumed after a
momentary pause which a gesture of his hand had led her to make, "can
allow yourself to be caught like a boy! Your proceedings have made
that woman celebrated. My uncle wanted to see her, and he did see her.
My uncle is not the only one; Malaga receives a great many gentlemen.
I did think you such a noble soul. For shame! Will she be such a loss
that you can't replace her?"
"Madame, if I knew any sacrifice I could make to recover your esteem I
would make it; but to give up Malaga is not one--"
"In your position, that is what I should say myself, if I were a man,"
replied Clementine. "Well, if I accept it as a great sacrifice there
can be no ill-will between us."
Paz left the room, fearing he might commit some great folly, and
feeling that wild ideas were getting the better of him. He went to
walk in the open air, lightly dressed in spite of the cold, but
without being able to cool the fire in his cheeks or on his brow.
"I thought you had a noble soul,"--the words still rang in his ears.
"A year ago," he said to himself, "she thought me a hero who could
fight the Russians single-handed!"
He thought of leaving the hotel Laginski, and taking service with the
spahis and getting killed in Africa, but the same great fear checked
him. "Without me," he thought, "what would become of them? they would
soon be ruined. Poor countess! what a horrible life it would be for
her if she were reduced to even thirty thousand francs a year. No,
since all is lost for me in this world,--courage! I will keep on as I
Every one knows that since 1830 the carnival in Paris has undergone a
transformation which has made it European, and far more burlesque and
otherwise lively than the late Carnival of Venice. Is it that the
diminishing fortunes of the present time have led Parisians to invent
a way of amusing themselves collectively, as for instance at their
clubs, where they hold salons without hostesses and without manners,
but very cheaply? However this may be, the month of March was prodigal
of balls, at which dancing, joking, coarse fun, excitement, grotesque
figures, and the sharp satire of Parisian wit, produced extravagant
effects. These carnival follies had their special Pandemonium in the
rue Saint-Honore and their Napoleon in Musard, a small man born
expressly to lead an orchestra as noisy as the disorderly audience,
and to set the time for the galop, that witches' dance, which was one
of Auber's triumphs, for it did not really take form or poesy till the
grand galop in "Gustave" was given to the world. That tremendous
finale might serve as the symbol of an epoch in which for the last
fifty years all things have hurried by with the rapidity of a dream.
Now, it happened that the grave Thaddeus, with one divine and
immaculate image in his heart, proposed to Malaga, the queen of the
carnival dances, to spend an evening at the Musard ball; because he
knew the countess, disguised to the teeth, intended to come there with
two friends, all three accompanied by their husbands, and look on at
the curious spectacle of one of these crowded balls.
On Shrove Tuesday, of the year 1838, at four o'clock in the morning,
the countess, wrapped in a black domino and sitting on the lower step
of the platform in the Babylonian hall, where Valentino has since then
given his concerts, beheld Thaddeus, as Robert Macaire, threading the
galop with Malaga in the dress of a savage, her head garnished with
plumes like the horse of a hearse, and bounding through the crowd like
"Ah!" said Clementine to her husband, "you Poles have no honor at all!
I did believe in Thaddeus. He gave me his word that he would leave
that woman; he did not know that I should be here, seeing all unseen."
A few days later she requested Paz to dine with them. After dinner
Adam left them alone together, and Clementine reproved Paz and let him
know very plainly that she did not wish him to live in her house any
"Yes, madame," said Paz, humbly, "you are right; I am a wretch; I did
give you my word. But you see how it is; I put off leaving Malaga till
after the carnival. Besides, that woman exerts an influence over me
"An influence!--a woman who ought to be turned out of Musard's by the
police for such dancing!"
"I agree to all that; I accept the condemnation and I'll leave your
house. But you know Adam. If I give up the management of your property
you must show energy yourself. I may have been to blame about Malaga,
but I have taken the whole charge of your affairs, managed your
servants, and looked after the very least details. I cannot leave you
until I see you prepared to continue my management. You have now been
married three years, and you are safe from the temptations to
extravagance which come with the honeymoon. I see that Parisian women,
and even titled ones, do manage both their fortunes and their
households. Well, as soon as I am certain not so much of your capacity
as of your perseverance I shall leave Paris."
"It is Thaddeus of Warsaw, and not that Circus Thaddeus who speaks
now," said Clementine. "Go, and come back cured."
