'Yes, I scarcely knew her. I was still at Plassans, at school, when she died here in Paris. Our uncle, Doctor Pascal, has kept my sister Clotilde with him there; I have only once seen her since.'
'But your father married again?'
He hesitated. A kind of ruddy vapour seemed to dim his empty eyes, usually so clear.
'Oh! yes, yes; he married again, the daughter of a magistrate, one Béraud du Chatel—Renée her name was; she was not a mother to me, but a good friend.' Then, sitting down beside her in a familiar way, he went on: 'You see, one must understand papa. Mon Dieu! he isn't worse than others. Only children, wives—in short, all around him—hold in his mind a second place to money. Oh! let us understand each other; he doesn't love money like a miser, for the sake of having a huge pile of it and hiding it in his cellar. No; if he wishes to make it gush forth on every side, if he draws it from no matter what sources, it is to see it flow around him in torrents; it is for the sake of all the enjoyments he derives from it—luxury, pleasure, power. What can you expect? It is in his blood. He would sell us—you, me, no matter whom—if we were a part of some bargain. And he would do it as an unconscious and superior man; for he is really the poet of the million, so mad and rascally does money make him—oh! rascally on a very grand scale!'
This was just what Madame Caroline had understood, and while listening to Maxime she nodded her head in token of assent. Ah! money, that all-corrupting poisonous money, which withered souls and drove from them all kindness, tenderness, and love for others! Money alone was the great culprit, the agent of all human cruelties and abominations. At that moment she cursed it, execrated it, in the indignant revolt of her woman's nobility and uprightness. Ah! if she had had the power, she would with a gesture have annihilated all the money in the world, even as one would crush disease[Pg 227] with a stamp of the heel in order to preserve the world in health.
'And your father married again,' she slowly repeated after a pause, with a tinge of embarrassment in her voice as vague memories began awaking within her. Who was it that had alluded to the story in her presence? She could not have told. But doubtless it had been some woman, some friend, in the early days of her residence in the Rue Saint Lazare, when Saccard had rented the first floor of the mansion. Had there not been some question of a marriage which he had contracted, some marriage for money, some shameful bargain? And later on had not crime quietly taken its seat at the hearth, abominable depravity, tolerated, suffered to abide there without let or hindrance?
'Renée,' replied Maxime in a very low tone, and as though despite himself, 'was only a few years older than me.'
He raised his head and looked at Madame Caroline. And then, suddenly throwing off all self-restraint, with unreasoning confidence in this woman, who seemed to him so healthy and so sensible, he told the story of the shameful past, not in consecutive phrases, it is true, but in shreds—involuntary, imperfect confessions which it was for her to connect together. So, in this wise, Madame Caroline learnt the frightful story: Saccard selling his name, marrying a girl in trouble for money's sake; completing the unhinging of the poor child's ailing mind by means of this same money, by the mad, prodigal, dazzling life he led; and then, because he was in need of money and required her signature, closing his eyes to whatever she might do. Ah! money, money the King, money the deity, beside which tears and blood were as nothing! Money adored for its infinite power far above all vain human scruples! And in proportion as the might of money increased in her eyes, and Saccard stood revealed to her in all his diabolical grandeur, Madame Caroline was seized with real terror, frozen, distracted by the thought that she too had become this monster's prey, after so many others.
'There!' said Maxime, concluding. 'It pains me to see you like this; it is better that you should be warned. But[Pg 228] don't let this make trouble between you and my father. I should be very grieved if such were the case, for you would be the one to weep over it, not he. And now do you understand why I refuse to lend him a sou?'
Tips, opportunities to make money：Online questionnaire survey part-time moneyAs she did not answer, for her throat was contracted and a terrible pang tortured her heart, he rose, and glanced at a mirror, with the tranquil ease of a handsome man who is certain of his correctness in life. Then, coming back, he stood before her.
'Such examples age you quickly, do they not?' he said. 'For my part, I promptly settled down; I married a young girl who was ill and is now dead; I swear to-day that no one shall ever induce me to act foolishly again. No! But papa, you see, is incorrigible, because he has no moral sense.'
Tips, opportunities to make money：how much money can you make with uberHe took her hand, and, holding it for a moment in his own, felt that it was quite cold.
'I am going, since he doesn't come back. But pray don't grieve like this. I thought you so strong! And you ought to thank me, for there is only one thing that is stupid in life—to let oneself be duped.'
Finally he started off, but at the door he stopped to add, with a laugh: 'I was forgetting; tell him that Madame de Jeumont expects him to dinner.'
Left to herself, Madame Caroline did not stir. Bowed down on her chair in the spacious room, which had sunk into an oppressive silence, she gazed fixedly at the lamp with dilated eyes. It seemed to her that the veil had been suddenly torn aside. All that she had hitherto been unwilling to distinguish plainly, which she had only tremblingly suspected, now appeared before her in its frightful crudity, so clear that it would henceforth be impossible to doubt it, to gloss it over. She beheld Saccard naked, with the ravaged, complicated soul of a man of money, murky and rotting. For him there were neither bonds nor barriers; he rushed on to the satisfaction of his appetites with the unbridled instincts of a man who knows no other limit than powerlessness. He had sold his son, his wife, all who had fallen into his clutches; he had sold himself, and he would sell her too, and sell her brother, dispose of[Pg 229] their hearts and their brains for money. He was nothing but a maker of money, one who threw beings and things into the melting-pot to coin them into money. In a brief interval of lucidity she saw the Universal diffusing money like perspiration in all directions—a lake, an ocean of money, into the midst of which, all at once, with a frightful crash, the whole house would topple down. Ah! money, horrible money, that smirches and devours!
Madame Caroline rose up in angry haste. No, no, it was monstrous; it was all over; she could no longer remain near that man. She would have forgiven him his betrayal; but loathing seized upon her at thought of all that old-time filth; terror distracted her at thought of the crimes which were possible in the future. There was nothing left for her but to start off at once if she did not wish to be splashed with mud herself, crushed beneath the ruins. And a pressing desire came to her to go far, far away, to join her brother in the distant East, less to warn him than to disappear herself. Yes, she must start, start at once! It was not yet six o'clock; she could take the rapide for Marseilles at seven fifty-five; for it seemed to her that to see Saccard again would be beyond her strength. She would make whatever purchases were necessary at Marseilles before embarking. A little linen in a trunk, one spare dress, and she would be off. In a quarter of an hour she could be ready.
Then the sight of her work on the table, the memoir which she had begun writing, made her pause for a moment. But what would be the use of taking that with her, since the whole thing was rotten at the foundation and was bound to fall? Nevertheless she began carefully arranging the documents and memoranda, like a good housewife who never likes to leave things in disorder. And the task occupied her for some moments, calming the first fever of her decision. She was again fully mistress of herself, when she gave a last glance round the room before leaving it. But just then the valet came in again, bringing a number of papers and letters.
In a mechanical kind of way Madame Caroline looked at the superscriptions, and perceived in the pile a letter from her[Pg 230] brother addressed to herself. It came from Damascus, where Hamelin was then staying, making arrangements for the proposed branch line from that city to Beyrout. At first she began to glance over the letter, standing near the lamp, and resolving that she would read it more carefully later on in the train. But each sentence held her attention, she was unable to skip a word; and she finally sat down again at the table, and gave herself up to the absorbing perusal of this long letter, which filled twelve pages.