“Your sister came here to borrow forty thousand francs for a man in whom she takes an interest, who’ll be locked up within three days in a debtor’s prison.”
The poor woman was seized with a nervous trembling, which she endeavored to repress.
“You alarm me,” she said. “But my sister is far too well brought up, and she loves her husband too much to be interested in any man to that extent.”
“Quite the contrary,” he said, dryly. “Girls brought up as you two were, in the constraints and practice of piety, have a thirst for liberty; they desire happiness, and the happiness they get in marriage is never as fine as that they dreamt of. Such girls make bad wives.”
“Speak for me,” said poor Eugenie, in a tone of bitter feeling, “but respect my sister. The Comtesse de Vandenesse is happy; her husband gives her too much freedom not to make her truly attached to him. Besides, if your supposition were true, she would never have told me of such a matter.”
“It is true,” he said, “and I forbid you to have anything to do with the affair. My interests demand that the man shall go to prison. Remember my orders.”
Madame du Tillet left the room.
“She will disobey me, of course, and I shall find out all the facts by watching her,” thought du Tillet, when alone in the boudoir. “These poor fools always think they can do battle against us.”
He shrugged his shoulders and rejoined his wife, or to speak the truth, his slave.
The confidence made to Madame du Tillet by Madame Felix de Vandenesse is connected with so many points of the latter’s history for the last six years, that it would be unintelligible without a succinct account of the principal events of her life.
The history of A fortunate woman
Among the remarkable men who owed their destiny to the Restoration, but whom, unfortunately, the restored monarchy kept, with Martignac, aloof from the concerns of government, was Felix de Vandenesse, removed, with several others, to the Chamber of peers during the last days of Charles X. This misfortune, though, as he supposed, temporary, made him think of marriage, towards which he was also led, as so many men are, by a sort of disgust for the emotions of gallantry, those fairy flowers of the soul. There comes a vital moment to most of us when social life appears in all its soberness.
Felix de Vandenesse had been in turn happy and unhappy, oftener unhappy than happy, like men who, at their start in life, have met with Love in its most perfect form. Such privileged beings can never subsequently be satisfied; but, after fully experiencing life, and comparing characters, they attain to a certain contentment, taking refuge in a spirit of general indulgence. No one deceives them, for they delude themselves no longer; but their resignation, their disillusionment is always graceful; they expect what comes, and therefor they suffer less. Felix might still rank among the handsomest and most agreeable men in Paris. He was originally commended to many women by one of the noblest creatures of our epoch, Madame de Mortsauf, who had died, it was said, out of love and grief for him; but he was specially trained for social life by the handsome and well-known Lady Dudley.