"Cured! never," said Paz, his eyes lowered and fixed on Clementine's
pretty feet. "You do not know, countess, what charm, what unexpected
piquancy of mind she has." Then, feeling his courage fail him, he
added hastily, "There is not a woman in society, with her mincing
airs, that is worth the honest nature of that young animal."
"At any rate, I wish nothing of the animal about me," said the
countess, with a glance like that of an angry viper.
After that evening Comte Paz showed Clementine the exact state of her
affairs; he made himself her tutor, taught her the methods and
difficulties of the management of property, the proper prices to pay
for things, and how to avoid being cheated by her servants. He told
her she could rely on Constantin and make him her major-domo. Thaddeus
had trained the man thoroughly. By the end of May he thought the
countess fully competent to carry on her affairs alone; for Clementine
was one of those far-sighted women, full of instinct, who have an
innate genius as mistress of a household.
This position of affairs, which Thaddeus had led up to naturally, did
not end without further cruel trials; his sufferings were fated not to
be as sweet and tender as he was trying to make them. The poor lover
forgot to reckon on the hazard of events. Adam fell seriously ill, and
Thaddeus, instead of leaving the house, stayed to nurse his friend.
His devotion was unwearied. A woman who had any interest in employing
her perspicacity might have seen in this devotion a sort of punishment
imposed by a noble soul to repress an involuntary evil thought; but
women see all, or see nothing, according to the condition of their
souls--love is their sole illuminator.
During forty-five days Paz watched and tended Adam without appearing
to think of Malaga, for the very good reason that he never did think of
her. Clementine, feeling that Adam was at the point of death though he
did not die, sent for all the leading doctors of Paris in
"If he comes safely out of this," said the most distinguished of them
all, "it will only be by an effort of nature. It is for those who
nurse him to watch for the moment when they must second nature. The
count's life is in the hands of his nurses."
Thaddeus went to find Clementine and tell her this result of the
consultation. He found her sitting in the Chinese pavilion, as much
for a little rest as to leave the field to the doctors and not
embarrass them. As he walked along the winding gravelled path which
led to the pavilion, Thaddeus seemed to himself in the depths of an
abyss described by Dante. The unfortunate man had never dreamed that
the possibility might arise of becoming Clementine's husband, and now
he had drowned himself in a ditch of mud. His face was convulsed, when
he reached the kiosk, with an agony of grief; his head, like Medusa's,
"Is he dead?" said Clementine.
"They have given him up; that is, they leave him to nature. Do not go
in; they are still there, and Bianchon is changing the dressings."
"Poor Adam! I ask myself if I have not sometimes pained him," she
"You have made him very happy," said Thaddeus; "you ought to be easy
on that score, for you have shown every indulgence for him."
"My loss would be irreparable."
"But, dear, you judged him justly."
"I was never blind to his faults," she said, "but I loved him as a
wife should love her husband."
"Then you ought, in case you lose him," said Thaddeus, in a voice
which Clementine had never heard him use, "to grieve for him less than
if you lost a man who was your pride, your love, and all your life,--
as some men are to you women. Surely you can be frank at this moment
with a friend like me. I shall grieve, too; long before your marriage
I had made him my child, I had sacrificed my life to him. If he dies I
shall be without an interest on earth; but life is still beautiful to
a widow of twenty-four."
"Ah! but you know that I love no one," she said, with the impatience
"You don't yet know what it is to love," said Thaddeus.
"Oh, as husbands are, I have sense enough to prefer a child like my
poor Adam to a superior man. It is now over a month that we have been
saying to each other, 'Will he live?' and these alternations have
prepared me, as they have you, for this loss. I can be frank with you.
Well, I would give my life to save Adam. What is a woman's
independence in Paris? the freedom to let herself be taken in by
ruined or dissipated men who pretend to love her. I pray to God to
leave me this husband who is so kind, so obliging, so little fault-
finding, and who is beginning to stand in awe of me."
