VAUTRIN A DRAMA IN FIVE ACTS
HONORE DE BALZAC
Presented for the first time at the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre, Paris March 14, 1840
It is difficult for the playwright to put himself, five days after the first presentation of his piece, in the situation in which he felt himself on the morning after the event; but it is still more difficult to write a preface to Vautrin, to which every one has written his own. The single utterance of the author will infallibly prove inferior to so vast a number of divergent expressions. The report of a cannon is never so effective as a display of fireworks.
Must the author explain his work? Its only possible commentator is M. Frederick Lemaitre.
Must he complain of the injunction which delayed the presentation of his play? That would be to betray ignorance of his time and country. Petty tyranny is the besetting sin of constitutional governments; it is thus they are disloyal to themselves, and on the other hand, who are so cruel as the weak? The present government is a spoilt child, and does what it likes, excepting that it fails to secure the public weal or the public vote.
Must he proceed to prove that Vautrin is as innocent a work as a drama of Berquin's? To inquire into the morality or immorality of the stage would imply servile submission to the stupid Prudhommes who bring the matter in question.
Shall he attack the newspapers? He could do no more than declare that they have verified by their conduct all he ever said about them.
Yet in the midst of the disaster which the energy of government has caused, but which the slightest sagacity in the world might have prevented, the author has found some compensation in the testimony of public sympathy which has been given him. M. Victor Hugo, among others, has shown himself as steadfast in friendship as he is pre-eminent in poetry; and the present writer has the greater happiness in publishing the good will of M. Hugo, inasmuch as the enemies of that distinguished man have no hesitation in blackening his character.
Let me conclude by saying that Vautrin is two months old, and in the rush of Parisian life a novelty of two months has survived a couple of centuries. The real preface to Vautrin will be found in the play, Richard-Coeur-d'Eponge,[*] which the administration permits to be acted in order to save the prolific stage of Porte-Saint-Martin from being overrun by children.
[*] A play never enacted or printed.
PARIS, May 1, 1840.
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
Jacques Collin, known as Vautrin The Duc de Montsorel The Marquis Albert de Montsorel, son to Montsorel Raoul de Frascas Charles Blondet, known as the Chevalier de Saint-Charles Francois Cadet, known as the Philosopher Fil-de-Soie Buteux Philippe Boulard, known as Lafouraille A Police Officer Joseph Bonnet, footman to the Duchesse de Montsorel The Duchesse de Montsorel (Louise de Vaudrey) Mademoiselle de Vaudrey, aunt to the Duchesse de Montsorel The Duchesse de Christoval Inez de Christoval, Princesse D'Arjos Felicite, maid to the Duchesse de Montsorel Servants, Gendarmes, Detectives, and others
TIME: 1816, after the second return of the Bourbons.
SCENE FIRST. (A room in the house of the Duc de Montsorel.) The Duchesse de Montsorel and Mademoiselle de Vaudrey.
The Duchess Ah! So you have been waiting for me! How very good of you!
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey What is the matter, Louise? This is the first time in the twelve years of our mutual mourning, that I have seen you cheerful. Knowing you as I do, it makes me alarmed.
The Duchess I cannot help showing my unhappiness, and you, who have shared all my sorrows, alone can understand my rapture at the faintest gleam of hope.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Have you come upon any traces of your lost son?
The Duchess He is found!
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Impossible! When you find out your error it will add to your anguish.
The Duchess A child who is dead has but a tomb in the heart of his mother; but the child who has been stolen, is still living in that heart, dear aunt.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Suppose you were overheard!
The Duchess I should not care. I am setting out on a new life, and I feel strong enough to resist even the tyranny of De Montsorel.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey After twenty-two years of mourning, what possible occurrence can give you ground for hope?
The Duchess I have much more than hope! After the king's reception, I went to the Spanish ambassador's, where I was introduced to Madame de Christoval. There I saw a young man who resembled me, and had my voice. Do you see what I mean? If I came home late it was because I remained spellbound in the room, and could not leave until he had gone.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Yet what slight warrant you had for your elation!
The Duchess Is not a revelation such as that more than sufficient warrant for the rapture of a mother's heart? At the sight of that young stranger a flame seemed to dart before my yes; his glance gave me new life; I felt happy once more. If he were not my son, my feelings would be quite unaccountable.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey You must have betrayed yourself!
The Duchess Yes, perhaps I did! People doubtless noticed us; but I was carried away by an uncontrollable impulse; I saw no one but him, I wished to hear him talk, and he talked with me, and told me his age. He is twenty-three, the same age as Fernand!
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey And was the duke present?
The Duchess Could I give a thought to my husband? I listened only to this young man, who was talking with Inez. I believe they are in love with each other.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Inez, who is engaged to your son, the marquis? And do you think the warm reception given by her to his son's rival could escape the duke's notice?
The Duchess Of course not, and I quite see the dangers to which Fernand is exposed. But I must not detain you longer; I could talk to you about him till morning. You shall see him. I have told him to come at the hour the duke goes to the king's, and then we will question him about his childhood.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey For goodness' sake, calm yourself; you will never be able to sleep this night. And send Felicite to bed, she is not accustomed to these late hours. (She rings the bell.)
Felicite (entering the room) His grace the duke has come in with his lordship the marquis.
The Duchess I have already told you, Felicite, never to inform me of his grace's movements. (Exit Felicite.)
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey I should hate to rob you of an illusion which causes you such happiness; but when I see the height of expectation to which you have soared, I fear a terrible fall for you. The soul, like the body, is bruised by a fall from an excessive height, and you must excuse my saying that I tremble for you.
The Duchess While you fear the effect of despair for me, I fear that of overwhelming joy.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey (watching the duchess go out) If she should be deceived, she might lose her senses.
The Duchess (re-entering the room) Fernand, dear aunt, calls himself Raoul de Frescas. (Exit.)
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey (alone) She does not see that the recovery of her son would be a miracle. All mothers believe in miracles. We must keep watch over her. A look, a word might ruin her, for if she is right, if God restores her son to her, she is on the brink of a catastrophe more frightful even than the deception she had been practicing. Does she think she can dissemble under the eyes of women?
SCENE THIRD. Mademoiselle de Vaudrey and Felicite.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Already here?
Felicite Her grace the duchess dismissed me early.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Has my niece given you no orders for the morning?
Felicite None, madame.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey A young man, named Monsieur Raoul de Frescas, is coming to call upon me towards noon; he may possibly ask for the duchess, but you must instruct Joseph to bring him to my apartment. (Exit.)
Felicite (alone) A young man for her? Not a bit of it. I always said that there was some motive in my lady's retired way of living; she is rich, she is handsome, yet the duke does not love her; and now the first time she goes out, a young man comes next day to see her, and her aunt wishes to receive him. They keep me in the dark; I am neither trusted nor tipped. If this is the way chambermaids are to be treated under the new government, I don't know what will become of us. (A side door opens, two men are seen, and the door is immediately closed again.) At any rate we shall have a look at the young man. (Exit.)
SCENE FIFTH. Joseph and Vautrin. (Vautrin wears a tan-colored overcoat, trimmed with fur, over the black evening dress of a foreign diplomatic minister.)
Joseph That blasted girl! We would have been down in our luck if she had seen us.
Vautrin You mean you would have been down in your luck; you take pretty good care not to be caught again, don't you? I suppose then that you enjoy peace of mind in this house?
Joseph That I do, for honesty I find to be the best policy.
Vautrin And do you quite approve of honesty?
Joseph Oh, yes, so long as the place and the wages suit me.
Vautrin I see you are doing well, my boy. You take little and often, you save, you even have the honesty to lend a trifle at interest. That's all right, but you cannot imagine what pleasure it gives me to see one of my old acquaintances filling an honorable position. You have succeeded in doing so; your faults are but negative and therefore half virtues. I myself once had vices; I regret them as things of the past; I have nothing but dangers and struggles to interest me. Mine is the life of an Indian hemmed in by my enemies, and I am fighting in defence of my own scalp.
Joseph And what of mine?
Vautrin Yours? Ah! you are right to ask that. Well, whatever happens to me, you have the word of Jacques Collin that he will never compromise you. But you must obey me in everything!
Joseph In everything? But—
Vautrin There are no buts with me. If there is any dark business to be done I have my "trusties" and old allies. Have you been long in this place?
Joseph The duchess took me for her footman when she went with the court to Ghent, last year and I am trusted by both the ladies of the house.
Vautrin That's the ticket! I need a few points with regard to these Montsorels. What do you know about them?
Vautrin (aside) He is getting a little too honest. Does he think he knows nothing about them? Well, you cannot talk for five minutes with a man without drawing something out of him. (Aloud) Whose room is this?
Joseph The salon of her grace the duchess, and these are her apartments; those of the duke are on the floor above. The suite of the marquis, their only son, is below, and looks on the court.
Vautrin I asked you for impressions of all the keys of the duke's study. Where are they?
Joseph (hesitatingly) Here they are.
Vautrin Every time I purpose coming here you will find a cross in chalk on the garden gate; every night you must examine the place. Virtue reigns here, and the hinges of that gate are very rusty; but a Louis XVIII can never be a Louis XV! Good-bye—I'll come back to-morrow night. (Aside) I must rejoin my people at the Christoval house.
Joseph (aside) Since this devil of a fellow has found me out, I have been on tenter-hooks—
Vautrin (coming back from the door) The duke then does not live with his wife?
Joseph They quarreled twenty years ago.
Vautrin What about?
Joseph Not even their own son can say.
Vautrin And why was your predecessor dismissed?
