“Marie cannot prevent my loving her,” said Nathan; “she shall be my Beatrice.”
“Beatrice, my good Raoul, was a little girl twelve years of age when Dante last saw her; otherwise, she would not have been Beatrice. To make a divinity, it won’t do to see her one day wrapped in a mantle, and the next with a low dress, and the third on the boulevard, cheapening toys for her last baby. When a man has Florine, who is in turn duchess, bourgeoise, Negress, marquise, colonel, Swiss peasant, virgin of the sun in Peru (only way she can play the part), I don’t see why he should go rambling after fashionable women.”
Du Tillet, to use a Bourse term, executed Nathan, who, for lack of money, gave up his place on the newspaper; and the celebrated man received but five votes in the electoral college where the banker was elected.
When, after a long and happy journey in Italy, the Comtesse de Vandenesse returned to Paris late in the following winter, all her husband’s predictions about Nathan were justified. He had taken Blondet’s advice and negotiated with the government, which employed his pen. His personal affairs were in such disorder that one day, on the Champs-Elysees, Marie saw her former adorer on foot, in shabby clothes, giving his arm to Florine. When a man becomes indifferent to the heart of a woman who has once loved him, he often seems to her very ugly, even horrible, especially when he resembles Nathan. Madame de Vandenesse had a sense of personal humiliation in the thought that she had once cared for him. If she had not already been cured of all extra-conjugal passion, the contrast then presented by the count to this man, grown less and less worthy of public favor, would have sufficed her.
To-day the ambitious Nathan, rich in ink and poor in will, has ended by capitulating entirely, and has settled down into a sinecure, like any other commonplace man. After lending his pen to all disorganizing efforts, he now lives in peace under the protecting shade of a ministerial organ. The cross of the Legion of honor, formerly the fruitful text of his satire, adorns his button-hole. “Peace at any price,” ridicule of which was the stock-in-trade of his revolutionary editorship, is now the topic of his laudatory articles. Heredity, attacked by him in Saint-Simonian phrases, he now defends with solid arguments. This illogical conduct has its origin and its explanation in the change of front performed by many men besides Raoul during our recent political evolutions.
The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.
Bidault (known as Gigonnet)
The Government Clerks
The Firm of Nucingen
Jealousies of a Country Town
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
The Firm of Nucingen