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You could also download our past Newsletters, or subscribe here. This is one of our major sites, please email hart pobox. The scene caught his attention because it looked like a painting of the Dutch school. Then, when he saw Augustine, sitting lost in thought, in the glow of the lamplight, he immediately fell in love with her.

For the next eight months, he devoted himself to two paintings: one, the interior scene of the dining room at the Cat and Racket; the other, a portrait of Augustine. His friend, the artist Girodet, thought them masterpieces, too good to exhibit, but when they were put on display at the Louvre, they caused a sensation, both with the public and with other painters. Separated from Madame Roguin by the crowds of people in the gallery, Augustine was shocked to recognise herself in the portrait. The painter, standing nearby, told her he had painted it for love of her and she fled.

After Augustine and Madame Roguin found each other again, they tried to leave, but the crowd pushed them close to the other painting, the interior scene, which they both recognised. Seeing the painter again, this time Augustine and he signalled to each other not to speak in front of Madame Roguin. Augustine felt overwhelmed by excitement and guilt combined. That night, she realised she was in love with the young painter and imagined to herself what life would be like as his wife.

After that, Augustine and the painter, Theodore de Sommervieux, with the help of a maid whom he bribed, managed to exchange a few notes and made a plan to see each other in church. All this went unnoticed, partly because everyone at the Cat and Racket was busy with the annual stocktaking.

When the stocktaking was over, Guillaume called Joseph, the apprentice, to his office. Guillaume told Joseph he had decided to make him a partner and also that he knew he was in love and he approved the marriage. There then followed a misunderstanding, with Joseph thinking that Guillaume would let him marry Augustine, whereas Guillaume, of course, meant Virginie.

When Guillaume realised the mistake, he first withdrew the offer of a partnership, then tried to persuade the younger man to accept a loveless marriage, but he was so out of his depth talking about relationships, that he ended up agreeing to Joseph marrying Augustine after all. The whole family then went to church together, where Augustine had arranged to see the painter. On the way, Joseph talked indirectly to her about marriage, but she failed to take the hint and instead tried to talk to him about painting.

All through the service, Augustine and the painter kept exchanging looks. When Madame Guillaume noticed what was going on, she was furious, which made Augustine cry and the painter leave the church. Back home, Monsieur and Madame Guillaume had a long and heated discussion.


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  • Virginie, to help her sister, listened at the door and so found out that Joseph loved Augustine, not her, just as Joseph was told, later that day, that Augustine loved the painter, not him. She was already completely won over and determined to win them over too. She told them about his good prospects, his income and connections and, although Guillaume had always been against marriage between different classes, in the end, he and his wife relented and agreed to meet the painter, de Sommervieux. That evening de Sommervieux came to dinner, bringing the picture of the interior of the Cat and the Racket as a gift.

    Everyone praised it, but for all the wrong reasons, thinking only of its value or of the lifelike way it was painted. Although they had nothing in common, the Guillaumes and de Sommervieux succeeded in fooling themselves that they all got on very well. Afterwards, Guillaume told Augustine that she could marry de Sommervieux, but that he would make sure that her money was settled in such a way that her husband could not spend it.

    She promised not to change this without speaking either to him or Joseph first. So the young couple became engaged. A few months later, Augustine and Theodore were married and so were Virginie and Joseph. For the first year, Augustine and Theodore were blissfully happy. After a while, Theodore started painting again and Augustine had a baby.

    AT THE SIGN OF THE CAT AND RACKET

    It was another year before they began to go out into society together. Mixing with people from the upper classes, Augustine soon showed her lack of education. Among his artist friends she felt uncomfortable and was easily shocked by their banter. Theodore grew cold toward her. This made Augustine miserable and so they grew apart.

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    To please Theodore, she decided to try and learn about culture. She improved her knowledge but could not become talented.


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    Theodore regarded her with contempt. He had fallen under the spell of the brilliant and beautiful Duchess de Carigliano.

    At the Sign of the Cat and Racket, by Honoré de Balzac

    At the Cat and Racket, she found Virginie and Joseph running the business just as seriously as her parents had done, although, in keeping with the times, they allowed themselves and their apprentices much more comfort. Augustine could see how well-matched they were.

    Next, she went to see her parents. Now retired, they had little to do but think about the past. Her mother criticised his lack of religion and they both thought she should seek a divorce. Augustine realised that, from now on, she would have to keep her problems to herself.