Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau
It is an 1837 novel by Honoré de Balzac as part of his series La Comédie humaine. Its main character is a Parisian perfumer who achieves success in the cosmetics business, but becomes bankrupt due to property speculation. The novel is a partly satirical, partly sympathetic portrayal of the Parisian middle class.
Cesar and Popinot were at their work-shop in the Faubourg du Temple the next morning long before the arrival of the nuts. While waiting for Madame Madou's porters, Popinot triumphantly recounted his treaty of alliance with Gaudissart.
"Have we indeed the illustrious Gaudissart? Then are we millionaires!" cried the perfumer, extending his hand to his cashier with an air which Louis XIV. must have worn when he received the Marechal de Villars on his return from Denain.
"We have something besides," said the happy clerk, producing from his pocket a bottle of a squat shape, like a pumpkin, and ribbed on the sides. "I have found ten thousand bottles like that, all made ready to hand, at four sous, and six months' credit."
"Anselme, said Birotteau, contemplating the wondrous shape of the flask, "yesterday [here his tone of voice became solemn] in the Tuileries,—yes, no later than yesterday,—you said to me, 'I will succeed.' To-day I—I say to you, 'You will succeed.' Four sous! six months! an unparalleled shape! Macassar trembles to its foundations! Was I not right to seize upon the only nuts in Paris? Where did you find these bottles?"
"I was waiting to speak to Gaudissart, and sauntering—"
"Just like me, when I found the Arab book," cried Birotteau.
"Coming down the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, I saw in a wholesale glass place, where they make blown glass and cases,—an immense place,—I caught sight of this flask; it blinded my eyes like a sudden light; a voice cried to me, 'Here's your chance!'"
"Born merchant! he shall have my daughter!," muttered Cesar.
"I went in; I saw thousands of these bottles packed in cases."
"You asked about them?"
"Do you think me such a ninny?" cried Anselme, in a grieved tone.
"Born merchant!" repeated Birotteau.
"I asked for glass cases for the little wax Jesus; and while I was bargaining about them I found fault with the shape of the bottles. From one thing to another, I trapped the man into admitting that Faille and Bouchot, who lately failed, were starting a new cosmetic and wanted a peculiar style of bottle; he was doubtful about them and asked for half the money down. Faille and Bouchot, expecting to succeed, paid the money; they failed while the bottles were making. The assignees, when called upon to pay the bill, arranged to leave him the bottles and the money in hand, as an indemnity for the manufacture of articles thought to be ridiculous in shape, and quite unsalable. They cost originally eight sous; he was glad to get rid of them for four; for, as he said, God knows how long he might have on his hands a shape for which there was no sale! 'Are you willing,' I said to him, 'to furnish ten thousand at four sous? If so, I may perhaps relieve you of them. I am a clerk at Monsieur Birotteau's.' I caught him, I led him, I mastered him, I worked him up, and he is all ours."
PART I CESAR AT HIS APOGEE
PART II CESAR GRAPPLING WITH MISFORTUNE