"You are honest, and I love you the better for it," said Thaddeus,
taking her hand which she yielded to him, and kissing it. "In solemn
moments like these there is unspeakable satisfaction in finding a
woman without hypocrisy. It is possible to converse with you. Let us
look to the future. Suppose that God does not grant your prayer,--and
no one cries to him more than I do, 'Leave me my friend!' Yes, these
fifty nights have not weakened me; if thirty more days and nights are
needed I can give them while you sleep,--yes, I will tear him from
death if, as the doctors say, nursing can save him. But suppose that
in spite of you and me, the count dies,--well, then, if you were
loved, oh, adored, by a man of a heart and soul that are worthy of
"I may have wished for such love, foolishly, but I have never met with
"Perhaps you are mistaken--"
Clementine looked fixedly at Thaddeus, imagining that there was less
of love than of cupidity in his thoughts; her eyes measured him from
head to foot and poured contempt upon him; then she crushed him with
the words, "Poor Malaga!" uttered in tones which a great lady alone
can find to give expression to her disdain. She rose, leaving Thaddeus
half unconscious behind her, slowly re-entered her boudoir, and went
back to Adam's chamber.
An hour later Paz returned to the sick-room, and began anew, with
death in his heart, his care of the count. From that moment he said
nothing. He was forced to struggle with the patient, whom he managed
in a way that excited the admiration of the doctors. At all hours his
watchful eyes were like lamps always lighted. He showed no resentment
to Clementine, and listened to her thanks without accepting them; he
seemed both dumb and deaf. To himself he was saying, "She shall owe
his life to me," and he wrote the thought as it were in letters of
fire on the walls of Adam's room. On the fifteenth day Clementine was
forced to give up the nursing, lest she should utterly break down. Paz
was unwearied. At last, towards the end of August, Bianchon, the
family physician, told Clementine that Adam was out of danger.
"Ah, madame, you are under no obligation to me," he said; "without his
friend, Comte Paz, we could not have saved him."
The day after the meeting of Paz and Clementine in the kiosk, the
Marquis de Ronquerolles came to see his nephew. He was on the eve of
starting for Russia on a secret diplomatic mission. Paz took occasion
to say a few words to him. The first day that Adam was able to drive
out with his wife and Thaddeus, a gentleman entered the courtyard as
the carriage was about to leave it, and asked for Comte Paz. Thaddeus,
who was sitting on the front seat of the caleche, turned to take a
letter which bore the stamp of the ministry of Foreign affairs. Having
read it, he put it into his pocket in a manner which prevented
Clementine or Adam from speaking of it. Nevertheless, by the time they
reached the porte Maillot, Adam, full of curiosity, used the privilege
of a sick man whose caprices are to be gratified, and said to
Thaddeus: "There's no indiscretion between brothers who love each
other,--tell me what there is in that despatch; I'm in a fever of
Clementine glanced at Thaddeus with a vexed air, and remarked to her
husband: "He has been so sulky with me for the last two months that I
shall never ask him anything again."
"Oh, as for that," replied Paz, "I can't keep it out of the
newspapers, so I may as well tell you at once. The Emperor Nicholas
has had the grace to appoint me captain in a regiment which is to take
part in the expedition to Khiva."
"You are not going?" cried Adam.
"Yes, I shall go, my dear fellow. Captain I came, and captain I
return. We shall dine together to-morrow for the last time. If I don't
start at once for St. Petersburg I shall have to make the journey by
land, and I am not rich, and I must leave Malaga a little
independence. I ought to think of the only woman who has been able to
understand me; she thinks me grand, superior. I dare say she is
faithless, but she would jump--"
"Through the hoop, for your sake and come down safely on the back of
her horse," said Clementine sharply.
"Oh, you don't know Malaga," said the captain, bitterly, with a
sarcastic look in his eyes which made Clementine thoughtful and
"Good-by to the young trees of this beautiful Bois, which you
Parisians love, and the exiles who find a home here love too," he
said, presently. "My eyes will never again see the evergreens of the
avenue de Mademoiselle, nor the acacias nor the cedars of the rond-
points. On the borders of Asia, fighting for the Emperor, promoted to
the command, perhaps, by force of courage and by risking my life, it
may happen that I shall regret these Champs-Elysees where I have
driven beside you, and where you pass. Yes, I shall grieve for
Malaga's hardness--the Malaga of whom I am now speaking."
This was said in a manner that made Clementine tremble.
"Then you do love Malaga very much?" she asked.
"I have sacrificed for her the honor that no man should ever
"That which we desire to keep at any cost in the eyes of our idol."