Joseph I cannot say. I was not acquainted with him. They did not set up an establishment here until after the king's second return.
Vautrin (aside) Such are the advantages of the new social order; masters and servants are bound together by no ties; they feel no mutual attachment, exchange no secrets, and so give no ground for betrayal. (To Joseph) Any spicy stories at meal-times?
Joseph Never before the servants.
Vautrin What is thought of them in the servants' hall?
Joseph The duchess is considered a saint.
Vautrin Poor woman! And the duke?
Joseph He is an egotist.
Vautrin Yes, a statesman. (Aside) The duke must have secrets, and we must look into that. Every great aristocrat has some paltry passion by which he can be led; and if I once get control of him, his son, necessarily— (To Joseph) What is said about the marriage of the Marquis de Montsorel and Inez de Christoval?
Joseph I haven't heard a word. The duchess seems to take very little interest in it.
Vautrin And she has only one son! That seems hardly natural.
Joseph Between ourselves, I believe she doesn't love her son.
Vautrin I am obliged to draw this word from your throat, as if it were the cork in a bottle of Bordeaux. There is, I perceive, some mystery in this house. Here is a mother, a Duchesse de Montsorel, who does not love her son, her only son! Who is her confessor?
Joseph She keeps her religious observances a profound secret.
Vautrin Good—I shall soon know everything. Secrets are like young girls, the more you conceal them, the sooner they are discovered. I will send two of my rascals to the Church of St. Thomas Aquinas. They won't work out their salvation in that way, but they'll work out something else.— Good-bye.
Joseph (alone) He is an old friend—and that is the worst nuisance in the world. He will make me lose my place. Ah, if I were not afraid of being poisoned like a dog by Jacques Collin, who is quite capable of the act, I would tell all to the duke; but in this vile world, every man for himself, and I am not going to pay another man's debt. Let the duke settle with Jacques; I am going to bed. What noise is that? The duchess is getting up. What does she want? I must listen. (He goes out, leaving the door slightly ajar.)
The Duchesse de Montsorel (alone) Where can I hide the certificate of my son's birth? (She reads) "Valencia. . . . July, 1793." An unlucky town for me! Fernand was actually born seven months after my marriage, by one of those fatalities that give ground for shameful accusations! I shall ask my aunt to carry the certificate in her pocket, until I can deposit it in some place of safety. The duke would ransack my rooms for it, and the whole police are at his service. Government refuses nothing to a man high in favor. If Joseph saw me going to Mademoiselle de Vaudrey's apartments at this hour, the whole house would hear of it. Ah—I am alone in the world, alone with all against me, a prisoner in my own house!
SCENE EIGHTH. The Duchesse de Montsorel and Mademoiselle de Vaudrey.
The Duchess I see that you find it is impossible to sleep as I do.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Louise, my child, I only rose to rid you of a dream, the awakening from which will be deplorable. I consider it my duty to distract you from your insane fancies. The more I think of what you told me the more is my sympathy aroused. But I am compelled to tell you the truth, cruel as it is; beyond doubt the duke has placed Fernand in some compromising situation, so as to make it impossible for him to retrieve his position in the world to which you belong. The young man you saw cannot be your son.
The Duchess Ah, you never knew Fernand! But I knew him, and in whatever place he is, his life has an influence on mine. I have seen him a thousand times—
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey In your dreams!
The Duchess Fernand has the blood of the Montsorels and the Vaudreys in his veins. The place to which he was born he is able to take; everything gives way before him wherever he appears. If he became a soldier, he is to-day a colonel. My son is proud, he is handsome, people like him! I am sure he is beloved. Do not contradict me, dear aunt; Fernand still lives; if not, then the duke has broken faith, and I know he values too highly the virtues of his race to disgrace them.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey But are not honor and a husband's vengeance dearer to him than his faith as a gentleman?
The Duchess Ah! You make me shudder.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey You know very well, Louise, that pride of race is hereditary with the Montsorels, as it is with the Montemarts.
The Duchess I know it too well! The doubt cast upon his child's legitimacy has almost crazed him.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey You are wrong there. The duke has a warm heart, and a cool head; in all matters that concern the sentiments on which they live, men of that temper act promptly in carrying out their ideas.
The Duchess But, dear aunt, do you know at what price he has granted me the life of Fernand? Haven't I paid dearly for the assurance that his days were not to be shortened? If I had persisted in maintaining my innocence I should have brought certain death upon him; I have sacrificed my good name to save my son. Any mother would have done as much. You were taking care of my property here; I was alone in a foreign land, and was the prey of ill-health, fever, and with none to counsel me, and I lost my head; for since that time it has constantly occurred to me that the duke would never have carried out his threats. In making the sacrifice I did, I knew that Fernand would be poor and destitute, without a name, and dwelling in an unknown land; but I knew also that his life would be safe, and that some day I should recover him, even if I had to search the whole world over! I felt so cheerful as I came in that I forgot to give you the certificate of Fernand's birth, which the Spanish ambassador's wife has at last obtained for me; carry it about with you until you can place it in the hands of your confessor.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey The duke must certainly have learnt the measures you have taken in this matter, and woe be to your son! Since his return he has been very busy, and is still busy about something.
The Duchess If I shake off the disgrace with which he has tried to cover me, if I give up shedding tears in silence, be assured that nothing can bend me from my purpose. I am no longer in Spain or England, at the mercy of a diplomat crafty as a tiger, who during the whole time of our emigration was reading the thoughts of my heart's inmost recesses, and with invisible spies surrounding my life as by a network of steel; turning my secrets into jailers, and keeping me prisoner in the most horrible of prisons, an open house! I am in France, I have found you once more, I hold my place at court, I can speak my mind there; I shall learn what has become of the Vicomte de Langeac, I should prove that since the Tenth of August[*] we have never met, I shall inform the king of the crime committed by a father against a son who is the heir of two noble houses. I am a woman, I am Duchesse de Montsorel, I am a mother! We are rich, we have a virtuous priest for an adviser; right is on our side, and if I have demanded the certificate of my son's birth—
[*] A noteworthy date in French history, August 10, 1792; the day of the storming of the Tuileries.—J. W. M.
SCENE NINTH. The same persons, and the Duc de Montsorel (who enters as the duchess pronounces the last sentence).
The Duke It is only for the purpose of handing it to me.
The Duchess Since when have you ventured to enter my apartment without previously sending me word and asking my leave?
The Duke Since you broke the agreement we made. You swore to take no steps to find this—your son. This was the sole condition on which I promised to let him live.
The Duchess And is it not much more honorable to violate such an oath, than to remain faithful to all others?
The Duke We are henceforth both of us released from our engagements.
The Duchess Have you, up to the present day, respected yours?
The Duke I have, madame.
The Duchess Listen to him, aunt, and bear witness to this declaration.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey But has it never occurred to you, my dear sir, that Louise is innocent?
The Duke Of course you think so, Mademoiselle de Vaudrey. And what would not I give to share your opinion! The duchess has had twenty years in which to prove to me her innocence.
The Duchess For twenty years you have wrung my heart without pity and without intermission.
The Duke Madame, unless you hand me this certificate, your Fernand will have serious cause for alarm. As soon as you returned to France you secured the document, and are trying to employ it as a weapon against me. You desire to obtain for your son a fortune and a name which do not belong to him; to secure his admission into a family, whose race has up to my time been kept pure by wives of stainless reputation, a family which has never formed a single mesalliance—
The Duchess And which will be worthily represented by your son Albert.
The Duke Be careful what you say, for you waken in me terrible memories. And your last word shows me that you will not shrink from causing a scandal that will overwhelm all of us with shame. Shall we air in public courts past occurrences which will show that I am not free from reproach, while you are infamous? (He turns to Mademoiselle de Vaudrey) She cannot have told you everything, dear aunt? She was in love with Viscount Langeac; I knew it, and respected her love; I was so young! The viscount came to me; being without hope of inheriting a fortune, and the last representative of his house, he unselfishly offered to give up Louise de Vaudrey. I trusted in their mutual generosity, and accepted her as a pure woman from his hands. Ah! I would have given my life for her, and I have proved it! The wretched man performed prodigies of valor on the Tenth of August, and called down upon himself the rage of the mob; I put him under the protection of some of my people; he was, however, discovered and taken to the Abbaye. As soon as I learned his predicament, I gave into the hands of a certain Boulard all the money I had collected for our flight! I induced Boulard to join the Septembrists in order to save the viscount from death; I procured his escape! (To the duchess) He paid me back well, did he not? I was young, madly in love, impetuous, yet I never crushed the boy! You have to-day made me the same requital for my pity, as your lover made for my trust in him. Well—things remain just as they were twenty years ago excepting that the time for pity is past. And I will repeat what I said to you then: Forget your son, and he shall live.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey And shall her sufferings during those twenty years count for nothing?
The Duke A great crime calls for a great atonement.
The Duchess Ah—if you take my grief for a sign of remorse, I will again protest to you, I am innocent! No! Langeac never betrayed your confidence; it was not for his king alone he went to his death, and from the fatal day on which he bade me farewell and surrendered me to you, I have never seen him again.
The Duke You purchased the life of your son by making an exactly contrary declaration.
The Duchess Can a compact dictated by terror be looked upon as an avowal of guilt?
The Duke Do you intend to give that certificate of birth?
The Duchess It is no longer in my possession.
The Duke I will no longer answer then for your son's safety.
The Duchess Have you weighed well the consequences of this threat?
The Duke You ought to know me by this time.
