Four essential stories from the authentic pen of the age of Revolution, Consulate and Empire
Honore de Balzac was quite literally a child of the Napoleonic age. Born in 1799 he grew to be one of the most highly regarded French writers of any age and his works are acknowledged influences on several authors of renown who followed him including Zola, Flaubert, Henry James and even Jack Kerouac! His most frequently referenced writer in the English language was, however, Charles Dickens. Those who are familiar with Balzac's work need no introduction to it here, but for those less familiar with it, this favourable comparison reveals that here was one who knew how to tell a good story filled with real, well crafted, rounded characters who are authentic to their age. This collection of Balzac's fiction contains only those stories which are set in the Napoleonic era itself. Having grown up in this period and having about him a plethora of living reference sources in the form of those who took an active part in it, these highly entertaining tales, combined with Balzac's own genius can be nothing other than pure reading pleasure. Several of Balzac's pieces have been filmed including some of those collected here.
The first story—a novel—is an adventure concerning 'The Chouans'—those who remained loyal to the French monarchy and who dared to rise against the government of Revolutionary France. In 'Juana' the reader is transported to the campaign in Spain where the French army under Suchet centres on Tarragona. 'An Episode under the Terror' tells—as the name suggests—a story from the time when all France cowered under the shadow of the guillotine, while in the final tale, 'The Napoleon of the People,' the reader becomes the audience, as if by the fireside, of the recollections of a 'grumbler,' a veteran of the Emperors legions who has his own story to relate.
Available in soft cover and good quality hard back with dust jacket for collectors.
Pille Miche nudged his comrade by the elbow and showed him d’Orgemont, who was pretending to be asleep; but Pille-Miche and Marche-a-Terre both knew by experience that no one ever slept by the corner of their fire, and though the last words said to Galope-Chopine were almost whispered, they must have been heard by the victim, and the four Chouans looked at him fixedly, thinking perhaps that fear had deprived him of his senses. <br>
Suddenly, at a slight sign from Marche-a-Terre, Pille-Miche pulled off d’Orgemont’s shoes and stockings, Mene-a-Bien and Galope-Chopine seized him round the body and carried him to the fire. Then Marche-a-Terre took one of the thongs that tied the fagots and fastened the miser’s feet to the crane. These actions and the horrible celerity with which they were done brought cries from the victim, which became heart-rending when Pille-Miche gathered the burning sticks under his legs.<br>
“My friends, my good friends,” screamed d’Orgemont, “you hurt me, you kill me! I’m a Christian like you.”<br>
“You lie in your throat!” replied Marche-a-Terre. “Your brother denied God; and as for you, you bought the abbey of Juvigny. The Abbe Gudin says we can roast apostates when we find them.”<br>
“But, my brothers in God, I don’t refuse to pay.”<br>
“We gave you two weeks, and it is now two months, and Galope-Chopine here hasn’t received the money.”<br>
“Haven’t you received any of it, Galope-Chopine?” asked the miser, in despair.<br>
“None of it, Monsieur d’Orgemont,” replied Galope-Chopine, frightened.<br>
The cries, which had sunk into groans, continuous as the rattle in a dying throat, now began again with dreadful violence. Accustomed to such scenes, the four Chouans looked at d’Orgemont, who was twisting and howling, so coolly that they seemed like travellers watching before an inn fire till the roast meat was done enough to eat.<br>
“I’m dying, I’m dying!” cried the victim, “and you won’t get my money.”<br>
In spite of these agonizing cries, Pille-Miche saw that the fire did not yet scorch the skin; he drew the sticks cleverly together so as to make a slight flame. On this d’Orgemont called out in a quavering voice: “My friends, unbind me! How much do you want? A hundred crowns—a thousand crowns—ten thousand crowns—a hundred thousand crowns—I offer you two hundred thousand crowns!”<br>
The voice became so lamentable that Mademoiselle de Verneuil forgot her own danger and uttered an exclamation.<br>
“Who spoke?” asked Marche-a-Terre.<br>
The Chouans looked about them with terrified eyes. These men, so brave in fight, were unable to face a ghost. Pille-Miche alone continued to listen to the promises which the flames were now extracting from his victim.<br>
“Five hundred thousand crowns—yes, I’ll give them,” cried the victim.<br>
“Well, where are they?” answered Pille-Miche, tranquilly.<br>
“Under the first apple-tree—Holy Virgin! at the bottom of the garden to the left—you are brigands—thieves! Ah! I’m dying—there’s ten thousand francs—”<br>
“Francs! we don’t want francs,” said Marche-a-Terre; “those Republican coins have pagan figures which oughtn’t to pass.”<br>
“They are not francs, they are good louis d’or. But oh! undo me, unbind me! I’ve told you where my life is—my money.”<br>
The four Chouans looked at each other as if thinking which of their number they could trust sufficiently to disinter the money.<br>
The cannibal cruelty of the scene so horrified Mademoiselle de Verneuil that she could bear it no longer. Though doubtful whether the role of ghost, which her pale face and the Chouan superstitions evidently assigned to her, would carry her safely through the danger, she called out, courageously, “Do you not fear God’s anger? Unbind him, brutes!”<br>
The Chouans raised their heads and saw in the air above them two eyes which shone like stars, and they fled, terrified.<br> Mademoiselle de Verneuil sprang into the kitchen, ran to d’Orgemont, and pulled him so violently from the crane that the thong broke. Then with the blade of her dagger she cut the cords which bound him. When the miser was free and on his feet, the first expression of his face was a painful but sardonic grin.<br>
“Apple-tree! yes, go to the apple-tree, you brigands,” he said. “Ho, ho! this is the second time I’ve fooled them. They won’t get a third chance at me.”<br>
So saying, he caught Mademoiselle de Verneuil’s hand, drew her under the mantel-shelf to the back of the hearth in a way to avoid disturbing the fire, which covered only a small part of it; then he touched a spring; the iron back was lifted, and when their enemies returned to the kitchen the heavy door of the hiding-place had already fallen noiselessly. Mademoiselle de Verneuil then understood the carp-like movements she had seen the miser making.
“The ghost has taken the Blue with him,” cried the voice of Marche-a-Terre.