After that reply Thaddeus said no more; he was silent until, as they
passed a wooden building on the Champs Elysees, he said, pointing to
it, "That is the Circus."
He went to the Russian Embassy before dinner, and thence to the
Foreign office, and the next morning he had started for Havre before
the count and countess were up.
"I have lost a friend," said Adam, with tears in his eyes, when he
heard that Paz had gone,--"a friend in the true meaning of the word. I
don't know what has made him abandon me as if a pestilence were in my
house. We are not friends to quarrel about a woman," he said, looking
intently at Clementine. "You heard what he said yesterday about
Malaga. Well, he has never so much as touched the little finger of
"How do you know that?" said Clementine.
"I had the natural curiosity to go and see Mademoiselle Turquet, and
the poor girl can't explain even to herself the absolute reserve which
"Enough!" said the countess, retreating into her bedroom. "Can it be
that I am the victim of some noble mystification?" she asked herself.
The thought had hardly crossed her mind when Constantin brought her
the following letter written by Thaddeus during the night:--
"Countess,--To seek death in the Caucasus and carry with me your
contempt is more than I can bear. A man should die untainted. When
I saw you for the first time I loved you as we love a woman whom
we shall love forever, even though she be unfaithful to us. I
loved you thus,--I, the friend of the man you had chosen and were
about to marry; I, poor; I, the steward,--a voluntary service, but
still the steward of your household.
"In this immense misfortune I found a happy life. To be to you an
indispensable machine, to know myself useful to your comfort, your
luxury, has been the source of deep enjoyments. If these
enjoyments were great when I thought only of Adam, think what they
were to my soul when the woman I loved was the mainspring of all I
did. I have known the pleasures of maternity in my love. I
accepted life thus. Like the paupers who live along the great
highways, I built myself a hut on the borders of your beautiful
domain, though I never sought to approach you. Poor and lonely,
struck blind by Adam's good fortune, I was, nevertheless, the
giver. Yes, you were surrounded by a love as pure as a guardian-
angel's; it waked while you slept; it caressed you with a look as
you passed; it was happy in its own existence,--you were the sun
of my native land to me, poor exile, who now writes to you with
tears in his eyes as he thinks of the happiness of those first
"When I was eighteen years old, having no one to love, I took for
my ideal mistress a charming woman in Warsaw, to whom I confided
all my thoughts, my wishes; I made her the queen of my nights and
days. She knew nothing of all this; why should she? I loved my
"You can fancy from this incident of my youth how happy I was
merely to live in the sphere of your existence, to groom your
horse, to find the new-coined gold for your purse, to prepare the
splendor of your dinners and your balls, to see you eclipsing the
elegance of those whose fortunes were greater than yours, and all
by my own good management. Ah! with what ardor I have ransacked
Paris when Adam would say to me, 'SHE wants this or that.' It was
a joy such as I can never express to you. You wished for a trifle
at one time which kept me seven hours in a cab scouring the city;
and what delight it was to weary myself for you. Ah! when I saw
you, unseen by you, smiling among your flowers, I could forget
that no one loved me. On certain days, when my happiness turned my
head, I went at night and kissed the spot where, to me, your feet
had left their luminous traces. The air you had breathed was
balmy; in it I breathed in more of life; I inhaled, as they say
persons do in the tropics, a vapor laden with creative principles.
"I MUST tell you these things to explain the strange presumption
of my involuntary thoughts,--I would have died rather than avow it
"You will remember those few days of curiosity when you wished to
know the man who performed the household miracles you had
sometimes noticed. I thought,--forgive me, madame,--I believed you
might love me. Your good-will, your glances interpreted by me, a
lover, seemed to me so dangerous--for me--that I invented that
story of Malaga, knowing it was the sort of liaison which women
cannot forgive. I did it in a moment when I felt that my love
would be communicated, fatally, to you. Despise me, crush me with
the contempt you have so often cast upon me when I did not deserve
it; and yet I am certain that, if, on that evening when your aunt
took Adam away from you, I had said what I have now written to
you, I should, like the tamed tiger that sets his teeth once more
in living flesh, and scents the blood, and--
"I could not go on; the memory of that hour is still too living.
Yes, I was maddened. Was there hope for me in your eyes? then
victory with its scarlet banners would have flamed in mine and
fascinated yours. My crime has been to think all this; perhaps
wrongly. You alone can judge of that dreadful scene when I drove
back love, desire, all the most invincible forces of our manhood,
with the cold hand of gratitude,--gratitude which must be eternal.