The Duchess The trouble is that you do not know me. You will no longer answer for my son's safety? Indeed—but you had better look after your own son. Albert is a guarantee for the life of Fernand. If you keep watch on my proceedings, I shall set a watch on yours; if you rely upon the police of the realm, I have resources of my own, and the assistance of God. If you deal a blow at Fernand, beware of what may happen to Albert. A blow for a blow!—That is final.
The Duke You are in our own house, madame. I forgot myself. Pray pardon me. I was wrong.
The Duchess You are more a gentleman than your son; when he flies into a rage he begs no one's pardon, not he!
The Duke (aside) Has her resignation up to this time been nothing but a pretence? Has she been waiting for the present opportunity to speak? Women who are guided by the advice of bigots travel underground, like volcanic fires, and only reveal themselves when they break out. She knows my secret, I have lost sight of her son, and my defeat is imminent. (Exit.)
SCENE TENTH. Mademoiselle de Vaudrey and the Duchess.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Louise, you love the child you have never seen, and hate him who is before your eyes. Ah! you must tell the reason of your hatred for Albert, if you would retain my esteem and my affection.
The Duchess Not a word on that subject.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey The calm way in which your husband remarks your aversion for your son is astonishing.
The Duchess He is accustomed to it.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Yet you could never show yourself a bad mother, could you?
The Duchess A bad mother? No. (She reflects.) I cannot make up my mind to forfeit your affection. (She draws her aunt to her side.) Albert is not my son.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Can a stranger have usurped the place, the name, the title, the property of the real child?
The Duchess No, not a stranger, but his son. After the fatal night on which Fernand was carried off from me, an eternal separation between the duke and myself took place. The wife in me was as cruelly outraged as the mother. But still I purchased from him peace of mind.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey I do not understand your meaning.
The Duchess I allowed the duke to present this Albert, child of a Spanish courtesan, as if he were mine. The duke desired an heir. Amid the confusion wrought in Spain by the French Revolution the trick escaped notice. Are you surprised that my blood boils at the sight of this strange woman's child occupying the place of the lawful heir?
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Now I can deeply sympathize with your hopes; ah! how glad I should be if you were right in your suspicions and this young man were indeed your son. But what is the matter with you?
The Duchess He is, I fear, ruined; for I have brought him under the notice of his father, who will— But stay, something must be done! I must find out where he lives, and warn him not to come here to-morrow morning.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Leave the house at this hour! Louise, you are mad!
The Duchess Come, we must save him at any price.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey What do you propose doing?
The Duchess Neither of us can leave the house to-morrow without being noticed. We must forestall the duke by bribing my chambermaid.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Louise, would you resort to such means as this?
The Duchess If Raoul is the son disclaimed by his father, the child over whom I have mourned for the last twenty years, I must show them what a wife, a mother, who has been wrongly accused, can do!
Curtain to the First Act.
SCENE FIRST. (Scene the same as in preceding act.) The Duc de Montsorel and Joseph.
The Duke Joseph, I am not at home excepting to one person. If he comes, you will show him up. I refer to Monsieur de Saint-Charles. Find out whether your mistress will see me. (Exit Joseph.) The awakening of a maternal instinct, which I thought had been utterly extinguished in her heart, amazes me beyond measure. The secret struggle in which she is engaged must at once be put a stop to. So long as Louise was resigned our life was not intolerable; but disputes like this would render it extremely disagreeable. I was able to control my wife so long as we were abroad, but in this country my only power over her lies in skillful handling, and a display of authority. I shall tell everything to the king. I shall submit myself to his dictation, and Madame de Montsorel must be compelled to submit. I must however bide my time. The detective, whom I am to employ, if he is clever, will soon find out the cause of this revolt; I shall see whether the duchess is merely deceived by a resemblance, or whether she has seen her son. For myself I must confess to having lost sight of him since my agents reported his disappearance twelve years ago. I was very much excited last night. I must be more discreet. If I keep quiet she will be put off her guard and reveal her secrets.
Joseph (re-entering the room) Her grace the duchess has not yet rung for her maid.
The Duke Very well.
SCENE SECOND. The preceding and Felicite. (To explain his presence in his wife's room, the duke looks over articles lying on the table, and discovers a letter in a book.)
The Duke (reading) "To Mademoiselle Inez de Christoval." (aside) Why should my wife have concealed a letter of such slight importance? She no doubt wrote it after our quarrel. Is it concerning Raoul? This letter must not go to the Christoval house.
Felicite (looking for the letter in the book) Now, where is that letter of madame's? Can she have forgotten it?
The Duke Aren't you looking for a letter?
Felicite Yes, your grace.
The Duke Isn't this it?
Felicite The very one, your grace.
The Duke It is astonishing that you should leave the very hour your mistress must need your services; she is getting up.
Felicite Her grace the duchess has Therese; and besides I am going out by her orders.
The Duke Very good. I did not wish to interfere with you.
SCENE THIRD. The preceding, and Blondet, alias the Chevalier de Saint-Charles. (Joseph and Saint-Charles walk together from the centre door, and eye each other attentively.)
Joseph (aside) The look of that man is very distasteful to me. (To the duke) The Chevalier de Saint-Charles.
(The duke signs to Saint-Charles to approach, and examines his appearance.)
Saint-Charles (giving him a letter, aside) Does he know my antecedents, or will he simply recognize me as Saint-Charles?
The Duke My dear sir—
Saint-Charles I am to be merely Saint-Charles.
The Duke You are recommended to me as a man whose ability, if it had fair scope, would be called genius.
Saint-Charles If his grace the duke will give me an opportunity, I will prove myself worthy of that flattering opinion.
The Duke You shall have one at once.
Saint-Charles What are your commands?
The Duke You see that maid. She is going to leave the house. I do not wish to hinder her doing so; yet she must not cross the threshold, until she receives a fresh order. (Calls her) Felicite!
Felicite What is it, your grace?
(The Duke gives her the letter. Exit Felicite.)
Saint-Charles (to Joseph) I recognize you, I know all about you: See that this maid remains in the house with the letter, and I will not recognize you, and will know nothing of you, and will let you stay here so long as you behave yourself.
Joseph (aside) This fellow on one side, and Jacques Collin on the other! Well; I must try to serve them both honestly.
(Exit Joseph in pursuit of Felicite.)
SCENE FOURTH. The Duke and Saint-Charles.
Saint-Charles Your grace's commands are obeyed. Do you wish to know the contents of the letter?
The Duke Why, my dear sir, the power you seem to exercise is something terrible and wonderful.
Saint-Charles You gave me absolute authority in the matter, and I used it well.
The Duke And what if you had abused it?
Saint-Charles That would have been impossible, for such a course would ruin me.
The Duke How is it that men endowed with such faculties are found employing them in so lowly a sphere?
Saint-Charles Everything is against our rising above it; we protect our protectors, we learn too many honorable secrets, and are kept in ignorance of too many shameful ones to be liked by people, and render such important services to others that they can only shake off the obligation by speaking ill of us. People think that things are only words with us; refinement is thus mere silliness, honor a sham, and acts of treachery mere diplomacy. We are the confidants of many who yet leave us much to guess at. Our programme consists in thinking and acting, finding out the past from the present, ordering and arranging the future in the pettiest details, as I am about to—and, in short, in doing a hundred things that might strike dismay to a man of no mean ability. When once our end is gained, words become things once more, and people begin to suspect that possibly we are infamous scoundrels.
The Duke There may be some justice in all this, but I do not suppose you expect to change the opinion of the world, or even mine?
Saint-Charles I should be a great fool if I did. I don't care about changing another man's opinion; what I do want to change is my own position.
The Duke According to you that would be very easy, wouldn't it?
Saint-Charles Why not, your grace? Let some one set me to play the spy over cabinets, instead of raking up the secrets of private families. Instead of dogging the footsteps of shady characters, let them put me in charge of the craftiest diplomats. Instead of pandering to the vilest passions, let me serve the government. I should be delighted to play a modest part in a great movement. And what a devoted servant your grace would have in me!
The Duke I am really sorry to employ such talents as yours in so petty an affair, my friend, but it will give me an opportunity of testing, and then we'll see.
Saint-Charles (aside) Ah—We shall see? That means, all has already been seen.
The Duke I wish to see my son married—
Saint-Charles To Mademoiselle Inez de Christoval, Princesse d'Arjos—a good match! Her father made the mistake of entering Joseph Bonaparte's service, and was banished by King Ferdinand. He probably took part in the Mexican revolution.
The Duke Madame de Christoval and her daughter have made the acquaintance of a certain adventurer, named—
Saint-Charles Raoul de Frescas.
The Duke Is there nothing I can tell you that you do not know?
Saint-Charles If your grace desires it, I will know nothing.
The Duke On the contrary, I should like you to speak out, so that I may know what secrets you will permit us to keep.
Saint-Charles Let us make one stipulation; whenever my frankness displeases your grace, call me chevalier, and I will sink once more into my humble role of paid detective.
The Duke Go on, my friend. (Aside) These people are very amusing.
Saint-Charles M. de Frescas will not be an adventurer so long as he lives in the style of a man who has an income of a hundred thousand francs.
The Duke Whoever he is you must pierce through the mystery which surrounds him.
Saint-Charles Your grace requires a very difficult thing. We are obliged to use circumspection in dealing with foreigners. They are our masters; they have turned Paris upside down.
The Duke That's the trouble!
Saint-Charles Does your grace belong to the opposition?
The Duke I should like to have brought back the king without his following —that is my position.
