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Honore de Balzac >> Ursula (page 48)


He burst into tears as he said the last words.

"I can assure you, my dear Ursula," said the abbe, "that you can and that you ought to accept a part of this gift."

"Will you forgive me?" said Minoret, humbly kneeling before the astonished girl. "The operation is about to be performed by the first surgeon of the Hotel-Dieu; but I do not trust to human science, I rely only on the power of God. If you will forgive us, if you ask God to restore our son to us, he will have strength to bear the agony and we shall have the joy of saving him."

"Let us go to the church!" cried Ursula, rising.

But as she gained her feet, a piercing cry came from her lips, and she fell backward fainting. When her senses returned, she saw her friends --but not Minoret who had rushed for a doctor--looking at her with anxious eyes, seeking an explanation. As she gave it, terror filled their hearts.

"I saw my godfather standing in the doorway," she said, "and he signed to me that there was no hope."

The day after the operation Desire died,--carried off by the fever and the shock to the system that succeed operations of this nature. Madame Minoret, whose heart had no other tender feeling than maternity, became insane after the burial of her son, and was taken by her husband to the establishment of Doctor Blanche, where she died in 1841.

Three months after these events, in January, 1837, Ursula married Savinien with Madame de Portenduere's consent. Minoret took part in the marriage contract and insisted on giving Mademoiselle Mirouet his estate at Rouvre and an income of twenty-four thousand francs from the Funds; keeping for himself only his uncle's house and ten thousand francs a year. He has become the most charitable of men, and the most religious; he is churchwarden of the parish, and has made himself the providence of the unfortunate.

"The poor take the place of my son," he said.

If you have ever noticed by the wayside, in countries where they poll the oaks, some old tree, whitened and as if blasted, still throwing out its twigs though its trunk is riven and seems to implore the axe, you will have an idea of the old post master, with his white hair,-- broken, emaciated, in whom the elders of the town can see no trace of the jovial dullard whom you first saw watching for his son at the beginning of this history; he does not even take his snuff as he once did; he carries something more now than the weight of his body. Beholding him, we feel that the hand of God was laid upon that figure to make it an awful warning. After hating so violently his uncle's godchild the old man now, like Doctor Minoret himself, has concentrated all his affections on her, and has made himself the manager of her property in Nemours.

Monsieur and Madame de Portenduere pass five months of the year in Paris, where they have bought a handsome house in the Faubourg Saint- Germain. Madame de Portenduere the elder, after giving her house in Nemours to the Sisters of Charity for a free school, went to live at Rouvre, where La Bougival keeps the porter's lodge. Cabirolle, the former conductor of the "Ducler," a man sixty years of age, has married La Bougival and the twelve hundred francs a year which she possesses besides the ample emoluments of her place. Young Cabirolle is Monsieur de Portenduere's coachman.

If you happen to see in the Champs-Elysees one of those charming little low carriages called 'escargots,' lined with gray silk and trimmed with blue, and containing a pretty young woman whom you admire because her face is wreathed in innumerable fair curls, her eyes luminous as forget-me-nots and filled with love; if you see her bending slightly towards a fine young man, and, if you are, for a moment, conscious of envy--pause and reflect that this handsome couple, beloved of God, have paid their quota to the sorrows of life in times now past. These married lovers are the Vicomte de Portenduere and his wife. There is not another such home in Paris as theirs.

"It is the sweetest happiness I have ever seen," said the Comtesse de l'Estorade, speaking of them lately.

Bless them, therefore, and be not envious; seek an Ursula for yourselves, a young girl brought up by three old men, and by the best of all mothers--adversity.

Goupil, who does service to everybody and is justly considered the wittiest man in Nemours, has won the esteem of the little town, but he is punished in his children, who are rickety and hydrocephalous. Dionis, his predecessor, flourishes in the Chamber of Deputies, of which he is one of the finest ornaments, to the great satisfaction of the king of the French, who sees Madame Dionis at all his balls. Madame Dionis relates to the whole town of Nemours the particulars of her receptions at the Tuileries and the splendor of the court of the king of the French. She lords it over Nemours by means of the throne, which therefore must be popular in the little town.

Bongrand is chief-justice of the court of appeals at Melun. His son is in the way of becoming an honest attorney-general.

Madame Cremiere continues to make her delightful speeches. On the occasion of her daughter's marriage, she exhorted her to be the working caterpillar of the household, and to look into everything with the eyes of a sphinx. Goupil is making a collection of her "slapsus- linquies," which he calls a Cremiereana.

"We have had the great sorrow of losing our good Abbe Chaperon," said the Vicomtesse de Portenduere this winter--having nursed him herself during his illness. "The whole canton came to his funeral. Nemours is very fortunate, however, for the successor of that dear saint is the venerable cure of Saint-Lange."

ADDENDUM

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Bouvard, Doctor Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Dionis The Member for Arcis

Estorade, Madame de l' Letters of Two Brides The Member for Arcis

Kergarouet, Comte de The Purse The Ball at Sceaux

Lupeaulx, Clement Chardin des The Muse of the Department Eugenie Grandet A Bachelor's Establishment A Distinguished Provincial at Paris The Government Clerks Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Marsay, Henri de The Thirteen The Unconscious Humorists Another Study of Woman The Lily of the Valley Father Goriot Jealousies of a Country Twon A Marriage Settlement Lost Illusions A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Letters of Two Brides The Ball at Sceaux Modeste Mignon The Secrets of a Princess The Gondreville Mystery A Daughter of Eve

Mirouet, Ursule (see Portenduere, Vicomtesse Savinien de)

Nathan, Madame Raoul The Muse of the Department Lost Illusions A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Scenes from a Courtesan's Life The Government Clerks A Bachelor's Establishment Eugenie Grandet The Imaginary Mistress A Prince of Bohemia A Daughter of Eve The Unconscious Humorists

Portenduere, Vicomte Savinien de The Ball at Sceaux Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Beatrix

Portenduere, Vicomtesse Savinien de Another Study of Woman Beatrix

Ronquerolles, Marquis de The Imaginary Mistress The Peasantry A Woman of Thirty Another Study of Woman The Thirteen The Member for Arcis

Rouvre, Marquis du The Imaginary Mistress A Start in Life

Rouvre, Chevalier du The Imaginary Mistress

Rubempre, Lucien-Chardon de Lost Illusions A Distinguished Provincial at Paris The Government Clerks Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Schmucke, Wilhelm A Daughter of Eve Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Cousin Pons

Serizy, Comtesse de A Start in Life The Thirteen A Woman of Thirty Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Another Study of Woman The Imaginary Mistress

Trailles, Comte Maxime de Cesar Birotteau Father Goriot Gobseck A Man of Business The Member for Arcis The Secrets of a Princess Cousin Betty Beatrix The Unconscious Humorists

Vandenesse, Marquise Charles de Cesar Birotteau The Ball at Sceaux A Daughter of Eve

Title: Ursula
Author: Honore de Balzac
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