"Your terrible contempt has been my punishment. You have shown me
there is no return from loathing or disdain. I love you madly. I
should have gone had Adam died; all the more must I go because he
lives. A man does not tear his friend from the arms of death to
betray him. Besides, my going is my punishment for the thought
that came to me that I would let him die, when the doctors said
that his life depended on his nursing.
"Adieu, madame; in leaving Paris I lose all, but you lose nothing
now in my being no longer near you.
"If my poor Adam says he has lost a friend, what have I lost?" thought
Clementine, sinking into a chair with her eyes fixed on the carpet.
The following letter Constantin had orders to give privately to the
"My dear Adam,--Malaga has told me all. In the name of all your
future happiness, never let a word escape you to Clementine about
your visits to that girl; let her think that Malaga has cost me a
hundred thousand francs. I know Clementine's character; she will
never forgive you either your losses at cards or your visits to
"I am not going to Khiva, but to the Caucasus. I have the spleen;
and at the pace at which I mean to go I shall be either Prince Paz
in three years, or dead. Good-by; though I have taken sixty-
thousand francs from Nucingen, our accounts are even.
"Idiot that I was," thought Adam; "I came near to cutting my throat
just now, talking about Malaga."
It is now three years since Paz went away. The newspapers have as yet
said nothing about any Prince Paz. The Comtesse Laginska is immensely
interested in the expeditions of the Emperor Nicholas; she is Russian
to the core, and reads with a sort of avidity all the news that comes
from that distant land. Once or twice every winter she says to the
Russian ambassador, with an air of indifference, "Do you know what has
become of our poor Comte Paz?"
Alas! most Parisian women, those beings who think themselves so clever
and clear-sighted, pass and repass beside a Paz and never recognize
him. Yes, many a Paz is unknown and misconceived, but--horrible to
think of!--some are misconceived even though they are loved. The
simplest women in society exact a certain amount of conventional sham
from the greatest men. A noble love signifies nothing to them if rough
and unpolished; it needs the cutting and setting of a jeweller to give
it value in their eyes.
In January, 1842, the Comtesse Laginska, with her charm of gentle
melancholy, inspired a violent passion in the Comte de La Palferine,
one of the most daring and presumptuous lions of the day. La Palferine
was well aware that the conquest of a woman so guarded by reserve as
the Comtesse Laginska was difficult, but he thought he could inveigle
this charming creature into committing herself if he took her
unawares, by the assistance of a certain friend of her own, a woman
already jealous of her.
Quite incapable, in spite of her intelligence, of suspecting such
treachery, the Comtesse Laginska committed the imprudence of going
with her so-called friend to a masked ball at the Opera. About three
in the morning, led away by the excitement of the scene, Clementine,
on whom La Palferine had expended his seductions, consented to accept
a supper, and was about to enter the carriage of her faithless friend.
At this critical moment her arm was grasped by a powerful hand, and
she was taken, in spite of her struggles, to her own carriage, the
door of which stood open, though she did not know it was there.
"He has never left Paris!" she exclaimed to herself as she recognized
Thaddeus, who disappeared when the carriage drove away.
Did any woman ever have a like romance in her life? Clementine is
constantly hoping she may again see Paz.
The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.
The Atheist's Mass
The Commission in Lunacy
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Government Clerks
A Study of Woman
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Seamy Side of History
The Magic Skin
A Second Home
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Muse of the Department
The Middle Classes
The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche
Laginski, Comte Adam Mitgislas
Another Study of Woman
La Palferine, Comte de
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Seamy Side of History
Nathan, Madame Raoul
The Muse of the Department
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Government Clerks
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Prince of Bohemia
A Daughter of Eve
The Unconscious Humorists
Ronquerolles, Marquis de
A Woman of Thirty
Another Study of Woman
The Member for Arcis
Rouvre, Marquis du
A Start in Life
Rouvre, Chevalier du
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
The Government Clerks
The Unconscious Humorists
Serizy, Comtesse de
A Start in Life
A Woman of Thirty
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Another Study of Woman
Serizy, Vicomte de
A Start in Life
A Daughter of Eve
Steinbock, Count Wenceslas
The Muse of the Department
A Man of Business