Saint-Charles The departure of the king resulted from the disorganization of the magnificent Asiatic police created by Bonaparte. An effort is being made nowadays to form a police of respectable people, a procedure which disbands the old police. Hemmed in by the military police of the invasion, we dare not arrest any one, for fear we might lay hands on some prince on his way to keep an assignation, or some margrave who had dined too well. But for your grace a man will attempt the impossible. Has this young man any vices? Does he play?
The Duke Yes, in a social way.
Saint-Charles Does he cheat?
The Duke Chevalier!
Saint-Charles This young man must be very rich.
The Duke Inquire for yourself.
Saint-Charles I ask pardon of your grace; but people without passions cannot know much. Would you have the goodness to tell me whether this young man is sincerely attached to Mademoiselle de Christoval?
The Duke What! That princess! That heiress! You alarm me, my friend.
Saint-Charles Has not your grace told me that he is a young man? Now, pretended love is more perfect than genuine love; that is the reason why so many women are deceived! Undoubtedly he has thrown over many mistresses, and heart-free, tongue-free, you know—
The Duke Take care! Your mission is peculiar, and you had best not meddle with the women; an indiscretion on your part may forfeit my good will, for all that relates to Monsieur Frescas must go no further than you and myself. I demand absolute secrecy, both from those you employ, and those who employ you. In fact, you will be a ruined man, if Madame de Montsorel has any suspicion of your designs.
Saint-Charles Is Madame de Montsorel then interested in this young man? I must keep an eye on her, for this girl is her chambermaid.
The Duke Chevalier de Saint-Charles, to order you to do this would be unworthy of me, and to ask for such an order is quite unworthy of you.
Saint-Charles Your grace and I perfectly understand each other. But what is to be the main object of my investigations?
The Duke You must find out whether Raoul de Frescas is the real name of this young man; find out where he was born, ransack his whole life, and consider all you learn about him a secret of state.
Saint-Charles You must wait until to-morrow for this information, my lord.
The Duke That is a short time.
Saint-Charles But it involves a good deal of money.
The Duke Do not suppose that I wish to hear of evil things; it is the method of you people to pander to depraved passions. Instead of showing them up, you prefer to invent rather than to reveal occurrences. I should be delighted to learn that this young man has a family—
(The marquis enters, sees his father engaged, and turns to go out; the duke asks him to remain.)
SCENE FIFTH. The preceding and the Marquis de Montsorel.
The Duke (continuing) If Monsieur de Frescas is a gentleman, and the Princesse d'Arjos decidedly prefers him to my son, the marquis must withdraw his suit.
The Marquis But, father, I am in love with Inez.
The Duke (to Saint-Charles) You may go, sir.
Saint-Charles (aside) He takes no interest in the proposed marriage of his son. He is incapable of feeling jealous of his wife. There is something very serious in these circumstances; I am either a ruined man or my fortune is made. (Exit.)
SCENE SIXTH. The Duke and the Marquis.
The Duke To marry a woman who does not love you is a mistake which I shall never allow you to commit, Albert.
The Marquis But there is nothing that indicates that Inez will reject me; and, in any case once she is my wife, it will be my object to win her love, and I believe, without vanity, that I shall succeed.
The Duke Allow me to tell you, my son, that your barrack-room ideas are quite out of place here.
The Marquis On any other subject your words would be law to me; but every era has a different art of love—I beg of you to hasten my marriage. Inez has all the pliability of an only daughter, and the readiness with which she accepts the advances of a mere adventurer ought to rouse your anxiety. Really, the coldness with which you receive me this morning amazes me. Putting aside my love for Inez, could I do better? I shall be, like you, a Spanish grandee, and, more than that, a prince. Would that annoy you, father?
The Duke (aside) The blood of his mother shows itself all the time! Oh! Louise has known well my tender spot! (Aloud) Recollect, sir, that there is no rank higher than the glorious title, Duc de Montsorel.
The Marquis How have I offended you?
The Duke Enough! You forget that I arranged this marriage after my residence in Spain. You are moreover aware that Inez cannot be married without her father's consent. Mexico has recently declared its independence, and the occurrence of this revolution explains the delay of his answer.
The Marquis But, my dear father, your plans are in danger of being defeated. You surely did not see what happened yesterday at the Spanish ambassador's? My mother took particular notice there of this Raoul de Frescas, and Inez was immensely pleased with him. Do you know that I have long felt, and now at last admit to myself, that my mother hates me? And that I myself feel, what I would only say to you father, whom I love, that I have little love for her?
The Duke (aside) I am reaping all that I have sown; hate as well as love is instinctively divined. (To the marquis) My son, you should not judge, for you can never understand your mother. She has seen my blind affection for you, and she wishes to correct it by severity. Do not let me hear any more such remarks from you, and let us drop the subject! You are on duty at the palace to-day; repair thither at once: I will obtain leave for you this evening, when you can go to the ball and rejoin the Princesse d'Arjos.
The Marquis Before leaving, I should like to see my mother, and beg for her kind offices in my favor, with Inez, who calls upon her this morning.
The Duke Ask whether she is to be seen, for I am waiting for her myself. (Exit the marquis.) Everything overwhelms me at the same time; yesterday the ambassador inquired of me the place of my son's death; last night, my son's mother thought she had found him again; this morning the son of Juana Mendes harrows my feelings! The princess recognizes him instinctively. No law can be broken without a nemesis; nature is as pitiless as the world of men. Shall I be strong enough, even with the backing of the king, to overcome this complication of circumstances?
SCENE SEVENTH. The Duke, the Duchess and the Marquis.
The Duchess Excuses? Nonsense! Albert, I am only too happy to see you here; it is a pleasant surprise; you are come to kiss your mother before going to the palace—that is all. Ah! if ever a mother found it in her heart to doubt her son, this eager affection, which I have not been accustomed to, would dispel all such fear, and I thank you for it, Albert. At last we understand each other.
The Marquis I am glad to hear you say that, mother; if I have seemed lacking in my duty to you, it is not that I forget, but that I feared to annoy you.
The Duchess (seeing the duke) What! Your grace here also!—you really seem to share your son's cordiality,—my rising this morning is actually a fete.
The Duke And you will find it so every day.
The Duchess (to the duke) Ah! I understand— (To the marquis) Good-bye! The king is strict about the punctuality of his red-coated guards, and I should be sorry to cause you to be reprimanded.
The Duke Why do you send him off? Inez will soon be here.
The Duchess I do not think so, I have just written to her.
SCENE EIGHTH. The same persons and Joseph.
Joseph (announcing a visitor) Their graces the Duchesse de Christoval and the Princess d'Arjos.
The Duchess (aside) How excessively awkward!
The Duke (to his son) Do not go; leave all to me. They are trifling with us.
SCENE NINTH. The same persons, the Duchesse de Christoval and the Princesse d'Arjos.
The Duchesse de Montsorel Ah! madame, it is extremely kind of you thus to anticipate my visit to you.
The Duchesse de Christoval I come in this way that there may be no formality between us.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (to Inez) Have you read my letter?
Inez One of your maids has just handed it to me.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (aside) It is evident that Raoul is also coming.
The Duke (to the Duchesse de Christoval, whom he leads to a seat) I hope we see in this informal visit the beginning of a family intimacy?
The Duchesse de Christoval Pray do not exaggerate the importance of a civility, which I look upon as a pleasure.
The Marquis You are seriously afraid, madame, I perceive, of encouraging my hopes? Did I not suffer sufficiently yesterday? The princess did not notice me, even by a look.
Inez I didn't expect the pleasure of meeting you again so soon, sir. I thought you were on duty; I am glad to have an opportunity of explaining that I never saw you till the moment I left the ball-room, and this lady (pointing to the Duchesse de Montsorel) must be the excuse of my inattention.
The Marquis You have two excuses, mademoiselle, and I thank you for mentioning only one—my mother.
The Duke His reproaches spring only from his modesty, mademoiselle. Albert is under the impression that Monsieur de Frescas can give him ground for anxiety! At his age passion is a fairy that makes trifles appear vast. But neither yourself nor your mother, mademoiselle, can attach any serious importance to the claims of a young man, whose title is problematical and who is so studiously silent about his family.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (to the Duchesse de Christoval) And are you also ignorant of the place where he was born?
The Duchesse de Christoval I am not intimate enough with him to ask for such information.
The Duke There are three of us here who would be well pleased to have it. You alone, ladies, would be discreet, for discretion is a virtue the possession of which profits only those who require it in others.
The Duchesse de Montsorel As for me, I do not believe that curiosity is always blameless.
The Marquis Is mine then ill-timed? And may I not inquire of madame whether the Frescas of Aragon are extinct or not?
The Duchesse de Christoval (to the duke) Both of us have known at Madrid the old commander, who was last of his line.
The Duke He died, of course, without issue.
Inez But there exists a branch of the family at Naples.
The Marquis Surely you are aware, mademoiselle, that your cousins, the house of Medina-Coeli, have succeeded to it?
The Duchesse de Christoval You are right; there are no De Frescas in existence.
The Duchesse de Montsorel Well! Well! If this young man has neither title nor family, he can be no dangerous rival to Albert. I do not know why you should be interested in him.
The Duke But there are a great many ladies interested in him.
Inez I begin to see your meaning—
The Marquis Indeed!
Inez Yes, this young man is not, perhaps, all he wishes to appear; but he is intelligent, well educated, his sentiments are noble, he shows us the most chivalric respect, he speaks ill of no one; evidently, he is acting the gentleman, and exaggerates his role.
The Duke I believe he also exaggerates the amount of his fortune; but it is difficult at Paris to maintain that pretension for any length of time.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (to the Duchesse de Christoval) I am told that you mean to give a series of brilliant entertainments?
