If des Lupeaulx had not been a general- secretary he would certainly have been a journalist.
However, it was not all a bed of roses for des Lupeaulx; he flattered and advised his master, forced to flatter in order to advise, to advise while flattering, and disguise the advice under the flattery.
In person, Clement des Lupeaulx had the remains of a handsome man; five feet six inches tall, tolerably stout, complexion flushed with good living, powdered head, delicate spectacles, and a worn-out air; the natural skin blond, as shown by the hand, puffy like that of an old woman, rather too square, and with short nails--the hand of a satrap.
To real judges of character, as well as to upright men who are at ease only with honest natures, des Lupeaulx was intolerable.
No sooner had the beautiful Madame Rabourdin decided to interfere in her husband's administrative advancement than she fathomed Clement des Lupeaulx's true character, and studied him thoughtfully to discover whether in this thin strip of deal there were ligneous fibres strong enough to let her lightly trip across it from the bureau to the department, from a salary of eight thousand a year to twelve thousand.
Accustomed as des Lupeaulx was to false as well as real magnificence in all their stages, he was, nevertheless, surprised at Madame Rabourdin's home.
A few days earlier the beautiful Madame Firmiani, one of the charming women of the faubourg Saint-Germain who visited and liked Madame Rabourdin, had said to des Lupeaulx (invited expressly to hear this remark), "Why do you not call on Madame --?" with a motion towards Celestine; "she gives delightful parties, and her dinners, above all, are--better than mine."
Des Lupeaulx allowed himself to be drawn into an engagement by the handsome Madame Rabourdin, who, for the first time, turned her eyes on him as she spoke.
The day on which a serious and unlooked-for struggle about this appointment began, after a ministerial dinner which preceded one of those receptions which ministers regard as public, des Lupeaulx was standing beside the fireplace near the minister's wife.
"If La Billardiere's place is given to Rabourdin I may be believed when I praise the superiority of his wife," replied des Lupeaulx, piqued by the minister's sarcasm; "but if Madame la Comtesse would be willing to judge for herself--"
When des Lupeaulx left the room the countess said to her husband, "I think des Lupeaulx is in love."
"For the first time in his life, then," he replied, shrugging his shoulders, as much as to inform his wife that des Lupeaulx did not concern himself with such nonsense.