The Marquis Does Monsieur de Frescas speak Spanish?
Inez Just as well as we do.
The Duke Say no more, Albert; did you not hear that Monsieur de Frescas is a highly accomplished young man?
The Duchesse de Christoval He is really a very agreeable man, but if your doubts were well founded, I confess, my dear duke, I should be very sorry to receive any further visits from him.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (to the Duchesse de Christoval) You look as fresh to-day as you did yesterday; I really admire the way you stand the dissipations of society.
The Duchesse de Christoval (aside to Inez) My child, do not mention Monsieur de Frescas again. The subject annoys Madame de Montsorel.
Inez (also aside) It did not annoy her yesterday.
SCENE TENTH. The same persons, Joseph and Raoul de Frescas.
Joseph (to the Duchesse de Montsorel) As Mademoiselle de Vaudrey is not in, and Monsieur de Frescas is here, will your grace see him?
The Duchesse de Christoval Is Raoul here?
The Duke So he has already found her out!
The Marquis (to his father) My mother is deceiving us.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (to Joseph) I am not at home.
The Duke If you have asked Monsieur de Frescas to come why do you begin by treating so great a personage with discourtesy? (To Joseph, despite a gesture of protest from the Duchesse de Montsorel) Show him in! (To the marquis) Try to be calm and sensible.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (aside) In trying to help, I have hurt him, I fear.
Joseph M. Raoul de Frescas.
Raoul (entering) My eagerness to obey your commands will prove to you, Madame la Duchesse, how proud I am of your notice, and how anxious to deserve it.
The Duchesse de Montsorel I thank you, sir, for your promptitude. (Aside) But it may prove fatal to you.
Raoul (bowing to the Duchesse de Christoval and her daughter, aside) How is this? Inez here?
(Raoul exchanges bows with the duke; but the marquis takes up a newspaper from the table, and pretends not to see Raoul.)
The Duke I must confess, Monsieur de Frescas, I did not expect to meet you in the apartment of Madame de Montsorel; but I am pleased at the interest she takes in you, for it has procured me the pleasure of meeting a young man whose entrance into Parisian society has been attended with such success and brilliancy. You are one of the rivals whom one is proud to conquer, but to whom one submits without displeasure.
Raoul This exaggerated eulogy, with which I cannot agree, would be ironical unless it had been pronounced by you; but I am compelled to acknowledge the courtesy with which you desire to set me at my ease, (looking at the marquis, who turns his back on him), in a house where I might well think myself unwelcome.
The Duke On the contrary, you have come just at the right moment, we were just speaking of your family and of the aged Commander de Frescas whom madame and myself were once well acquainted with.
Raoul I am highly honored by the interest you take in me; but such an honor is generally enjoyed at the cost of some slight gossip.
The Duke People can only gossip about those whom they know well.
The Duchesse de Christoval And we would like to have the right of gossiping about you.
Raoul It is my interest to keep myself in your good graces.
The Duchesse de Montsorel I know one way of doing so.
Raoul What is that?
The Duchesse de Montsorel Remain the same mysterious personage you are at present.
The Marquis (rejoining them, newspaper in hand) Here is a strange thing, ladies; one of those foreigners who claim to be noblemen has been caught cheating at play at the field marshal's house.
Inez Is that the great piece of news in which you have been absorbed?
Raoul In these times, everyone seems to be a foreigner.
The Marquis It is not altogether the piece of news that set me thinking, but I was struck by the incredible readiness with which people receive at their houses those about whose antecedents they know positively nothing.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (aside) Is he to be insulted in my house?
Raoul If people distrust those whom they do not know, aren't they sometimes likely, at very short notice, to know rather too much about them?
The Duke Albert, how can this news of yours interest us? Do we ever receive any one without first learning what his family is?
Raoul His grace the duke knows my family.
The Duke It is sufficient for me that you are found at Madame de Montsorel's house. We know what we owe to you too well to forget what you owe to us. The name De Frescas commands respect, and you represent it worthily.
The Duchesse de Christoval (to Raoul) Will you immediately announce who you are, if not for your own sake, at least out of consideration for your friends?
Raoul I shall be extremely distressed if my presence here should occasion the slightest discussion; but as certain hints are as galling as the most direct charges, I suggest that we end this conversation, which is as unworthy of you, as it is of me. Her grace the duchess did not, I am sure, invite me here to be cross-examined. I recognize in no one the right to ask a reason for the silence which I have decided to maintain.
The Marquis And you leave us the right to interpret it?
Raoul If I claim liberty of action, it is not for the purpose of refusing the same to you.
The Duke (to Raoul) You are a noble young man, you show the natural distinction which marks the gentleman; do not be offended at the curiosity of the world; it is our only safeguard. Your sword cannot impose silence upon all idle talkers, and the world, while it treats becoming modesty with generosity, has no pity for ungrounded pretensions—
The Duchesse de Montsorel (whispering anxiously to Raoul) Not a word about your childhood; leave Paris, and let me alone know where you are—hidden! Your whole future depends on this.
The Duke I really wish to be your friend, in spite of the fact that you are the rival of my son. Give your confidence to a man who has that of his king. How can you be descended from the house of De Frescas, which is extinct?
Raoul (to the duke) Your grace is too powerful to fail of proteges, and I am not so weak as to need a protector.
The Duchesse de Christoval Sir, I am sure you will understand a mother's feeling that it would be unwise for her to receive many visits from you at the Christoval house.
Inez (to Raoul) A word would save us, and you keep silence; I perceive that there is something dearer to you than I am.
Raoul Inez, I could hear anything excepting these reproaches. (Aside) O Vautrin! Why did you impose absolute silence upon me. (He bows farewell to the ladies. To the Duchesse de Montsorel) I leave my happiness in your charge.
The Duchesse de Montsorel Do what I order; I will answer for the rest.
Raoul (to the marquis) I am at your service, sir.
The Marquis Good-bye Monsieur Raoul.
Raoul De Frescas, if you please.
The Marquis De Frescas, then!
SCENE ELEVENTH. The same persons, except Raoul.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (to the Duchesse de Christoval) You were very severe.
The Duchesse de Christoval You may not be aware, madame, that for the last three months this young man has danced attendance on my daughter wherever she went, and that his admission into society was brought about a little incautiously.
The Duke (to the Duchesse de Christoval) He might easily be taken for a prince in disguise.
The Marquis Is he not rather a nobody disguised as a prince?
The Duchesse de Montsorel Your father will tell you that such disguises are difficult to assume.
Inez (to the marquis) A nobody sir? We women can be attracted by one who is above us, never by him who is our inferior.
The Duchesse de Christoval What are you talking about, Inez?
Inez It is of no consequence, mother! Either this young man is crazed or these people are ungenerous.
The Duchesse de Christoval (to the Duchesse de Montsorel) I can plainly see, madame, that any explanation is impossible, especially in the presence of the duke; but my honor is at stake, and I shall expect you to explain.
The Duchesse de Montsorel To-morrow, then.
(Exit the duke with the Duchesse de Christoval and her daughter, followed by the Duchesse de Montsorel.)
SCENE TWELFTH. The Marquis and the Duke.
The Marquis The appearance of this adventurer, father, seems to throw both you and my mother into a state of the most violent excitement; it would almost seem as if not only was the marriage of your son jeopardized, but your very existence menaced. The duchess and her daughter went off in high dudgeon—
The Duke What could have brought them here in the very midst of our discussion?
The Marquis And you also are interested in this fellow Raoul?
The Duke Are not you? Your fortune, your name, your future and your marriage, all that is more to you than life, is now at stake!
The Marquis If all these things are dependent upon this young man, I will immediately demand satisfaction from him.
The Duke What! A duel? If you had the wretched luck to kill him, the success of your suite would be hopeless.
The Marquis What then is to be done?
The Duke Do like the politicians; wait!
The Marquis If you are in danger, father, do you think I can remain quiet?
The Duke Leave the burden to me; it would crush you.
The Marquis Ah! but you will speak, father, you will tell me—
The Duke Nothing! For we should both of us have too much to blush for.
SCENE THIRTEENTH. The same persons and Vautrin. (Vautrin is dressed all in black; at the beginning of the scene he puts on an air of compunction and humility.)
Vautrin Excuse me, your grace, for having forced my way in, but (whispering so as not to be overheard) we have both of us been victimized by an abuse of confidence—allow me to say a word or two to you alone.
The Duke (with a sign to his son to leave them) Say on, sir.
Vautrin In these days success is in the power of those alone who exert themselves to obtain office, and this form of ambition pervades all classes. Every man in France desires to be a colonel, and it is difficult to see where the privates are to come from. As a matter of fact society is threatened by disintegration, which will simply result from this universal desire for high positions, accompanied with a general disgust for the low places. Such is the fruit of revolutionary equality. Religion is the sole remedy for this corruption.
The Duke What are you driving at?
Vautrin I beg pardon, but it is impossible to refrain from explaining to a statesman, with whom I am going to work, the cause of a mistake which annoys me. Has your grace confided any secrets to one of my people who came to you this morning, with the foolish idea of supplanting me, and in the hope of making himself known to you as one who could serve your interests?
The Duke What do you mean? That you are the Chevalier de Saint-Charles?
Vautrin Let me tell your grace, that we are just what we desire to be. Neither he nor I is simple enough to be his real self—it would cost us too much.
The Duke Remember, that you must furnish proofs.
Vautrin If your grace has confided any important secret to him, I shall have immediately to put him under surveillance.
The Duke (aside) This man seems more honest and reliable than the other.
Vautrin We put the secret police on such cases.
The Duke You ought not to have come here, sir, unless you were able to justify your assertions.
Vautrin I have done my duty. I hope that the ambition of this man, who is capable of selling himself to the highest bidder, may be of service to you.
The Duke (aside) How can he have learned so promptly the secret of my morning interview?
Vautrin (aside) He hesitates; Joseph is right, some important secret is at stake.
The Duke Sir!
Vautrin Your grace!
The Duke It is the interest of both of us to defeat this man.
Vautrin That would be dangerous, if he has your secret; for he is tricky.
The Duke Yes, the fellow has wit.
Vautrin Did you give him a commission?
The Duke Nothing of importance; I wish to find out all about a certain Monsieur de Frescas.
Vautrin (aside) Merely that! (Aloud) I can tell your grace all about him. Raoul de Frescas is a young nobleman whose family is mixed up in an affair of high treason, and he does not like to assume his father's name.
The Duke He has a father, then?
Vautrin He has a father.
The Duke And where does he come from? What is his fortune?
Vautrin We are changing our roles, and your grace must excuse my not answering until you tell me what special interest your grace has in Monsieur de Frescas.
The Duke You are forgetting yourself, sir!
Vautrin (with assumed humility) Yes, I am forgetting the fact that there is an enormous difference between spies and those who set them.
The Duke Joseph!
Vautrin (aside) The duke has set his spies upon us; I must hurry.
(Vautrin disappears through the side door, by which he entered in the first act.)
The Duke (turning back) You shall not leave the house. Heavens! Where is he? (He rings and Joseph answers.) Let all the doors of the house be locked, a man has got into the house. Quick! Let all look for him, and let him be apprehended. (He goes to the room of the duchess.)
Joseph (looking through the postern) He is far away by this time.
Curtain to the Second Act.
SCENE FIRST. (A room in the house of Raoul de Frescas.)
Lafouraille (alone) Would my late excellent father, who advised me to frequent none but the best society, have been satisfied with me yesterday? I spent all night with ministers' valets, attendants of the embassy, princes', dukes', peers' coachmen—none but these, all reliable men, in good luck; they steal only from their masters. My master danced with a fine chit of a girl whose hair was powdered with a million's worth of diamonds, and he had no eyes for anything but the bouquet she carried in her hand; simple young man, we sympathize with you. Old Jacques Collin—Botheration! There I trip again, I cannot reconcile myself to this common name—I mean Monsieur Vautrin, will arrange all that. In a little time diamonds and dowry will take an airing, and they have need of it; to think of them as always in the same strong boxes! 'Tis against the laws of circulation. What a joker he is!—He sets you up as a young man of means. He is so kind, he talks so finely, the heiress comes in, the trick is done, and we all cry shares! The money will have been well earned. You see we have been here six months. Haven't we put on the look of idiots! Everybody in the neighborhood takes us for good simple folk. And who would refuse to do anything for Vautrin? He said to us: "Be virtuous," and virtuous we became. I fear him as I fear the police, and yet I love him even more than money.
Vautrin (calling from outside) Lafouraille!
Lafouraille There he is! I haven't seen his face this morning—that means a storm; I prefer it should fall upon some one else, and will get out. (He starts to the door but encounters Vautrin.)
SCENE SECOND. Vautrin and Lafouraille. (Vautrin is dressed in long white duck trousers and a waistcoat of the same material, slippers of red morocco,—the morning dress of a business man.)
Vautrin Where are you going?
Lafouraille To get your letters.
Vautrin I have them. Have you anything else to do?
Lafouraille Yes, your chamber—
Vautrin In so many words you want to avoid me. I have always found that restless legs never go with a quiet conscience. Stay where you are. I want to talk with you.
Lafouraille I am at your service.
Vautrin I hope you are. Come here. You told us, under the fair sky of Provence, a certain story which was little to your credit. A steward beat you at play; do you recollect?
Lafouraille A steward? Yes, that fellow Charles Blondet, the only man who ever robbed me! Can a fellow forget that?
Vautrin Had you not on one occasion sold your master to him? That's common enough.
Lafouraille On one occasion? I sold him three times over.
Vautrin That was better. And what business was the steward then engaged in?
Lafouraille I was going to tell you. I was footman at eighteen with the De Langeacs—
Vautrin I thought it was in the Duc de Montsorel's house.
Lafouraille No; the duke, fortunately, has only twice set eyes on me, and has, I hope, forgotten me.
Vautrin Did you rob him?
Lafouraille Well, to some small extent.
Vautrin Why do you want him to forget you?
Lafouraille Because, after seeing him again, yesterday, at the embassy, I should then feel safe.
Vautrin And it is the same man?
Lafouraille We are both older by twenty-five years, and that is the only difference.
Vautrin Tell me all about him. I knew I had heard you mention his name. Go on.
Lafouraille The Vicomte de Langeac, one of my masters, and this Duc de Montsorel were like peas in the same pod. When I was forced to choose between the nobles and the people, I did not hesitate; from a mere footman, I became a citizen, and citizen Philip Boulard was an earnest worker. I had enthusiasm, and acquired influence in the faubourg.
Vautrin And so you have been a politician, have you?
Lafouraille Not for long. I did a pretty thing, and that ruined me.
Vautrin Aha! My boy, pretty things are like pretty women—better light shy of them; they often bring trouble. What was this pretty thing?
Lafouraille I'll tell you. In the scrimmage of the Tenth of August, the duke confided to my care the Vicomte de Langeac; I disguised and hid him, I gave him food at the risk of my popularity and my life. The duke had greatly encouraged me by such trifles as a thousand gold pieces, and that Blondet had the infamy to offer me a bigger pile to give up our young master.
Vautrin Did you give him up?
Lafouraille Immediately. He was jugged in the Abbaye, and I became the happy possessor of sixty good thousands of francs in gold, in real gold.
Vautrin And what has this to do with the Duc de Montsorel?
Lafouraille Wait a little. When the days of September came, my conduct seemed to me slightly reprehensible; and to quiet my conscience, I determined to propose to the duke, who was leaving the country that I should rescue his friend.
Vautrin Did your remorse prove a good investment?
Lafouraille That it did; for it was rare in those days! The duke promised me twenty thousand francs if I delivered the viscount from the hands of my comrades, and I succeeded in doing so.
Vautrin Twenty thousand francs for a viscount!
Lafouraille And he was all the more worth it, because he was the last. I found that out too late. The steward had disposed of all the other Langeacs, even to the poor grandmother whom he had sent to the Carmelites.
Vautrin That was good!
Lafouraille But then something else happened. That Blondet heard of my devotion, he traced me out and found me in the neighborhood of Mortagne, where my master was at the house of one of my uncles waiting for a chance to reach the sea. The noodle offered me as much money as he had already given me. I saw before me an honest life for the rest of my days; and I was weak. My friend Blondet caused the viscount to be shot as a spy; and my uncle and myself were imprisoned as his accomplices. We were not released until I had disgorged all my gold.
Vautrin That is the way a knowledge of the human heart is acquired. You were dealing with a stronger man than yourself.
Lafouraille That remains to be seen; for I am still alive.
Vautrin Enough of that! There is nothing of use to me in your tale.
Lafouraille Can I go now?
Vautrin Come, come. You seem to experience a keen longing to be where I am not. But you went into society yesterday; did you do anything?
Lafouraille The servants said such funny things about their masters, that I could not leave the antechamber.
Vautrin Yet I saw you nibbling at the sideboard; what did you take?
Lafouraille Nothing—but stay—I took a wineglass of Madeira.
Vautrin What did you do with the dozen of gold spoons that went with the glass of Madeira?
Lafouraille Gold spoons! I've searched diligently, but find nothing of that kind in my memory.
Vautrin Possibly; but you will find them in your mattress. And was Philosopher also absent-minded?
Lafouraille Poor Philosopher! Since morning he has been a laughing-stock below stairs. He induced a coachman who was very young to strip off his gold lace for him. It was all false on the underside. In these days masters are thieves. You cannot be sure of anything, more's the pity.
Vautrin (whistles) This is no joking matter. You will make me lose the house: this must be put a stop to—Here, father Buteux, ahoy! Philosopher! Come here. Fil-de-Soie! My dear friends, let us have a clearing up. You are a pack of scoundrels.
SCENE THIRD. The same persons, Buteux, Philosopher and Fil-de-Soie.
Buteux Present! Is the house on fire?
Fil-de-Soie Is it some one burning with curiosity?
Buteux A fire would be better, for it can be put out.
Philosopher But the other can be choked.
Lafouraille Bah! He has had enough of this trifling.
Buteux So we are to have more moralizing—thank you for that.
Fil-de-Soie He cannot want me for I have not been out.
Vautrin (to Fil-de-Soie) You? The evening when I bade you exchange your scullion's cap for a footman's hat—poisoner—
Fil-de-Soie We will drop the extra names.
Vautrin And you accompanied me as my footman to the field marshal's; while helping me on with my cloak, you stole the watch of the Cossack prince.
Fil-de-Soie One of the enemies of France.
Vautrin You, Buteux, you old malefactor, carried off the opera-glass of the Princesse d'Arjos the evening she set down your young master at our gate.
Buteux It dropped on the carriage step.
Vautrin You should have respectfully handed it back to her; but the gold and the pearls appealed to your tigerish talons.
Lafouraille Now, now, surely people can have a little fun? Devil take it! Did not you, Jacques—
Vautrin What do you mean?
Lafouraille Did not you, Monsieur Vautrin, require thirty thousand francs that this young man might live in princely style? We succeeded in satisfying you in the fashion of foreign governments, by borrowing, and getting credit. All those who come to ask for me leave some with us. And you are not satisfied.
Fil-de-Soie And if, when I am sent to buy provisions without a sou, I may not be allowed to bring back some cash with me,—I might as well send in my resignation.
Philosopher And didn't I sell our custom to four different coach-builders—5,000 francs each clip—and the man who got the order lost all? One evening Monsieur de Frescas starts off from home with wretched screws, and we bring him back, Lafouraille and I, with a span worth ten thousand francs, which have cost him only twenty glasses of brandy.
Lafouraille No, it was Kirchenwasser.
Philosopher Yes, and yet you fly into a rage—
Fil-de-Soie How are you going to keep house now?
Vautrin Do you expect to do things of this kind for long? What I have permitted in order to set up our establishment, from this day forth I forbid. You wish, I suppose, to descend from robbery to swindling? If you do not understand what I say I will look out for better servants.
Buteux And where will you find them?
Lafouraille Let him hunt for them!
Vautrin You forget, I see, that I have pledged myself to save your necks! Dear, dear, do you think I have sifted you, like seeds in a colander, through three different places of residence, to let you hover round a gibbet, like flies round a candle? I wish you to know that any imprudence that brings you to such a position, is, to men of my stamp, a crime. You ought to appear as supremely innocent as you, Philosopher, appeared to him who let you rip off his lace. Never forget the part you are playing; you are honest fellows, faithful domestics, and adore Raoul de Frescas, your master.
Buteux Do you take this young man for a god? You have harnessed us to his car; but we know him no better than he knows us.
Philosopher Tell me, is he one of our kind?
Fil-de-Soie What is he going to bring us to?
Lafouraille We obey on condition that the Society of the Ten Thousand be reconstituted, so that never less than ten thousand francs at a time be assigned to us; at present we have not any funds in common.
Fil-de-Soie When are we all to be capitalists?
Buteux If the gang knew that for the last six months I have been disguising myself as an old porter, without any object, I should be disgraced. If I am willing to risk my neck, it is that I may give bread to my Adele, whom you have forbidden me to see, and who for six months must have been as dry as a match.
Lafouraille (to the other two) She is in prison. Poor man! Let us spare his feelings.
Vautrin Have you finished? Come now, you have made merry here for six months, eaten like diplomats, drunk like Poles, and have wanted nothing.
Buteux Yes, we are rusting out!
Vautrin Thanks to me, the police have forgotten you! You owe your good luck to me alone! I have erased the brand from your foreheads. I am the head, whose ideas you, the arms, carry out.
Philosopher We are satisfied.
Vautrin You must all obey me blindly.
Vautrin Without a murmur.
Fil-de-Soie Without a murmur.
Vautrin Or else let us break our compact, and be off with you! If I meet with ingratitude from you, to whom can I venture hereafter to do a service?
Philosopher To no one, my emperor.
Lafouraille I should rather say, our great teacher!
Buteux I love you more than I love Adele.
Fil-de-Soie We worship you.
Vautrin If necessary, I shall even have to beat you.
Philosopher We'll take it without a murmur.
Vautrin To spit in your face; to bowl over your lives like a row of skittles.
Buteux But I bowl over with a knife.
Vautrin Very well—Kill me this instant.
Buteux It is no use being vexed with this man. Do you wish me to restore the opera-glass? I intended it for Adele!
All (surrounding Vautrin) Would you abandon us, Vautrin?
Lafouraille Vautrin! Our friend.
Philosopher Mighty Vautrin!
Fil-de-Soie Our old companion, deal with us as you will.
Vautrin Yes, and I can deal with you as I will. When I think what trouble you make, in your trinket-stealing, I feel inclined to send you back to the place I took you from. You are either above or below the level of society, dregs or foam; but I desire to make you enter into society. People used to hoot you as you went by. I wish them to bow to you; you were once the basest of mankind, I wish you to be more than honest men.
Philosopher Is there such a class?
Buteux There are those who are nothing at all.
Vautrin There are those who decide upon the honesty of others. You will never be honest burgesses, you must belong either to the wretched or the rich; you must therefore master one-half of the world! Take a bath of gold, and you will come forth from it virtuous!
Fil-de-Soie To think, that, when I have need of nothing, I shall be a good prince!
Vautrin Of course. And you, Lafouraille, you can become Count of Saint Helena; and what would you like to be, Buteux?
Buteux I should like to be a philanthropist, for the philanthropist always becomes a millionaire.
Philosopher And I, a banker.
Fil-de-Soie He wishes to be a licensed professional.
Vautrin Show yourselves then, according as occasion demands it, blind and clear-sighted, adroit and clumsy, stupid and clever, like all those who make their fortune. Never judge me, and try to understand my meaning. You ask who Raoul de Frescas is? I will explain to you; he will soon have an income of twelve hundred thousand francs. He will be a prince. And I picked him up when he was begging on the high road, and ready to become a drummer-boy; in his twelfth year he had neither name nor family; he came from Sardinia, where he must have got into some trouble, for he was a fugitive from justice.
Buteux Oh, now that we know his antecedents and his social position—
Vautrin Be off to your lodge!
Buteux Little Nini, daughter of Giroflee is there—
Vautrin She may let a spy pass in.
Buteux She! She is a little cat to whom it is not necessary to point out the stool-pigeons.
Vautrin You may judge my power from what I am in process of doing for Raoul. Ought he not to be preferred before all? Raoul de Frescas is a young man who has remained pure as an angel in the midst of our mire-pit; he is our conscience; moreover, he is my creation; I am at once his father, his mother, and I desire to be his guiding providence. I, who can never know happiness, still delight in making other people happy. I breathe through his lips, I live in his life, his passions are my own; and it is impossible for me to know noble and pure emotions excepting in the heart of this being unsoiled by crime. You have your fancies, here I show you mine. In exchange for the blight which society has brought upon me, I give it a man of honor, and enter upon a struggle with destiny; do you wish to be of my party? Obey me.
All In life, and death—
Vautrin (aside) So my savage beasts are once more brought to submission. (Aloud) Philosopher, try to put on the air, the face, the costume of an employe of the lost goods bureau, and take back to the embassy the plate borrowed by Lafouraille. (To Fil-de-Soie) You, Fil-de-Soie, must prepare a sumptuous dinner, as Monsieur de Frescas is to entertain a few friends. You will afterwards dress yourself as a respectable man, and assume the air of a lawyer. You will go to number six, Rue Oblin, ring seven times at the fourth-story door, and ask for Pere Giroflee. When they ask where you come from, you will answer from a seaport in Bohemia. They will let you in. I want certain letters and papers of the Duc de Christoval; here are the text and patterns. I want an absolute fac-simile, with the briefest possible delay. Lafouraille, you must go and insert a few lines in the newspapers, notifying the arrival of . . . (He whispers into his ear.) This forms part of my plan. Now leave me.
Lafouraille Well, are you satisfied?
Philosopher You want nothing more of us?
Fil-de-Soie There will be no more rebellion; every one will be good.
Buteux Let your mind rest easy; we are going to be not only polite, but honest.
Vautrin That is right, boys; a little integrity, a great deal of address, and you will be respected.
(Exeunt all except Vautrin.)
Vautrin (alone) In order to lead them it is only necessary to let them think they have an honorable future. They have no future, no prospects! Pshaw! If generals took their soldiers seriously, not a cannon would be fired! In a few days, following upon years of subterranean labors, I shall have won for Raoul a commanding position; it must be made sure to him. Lafouraille and Philosopher will be necessary to me in the country where I am to give him a family. Ah, this love! It has put out of the question the life I had destined him to. I wished to win for him a solitary glory, to see him conquering for me and under my direction, the world which I am forbidden to enter. Raoul is not only the child of my intellect and of my malice, he is also my instrument of revenge. These fellows of mine cannot understand these sentiments; they are happy; they have never fallen, not they! They were born criminals. But I have attempted to raise myself. Yet though a man can raise himself in the eyes of God, he can never do so in the eyes of the world. People tell you to repent, and then refuse to pardon. Men possess in their dealings with each other the instincts of savage animals. Once wounded, one is down-trodden by his fellows. Moreover, to ask the protection of a world whose laws you have trampled under foot is like returning to a house which you have burnt and whose roof would fall and crush you. I have well polished and perfected the magnetic instrument of my domination. Raoul was brave, he would have sacrificed his life, like a fool; I had to make him cold and domineering, and to dispel from his mind, one by one, his exalted ideas of life; to render him suspicious and tricky as—an old bill-broker, while all the while he knew not who I was. And at this moment love has broken down the whole scaffolding. He should have been great; now, he can only be happy. I shall therefore retire to live in a corner at the height of his prosperity; his happiness will have been my work. For two days I have been asking myself whether it would not be better that the Princesse d'Arjos should die of some ailment—say brain fever. It's singular how many plans a woman can upset!
SCENE FIFTH. Vautrin and Lafouraille.
Vautrin What is the matter? Cannot I be alone one moment? Did I call?
Lafouraille We are likely to feel the claws of justice scratch our shoulders.
Vautrin What new blunder have you committed?
Lafouraille The fact is little Nini has admitted a well-dressed gentleman who asks to see you. Buteux is whistling the air, There's No Place Like Home, so it must be a sleuth.
Vautrin Nothing of the kind, I know who it is; tell him to wait. Everybody in arms! Vautrin must then vanish; I will be the Baron de Vieux-Chene. Speak in a German account, fool him well, until I can play the master stroke. (Exit.)
SCENE SIXTH. Lafouraille and Saint-Charles.
Lafouraille (speaking with a German accent) M. de Frescas is not at home, sir, and his steward, the Baron de Vieux-Chene, is engaged with an architect, who is to build a grand house for my master.
Saint-Charles I beg your pardon, my dear sir, you said—
Lafouraille I said Baron de Vieux-Chene.
Lafouraille Yes! Yes!
Saint-Charles He is a baron?
Lafouraille Baron de Vieux-Chene.
Saint-Charles You are a German.
Lafouraille Not I! Not I! I am an Alsatian, a very different thing.
Saint-Charles (aside) This man has certainly an accent too decidedly German to be a Parisian.
Lafouraille (aside) I know this man well. Here's a go!
Saint-Charles If the baron is busy, I will wait.
Lafouraille (aside) Ah! Blondet, my beauty, you can disguise your face, but not your voice; if you get out of our clutches now, you will be a wonder. (Aloud) What shall I tell the baron brings you here? (He makes as if to go out.)
Saint-Charles Stay a moment, my friend; you speak German, I speak French, we may misunderstand one another. (Puts a purse into his hand.) There can be no mistake with this for an interpreter.
Lafouraille No, sir.
Saint-Charles That is merely on account.
Lafouraille (aside) Yes, on account of my eighty thousand francs. (Aloud) And do you wish me to shadow my master?
Saint-Charles No, my friend, I merely ask for some information, which cannot compromise you.
Lafouraille In good German we call that spying.
Saint-Charles But no—that is not it—it is—
Lafouraille To shadow him. And what shall I say to his lordship the baron?
Saint-Charles Announce the Chevalier de Saint-Charles.
Lafouraille We understand each other. I will induce him to see you. But do not offer money to the steward; he is more honest than the rest of us. (He gives a sly wink.)
Saint-Charles That means he will cost more.
Lafouraille Yes, sir. (Exit.)
Saint-Charles (alone) A bad beginning! Ten louis thrown away. To shadow him indeed! It is too stupid not to have a spice of wit in it, this habit of calling things by their right name, at the outset. If the pretended steward, for there is no steward here, if the baron is as clever as his footman, I shall have nothing to base my information on, excepting what they conceal from me. This room is very fine. There is neither portrait of the king, nor emblem of royalty here. Well, it is plain they do not frame their opinions. Is the furniture suggestive of anything? No. It is too new to have been even paid for. But for the air which the porter whistled, doubtless a signal, I should be inclined to believe in the De Frescas people.
SCENE EIGHTH. Saint-Charles, Vautrin and Lafouraille. (Vautrin wears a bright maroon coat, of old-fashioned cut, with large heavy buttons; his breeches are black silk, as are his stockings. His shoes have gold buckles, his waistcoat is flowered, he wears two watch-chains, his cravat belongs to the time of the Revolution; his wig is white, his face old, keen, withered, dissipated looking. He speaks low, and his voice is cracked.)
Vautrin (to Lafouraille) Very good; you may go. (Exit Lafouraille. Aside) Now for the tug of war, Monsieur Blondet. (Aloud) I am at your service, sir.
Saint-Charles (aside) A worn out fox is still dangerous. (Aloud) Excuse me, baron, for disturbing you, while yet unknown to you.
Vautrin I can guess what your business is.
Saint-Charles (aside) Indeed?
Vautrin You are an architect, and have a proposal to make to me; but I have already received most excellent offers.
Saint-Charles Excuse me, your Dutchman must have mispronounced my name. I am the Chevalier de Saint-Charles.
Vautrin (raising his spectacles) Let me see—we are old acquaintances. You were at the Congress of Vienna, and then bore the name of Count of Gorcum—a fine name!
Saint-Charles (aside) Go choke yourself, old man! (Aloud) So you were there also?
Vautrin I should think so! And I am glad to have come upon you again. You were a deuced clever fellow, you know. How you fooled them all!
Saint-Charles (aside) We'll stick to Vienna, then. (Aloud) Ah, baron! I recall you perfectly now; you also steered your bark pretty cleverly there.
Vautrin Of course I did, and what women we had there! Yes, indeed! And have you still your fair Italian?
Saint-Charles Did you know her? She was a woman of such tact.
Vautrin My dear fellow, wasn't she, though? She actually wanted to find out who I was.
Saint-Charles And did she find out?
Vautrin Well, my dear friend, I know you will be glad to hear it, she discovered nothing.
Saint-Charles Come, baron, since we are speaking freely to each other to-day, I for my part must confess that your admirable Pole—
Vautrin You also had the pleasure?
Saint-Charles On my honor, yes!
Vautrin (laughing) Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Saint Charles (laughing) Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Vautrin We can safely laugh now, for I suppose you left her there?
Saint-Charles Immediately, as you did. I see that we are both come to throw away our money in Paris, and we have done well; but it seems to me, baron, that you have accepted a very secondary position, though one which attracts notice.
Vautrin Ah! thank you, chevalier. I hope, however, we may still be friends for many a day.
Saint-Charles Forever, I hope.
Vautrin You can be extremely useful to me, I can be of immense service to you, we understand each other! Let me know what your present business is, and I will tell you mine.
Saint-Charles (aside) I should like to know whether he is being set on me, or I on him.
Vautrin (aside) It is going to be a somewhat slow business.
Saint-Charles I will tell you.
Vautrin I am attention!
Saint-Charles Baron, between ourselves, I admire you immensely.
Vautrin What a compliment from a man like you!
Saint-Charles Not at all! To create a De Frescas in the face of all Paris shows an inventive genius which transcends by a thousand points that of our countesses at the Congress. You are angling for the dowry with rare nerve.
Vautrin I angling for a dowry?
Saint-Charles But, my dear friend, you would be found out, unless I your friend had been the man chosen to watch you, for I am appointed your shadower by a very high authority. Permit me also to ask how can you dare to interfere with the family of Montsorel in their pursuit of an heiress?
Vautrin To think that I innocently believed you came to propose we should work in company, and speculate, both of us, with the money of Monsieur de Frescas, of which I have entire control—and here you talk to me of something entirely different! Frescas, my good friend, is one of the legal titles of this young man, who has seven in all. Stringent reasons prevent him from revealing the name of his family, which I know, for the next twenty-four hours. Their property is vast, I have seen their estate, from which I am just returned. I do not mind being taken by you for a rogue, for there is no disgrace in the vast sums at stake; but to be taken for an imbecile, capable of dancing attendance on a sham nobleman, and so silly as to defy the Montsorels on behalf of a counterfeit—Really, my friend, it would seem that you have never been to Vienna! We are not in the same class!
Saint-Charles Do not grow angry, worthy steward! Let us leave off entangling ourselves in a web of lies more or less agreeable; you cannot expect to make me swallow any more of them. Our cash box is better furnished than yours, therefore come over to us. Your young man is as much Frescas as I am chevalier and you baron. You picked him up on the frontier of Italy; he was then a vagabond, to-day he is an adventurer, and that's the whole truth of it.
Vautrin You are right. We must leave off entangling ourselves in the web of falsehoods more or less agreeable; we must speak the truth.
Saint-Charles I will pay you for it.
Vautrin I will give it you for nothing. You are an infamous cur, my friend. Your name is Charles Blondet; you were steward in the household of De Langeac; twice have you bought the betrayal of the viscount, and never have you paid the money—it is shameful! You owe eighty thousand francs to one of my footmen. You caused the viscount to be shot at Mortagne in order that you might appropriate the property entrusted to you by the family. If the Duc de Montsorel, who sent you here, knew who you are, ha! ha! He would make you settle some old accounts! Take off your moustache, your whiskers, your wig, your sham decorations and your badges of foreign orders. (He tears off from him his wig, his whiskers and decorations.) Good day, you rascal! How did you manage to eat up a fortune so cleverly won? It was colossal; how did you lose it?
Saint-Charles Through ill-luck.
Vautrin I understand. . . . What are you going to do now?
Saint-Charles Whoever you are, stop there; I surrender, I haven't a chance left! You are either the devil or Jacques Collin!
Vautrin I am and wish to be nothing but the Baron de Vieux-Chene to you. Listen to my ultimatum. I can cause you to be buried this instant in one of my cellars, and no one will inquire for you.
Saint-Charles I know it.
Vautrin It would be prudent to do so. But are you willing to do for me in Montsorel's house, what Montsorel sent you to do here?
Saint-Charles I accept the offer; but what are the profits?
Vautrin All you can take.
Saint-Charles From either party?
Vautrin Certainly! You will send me by the person who accompanies you back all the deeds that relate to the De Langeac family; they must still be in your possession. In case Monsieur de Frescas marries Mademoiselle de Christoval, you cannot be their steward, but you shall receive a hundred thousand francs. You are dealing with exacting masters. Walk straight, and they will not betray you.
Saint-Charles It is a bargain!
Vautrin I will not ratify it until I have the documents in hand. Until then, be careful! (He rings; all the household come in.) Attend Monsieur le Chevalier home, with all the respect due his high rank. (To Saint-Charles, pointing out to him Philosopher) This man will accompany you. (To Philosopher) Do not leave him.
Saint-Charles (aside) Once I get safe and sound out of their clutches, I will come down heavy on this nest of thieves.
Vautrin Monsieur le Chevalier, I am yours to command!
SCENE NINTH. Vautrin and Lafouraille.
Lafouraille M. Vautrin!
Lafouraille Are you letting him go?
Vautrin Unless he considers himself at liberty, what can we hope to learn from him? I have given my instructions; he will be taught not to put ropes in the way of hangmen. When Philosopher brings for me the documents which this fellow is to hand him, they will be given to me, wherever I happen to be.